June 24, 2022 By Alexandra Adelina Nita
Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas and State Senator Jessica Ramos joined parents outside P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights last week to protest the upcoming budget cuts to New York City schools.
The local officials and parents voiced their opposition to the $215 million cut to public school funding outlined in the city’s $101 billion fiscal year budget for 2023. They demanded that the cuts be reversed before the budget goes into effect on July 1.
The proposed cuts stem from the city’s desire to change how per-student funding works.
Before the pandemic if a school’s enrollment was lower than projected it would be required to return the extra money. The pandemic lowered enrollments to the majority of the city’s public schools, leading the city to use federal stimulus funds to cover the difference. The proposed budget would end that policy.
Losses in enrollment were not distributed equally with low-income and disabled students most affected, so the proposed budget cuts would affect individual schools differently as well.
The United Federation of Teachers—a union that represents New York City public school teachers—used data from the Department of Education to estimate how much each school could potentially lose or gain stemming from the cuts. (click here to see how much each school is likely to lose)
P.S. 69 is estimated to lose up to $484,342, which would represent 8 percent of its budget. Early this year, Chalkbeat reported that P.S. 69 had a 4.99% decline in enrollment for the schoolyear 2021-2022 compared to schoolyear 2020-2021. (click here to see how much enrollment numbers changed for each school)
The legislators weighed in on the effects that these cuts would have on public schools.
González-Rojas referred to her district’s demographics when criticizing the cuts. “This community is made up by a majority of communities of color and immigrant families,” she said. “The proposed cuts by the mayor [passed by the city council] are unconscionable at a time when we are trying to keep our children safe and healthy in our schools.”
Ramos, whose children attend P.S. 69, emphasized the scale of the cuts. “We’re not talking about fewer textbooks, or a few operational cuts here and there—these cuts represent teachers, support staff and critical programs,” she said. “We did not fight tooth and nail to bring every penny of Foundation Aid back to Queens, only for the mayor and our colleagues in the Council to cut public funding to schools.”
Not all Council members voted in favor of the all-encompassing budget. Six officials did not—with Tiffany Cában being the only member in Queens to vote against it.