NYC commits $500 million for at-risk education programs

The funding will cover half the $1 billion hole left by expiring federal aid.

Mayor Eric Adams (center), schools Chancellor David Banks (left) and City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (right) visited P.S. 34 on Friday to announce new funding for education programs.

Mayor Eric Adams (center), schools Chancellor David Banks (left) and City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (right) visited P.S. 34 on Friday to announce new funding for education programs. Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and the City Council are pledging $514 million in funding to save a host of public school programs, including the expansion of free preschool for 3-year-olds, dyslexia services and hundreds of school-based mental health professionals, all previously funded by temporary stimulus dollars slated to expire this school year. 

While the commitment only plugs half of the roughly $1 billion hole that will be left when federal stimulus dollars expire later this year, it’s still the city’s biggest commitment to date to replace the pandemic-related aid. Significant cuts are still expected due to the looming fiscal cliff, but the $514 million will save 15 key programs, including restorative justice, literacy programming, special education pre-K and arts programming. 

Mayor Adams, schools Chancellor David Banks, and City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams struck a celebratory tone Friday afternoon as they announced that the funding – cobbled together using a mix of city and recurring state funding – will temporarily stave off cuts to some programs while protecting others with baselined recurring dollars.

“You know, mayor, if I could still do backflips like when we were in high school, this would be the moment,” Speaker Adams said.

The city has received over $7 billion in temporary federal funding since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of which was used to exclusively fund a bevy of ongoing educational programs. Advocates, educators and the City Council have long sounded the alarm over the expiring funding, warning that the programs provide vital services to students and urging the city to find ways to keep them going long after the federal funds dry up. The City Council has sought to protect these programs, calling for around $550 million in city funding to support at-risk initiatives in its official response to Mayor Adams' preliminary budget earlier this month. 

“We are not using budgetary tricks. This means we won’t be relying on temporary funds to support them in the future. We had to rely on that when we inherited the city in January 2022,” Mayor Adams said Friday. “You can’t have a ‘cross your fingers’ government and hope for the best. You have to make smart decisions.”

Included in the initiatives city officials pledged to fund for more than one year are the NYC Reads program and dyslexia screenings, 500 school-based social workers and psychologists, roughly 100 shelter-based community coordinators, 113 new community schools, translation and interpretation services for students and families, bilingual education funding, career pathways programs for high schoolers and $56 million to increase pay for special education pre-K providers.

City officials also committed $92 million in funding to expand the city’s free preschool initiative for 3-year-olds next year, though not for any years beyond that. (The officials said the goal is to look in the meantime for ways to fund the program long-term.) Other education programs slated to receive one-time dollars include restorative justice programming Project Pivot, arts funding and more. 

With thousands of seats unfilled, Mayor Adams also announced that the city will spend $5 million on parental outreach for pre-k and 3-K programming. Another $25 million will go towards special education pre-k. 

The Friday announcement was met with a myriad of emotions. Advocates and some council members acknowledged that the funding commitments are a significant first step, but said they still fail to give parents and students all that they need. 

“While the Mayor's decision to reverse some funding cuts is a step in the right direction, it falls entirely short of the investment and infrastructure needed to fund a truly universal 3-K and pre-K as so many parents in New York City thought they could rely on,” New Yorkers United for Child Care Executive Director Rebecca Bailin said in a statement, pointing to the fact that the mayor has yet to commit to implementing universal 3-K  or restoring all money cut from early childhood education programs.

A spokesperson for the City Council said that the announcement about the restored funding marks a good start but noted that negotiations will remain ongoing and further changes are possible. Mayor Adams and the City Council’s final budget agreement isn’t due till the end of June.

Mayor Adams acknowledged that he administration and the City Council have a “long budget negotiation process” ahead. “We’re in the process of negotiating and making these tough choices that we’ve got to do,” he said, adding, “We are sticking our fingers in the cushions and of our couches and finding every quarter that we can find.”