Three-quarters of the city’s public schools saw their budgets cut last year. This September, Schools Chancellor David Banks says none of them will.
“I can share that for next year, schools will be held harmless for their initial budget allocations compared to this year — so no school will get a lower initial allocations,” Banks told members of the City Council Monday.
Each school will start the year with at least the same amount they began with last year, even if they are projected to enroll fewer students, or stand to lose other kinds of funding, like federal dollars for schools with a high number of poor children. The city will use other funding to fill in the gaps.
Schools serving more students, or otherwise entitled to higher budgets, will still get more money.
“We will ensure that all schools will be flat or see an increase,” Banks said.
Banks made the news shortly after City Council members and advocates rallied outside the education department’s headquarters, demanding to see individual school budgets before voting on the department’s budget, and the city budget, as a whole.
The move will mean at least a temporary reprieve for the 322 schools the city projected would see enrollment decline by at least 5% next year. It will help other schools, too — by making up for other funding streams set to disappear, like stimulus money given to schools to use for academic recovery this school year.
It’s unclear how long the relief will last. Historically, the city counts the number of students enrolled in each school at the end of October, and if they are serving fewer students than budgeted for, they’re required to give the money back. It’s a process called the mid-year adjustment.
“Is there any time commitment whatsoever — beyond you’re trying to get through this budget and you want us to go easy on you today — that schools are going to be held harmless throughout the entire school year?” Councilman Lincoln Restler asked.
“This is a commitment about initial allocations, not midyear adjustments,” Emma Vadehra, the DOE’s chief operating officer, replied.
That uncertainty may make it hard for schools to plan how they’ll spend their money.
The City Council and the Adams administration will continue to negotiate the budget over the next few weeks, and must reach an agreement by the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.