Wave of disappointment, anger spreads across NYC schools over budget cuts

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A wave of disappointment and anger spreads across New York City school communities over recent budget cuts.

This was touched off by Mayor Eric Adams’ recently announced budget cuts.

Parents fear they’ll see programs discontinued in the fall, and teachers are worried about their jobs.

While the cuts are tied to K-12 declining enrollment —which has dropped by 9.5% since the beginning of the pandemic — many parents, educators, and politicians believe they will hurt students as they continue grappling with the academic and social-emotional toll from the pandemic.

“These cuts don’t translate to just fewer textbooks,” said state Sen. Jessica Ramos, who held a rally Friday outside of P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights, Queens, the school her children attend.

“What we’re seeing is cutting a guidance counselor, cutting an art teacher, cutting a music teacher. I can’t tell you what my little guy would do if his trumpet was taken away from him. This is very personal.”

Ramos said she would like to see a budget that is responsive to the trauma that families have endured throughout the pandemic.

She also said that, “It’s a matter of trusting the principals and the teachers to know what the schools need, and perhaps making those investments there.”

Adams said he did not cut funding, but rather adjusted the budget according to the Fair Student Funding formula, which provides the bulk of money for individual school budgets.

It’s based on enrollment projections, sending more money to schools with high shares of students with disabilities, learning English as a new language, or facing academic struggles.

“We did not cut funding. Can someone put that in a sentence? We had a drop in students,” Adams said during an unrelated press conference earlier this week.

“This administration is focusing on giving children what they need. We did not cut. I’m going to make a T-shirt saying we did not cut.”

The city has increased its own spending on education by about $720 million. But its financial plan for the coming fiscal year shows a $1 billion decline for the education department, largely attributed to a decrease in federal COVID funding. The budget passed this week.

Teachers have gone on social media to share fears about co-workers being excessed from their schools. Meanwhile, the city may be trying to get schools with vacancies to hire excessed teachers through a hiring freeze of educators from outside the system. A recently sent letter to prospective teachers outlined hiring restrictions for teachers with certifications in early childhood education and childhood education, which affects prekindergarten to sixth grade.

An education department spokesperson said this kind of restriction is typical for this time of the year and done to ensure that they are able to keep talent in the system.

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