NYC council members protest loss of at least $215M to schools
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Members of the New York City Council protested a city school funding cut Friday — less than a month after some were among the 44 members of the 51-member council who voted to approve the controversial spending plan.

Several council members, including Speaker Adrienne Adams, Education Committee Chair Rita Joseph, and Oversight and Investigations Chair Gale Brewer, joined advocates and union heads on the City Hall steps to blast at least $215 million in reduced school budgets before an oversight meeting.

The hearing considered using federal COVID stimulus funds to fill those gaps, and pushed the Department of Education to redirect spending from central offices to school buildings.

“I want to be clear because this distinction must be made,” said Adams, who along with Brewer, was among the group of legislators who voted for the budget containing the cuts and who later said they were misled by they DOE as to their effect.

“The issue at hand is one related to a DOE decision on school budgets — not the overall city budget. School budgets and the city are not the same thing.” 

Council members pointed to recent local investments in the public schools, including an increase of $700 million next fiscal year, and targeted supports for some education programs from student jobs to summer programs.

White Plains High School
Federal COVID stimulus funds for schools is set to expire by 2025.
AP/Mark Lennihan

“Despite this fact, budgets for individual schools in New York City are at risk of losing funding in the upcoming fiscal year,” said Joseph.

“Our students and our educators have been through hell over the last few years. Why I can say that is because I was in hell with them,” added the former teacher. “We should be centering our investment in young people right now — instead we’re weakening it.”

The United Federation of Teachers and its national union, the American Federation of Teachers, were both at the morning rally and hosted another protest on Friday after school. Union leaders including AFT president Randi Weingarten encouraged the city to use the federal funds earmarked for schools to continue funding them at this school year’s levels.

Mayor Eric Adams and the City Council delivered an early budget this year, though council members said Friday that they stalled negotiations over the issue of school allocations.

Adrienne Adams
City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams joined advocates and union heads on the City Hall steps.
Stefan Jeremiah for New York Post

“We were told something other than what was delivered in the final plan,” Speaker Adams said.

At the oversight hearing, upwards of 50 students, parents and education advocates turned out during the school day, while more were able to tune in online. More yet testified at a city education panel meeting on Thursday night — though the DOE suggested the final vote was no more than a perfunctory measure since the early budget meant it was already approved.

Council members continued to accuse the DOE of a lack of transparency and even dishonesty.

“This budget passed with the implicit understanding that we would continue working together to address this issue to rectify these cuts to our local schools,” said Council Member Lincoln Restler, whose district spans from Boerum Hill to Greenpoint.

Restler said the DOE told council members the school staff positions slated for cuts were already vacant — but that instead his district has lost bilingual and art teachers.

“These cuts are not flesh wounds.” the council member said. “They’re cutting to the bone.”

Education officials told council members that the school budgets were not final and could grow if schools see more students this fall.

The DOE also released numbers on its budget that suggest 46% of its funds go directly to schools, while 2% is reserved for central and field operations.

Updated figures on overall per pupil spending showed that the DOE expects to spend $31,434 on each child next school year, up from before the pandemic. At the same time, the primary pot of money sent directly to schools per student is slated to decline next year, a recent Post investigation showed.

Federal COVID stimulus funds for schools is set to expire by 2025, so DOE officials said they have begun to wind those supports down. At least $4.3 billion is still left to spend, according to city figures.

“We will be able to mitigate and cushion some of what we’re seeing right now, but we just don’t have the ability to avoid reality,” said Dan Weisberg, first deputy chancellor at the DOE.

“If we could have our ideal, we would allow every teacher to stay where they are, if they want to stay where they are. We’re not in the ideal,” he added.

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