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Larger-than-expected state aid heading for city public schools

The state budget, finalized on March 30, brought mostly good news for city schools. The state agreed to an additional $292 million for the education budget in New York City, even more than the governor originally promised.

Although $43 million of the increase goes to cover expenses already incurred for building and transportation aid, $249 million is available for New York City schools and classrooms.

“The city now has even less reason to cut funding for general education classrooms next year, which the mayor is still trying to do,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “Classrooms should be the very first places that we see the benefits of economic recovery.”

But all the needed funding for the Teacher Centers, the UFT’s highly regarded professional development program, was not forthcoming. Statewide the Teacher Centers got half — $10.2 million — of the $20.4 million they received last year. The UFT said the centers will continue to be fully functional as it seeks ways to make up the shortfall. The Teacher Centers were entirely defunded two years ago due to the budget crisis.

State lawmakers also restored $93 million in funds for subsidized child care to offset a cut of federal child care funds.

The final budget brings state aid for New York City schools to $7.92 billion, up from the expected $7.84 billion in the governor’s proposed budget in January, and up from $7.62 billion in 2011–12. The extra funds are a welcome relief after three straight years of devastating state cuts to schools and a loss of some 5,300 city teachers through attrition.

The state had promised an extra $805 million for school aid statewide this year in last year’s budget. That money was actually available thanks to a revision of the tax code by the state Legislature in December following a major push by the UFT and its partners. The revision raised the income tax rate on the very wealthy — those with incomes over $1 million annually — after allowing a previous surcharge on the income of wealthy New Yorkers to sunset.

In addition, Albany lawmakers were able to find additional funding for school aid over and above the $805 million by reducing the funds that Gov. Cuomo wanted to set aside for competitive education grants. Instead of $250 million for those grants, they agreed to $50 million, freeing up $200 million to put back into the basic operating aid to school districts.

The state covers just over one-third, 36 percent, of the city’s education budget. Most is for so-called “foundation” or general operating aid, and the rest is directed to pre-K programs, transportation, special services, technology, textbooks, building aid and other specific programs and services.

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