New York City public schools with declining enrollments may see another round of budget cuts this year, Schools Chancellor David Banks said Wednesday during a City Council hearing.
While Banks said the cuts were possible, he added the city could use $160 million of federal stimulus funds to soften the blow.
“We’re going to do everything we can to try to keep the schools as whole as possible while they continue to fight the good fight of getting kids to come back to the schools,” Banks said.
Last year, principals and parents were alarmed to discover that hundreds of millions of dollars had been cut from schools' budgets, forcing administrators to slash arts and after school programming.
The cuts drove angry parents to protest Mayor Eric Adams at events throughout the summer, and prompted a legal challenge that was ultimately shot down. Several Councilmembers who had voted to approve last year's budget later said they regretted it, and promised to ask tougher questions next time.
“We saw last year this was sort of the crux of our budget negotiations,” Councilmember Carmen De La Rosa said, referring to last year’s enrollment-based cuts. “There are a lot of concerns on the ground about the programs that get cut.”
Banks said the city plans to use more stimulus money than was originally intended to offset reductions to school budgets. But he said schools with major declines may see reduced funds, and schools that have lost students will eventually see cuts.
“The stimulus dollars will not last forever,” said Banks. "If you have a school that had 800 students and they were funded for 800 students and now the school has 400 students the school doesn’t get the same budget."
Some schools in the city will have an easier time finding money, like those that have received scores of students from asylum-seeking families, causing their enrollment to increase substantially.
The Adams administration has also revised the funding formula for schools to boost allocations for students who live in shelters, and for schools that serve large numbers of students with disabilities. Those changes must be approved by an oversight board, but officials hope they will go into effect for next fall..
Still, advocates are calling on city officials to do more than soften blows.
“At a time when New York City is receiving an increase in education funding from New York State and continues to have unspent federal COVID-19 relief funding, schools should receive additional resources to meet the needs of their students—and certainly should not lose funding,” said Randi Levine, policy director at Advocates for Children of New York.