Mayor Eric Adams’s administration will implement a cut of nearly $550 million from the New York City Education Department’s budget as part of a citywide effort to mitigate spending, with expectations for additional slashes in the future.
The immediate implementation of these cuts will affect various student-centric programs, including the extensive free preschool initiative and support systems for families outside of school and the well-received Summer Rising program.
Officials have indicated that a significant portion of the anticipated savings will arise from a slowing down in hiring and the abolition of 432 vacant non-teaching positions, contributing to a savings of over $155 million.
The specifics of the roles to be eliminated remain unclear, although there has been an emphasis on reducing central office staff and other school-supportive roles.
“While we don’t know many details yet, there is no way a cut this large would not hurt the services available to children and families,” stated Gregory Brender of the Day Care Council of New York.
Mayor Adams has mandated all city departments to enact cuts of at least 5% from the city’s contribution to their annual budgets, a move influenced by the ongoing costs associated with the surge of asylum seekers.
The Education Department is looking at possible cuts totaling up to $2.1 billion from its approximately $37.5 billion budget.
Starting next fiscal year, the Universal Pre-K program, a hallmark of former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tenure, will see a $120 million reduction. This program has experienced payment delays to childcare operators and a decline in enrollment during the pandemic.
Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, offered a stark contrast to the mayor’s stance, asserting that the cuts are unnecessary and are being “driven by City Hall’s false political narrative that New York City is about to fall off a fiscal cliff.”
Mulgrew points out, “Revenues are higher than expected, investment from Albany is up, and reserves are at a near-record high,” challenging the necessity of the budget reductions.
Advocacy groups express concern that the current hiring and budget freeze is impeding services for the city’s most vulnerable children, with further reductions posing a threat to their legal rights.
Kim Sweet, the executive director of Advocates for Children, emphasized, “We are particularly concerned that these budget plans will result in even more egregious violations of the rights of students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and students in temporary housing or foster care.”
With the federal pandemic aid set to expire next September, the Education Department is bracing for a financial maelstrom, having already recalled funds from schools with enrollment numbers falling below projections.
Despite the overall increase in citywide enrollment, over 650 schools had to deal with midyear cuts totaling almost $110 million.