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No big boost for schools in budget up for City Council approval

As the City Council hunkers down to vote on the city’s budget today, it appears that schools aren’t going to get a big last-minute budget boost.

The council included about $25 million for the city schools in a list of budget adjustments (pdf) released last night. That’s about a fifth of what the council added into last year’s budget at the last minute, when it restored more than $120 million in budget cuts in addition to making sure council members’ pet projects got funded.

One restoration that looks like it will happen this year is for Teacher’s Choice, the program that gives classroom teachers discretionary funds to use for supplies. The council is allocating $13 million for the program next year, the same amount that was spent on it this year. The amount for 2009 came out to $150 per teacher, down from $220 in 2008.

Another adjustment that could relieve pressure on the city schools is for childcare centers currently operated by the Administration for Children’s Services. The city proposed eliminating many of the centers and diverting their students into public school kindergartens. Elected officials had been lobbying to reverse the cuts, which would increase class sizes in some kindergartens to 25. The restoration is for $8 million, which the council says will allow “a portion” of the 31 childcare centers currently at risk to stay open.

Other school-related budget adjustments include money for custodial services, funding for a group that is lobbying the state for more school aid, and aid to help schools keep state-funded half-day prekindergarten classes open longer.