Schools in NY face uncertain financial future and potential job cuts

Apr 10, 2020

Credit NPR

Schools across New York are struggling to cope with mandatory closures, distance learning and uncertain funding.

WXXI's Karen DeWitt spoke with the New York State School Board’s David Albert, for public radio and television. He said even though schools are currently set to receive the same amount of aid they got last year, they still need to brace for cutbacks.

Albert said while the recently approved state budget keeps school funding even with last year’s allocation, it’s uncertain whether that money will still be available by the time school will presumably start again in September. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has powers to revise the budget downward if revenues continue to plummet.

Albert, speaking via Skype, predicted some teachers and other school staff will lose their jobs.

“I do think we will see layoffs,” Albert said.

Albert said another option is for schools to renegotiate their contracts with teachers and perhaps delay planned raises. He said he sees one sign of hope; The federal bailout plan includes $1.1 billion for school districts across the state, which he said will help stabilize districts’ finances. 

One of the many things that are on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic is school budget and school board member votes, which were scheduled for the third week in May. Albert said the votes have been postponed until at least June 1, and he said schools are awaiting word from Cuomo for a new date.

“We just don’t know,” Albert said. “That’s one of those areas where there’s a great deal of uncertainty.”

Albert said amid the gloom, there’s a glimmer of good news. He said schools are finding out just how important they are to their regions.

“They really are woven into the fabric of their communities,” said Albert.

He said districts are doing much more than teaching students -- they are also arranging for child care, meals and bus services.

“It’s one of the few bright spots that has come out of this experience,” he said.