It was a loss for the public, but a win for the city

School budget cuts kick in as area schools feel the impact this fiscal year

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After what could have been an endless battle in the court room during summer break over the education department’s budget cuts, state appellate court ruled there wouldn’t be a city council revote days before Thanksgiving.

The fight began when the city approved $215 million in public school cuts due to declining enrollment.

As it turned out, more than $370 million in cuts will remain this year despite the information about the city bypassing the law.

Two parents and two teachers filed a lawsuit against the city on July 18 earning a temporary restraining order blocking the cuts from continuing. The lawsuit mainly focused on School Chancellor David Banks bypassing an educational panel vote on the new cuts.

Banks used an “emergency declaration” to skip over the members and straight to city council claiming there was no time for the vote.

The panel consists of 15 voting board It was a loss for the public, but a win for the city members and are appointed by each borough president, Community Education Councils president and the mayor. They are responsible for most of the significant decisions that affect the educational system, such as co-locations and closings, DOE contracts over $1 million, gifted and talented programs and citywide school budget.

The justices pushed against the idea that the chancellor used the declaration. Yet, the previous chancellors have used it 11 times in the past 15 years.

In September the state appeals court disagreed with how Banks used the declaration. They claim the agency is “avoiding its statutory obligations.” They found that the agency found that the revote was contrary to state law.

At the same time as the appeal court decision, the school year began with teachers already being excessed due to small classes and the budget cuts were set in motion. 

Yet, in the end the Panel for Educational Policy voted in favor of the budget cuts.

“Without a restored budget, my daughters will continue to lack art and music in their schools and the school at which I worked for 13-plus years will continue to lack a full-time music instructor,” said Paul Trust, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “If there is a silver lining, I am hoping that going forward more attention will be given to the school budget process.”

The attorney representing the plaintiffs saw a silver lining in the court decision. “We are gratified that the Appellate Court agreed with us on nearly all the issues that we raised in the case, and that going forward the city and the DOE will have to comply with the law in holding the hearings and vote of the PEP before rather than another city council vote,” said Laura Barbieri of Advocates for Justice.

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