It will take an extra $1.3 billion—or $32 million weekly—for the city Department of Education to fully fund schools during the school year as it heads into a hybrid learning model, according to an independent financial analysis.
The figure is a conservative estimate from the Independent Budget Office, which analyzed the financial cost to reopen schools safely. It could not factor in the costs incurred by community-based organizations participating in pre-K programs, which could have pushed the figure even higher.
The IBO arrived at that number after tallying the costs of personal protective equipment (PPE), safety and medical supplies, and staffing needed. That includes the 11,900 teachers requested by school labor unions to execute the DOE's hybrid learning plan.
"We project that the cost of hiring additional teachers will account for over 60 percent of the additional costs for operating New York City public schools—more than $19 million a week," read the report. "IBO assumes that on average, schools across the city would require a 20 percent increase in the number of general and special education teachers on their rosters compared with last year (2019-2020), when there were more than 78,000 school-based general education and special education teachers in the system."
Other additional weekly costs include $1.6 million to test 103,000 students, $1.7 million in extra spending for transportation, and $1 million to fund school nurses. School supplies such as hand sanitizer, infrared no-touch thermometers, oximeters, electrostatic sprayers, and partitions for main offices, will cost roughly $265,000 extra per week.
The report was made at the request of New York City Councilmember Mark Treyger, who sought to get clarity on just how the city can get schools up and running. The city is facing a $9 billion shortfall, and Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced furloughs for 500 city workers, including himself; the mayor has threatened to lay off 22,000 workers if the city doesn't receive money from the federal government or if the state continues to block its borrowing capabilities.
"It validated my concerns," said Treyger. "The school district is going to incur about $32 million a week in new costs, and that again does not include cost for PPE or other types of staffing issues that early childhood providers are dealing with."
At a news conference on Thursday announcing that the start of in-person learning will be staggered, Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan told reporters that there is money to handle the extra costs needed for the school system.
"We have existing resources that we're applying to these additional – to the additional staffing and we're making available an additional $50 million to make sure that this is completely accomplished and we’ll obviously find savings and we'll reflect those in the future financial plans," said Fuleihan.
Yet Treyger—who sat on the budget negotiating team in the spring—said he was unaware of any extra money.
"There's no information of where this money is coming from, even if it exists," said Treyger, though he suspects the city is moving funds around from other agencies.
Treyger added that if the city contends that it has the money to reopen schools, it could hurt Mayor de Blasio's argument for long-term borrowing authority from Albany.
"He's hurting his own cause in Albany to get much-needed help to our school district immediately," said Treyger, who supports de Blasio's push for long-term borrowing. "I think [de Blasio] contradicts himself."