Department of Education faces budget cuts due to pandemic

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In an email to all NYC school faculty, Chancellor Richard Carranza recently announced that the Department of Education is facing severe budget cuts as a result of economic instability and a significantly lower overall tax revenue.

More specifically, $150 million will be cut from the 2019-2020 school year budget and $470 million from the 2020-2021 budget. The DOE has currently frozen all public school purchasing not related to the COVID-19 crisis. This includes non-essential remote learning opportunities, overtime salaries, professional development programs, and items not pertinent to remote learning. However, funding for necessary remote learning materials and support will not be impacted. 

Assistant Principal of Organization Ellen Fee said, “We were able to purchase a few things, and we were blocked from some other things. And, we were able to pay everyone, including those people who had submitted per session (over time) timesheets.”

The impact of these budget cuts in the upcoming school year remains unclear. The DOE will issue guidance on next year’s budget in the late spring. According to the chancellor, there will likely be limited professional development opportunities for teachers and “non-mandated DOE activities.” There is also a suspension on hires that are not directly related to the COVID-19 emergency, which may continue into the next school year. The DOE will continue to block non-essential purchases and severely restrict hiring in schools.

Though the COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented, THHS has experienced similar budget cuts in the past. During the Great Recession of 2008, funding for after-school activities and school materials was especially impacted. According to a Classic article from the December issue in 2008, supplies were “at a bare minimum” after the THHS budget was cut by $118,500. However, teachers’ salaries remained unaffected, and the school experienced few staff reductions. 

In 2010, the THHS budget was cut once again by Governor Paterson’s policies regarding public schools for the 2010-2011 school year. Nevertheless, according to a Classic article from the September issue in 2010, after “an appeal for additional funding” and “writing to local government officials,” the THHS community was able to convince the DOE to restore $320,000 to the school budget, ensuring that no Advanced Placement classes would be affected.

This was repeated again in 2016 when DOE budget cuts affected the availability of courses for students. THHS was not able to pay teachers who taught an extra 6th class. Although there were class reductions, no elective courses were permanently cut.

As of now, Principal Brian Condon believes it’s best not to guess until more details are released and remains hopeful. “I’m trying not to speculate. My approach is to design the best program for students as we can and then figure out how to make it work,” he said.

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