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Teacher’s Choice gets big boost in city budget

New York Teacher
Teacher's Choice gets big boost in city budget
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio shakes hands with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at City Hall after announcing a budget agreement on June 2, nearly a month ahead of the deadline.

Teacher’s Choice received a 63.5 percent increase in the final city budget, passed on June 6, bringing funding for the City Council’s popular program that reimburses educators for out-of-pocket spending on classroom supplies back up to its pre-recession high of more than $20 million. The exact dollar amount for each eligible educator will be determined later by the Department of Education.

The boost for Teacher’s Choice was part of a wider investment in public education in the $85.2 billion budget.

“With this budget, the City Council protected all sectors of New York City and invested in our children, our communities and our families,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “In these trying political times, it is important for people to know that New York City’s elected officials are standing up for all of us.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced the handshake deal on June 2, nearly a month ahead of the deadline. It was the earliest budget agreement since 1992.

The budget provides significant funding increases by the Council for the UFT’s education programs and initiatives, including Community Learning Schools, the Positive Learning Collaborative, the BRAVE anti-bullying program and Dial-A-Teacher.

The budget contains $1.5 million for the UFT’s network of 28 Community Learning Schools, up from $475,000 in the previous year’s budget. The Positive Learning Collaborative, which uses restorative practices to create positive learning environments in 15 schools, received a $750,000 allocation — which should allow the joint Department of Education-UFT initiative to expand to more schools. The Council had declined to allocate funding for the program in the previous year’s budget.

The BRAVE anti-bullying initiative will receive $100,000 to support its work providing resources and tools to help educators tackle bullying in their schools. The Dial-A-Teacher program received $65,000 to support its work answering more than 60,000 calls a year for homework help from parents and students.

The UFT and a variety of community groups lobbied hard for universal free school lunch in public schools. The budget provides $10.4 million to offer more students free lunches.

The new spending plan includes $105.5 million in capital funding and $1.8 million in operating funds to provide gyms or other physical education facilities to all schools by 2021.

The budget is the last for de Blasio’s current term — the mayor is up for re-election this year — and the last for Mark-Viverito, who is term-limited.

“We applaud the City Council for focusing on initiatives that provide tangible results for students and help our educators do the work they want to do — help children succeed,” said Mulgrew.