A controversial New York City school funding formula was approved on Wednesday, despite a surprising rejection last month at a government meeting.
The unchanged agenda easily passed through the Education Policy Panel with 12 of 14 votes in its favour, and with Schools Chancellor David Banks promising to rethink how school budgets are allocated for the coming school years.
“I was absolutely committed to fixing this,” Banks said.
“Passing it tonight doesn’t mean this is a chancellor who gives a shit,” he said. “On the contrary: I have to keep the system moving; otherwise everything just shuts down.”
But the many families and advocates who spoke at the meeting were disappointed that any potential changes to the formula known as Fair Funding for Students would be delayed.
“I’m glad people listened last month and actually delayed this vote,” said Jennifer Hadlock, a mother of one current student and one former student, and a substitute teacher in East Harlem. “But the fact that there is no change doesn’t help me feel like trust is being built.”
School budget allocations stalled at the last PEP meeting as panel members and the public noted that while it sends additional dollars to schools that serve children struggling on state tests, English learners or with disabilities, it lacks Sufficient support for other vulnerable students, including those who are homeless or in foster care.
The vote may also have been affected by the lack of appointed mayors at the last meeting, where one member was absent and another had not yet been elected. The panel, which is mostly made up of those chosen by the mayor, generally adheres to directives from the City Council. Adams made his final selection on Wednesday, just hours before the group was to meet.
At the meeting, members who previously rejected or abstained from voting on the formula helped pass it in its second round, with the promise of a working group to review the Education Department’s approach.
“Because we received this commitment from our chancellor, as well as our first vice chancellor, and we’ve gone over it multiple times, trust me folks, we’ve talked a lot, our office will vote yes,” Kaliris said. Salas-Ramirez, who represents Manhattan and was appointed by his Borough President, Mark Levine. “But I hope you know that we will hold you accountable if we don’t see significant changes.”
Salas-Ramirez and others, including Thomas Sheppard, who was chosen by parents for the panel and voted ‘no’ on it, want the DOE to go further with an independent commission with experts who can make a “true financial analysis” of the formula
“It will take some time to figure this out; it won’t take years, but it will take some time,” Banks told PEP members and dozens of speakers in public comments.
“I am prepared for next week to start organizing and planning to fix this mess,” he said.
After bringing back a formula identical to the one that was rejected less than a month ago, the chancellor asked citizens to trust in his commitment to do what is right for the system.
“I am not a bureaucrat,” Banks said. “I’m not a person who just sits here and goes through the motions. That’s not who I am. This is not how he directs.”