NYC Council members apologize for passing budget with school cuts

NYC Council members apologize for passing budget with school cuts

Multiple New York City Council members gathered on the steps of the education department’s headquarters Monday to apologize for approving a budget that cut funding for schools — and to call on the Adams Administration to restore the funds.

“We didn’t get it right,” said Councilmember Jennifer Gutiérrez, who represents parts of Williamsburg, Bushwick and Ridgewood. “I invite the chancellor and the mayor to say that they also didn’t get it right. It’s okay to say we f***ed up.”

The Adams administration has repeatedly criticized Council members for their opposition to cuts to school budgets that they approved early last month. Many new members said their first budget had been its own education, and they had learned new lessons in how deals are struck within city government.

“I made a decision that I thought would best equip me to have a seat at the table and the tools to fight back against and restore the cuts,” said Councilmember Shahana Hanif, who represents parts of Kensington, Borough Park, Park Slope, Gowanus , Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill in Brooklyn. “It’s clearer than ever that the table and the entire process in this body is severely broken.”

Councilmember Lincoln Restler, a veteran of the de Blasio administration, said he too had buyer’s remorse after voting for the budget.

“I am angry that these cuts are on the chopping block and I’m angry at myself that I didn’t do more to stop it,” said Restler, whose district covers Greenpoint, parts of downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights. “And I’m sorry to every parent, to every teacher, to every student in my community that I didn’t step up and fight back the ways that I should have during this budget process.”

Councilmember Carmen de La Rosa whose district includes Washington Heights and Inwood also voiced regret but vowed, “that this can never happen again.”

Amid chants such as “What good is swagger when our schools get the dagger,” parents, educators and lawmakers called on city officials to reverse the cuts by August 1st so that principals can retain or bring back teachers whose positions have been eliminated, and maintain key programming.

Parents and teachers also announced that they had filed a suit in the New York Supreme Court seeking to overturn the city budget, and calling for a revote.

The suit argues that the budget timeline this year violated state law because the education department’s oversight body – the Panel for Education 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 bureaucratic process was delayed this year when members initially rejected the very formula the city uses to determine school spending.

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.

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