New York City public schools are facing larger enrollment-based cuts this summer compared to what Adams administration officials originally announced in February — and more than what was outlined in the city budget that passed last month.

Mayor Eric Adams’ preliminary budget included $375 million in cuts because of a decline in enrollment. The education department has consistently said it’s using federal stimulus money to soften the blow so that schools will only lose $215 million due to last year’s register loss. But many principals, parents and politicians have been alarmed by just how deep those cuts are, which have already resulted in staff and program cuts at many schools.

Now, officials say additional reductions have to be made to individual school budgets because their enrollment is projected to decline further in the coming academic year.

The education department has not said what the new total for enrollment-based cuts is, nor has it offered an updated enrollment projection for the fall. The revised numbers were not in the final budget that the City Council passed in June because the additional money cut from individual schools will be redistributed within the school system.

An analysis by the City Comptroller released in June has identified a total of nearly $150 million more in net reductions to individual school budgets for the coming year – far more than the $215 million officials announced when the budget was first introduced in February.

“Making cuts to individual school budgets at this moment is wrong for our students, for our teachers, and stands in the way of the equitable recovery our city needs,” comptroller Brad Lander said at a June 24th City Council hearing. He advocated using a portion of the city’s remaining $4.5 billion in stimulus funds to hold school budgets steady.

The cuts have spurred outrage from parents, and have led to squabbling between the City Council and the administration. Council members say the administration was not transparent about its plans as they negotiated a final budget agreement this spring, while administration officials say Council members failed to ask the right questions before voting the agreement into place.

“At the end of the day they are responsible for the budget they signed,” Schools Chancellor David Banks told reporters last week.

Banks defended the decision to start reducing budgets, warning that schools could face a fiscal cliff when federal stimulus funds run out. “We made a decision to begin the process of weaning the schools off of the stimulus funding,” he said, emphasizing that the city has phased-in the cuts over two years. “You won't see the full-on, dramatic shortfall in one year. We thought that that was too much to do.”

Banks said he understands the anxiety many parents feel. “No school wants to lose money,” he said. But he said teachers won’t be losing their jobs; they will be rehired for vacant positions elsewhere. “That's what we refer to as rightsizing,” he said.

Still, parents across the city said they are devastated to see their schools shed beloved educators, and are worried that class sizes will balloon. The United Federation of Teachers and families have rallied against the mayor’s decision to reduce funding at schools.

A teacher’s union flier outside PS 31 in Brooklyn notifying parents of the cuts in funding to the school’s budget.

A teacher’s union flier outside PS 31 in Brooklyn notifying parents of the cuts in funding to the school’s budget.

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A teacher’s union flier outside PS 31 in Brooklyn notifying parents of the cuts in funding to the school’s budget.
Christopher Werth

Administrators said they are still trying to figure out how to make the numbers work while minimizing the impact on students. Many are appealing their budgets, saying next year’s enrollment projections are way off, and hope the education department will offer some relief.

A principal at one Brooklyn elementary school, who asked not to be identified because she is not authorized to speak to the press, said she has to slash more than $400,000 from her school’s budget.

She said that will probably mean cutting four teaching positions and collapsing classes. In first grade, a class may grow from 23 to 32 students. The principal said that’s worrisome because last year’s kindergarten cohort had so much trouble adjusting to school after the disruptions of the pandemic. “We found a lot of developmental lags,” she said.

For now, she is trying to appeal the enrollment projection for her school, which she argues does not reflect actual enrollment: while her school lost students during the pandemic, her numbers have started climbing again.

“I know they’re looking at trends, but they’re looking at anomalous years,” she said.