Lawsuit vs. devastating school budget cuts, protest rally, while Mayor calls them a “rumor”

July 19, 2022

Dear all:

Yesterday, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of four parents and teachers in the NY Supreme Court by the pro bono law firm, Advocates for Justice, to halt the Mayor’s damaging budget cuts to schools and  require that the City Council have another opportunity to vote on the education budget.  Here is a press release with more detail and quotes from the plaintiffs; and here are the legal documents. If you’re going to read only one of them perhaps the shortest one that also outlines many aspects of the case is my affidavit.

In essence, the lawsuit is based on serious procedural errors committed by the Mayor and Chancellor, including by allowing the City Council to approve the entire city budget ten days before the Panel for Educational Policy held a hearing and voted on the education budget, which state law requires must happen first.

Instead, the Chancellor declared an emergency and sent the diminished funds to schools weeks earlier before the Council or the PEP had a chance to vote. In this way, he attempted to short circuit the legally mandated process.  The attorney Laura Barbieri and her team found that in twelve out of the last thirteen years, three different Chancellors have invoked the same bogus “emergency” with the same boilerplate language – each time without explaining how an actual emergency existed. The Daily News, AM New York, Chalkbeat, and NY Post reported on the lawsuit, among other outlets, in varying levels of detail and objectivity.

Even earlier in the day, there was a rally to protest the cuts in front of Tweed, organized by the Progressive Caucus of the NYC Council, at which many parents, advocates and Council Members spoke about the havoc these cuts would cause to schools and students’ lives. Five of the members who had voted to approve the budget said they very much regretted their votes, apologized, and said their actions would be different moving forward: CMs Shahana Hanif, Lincoln Restler, Jennifer Guttierez, Shekar Krishnan and Carmen de la Rosa. CM Alexa Aviles who was one of only six members who initially voted against the budget was also there and explained why she had been so passionately opposed to these cuts. A video of this rally is posted on my blog here. These CMs are demanding the Mayor withdraw these cuts by Aug. 1.  Later in the afternoon, the Mayor claimed that his devastating cuts were only a “rumor”, in an encounter with parents also described on the blog.

In any case, we expect that the court will schedule a hearing on the lawsuit soon, as the attorneys are asking for an immediate temporary restraining order to stop the cuts from going forward while the substance of the case can be argued. I’ll let you know of further legal developments as they occur.

2. Meanwhile, Governor Hochul has still not signed the state class size reduction bill, which passed overwhelmingly last month. If your Assemblymember and/or Senator didn’t sign this letter from 25 State Legislators asking her to do so, please email them and ask them why, and ask them to contact the Governor to urge her to sign the bill NOW. Your Assemblymember’s name and email can be found here, your Senator’s here. You should point out to them if the Governor doesn’t sign the bill and these awful budget cuts go through, class sizes will increase sharply rather than decrease next year — the opposite of what the Legislature intended.

More soon, Leonie

Categories Newsletters, Uncategorized | Tags: | Posted on July 19, 2022

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