New NYC Education Budget

Jun 24, 2019 by

Whether or not it’s commonly known or appreciated by most New Yorkers, their public school teachers each year typically spend hundreds of their own dollars to supplement otherwise inadequate availability of funds for learning aids and often basic supplies for their students. In this sense educators are probably unique among civil servants.

Teachers, in particular, will fund the tools of their trade, if necessary, rather than wait endlessly in false expectation of their being furnished by their employer.Sometimes it’s not entirely the employer’s fault, because their may be an actual budgetary shortfall, but sometimes it’s due to misplaced priorities.

The New York City Council has a history of trying to set things right. They haven’t always been able to deliver 100 percent, but unquestionably  they are favorably  oriented towards our public schools. That’s clear from the City budget released around two weeks ago.

Teachers Choice is a program that’s been around for around 25 years. It funded educators a specific amount of money for them to acquire materials that were directly relevant to their instructional responsibilities. The amount sometimes varied over the years and was never a “done deal” because it wasn’t  built into the budget. So the teachers union, in effect our students’ lobbyist, had to persuade the City Council for a “special allocation.” 

But in the new budget, the Teachers Choice is enshrined in the budget itself.  That’s great news. It’s not a “token gesture” and its symbolism is more significant than its dollar amount. 

That’s also the case in view of other pro-education investments made by the City Council at the same time.

The budget will also include $3.5 million for the UFT Teacher Centers, which are acknowledged by educators as far and away the finest professional development programs available among the large number of vendors and providers. In-service teachers will universally praise the Teacher Center’s effectiveness as sources for knowledge and the sharpening of teaching skills.

The new City budget additionally reflects an increase of almost one-third to the UFT’s United Community Schools, which has proven highly successful in establishing 30 schools as hubs for coordinated high-need community services.

The UFT’s Dial-A-Teacher program, provides homework assistance over the phone in many languages, is also being sustained, and the Positive Learning Collaborative is getting a half-million dollar boost to its goal of advancing discipline protocols that are equity-based and more fruitful than traditional punishment-centered models.

Education is, of course, a major piece of NYC’s budgetary pie and a shallow glance at education’s bite might shock an uninformed critic and spur them to hasty criticism. They might find the budget generous to a fault and, in some cases, scold the City for yielding to the importuning of the teachers union.  Perhaps they don’t realize or care that the programs for which the UFT fights are for the good of the children, not trophies for the aggrandizement of its members. 

No matter how flush the education budget might be, it’s never likely to be fully-funded, as its demands are complex, multi-dimensional and always expanding. 

And competing pressures get in the way.

Nonetheless, the new budget includes a monumental $30 million shot-in-the-arm for the hiring of an additional 285 clinical social workers whose handiwork will likely help generate improved student  academic performance, school climate and positive mental health.

Whether or not we have children in our public schools, all New Yorkers have a stake in them. And Mayor DeBlasio, Speaker Corey Johnson, the City Council  and its education committee chairs Danny Dromm and Mark Treyger have done a solid job looking out for our students.

New Yorkers know ,as a rule,never to relax their vigilance ,but we also know when our applause is earned and to clap accordingly. Let’s make some noise.

Ron Isaac

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