NYC schools are being sued by parents and teachers after the district slashed public schools' budgets in an improper manner.
New York City Public Schools passed their 2023 annual budget last month. This plan slashed millions from the public school budget without approval from the district’s oversight board. Now the NYC schools are facing a lawsuit from parents and teachers hoping to reinstate the funding.
State law requires approval from the Panel for Education Policy (PEP). This is a board of mayoral appointees and other education professionals. The new budget was approved just 10 days before the PEP could sign it, and so educators and families who believe NYC schools require more funding have entered a legal battle on the grounds that the new budget was unlawfully approved and should be reconsidered.
While some believe that more funding is needed to provide students with a proper education, New York received billions in pandemic relief money which was supposed to support students and keep schools functioning despite excessive pandemic mandates. Instead of utilizing the funds for public health updates or combating learning loss, NYC schools were instructed to train staff on Critical Race Theory subjects such as “culturally responsive” instruction, and teaching students about “privilege,” “Implicit bias,” and furthering Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) practices like “anti-racism.” In addition, the district removed penalties for turning in late work and skipping school.
Parents wishing for their children to learn core subjects and earn proper grades through hard work have fled the system. In 2020 NYC schools lost 5% of students, and then 2% in 2021. An estimated 30,000 more students are expected to leave the district and enroll in alternative schooling options. Furthermore, 40% of students enrolled in the district were chronically absent this year.
Being that public schools receive funding based on enrollment and attendance rates, budget cuts are obviously needed. These taxpayer-funded learning institutions are not serving as many students as they were in the past and therefore, by the current standards, require less money from the people. Despite this, the proper procedures to pass the 2023 NYC school budget were not followed.
Parents and teachers who believe that money alone can fix the masses of problems NYC schools face are fighting to regain the millions of dollars cut from the budget based on that fact. Unfortunately, a legal battle over this issue would potentially delay the funding altogether and put the state of the district’s finances in limbo for an uncertain time frame. As if that weren’t concerning enough, the schools’ chancellor David Banks made an emergency declaration in order to pass the budget through due to the various challenges affecting the school system.
As many lawmakers and politicians were able to pass unprecedented measures throughout the pandemic under emergency declarations, Banks used that same tactic to pass multiple budget cuts that may be necessary in order to keep NYC schools open. Even New York City mayor Eric Adams supported this measure. He and Department of Education officials both admitted that the cuts were necessary due to low enrollment numbers. Despite this, they were heckled and those remaining in the system are fighting against the cutbacks.
Whether the lawsuit moves forward is uncertain. This leaves the future of the NYC schools in unknown territory. How the courts rule, and how long this legal battle will take could jeopardize the district’s entire plans. For now, parents, educators, and taxpayers must await the outcome.