The New York City Department of Education (DOE) is seeking to overturn a temporary restraining order that’s preventing the department from implementing $215 million in budget cuts for the 2022–2023 school year.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lyle E. Frank ruled in favor of a group of parents and teachers who sued the city over the budget cuts, stating the department must remain within the parameters of the 2021–2022 budget instead (pdf).
The lawsuit argued, and Frank agreed, that the city breached state laws by passing a budget before the DOE advisory panel approved it.
In an affidavit filed in the Manhattan Appeals Court on Thursday, DOE Chancellor David Banks argued that Frank’s decision to pause budget cuts and revert to the previous year’s spending levels could have “disastrous” effects, the Daily News reported.
Banks called the court decision “vague” and “extraordinarily difficult to interpret.” The judicial order puts programs in limbo, delays the filling of vacant staff positions, and leaves supplies unordered, he insisted.
“I am gravely concerned about our ability to assure the orderly opening of schools this September,” Banks said in the affidavit, according to the New York Post.
At the time of the ruling, Frank scheduled a hearing for Aug. 4 to decide whether the temporary restraining order would become permanent.
City education officials argue that budget cuts are necessary due to falling enrollment numbers. The budgets need to be modified each year to account for enrollment changes, as well as the shifting needs of students and new initiatives, the officials claim.
Enrollment in the city’s K–12 public schools has fallen by 73,000 students since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the city’s education department is projecting enrollment to decline by an additional 30,000 students in the 2022–2023 school year, which would mean more budget cuts for schools, according to the Daily News.
The education department has argued that the restraining order issued by Frank blocks the city from increasing the budgets of over 300 schools that are projected to have higher enrollment in the upcoming school year.
Laura Barbieri, lawyer for the plaintiffs, dismissed these claims, saying that the restraining order can only increase budgets and not reduce them, the Daily News reported.