Saturday, July 30, 2022

City strikes out so far in legal pleadings over budget cuts; freezes budgets & then unfreezes them; while at least 700 teachers have been let go.

Check out more about the lawsuit on this week's Talk out of School podcast, as explained by attorney Laura Barbieri and me, and two of the plaintiffs, Tamara Tucker and Paul Trust, hosted by Daniel Alicea.

The City has engaged in much legal wrangling, all unsuccessful so far, since Judge Lyle Frank granted a temporary restraining order against the school budget cuts last Friday, July 22 in  the lawsuit Tamara Tucker vs the City of NY, filed by parents and teachers on July 18. 

The City's  attorneys  asked the Judge for permission to file papers to vacate the TRO, and they submitted their papers on July 25, with the petitioners filing theirs on July 26.  The Judge turned down the City's request to reverse the TRO the next day, on July 27.

Then the City submitted an appeal to the Appellate Court to nullify Judge Frank's court order.  They actually filed two requests as the first one was incorrect on the proper procedure, along with more affidavits and yet another Memo of Law.  Brief oral arguments were heard at 12:30 PM yesterday, Friday, July 30.

What's peculiar is that at about the same time that oral arguments were being heard by the Appellate Judge, the DOE new COO, Emma Vadehra, sent an email to Superintendents that the DOE was shutting down their access to their schools' Galaxy budgets:

The reaction was fast and intense.  Principals expressed outraged that they couldn't access the budget lines to order books and plan programs.  Advocates and parents pointed out that the freezing of school budgets was totally contrary to what the court had ordered -- that no more cuts should be made to school budgets and that the budgets would be based on this year's spending levels, until the Judge could hear the case on August 4.  

Clearly, this was an attempt by the City to manipulate the Appellate court and/or the court of public opinion that the chaos and disruption that DOE claimed over and over again in its court documents was indeed occurring -- even though this was the result of the City's actions not the TRO.

In any case, at 3:30 PM, the Appellate Court Judge Bahaati E. Pitt, rejected the City's request to vacate the TRO.  

Meanwhile, the outrage only grew at the DOE's refusal to allow principals to access their budgets.   Laura Barbieri, the attorney for the plaintiff asked me to post the following statement on Twitter:

At some point, either late in the afternoon or into the evening, after a rash of negative articles and angry tweets, the City finally realized that the smoke and mirrors they had hoped to accomplish with the budget freeze hadn't worked.  At about 9: 25 PM last night, the Chancellor sent out the following email:

The Chancellor made no explanation of why this freeze had been imposed in the first place, or had now been ended.  In fact, there were no changes in the law or orders of the court since Judge Lyle Frank made his original decision to accept the Plaintiff's request for a TRO the week before.  Moreover, Banks erred in saying that "the appeals court has scheduled a further hearing on our motion" to vacate the TRO, as no such hearing has been scheduled.  

All the Appellate Judge did, as is standard procedure after rejecting the City's appeal, is to state that they can now try again by appealing her judgement to the full Appellate Court on August 5 if they insist--  which is after the August 4 date when Judge Lyle Frank will hear both sides' arguments in the Supreme Court.  

A lot of confusion for nothing and now the city has struck out four times; twice by Judge Frank and twice  -- for each of their appeals -- by Judge Bahaati E. Pitt.  It's not looking good for their side.  Most all the legal papers are here.

What's rather damning is that among the literally hundreds of pages of legal documents that the city has filed, nowhere do they actually contest the central claim of the lawsuit -- that the adoption of the education budget was done in a manner contrary to State Law, with the City Council voting before the Panel for Educational Policy (still known as the Board of Education in state law.)

Meanwhile, a DOE document was leaked on Friday, showing that at least 700 teachers have been excessed so far as a result of the budget cuts, which means they have been told by their schools that they are being let go. The NY Post wrote about this late Friday here.  

The full DOE powerpoint is below; and contains a lot of confusing data in an apparent effort to convince whoever saw it that many of these teachers will be hired elsewhere.  

It does show that over the last couple of years, the number of excessed teachers entering the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool has shrunk.  Yet that is likely a result of the fact that for the last two years, the DOE told principals they if they hired these teachers, the DOE would cover their salaries centrally.  As Deputy Chancellor Weisberg said at the June 28 Council hearings, and confirmed in this document in the final slide in a somewhat garbled manner, that is no longer the case.  

