Skip to main content
Full Menu Close Menu
UFT Testimony

UFT testimony on the preliminary city budget

Before the New York City Council Committee on Education at its budget and oversight hearing on the preliminary budget for Fiscal Year 2024, the preliminary capital plan for Fiscal Years 2024-2027, the Fiscal 2024-2033 preliminary 10-year capital strategy and the Fiscal 2023 preliminary Mayor’s Management Report
UFT Testimony

My name is Michael Mulgrew and I’m the president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). On behalf of the union’s more than 190,000 members, I would like to thank Chair Rita Joseph and all the members of the City Council’s Committee on Education for holding today’s public hearing on the New York City executive budget for fiscal year 2024 and the executive capital commitment plan. I would also like to thank Speaker Adrienne Adams and Chair Joseph for their leadership during this year’s budget process.

The FY24 Executive Budget and Capital Plan must not defund our public schools. Over the past few years, the UFT has helped secure billions in new funding for public education — including fully funded Foundation Aid from Albany. The Independent Budget Office (IBO) has estimated that almost $600 million in federal stimulus funding for New York City remains unallocated, and the City Council has estimated that the city will receive $5.2 billion more in tax revenue than the mayor’s office expects. Yet, the administration's FY24 budget inexplicably includes cuts to school funding that will compromise our ability to meet our school communities’ needs in coming years.

With such an infusion of funding available to our city’s schools, why are we considering an executive budget that would make $500 million in cuts to schools instead of providing for our school communities’ needs and implementing new class-size limits that would restore trust in the public school system and bring families and their children back to our schools?

The city budget must support:

  • Implementing the new class-size law
  • Adding critical staff including social workers, counselors and school psychologists
  • Advancing an agenda for career and technical education
  • Expanding professional development opportunities for educators to help our students recover academically and emotionally from interrupted learning during the pandemic
  • Supporting newly arrived migrant students and other newcomers to our school communities with a integrated citywide effort

Finding space to implement the state's new class size law requires an investment in the capital budget, but an analysis of the published executive plan shows little action. Rather than outlining a timetable for building the new seats necessary to meet the law's five-year phase-in, the IBO has found that the administration actually reduces support for class-size reduction by more than 18% compared with the previous draft plan. Advocates have estimated that the executive capital plan this year cuts the number of new school seats to be built by 38% — or more than 21,000 seats — and that, in financial terms, the city’s new capacity program cuts funding by $2.3 billion dollars.

Instead of designing a public school system that will support lower class-size limits, as parents and educators have urged for decades, the administration is focused on making cuts to adjust for the decline in enrollment. If we follow the administration’s plan, we will end up with a system that has fewer students yet has the same larger class sizes as before the pandemic.

Chancellor Banks has spoken about the need to rebuild trust to increase enrollment. Taking the steps to ensure that we will lower class sizes to parallel those in other districts in the state is the way to do it. Every parent, every neighborhood, every demographic understands smaller class sizes will be a game changer for their children.

Fund UFT Programs

We are proud to say that UFT programs are among the best vehicles city government can use to ensure that the allocated funding for education makes it straight to the classroom and has a direct impact on students and educators. This year we submitted discretionary-funding applications for six programs we ask the City Council to support.

  1. UFT Teacher Center – The UFT Teacher Center accelerates learning and empowers students through award-winning embedded professional development tailored to each school’s unique needs. It has been a guiding light for New York City educators for more than 40 years. During the 2022-23 school year, the UFT Teacher Center opened 30 new Teacher Center sites, for a total of 140 sites across the city, and supported 231,000 educators, principals and parents over the course of 100,000 hours of professional development. This year we are asking for a $20 million grant to sustain current programming and move toward having a Teacher Center in every city public school building. Those funds would also allow the program to expand its partnership with Google and increase its work with Apple, support paraprofessionals in addressing the needs of students with disabilities and English language learners, and increase culturally responsive-sustaining education course offerings.

  2. United Community Schools (UCS) – Our teacher-inspired nonprofit has developed a community-school model proven to transform public schools and the communities they serve. A recent study by Metis Associates found students enrolled in UCS schools during the pandemic had better attendance, greater high school credit accumulation, and higher language acquisition test scores than statistically matched comparison students attending traditional public schools without any community school programming. The model is anchored by a community school director placed in each school who is responsible for assessing the needs of students and families in the school community, then leveraging outside relationships to bring in the resources to meet those needs. We find that every $1 invested in a community school director yields $6 in resources for the school. During the 2021-22 school year, our UCS schools in New York City collectively fed more than 6,000 families, coordinated more than 14,500 health clinic visits and supported more than 20,000 students and families. This year we are requesting that the Council provide UCS with a $3.3 million grant so we can sustain our current network of community schools by intensifying academic programming, making more tutors available, expanding access to school-based health centers, connecting more students to mental health and behavioral health resources, and providing more social-emotional learning and culturally responsive-sustaining education professional development for teachers.

