The New York State United Teachers Union, NYSUT, formally filed a lawsuit on Wednesday, against the state for impending 20 percent funding cuts to school aid.
The Cuomo administration right now is “withholding” funds from schools and other services while it waits for federal aid to arrive. According to the Division of Budget, the state is facing a revenue loss of $14.5 billion for just one year as a “result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Administration officials say they are not cuts, since they will reimburse schools once federal aid arrives. However, that will be too late for many jobs and services. It is also uncertain if Congress will ever reach a deal on a stimulus package with federal aid to states.
“Time is up,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “With the loss of state funding driving cuts at the local level in districts around the state, we can’t just keep waiting for action at the federal level to fund our schools. At this point, a lawsuit unfortunately is the necessary next step to compel our leaders to do what’s right: Fund our future and stop these cuts.”
The lawsuit was filed in Albany County Supreme Court, alleging that these funding cuts are unconstitutional and have led to cuts that deprive students of their basic education.
NYSUT said if these cuts become permanent, school districts that rely on the state for their funding would face massive layoffs later this month. In Albany, more than 220 people are to be laid off, while in Schenectady, more than 330 employees were all laid off before the first day of school.
New York City school officials are warning of 9,000 layoffs if these cuts go through
NYSUT is asking in the lawsuit that the state releases the money withheld in July, August and September and that there be an injunction against future withholding of school funding payments.
“Our students and families deserve better than staffing and program cuts just as we begin a new school year with unprecedented challenges,” Pallotta said. “A high-quality education is a vital service that’s central to helping communities thrive. It’s about time it was funded like one.”
Freeman Klopott, a spokesman for the New York State Division of the Budget, said that "this frivolous, uninformed lawsuit is just wrong and NYSUT should be embarrassed as the facts are clear: There has been no 20% cut to school aid even as we’ve waited six months for the Federal government to deliver the resources the State needs to offset a $62 billion, four-year revenue loss. In fact, the State has paid nearly 100% of funds to school districts. We will work with our partners in government to address any remaining gaps in federal assistance and, in the absence of Federal funding, any future actions will take school district need into consideration -- NYSUT should stop with the nonsense and lies, and focus on Washington and the Federal funding we need, not distract attention.”
Late in the afternoon on Thursday, the state officials told Spectrum News that the state now will not be reducing any of its scheduled state aid money that is due to flow to school districts in less than two weeks.
They did not specifiy if this will apply to future funding payments and if any of the money owed to schools that was withheld over the summer will be paid back.