Attorney and plaintiffs express regret at Appellate Court decision on school budget cuts lawsuit today

A summary and most of the legal filings in the case are posted here.

For immediate release: November 22, 2022

For more information:  Laura Barbieri, lbarbieri@advocatesny.com; 914-819-3387
Leonie Haimson, leoniehaimson@gmail.com; 917-435-9329

 

Attorney and plaintiffs express regret at Appellate Court decision on school budget cuts lawsuit today

Today, the Appellate Court released their decision in Tamara Tucker vs. The City of New York, a lawsuit first filed in July 18,2022 to prevent the Department of Education from making huge budget cuts to schools based on the fact that contrary to state law, the education budget was approved by the City Council before the Panel on Educational Policy had a chance hear from the public and to vote on it.

Though the petitioners won their case at the Supreme Court level, when Judge Lyle Frank ruled that the city would have to restore last year’s budget unless the City Council held a revote, the city appealed his decision, and the Appellate Court ruled today that while the city had violated the law, they would not require a revote on the budget but instead require that the city follow the law going forward.

The Court agreed with the petitioners that the practice of the Chancellor in repeatedly issuing “Emergency Declarations” each year to short circuit the legal process was invalid, and that the DOE had been “simply avoiding its statutory obligations.” They also agreed that holding the PEP hearings and vote on the education budget after the Council vote was contrary to the state law and the intentions of the Legislature: “In implementing the FY23 budget before the PEP held its hearing, took comments from community members and voted on the estimated budget, respondents failed to follow lawful procedure.” In addition, they rejected the city’s claims as to separation of powers in that the court had no role to play in this dispute, and/or that the petitioners lacked legal standing to bring the lawsuit.

Sadly, however, the Appellate Court ruled that requiring a revote of the Council now would “have a broad unsettling effect” on the DOE’s operations and be detrimental to students and teachers alike.”   Instead, they said, they would require that the City and the DOE would have to adhere to the legal process set out in state law from now on.

Laura Barbieri of Advocates for Justice and attorney for the petitioners, said:  “We are gratified that the Appellate Court agreed with us on nearly all the issues that we raised in the case, and that going forward the City and the DOE will have to comply with the law in holding the hearings and vote of the Panel for Educational Policy before rather than after the City Council vote.  While we are disappointed that the Council will not have the opportunity to hold a revote to restore these damaging cuts, we believe that the lawsuit put an additional spotlight on the irresponsible actions of city officials making these cuts in the first place, and that going forward, they will have to abide by the state law when it comes to their budgeting procedures.”

“While I appreciate that the Appellate Court has confirmed the merits of our case and sees the circumvention of the educational budget process for the manipulation that it was, I am deeply disappointed that there is no real-time remedy that will be implemented. Schools across the city are still in dire financial straits while the NYC DOE continues to publicly claim they are allocating additional funding that they are not, in fact, providing, causing additional harm to public schools and students through the loss of crucial programming and staff,” said Tamara Tucker, a public school parent and the named plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Paul Trust, another plaintiff who is a music teacher and public school parent said, “While I am grateful that the courts agreed there was no ‘emergency’ as declared by the chancellor that justified skipping the PEP hearing, where lawmakers would have heard comments from concerned community members regarding the draconian effects these cuts would have, and that the courts agreed plaintiffs such as myself had cause to bring this case before them, I am deeply disappointed that there will be no restoration of school budgets as a result.  Without a restored budget, my daughters will continue to lack art and music in their schools, and the school at which I worked for 13+ years will continue to lack a full time music instructor.  If there is a silver lining, I am hoping that going forward more attention will be given to the school budget process in general and the effect future budgets have on individual school programming. I hope a situation like we find ourselves in this school year can be avoided in the future.”

“I am very disappointed in the Appellate Court’s decision. It sends the message to the City that there are no consequences for actions that violate the law. There’s nothing right or fair in a decision that allows for the Department of Education to circumvent the law with no relief to students and families whose voices were essentially shut out of the public input process. I’m also disappointed that the Court considered the harm to the City and the Department of Education while giving no consideration to the harm caused to students and families for which this City and Department of Education is supposed to serve, by denying them the opportunity to publicly participate in the budget process for NYC Public Schools.  And it also sends the message to ordinary people that they will not find relief in a court system that is there to protect them from abuse of power by systems of government, ” said Thomas Sheppard, the CEC Presidents’ Representative on the Panel for Educational Policy.

Camille Casaretti, President of the Community Education Council in District 15 said, “CEC15 sent a Resolution of District Needs to the DOE requesting an additional $50 million dollars to appropriately fund our district schools. There is still time for budget adjustments. No more excuses. Our children and school communities deserve better.”

“I am relieved to know that the court sided with us and determined that the DOE failed to comply with the law.  I disagree, however, that the budget cannot be changed.  In fact we are in the middle of the mid-year budget modification process for the entire city. Why can we not fix the education budget as part of the existing mid-year process? ” pointed out NeQuan C. McLean, President CEC16  in Brooklyn.

“These unacceptable cuts made by the City have already had the effect in many schools of increasing class size and causing  students to lose valuable programs and services.  Contrary to the Appellate Court’s decision, the cuts themselves have already had ‘a broad unsettling effect on the DOE’s operations’ and have been profoundly ‘detrimental to students and teachers alike.’  If the Court had rendered its decision in a timely manner over the summer, and allowed the City Council to reverse these cuts, this would have restored some semblance of sanity and stability to schools whose students have already suffered so much. In any event, I hope the Department of Education now realizes that they need to shape up their act and begin to start respecting their obligations under state law once again,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

###

Categories Press Releases, Uncategorized, Updates | Tags: | Posted on November 22, 2022

Social Networks: RSS Facebook Twitter Google del.icio.us Stumble Upon Digg Reddit

Comments are closed.