NYC Parents And Teachers File Lawsuit Today Against Mayor Adams’ Savage Cuts To School Budgets
The legal papers are posted here.
For immediate release: July 18, 2022
Four NYC parents and teachers filed a lawsuit today in NY Supreme Court, asking for a temporary restraining order to halt the severe budget cuts to their public schools planned for next year, which will otherwise cause class sizes to increase and students to lose valuable programs and services.
As the lawsuit points out, New York State Education Law clearly specifies a mandated process by which the NYC Board of Education (also known as the Panel for Educational Policy) must vote to approve the education budget prior to the City Council vote; but in this case, the City Council voted to adopt the budget on June 13, ten days before the Board voted on June 23, 2022. The lawsuit asks for a revote of the City Council in order to ensure the legally-required process occurs, and that the Council has the opportunity to reconsider its vote based on the testimony of nearly 70 parents and teachers who spoke out at the Board of Education meeting, detailing the profoundly damaging impact of these cuts on their schools.
Instead of following the legally mandated procedure outlined in state law, the Chancellor instead issued an “Emergency Declaration” on May 31 to adopt the budget without any Board vote, though no real emergency existed, using boilerplate language. At the Board meeting on June 23, the Chancellor erroneously declared their vote meaningless because the Council had already adopted the budget. Yet in fact, in twelve out of the last thirteen years, different NYC Schools Chancellors have invoked such “emergencies” when typically none existed, in order to adopt a budget prior to a vote of the Board of Education, thereby disempowering the Board and eradicating its essential authority under state law to approve education budgets.
In addition, State law also requires that the Board vote on a budget in which the expenses of the Community School District Councils are delineated separately from the expenses of the City Board, which did not occur either.
The plaintiffs include Melanie Kottler, a parent with a rising 2nd grader at PS 169 in Sunset Park, a school with a large number of students with special needs and English Language Learners, which as of July 14, will have its Galaxy budget reduced by millions of dollars compared to this year. Melanie deplored the fact that the school will be forced to lose classroom teachers and thus increase class size as a result: “The 2021-22 school year was incredibly challenging for teachers at our school. Not only were they working tirelessly to try to catch students up from learning loss the year before, but some teachers also faced students who had never even stepped foot in a school building. COVID is not over, and nor are these challenges. I’m afraid that larger class sizes will only make things more difficult for PS 169 students and teachers.”
Another plaintiff is Sarah Brooks, a special education/ICT teacher at PS 169, who reported that the school will lose paraprofessionals, afterschool programming, school trips, and possibly their school counselor as well, damaging the quality of education for all students, but particularly those with special needs: “The budget cuts will cause all the students at PS 169 to suffer. They will lose out on specialized instruction, mental and academic supports, and the vital opportunity to learn outside of the confines of their own neighborhoods. The Special Education program will be markedly and significantly impaired. Our students deserve more from their schools.”
Plaintiff Tamara Tucker is a parent of two children at PS 125 in Harlem, a high-poverty school which is facing the loss of its arts programs and an increase in class sizes due to cuts of hundreds of thousands of dollars. She said, “Everyone at PS 125 has already been stretched so thin, and this will only become worse in light of the budget cuts for this upcoming year. The students are going to be the ones who will bear the brunt of this poor decision. The formula that is used to calculate school budgets is fundamentally broken and does not account for the actual needs of schools. It is not fair and is not benefiting students in any way. Every child should have art, music, and enrichment classes. These subjects are part of a well-rounded education and bring joy and diverse perspectives to children of all ages.”
Plaintiff Paul Trust is a music teacher who has worked at his school since 2005, PS 39 in Brooklyn, but now has been excessed. His school is losing its entire music program because of more than a half million dollars in cuts. He said, “My students thrive and are empowered through music. Many continue to pursue their passion in middle school and beyond. I have students who have gone on to the finest conservatories and those who have formed the loudest of rock bands. All this will go away with these budget cuts. Neither the Mayor nor the Chancellor seem to be concerned with the irreparable harm these draconian cuts may cause our students. I can only hope that this will not be the last year I am able to continue to serve the school community I love.”
