During the current coronavirus outbreak, many state and city governments are making widespread budget cuts. New York City’s mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city is making massive budget cuts due to COVID-19 pandemic. According to the mayor, $827M will be cut from the Department of Education (DOE) budget. As a result, public school students will have fewer opportunities and less support from the schools. An ABC News Buffalo anchor, Reema Amin reported that “$49M are eliminated from pausing programs that help students get to college and provide individual counseling for middle school students.” This poses a significant problem to New York City students, who are from different backgrounds. Most of the public school students are also from low income backgrounds where they need additional support from their schools. Students who do not receive this support - particularly second-language learners - are at significant risk of lowering their academic performance. Such a trend was already evident prior to the virus, as many underserved immigrant students were dropping out of school. Therefore, the budget cuts raise a fundamental question, namely, how can New York City schools function without support for the students with additional needs? One possible consequence of these cuts is that underserved students will not attend college after completing high school. Therefore, administering programs that help students transition into college should be one of the top priorities especially during this pandemic. Budget cuts in schools will largely affect the quality of students' education, and therefore, impede their ability to succeed in life.
In a recent chalkbeat article, Mark Cannizzaro, president of the union representing school administrators, raised an important point. Cannizaro was quoted saying, “Schools already receive about $700 million less than they are owed under the city’s own formula.” If Cannizaro is right then New York City public schools have already received significantly less money than they were entitled to under the Department of Education budget. Further cuts could eliminate the basic resources teachers need to maintain their classrooms, and as a result, have an adverse impact on the quality of public school education.
In response to the pandemic, Governor Cuomo is looking to reimagine schools with the help of the Gates Foundation. Cuomo’s plan is focused on providing students with the tools to engage in remote learning. However, some people are expressing their scepticism as to how distance learning could potentially affect students. One public school parent, Ms. Dominguez, expressed her concerns, “We don’t want to reimagine a future where everything is mediated by screens. We don't want our children on screens all the time,” Dominguez raises an important point. While under the current circumstances remote learning may be necessary, it is not an acceptable long-term solution. There are many socio-emotional benefits students receive while physically attending schools. For example, students develop social skills by interacting with a variety of peers, which becomes crucial for their future lives and careers. In the process, students also learn how to collaborate effectively with others. Remote learning will severely limit the students’ opportunities to interact with and gain knowledge from different people. Moreover, many students, such as second-language learners and special needs students, need additional support from their teachers and counselors. This support ranges from academics to socio-emotional issues. Through remote learning, it will be difficult for students to develop close relationships with teachers and counselors, since the physical distance will limit the quality of their interactions. Combined with the budget cuts, distance learning has the potential to alienate students, and as a result, limit their choices in life. This scenario can further exacerbate the degree of socio-economic inequalities, which already plague New York City’s segregated populations.