Since the vast majority of schools have seen their budgets cut significantly, it is likely that the ATR pool will sharply increase once more, as it did during the Bloomberg/Klein years.  Since all these teachers will receive their full salaries anyway, the question remains what actual savings these egregious cuts at the school level will  achieve.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Judge grants temporary restraining order to block budget cuts! To find out more, join our briefing Monday at 4 PM.

Great news! Late Friday afternoon, Judge Lyle Frank of the State Supreme Court granted a Temporary Restraining Order to block the devastating school budget cuts, in response to the lawsuit filed by four parents and teachers on July 18, Tamara Tucker vs. City of New York. A press release is here, along with a copy of  the court order. This big win for NYC kids was reported in NY1,Gothamist, the NY Post, Daily News and many other outlets.

On Monday, the city will file papers arguing against the TRO, and on Tuesday, the pro bono attorney for the plaintiffs, Laura Barbieri of Advocates for Justice, will file reply papers. On Thursday August 4 at 10 AM the case will be heard at the NY State Supreme Court, and the public is invited to attend.

Meanwhile, Laura and I will be holding a briefing via Zoom this Monday, July 25 at 4 PM for those who are interested in joining the lawsuit as plaintiffs or just want to hear more about the case. You can sign up here.

While the Council is said to be negotiating in private with Mayor Adams to allow at least some of the budget cuts to be restored,  it was revealed that the Mayor demanded as a condition that the Council agree to lock in school budget cuts in future years if enrollment continues to decline.  

This would be completely unacceptable and possibly illegal -- especially if Gov. Hochul signs the class size bill, which would require the DOE to send more funding to schools. The Fair Student funding formula is aligned to excessive class sizes and must be totally revamped in any case.

Speaking of class size, our petition​ to Governor Hochul urging her to sign the bill now has more than 9,000 signers. Please sign it yourself if you haven't already and/or share it with friends and allies.

More soon, Leonie

Monday, July 18, 2022

Lawsuit and rally to restore the budget cuts to schools, which the Mayor calls "a rumor"

Update: the lawsuit was covered by the Daily News, AM New York, Chalkbeat, NY Post, Brooklyn Eagle, and CBS radio.

Also much thanks to Laura Barbieri and the crew at Advocates for Justice, for working so hard on this lawsuit pro bono and doing it so quickly! 

This morning we filed a lawsuit on behalf of four parents and teachers to halt the Mayor's budget cuts to schools, and to require that the City Council has another opportunity to vote.  

The lawsuit is based on serious procedural errors committed by the Mayor and Chancellor, by allowing the City Council to adopt the education budget before the Panel for Educational Policy had an opportunity to hold a hearing on the cuts and vote on the education budget, which state law requires must happen first.

Instead, the Chancellor declared an emergency to immediately send the diminished funds to schools,  before either of the Council or the PEP had a chance to vote on them.  In this way, he attempted to short circuit the legally mandated process.  

We found that in twelve out of the last thirteen years, several Chancellors have invoked the same bogus "emergency" with the same boilerplate language -- without detailing what actual emergency existed.  Here is a press release with more detail and quotes from the plaintiffs; and here are the legal documents.

Even earlier in the day, there was a rally to protest the rally in front of Tweed, organized by the Progressive Caucus of the NYC Council, where many parents, advocates and Council Members spoke about the havoc these cuts would cause to schools and students' lives. 

Among the speakers were CM Alexa Aviles, who voted against the budget, as well as five CMs who had voted to approve the budget:  CM Shahana Hanif, Lincoln Restler, Jennifer Guttierez, Shekar Krishnan and Carmen de la Rosa all apologized for their votes, and promised that going forward, they would not approve any more budget cuts to schools.  They also said they were demanding action by the Mayor by August 1 to restore the cuts.  

In the afternoon, a bunch of parents including Reyhan Mehran buttonholed the Mayor outside an event in Brooklyn, where the mayor called the cuts a "rumor."  

