Mayor Bill de Blasio (224846)
Credit: PIX 11 News/Facebook

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council reached a handshake deal on a $85.2 billion budget for fiscal year 2018 that includes several investments in education and in young New Yorkers.

De Blasio’s budget sets aside $10.4 million to expand the Free School Lunch Program, $2.1 million to expand breakfast in classrooms to 303 more buildings (bringing the total to 833), $110 million to assist with capital projects in the city’s libraries and $105.5 million in capital funding and $1.8 million in expense to ensure universal physical education by the year 2021. The mayor’s budget also includes $9 million to expand the Summer Youth Employment Program by 5,000 jobs.

At a news conference last week, the mayor talked about his budget and what the universal physical education program means for young New Yorkers.

“Now, I want to put that in perspective, 1957 was eight mayors ago,” said de Blasio during the news conference at P.S. 81 in Queens. “Robert Wagner was the mayor of New York City when the law was passed at the state level, mandating phys-ed for every child, and it got ignored. Generation after generation it got ignored. And that’s not acceptable, we had to break that pattern of the past, we know it was unfair to our children, we know they were being cheated because they didn’t have phys-ed. I will note it’s not surprising that most of that time that passed since 1957, [that] big issues like this didn’t get addressed.”

The United Federation of Teachers approved of the budget, stating that de Blasio continues to do right by the children of New York City.

“With this budget, the City Council protected all sectors of New York City and invested in our children, our communities and our families,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew in a statement sent to the AmNews. “In these trying political times, it is important for people to know that New York City’s elected officials are standing up for all of us.”

When speaking of universal physical education, de Blasio reminded reporters in attendance that nutritional health isn’t the only component to a child’s success in school.

The mayor said universal physical education “will make kids better students.”

He added, “Ask any parent here, or as ask any teacher here. This will make kids into better students. It’s also something we owe them in terms of their health and well-being, not just while they’re children but it’s going to teach them the habits they need for the rest of their lives. If you’re exposed to physical activity when you’re young, there is a good chance you’ll stick with it. If you don’t get that, there is a good chance you never do.”