New York City public schools need post-pandemic federal funding


Street Lab

Street Lab

The Editorial Board

New York City public schools have seen declining enrollment rates because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Education recently announced that they will not be cutting funding to reflect these numbers.

The city should do all that it can to support its schools, students and their families. There should not be any hindrance to provide aid despite a loss in enrollment as an inevitable consequence of the pandemic.

Enrollment dropped 1.8% this school year compared to last, from 919,000 to 903,000 students, according to Gothamist. During the 2020-2021 school year, the peak of the enrollment drop was 4.7%.

When Mayor Eric Adams’ administration proposed budget cuts of $215 million earlier this year, schools made plans to relieve the financial strain through layoffs.

The budget cut was protested by parents and teachers. The New York City Council was also against these cuts and called for the DOE to restore funds.

The decision for the cuts was eventually rolled back after the DOE announced it would use stimulus funds to hold schools “harmless” during the mid-year adjustment.

The DOE should not have wavered in supporting public schools despite the lower enrollment.

The New York City Comptroller’s office found the DOE has been slow to use this fiscal year’s allocation of $7 billion in federal stimulus through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan Act.

“We cannot afford to fuel the self-fulfilling prophesy of underfunding schools based on projected enrollment declines,” the NYC Comptroller’s office said in a statement. “Quality public education is essential to ensuring New York City remains a vibrant place to raise a family, grow a business, and invest in a community.”

The City Council had also previously advised the DOE to support schools and were against the cuts over the summer.

“This use of federal stimulus funds reflects how the Council previously urged the DOE to apply them – to protect the health of our schools in light of decreased enrollment,” Adrienne Adams, Speaker of the New York City Council, said. She also noted that the process for mid-year adjustments lacks transparency and simplicity, and that the current policies in place “fail to prioritize the stability of our schools to serve students, and must be reformed in the best interest of students, teachers, and school communities.”

The city should make it clear that it is doing all that it can to support our schools. Students, families and faculty should not have to worry about the consequences of losing critical funding.

School may be the only source of refuge for thousands of students who have struggled through the ups and downs of the pandemic. Providing for schools could also help boost test scores that have been in decline since the pandemic.

Teachers need resources to be able to provide a quality education. The DOE should continue to properly and promptly use the funding to support our schools.