Teachers Union Sues NYC Mayor Over ‘Draconian’ Budget Cuts

“We are already seeing more overcrowded classrooms,” said a union leader. “We are seeing children with special needs not getting their mandated services. And if these cuts go through, all of these situations get worse.”

By Jessica Corbett. Published 12-21-2023 by Common Dreams

New York City Mayor Eric Adams hosted his inaugural Black History Month event, “Bridging The Gap” at The Apollo in Harlem on Thursday, February 24, 2022.. Photo: nycmayorsoffice/flickr/Public domain

As New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday delivered a speech claiming he has been able to “get stuff done” for working people over the past two years, a teachers union in the largest U.S. public school district sued the Democrat for trying to slash the education budget for fiscal years 2024 and 2025 “by staggering amounts.”

“The approximate $547 million in immediate budget cuts to the New York City School District announced on November 16, 2023, together with the further cuts proposed that may amount to close to $2 billion stripped from city schools this fiscal year and next, will have a far-reaching and devastating impact on teachers and New York City children,” says the complaint filed in state court by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and individual educators.

“The cuts come as 653 schools—43% of the school community—have already been forced to make in-school year budget cuts due to enrollment,” the document notes. “The mayor’s draconian cuts are as unnecessary as they are illegal. While the law allows a reduction in education spending proportional to a decrease in city revenue, the opposite is expected to occur.”

The complaint explains that “the cuts are being made at a time when the city collected nearly $8 billion more in revenue last fiscal year than was anticipated, and when the city’s reserves of over $8 billion are at a near-record high (despite the false narrative, an annual refrain during budget negotiations, that the city is careening towards a fiscal cliff).”

According to Gothamist, UFT president Michael Mulgrew similarly said during a Thursday press conference that “these cuts are based off of a fiscal crisis that we feel is completely fabricated at this point.”

“We are already seeing more overcrowded classrooms,” he continued. “We are seeing supply shortages. We are seeing children with special needs not getting their mandated services. And if these cuts go through, all of these situations get worse.”

The complaint points out that while “the mayor’s purported need for these cuts has been largely fueled by an unverified estimate that an increase of $11 billion… over the next two years is necessary to address the migrant population ($2.5 billion of which has already been budgeted),” other recent analyses “conclude that the likely migrant costs are significantly less.”

Mulgrew said in a statement that “the administration can’t go around touting the tourism recovery and the return of the city’s pre-pandemic jobs, and then create a fiscal crisis and cut education because of its own mismanagement of the asylum-seeker problem. Our schools and our families deserve better.”

Welcoming the suit, Liza Schwartzwald, New York Immigration Coalition’s director of economic justice and family empowerment, said that “all students in New York City have the right to a quality education. The mayor has continuously scapegoated asylum-seekers to justify current and proposed cuts to the education budget. But the administration’s austerity cuts do not reflect the reality of our city’s financial situation.”

“Rather than pursuing long-term solutions to lower asylum-seeker costs further, the mayor instead doubles down on unjustified cuts that will have long-term detrimental effects on the many students who have been struggling to catch up after years of destabilization and uncertainty,” she added. “As enrollment rates are increasing for the first time in over five years, it is time to invest in our public schools. We stand with the United Federation of Teachers, and all New York City public school students, in the fight to ensure a quality education for all New York children.”

Politico reported Thursday that the UFT suit follows another filed in the same court by “DC 37, the city’s largest public sector union, which accused the mayor and his administration of failing to properly vet a decision to nix thousands of union jobs as city officials look to close an anticipated $7 billion budget gap.”

As the outlet detailed:

The mayor, at a City Hall event Thursday highlighting the growth in jobs and drop in crime under his administration this year, sought to downplay the two lawsuits.

“Henry’s a friend. He has to represent his members,” Adams told reporters of DC 37 executive director Henry Garrido. “The same with the UFT. They have to represent their members. And from time to time, friends disagree. And sometimes it ends up in the boardroom and sometimes it ends up in the courtroom.”

Adams is seeking reelection in 2025. Early last month, he canceled meetings in Washington, D.C. as Federal Bureau of Investigation agents raided the Brooklyn home of his fundraising chief, Brianna Suggs. Later in November, The New York Times obtained search warrants revealing that U.S. prosecutors and the FBI “are examining whether the campaign conspired with members of the Turkish government, including its consulate in New York, to receive illegal donations.”

In a statement from his campaign, Adams said, “I have not been accused of wrongdoing, and I will continue to cooperate with investigators.”

Still, the scrutiny has added to arguments that the city “deserves better,” as James Inniss, a Bronx native and public safety organizer with New York Communities for Change, wrote for Common Dreams last month. “We deserve a mayor that is honest, open, transparent, and abides by the rule of law. We deserve a mayor that stands for the ideals New York stands for: democracy, inclusivity, and promotion of the common good. Mayor Adams does not speak for our communities.”

So far, no one has confirmed they will challenge the incumbent in two years, but there is already a list of possible candidates.

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

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