Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council approved a $88.1 billion budget on June 30 that reflects the ravaged state of the city’s finances: a $9 billion loss in tax revenues due to the pandemic-triggered shutdown of businesses that began in mid-March.
Teacher’s Choice, which reimburses teachers and other educators for out-of-pocket expenses, was among the programs that the mayor eliminated. The final city budget contained a total of $404 million in cuts to the Department of Education for the fiscal year that just ended and the new fiscal year.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew vowed to fight for the restoration of the $20 million in Teacher’s Choice funds next year. “Our teachers went above and beyond to ensure remote learning was possible during this pandemic,” he said. “The least the city can do is make sure they have the classroom tools they need.”
Mulgrew said the dire economic forecast for the state and the city underscored the need for the federal stimulus funds in the U.S. HEROES Act, which could help prevent job losses and further cuts to the public schools.
“We are just at the beginning of this rocky road,” he said.
The UFT, in partnership with the AFT, is leading the push for the passage of the U.S. HEROES Act in Congress this summer.
Despite the bleak budget outlook, the City Council restored $100 million that the mayor threatened to cut from fair student funding, a funding stream that pays for staff salaries and school-level programs. No layoffs were announced, but a school-based hiring freeze remains in effect.
The Council also restored funding for the Single Shepherd program, which the mayor had planned to eliminate. The program pairs every middle and high school student in grades 6–12 in Districts 7 in the South Bronx and District 23 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, with a dedicated school counselor or social worker who supports them through graduation and college enrollment.
UFT allies in the City Council also preserved funding for the UFT Teacher Center, United Community Schools, the Positive Learning Collaborative, the anti-bullying BRAVE initiative and the Dial-A-Teacher homework helpline.
As part of the city budget, a plan was created to shift the School Safety Division from the jurisdiction of the NYPD to the DOE in a multi-year transition that will culminate in more than 5,000 school safety agents becoming DOE employees. Beginning next year, school safety agents will receive training in de-escalation, implicit bias and restorative justice.