A New York Supreme Court judge has granted education activists a temporary restraining order against budget cuts at city public schools the Adams administration has said are needed to reflect declining enrollment. The city is barred from taking any action related to the budget cuts until after a hearing on August 4th.
The restraining order is the latest in the fallout over school budget cuts that have led to major strains for public schools across the city. Many principals have already eliminated staff positions and programming because of the budget cuts and say some of the teachers they let go have already found other jobs. But some are hopeful the city will restore funds so they don’t have to cut funding further.
“[W]e continue to believe that the cuts are causing irreparable harm to students and teachers,” Laura Barbieri, the attorney from Advocates for Justice who is handling the case pro bono on behalf of four parents and teacher plaintiffs. “We hope to win this case on the merits, as the cuts were enacted in a manner that clearly violates state law.”
The fate of the cuts remains unclear amid the pending court case and the potential for a deal between City Council and the Adams administration to restore funding to schools. However, sources within the City Council said Friday that negotiations on a deal had hit an impasse.
Amaris Cockfield, a spokesperson for City Hall, said the administration plans to file a motion on Monday requesting a judge vacate the temporary restraining order.
“The budget was duly adopted by the City Council and is in accordance with all charter mandated protocols,” Cockfield wrote in her statement.
The judge’s order comes in response to a lawsuit filed Monday by teachers and parents.
The suit argues that the budget timeline this year violated state law because the city education department’s oversight body – the Panel for Educational Policy – did not have a chance to vote on the spending plan for schools until after the Council had already approved the final city budget .
Typically, the panel votes first. But that step in the process was delayed this year when members initially rejected the very formula the city uses to determine school spending. But the plaintiffs argue that, because the panel did not have its own hearing and vote on the budgets first, the Council was deprived of the panel’s input and the benefit of public comment. The suit also says the education department failed to sufficiently detail the impact of the budget reductions on individual schools.
The lawsuit is seeking to nullify the Council’s vote on the city budget as a whole. On Monday, multiple councilmembers appeared at a rally outside the city education department’s headquarters where they decried the cuts and said they regretted voting for the city budget last month.
The city budget included $215 million in cuts to the education department to reflect lower enrollment at schools. But officials have since said those cuts only represented last year’s decline in enrollment.
For the coming school year, the agency is projecting an additional decline of 30,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, causing many individual schools to face even steeper cuts.