Mayor Eric Adams has directed the New York City Education Department to make substantial budget cuts totaling nearly $550 million, as part of a broader initiative to address citywide reductions. These cuts announced recently, are expected to have a swift and extensive impact on various programs and positions directly affecting students across the city.
The cuts encompass a broad spectrum, including the city’s expansive free preschool program, community schools providing support for families with out-of-school needs, and the well-received pandemic-era Summer Rising program. Notably, a significant portion of the savings will result from a hiring slowdown and the elimination of 432 vacant non-classroom positions, amounting to a combined $157 million in savings.
While the specific roles to be eliminated were not detailed, officials emphasized that central offices and support roles for schools would bear the brunt. The ongoing hiring freeze, implemented earlier this fall, has spared teaching positions so far, but clarity on whether this exemption will continue remains pending.
Supplemental Pay for Administrative Staff
A mandate to reduce spending on “supplemental pay for administrative staff” is anticipated to save an additional $86 million, though details on the specifics of this reduction were not immediately provided. This round of cuts, prompted by Mayor Eric Adams’ call for a 5% reduction in agency budgets by November, addresses what he views as unsustainable spending levels due to an influx of asylum seekers. Further cuts of 5% are anticipated in January and again in spring 2024, potentially amounting to up to $2.1 billion in reductions for the Education Department.
Starting in the next fiscal year, the Universal Pre-K program, a hallmark of former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, will face a $120 million cut. Despite its enrollment of about 100,000 3- and 4-year-olds, the program has encountered challenges, including payment delays and enrollment declines during the pandemic.
Raised Concerns about the Potential Impact on Services for Children
While officials argue that the reduction is necessary due to approximately 37,000 vacant seats, concerns have been raised about the potential impact on services for children and families. Gregory Brender of the Day Care Council of New York expressed apprehension, stating that a cut of this magnitude would inevitably affect services. Additionally, several longstanding programs are facing smaller cuts, such as a $3.5 million reduction for an initiative to expand computer science education and a $10 million cut to the community schools budget. The Summer Rising program, which served approximately 110,000 students last year, will see a cut of nearly $20 million, impacting middle schoolers with reduced hours and the elimination of Friday programs.
Mayor Eric Adams defended the cuts, citing rising migrant costs, slowing tax revenue growth, and diminishing COVID stimulus funding. However, critics argue that the cuts exceed the expected costs of serving asylum seekers, especially given the city’s higher-than-anticipated revenue last fiscal year.
The President of the United Federation of Teachers, Michael Mulgrew, labeled the cuts as “unnecessary” and accused City Hall of propagating a false fiscal narrative. Other groups, such as Advocates for Children, expressed concerns about the impact on vulnerable children, with reports of delays in services and potential violations of the rights of students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and those in temporary housing or foster care.