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City boosts spending for UFT priorities

New York Teacher

The New York City Council passed a city budget on June 14 that increases overall education spending and boosts funding for four UFT education programs and initiatives.

The new $89.15 billion spending plan, announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council leaders on June 11, also carries over last year’s big increase to Teacher’s Choice, continuing funding for the program at $20.35 million. Thanks to the Teacher’s Choice program, New York City teachers each received $250 this school year to cover a portion of their out-of-pocket expenses for classroom supplies. UFT members in several other titles received smaller allotments.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the new budget “invests in education and families — what keeps New York City strong.”

The spending deal includes a $125 million increase in school budgets.

The UFT’s Community Learning Schools Initiative, which works with more than 18,000 students in 31 mostly high-needs schools, will receive $2.25 million in the fiscal year that starts on July 1, 2018 — up from $1.5 million the previous fiscal year.

The union’s Dial-A-Teacher homework helpline will see a significant funding increase, with spending rising from $65,000 in the 2018 fiscal year to $215,000 in 2019. Dial-A-Teacher currently has more than 40 UFT members providing assistance with a wide range of subjects on more than 60,000 calls per year.

Funding will increase from $750,000 to more than $1 million for the Positive Learning Collaborative, a joint UFT-Department of Education program to create safe and supportive learning environments by providing educators with strategies to respond to and head off challenging student behavior in 19 schools.

The UFT’s BRAVE anti-bullying program saw its city funding double to $200,000 in the new budget. This May, BRAVE held its first conference, solely for middle schoolers, to educate students about the dangers of bullying.

The new spending plan included $150 million in capital budget spending to make schools more accessible for disabled students.

The budget also provides additional funding to extend Mayor de Blasio’s 3–K for All program to reach 14,000 students in 12 districts in the next two years.

Responding to the swelling number of homeless students attending New York City schools, the spending plan includes nearly $14 million — $2 million more than the mayor set aside in his executive budget — to hire social workers in schools with high concentrations of students living in temporary housing.

It was the first budget deal between de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who was elected by his peers in January.

“We thank Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Corey Johnson, Finance Chair Danny Dromm, Education Chair Mark Treyger and the entire Council,” said Mulgrew, “for being a clear, strong voice on behalf of our students, teachers and communities.”