School budget cuts leave PS34 parents frustrated

Mayor Eric Adams and the New York City Council voted to cut schools budgets by $215 million. The budget cuts took effect on July 1 and will continue until June 2023.

The cuts are a departure from De Blasio’s pandemic policy which increased funding for schools during the pandemic from the federal coronavirus relief fund.

Adams proclaimed that the cuts are due to lack of enrollment in the city’s public schools.

“What we do is we don’t cut. We adjust the amount based on the student population,” Adams said during a June 10 news conference at City Hall.

According to data from the Department of Education (DOE), enrollment for the 2021-2022 school year fell by 35,250 students. Chancellor David Banks remarked in March, in his first major speech as chancellor, that schools had lost 120,000 pupils in the past five years.

Although enrollment may seem low, these cuts are having real effects on public schools. Parents at local primary school PS 34 shared their frustrations and concerns over the decision.

“This budget cut is so horrible because it affects every part of the day, and every child and every person who works in this school, regardless of whether you are the one who has been overwhelmed or the assistant whose hours are reduced” , said Molly Giliotti, mother of two, new co-secretary of the school leadership team (SLT) and member of the board of directors of the North Brooklyn Angels.

The PTA posted on its Instagram page that PS 34 is set to lose $476,097 in funding for the 2022-23 school year. Losing almost half a million would mean bigger classes, the loss of teachers, assistants and programs.

Parents like Sarah Stansbury, whose two children will soon be entering fifth and third grade, are not happy. She does not understand how cutting the budget will be a good argument for staying in public schools when resources are reduced, such as the elimination of music teachers, social workers and the reduction of the number of classes.

“If we cut the music teachers and cut the social workers and cut the helper hours and condense, if you’re like, ‘Oh, my kids’ class was supposed to have 22 students, but now it’s 32.'” That is not a good argument for going back to public education. This is a time when we should be attracting people to public schools and not giving them more reasons to leave or more reasons to go to a school. private or leave town,” Stansbury said.

The PTA, while continuing to protest the budget cut, is now taking on the responsibility of fundraising to try to make up the lost difference. So far, they’ve raised enough to save the school’s music teacher who was overwhelmed.

Excess, in simpler terms, is when staff, such as teachers, are reduced due to budget cuts (in this case), but not laid off, causing them to wait to fill a vacancy within the system school. Giliotti, who was an elementary school teacher years ago, remembers when she was overwhelmed in her first year of teaching and how the process can take a long time. Based on the budget cuts, she thinks there will be a pool of excess teachers sitting around when they could have still been in their schools, especially when the DOE is still paying their salaries.

Jane Lee, architect and member of the School Leadership Team (SLT), explains how PS 34 may be lucky to raise funds, but other schools are not so lucky. She wonders about schools that are less fortunate or don’t have a PTA, and can’t afford to save their overstaffed teachers or music programs; What should they do?

Lee is a mother of two sons, one son entering fourth grade at PS 34 and another son heading into seventh grade at PS 318. She noted that schools with access to people with money will be able to “fill the gap.” ‘gap’ cuts .

“Again, what makes me so uncomfortable about this is that it’s people who have access to people who have money who get this. So we’re going to find ourselves in a situation where we have very well-funded public schools, and we have very poorly funded public schools. And that kind of basically breaks my heart, on a lot of levels. I just feel like it makes the kids feel like we just keep[ing] some kids down constantly. And I have a real problem with that,” Lee said.

She thinks education shouldn’t depend on having parents who can raise money; education must be offered to all.

Parents said we are still in a pandemic (some of them recovering from COVID themselves recently) and the children need support now more than ever. Children have faced a lot during the pandemic and it has caused developmental delays and emotional turmoil.

Kathy Szwarc, outgoing co-chair of the PTA last year (as of June 30, 2022, there is new leadership) and mother of two, has had experience of it. Her eldest son, who is heading into third grade, has had to take distance education during the pandemic and is not quite up to grade for reading. The combination of remoteness, large class sizes and the loss of their universal literacy coach played a part.

Szwarc is frustrated to see “police budgets being so high and school budgets, which affect many more families…being cut.” She hopes Governor Kathy Hochul will sign the reduced class size bill into law, which is another way the state is helping schools along with additional funding. A smaller class size would, for example, help maintain PS 34’s first-ever bilingual Polish-English program in New York.

Lee wonders what the end goal of these budget cuts is because “it doesn’t seem to be to fund education”, which is demoralizing especially when talking about building a “fair and equitable future”.

Parents are reminding their local politicians and city council members (many of whom voted yes on the bill) that they will hold them accountable on this issue. Giliotti pointed out that it’s the city council’s job “to defend us,” and that’s a weak excuse for saying they didn’t fully understand the bill.

Stansbury echoed the sentiment that council members should address this issue because this issue is a priority for the community. She urged the city council to vote no if this proposed budget cut comes back. Stansbury is aware there will be more cuts next year, with Adams wanting to cut $375 million next year.

District 33 City Councilman Lincoln Restler is working to resolve this issue. Restler said green pointers that he makes education his number one priority. He has seen these cuts and the effects they have had on the schools in his district.

He understands the parents’ outrage and plans to lobby with parents for more funds. Restler is working to allocate funds to these schools and mentioned that in his district they got discretionary funding of $200,000 to go to local elementary schools in the community, like PS 34.

“The mayor is cutting nearly half a billion dollars in funding from our school budgets. And these are not flesh wounds. These are real cuts in the bone that will have a significant impact on our young people and our school communities if we do nothing about it. And that’s why I’m so focused on hindsight and organizing to secure the funds and restore them,”

said Lincoln Restler

Restler specifically allocated $50,000 to PS 34 as part of the council’s “A Greener NYC” initiative. The initiative supports programs focusing on the environment and environmental education. The funds allocated will make it possible to redirect the resources of the principal Alain Beugoms towards, in particular, the prevention of the overrun of a teacher and the maintenance of a small class size by financing an environmental teaching position at PS 34.

500,000 capital funds have also been allocated to PS 34 in the budget for cafeteria ventilation improvements, which will be used for the installation of HVAC systems to address the lack of ventilation in the cafeteria space. , said a source. Green pointers.

Restler voted for the budget cuts. He said the DOE told city council members that vacancies would not be filled, but no teachers would be fired. They told them that “things would be essentially business as usual with the proposed changes in the budget” and that was far from true.

“The city is running out of resources, the mayor insists on these absolutely useless cuts. And they will sow chaos in our schools. And he can restore them today. The resources are there. And it must do the right thing and support our school communities. Right now,” Restler said.

On July 18, Restler and other Progressive Caucus board members held a rally against the mayor’s school budget cuts with parents, teachers and advocates. Restler and others expressed regret over the vote.

“If I knew then what I know today, I would have voted differently,” Restler said. green pointers days before the rally.

After the rally, a new court ruling was issued on July 22 challenging the school budget cuts. According to Gothamist, a New York Supreme Court judge issued a temporary restraining order against budget cuts to the city’s public schools. Thus, until the August 4 hearing, the city cannot take any action related to the budget cuts. For many parents, teachers and education activists, this temporary restraining order is a small victory, but they definitely hope to stop these cuts in their entirety.

The order came just after a group of parents and carers filed a lawsuit on July 18. They argued that the city violated state law by not allowing the Panel for Educational Policy to vote on the schools budget before the city council approves the city’s final budget. The lawsuit urges the city council to reverse these budget cuts and repeal the cuts.

The DOE did not respond to green pointers request for comment.

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