A New York State Supreme Court judge has returned the education portion of the city’s budget back to the City Council and mayor for reconsideration in a move that is likely to throw the schools budget into further uncertainty, roughly a month before students return to classes.
Judge Lyle E. Frank ruled in favor of plaintiffs who argued the city’s budgeting process for schools violated state law, granting a preliminary injunction and ordering a do-over, after weeks of political outcry over cuts to schools that were losing students.
“The New York City FY ’23 budget as it relates to expenditures by the Department of Education only is vacated,” the judge wrote in his three-page order, signed Friday.
He said spending on schools should “revert” to last fiscal year’s levels, which were higher because they utilized a larger portion of federal stimulus funding.
“[I]t is further ORDERED that the New York City Council and the Mayor of the City of New York shall be authorized to amend the Fiscal Year 2023 New York City budget” for education, the judge wrote. While the order allows officials to renegotiate the education budget, it does not require them to do so.
It is likely the city will appeal. But the judge’s decision is a major setback for the Adams administration, which had said it was necessary to reduce school budgets by hundreds of millions of dollars because of declining enrollment.
Since June, principals have been looking to cut costs, eliminating teacher positions and programs. In response, parents and teachers have escalated pressure on the mayor to reverse the cuts, with parents dogging him at events throughout the city.
The Adams administration did not immediately comment.
Council members who voted for the budget have said they regret doing so, indicating they will seek to restore the funding. But the Council and the mayor will now have to figure out how to redo the education budget. If they choose to restore funding, they will have to find ways to do so while keeping the overall budget in balance.
The judge’s decision does not focus on the impact of the cuts but the bureaucratic process that led to them. State law says an education oversight body — the Panel for Education Policy — is supposed to vet and then vote on education spending before it goes to the City Council and is passed as part of the overall city budget. This year, the schools chancellor issued an emergency order to move the process along, and those steps happened in reverse.
Friday’s order permits money to be allocated to the education department from other parts of the budget, but explicitly states that any change should not obstruct implementation of the Adams administration’s initiative on dyslexia.
This is a developing story and will be updated.