They later met with the Mayor at City Hall,  where he was surrounded by a bunch of aides. After they described the awful effect these cuts would have on their schools and the system as a whole, the Mayor apparently said he couldn't say much about the issue because of the lawsuit, but that they had no idea how hard he works to benefit NYC children and how hard these choices are.  

Reyhan responded with, "Just don't make these choices then.  Restore the cuts now.

A video is below of this morning's rally, with speeches from the Council Members as well as parents and advocates.

Rally to Restore the Budget Cuts - 7.18.2022 from Class Size Matters on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Mayor Adams called protestors "clowns" and blamed Albany for his budget cuts to schools last night

This protest at a Harlem town hall against the Mayor's huge budget cuts to schools was reported briefly in the NY Post, but not what the Mayor actually said about these cuts, which he blamed on Albany.  

The Mayor claimed that "There's something called fair student funding, which is a wrong equation that we're fighting Albany to fix." 

Yet neither the Governor nor the Legislature have anything to do with his budget cuts to schools, or to Fair Student Funding, which is a formula devised by Chancellor Klein in 2007.  Indeed, the Legislature is sending $1.3 billion extra to our schools over three years, regardless of any enrollment decline. 

( Update: Sue Edelman on twitter just pointed out out that his claim they are paying 100% of FSF is also incorrect, as they cut the  allotment of about $25 per student in the formula, with as much as twice that much for kids with disabilities and other challenges.   DOE explained this as resulting from the FSF formula is pegged to the average teacher salary, which they claim has diminished in the past year, without refusing to disclose the actual amount of  the decline.)

See for yourself.  Check out what happened at about at 10 min. into the video, and also below.

 (Shouting in background of protesters from Make the Road NY, MORE caucus of the UFT, and New Yorkers for Racially Just Public Schools, who are dragged out of the room. ) 

Mayor Adams: You know, see, see this is the clown. This is the clown. And this is what we are up against people. 

People want to spend time being disruptive. That's what people want to do. But we got to stay focused and not get distracted. That's what we must do. Be focused and not distracted. Because people want to spend time on what they disagree on, and not spend time what we agree on. That’s what we have to be. So all that noise. All that noise, that's what folks don't understand. 

Listen, they are new to this. I'm not new to this. I'm true to this. I'm true to this. So because you are the loudest, does not mean you are saying something. Your ability to sit down and say, how do we work together because you can disagree with something, but you don't disagree with people should not be living in the state that they're living in now. And so if there's ever been a moment in history, if there's ever been a moment in history that personifies Esther 4:14. This is the moment God made me for such a time like this. I'm the right man for the right time to do what needs to be done in this city. 

Then, at about 38:40 minutes into the video:

Next table, Pastor Gil Monroe. 

Pastor Gil Monroe: Good evening and we're sorry for our friends. When will the budget of the DOE of $2 billion be restored,  cuts be restored? 

Mayor Adams: This is such, this DOE conversation is such an important one. You know because people have hijacked the conversation, so here’s what's happened with the with the Department of Education.

We have a massive hemorrhaging of students. Massive hemorrhaging when a very dangerous place in a number of students that we are dropping. There's something called fair student funding, which is a wrong equation that we're fighting Albany to fix.

But we are paying 100% of fair student funding. This is amount of money each child is allocated from Albany. If you have 1000 children in school, each child per child gets $1 Match attached to it.

We had a substantial drop in students in schools. So you start out with 1000 for argument's sake, you drop down to 600. Albany is saying we only pay you for 600. We're not paying you 1000. 

And so when we said to our schools, we said listen, they're cutting off our funding, the fair student funding. So we're not going to cut you off right away. We have stimulus dollars. We're going to use a stimulus dollars to keep you whole,  we talked about last year, but you got to start adjusting to have the 600 students. We came this year, we said we still not going to cut you off we're going to give you three fourths of the amount that we normally give you. 

But next year because of the stimulus dollars, we got to give you 50% of the dollars that we normally give you. But the year after, we have no more federal dollars. Then we get hit with other things that Albany is putting on us without giving us the money for, so what we did is slowly adjust based on the student population and the money that's coming from Albany. So we need your help to tell Albany, let's change the equation based on the number of students we have in our school, so we won't lose your money in our schools. 

