Mayor Eric Adams and the New York City Council have voted to cut school budgets by $215 million. The budget cuts took effect on July 1 and will continue through June 2023.
The cuts are a departure from De Blasio’s pandemic policy that increased funding for schools during the pandemic from the federal coronavirus relief fund.
Adams proclaimed that the cuts are due to the lack of enrollment in city public schools.
“What we’re doing is we are not cutting. We are adjusting the amount based on the student population,” Adams said at a press conference at city hall on June 10.
According to data from the Department of Education (DOE), enrollment from the 2021-2022 school year dropped by 35,250 students. Chancellor David Banks remarked in March, in his first major speech as Chancellor, that schools have lost 120,000 students over the last five years.
Although enrollment may seem low, these cuts are having real effects on public schools. Parents from local elementary school PS 34 and members of the school’s PTA shared their frustrations and concerns with this decision.
“This budget cut thing is so horrible, because it affects every single part of the day, and every single kid and every single person that works in that school, no matter if you’re the one that has been excessed or the aide whose hours are reduced,” said Molly Giliotti, mother of two kids, incoming co-secretary of the PTA, School Leadership Team (SLT) member and board member for the North Brooklyn Angels.
The PTA posted on their Instagram page that PS 34 is slated to lose $476,097 in funding for the 2022 – 2023 school year. Losing almost half a million would mean larger class sizes, losing teachers, aides, and programs.
Parents like Sarah Stansbury, whose two children are upcoming fifth and third graders, are not happy about it. She doesn’t understand how cutting the budget will make a good argument for staying in public schools when resources are being cut such as removing music teachers, social workers, and condensing the amount of classes.
“If we’re removing music teachers and removing social workers and cutting aid hours and condensing, if you’re like, ‘Oh, my kids’ class was gonna have 22 students, but now it’s 32.’ That’s not a good argument for coming back to public education. This is a moment where we should be attracting people back to public schools and not giving them more reasons to leave or more reasons to go to a private school or leave the city,” said Stansbury.
The PTA, while still protesting the budget cut, is now taking the responsibility of raising money to try and make up the lost difference. So far they have raised enough to save the school’s music teacher who was excessed.
Excessed, in simpler terms, is when staff such as teachers are reduced because of budget cuts (in this case), but not fired, leading them to wait to fill a vacancy within the school system. Giliotti, who used to be an elementary school teacher years ago, remembers when she was excessed during her first year of teaching, and how the process can be a lot of waiting. Based on the budget cuts, she thinks there will be a pool of excessed teachers sitting around when they could have still been in their schools, especially when the DOE is still paying their salaries.
Jane Lea, architect and member of School Leadership Team (SLT), shares how PS 34 may be fortunate to raise money but other schools are not so lucky. She wonders about the schools that are less fortunate or don’t have PTAs, and can’t afford to save their excessed teachers or music programs; what are they to do?
Lea is a mother to two sons, one son going into fourth grade at PS 34 and another son heading to seventh grade at PS 318. She remarked that schools with access to people with money will be able to “bridge the gap” of the cuts.
“Again, the thing that makes me so uncomfortable about that is it is people who have the access to people with money that are getting that. So we’re gonna end up in a situation where we have really well funded public schools, and we have really poorly funded public schools. And that kind of fundamentally, breaks my heart, on a lot of levels. I just feel it does kind of get kids feeling like we’re just keep[ing] certain kids down consistently. And I have a real problem with this,” said Lea.
She thinks education should not be dependent on having parents who can raise money; education should be provided for everyone.
The parents stated how we are still in a pandemic (some of them recovering from COVID themselves recently) and kids need support now more than ever. Kids have been dealing with a lot during the pandemic and it has caused some developmental delays and emotional ones.
Kathy Szwarc, outgoing co-PTA president last year (as of June 30, 2022, there’s new leadership) and mother of two, has experience with this. Her eldest son, who is heading to third grade, had to do remote learning during the pandemic and is not quite at grade level for reading. The combination of being remote, large class sizes and losing their universal literacy coach played a role.
Szwarc is frustrated to see “police budgets be so high and the school budgets, which affects significantly more families…getting slashed.” She hopes Governor Kathy Hochul will sign the smaller class size bill which is another way the state can help schools as well as extra funding. Smaller class size would for example help maintain PS 34’s first ever Polish-English Dual Language Program in NYC.
Lea is wondering what the end goal is of these budget cuts because “it doesn’t seem like it’s to fund education” which is demoralizing especially when they’ve talked about building a “just and equitable future”.
