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#StartStrong campaign pays off

City budget restores some early childhood education funding
News Stories
Erica Berger

UFT Vice President for Elementary Schools Karen Alford asks members at the union's Early Childhood Conference on April 6 to hold up postcards they wrote to the mayor telling him why 3-K and pre-K matter.

Thanks to the activism of UFT members, parents and community groups, the $112.4 billion New York City budget for the 2025 fiscal year restored some, but not all, of the cuts that Mayor Eric Adams made to 3-K and pre-K.

The restorations, which were spearheaded by Speaker Adrienne Adams and the rest of the City Council in budget negotiations, include $20 million so that the more than 1,700 children who had been waitlisted for 3-K and pre-K spots this fall will now get seats, according to the mayor. The budget also includes funding for additional seats and services for preschool children with disabilities who were waitlisted, as well as 4,000 seats for free or low-cost child care for up to 10 hours a day year-round for families who qualify.

Through the UFT's #StartStrong campaign, which UFT Vice President for Elementary Schools Karen Alford launched at the union's Early Childhood Conference on April 6, members and concerned parents sent more than 45,000 emails urging the mayor, the schools chancellor and members of the citywide Panel for Educational Policy to fully fund early childhood education.

"Educators, parents, City Council members and community activists helped beat back some of the worst of City Hall's unnecessary cuts," UFT President Michael Mulgrew said. "We will keep fighting for our youngest students and will make sure educators have a voice in the changes we all know are needed. These programs are the foundation for children's education. They have to be funded correctly and consistently."

The UFT will advocate for changes as the city sets up a working group to fix and strengthen the early child care system. The union wants to make sure that the city steps up its marketing to communities to ensure that vacant early childhood seats are all filled, makes 3-K and pre-K seats available for children with disabilities and for families with children are on waitlists, improves the 3-K and pre-K enrollment process, and pays early childhood education providers on time.

The budget includes $20 million — the same amount as the previous fiscal year — for Teacher's Choice, which should translate to roughly the same allotment for teachers and UFT members in the other eligible job titles, including paraprofessionals, who received an allotment for the first time last school year. Teacher's Choice funds reimburse these educators for their out-of-pocket spending on educational supplies and materials.

The adopted budget also includes $75 million to "hold harmless" schools with declining enrollment, meaning they will not lose funding during the upcoming school year due to having fewer students on their registers.

The 2024-25 budget maintains $12.5 million — the same level of funding as last fiscal year — for UFT programs that receive City Council support. Of that total, $3 million is allocated for the UFT's United Community Schools initiative and $7.6 million for the UFT Teacher Center. The remaining $1.9 million is allocated to the UFT Education Foundation, which will divide the money among three union-run education programs: the BRAVE anti-bullying program, Dial-A-Teacher and the Positive Learning Collaborative.

Another budget victory for children and families was the restoration of funding for the city's public library system after a public outcry against closing libraries on Sundays. The City Council allocated $58.3 million to fully restore library funding and ensured that $42.6 million will be baselined, or automatically allocated on a dedicated funding line going forward, so library services are not at risk year after year.