Bloomberg Spares Education Department from Budget Cuts

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For the first time in three years, New York City teachers are not being threatened with layoffs, "unless something dramatic happens," Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said, announcing his preliminary budget on Thursday.

Last year, the mayor's preliminary budget threw into question the jobs of 4,500 teachers, part of an effort to absorb large cuts from the state, as well as the end of federal stimulus funds. But as in 2010, the 2011 teacher layoffs never evolved beyond a threat, and were eventually taken off the table through negotiations with the city's teachers union.

On Thursday, the mayor said that the city's finances remained under stress, but while he has planned to cut money for other agencies, he is increasing financing for the city's Department of Education. The city's budget documents project the department's total budget (including pensions and debt) increasing to $24.6 billion in 2013, up from $24.1 billion in 2012.

With the city's fixed costs going up every year, it was not immediately clear what impact the increase in financing would have in the classroom. In fact, as has occurred for the last five years, the overall budget can increase while principals, who now manage their own budgets, are given less money for staffing and other expenses.

Ultimately, the budget must be approved by the City Council, which is expected to make its own adjustments to it.

Although the mayor did not discuss his proposal to give teachers who are rated "highly effective" for two years a $20,000 salary increase, he reiterated the importance of paying the city's teachers enough to remain competitive with other school districts.

The mayor's budget does make cuts to some aspects of education, a move that immediately drew criticism from advocates, who said the preliminary budget does away with thousands of daycare and after-school slots.

According to the public advocate, Bill de Blasio, roughly 16,000 daycare seats would be lost if the mayor does not increase financing to the Administration for Children's Services. And though exact numbers have varied, groups like the Center for Children’s Initiatives and the United Neighborhood Houses have estimated 25,000 positions lost in the city's Out-of-School Time program, an after-school program that opened under Mayor Bloomberg.

"The mayor’s cuts to after-school programs sadly continues a multiyear trend of cutting programs for the children in our city that need them most,” Richard Buery, the Children’s Aid Society's president, said in a statement. "After-school program slots have already dropped from 85,000 to 27,000 in the past three years alone. These programs keep our neediest kids on track for college graduation — the one sure pathway out of poverty."