  3. Member Assistance Program (MAP) – In 2009, the UFT started MAP to fill a void. The union crafted and funded the program to address a full range of mental health and well-being issues confronting its more than 190,000 members and their families. Addressing the growing mental health and wellness crisis, MAP provides free counseling, workshops, support groups and more — services that enable many educators to remain in the field of public education. We’ve seen a 65% increase in demand for our support since the start of the pandemic and anticipate continued need this year. Many of our members told us that the support provided by MAP helped them cope with and adapt to the stress caused by the pandemic. During this time, MAP provided support groups, a Let’s Talk About It series, a telephone careline and mental health referrals that allowed members to stay connected, express their grief and recognize their fears and stressors. It offered them healthier coping tools to navigate the COVID-19 upheaval and recover. Until now, the UFT has fully funded its MAP program. With your support, we can make a lasting impact on the lives and health of educators throughout New York City. We are asking the Council to consider allocating a $1,958,935 grant to help us maintain and expand this valuable program.

  4. Positive Learning Collaborative (PLC) – The PLC program is one of our most effective tools for bringing equity to New York City public schools and helping teachers, students and parents cope with — and heal from — trauma. The UFT and the DOE created the PLC program in 2012 to help educators improve school culture by moving away from punitive disciplinary systems that relied heavily on suspensions. For nearly a decade, this expert team of clinicians and public school educators has been using social-emotional strategies, evidence-based training and healing practices to decrease disciplinary incidences and improve academic performance and school climate. Over the past several years, schools we work with have seen almost a 50% reduction in suspensions and an increase of more than 65% in positive relationships between students and educators, and have delivered more than 16,000 sensory toolkits to help students readjust to the classroom. We need to bring the program’s expert services to as many schools as possible and are requesting that the Council give PLC a $1,650,000 grant to expand our existing supports to school communities across the city.

  5. BRAVE hotline – The UFT and the Mental Health Association of New York City (MHA), now known as VIBRANT, on Oct. 3, 2011, launched an anti-bullying campaign in New York City public schools. Since then, the UFT and MHA have been at the forefront of bringing awareness to the problem of bullying and creating resources that include a BRAVE (Building Respect, Acceptance and Voice through Education) hotline that students, their families and educators can call, as well as ways to chat or text for help, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With your continued support, we can make a lasting impact on the lives and health of students across New York City. We ask you to support this anti-bullying program with $220,000 in this fiscal year so we can continue to provide the services that are a lifeline for our students and a place our educators can turn for resources.

  6. Dial-A-Teacher – Dial-A-Teacher began in January 1980 as a pilot program in 17 schools in eight districts. Over the years, our homework helpline has expanded to help students citywide in all grades, across various disciplines and in many languages. Dial-A-Teacher is now operating Mondays through Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m., offering help in nine languages including Spanish, Mandarin and Bengali. Last year, the program received more than 40,000 calls. If Dial-A-Teacher’s operating technology were upgraded, it could help even more students in the virtual-education arena, where so many of our students are now learning. We are requesting $185,680 to support this program. The funds would be used to: (1) further develop an online presence by creating an electronic application suited for the technology students are using today; (2) procure digital curricula for multiple subject areas — curricula the DOE has identified as aligning with the new statewide learning standards.

Support Citywide Programs

I would also like to advocate for two citywide programs that are vital for our students and educators. We need to continue to baseline Teacher’s Choice, and I also ask the Council to support Broadway Bridges.

  1. Teacher’s Choice – The Teacher’s Choice program is crucial for our educators. It’s a key initiative to ensure teachers and other school staff are reimbursed for the school supplies and materials they purchase for their classrooms and for many of their students in need. After the program was baselined for three years in the FY20 adopted budget, funding for Teacher’s Choice was completely cut from the FY21 adopted budget. Then $20 million for the program was restored in the FY22 budget. We appreciate that the administration included $20 million in baseline funding for Teacher’s Choice in the FY23 and FY24 budgets, and we ask that you continue to support this program.

  2. Broadway Bridges – Broadway Bridges aims to ensure that every student in a New York City public high school can see a Broadway show before graduation. Through Broadway Bridges, the Broadway League subsidizes $20 tickets to weekday matinee and evening performances by paying half of the ticket price as well as the $3.00-$3.50 in fees associated with each ticket purchase. This subsidy enables the Broadway League to offer $10 tickets to schools. The initiative improves the arts experience of students who have not had the opportunity to attend live theater, and it enhances the experiences of students who are already engaged with the performing arts through their schools. We ask that you support this important initiative in the FY23 budget.

View the UFT's 2023 city legislative priorities
Closing Thoughts

We have a real opportunity to bring transformational change to New York City public schools. With access to adequate funding, we can permanently reduce class sizes for all our students, which will not only improve educational outcomes but will make schools healthier learning environments. The city’s executive budget lacks imagination, creativity and innovation. After dealing with a pandemic for more than three years, our students deserve better. UFT members are always ready to be of service and provide the best they can to all students.

I want to thank you again for today’s hearing. We look forward to our continued engagement throughout this budget process.