ALBANY, N.Y. February 4, 2008 -- While acknowledging the serious fiscal challenges facing lawmakers, the 585,000-member New York State United Teachers today called on the Legislature to keep last year's historic commitment to children, especially those who live in poverty.
"Governor Spitzer's proposed budget demonstrates a commitment to children and public schools. Yet, at the same time, it raises an important question: How can New York state best keep its promise to all children during difficult economic times?" asked NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi.
Iannuzzi said that as New York continues to make progress toward ending the achievement gap -- and is being recognized nationally by the Education Trust and Education Week for its progress -- it is essential that legislators "protect all public schools from the roller-coaster of budget cycles and continue our efforts to move all students, whether victims of the gap or high achievers, toward greater excellence."
In testimony to the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees, NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan B. Lubin credited the governor and Legislature for approving last year's historic education budget. He said Contracts for Excellence funding helped school districts to provide additional resources towards closing the achievement gap. Additional new money for pre-kindergarten, teacher training and class-size reduction programs is also making a difference. He said that continuing the state's multi-year commitment to a foundation formula, while reversing cuts to BOCES and higher education, must be priorities.
Lubin also criticized the appointment of a Tax Cap Commission as "particularly troubling because it takes New York in the wrong direction, precisely as the state's education system is moving steadily forward.
"Tax caps lead to serious reductions in the level and quality of public education," Lubin said. "It doesn't make sense to cap our children's futures."
Lubin said tax caps do nothing to change the rising costs facing school districts, such as the escalating cost of health care, electricity, heating oil and diesel fuel for school buses. "When those costs -- which are out of the control of school districts -- go up, a tax cap means that educational programs will suffer," Lubin said.
He added that tax caps also impinge on local control of schools. "New Yorkers have and want to keep local control," Lubin said. "Voters last year approved 95 percent of school budgets on the first vote. They showed, yet again, that when asked to choose between quality schools and lower taxes, their choice is helping children and investing in education. Local communities should be allowed to continue to make those choices."
Lubin also urged the Legislature to closely examine the impact that an over-saturation of charter schools is having on Albany and Buffalo.
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.