‘Stop the bleeding’: Queens lawmakers talk DOE budget cuts

Councilman Robert Holden
File photo by William Alatriste/NYC.gov

On Friday, Aug. 5, a state Supreme Court judge ruled to temporarily bar the New York City Department of Education (DOE) from cutting funds for public schools in the city.

The judge ordered in his three-page order that the 2023 budget be reverted back to the levels in the Fiscal Year 2022.

This was the result of a lawsuit filed by parents and teachers in the Manhattan Supreme Court last month. The lawsuit was spurred by Adams’ $215 million cuts to schools, which he said were necessary because of declining enrollment.

However, City Comptroller Brad Lander estimated the cuts were closer to $370 million and stated that the city has enough extra stimulus funding from 2021 to cover the cuts. 

The proposed budget cuts would have a significant effect on students throughout the city who have already been impacted by the pandemic. In 2021, the DOE stated that the enrollment in public schools declined 4% with about 43,000 students leaving the system.

In Queens, Council member Robert Holden, who represents District 30, shared his thoughts on the matter with QNS.

We [the City Council] were told there was still plenty of money left in the stimulus,” Holden said. “The fact that students in the last couple of years of the pandemic lost several days of instruction, the quality of instruction — many students got very little out of it. Even though the teachers tried, it was the nature of the beast. These students were harmed to the point that we have to try to make it up to them, so why not use any leftover money from the stimulus?”

Holden noted that there is a mass exodus of teachers and students from public schools.

“I think we need to stop the bleeding, stop the exodus from public schools,” Holden said, “and that comes with accommodating and bending over backward for the student body and for parents.”

The question of the DOE budget is still ongoing, with the Adams administration submitting a notice to appeal the court ruling shortly after it was announced.

State Senator John Liu, who is also the chairman of the New York City Education Committee commented on the budget cuts, saying it is “unacceptable.”

“Funding cuts to individual schools were wholly unacceptable, but thankfully the city is getting a do-over on the education budget,” Liu said. “I’m optimistic that our Council members and the mayor will find a resolution soon so that our collective objective of a smooth start to the new school year will not be impeded.”

Liu has made an effort to improve NYC schools at the state level by reducing class sizes. Liu called this legislation “a huge victory for NYC school kids that will provide students with a sound basic education.”