As de Blasio reduces NYC education spending, some schools may see bigger cuts than others

Mayor Bill de Blasio offered new details on Wednesday about the impact of more than $221 million in proposed cuts to the education department’s budget amid the coronavirus pandemic.

He is suspending two programs that provide guidance and college counselors to middle and high school students, emphasizing that the city must focus on basic issues of food security and health care. And individual school budgets are taking a hit, though de Blasio said some schools may see more cuts than others.  

The largest cut — $100 million — would come directly out of the city’s “fair student funding” formula, which directly finances school budgets and is meant to funnel more money to high-need schools.

As of now, all schools receive at least 90% of what they’re supposed to receive under the formula, but some schools receive more than what they’re technically owed. De Blasio indicated those schools would be asked to make cuts first. 

“We’re going to ask them to help and sacrifice and cut back some so that we can get through this together,” the mayor said, adding that he wants “maximum equality.” 

About 80 city schools out of roughly 1,600 receive more than 100% under the formula, according to the most recent city data. It was not immediately clear to what extent other schools would also be asked to make cuts. It is also unclear if the mayor would keep his promise to ensure schools receive at least 90% of what they’re owed. City Hall officials did not immediately answer those questions.

The $100 million cut to fair student funding represents a roughly 1.6% reduction to that funding source. Fair student funding represents the majority of most school budgets.

[Related: NYC limits school spending to remote learning and other coronavirus expenses]

Also on Wednesday, de Blasio confirmed that two education initiatives were already “on pause” as part of $49 million in program cuts.

Single Shepherd, a program providing counseling to middle school students, and College Access for All, meant to help students get to college, are both part of the mayor’s Equity and Excellence” agenda meant to address various disparities in the city’s schools.

“They’ve both been areas where we’ve fought inequality,” the mayor said of the programs. “Those are on pause because of the kinds of choices we have to make now — we have to stay on the basics.”

The mayor said the people who work on those programs would be reassigned, but officials did not immediately say where.

De Blasio’s executive budget for next fiscal year, expected to be released on April 23, is likely to reflect the city’s increasingly grim financial outlook as revenue plummets amid the coronavirus pandemic. After negotiations with City Council, the budget must be finalized in June.