IBO: De Blasio’s plan to add 500 new school-based social workers falls short

Students are greeted as they return to New York City's public schools for in-person learning, as the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, at P.S. 506 in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., December 7, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to hire 500 school-based social workers falls short of placing a full-time social worker in every New York City public school this fall, according to a recent report from the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO). 

The IBO released an analysis of the initiative at the request of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer who asked how much it would cost to place a full-time social worker in every city public school. In April, de Blasio announced that with the help of federal COVID-19 stimulus funds he planned to flood public schools with social workers, guidance counselors and school psychologists to help students cope with trauma caused by the pandemic. 

But IBO analysts found that the City will need to hire an additional 75 social workers in order to ensure that every public school, traditional and those focusing on special education, will have a full-time social worker on-site this fall.

“Based on the Mayor’s Executive Budget for fiscal year 2022, the de Blasio Administration plans to add 500 school-based social workers for next school year. IBO’s analysis indicates that even with this planned increase…the school system would still need a further increase of 75 full-time equivalent social worker positions to bring at least one full-time social worker to every school in Districts 1-32 and 75,” according to the analysis. 

The IBO projected it would cost up to $62 million to add a full-time social worker to each of the 423 “traditional” New York City public schools that need one, and another $ 4 million to place a full-time social worker in 25 District 75 schools, which serve the city’s most disabled students, that are still without full-time help.

It would cost the City another $19 million to hire another 127 social workers to staff 166 schools currently sharing social workers for less than full-time coverage, the analysis added. 

In order to bring on the extra 75 staffers, it would cost the City about $10.9 million, according to Sarita Subramanina, assistant director of education at IBO, bringing the total amount de Blasio would need to earmark in the City’s 2021-22 fiscal budget to about $95.9 million. 

“Caring for the social and emotional needs of our students is our focus this fall and that is why every single NYC public school will receive mental health supports from a full-time social worker on staff or professionals from a school-based mental health clinic,” said Department of Education spokesperson Nathaniel Styer. “We appreciate the advocacy of the IBO on this critical issue, but our historic investment in hiring over 500 social workers and school-based clinics is specifically aimed at meeting the gap they identified.” 

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