41 of Council’s 51 members urge mayor and DOE to restore school budgets with over $760 million in newly discovered unspent federal stimulus funds before decisions that would separate teachers from existing schools for next year  

City Hall, NY – A supermajority of the New York City Council called for Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks to immediately restore individual school budgets by using more than $700 million in newly discovered unspent federal stimulus funds at the Department of Education (DOE) from the previous fiscal year. In a letter signed by 41 of the Council’s 51 members, including Speaker Adrienne Adams, they demanded urgent action from DOE to restore school budgets within the month, before schools must make decisions about teacher-hiring that would separate teachers from their current schools for the upcoming school year. The letter also calls for DOE to commit to a process with school stakeholders that changes its inefficient policies on school budgeting and the Fair Student Funding formula ahead of the next fiscal year and school year.

The full letter can be accessed at this link.

In the letter, the Council expresses its “opposition and disappointment with how the Department of Education is administering individual school budgets, [pointing to] DOE’s return to long-standing, dysfunctional and bureaucratic policies that negatively impact schools [as] counterproductive.”

The letter states: “Principals, schools, and teachers must make important decisions within the next month, and your continued inaction is hampering their ability to make the right choices for students.

The letter also highlights “…reports of DOE removing funding from individual schools, unrelated to the city budget is further evidence of its harmful policies.” It points to discrepancies in the levels of funding being reported as cut from school budgets: “DOE has indicated a gap in school budgets of approximately $215 million, barely 0.06% of the agency’s $37.6 billion budget. Despite differing amounts of funding being reported as cut from schools by DOE, indicating even greater reductions and the policy-driven nature of school budgets, the solution remains the same[1]. DOE’s numbers are not adding up, and it seems to be using the city budget as a smokescreen to evade responsibility for its policies that undermine support for schools.”

The letter cites the New York City Independent Budget Office’s identification of “$761 million in unspent federal stimulus funds for Fiscal Year 2022 and $38.1 million from Fiscal Year 2021” that the Council demands be used to restore school budgets.

The Council passed the Fiscal Year 2023 city budget with agreement that it would invest over $700 million more in city funds for DOE than the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. While the Preliminary Budget indicated that spending on school budgets would change based on enrollment, including increased funds for some schools and reduced funds for others, there was a lack of transparency regarding the impact on individual schools, how enrollment was being forecasted, and federal stimulus funds.

Despite DOE’s assertion during the city budget process that enrollment changes to school budgets would lead to a gap of $215 million due to a lack of federal stimulus funds, the newly discovered unspent stimulus funds and recent reports of additional school budget cuts contradict these claims. The reality schools are facing has become clear based on individual school budgets that were released later than usual, the result of problems with the same DOE policies on school budgets that the Council is now raising and were manifested in its school funding formula being rejected in its first Panel for Educational Policy vote. The mayoral administration’s refusal to acknowledge the need to resolve these DOE issues in the city budget process led the Council to announce an oversight hearing shortly before its budget vote to support resolution.

“As a DOE music educator and the proud parent of three daughters enrolled in NYC public schools, the mayor’s cuts to schools affect me both as a parent and as an educator,” said Paul Trust, a Brooklyn teacher and parent of children in Queens public schools. “The school where I have taught students will be losing our music program, which is an integral part of the school’s culture. My daughter’s school will be losing a guidance counselor and classroom teacher, leading to increases in class sizes and a decrease in the emotional care many students require. I am imploring the mayor, chancellor and DOE to restore school budgets, so our students are provided with the support and programs they desperately need.”

[1] The Office of the NYC Comptroller has compared the initial Fiscal Year 2022 school allocations to the initial Fiscal Year 2023 FSF allocations and indicated a “net reduction of $489 million between the two years.” The Comptroller’s Office has also stated that “1,166 schools lost a total of $469 million.”