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Teachers sue to halt Adams budget cuts to education

Press Releases
budget cuts press conference

The United Federation of Teachers, joined by individual teachers, today filed suit in Manhattan State Supreme Court to stop the Adams administration from cutting as much as $2 billion from city schools.

The lawsuit charges that as the state increased education funding to the city's public schools, New York City illegally reduced its contribution to education. These cuts came, according to the lawsuit, "at a time when the City collected nearly $8 billion more in revenue last fiscal year than was anticipated, and when the City’s reserves of over $8 billion are at a new record high."

In November the Adams administration announced cuts of nearly $550 million in the current fiscal year and plans for further reductions that could amount to $2 billion. The cuts announced in November have already affected the universal pre-K initiative, current after-school and planned summer school programs, along with computer science instruction, special education, and other services.

The legal filing says that the administration’s claim that dealing with asylum seekers will cost $11 billion over the next two years is "an unverified estimate." That cost estimate has been challenged by lower projections from both the city’s Independent Budget Office and the City Comptroller.

Describing the administration’s statements of a fiscal crisis resulting from the asylum seekers as “a false narrative,” the lawsuit says “the law does not permit school funding to be used as a political bargaining chip; and cutting essential services to the City’s schools is not a substitute for the mayoral leadership and advocacy on behalf of New Yorkers needed to obtain federal and state support."

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said, "The administration can’t go around touting the tourism recovery and the return of the city’s pre-pandemic jobs, and then create a fiscal crisis and cut education because of its own mismanagement of the asylum seeker problem. Our schools and our families deserve better."

The lawsuit cites two provisions of state law: a requirement known as "maintenance of effort" that is part of Albany’s mayoral control legislation for New York City schools; and provisions of the state’s "Contract for Excellence" program.

According to the lawsuit, the maintenance of effort provision "prohibits the City from reducing spending in its schools from the level provided in the preceding year unless overall City revenues decline."

The city’s contribution to the education budget for fiscal year 2023 was $14.5 billion, while the adopted budget for fiscal year 2024 was reduced to $14.1 billion. By January, further cuts under the Mayor’s plan will reduce the city’s contribution in FY2024 to $13.9 billion. City revenues – not counting state and federal aid -- grew $5 billion last year.

Under the state’s Contract for Excellence, local school districts must use new state funds to supplement local spending for education, but not to replace local efforts. The lawsuit claims that the administration’s budget cuts will mean that state funds will end up supporting city education programs, in effect supplanting with state funds the programs that the city has refused to pay for.

According to the lawsuit, the cuts also undermine students’ rights to “a sound basic education” as provided for under New York State’s constitution.

The lawsuit asks the court to find that the Mayor’s recent and planned budget cuts violate the New York State Constitution and state law and order the administration to restore education funding to the $14.5 billion amount that the city appropriated in fiscal year 2023.

A copy of the lawsuit is available online.