When it comes to education spending, the de Blasio administration is putting its money where its mouth is, which means plenty of extra funds going to pre-K and after-school programs, and hardly anywhere else. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Here's the good news for schoolchildren. For the first time in years, the city has more money to spend on education. A lot more, $760 million dollars more, mostly due to a big bump in state aid.
Now, the bad news. When the city's 1,700 schools get their budgets next month, officials say there won't be any increase at all.
"None of that money is really being brought back into the school budgets but being diverted," said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
"Unfortunately what's happening to us is, we are funding mayoral/chancellor initiatives, state mandates, and then, we don't have enough left to take the next step," said Ray Orlando, the Department of Education's chief financial officer.
Those mayoral initiatives are universal pre-kindergarten and expanding after-school programs at middle schools. The state mandates include rising costs for special education and more money going to charter schools.
The budget for charters will be $1.29 billion, which is $250 million more than last year and nearly $100 million more than the mayor projected in February. Of that, $35 million is because the state now requires that the city pay rent for new or expanding schools. The rest is to cover growing enrollment. Next year, 83,000 students will attend charter schools, 12,000 more than this year.
"Our hope going forward is that more monies will actually be going to schools in the coming year and beyond, because that is always where my head is as a former principal and certainly as a teacher, that the money should be in the schools," said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. "But right now, we have to catch up on certain issues."
However, schools costs continue to increase, with salaries and other expenses inflating each year. So a flat budget means principals will again be asked to do more with less.
It's not just principals who may be disappointed. Public Advocate Letitia James and Mark-Viverito have been pushing for universal free lunch, but the chancellor said that's something else she's committed to accomplishing eventually but can't do now.
NY1 tried to ask Fariña directly about all of this, but she rushed away from reporters at the hearing. Aides said she was late to several meetings, and while we were willing to wait, they told us she'd answer questions another day.