Budgets are moral documents, and this budget is an immoral one that has set our school communities up for failure as they attempt to partially reopen this September. Our city and state had an opportunity to funnel funding into our public schools so we could buy supplies for students, hire a nurse, school counselor, and social worker in every building and decrease class size. But instead, despite an alarming lack of transparency, it is clear that this budget continues to prioritize funding the NYPD instead of the needs of our Black and brown students and their families.
The hard fought advocacy by students, educators and families prevented a few of the worst cuts to school budgets and the Summer Youth Employment Program. But we owe no gratitude to politicians for offsetting cuts that never should have been put forward in the first place.
The final budget still includes hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to New York City Schools and a hiring freeze for the DOE while failing to cut 1 billion dollars from the NYPD or mandate a hiring freeze for police. The minimal cuts that were included barely make a dent in the NYPD’s overall budget and will have no permanent impacts on the size and power of the department. In shifting School Safety Agents over to the DOE, the budget agreement pretends to cut the NYPD budget while failing to even begin to remedy the trauma over-policing has inflicted on Black and brown students and fails to pave the way for systemic change or truly restorative communities in our schools.
The bottom line is our schools still do not have enough funding for counselors, social workers and a nurse in every building because of both the Governor and the Mayor’s refusal to prioritize children. Meanwhile, the NYPD, and our entire system of prisons and jails is still immensely over-funded without accountability, despite decades of both police and carceral brutality against Black and immigrant New Yorkers and their communities.
We do not condone a superficial bait and switch to make it appear that the city is cutting the NYPD’s budget while not providing additional funding for student needs like counseling, restorative justice and mental health. We call for a just transition away from criminalization of our students toward a restorative justice model of school safety informed by parent, student and staff input, and in particular from parents and students of color. Now, more than ever, we need to primarily invest in the meaningful, authentic safety that grows from creating caring, empowering and supportive school communities.
In order to do that, we need to turn our attention to city hall and to Albany. The Governor is poised to cut our city’s budget by a whopping 20%. New York State is home to 112 billionaires who have gotten wealthier during the COVID-19 pandemic. Any further cuts on the state level without taxing the ultra-wealthy are unacceptable. Similarly, the Mayor’s threatened layoffs of 22,000 municipal workers are unacceptable as is his proposed “savings” from cuts to labor benefits.
We are so grateful for the unflagging advocacy of organizations like Dignity in Schools Campaign- New York, Teachers Unite, Girls for Gender Equity, IntegrateNYC, Urban Youth Collaborative, Sistas & Brothas United, Rockaway Youth, NYC Kids PAC, The Ya-Ya Network, Teens Take Charge, the Alliance for Quality Education, Communities United for Police Reform, Vocal-New York, and our many members who tirelessly pushed for New York City budget justice.