LOWER MANHATTAN (PIX11) — New York City’s new budget will include a more than $200 million reduction in funding for public education.
The amount represents less than one percent of what the city will spend on education in the coming fiscal year, but in practical terms, it could mean that some vital education programs won’t be available for students who need them. Parents, students, teachers and some education analysts protested the cuts on Monday.
Tracy Jordan, the parent of a second grader with a learning disability, went to a demonstration on the steps of City Hall late Monday morning. She told PIX11 News that her daughter has flourished in the last year, in spite of the pandemic, thanks to extra support at school.
“She had intervention services,” Jordan said. “It was almost like she had kind of like a tutor, someone to support her,” the mother continued. “We won’t have that any more.”
She said that the public education cuts, which are estimated to be anywhere from $215 million to $250 million, may very well eliminate assistance like her daughter gets at her elementary school.
Kaliris Salas-Ramirez, a member of Parents for Responsible Equitable Safe Schools, or PRESS NYC, a parents’ organization that advocates on educational issues, said that she is in regular contact with other parents and educators about the potential effect of the reductions.
“I spoke to a principal last week,” she said, and the principal told her that they’re having to make an “$800,000 cut” to the budget of the East Harlem school. “‘Which means I have to let go of a social worker, and arts programming,'” Salas-Ramirez said the principal told her.
Reductions like that end up affecting hundreds of children at each of the city’s nearly 1,900 schools, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, said on the PIX11 Morning News on Monday.
“These cuts to our individual school budgets are not the right move at this time,” Lander said.
However, Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks have said that the reductions in funding are due to decreases in the number of students in the New York City public school system since the pandemic began. They also said that the enrollments are projected to decrease in the foreseeable future as well.
However, there may be reason to doubt the city’s rationale, David Bloomfield, an education policy analyst at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center said.
“We don’t know what the enrollment is going to be in September,” Bloomfield said, “and yet the mayor is making a budget based on some enrollment projections that are likely to be wrong.”
Bloomfield said that it’s possible that enrollment could go up, and if it did, there would be that much less money for more students. Even if numbers of students didn’t rise, said Bloomfield, “You still need the teachers, you still need all of the support services, even if you’re losing a small number of children.”
Also, he added, “The enrollment drop is to some degree not a matter of birth rates, but people voting with their feet.”
In other words, he said, numbers have declined during the pandemic because, in part, the quality of schools have not been as high as some families with the ability to leave to system had wanted.
Throughout the day at protests across New York City, parents, teachers, and students called on the City Council to not approve the city’s $101 billion overall budget proposal. One protest in Carroll Gardens was attended by former Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Nonetheless, with an endorsement from City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, who helped to negotiate the budget, it is expected to be approved by the council on Monday evening.
Still, some activists, as well as the city comptroller, said that because of available federal funding and state initiatives, the cuts don’t have to be final.
“This decision could be reversed by the mayor and the chancellor,” Lander said. “They could send the money out to schools to keep their budgets strong, through the summer and fall.”