May 08, 2007

Lubin: Washington, can you spare a dime?

Source: RA 2007

NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan Lubin called on federal government leaders to open their change purses a little wider and for state leaders to make a greater investment in higher education.

"One thin dime," said Lubin, who heads the union's Legislative Department. "All we're asking for is an increase in federal funding for education by 10 cents on a dollar." The current federal education share is about 6 cents of every dollar invested in public schools.

Lubin rolled out NYSUT's new lobbying initiative. He said a 10-cent increase in federal funding — from 6 to 16 percent — would pay for fully funding NCLB and other initiatives.

"We'd have an additional $4.6 billion to invest in smaller class sizes, universal pre-K, Head Start, early-intervention programs, basic school supplies, food auxiliary services, nurses, guidance counselors and psychologists," Lubin said. "We could invest in more extensive before- and after-school programs and remediation services."

More federal resources could also help the state commit more funds to public higher education, which would include adding more full-time faculty lines at the State and City University systems and community colleges.

The conversation in Washington has already shifted. "The 2006 election brought sweeping change to our national capital, and the leadership of both houses changed hands," Lubin said, applauding union members' efforts. "The pundits did not expect any pickups at all in New York, and we delivered in three out of the six tough races."

He said even where NYSUT-endorsed candidates were not successful, incumbents got a serious run for their money.

"Each of these incumbent Republicans has to make a decision this year," Lubin said. "Do they want to run against NYSUT or should they cast a few more moderate votes?"

At the state level, Lubin praised the governor and lawmakers for delivering a budget that finally addresses the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case and commits more funds to high-need districts.

"The 13 years it took to compel the state to comply was frustrating, but the nearly $2 billion increase represents great change," Lubin said. "Your lobbying during Committee of 100 advocacy days and your contributions to VOTE-COPE helped bring us the change that was necessary."

In addition to investing in proven strategies to increase student achievement, schools must increase staff diversity. "Many school boards across the state have done absolutely nothing to bring an integrated work force to their students," Lubin said.

Delegates enthusiastically applauded when Lubin urged educators to become more politically active in the fight against voucher schemes and the unfettered growth of charter schools, which are yet another way to increase segregation among students.

"Our union has always been in the forefront for change," Lubin said. "In fighting for fully funding education, we can change the country. And somewhere along the line, a student will love learning so much they will become a teacher, a university professor, a union member, perhaps even a union leader."