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Mayor calls for $827M in city school cuts

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Major Deblasio in a dark office with a computer engineer moderating

Mayor Bill de Blasio discusses his proposed budget cuts during his daily COVID-19 press briefing on April 16.

Facing a projected $7.4 billion budget gap caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed slashing $827 million from public schools through the next fiscal year.

Many of the proposed cuts, including $100 million from school budgets, $49 million from counseling and $15 million in art programming, would directly hit schools.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew acknowledged the darkening economic picture, but argued if education cuts were necessary, schools and classrooms should be shielded.

“According to its own filing with the state, the New York City school system spends more than $6 billion every year on central administration,” said Mulgrew. “To the extent that DOE cuts become necessary, that’s the first place the city should be looking. Now is not the time to cut direct services to students and school communities when they are going through so much.”

In the executive budget put forward by the mayor on April 7, the DOE’s budget would shrink by 3% for the new fiscal year beginning July 1. If those proposed cuts become part of the final city budget, due on June 30, it would be the first time since 2013 that overall education spending has been reduced.

De Blasio’s proposal includes a $100 million reduction to the Fair Student Funding program for the 2020–21 school year. Fair Student Funding is the main source of money for most schools and provides direct services to students.

These cuts would first hit schools whose Fair Student Funding budget is fully funded. Since the DOE has spent several years working to bring high-needs schools to that level, those schools’ funds would be targeted first, UFT officials noted.

Man smiling in front of a big screen

Mark Treyger, the chair of the New York City Council’s education committee, said on Twitter about proposed education budget cuts, “We cannot impose more loss on our kids.”

The chair of the New York City Council’s education committee, Mark Treyger, has criticized the mayor’s proposed cuts. Taking to Twitter, he called public education “a pillar of the social safety net” and said the city’s students were already “shortchanged” before the coronavirus crisis.

“We cannot impose more loss on our kids,” said Treyger.

Another budget casualty will be the expansion of early education to the city’s 3-year-olds, which built on the mayor’s success in his first term in providing full-day prekindergarten to all 4-year-olds. The 3K program would get a $43 million cut, delaying its implementation in at least four community school districts.

De Blasio also cut $100 million in per-session payments, training and materials from the DOE budget for the remainder of the 2019–20 school year — areas where spending has dropped as a result of the closure of school buildings.

Due to the pandemic, he also canceled the city’s summer youth employment program, which will save the city $124 million in its current budget.

Mulgrew said the UFT’s priority in the upcoming budget negotiations between the mayor and the City Council will be “to protect funding that goes directly into classrooms and schools.”