NYC Teachers battle Mayor Adams over school budget cuts
Educators and parents are among the more than 300 protesters who rallied outside City Hall in Manhattan on June 24 to demand that the city Department of Education restore $215 million in school funding cuts. |

NEW YORK —With the Big Apple’s schools preparing to open on September 8, the nation’s biggest teachers local—the United Federation of Teachers—and school bosses, specifically New York City Mayor Eric Adams, are at loggerheads over Adams’ budget cuts from city schools, which educate more kids than any other district in the continental U.S.

And, adds UFT President Michael Mulgrew, money is available: Of the $7.6 billion the city was allotted for pandemic-fighting aid for teaching, repairs, anti-virus measures and reducing class sizes, he says $4.6 billion is still sitting in the bank.

“The purpose of that extra money is to help students recover from the pandemic, not to be left in a piggy bank that’s going to be used for something else later on,” Mulgrew told the City Council Education Committee in late June.

The conflict has been going since Adams released his spending plan in early June. Besides the committee hearing, it’s played out in the streets and in the courts. There, UFT picked up an initial win, from State Supreme Court Justice Lyle Frank overturning the council vote on the cuts. Adams is appealing Frank’s decision.

One big issue is the size and impact of Adams’s cuts. He says he’s cutting $215 million. City Comptroller Brad Lander calculates the net is $377 million, adding they’ll hit 77% of New York schools. And that’s a lot, and it hurts kids, says Mulgrew in a pointed, detailed August letter to Adams and School Chancellor Brad Banks. Neither have answered.

“The outrageous cuts…caused principals and staff all across the city to scramble,” Mulgrew wrote. “When the DOE (Department of Education) is asking us to do more for our students and communities, it’s unbelievable it is choosing to give us less. After the most difficult years in the city’s recent memory, this is a slap in our face.

“Since June, when the budget was passed, the UFT leadership has advocated for the restoration of funds to our schools so they can continue to lead our communities out of the destruction wrought by the pandemic. For months, we have received no clear answers.

“Why did you cut funds to schools at such a crucial time? Why has the DOE decided to cut school budgets when the DOE budget hasn’t been cut? Where is the money going, if not into schools?”

“The increased needs of our students and families is undeniable and yet, once again, the DOE left each school on its own to figure out how to make things happen with no guidance or support.

“Isn’t it time for you to listen to the pleas of parents and educators? Shouldn’t you be negotiating with the City Council rather than standing firm against New York City’s children?”

Mulgrew’s mid-August letter, which the mayor apparently has yet to answer, followed a protest, led by parents, in Foley Square before City Hall, New York Teacher reported. The protest was in the square while Mulgrew testified inside.

“What purpose do these cuts serve other than to cause harm and exacerbate the existing inequity in our education system?” Tamara Tucker, a parent of two children at PS125 in Harlem, asked the magazine. Tucker was one of two parents, along with two laid-off teachers, who filed the suit to reverse the cuts.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.