Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to increase the budgets of hundreds of city schools next year and spend millions on his efforts to prepare more students for high-level classes and push them through to graduation.
His $82.1 billion city budget proposal, released Thursday, shows how the city plans to achieve the education goals de Blasio laid out last fall, when he pledged to raise the graduation rate, ensure second-graders could read on grade level, and offer more students the chance to take high-level math classes.
“Our budget will help lift up the next generation,” de Blasio said Thursday, “through a number of investments that will bring our ‘Equity and Excellence’ agenda to our schools.”
Here’s a breakdown.
Big budget boosts
Last year, the city pumped up struggling schools’ budgets. Now, the mayor is proposing do the same for nearly 660 additional schools.
The city would spend $159 million to raise the minimum funding level for all schools, a bump that would affect 657 schools currently below that threshold. That amounts to an average increase of $242,000 per school.
The cost of college access
De Blasio made college preparation the centerpiece of his agenda-setting speech at the start of the school year, where he said every high schooler should have access to advanced courses and help with college applications.
As a start, his budget sets aside $15 million next year to expand the number of Advanced Placement classes, an amount that will grow steadily each year until peaking at nearly $51 million in 2020. The goal is for every school to offer at least five AP classes.
Another $15 million will fund a pilot counseling program for over 16,000 students in two high-needs districts in the South Bronx and Brownsville, Brooklyn, where students are less likely to earn a diploma than almost anywhere else in the city. The “Single Shepherd” program will pair each middle and high school student there with a counselor to help with academic and personal problems, and guide them toward graduation.
The proposal puts $20 million toward the city’s “Algebra for All” initiative, which aims to get more eighth-graders prepared for algebra and more middle schools prepared to teach it. Today, about 40 percent of city middle schools do not offer algebra.
Another $16 million would pay for 400 literacy coaches to work with second-graders, keeping them on track through elementary school. The plan would also fund “transition coordination centers” in each borough designed to help older students with disabilities plan for college and careers.
Attention to overcrowding
De Blasio’s plan would allocate $868 million to add 11,800 new seats in schools, part of his administration’s long-term bid to reduce overcrowding. That would bring the number of new seats created by the city’s current five-year plan to more than 44,000.
A new capital plan, also released Thursday, notes that the city has made a dramatic adjustment to its estimate of how many more seats it truly needs — raising that figure by 33,000. Advocates of lower class sizes, and critics of the city’s methods of measuring school space, have long called for that kind of re-evaluation.
Funding for discipline and safety
The de Blasio administration has updated the school discipline code, urging schools to pivot away from suspensions and towards a less punitive “restorative justice” approach.
But advocates of that problem-solving take on discipline have complained that many educators lack the training to pull it off. The proposed budget takes a number of steps in that direction by funding training at 20 schools with the highest number of arrests and suspensions, along with all the schools in Brooklyn’s District 18 and ones that are experimenting with a warning card system in place of suspensions.
The budget would also fund training at schools where staffers frequently call 911, as well as more training for school safety agents. One hundred high schools with high suspension rates would also have more mental-health services made available for students. Together, those programs would cost more than $13 million next year.
The city is continuing to invest heavily in its effort to improve more than 90 of its lowest-performing schools.
Overall spending for the “Renewal” program is increasing slightly to $189 million next year, and the budget adds a few new programs for those schools, including $1 million per year for doctor visits at schools without health clinics and another $1.5 million per year for staff training.
The budget also includes funds for a data system being used at the city’s Renewal and community schools. That system is designed to share data among city agencies, and cost the city nearly $2.5 million to set up this year.
Also included in the education portion of the mayor’s proposed budget, which still must be negotiated with the City Council:
- More funding to coordinate transportation for students living in temporary housing
- Training for pre-K staff and social workers focused on creating nurturing environments
- Youth suicide prevention training for education department staffers
Funding for the summer after-school programs the city cut, and eventually restored, last year.