What really happened with the New York City Department of Education Budget?

The City Council has blamed the DOE and Mayor Eric Adams for budget cuts it signed off on and knew about for months.

Schools Chancellor David Banks and Eric Adams on June 27.

Schools Chancellor David Banks and Eric Adams on June 27. Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Less than a week after the New York City Council approved the fiscal year 2023 budget last month, some members protested the funding cuts they signed off on and knew about months in advance. The council said that it was unaware the cuts would have such severe impacts on some individual schools where enrollment has declined, and has blamed both Mayor Eric Adams’ administration and the Department of Education for the effects.

The department has said that the slashed funding is due to declining federal stimulus dollars, while Adams has attributed the decrease to a dip in enrollment. So what really happened?

City-specific funding for education actually went up this year. By how much?

The fiscal year 2023 adopted budget includes $845.5 million in additional funding for the Department of Education, of $14.5 billion in total city funds, compared to the $13.7 billion allocated in last year’s adopted budget, according to budget documents. The council has repeatedly said the increase is actually closer to $700 million this year, however that figure does not encompass several adds to the budget, including council initiatives, according to the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget.

How much was cut?

The total education budget, including funding that comes from the state and federal government, amounts to $31 billion in fiscal year 2023, down from $31.5 billion in last year’s adopted budget. State funding allocations this year are actually up by about $500 million, but federal funding dipped by $1.5 billion.

As part of the city’s “Program to Eliminate the Gap,” a total of $557.5 million will be cut from education in fiscal year 2023, including $375 million for declining enrollment. The losses due to fewer students is offset by $160 million in federal funding, however, amounting to the $215 million in cuts city officials have previously cited. These cuts were disclosed months ago when the mayor debuted the Program to Eliminate the Gap. 

What changes did the council and the mayor make from the executive budget that were included in the adopted budget?

The adopted budget included an additional $79.1 million in funding from the mayor’s proposed $30.9 billion budget for the DOE. Funding increases for general education instruction and school leadership, along with central administration costs were offset by reductions for “categorical programs,” which typically support specific student programs and services, such as professional development programs for teachers, bilingual education or breakfast and lunch programs.

How will the cuts affect schools?

New York City’s public schools have lost 9.5% of all students since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 1,000 schools will see cuts in Fair Student Funding, the main funding source for public schools that is calculated on a per-student basis and weighted based on the needs of individual students and schools. Just under 480 schools will see an increase, Chalkbeat reported. James Madison High School in Brooklyn will see the steepest decline, $2.8 million.  

Hundreds of teachers have been told they can not return to their current jobs this coming school year as a result of the cuts, The New York Times reported.

Schools Chancellor David Banks has promised that all teachers who lose their existing jobs would instead be placed into the city’s reserve pool, where they’re eligible for other positions within the school system. 

Who is to blame for the cuts?

While Adams has said that the per-student funding formula, known as Fair Student Funding, would remain unchanged when accounting for enrollment declines, an internal Department of Education memo admitted it has “decreased slightly,” The New York Post reported. The memo attributes the decrease to a reduction in spending on teacher salaries due to a large number of veteran teachers with higher salaries leaving the school system. 

Council members have blamed the department for failing to warn schools about the cuts. Council Member Gale Brewer said in a recent education committee hearing that members weren’t aware the cuts would produce “this insanity of so many (reductions in the number of teachers) and so many excesses.”

Members of New York’s congressional delegation have also called on the Department of Education to dip into “$4.3 billion of unused funds from the $7 billion it received from federal stimulus money included in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.”

“Defunding education is unjustifiable,” U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman said in a letter sent Thursday to Adams. “At the very least, the City and Mayor Adams need to direct remaining COVID relief funds into our public schools.” 

With reporting by Sahalie Donaldson