A contentious school funding plan cleared another hurdle Thursday night when the city education panel voted to approve the estimated budget for the Department of Education.
More than 70 people stayed up past 11 pm to voice their budget concerns to The Panel for Educational Policy, made up of mostly mayoral appointees.
Speakers lamented the loss of $ 215 million to schools that Mayor Eric Adams has insisted is not a cut, but “right-sizing” the budget as student enrollment declines.
“This doublespeak – this sounds like it could come straight out of (the dystopian novel)‘ 1984 ’,” said a Manhattan parent and teacher.
Some families, teachers and advocates were shocked to find that because the city finalized a budget early this year, the DOE suggested the vote was a little more than a legally required step.
“The timing this year is unusual,” said Schools Chancellor David Banks.
“You’re not voting on whether or not you’re approving the school budgets. The City Council has already approved that. This is a procedural vote tonight, ”he added.
Speakers pleaded with panel members to vote against the estimated budget, whether it could have an immediate impact or not.
“I had a whole speech with notes written out, and then I heard that this was procedural,” said an exacerbated parent from Manhattan. “I just feel so strokeed by that. I don’t know if it was me not being informed, but why didn’t we have a chance as parents to have this meeting before the vote? ”
“Even if 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 reduce the funds schools are set to receive per-student next school year.
“We heard from Mayor Eric Adams that all these cuts were due to enrollment declines – but that’s not what the data showed,” said Mark Gonsalves, a parent in District 3 in Manhattan, and called out school officials as part of a “cover up . ”
“By being silent when you knew about these budget cuts, you were complicating in this fraud,” he added.
Under the Fair Student Funding formula, principals will get a baseline of at least $ 4,197.19 for each general-education student, down by a minimum of $ 25.81 per child.
The figure is weighted according to other factors, including a student’s grade level or additional needs, from disability to English learner status – and as a result have a trickle-down effect.
“Not only are the projected enrollments low-balled and wrong, and there’s no transparency,” said another parent, “but the actual amount per student was reduced – which no one found out until today in a newspaper.”
In recent weeks, principals were slapped with diminished school budgets up to millions of dollars, after the city resumed tying funds to enrollment for the first time since the pandemic began.
Roughly 400 schools did not see reductions in their budgets, according to the DOE – but other schools have cut vital programs like arts education, sports teams and field trips, and let go of staff, from teachers to guidance counselors.
All but one member not appointed by the major voted against the estimated budget.
“Yes, we knew that the Fair Student Funding formula was not fair, and we were going to work on revising that,” said Manhattan Borough President Appointee Kaliris Salas-Ramirez. “But we didn’t necessarily know what those budgets were going to look like until after 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 in supporting our students and our teachers in the middle of a pandemic – or ever.”
Angela Green, chair of the panel, said that the Fair Student Funding formula will be reviewed over the summer and finalized by the fall. She did not provide additional details.