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Chancellor David Banks makes case to Albany lawmakers for mayoral control, schools funding

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City Schools Chancellor David Banks made a compelling plea to Albany lawmakers on Thursday, seeking additional financial support to address budget gaps in education.

During testimony before a joint legislative committee scrutinizing education policy within New York state’s 2024 budget proposal, Banks highlighted the impact of reduced federal stimulus, substantial cuts in Mayor Eric Adams’ city budget, and the necessity to comply with a new law mandating smaller class sizes across all city schools.

Queens Democrat state Sen. John Liu commended Banks but raised concerns over the Department of Education’s slow implementation of the class size law. “Tell us that you are going to be in compliance and you have to start taking actions now,” emphasized Liu.

Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks criticized the class size law, labeling it as an unfunded mandate imposed on the city. The law is set to be fully phased in by fiscal year 2027-2028, with the state Education Department temporarily withholding funding last year due to slow implementation.

Banks revealed the need to hire 10,000 to 12,000 teachers to achieve compliance, estimating a cost of $1 to 1.5 billion. This has led to a clash with the teachers’ union, supporting the law and suing Adams over citywide budget cuts.

While seeking state dollars to sustain key programs, Banks faces the challenge of convincing lawmakers to extend Mayor Adams’ control over the public school system. Simultaneously, the state education department holds hearings on the fate of mayoral control, with Governor Hochul expressing willingness to grant another four years.

In response to potential budget cuts, Banks has reduced the NYCDOE’s staff count to find savings. Chief Operating Officer Emma Vadehra emphasized the importance of protecting critical programs despite anticipating reduced state aid.

Banks remains optimistic about securing support from lawmakers, stating, “They probably will wait for that report. That’s everything that we’re hearing and they should.” However, Liu questions the inclusion of mayoral control in the state budget proposal, asserting its independence from the state’s budget.

Mayor Adams is set to present his case to state lawmakers in person next week, further shaping the ongoing dialogue on education policy and funding in New York.

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