June 9, 2023
NYC education panel passes $30B budget, but without knowing how it will be divided among schools

NYC education panel passes $30B budget, but without knowing how it will be divided among schools

Education panelists mostly appointed by Mayor Adams pushed through a $30.7 billion education budget Wednesday nigh — but with little knowledge of how it will be divvied up among schools.

The vote was held by the Panel for Educational Policy three months earlier than last year, after a high-profile court decision found the schools chancellor could not circumvent the mandated step before city officials finalize the budget.

But the abbreviated timeline meant that panelists voted without a finalized funding formula or enrollment projections that impact the per-pupil dollars sent to schools. City Comptroller Brad Lander, a non-voting member, called a vote without that critical information “irresponsible.”

“The whole goal of the lawsuit was to provide meaningful public input,” said Lander. “There was a lot of anger last year… To do the vote now, rendering it meaningless, I just think you’ll turn that anger into cynicism.”

Some panelists attempted to postpone the vote twice until they had more information about how the proposal — which makes up approximately 31% of the overall city budget — would impact local schools and districts.

But after a heated discussion, 16 members who were mostly mayoral appointees voted yes on the estimated budget. Seven of the 10 panelists not hand-picked by Adams either rejected or abstained from the vote.

“We don’t have a formula approved yet. We don’t have enrollment numbers yet. We’re not sure about the funding, but yet we’re being asked to vote on this budget and just trust it,” said Sheree Gibson, the representative for Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

“But you kind of lost that trust with us last year because then it was major cuts, deep cuts.”

For more than a decade, the chancellor issued emergency declarations most years to bypass state law requiring the Panel for Educational Policy to vote before the city finalizes the budget. That was until last summer, when parents and teachers, in an attempt to reverse hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts at the school level, sued to end the practice.

Breaking News

As it happens

Get updates on the coronavirus pandemic and other news as it happens with our free breaking news email alerts.

The cuts remained, but an appellate court upheld that education officials were breaking the law.

“We’re in this position where we have a binding decision from the court,” said Liz Vladeck, general counsel for the public schools. “I just want to try and make as clear as I can what, in my view, is a very muddy and unclear legal posture that we find ourselves in.”

The Department of Education allocation voted on Wednesday night was not final and subject to change during negotiations before the City Council approves the overall city budget for the next fiscal year in July.

“This is an estimated budget, emphasis is on the word ‘estimated,’” said Effi Zakry, who represents Queens parents on the panel. “It is not a binding budget, and both the mayor and city councilmembers can revise it.”

The Panel for Educational Policy will get another stab at shaping school budgets when the city’s revamped school funding formula, Fair Student Funding, is expected to come before the body in May. The formula dictates most of the money sent directly to schools for basics like hiring teachers.

Chancellor Banks, at the recommendation of some panel members, has proposed changes to the formula that would send an additional $90 million to schools with students in temporary housing, including asylum seekers, and high concentrations of kids in poverty, with disabilities and learning English.

Chief Operating Officer Emma Vadehra said last week that where those dollars are coming from is still “TBD,” though she assured Wednesday night that it would not come out of principals’ hands.

Source link