State of education in NYC as 2023 begins
Last year was a difficult time for education and the city’s schools, especially because of an early budget battle between the City Council and Mayor Eric Adams. Here’s a rundown of the issues that remain as 2023 begins.
“The state of New York City’s public schools in our opinion is in an abyss,” said Natasha Capers, parent organizer and coordinator for the Coalition for Educational Justice. “We’re at a really clear point of choice as to whether we’re going to do what’s right by our public school students and invest in them, and their education and their mental health and their future, or to abandon them completely.”
Adams and the City Council agreed to an early-adopted budget. He received almost immediate feedback on the school cuts. The $215 million cut in school budgets was based on expected enrollment declines last fall and the failed Fair Student Funding (FSF) initiative.
By June, the City Council, chaired by Councilwoman Gale Brewer and Councilwoman Rita Joseph, called a joint session as parents, teachers and advocates rallied for the mayor to restore school budget cuts. Some went on to file a class-action lawsuit against the city to obtain a temporary restraining order prohibiting the budget cuts. Ultimately, the lawsuit was dismissed.
At the time of the laws, the city had no way to account for the looming asylum-seeker crisis that lasted for months and forced thousands of immigrant children into the school system, straining financial and educational resources. “We need strong parental engagement,” Capers said to help immigrant families deal with the city’s public schools. “We need people on the ground who speak the families’ languages, who understand the system and can help them navigate every point.”
Capers said he hoped the 2023 budget season would see more investment in schools and not “deep cuts.”
Additionally, the City Council said school bus delays are “worse than they’ve been in five years” and that there are “millions of dollars in late payments to early childhood education providers.”
An analysis of September and October 2022 by the council found 22,347 bus delays lasting an average of 40 minutes. Special education students, who rely on transportation even more than others, had an average delay of 45 minutes longer than general education students. At a joint hearing on education and transportation in November, the council looked at school bus delays, bus safety issues, increased transportation needs for students with special needs and temporary housing, staffing gaps and communication poorly with schools and caregivers.
“Special education students – we have to do the right thing. We must do better. We need to invest in them, making sure they have their own services, smaller classes and qualified teachers,” Capers said.
The City Council received complaints about unreliable payments to early childhood education providers. The Department of Education (DOE) agreed to settle the case and support those programs. The council also passed a legislative package for more affordable child care services, which typically double for many black and brown families as early childhood education facilities for their children.
On a lighter note, the city invested in Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) programs and provided more places for youth workers; called for more support for English Language Learners (ELLs); and launched CUNY Reconnect, a pathway for returning adult students.
Elected officials voted to extend the mayor’s control over the school system for two more years, much to the dismay of advocates. Gov. Kathy Hochul and state officials have pledged to fully fund efforts to reevaluate the FSF formula, which determines how school districts receive money from the state. Ariama C. Long is an American Reporter staff member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps her keep writing stories like this; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.