NYC’s education budget decision is another blow to school accountability

In a stunning usurpation of the city’s spending authority, a Manhattan judge, Lyle Frank, tossed out the Department of Education budget on Friday.

It has to be the worst intervention since another judge many years ago ordered that homeless shelters be made available to anyone who asked. As a result, a corrupt multi-billion dollar shelter industry has sprung up, with no end in sight to homelessness.

Frank’s ruling sets a terrible precedent and will result in a significant waste of money, but perhaps worst of all, it further undermines the little accountability that remains in our school system.

In his ruling on behalf of the plaintiffs (two teachers and two parents), Frank found that the city had committed a technical violation by enacting an education budget without approval from the DOE’s oversight body, the Education Policy Board, even though Chancellor David Banks approved one Emergency called out statement legally allowing him to bypass this step.

The judge even admitted that Banks’ statement was not unusual, but insisted there was a lack of “good reason”.

“If it says emergency declaration, then it really should be an emergency,” he sneered. Not that that was ever the norm in New York.

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Frank wants us to believe that his judgment is better than that of the mayor, the school chancellor, and the city council. Consider that when Banks declared a state of emergency, PEP membership was not even fully settled and the impact of thousands of children who fled the school system during the pandemic was still being assessed.

The new budget lowered the amount the DOE would receive for the next school year.
Manhattan Judge Lyle Frank has thrown out the Department of Education budget.
Getty Images

Yet for me, as a parent of two young boys living in a public school, the most troubling part of Frank’s decision is what she says about accountability, especially when it comes to the education of New York’s children.

Our mayor-elect and the school chancellor he appointed took office and pledged to hold the entire school system to account. The day Banks was introduced as chancellor, my heart swelled with optimism when he called it “outrageous” and “a treason” that “each agency” had an annual budget of $38 billion and “65% black and brown Children who never achieve anything “should have competence.” Which chancellor ever said something like that? The cry is always for more Money.

Banks know the system is flawed and not because of insufficient funding. He was determined to hold DOE bureaucrats, principals and teachers accountable. Frank turned that on its head by siding with the teachers’ union and its allies.

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The mayor praised the newly cut budget and criticized the inefficiency of the school system.
Mayor Adams appeals Frank’s decision.
BRIGITTE STELZER

The $215 million in DOE “cuts” that prompted the lawsuit were tiny given the system’s gargantuan budget. But for the powerful United Federation of Teachers, it was a gauntlet thrown down by a government that wanted to hold Gotham’s edu-industrial complex (the real drivers of crime in our city) to account.

When former Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced new measures, including standardized test scores, to hold teachers accountable about a decade ago, standardized tests suddenly became a racial anathema. An opt-out movement was born overnight. Teachers, parents, and students refused the tests, and Cuomo eventually relented and ended any attempt to hold teachers accountable for poor performance.

Even today, the Regents exams are on the brink because it is considered discriminatory to refuse a high school diploma simply because students cannot demonstrate academic competency. Make no mistake: this is all to protect underperforming teachers.

Still, it’s beyond frustrating that we can’t hold teachers and school leaders accountable for students who can’t read, write and do math. Apparently we can’t hold schools accountable even if they lose students.

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And forget about an accountable judiciary; that was lost decades ago. We need only look at Judge Frank’s ruling and today’s revolving door justice system to see this truth.

We are now burdened with a system that indemnifies any and every institution, regardless of the level of responsibility. Except, of course, for children and taxpayers, who end up paying the price.

The public must continue to fund the (often failing) schools as if they still had more than a million students. And when the federal money used to restore the DOE cuts runs out, they will raise our taxes to keep the gravy train going.

Thank God Adams is appealing Frank’s sentence. He should also use his mob pulpit to expose the UFT and get real parents and public school taxpayers on his side. Spending more and more money on an irresponsible system and expecting something better than the lousy schools we have now is, as they say, the definition of insanity.

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