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Financial aid for teachers left out of City Council's budget

A program that helps teachers pay for classroom supplies is set to be shut out of City Council funds.

For more than a quarter of a century, the council has assigned some of its discretionary funds to the Teacher’s Choice program, which gives teachers a small amount of money to buy supplies. Even in tough budget years, the council has always directed some funding to Teacher’s Choice: Last year, the program received $9.25 million. The year before, it got $13 million.

But when this year’s list of discretionary expenditures, called Schedule C, was released today, Teacher’s Choice was nowhere to be found. That means that teachers will be on the hook for classroom expenses that previously would be reimbursed. Last year, teachers got $110 each; in 2007, they got up to $220.

Teacher’s Choice isn’t completely out of the running until the council makes its Schedule C expenditures official when it approves the city budget. That must happen before Friday, when the new fiscal year begins, and appears likely to happen sooner, even tonight.

UPDATE: “We’re obviously disappointed in the loss of Teachers’ Choice,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew in a statement. “Our members always dig into their own pockets for the supplies their students need; next year, while the city carries over a multi-billion dollar surplus and millionaires get a tax break, teachers will have to dig even deeper.” The union helped launch Teacher’s Choice in the 1980s and had advocated annually for its continuation.

Most of the education programs that are receiving funds through Schedule C have been on the council’s list before, such as prekindergarten classes and a group that supports middle-school science instruction. One exception is MOUSE, which trains students to maintain computers and other technology in their schools. MOUSE did not get council funding in either of the last two years.

The biggest-ticket item on the council’s education list is school custodial services, which are set to have $3 million restored. The city’s budget plan cut $10 million from school cleaning services, which custodians said would certainly result in schools growing dirtier. The council restored an identical cut last year; in 2009, it added $4 million to the city’s school custodial budget.

The full list of the council’s proposed education discretionary funding choices is below.

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