The New York City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday morning urging Mayor Eric Adams to immediately restore $469 million in funding for schools. The vote, called on short notice, comes nearly three months after the board approved the original budget with the budget cuts, and comes just days before the start of the new school year on Thursday.
Although city council leaders called the session to pass Resolution 283-A before the first day of school, the measure — like all resolutions — is largely symbolic. Its passage follows a long and tumultuous back-and-forth that pitted Council members against the mayor, while a vocal contingent of educators, parents and advocacy organizations called out — and regularly protested – for both parties to resolve things quickly in a way that causes the least disruption to children and their teachers. While some have celebrated the resolution’s approval, some political observers are also skeptical that it will do anything to move the needle on funding. It may be too little, too late, regardless of MPs’ intentions to catch up on their pre-approval of the budget.
“We are doing our part and I pray the mayor understands and I’m sure he should understand now the importance of paying back and putting the money where it belongs in our children’s classroom,” said Mercedes Narcisse, board member, during the conference. Meet. “It’s not a game. It’s very important for them to do what they are supposed to do to address inequalities in education.
Council quickly passed the resolution Tuesday morning without debate. Council held a two-hour public hearing on the resolution two weeks earlier. Republican and Democratic members voiced their support on Tuesday, pointing to the resolution’s demands that Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks submit a budget amendment to allow $469 million to be added to the Department of Education’s budget using unspent federal stimulus funds. New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, a progressive and Adams critic, has previously said spending the funds is the fiscally responsible thing to do. Members also called for the Ministry of Education to be subject to greater scrutiny in future over how it executes its budget – another provision the resolution touches on.
City council leaders have previously said their attempts to negotiate with the mayor’s office over funding have largely fallen on deaf ears. Little progress appears to have been made so far on the council’s request to submit a budget amendment, although the Adams administration has freed up funds in other ways.
In a statement sent to City & State on Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office said Adams and Banks are “committed to providing students with the best education possible” and that every student in the school system is cared for. 100% account in financing.
“After hearing from principals and other community leaders that they needed more time to adjust to declining enrollment, this administration announced a $150 million package of additional support for schools. Additionally, we have allocated all federal stimulus dollars to critical programs and needs,” said Amaris Cockfield, deputy press secretary to the mayor. “We look forward to opening our schools with the resources they need to ensure our students thrive.”
Over the past two months, Adams has argued that any school cuts reflect declining enrollment and are necessary to avoid a greater fiscal cliff when federal COVID-19 funding runs out, while advocates and educators argue that now is not the time for schools to cope with fewer resources. The loss of funding from the previous year’s budget — initially reported at $215 million, then revealed to be much larger — has already forced principals to make tough decisions at some schools, such as cutting programs for art and music or the departure of teachers.
Since the board voted overwhelmingly to approve the budget in June, members have changed positions in effect. Many said they were misled about the true impact of the cuts, with some members even apologizing for their vote. Taking matters into their own hands, education advocates have filed a lawsuit to force city leaders to restore funding, but the final verdict is pending. Board members expressed concern about the impacts of the cut on schools on Tuesday morning, while acknowledging that the body will need to have difficult conversations going forward about declining enrollment and how schools are currently doing. funded by Equitable Student Funding, which provides schools with the majority of its funding based on the number of students enrolled and their needs.
“I don’t think anyone wants to see a school building that doesn’t have an arts program or doesn’t have the teachers they need to support class sizes,” said council member Keith Powers. “But I think after that we need to make an effort to not only keep that money in the budget but also to open up … conversations as the speaker said about what the formula looks like and what the process. in the future, so that we no longer have to deal with this decision.