New York

Appellate court restores NYC Education Dept. budget cuts, for now

A Manhattan appellate judge Tuesday put a temporary pause on a lower court’s stunning decision last week to invalidate the city Dept. of Education’s budget.

City lawyers had appealed the unprecedented ruling from Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Lyle Frank that declared the DOE’s current budget illegal, ordering it to go back to last year’s spending levels while the City Council prepares for a revote.

The city asked for an automatic “stay” reversing Frank’s order while the appeal is underway.

First Appellate Division Judge Julio Rodriguez III decided Tuesday the city’s entitled to the pause — effectively canceling Frank’s order until arguments on the appeal are heard Aug. 29.

As a result — for the time being, at least ― the DOE’s original fiscal year 2023 budget, which includes hundreds of millions in cuts, is back in effect.

The lawsuit that prompted Frank’s order — which accused the city of illegally passing a budget before getting the state-mandated approval of an education watchdog panel — won a series of dramatic early courtroom victories and upended the DOE’s budgeting plans.

In its lengthy appeal filed Tuesday, city lawyers argued Frank’s order “creates mass confusion over how DOE and its 1,400 principals can practically prepare for the fast-upcoming school year.”

They also contended the budget is legal, accusing the plaintiffs of “exploit[ing]” an alleged procedural misstep “as a device for getting at the only thing they really wish to ‘correct’: 45 policymakers’ reductions in DOE’s budget.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit have said leap-frogging the education panel’s hearing deprived City Council members of a chance to hear about the budget cut effects.

Laura Barbieri, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, said she doesn’t believe the city is entitled to an automatic stay while the appeal is heard, but said “it’s not appropriate for me to challenge it.”

The city Law Department didn’t immediately return a request for comment. A DOE official said the agency is proceeding with spending as planned in the original fiscal year 2023 budget.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Adams said he was “pleased that the court has agreed with us that we are allowed to move forward with our current spending plans.”

“As Mayor Adams said this morning, schools will open, on time, in September and will have the resources they need to ensure our students thrive next month. We will continue to defend the city’s budget process,” the statement said.

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