A state appeals court has blocked last week’s decision by a judge to invalidate New York City’s education budget and call for a reconsideration between the mayor’s office and the City Council.
The appellate division granted a stay after the Adams administration filed a formal appeal Tuesday, meaning the budget cuts are back in effect at least until a hearing at the end of August. It’s the latest in an ongoing battle over what, by the City Council’s estimates, amounts to $365 million in cuts to public school budgets based on declining enrollment in city schools.
"We are pleased that the court has agreed with us and that we are allowed to move forward with our current spending plans," said Amaris Cockfield, a spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams. "We will continue to defend the city's budget process."
In its appeal, the city’s attorneys criticized the lower court’s ruling, saying it was based on a “single alleged procedural imperfection,” thus upending a “hugely consequential, wide-ranging, and intricate budgetary process,” and caused chaos for principals and other administrators who are currently planning for the coming school year.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit – a group of parents and teachers – had argued that the city violated state education law when it passed the city budget without prior approval of the Panel for Educational Policy, a governing body that oversees the Department of Education. State law requires the panel to vote on education spending first, but, as some of his predecessors have done before, Schools Chancellor David Banks used an “emergency declaration” to move the process along.
City Comptroller Brand Lander, along with some Council members and education activists, called on the mayor to use remaining federal stimulus money to maintain funding at last year’s levels.
“With schools reopening in five short weeks, DOE cannot be left in budgetary ‘limbo,’” the city’s appeal read. “It is destabilizing, at a bare minimum, to turn back the clock on spending as if this year never occurred, pretending that DOE is still flush with federal pandemic relief, and that student enrollment remains at past levels.”
Parents have dogged the mayor at public events in recent weeks, urging him to stop fighting the lawsuit and negotiate a deal with the City Council to restore funding to schools. Several hundreds of teachers have already lost their jobs and principals have warned of cuts to enrichment programs and an increase in class sizes.
The Adams administration has argued that budget reductions are necessary at schools where the number of students has gone down.
Enrollment has declined precipitously in recent years: the school system lost more than 80,000 students during the pandemic. Officials said if schools don’t start preparing now, they could face a fiscal cliff when federal stimulus funds run out.
Adams has taken to asking parents and activists who are protesting his decision to cut funding to “pray” for the administration. At an event on Tuesday near Prospect Park In Brooklyn, one protestor shot back a response.
“We’re not going to pray. You have the power. Fund our schools,” they said
When asked by Gothamist whether he would be willing to put aside the lawsuit and negotiate a deal with the City Council, Adams vowed to keep fighting in court. He promised schools will have the resources they need when they reopen in September.
“The city has lawyers. Let them handle that,” Adams said. “The chancellor must get that school open. And I must do my job as the mayor of the city. And that’s what I’m going to do.”