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UFT lawsuit takes on mayor’s budget cuts

New York Teacher
UFT lawsuit takes on mayors budget cuts
Jonathan Fickies

UFT President Michael Mulgrew discusses the union’s lawsuit against the mayor’s budget cuts.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew told union delegates at the Delegate Assembly on Jan. 17 that the UFT is moving full steam ahead with its lawsuit to stop Mayor Eric Adams’ school budget cuts.

He said the mayor’s budget restorations in mid-January amounted to only a fraction of the overall cuts.

“The mayor is trying to make it look like he’s doing the right thing,” Mulgrew said. “Truth is, we shouldn’t even be discussing budget cuts. There is no need. So we’re not stopping our lawsuit.”

In the lawsuit filed on Dec. 21 in state Supreme Court, the union contends the mayor is in violation of the maintenance of effort provision in the state’s mayoral control legislation that prohibits New York City from reducing spending on its schools unless overall city revenues decline. Far from taking in less tax revenue, according to the suit, the city collected $8 billion more than anticipated during the last fiscal year and has reserves of more than $8 billion, a new record high.

Under the state’s Contracts for Excellence, local school districts must use new state funds to supplement local spending for education, but not to replace local efforts. The lawsuit contends that Mayor Adams illegally used increased state aid to supplant city education spending.

State aid to city schools has increased by about $1.3 billion in recent years after Gov. Kathy Hochul and state legislators committed to fully funding Foundation Aid. Yet the city contributed only $14.1 billion to the education budget — even before the mayor’s midyear cuts — down from $14.5 billion in the previous year, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also charges that the mayor’s school budget cuts undermine the rights of New York City students to a “sound, basic education” under the New York State Constitution. Three teachers and a speech therapist, who joined the suit as plaintiffs, attested to how the lack of resources and supplies were hurting their students.

The lawsuit charges that the mayor put forth a “false narrative” that “the city is careening toward a fiscal cliff.” Adams initially claimed that the influx of more than 157,000 new immigrants to New York City since the spring of 2022 would cost the city $12 billion over two years.

The union contended that the mayor overstated how much the city will spend on the new arrivals. The Independent Budget Office and the City Comptroller’s Office have projected lower costs. Indeed, the mayor later reduced the projected cost of the new immigrants by roughly $1.7 billion over two fiscal years.

When the lawsuit was first filed, the mayor had announced roughly $560 million in school budget cuts and promised two additional rounds of 5% budget cuts in January and in the late spring for a total of nearly $2 billion in cuts.

In mid-January, the mayor restored $10 million in city funding for community schools and put $80 million in new city funds into the summer program, replacing expiring federal pandemic aid. But he went ahead with the other budget cuts to the city’s universal pre-K and 3-K programs, special education, computer science instruction, cafeteria service and other programs and services.

Mulgrew encouraged UFT members and parents to keep speaking out against the cuts.

“The Adams administration continues to inflate costs, underestimate revenue and inflate the cost of asylum seekers,” he said. “The education cuts were and are unnecessary, and educators will continue to stand against them.”

Related Topics: Education Funding