The parents remind their local politicians and city council members (many who voted yes on the bill) that they will hold them accountable on this issue. Giliotti emphasized that it’s the city council’s job “to advocate for us,” and it’s a weak excuse to say they didn’t understand the bill fully.
Stansbury echoed the sentiment that council members should fix this because this issue is a priority for the community. She urged the city council to vote no if this budget cut proposal comes again. Stansbury is aware there will be more cuts next year, with Adams wanting to cut $375 million next year.
Lincoln Restler, city council member for District 33, is working on fixing that. Restler told Greenpointers that he is making education his number one priority. He has seen these cuts and the effects it has had on his district’s schools.
He understands the outrage amongst parents and plans to mobilize with parents to get more funds. Restler is working on allocating funds to those schools and mentioned that in his district, they have secured $200,000 in discretionary funding to go to local elementary schools in the community, such as PS 34.
“The mayor is cutting near like half a billion dollars in funding from our school budgets. And those are not flesh wounds. Those are real cuts to the bone that are going to have significant impacts on our young people and our school communities if we don’t do something about it. And that’s why I’m so focused on pushing back and organizing to secure the funds and get them restored,”said Lincoln Restler
Restler specifically allocated $50,000 to PS 34 through the “A Greener NYC” Council Initiative. The initiative supports environmentally-focused programs and environmental education. The allocated funds will help redirect Principal Alain Beugoms’ resources towards, in particular, preventing a teacher from being excessed and keeping a class size small by funding an environmental teaching position at PS 34.
500k capital funds were also allocated to PS 34 in the budget for Cafeteria Ventilation Improvements, which will be used for the installation of HVAC systems to address the lack of ventilation in the cafeteria space, a source told Greenpointers.
Restler did vote for the budget cuts. He said the DOE told city council members that vacant positions wouldn’t be filled but no teachers would be fired. They said to them “things would go essentially as normal with the proposed changes in the budget” and that was far from the truth.
“The city is flush with resources, the mayor is insisting on these cuts that are absolutely unnecessary. And they’re going to cause chaos in our schools. And he can restore them today. The resources are there. And he needs to do the right thing and support our school communities. Right now,” said Restler.
On July 18, Restler and other council members from the Progressive Caucus held a rally against the Mayor’s school budget cuts with parents, teachers, and advocates. Restler and others expressed their regrets over the vote.
“If I knew then what I know, today, I would have voted differently,” Restler told Greenpointers days before the rally.
After the rally, a new court ruling came out on July 22 challenging the schools budget cuts. According to Gothamist, a New York Supreme Court judge placed a temporary restraining order against budget cuts at city public schools. So until the hearing on August 4, the city can’t take any action related to the budget cuts. For many parents, teachers, and education activists, this temporary restraining order is a small victory, but they hope permanently to stop these cuts in its entirety.
The order came right after a group of parents and educators filed a lawsuit on July 18. They argued the city failed state law by not allowing the Panel for Educational Policy to vote on the schools’ budget before City Council approved the final city budget. The lawsuit urges that the City Council revote on these budget cuts and to repeal the cuts.
DOE did not respond to Greenpointers’ request for comment.
It’s sad to see how such a small school and I mean small can continue to be pinched off every little corner. I remember when my daughter went to that school and it was always tight. One class room going into another. The cafeteria being turned into a gym ,an auditorium, a music class , and so on because the space was so limited. For the DOE to take away from them is heartbreaking. The staff tries so hard to make do as is. As a Greenpoint parent, we should help all the neighborhood schools. Ps 31, Ps 110 and Ps 34 because there is so much over crowding.
Ironic that PS 34 is a public school with no tuition, but children are selling lemonade and there are other things that parents are doing to raise money for what should be a free education. Instead of taking money away from what is necessary, how about cutting the ties with the companies that charge for the yearly, but unnecessary testing.
The DOE said to the council that “no one would be fired,” but also failed to clarify that teachers would be excessed. This is a sneaky garbage move. The real agenda is the destruction of public ed and the funds being redirected to charters. We need to actively speak up against this. Charters= publicly subsidized, privately profitable. Charters can discriminate against who they want to accept. As a DOE special ed teacher I am vehemently against this. I live right by PS 34 and I hope we as a community can further help support the school. I always buy their merch when I see them selling it. 🙂
teachers lost their jobs because of your vote for eric adams’ budget. is this the place where i write that our CC rep went to a school that costs 50K for pre-school?
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