A controversial school funding plan cleared another hurdle on Thursday night when the city’s education committee voted to approve the Department of Education’s estimated budget.
More than 70 people stayed up past 11 p.m. to voice their budget concerns to the Panel for Educational Policy, made up mostly of mayoral appointees.
Speakers lamented the loss of $215 million to schools. Mayor Eric Adams insisted it was not a cut, but an “adjustment” to the budget as student enrollment dwindled.
“This doublespeak – it sounds like it could be straight out of (the dystopian novel) ‘1984,’” said a Manhattan parent and teacher.
Some families, teachers and advocates were shocked that because the city finalized a budget earlier this year, the DOE suggested the vote was little more than a legally required step.
“The timing this year is unusual,” said Schools Chancellor David Banks.
“You don’t vote on whether or not you approve of school budgets. The city council has already approved it. This is a procedural vote tonight,” he added.
Speakers pleaded with panel members to vote against the estimated budget, whether it might have an immediate impact or not.
“I had a whole speech with written notes, then I heard it was procedural,” said an exacerbated parent from Manhattan. “I feel so insulted by this. I don’t know if it was me who was not informed, but why didn’t we, as parents, have the chance to have this meeting before the vote? »
“Even though this is a procedural vote – please have the courage to vote against this, to take a stand,” said Martina Meijer, an elementary school teacher in Brooklyn.
The 10-4 vote came after The Post reported that the DOE used a controversial budget formula to quietly cut the funds schools are expected to receive per student next school year.
“We heard from Mayor Eric Adams that all of these reductions were due to declining enrollment – but that’s not what the data showed,” said Mark Gonsalves, a parent in District 3 Manhattan, and has called school officials as part of a “cover-up.” .”
“By remaining silent while you were aware of these budget cuts, you were complicit in this fraud,” he added.
Under the student fair funding formula, principals will receive a baseline of at least $4,197.19 for each general education student, down from at least $25.81 per child.
The figure is weighted by other factors, including the student’s grade level or additional needs, from disability to English learner status – and therefore has a trickle down effect.
‘Not only are the projected enrollments low and wrong, and there’s no transparency,’ another parent said, ‘but the actual amount per student has been reduced – which no one has discovered until today. ‘today in a newspaper’.
In recent weeks, principals have been slapped with school budgets cut by up to millions of dollars, after the city resumed tying funds to enrollment for the first time since the pandemic began.
About 400 schools have not had their budgets cut, according to the DOE – but other schools have cut vital programs like arts education, sports teams and field trips, and laid off staff from teachers to counselors orientation.
All but one of the members not appointed by the mayor voted against the provisional budget.
“Yes, we knew the fair student funding formula wasn’t fair, and we were going to work to revise it,” said Manhattan Borough President-appointee Kaliris Salas-Ramirez. “But we didn’t necessarily know what those budgets were going to look like until the first week of June,” when those budgets came out.
“Since this conversation has not been as transparent as it should be by law, Manhattan will also be voting no on this estimated budget, as it is not conducive to supporting our students and teachers at middle of a pandemic – or never.”
Angela Green, chair of the panel, said the student fair funding formula will be reviewed over the summer and finalized by the fall. She did not provide additional details.