NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio detailed its plans to whack $1.3 billion from its spending plans Tuesday, April 7th as the coronavirus pandemic threatens to capsize the Big Apple’s finances with billions in lost tax revenues and massive new costs to treat the sick.
The Department of Education faces the biggest cut — $264 million overall, including $100 million from Fair Student Funding program that helps schools with the neediest kids.
Some $121 million in education department cuts will go into effect this fiscal year, taking aim at professional development spending, which had already been a target of rollbacks and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature “Equity and Excellence” initiatives, which aim to address disparities in the country’s largest system.
The biggest single cut to the education department’s budget will take effect next fiscal year: $100 million will come out of the “fair student funding” formula, a city funding stream that directly finances school budgets and is designed to funnel more money to the highest-need schools. That represents a roughly 1.6% reduction to that funding stream.
The reductions will target some of de Blasio’s biggest education priorities, including pre-K — widely heralded as his signature achievement. The city is putting the brakes on expanding Pre-K for All to 3-year olds, which had been slated to open in four new districts next school year: Manhattan’s District 1, the Bronx’s district 12, Brooklyn’s District 14, and Queens’ District 29. That move will save the city $43 million.
Also taking a hit: initiatives under de Blasio’s often-touted Equity and Excellence agenda, including a program that pairs middle school students with one-on-one counselors, and another aimed at setting students on a path to college. A summer program that provides hands-on activities for students and visits to cultural institutions is also being scaled back. Cutting those programs will save $49 million this year.
NYC City Council candidate Anthony Beckford is pushing back against the cuts to education. Beckford sent the following statement to Black Westchester:
“The pandemic is already causing uncertainty and has exposed disparities, that can no longer be ignored. It has already revealed how many of our lawmakers are eager to cut funds to community programs, educational tools and many other resources and services that are for underserved communities, while they are absent in the communities they were hired through votes to represent and serve. While we are battling the pandemic, we are also battling against egotistical politicians who are showing that their priorities are not those who are in need, especially Black and Brown students, but interests of the privileged and wealthy. The Mayor, Governor, and many other Local and State Electeds fall into this category.
Governor Cuomo is making cuts to education and healthcare. The cuts specifically target the resources and services that are needed by schools and hospitals for underserved communities and community members. Many of our state legislators voted for his budget, which calls their loyalty to the people into question. Now, Mayor De’Blasio plans to slash the education budget by $827 million, including more than $200 million directly to schools for staffing, the arts, and other programs that are crucial for students and their futures. De’Blasio announced certain cuts, such as; $100 million directly from school budgets, $43 million from slowing the expansion of pre-K for 3-year-olds and $49 million eliminated from pausing programs that help students to be able to get to college and provide much needed individual counseling for middle school students. He is literally robbing our youth, educators, and communities.
De’Blasio has also cut funding for the Summer Youth Employment Program that provides job opportunities for over 75,000 youth between the ages of 14 to 24. This is an income source that is the means of financial survival for many of the youth and their families, especially those who live in NYCHA housing throughout the city. These budget cuts, same as Cuomo’s, are deliberate and racially bias. At the end of the day, We the People must bring the egos of the Mayor and Governor back down to earth and hold the Politicians that support their cuts accountable.
What we need to take a look at is the Department of Education’s administrative spending as well as the payouts to consultants, especially during this pandemic. Just the cost alone on central administration and district/borough offices has skyrocketed from $489 million to $734 million in just 6 years from 2014 to now. This is throughout the time that De’Blasio has been in office. I definitely agree with Councilman Mark Treyger who is the Education Committee Chairman, om his call to take a closer look at cutting many of the new positions created by School Chancellor Richard Carranza, who along with De’Blasio showed lack of leadership by failing to close schools on time. This resulted in many family members of students as well as educators and principals to become sick and resulted in the deaths of of about 65 of them so far.
I agree with fellow advocates, especially those in the parental advocacy group, Class Size Matters, that the Mayor needs to eliminate contracts that add up to over $700 million for busing while the pandemic still exists and schools are closed, professional development, as well as consultants whose services are not needed during the pandemic. I agree with Councilmember Brad Lander’s proposal to freeze the hiring of NYPD officers. There is so much that can be done on both the state and local level to make sure that students do not further become the victims of an already bias and divisive system.
I propose that the $11 Billion Mass Incarceration Expansion Project that was voted on by 35 senseless council members, be given the ax and that those funds be redirected towards education, public housing and healthcare. On the state level, I propose that we tax the 122 billionaires in New York State, in which 42 of them live in New York City. This along with other taxes such as a “Stock Buy Back” Tax. These taxes as well as a “Millionaire’s Tax” can more than likely bring about an increase of $20 Billion a year in revenue into New York State. This will not be an increase in taxes, this will be the wealthy paying their fair share of taxes instead of the working class being the ones to have to give their last. There are many other ways to bring in even more revenue into the city and state on top of what was listed. The bottom line is, Do Not Cut Education and the Programs that are needed by the People. Prioritize the People and not the proposals of the Wealthy and Privileged.”
*Anthony Beckford is a Single Father, Disabled U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, Community Leader, Former UFT Member and 2021 Candidate for the 45th City Council District. He has been a longstanding advocate for housing, education, healthcare and many other issues that our communities face. Anthony is the President and Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter Brooklyn and the Save Our Youth Initiative.