Although a three-hour hearing on the city's education budget is not exactly riveting, there usually are some noteworthy moments. For one, education officials spell out behind-the-scenes numbers. For another, City Council members fire questions at Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott, some with a smile and others with a snarl.
Included below are the highlights of Wednesday's hearing on the mayor's executive budget proposal for the Department of Education for Fiscal Year 2013:
—The FY2013 executive budget represents an increase of $646 million in total funds over the FY2012 budget.
—The State is sending more education aid to New York City: an increase of $324.7 million. But that state aid hinges on whether the city can reach a teacher evaluation deal with the teachers' union by January, 2013. Mr. Walcott says he is "optimistic" about that prospect.
—School budgets will stay flat, and principals received their individual budgets on Tuesday.
—The teaching workforce is expected to stay at its current level.
—The city wants to do a better job of submitting claims to Medicaid, after failing to collect tens of millions of dollars in years past. The department has set a target goal for FY2013 of collecting $167 million in Medicaid reimbursements for occupational and physical therapy, possibly more in speech therapy.
—The chancellor pledges to review and personally approve any tax levy contracts worth at least $100,000.
—The chancellor is proposing to set aside $30 million in capital funds to create 20 new health and mental health centers at middle and high school campuses over the next three years. City Council officials note that the centers, while welcome, come after more than 70 school-based mental health centers were closed over the last two years.
Will laid off school aides be rehired?
That's a school-based decision.
Will class sizes grow over the next few years?
There may be a slight increase.
Can the DOE rescue afterschool programs from being cut?
Those programs fall under a different city agency, but the executive branch and the City Council are "in talks."
The budget dance will continue over the next few weeks, and the public will have the chance to testify on the last day of budget hearings June 6. The issue of special education reform, and its own funding changes, will get a separate hearing on June 12.