[UPDATED]The Looming Budget Cliff: Why the Next Mayor Really Matters for Educators

The Democratic primary, the election to choose the next mayor, the Republicans have ceded the election by not running viable candidates, is a tossup, Rank Choice Voting and many voters saying “undecided.”

The seemingly endless Zoom debates have told us little about the candidates’ education policy.

We do know that, with the exception of Scott Stringer, the candidates have tiptoed around education policy issues.

Andrew Yang’s TV add says, “Open the Schools,” we did that a few months ago; all the candidates agree on lower class size, Wiley and Morales favor “take cops out of schools” (they’re aren’t in schools). One of the few areas of sharp differences is the Specialized High School Admissions (SHSAT), Yang strongly favors keeping the tests, Wiley and Morales opposing and the others waffling in between. Adams, Garcia, McGuire and Yang support raising the cap on charter schools (the cap is part of state law, not a decision for the mayor). Yang supports Yeshivas on the question of whether they are providing an “equivalent” education.

Each of the candidates is playing to a constituency, Stringer to teachers and public school parents, Adams emphasizing fighting crime, Garcia endorsements by the NY Times and the Daily News, Wiley and Morales the “progressives,” Yang a light touch on all policies.

The polls put Garcia, Adams and Yang in the top rung with Wiley and Stringer a rung down the ladder with Donovan, McGuire and Morales at the bottom of the ladder.

UPDATE: Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (A)C) endorsed Maya Wiley, in a blazing speech accusing Yang and Adams of wanting to “privatize our school system,” will it push Wiley to the top tier of candidates?

The candidate with the most # 1 votes is not the winner, unless they receive a majority of the votes cast; the RCV process “exhausts” the ballots from the bottom up transferring votes to the #2 choice on the ballot, the process continues until one candidate achieves a majority of the votes cast.

“Big Ideas” cost dollars.

Yang favors a “public bank,” a “big idea” with many funding questions. as well as giving the 500,000 poorest New Yorkers unfettered grants of $2,000, the price tag: $1 billion

Morales “big idea” is social housing,

.the city buys land and then sells it at an affordable price to a private developer chosen through a competitive selection process. The city retains control over the style of the development. As a critical pre-requisite, the developer must rent half of the new apartments to lower-income residents. The remaining units are generally reserved for moderate-income residents.

Eric Adams has his “big idea,”

proposing a “People’s Plan” with three components: tax credits for poor New Yorkers, free and low-cost child care for children under 3, and an app called MyCity to apply for benefits like food stamps.

Under Mr. Adams’ tax credit plan, which he is calling NYC AID, poor families would receive about $3,000 per year, the price tag: ?

As the election eats up all the air we hear very little about the city budget. A lame duck mayor and a lame duck city council are putting finishing touches on the city budget, in a strange year.

The American Rescue Plan dollars give the city a one-time infusion of billions dollars and pushes a glaring problem down the road. The Independent Budget Office reports,

.. Looking just at the city’s $7.0 billion in federal pandemic aid for education, about $3 billion, or more than 40 percent, has been budgeted for initiatives continuing through 2025. The bulk of this, $2.0 billion, is for the expansion of the 3K program, an extension of universal pre-K, perhaps the signature program of the de Blasio Administration and its legacy.

Though 3K and other programs [lower class size] funded through 2025 with federal stimulus dollars may be worthwhile, it leads to the obvious question of how to fund them when the federal dollars are no longer available. If these programs are to continue, the next Mayor and City Council will need to locate alternative funding sources or cut spending in order to maintain budget balance.

The City and the Municipal Labor Coalition are negotiating retiree health benefits, is the Mayor adequately funding the Retiree Health Benefits Trust?  How about the next Mayor?

,,,the Mayor has proposed replenishing the Retiree Health Benefits Trust to a balance of roughly $3.8 billion.

The UFT contract is up in the fall, de Blasio has not set aside adequate funding for negotiations in his proposed budget,

Pressure on the budget can also come from the municipal labor force. By the end of 2022, nearly all city labor agreements will have expired. There is little funding in the city’s labor reserve for the next round of contracts. An increase of just 1.0 percent would add $2.4 billion in expenses to the financial plan through 2025.

The budget projections are based upon the city returning to pre-COVID days: Will tourists return? Will workers return to offices or remain remote? Will small business return?

New York City has endured one of its most tumultuous years in modern history. Actions taken by the Mayor and this Council, as well as its successors, may prove to be among the most significant decisions made for the city in generations.

The Citizen’s Budget Commission, a conservative budget watchdog sees an impending budget cliff,

While new federal aid declines until depleted during fiscal year 2025, the substantial new and expanded programs funded are unlikely to end without opposition once the federal aid is exhausted. As a result, the proposed use of federal aid is likely to create a substantial fiscal cliff that could reach $4 billion in fiscal year 2026,

Where will the next mayor find dollars to fund their “big ideas”? 

Will they abandon pre-K for All, 3K and lower class sizes, if so, teacher reductions/layoffs?

Will they seek “savings” in labor negotiations?

Who will they select for the next school chancellor? An educator with New York City experience or a (de)reformer?

I’m voting for Scott Stringer for a simple reason: he knows us and we know him, I feel comfortable with Scott.

I’m voting for Cory Johnson for Comptroller, for the same reason, as Speaker of the City Council he was a trusted partner.

The underlying issue might not be a “big idea,” it might be crime.

The pandemic year, 2020, saw an increase in crime, as did every other urban center. New York City has seen an unparalleled decrease in violent crime over the last 30 years, 2200 murders in 1990 and 295 in 2019. April 2020 to April 2021:

Murder         +17.9% (from 38 to 44)

Robbery       -16.1%

Fel Assault   +3.6%

Burglary        -14/7%

The media mantra: if it bleeds it leads, while the numbers are concerning we are far, far from a return to the 1980’s. The NY Post pushes for a return to “stop and frisk,” more aggressive policing at the same time that “trust” in the police is at an all-time low.

Early voting begins on June 12th.

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