A New York judge appears poised to reverse cuts to public school budgets.

Supreme Court Judge Lyle Frank suggested during a hearing Thursday that the city violated state law when it passed next school year’s Department of Education budget.

Frank asked lawyers to suggest language that would prevent the order from infringing upon the overall city budget. He is expected to issue a ruling on Friday.

In the meantime, he continued his temporary restraining order issued July 22 that stopped the city from moving forward with the cuts.

The ruling, which temporarily keeps school funding at the levels outlined last year, was sought by a group of parents and teachers who filed a suit against the city over the budget slashes.

The plaintiffs argued that the city flouted state law by passing a budget that included at least $215 million in cuts, without prior approval from the DOE’s oversight board.

City lawyers countered that an “emergency declaration” issued by Schools Chancellor David Banks allowed them to bypass the panel and put the cuts — around 0.69% of the DOE’s $31 billion-plus budget — into effect at the school level.

But Frank found that the declaration, though not unusual, “should have a good reason.”

“If it’s called an emergency declaration, it really should be an emergency,” the judge said.

A rally to protest budget cuts to city schools outside of the Department of Education headquarters on July 18, 2022. A New York state judge may reverse the cuts due to the city potentially violating state law.
A rally to protest budget cuts to city schools outside of the Department of Education headquarters on July 18, 2022. A New York state judge may reverse the cuts due to the city potentially violating state law.
Gina M Randazzo/ZUMA Press Wire

Frank’s official order could authorize, though likely not require, the City Council to vote again on the DOE budget.

Once formally issued, the city will be able to appeal the order.

Several logistical questions remain to be ironed out, as principals make key hiring decisions and just weeks before schools reopen for the fall.

The Office of the New York City Comptroller Brad Lander found that the original reductions averaged $403,456 in cuts per individual school budgets.

The city's lawyers argued an “emergency declaration” issued by Schools Chancellor David Banks allowed them to make the cuts without approval from the DOE’s oversight board.
The city’s lawyers argued an “emergency declaration” issued by Schools Chancellor David Banks allowed them to make the cuts without approval from the DOE’s oversight board.
Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/Shutterstock

Close to 1,200 schools were set to have slimmer budgets amid plunging student enrollment, but the fewer than 400 schools with increased enrollment were slated to get increased funding.

Laura Barbieri, special counsel for Advocates for Justice, representing the plaintiffs, said attorneys could propose language for the judge’s anticipated ruling that would allow for no schools to lose funding as a result of the order.

The city’s lawyers also made the argument that the DOE line items could not be divorced from the overall city budget, which was balanced and voted on as a whole. But the plaintiffs’ attorneys denied that such remedy was not possible.

Mayor Eric Adams at an unrelated press conference on Thursday committed to following the court rulings.

“We’re going to find out what the judge states, and we’re going to move forward. We’re going to do everything that we must do to make sure our schools are open,” said Adams.

“I’m a mayor that’s focused on giving the schools the resources they need, and I’m proud of that,” he added.

The Law Department declined to comment on the hearing, and the DOE did not immediately respond to questions about logistics.

Additional reporting by Bernadette Hogan

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