Good morning. It is Friday. We’ll look at an education panel that blocked New York City’s plan to allocate $10.5 billion in school funding. We’ll also look at the prospects for a pay rise for a small but important group of lawyers who haven’t had one since 2004.
It would “detonate the whole system,” said David Banks, the school’s chancellor.
He referred to an unexpected show of independence by the Education Policy Panel, the governing body of the city’s public schools. On Wednesday, the panel declined to approve Banks’ formula for allocating $10.5 billion in school funding and determining how much money each school should receive.
In the years since City Hall took control of the school system, the panel had largely approved the policies of successive mayors. But twice in the past two months, the panel has resisted proposals from Mayor Eric Adams’s administration — hinting that the panel could become an obstacle if Adams pursues his education agenda.
The vote on how the funds will be distributed will impact how city public schools prepare for the next school year, as a formula must be approved before the $10.5 billion in state and local funding can go. are distributed over approximately 1,500 schools. Nathaniel Styer, a spokesman for the education department, said the vote “may slow school budgets and preparations” for 2022-23.
The vote against the formula was troubling to City Hall, and came at a time when Adams is fighting to maintain mayoral control of the nation’s largest school system. He made a plea to state lawmakers — who will decide whether to extend it — during his State of the City address on Tuesday, saying, “Give us accountability.” The legislator could demand concessions.
The panel started work a little late this year. Adams, who took office in January, did not name his nine appointees before the first scheduled meeting. Then one of his appointees was removed after being accused of anti-gay comments. She has yet to be replaced. (In addition to the nine member seats under the authority of the mayor, each city president appoints one member. Another is elected by the presidents of the Community Education Councils, which represent the city’s 32 school districts.)
The panel — which currently has eight members appointed by Adams — first voted against the government a month ago when it turned down an $82 million contract to pay for temporary staffing services. Last year, under Adams’ predecessor, Bill de Blasio, the panel rejected a contract to test the city’s gifted and talented program.
Banks’ formula for 2022-23 was essentially the same as the current one. It included additional resources for students in a variety of categories, including those in special education or learning English. But it raised concerns that it wasn’t doing enough to cater for the system’s most needy students.
The motion took eight votes to pass. It got seven, all from mayor appointees (one of Adams’ appointees missed the meeting). All five members appointed by the council presidents abstained. Thomas Sheppard, the member named by the Community Education Council presidents, voted against.
The next panel meeting is scheduled for May 18. Approving a formula would then be a problem for schools, which “must receive their budget by mid-May to avoid disrupting the entire system,” said Mark Cannizzaro, the chairman of the Council of School. Supervisors and Administrators, the union of principals. He said it was “just too late” to start discussing changes.
It’s another sunny day near the low 60s with gusts lasting all night. The evening will be mostly clear and temperatures will drop below 40 degrees.
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Since 2004—when Michael Bloomberg served in his first term as mayor and Mario Cuomo in his final term as governor—court-appointed attorneys representing New York City’s most needy clients have been paid $75 an hour for felony and family law cases and $60 for offenses.
Those rates would now be about $114 and $93 had they kept up with inflation. They have not.
My colleague Jonah E. Bromwich writes that one result is that fewer lawyers are taking these high-stakes, stressful jobs.
The number of panel attorneys, as they’re known — attorneys who can defend children or adults unable to pay their own legal fees — has fallen to 39 in Manhattan, from 70 six years ago. The number in the Bronx has fallen from 80 to 48 in the same time. Brooklyn and Queens have each lost about one-fifth of their panel attorneys since 2011.
Another result is that the remaining panel lawyers are stretched. Helen Bua, a Manhattan panel attorney, had 130 clients earlier this year and has stopped taking new cases. “The work is never finished,” she said in a lawsuit. “I rarely feel completely prepared.”
Cynthia Godsoe, a Brooklyn Law School professor who previously worked in family court, said the failure to raise rates was a reflection of officials’ indifference to the lives of the most vulnerable.
“The family court, where these lawsuits take place, is by definition a poor human court,” she said. “Failing to pay these attorneys close to what they need to do a good job reflects either ignorance or disregard for those people’s fundamental rights as parents and their lives as families.”
The panel lawyers are fighting for a pay rise. For three days last week, panel attorneys across the state refused to take on new clients as a way to draw attention to the issue.
At the same time, an attorney from several New York-based bar associations asked a state Supreme Court judge to set new salary rates and remove limits that could prevent panel attorneys from being paid for cases that exceed a certain number of hours.
The judge, Lisa Headley, has yet to make a decision. If she doesn’t comply with the lawyers’ requests, it will be up to state legislator and government leader Kathy Hochul to increase the lawyers’ salaries. But the state has not included that money in the recently adopted budget.
A state attorney, Anjali Bhat, told Judge Headley at a hearing that Hochul and the legislature were working on a solution and that Hochul “is not opposed to doubling the tariffs”, but Bhat did not provide additional information. A spokeswoman for the governor, Hazel Crampton-Hays, said Hochul supports “a reasonable rate” and is “working on a solution to ensure that parties in need have effective legal counsel”.
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I stepped out of the apartment building I had just moved into. It was an early September morning and a light rain was falling.
My train was coming soon and it wasn’t raining so I decided not to go back upstairs for an umbrella and went to the station instead.
I passed a man who was sweeping. He had a broom in one hand and a dustpan in the other.
“Hey, miss,” he said, so softly I almost didn’t hear him. I thought he might be talking to me, but as someone who has had a lot of bad interactions with strangers on the street, I thought it seemed best to walk on.
“Miss,” he said again.
I wondered if I might have dropped something. Before I could check my pockets, I heard him again, this time a little louder.
I turned. The broom in his hand had been replaced by a clear plastic poncho. He was wearing a yellow hooded one. Water drops streamed down the front.
“Before the rain,” he said, extending his hand.
† Aiza Shahid-Qureshi
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here†