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New York City’s education panel approves a $30 billion budget, but doesn’t know how it will be divided among schools


Education panelists appointed mostly by Mayor Adams pushed through a $30.7 billion education budget Wednesday night, but with little insight into how it will be divided among schools.

The vote was taken by the Panel for Education Policy three months earlier than last year, after a high-profile court decision ruled that the schools chancellor could not circumvent the mandatory step before city officials finalize the budget.

But the shortened timeline meant panelists voted without a finalized funding formula or enrollment projections that would impact the dollars per pupil sent to schools. City Controller Brad Lander, a nonvoting member, called a vote without that critical information “irresponsible.”

“The entire goal of the lawsuit was to provide meaningful public input,” Lander said. “There was a lot of anger last year… Taking the vote now, rendering it meaningless, I think will turn that anger into cynicism.”

Some panelists twice tried to postpone the vote until they had more information about how the proposal, which represents about 31% of the city’s total budget, would affect local schools and districts.

But after a heated discussion, 16 members, mostly mayoral appointees, voted in favor of the estimated budget. Seven of the 10 panelists not personally selected by Adams declined or abstained from voting.

“We still do not have an approved formula. We don’t have registration numbers yet. We’re not sure about the funding, but we’re still being asked to vote on this budget and just trust it,” said Sheree Gibson, representative for Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

“But you lost that trust with us last year because then there were big cuts, deep cuts.”

For more than a decade, the chancellor has issued emergency declarations most years to circumvent state law that requires the Panel on Education Policy to vote before the city finalizes the budget. That was until last summer, when parents and teachers, in an attempt to reverse hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts at the school level, sued to end the practice.

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The cuts were upheld, but an appeals court confirmed that education officials were breaking the law.

1679594465 928 New York Citys education panel approves a 30 billion budget

“We are in this position where we have a binding court decision,” said Liz Vladeck, general counsel for public schools. “I just want to try to make it as clear as possible what is, in my opinion, a very confusing and unclear legal position that we find ourselves in.”

The Education Department’s allocation voted on Wednesday night was not final and is subject to change during negotiations before the City Council approves the city’s general budget for the next fiscal year in July.

“This is a budget estimate, the emphasis is on the word ‘estimate,’” said Effi Zakry, who represents Queens parents on the panel. “It is not a binding budget, and both the mayor and councilors can review it.”

The Panel for Education Policy will get another chance to shape school budgets when the city’s revamped school funding formula, Fair Funding for Students, is expected to go before the panel in May. The formula dictates that most of the money be sent directly to schools for basic things like hiring teachers.

Chancellor Banks, at the recommendation of some panel members, has proposed changes to the formula that would send an additional $90 million to schools with students in temporary housing, including asylum seekers, and high concentrations of children in poverty, with disabilities, and English learners.

Chief operating officer Emma Vadehra said last week that the source of those dollars remains “Determined” although he assured Wednesday night that it would not get out of the hands of the directors.

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