Eric Adams directs $127 million to prop up NYC school budgets, avert summer school cuts

a man wearing a dark suit stands holding a microphone.
Mayor Eric Adams announced $127 million in new funding to help sustain programs that have been funded with one-time federal relief dollars. A final budget is due by July 1. (Mayoral Photography Office)

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Mayor Eric Adams will direct $127 million more into the Education Department’s budget, part of an effort to reverse cuts to programs funded with soon-to-expire federal dollars.

The infusion of money, which officials announced on Tuesday, will prop up the budgets of hundreds of schools that have struggled with declining enrollment since the pandemic. The new dollars will also help boost a slew of other programs, including the city’s free summer school program, which faced reduced hours this year, and restorative justice programs that offer less punitive methods of resolving conflict.

“We inherited a fiscal cliff,” Adams said during a press conference, pointing to more than $7 billion in federal aid to the Education Department that expires this summer. “We will continue to invest in children.”

Though Adams initially painted a dire picture of the city’s finances, in part due to billions in projected spending on services for an influx of migrants, he has incrementally reversed course on several proposed cuts.

In April, the mayor said the city found more than $500 million to continue financing initiatives that were funded by one-time federal dollars, including over 500 social workers and psychologists. Adams contends the city’s revenue is greater than expected, though critics have repeatedly said the mayor’s projections were unnecessarily pessimistic.

Before Tuesday’s announcement, the Education Department was facing an overall reduction to its operating budget of about 2.4%, or roughly $808 million, as increases in city funding have not completely plugged the hole created by expiring federal dollars.

Here’s what to know about the programs benefiting from the $127 million investment announced Tuesday:

$75 million to reverse cuts to school budgets

The Education Department used hundreds of millions of federal relief funding to avoid budget cuts at schools that enrolled fewer students since the pandemic hit, but had not committed to keeping it next school year.

Officials said they will now use about $75 million to blunt the impact of enrollment declines at about 15% of the city’s schools that otherwise would have seen cuts.

Funding is typically directly based on a school’s number of students. But even as most schools suffered enrollment declines during the pandemic, city officials were reluctant to slash budgets as educators scrambled to catch students up academically and mental health needs remained high.

Adams has tried to phase out the “hold harmless” program to help schools avoid the shock of large budget cuts all at once when the federal money dried up — though he has faced pushback from City Council.

“We want to slowly address this issue by not hitting the schools right away,” Adams said.

Meanwhile, the city is projecting a slight enrollment increase next year, which could also help temper more dramatic school budget cuts. Still, city officials did not guarantee schools will avoid cuts in the middle of the school year if the number of students who enroll is lower than anticipated, a practice that was paused during the pandemic but returned this school year.

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, whose relationship with the mayor has been increasingly strained, said she was “beaming” thanks to the new funding.

“When schools can count on consistent aid, receiving no less than what was provided in the previous year, they can adequately plan,” she said.

$20 million to restore enrichment hours for Summer Rising

Middle schoolers who enroll in the city’s popular summer program will no longer face reduced hours.

The city initially planned to cut two hours of programming each day for middle school children and cancel Friday sessions, which is often when field trips were scheduled. There are about 110,000 Summer Rising slots, with elementary and middle schoolers eligible for a mix of academic programs and enrichment activities.

“We are relieved that Mayor Adams came to his senses,” wrote Nora Moran, the director of policy and advocacy at United Neighborhood Houses, which represents community organizations that operate some of the city’s summer programming.

Still, she said it is difficult for providers to plan given the months of funding uncertainty. “Every day that has gone by since this cut was announced in November was wasted time to plan and staff up for summer programs,” Moran said.

The mayor previously announced plans to keep the Education Department’s portion of the program’s budget steady. But the afternoon enrichment activities are funded by the Department of Youth and Community Development — and Adams had cut about $20 million of its $149 million contribution.

$32 million for teacher recruitment, restorative justice, and more

A bevy of other programs that were financed with one-time federal money will see those dollars replaced with city funds, including teacher recruitment efforts ($10 million), computer science education ($4 million), and tutoring programs in reading and math ($4 million).

City Council members had also pressed the city to continue supporting restorative justice programs that focus on resolving conflicts by talking them through rather than resorting to punitive discipline including suspensions. The city previously used federal funding to more than double the program’s budget, which means a majority of its funding now comes from expiring federal sources.

Officials said the city is replacing about $6 million of the $8 million in federal funding spent on the program this year. A spokesperson did not say how much total funding they plan to devote to restorative justice next year. The additional $127 million announced Tuesday is not guaranteed to continue beyond next school year, officials confirmed.

Michael Mulgrew, head of the city’s teachers union, largely praised the city’s funding boost. “This is progress,” he said in a statement. “These are programs and initiatives that make a difference for our students and our school communities.”

Some programs still face cuts

A handful of other programs are still on the chopping block, most notably free preschool.

Mayor Adams has already restored nearly $150 million in federal funding for preschool programs for students with disabilities and programs serving 3-year-olds. But he has not reversed a $170 million cut in city funding for early childhood programs, including 3-K.

The mayor has repeatedly emphasized that there are thousands of empty preschool seats and the cuts are needed to bring supply and demand more in line. “It just does not make financial sense to pay for 19,000 seats that our babies are not in,” he said.

Still, advocates contend the city has not done enough to publicize the free programs as families struggle to find affordable child care and they also note that not every family who wants a 3-K seat was initially matched with one. An Education Department spokesperson noted that the city plans to spend $5 million on an outreach campaign and vowed to add funding for preschool if demand rises.

The city has also not restored about $65 million in funding for more than 400 contracted nurses who provided services in some school buildings that previously lacked a nurse.

It’s possible some of these cuts will be reversed as the City Council continues to negotiate with the mayor. A final budget is due by July 1.

Alex Zimmerman is a reporter for Chalkbeat New York, covering NYC public schools. Contact Alex at azimmerman@chalkbeat.org.

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