A Manhattan Supreme Court judge temporarily blocked the city Education Department from proceeding with hundreds of millions of dollars in planned school budget cuts — the latest twist in an ongoing funding fight.
Judge Lyle Frank said in a four-page ruling Friday that the city is barred from any “further implementation” of the cuts included in its Fiscal Year 2023 budget and must revert to Fiscal Year 2022 funding levels in the meantime.
A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 4 to determine whether Frank will issue an order that would effectively make his order permanent.
The order came in response to a lawsuit filed by a group of parents and educators who argue that the city violated state law by adopting the city budget before giving the city’s Panel for Educational Policy the chance to approve the schools portion of the budget. The suit asks the court to annul the DOE’s portion of the city budget and force the City Council to recast its vote.
It is still unclear what the temporary restraining order will mean on the ground for the Education Department and school principals, who are in the midst of making staffing decisions for next school year.
The DOE has already distributed a big chunk of schools’ budgets for the upcoming school year, with the cuts reflected in those allocations.
Laura Barbieri, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the order means that any decisions to fire, or “excess,” staffers based on reduced budgets must be temporarily paused. She also maintained that schools that received more money this year than last won’t see their budget cuts because of the order, arguing “it can’t reduce, it can only add.”
Frank’s order says the DOE is temporarily “enjoined from spending at any levels other than as required by the FY 2021-2022 Department of Education Budget.”
The DOE didn’t immediately respond to a question about the effect of the restraining order.
Amaris Cockfield, a spokeswoman for Mayor Adams, said, “the budget was duly adopted by the City Council and is in accordance with all charter mandated protocols.” She said the city planned to file a motion to vacate the order on Monday.