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Despite Vow to Increase School Funding, Mayor Won't Boost Budgets in 2018

By Amy Zimmer | June 14, 2017 3:53pm
 Mayor de Blasio said he would raise school budgets, but state funding fell short.
Mayor de Blasio said he would raise school budgets, but state funding fell short.
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DNAinfo/Patrick Wall

MANHATTAN — When Mayor Bill de Blasio made his preliminary budget speech in January, he promised to secure fair budgets for schools — which have been waiting for the state to pony up court-ordered funding for years.

De Blasio doubled down on his promise while revealing his executive budget in April, saying he he wanted all schools to get at least 90 percent of their Fair Student Funding allocation by fall — which is based not only on a school's student body size, but also accounts for extra resources needed to support certain kinds of students, like English language learners and students with special needs.

But when word came down this month that — yet again — Albany failed to come up with the money owed to schools, de Blasio was mum.

City officials tried to say that de Blasio's 90 percent of FSF funding goal was never an explicit promise — since it relied on the state.

“The city committed to raising the FSF floor for all schools to 90 percent provided that the state gave us school aid levels similar to what we received the past two years,” mayoral spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein said. “As a result of the state falling short, we were unable to increase the FSF floor. We will continue to work with the state and advocate for full implementation of CFE. Funding equity is and will continue to be a priority.”

But parents say the city's isn't doing enough to ensure fair budgets to schools, even as the city spends millions on other education initiatives — including AP for All, giving every junior the SAT, expanding “community schools” with social service supports and launching free preschool to eventually reach all 3-year-olds.

“Meanwhile, schools aren't getting the money they're supposed to, and the Mayor wants to launch 3K?” said Elissa Stein, a parent of a Brooklyn Tech student who has been vocal about the fair funding issue.

“There is no more pressing issue in city schools than providing proper and fair funding, so that each and every student has the opportunity for a comprehensive education,” Stein said. “Denying schools money through inequity in funding guarantees that all students are not treated fairly or responsibly.”

Brooklyn Tech, which is one of the city’s most elite high schools, currently only receives about 88 percent of its FSF allocation.

“At Brooklyn Tech a percentage or two is equal to hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Stein said.

Students at the Fort Greene school — which requires students pass the specialized high school admissions test for entry — have taken to calling the school “Broken Tech” because of the array of things constantly on the fritz, from elevators and toilets to laptops and smart boards.

Families are angry that the school gets less of its FSF allocation than the other specialized high schools, especially since it has higher needs than its peers. It has, for instance, the most underrepresented minorities of all the specialized high schools, and the most students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, with 65 percent of its student body, according to the school’s PTA.

“It’s very frustrating as a parent whose child is in a school where they need the money. It’s one of the top STEM schools in the city, with one of the tenets being technology. But we don’t have Wi-Fi working throughout the schools and half the computers are broken at any time,” Stein said.