City council members voted Tuesday to restore hundreds of millions of dollars to New York’s school budget — just months after many of them voted to make the very same cuts.
The mostly symbolic reversal, which got unanimous support from a bipartisan group of 41 council members, is non-binding, and calls on Mayor Eric Adams to use temporary COVID aid or other funds to cover the gap.
Many of the reps have claimed they were misled about what exactly they were voting for when they rubber-stamped in June the reductions — which was a move that was supported by Adams, who feels that a budget cut is warranted due to a fall over many years in city school enrollment.
Despite the vote — which has no legal bearing on talks with Adams to restore the funds — the schools are facing budget trouble even if Adams approves using the federal COVID dollars.
“Declining enrollment means that we are going to have potentially less money in some of these school buildings,” said council Majority Leader Keith Powers.
“We’re going to have to tackle those questions about how to prioritize, and how to spend that money,” he added. “We’re going to have to look at the funding formulas that guide many of the funding decisions that the school system makes, and we’re going to have to look at the loss of stimulus funding.”
Republican Joe Borelli, the council minority leader, called Tuesday’s vote to restore the cash an “Easy yes.”
“Certainly, we all support putting more money in classrooms, less in big Tweed salaries, less on consultants the DOE seems to need while they sacrifice arts supplies, athletic programs and things like that,” he said.
“We also have to acknowledge why we’re in this position we’re in, and it’s because of a drop off in student enrollment,” Borelli added.
Roughly 120,000 students are missing from public school rosters over the last five years, according to the Department of Education — which is predicting another 30,000-student drop by the end of this school year.
The resolution — which at its core, calls on the mayor to submit a modified budget that reverses the hundreds of millions in cuts — also includes measures for increased transparency at the Department of Education.
Council members introduced the measure as negotiations with the mayor to restore some funding have stalled in recent weeks.
“We should not be cutting school budgets at this time,” said Rita Joseph, chair of the education committee. “Rather, we should be investing and needed services and support to help students recover from the impact COVID-19.”
Speaker Adrienne Adams said that so far, the DOE has offered “piecemeal restorations” that do not cover the full reduction.
Several council members have alleged City Hall misled them about the extent of the cuts — a small share of the DOE’s massive $31-billion budget, but an estimated 8% average reduction to each school losing funds, according to comptroller figures.
The mayor’s office denies the allegations.
As the council wrestles with trying to restore the money, a separate task force is reviewing the schools’ Fair Student Funding formula — the primary funding source for teacher salaries and school-level costs.
The group of school finance experts, parents and advocates, union reps and city officials have met every other week since August to compile recommendations to rethink funding formulas by the end of October, according to internal documents obtained by The Post.
City Comptroller Brad Lander estimates that the public schools have $4.4 billion to spend over the next couple of school years, though City Hall says those funds are allocated.