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Strong start for city education budget

More work to do on smaller class size
News Stories

Millions of dollars will go to New York City public schools to help students recover from the pandemic in the city’s $98.7 billion budget for the 2021–22 fiscal year announced on June 30 at City Hall.

The budget, which is due July 1, provides funds to hire more teachers and social workers, provide mental health assistance for students and expand community schools.

For the first time, all New York City public schools will receive 100% of their fair student funding allocation, a change that will allow them to hire additional music, art and mental health professionals as well as academic interventionists to help students in need.

“Our students are finally getting what they have long deserved,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “This budget goes a long way toward addressing the gross disparities in our public schools and making sure every school has the resources it needs so our kids can succeed as they return to the classroom after the upheaval of the pandemic.”

The UFT promoted its Five-Point Recovery Plan for New York City public schools during budget negotiations, advocating for the city’s $14 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds to be used to help students recover from the pandemic as part of the union’s #OurKidsNeed campaign.

Two former teachers — City Council Finance Chair Daniel Dromm and City Council Education Chair Mark Treyger — had lobbied to start reducing class size in city schools as a common sense way to help children recover from the pandemic. The final budget included a small pilot program for class-size reductions in the lower grades. Mulgrew thanked them for their effort and vowed to work with them on other ways to lower class size.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the goal of the budget was to help people recover from the pandemic, “rebuild what we lost” and “reimagine the city to address the economic disparities” illuminated by the pandemic. The budget was the last hurrah for Johnson and for Mayor Bill de Blasio, Dromm and Treyger, who are all term-limited. Treyger called it “a powerhouse education budget.”

Today’s announcement was made in City Hall, the first time a public event has been held in the building since the pandemic shut down the city last year.

Among the education highlights are:

  • $605 million to provide the long-sought 100% fair funding for schools in the neediest districts;
  • $81.1 million for 650 Department of Education positions to ensure that every school has a social worker able to provide mental health support;
  • $27 million for a citywide literacy curriculum to help K-2 students read at grade level;
  • $20 million for Teacher’s Choice;
  • $18 million for a class-size reduction program;
  • $14 million for community schools, including $5 million to add 10 new schools;
  • $6 million to revitalize the Public School Athletic League in every high school;
  • $5 million for mental health services, which will include screening for all students;
  • $3.6 million for the UFT Teacher Center;
  • $3 million for United Community Schools;
  • $2.8 million for an LGBTQ inclusive curriculum;
  • $2.4 million for Trans-Equity initiatives;
  • $1.5 million for the Positive Learning Collaborative;
  • $200,000 for BRAVE, the UFT anti-bullying program;
  • $168,800 for Dial-A-Teacher.

Cuts made last year because of the pandemic were reversed for libraries, parks and cultural institutions, which Johnson hailed as “refuges” for people in the city. Johnson also championed a $1 billion “rainy day” reserve fund for unexpected challenges.

Mayor DeBlasio expressed optimism for the city’s continuing recovery. “The economy is growing at a fast rate,” he said, “and we have two full years of stimulus funding.”

Related Topics: Education Funding