ALBANY, N.Y. March 5, 2007 - New York State United Teachers today launched a statewide media campaign urging elected leaders to invest in great public schools for every child as "a matter of principle" and to reject using public dollars for private school tuition or more charter schools.
NYSUT's "It's a matter of principle" campaign - which features billboards, radio and newspaper advertising - is a positive message about Gov. Eliot Spitzer's commitment to provide a quality public education to all children, particularly those in high-need school districts that have been historically shortchanged. It also notes the folly in proposals to subsidize private school tuition with tax dollars, or to lift the cap on charter schools without enacting needed reforms.
The $125,000 first phase of the campaign includes four billboards, which will target drivers commuting in all directions on Interstate 787 and Interstate 90 in the Albany area, as well as radio advertising and print ads. Funds for the campaign come from voluntary contributions made by NYSUT members to the union's political action and education fund.
Radio ads will be launched in the Albany market on Monday. Two billboards share the message: "It's a matter of principle/Great public schools for every child." Another two share the message: "It's a matter of principle/Public schools, not private interests." The images are of children from area public schools.
"It's a matter of principle that New York should ensure excellence and equity for all children in all public schools," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "New York's public schools lead the nation in academic excellence, in success on Advanced Placement tests and in embracing more rigorous academic standards. We have an opportunity this year to do what's right for children in poverty who are struggling to achieve in school."
He said budget proposals for voucher-like tax deductions for private and religious schools would be the wrong direction. "Public money should not be used to give special tax breaks to those who choose to send their children to private or religious schools," Iannuzzi said. "That would be a detour from the road to reform, resources and results." He added, "Public funds should go to schools open to all kids, schools dedicated to public - not private - interests."
Similarly, the campaign will call for a moratorium on funding new charter schools unless there are reforms that make them accountable to the public. "Expanding the number of charter schools without reforming the way these schools are authorized, held accountable and funded would be bad public policy," said NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan Lubin, who pointed out that communities have no say in the proliferation of taxpayer-subsidized charter schools.
Reforms would include a realistic increase in "transition aid" for school districts burdened by an over-saturation of charter schools, a 5 percent cap on a district's enrollment and operating expenses going to a charter school, earlier notification when charter schools are planned and greater accountability.
"Taxpayers currently have neither a voice nor a vote in whether charter schools open in their communities," Lubin said. "These experimental schools drive up property taxes, drain resources from other students and do not perform as well as comparable traditional public schools. Until there is comprehensive reform and accountability in the charter school law, the cap should not be lifted."
NYSUT represents 575,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers; National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.