According to Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, “We have interviewed parents, teachers, and principals who told us that the smaller classes in their schools this past school year have been essential in allowing them to reconnect with their students and help them begin to recover from the disrupted learning and disengagement from the school closures and remote learning that occurred during the height of the pandemic. These children will have the rug pulled from under them if these cuts are enacted, and much of the progress they have gained will be lost, in the anonymity of excessive class sizes where their teachers will be unable to give them the academic and social-emotional support they so desperately need.”Laura D. Barbieri, Special Counsel for Advocates for Justice, stated: “The explicit language of State law requires that these egregious budget cuts be halted and reconsidered by the Mayor and the Council, because the law was not followed. The State Legislature enacted an explicit budget review and voting process by the Board of Education that was eviscerated by the Chancellor’s abuse of authority. No emergency justified the Chancellor’s ignoring the proper procedure.”
While speaking with ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz, the Vermont lawmaker decried Manchin's stance that he could no longer support the legislation due to his concerns over inflation and said the lawmaker was "sabotaging" President Joe Biden's agenda.
And he became visibly animated when Raddatz said that Manchin "abruptly" ended talks with Democratic leaders regarding the bill.
"Senator Joe Manchin, of course abruptly pulled the plug this week on the Democratic plan," Raddatz said before Sanders interjected.
"He didn't abruptly do anything," Sanders said. "He has sabotaged the president's agenda."
He continued: "If you check the record six months ago, I made it clear that you have people like Manchin and [Arizona Sen. Kyrsten] Sinema to a lesser degree who are intentionally sabotaging the president's agenda, what the American people want, what a majority of us in the Democratic caucus want. Nothing new about this."
"This is a guy who is a major recipient of fossil fuel money ... a guy who has received campaign contributions from 25 Republican billionaires," he said.
When Raddatz countered that Manchin said he wanted to act in the best interest of West Virginia given that inflation last month rose 9.1 percent from a year earlier, Sanders replied: "Really? Really?"
Sanders was not impressed with Manchin's reasoning regarding the proposed bill.
"Same nonsense that Manchin has been talking about for a year," he told Raddatz. "You ask the people of West Virginia whether they want to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing and eyeglasses. Ask the people of West Virginia whether or not all people should have health care as a human right, like in every other country on Earth." "In my humble opinion, Manchin represents the very wealthiest people in this country, not working families in West Virginia or America," he added.
The United for Change opposition party in the UFT which received 34% of the overall vote in the recent UFT election, including 56% from the high schools, will have exactly zero representatives there. AFT President Randi Weingarten's Unity Caucus will send all 750 of the UFT Delegates to the AFT Convention because of the UFT's at-large voting system that basically disenfranchises high school teachers who often vote against Unity Caucus.
A recession would be worse than this
A recession would be worse than the inflation the U.S. is seeing now, which is actually showing signs of easing up, some progressive economists are now arguing, Emily writes.
Why it matters: The Federal Reserve has been hiking interest rates to tamp down inflation, and is expected to continue — but this runs the risk of triggering a downturn. And at this point, that "cure" might be worse than the illness Dr. Powell is treating.
- "The data is saying we have time to be flexible," says Josh Bivens, who makes this point in a new column from the Economic Policy Institute.
Details: The high rate of inflation the government reported for June freaked a lot of people out, but energy prices mostly drove the surge. This month, gas prices have fallen at their fastest rate since the pandemic.
- Other commodity prices are down, too. Lumber, a leading indicator of the pandemic inflation, is well off its recent highs.
- Meanwhile, inflation expectations are receding, as Axios Macro reported last week.
"There are a lot of reasons for believing that inflation has peaked," Dean Baker, senior economist at the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research, tells Axios.
The big picture: With inflation, there are actually winners and losers. "One person's cost is another person's income," Bivens notes, pointing to record oil company profits, for example.
- Rents and home prices go up; landlords and home sellers benefit.
- Bivens — who is typically on the side of labor, not capital — doesn't applaud this kind of redistribution of wealth, he adds. But a recession "would have worse distributional consequences."
With a recession, everyone loses — not just the unemployed. Even if you hang on to your job, raises vanish, advancement opportunities narrow or disappear. "The economy overall is poorer," Bivens says.
- Young adults starting their careers would have fewer job options, too.
This is especially significant, considering how the recent economic expansion has benefited those at the bottom of the ladder. The lower-paying jobs that have improved in quality recently would worsen significantly, as employers took back the upper hand.
- And, typically in a recession, the first to lose jobs are lower-income or less-educated folks, or those with criminal backgrounds, Baker emphasized.
- Yes, higher prices also hurt those people — but unemployment isn't going to make that better.
The other side: Some note that recessions can be short, while longer-term, structural inflation can eat away at affordability for years.
What to watch: All eyes are on the Fed meeting next week when it is expected to announce another rate increase of at least 0.75 percentage points.