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A letter from Michael Mulgrew to the mayor and chancellor regarding school budget cuts

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The following letter from UFT President Michael Mulgrew was issued on Aug. 11 to Mayor Adams, Chancellor Banks and Department of Education officials regarding the anticipated budget cuts for the upcoming 2022-23 school year.

Dear Mayor Adams, Chancellor Banks and Department of Education Officials,

As the first day of school approaches, I am writing on behalf of my members to gain clarity about your plans for the city’s schools this year.

The outrageous cuts to the 2022-23 school budget have caused school principals and staff all across the city to scramble. At a time when the DOE is asking us to do more for our students and communities, it’s unbelievable that it is choosing to give us less. After the most difficult years in the city’s recent memory, this is a slap in our face.

Since June, when the budget was passed, the UFT leadership has advocated for the restoration of funds to our schools so they can continue to lead our communities out of the destruction wrought by the pandemic. For months, we have received no clear answers when asking our questions: Why did you cut funds to schools at such a crucial time? Why has the DOE decided to cut school budgets when the DOE budget hasn’t been cut? Where is the money going, if not into schools?

The increased needs of our students and families is undeniable and yet, once again, the DOE has left each school on its own to figure out how to make things happen with no guidance or support.

We were not the only ones questioning your judgment; parents and teachers brought suit against the city and won the initial round, but another ruling has sent the case back to court on Aug. 29. Of course, that is far too late in the game for our schools to plan. It’s beyond disturbing that the city continues to fight rather than accepting the premise that it’s time to rectify a mistake and do what’s best for our students.

We support the Council’s resolution calling for an immediate reversal of the DOE’s reductions to school budgets; calling on the Chancellor to submit updated school budgets to the Panel on Education Policy reflecting the restoration, as well as an accounting of unspent federal stimulus funds; and calling on the Mayor to promptly utilize any unspent and unallocated federal stimulus or other funds and submit a budget modification to the Council to fully restore the DOE’s $469 million in cuts.

Our collective job is to provide the best education we can to our city’s students. How can the city and the Department of Education claim to be doing their best when you are not providing our schools with budgets that are sufficient to maintain their staffing and school programming? How can you expect our schools to plan for an effective year when you have failed to tell principals how much money will be available to them? Why do you believe it’s acceptable to expect more from educators across the city while providing them with less?

Here are some more questions we need answered immediately:

  • In reference to your determination to appeal a New York Supreme Court judge’s decision to block the city’s budget, isn’t it time for you to listen to the pleas of parents and educators? Shouldn’t you be negotiating with the City Council rather than standing firm against New York City's children?
  • Will you answer individual schools' budget appeals that have languished, unanswered for months?
  • What is your timeline for reforming the Fair Student Funding Formula, which has shortchanged students and school communities for years?

My members and I have many other questions as well as we approach Sept. 8. But let’s start with these. We need answers, and we need them now. My members have worked heroically through these last 2 1/2 tumultuous years. We were hoping for an orderly school opening, but that’s clearly not going to happen. UFT members — your employees — and our students and parents deserve better.

Sincerely,

Michael Mulgrew
President, United Federation of Teachers