We're gonna base it on with Albany is doing, we are creatures of Albany, they give us our fair student funding. Now we would like the bad guy because we don't want that I adjust with Albany is doing to us. We need Albany to do the right thing and make sure we get the fair student funding increase so that we can put the money into schools. Right now we're keeping them as whole as possible with the federal money is going to run out and when it runs out, we don't we no longer have that cushion that we had. So it's not our desire to cut any money. We that's why we did only three fourths this year. Next year, we got to do 50%.

But then we got we got to fall off the cliff if we don't get the support that we need from Albany.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Anger and distress among parents, elected officials & advocates at Gov. Hochul refusing to sign class size bill

NY Post article about this is here;

For immediate release: July 1, 2022

Contact: Marina Marcou-O’Malley: 518-894-6834, 

Leonie Haimson: 917-435-9329;


Anger and distress at Gov. Hochul refusing to sign class size bill

Parents, education advocates and elected officials reacted with dismay and alarm at the fact that Gov. Hochul signed the mayoral control bill last night without also signing the class size bill, A10498/S09460  at the same time.

“It is inexcusable and unfathomable that the Governor would refuse to sign the class size bill when she signed the Mayoral control bill. The legislature passed this bill almost unanimously. The only thing standing between smaller class sizes and a better learning environment that students desperately need is the Governor’s signature. Parents fought for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity and won. The Governor recognized the need to act on that and delivered two years of funding for Foundation Aid, so that, among other things, class sizes can be reduced. Thirty years after the CFE lawsuit was filed , class sizes are worse, not better. We urge the governor to sign the bill and signal that she continues to recognize what needs to happen for our students’ sake,” said Marina Marcou-O’Malley, Policy and Operations Director for the Alliance for Quality Education. 

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters said, “The fact that the Governor signed the Mayoral control bill without signing the bill that would require him to reduce class size at the same time is particularly outrageous. There can be no accountability without smaller classes for NYC kids, which the State’s highest court said were needed to provide them with their right to a sound basic education under the State’s constitution.  Smaller classes are also the top priority of K12 parents nearly every year on the DOE’s own surveys, and the class size bill passed 59-4 in the State Senate; 147-2 in the Assembly.  It is particularly outrageous that the Governor has chosen to renew the Mayor’s control unconditionally,  just at a time when he is slashing the budget for schools, causing class sizes to increase rather than decrease and students to lose critical programs and services."

“New York City’s parents are sick of our children’s education being used as a political bargaining chip. We passed the class size legislation with a considerable bipartisan margin, and thirty-eight elected officials from Congress, the state, and the city, as well as over 7700 petition signatories  urged the Governor to sign the class size bill this week. There was no such groundswell for the renewal of Mayoral control. Signing it into law would be such an easy win for the Governor. The last-minute, late night negotiations have become a pattern in this administration’s first term, and it is hurting our children,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos.

“Large class sizes were a main driver behind the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) lawsuit I brought against New York State with parents in 1993. The 2007 court ruling found that, ‘tens of thousands of students placed in overcrowded classrooms is enough to represent a systemic failure,’” said Senator Robert Jackson. “New York City governance must make class size reduction a priority. It is a shame that the class size reduction legislation was not signed into law with Mayoral Accountability. The resulting impact of school budget cuts will harm students further as class sizes increase, affecting educational outcomes. I urge the Governor to follow through on the state’s obligation under the CFE ruling and sign S9460 into law.  Answer the call of families across the city, sign that bill!” 

“We ask that the Governor sign the class size bill as soon as possible, which would also help to limit the Mayor’s damaging cuts to school budgets, which if left unchecked will further undermine the ability of NYC children to receive the quality education that they desperately need now more than ever before,” said State Senator Julia Salazar (SD-18).

The Governor must make good on her promise and sign the class size reduction bill. It was part of the deal for renewing mayoral control. The Mayor's dyslexia initiative needs smaller classes to be effective. As a former teacher of deaf students, I know just how critical smaller class sizes are to students’ ability to succeed. Small classes improve outcomes for all students, especially those of color and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Parents and educators are reeling--stretched to the limits by the pandemic and now with school budget cuts--and we can't let them down,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon.

As eminent education historian and advocate Diane Ravitch concluded, “ Governor Kathy Hochul is double crossing the students, teachers, and parents of NYC.”­­­