ALBANY , N.Y. April 9, 2008 – New York State United Teachers said the state education budget finalized today recognizes the importance of investing in public schools, especially those that serve children in poverty.
"We applaud the governor and Legislature for maintaining their commitment to public education in difficult economic times," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "They're keeping the promises to our children."
Iannuzzi especially praised Gov. David Paterson and legislative leaders for recognizing that New York's future economy hinges on education. "By investing in those communities where schools – and children – have historically been shortchanged, the state is saying that every child is important and every graduate essential," he said. "In the face of an expected recession, that's a welcome message and it's the right message."
However, Iannuzzi said the 585,000-member union will continue to press for resources for higher education in the wake of state budget cuts to SUNY and CUNY. Cuts to the public university systems – coming in times of record enrollment – hurt students by continuing to deny them access to full-time faculty and the classes and programs they need to graduate. "The way to regenerate New York's economy is through higher education," he said.
NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan B. Lubin cited research showing that for every $1 invested in SUNY, $8 trickles into the local economy in communities like Potsdam, Binghamton, Cortland, Oswego and Plattsburgh, where campuses serve thousands of students. "Higher education is the engine that is going to drive growth in the upstate economy. It's a mistake to deprive that engine of its fuel," Lubin said.
Lubin noted the education budget increases general state support for schools by $1.745 billion, while targeting the largest increases for those schools serving the neediest children. New York City will receive a $535 million increase in education aid, while some 40 school districts will be part of this year's Contracts for Excellence program. All school districts will receive a minimum increase of 3 percent. The Legislature restored proposed cuts to BOCES programs, which provide essential services, Lubin said.
"This show of support by the governor and Legislature for public schools will help teachers and students continue the progress they've made toward higher standards, while helping to reduce the burden placed on local property taxes," Lubin said.
Lubin said the budget also funds Teacher Centers and other professional development programs, and increases the state's investment in pre-kindergarten programs by $97 million.
Lubin underscored NYSUT's concerns about the higher education budget, terming the cuts "unacceptable" and stressing the union's commitment to full funding for SUNY, CUNY and the state's community colleges.
NYSUT represents 585,000 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 .