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City Council set to restore Teacher's Choice funds, a little bit

A quarter-century-old program to give teachers pocket money for classroom supplies will get City Council funds this year after being zeroed out in 2011.

Last year, the council cut the Teacher’s Choice program after pledging extra funds to avert thousands of teacher layoffs. The union, which helped launch Teacher’s Choice in the 1980s and had advocated annually for its continuation, said it was disappointed in the decision.

But this year, with the size of the city’s teaching corps actually set to rise, the council revisited the program and awarded it $3.75 million dollars.

The size of that allocation comes nowhere close to what the program received even in the lean years before it was zeroed out. Two years ago, Teacher’s Choice got $9.25 million, and it received $13 million in council funds the year before that.

That means individual teachers are set to receive only a pittance. In 2007, before the annual cuts began, each teacher got about $220, and the last time the funds were allocated, teachers took home about $110. This year, teachers are likely to receive just over a third of that, or about $40.

The restoration appears in Schedule C, the council’s annual list of discretionary awards. The total amount of discretionary funds that the council as a whole is awarding — $17,950,000 — is 67 percent higher than what it handed it out last year. Individual members also allocated smaller amounts to pet projects in their districts, including many related to education.

Other big-ticket council expenditures include the $3 million it kicked in to avert the threatened layoffs of hundreds of school aides and the $150,000 it announced Wednesday would go to help plan “community schools.”

And in addition to funding annual standbys with millions of dollars for custodial services and universal pre-kindergarten programs, the council is aiding at least one other program that lost its funds last year. The council is allocating $200,000 for Chess in the Schools, a program that provides free chess instruction to low-income students. But it did not allocate anything to Respect for All, the city’s anti-bullying campaign, or to United Way of New York, which had been one of six organizations awarded funds to work on dropout prevention.

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

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