newsCO.com.au –City raises reimbursement for teachers amidst mayoral race

August 13, 2017

City schoolteachers will have more money than ever to spend on classroom supplies this year in what critics see as an election-year political payoff.

Teachers will be allowed to seek $250 in reimbursement for crayons, reward stickers and other school supplies — $103 more than they received last year.

While few will argue that schoolteachers don’t deserve to be reimbursed for classroom expenses they pay out of pocket, political observers did question the timing of the historic boost — coming just months before City Council members and Mayor de Blasio stand for re-election.

The powerful teachers union — which backed de Blasio in the 2013 general election and still supports him — crowed in its newsletter last week about successfully lobbying for the bump, which was proposed by the City Council and approved by Hizzoner.

GOP strategist and City Hall critic Evan Siegfried said the allocation — the biggest payment in the 30-year history of the Teacher’s Choice program — smacks of a de Blasio gift to the union.

“De Blasio is trying to shore up as many allies as he can because the only results he’s gotten as mayor is a vagrant on every ­corner,” Siegfried fumed.

“This is a transactional mayor. He will do favors for those who do favors for him, be it a big donor or a union endorsement he needs.

“Just like when corrupt donors help his campaign, the UFT [United Federation of Teachers] expects to be repaid in the mayor’s pay-to-play style,” Siegfried added.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said Saturday, “Are these critics prepared to start a fund to pay for the classroom supplies that thousands of kids rely on?”

The payment, part of the city’s final budget passed in June, expands the popular program for the first time to include school nurses and occupational and physical therapists. The $250 payment is a one-time deal, and will have to be negotiated year to year.

The historic funding boost came soon after city educators received another perk from City Hall: 50,000 parking placards the administration said it would dole out to public-school workers.

De Blasio is “obviously trying to ingratiate himself with the rank-and-file teachers,” said Sal Albanese, a former schoolteacher and city councilman running in the Democratic primary for mayor.

The UFT described pitching dozens of City Council members on the Teacher’s Choice program at a May breakfast. The union said it told personal stories about how the funds have paid for “everything from telescopes to butterflies” to help engage students.

The UFT says that even with the reimbursement, most teachers will still go into their own pockets to pay for materials, which cost $500 per teacher on average.

Teachers got $220 from Teacher’s Choice in 2007, but that number fell during the recession until the council axed the program entirely in 2011 as part of a budget deal to avoid layoffs.

Teachers received just $40 the next year. Things got so rough that teachers started posting supplies requests on crowd-sourcing Web sites.

City Council Education Committee Chairman Daniel Dromm (D-Queens) called the notion that the funding boost was a political handout “ridiculous.”

“This is something that we have been fighting for several years,” he told The Post. “It’s a small token for the teachers, a show of good faith that we care about what you are doing in the classroom.”

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