It was a sudden change of policy from City Hall.
At 12:22 p.m. on Friday, Emma Vadehra, chief operating officer at the New York City Department of Education, sent a note to school principals and superintendents informing them that they would lose access to the department’s online budgeting application known as Galaxy, which allows principals to hire staff, purchase supplies and manage their school budgets.
A week earlier, a New York Supreme Court judge had granted a temporary restraining order against the education department that prevents it from implementing planned cuts to school budgets – estimated by the city comptroller to be over $370 million – in response to a lawsuit brought by a group of parents and teachers who claim the way the cuts were voted into the city’s budget violated state law.
Vadehra’s message to school administrators stated that the city’s legal counsel had advised that access to the budget tool be cut off, in order to abide by the judge’s order. Opponents, including the plaintiffs’ attorney in the lawsuit, disagreed with that interpretation.
One city principal, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the press, told Gothamist that the lack of access to the Galaxy application would create “huge issues” for principals who are currently busy planning for the coming school year.
“They’re punishing schools and making it harder to prep for the academic year,” the principal said.
But by 9:51 p.m. that same day – last night – the Adams administration had reversed course.
In a statement sent to Gothamist, a spokesperson for City Hall said access to the education department’s budget system would be restored.
“We will take every step possible to make sure this litigation poses no disruption to students and families and that there is a smooth opening of our schools in September. This includes making sure the DOE school-based budgeting system remains fully available. As such, the Galaxy application will be available tomorrow morning to ensure critical school operations proceed in accordance with the court’s direction,” Mayor Eric Adams’ spokesperson said.
The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a question about what had prompted the sudden change in policy.
In its court filings appealing the judge’s temporary restraining order, the city’s law department has argued that suspending the cuts will be disruptive for principals because they won’t have clarity on what their budgets are for the coming school year. Opponents, however, have argued that the education department is creating its own turmoil – by suspending access to the Galaxy application – in order to convince the court that the temporary restraining order is causing disruption.
“The city’s lawyers have instigated this,” said Laura Barbieri, the plaintiffs’ attorney in the lawsuit seeking to reverse the cuts to schools that were approved in the city budget passed in June and are based on declining enrollment in city schools.
“It’s entirely manufactured by the city,” she said.