ALBANY, N.Y. May 12, 2008 - Nearly 1,000 teachers and other educators will descend on the Capitol Tuesday to urge legislators to stop a state Budget Division raid on SUNY tuition and fees, and to soundly reject a destructive proposal to cap school taxes.
NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi called property tax caps - one option being studied by a commission named by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer -- "a blunt instrument that would destroy the ability of communities to make their own decisions about their local schools. A tax cap would lead to crushing cutbacks in education programs that help to improve student performance and end the achievement gap." He said NYSUT's grassroots lobbying team would point out that similar tax cap legislation has devastated educational quality in California, through Proposition 13, and in other states.
The NYSUT grassroots lobbyists will arrive by the busload at the Empire State Plaza (Madison Avenue side) beginning at 7:45 a.m. Tuesday and fan out for meetings with their hometown senators and Assembly members. To arrange an interview with a teacher-lobbyist, call 518-213-6000, ext. 6313.
Iannuzzi said the union activists will urge legislators to look to property tax relief targeted to aid low- and moderate-income homeowners. Other potential cost-savings, he said, include a system of regionalized purchasing, transportation and administrative services.
NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan B. Lubin said a tax cap proposal, coming at a time when public schools are making great progress, "is the wrong direction. We should be investing more in education programs, not adopting artificial and arbitrary limits on school funding." Lubin said the commission's challenge should be "focusing resources on services to children and reducing the non-instructional and administrative service costs through appropriate economies of scale and efficiencies."
Lubin pointed out that tax caps would not contain the rising costs school districts face to cover health care or diesel fuel. "These costs are beyond the control of school districts and capping their ability to raise local funds - in the absence of state aid - will only lead to painful cuts in programs that help children learn," he said.
Meanwhile, Lubin said the members of the union's Committee of 100, which outgrew its name years ago, would also protest the Budget Division's apparent decision to seize tuition and fees paid by parents and students at SUNY - and revenue from patients at public university hospitals - to pay the state's operating expenses.
"This is not state money. It is money paid by students and their families for services they will not receive because the state has impounded their tuition and fees," Lubin said.
The Budget Division maneuver would slash more than $109 million in SUNY funding, on top of a $38.8 million funding cut in the recently adopted state budget, Lubin said, adding the administrative decision could result in larger class sizes; fewer full-time faculty; and the erosion of campus services - all coming at a time of record student enrollment. He said by seizing revenue from public hospitals, the Budget Division would make it harder for patients to receive the quality care they paid for and deserve.
Lubin said the 1,000 NYSUT lobbyists would be calling on Gov. David Paterson and legislative leaders to reverse the Budget Division's decision.
"Governor Paterson has always been a strong supporter of SUNY and higher education. He has an opportunity here to reverse this bad policy, which is the wrong approach at the wrong time," Lubin said.
Citing research showing that for every $1 spent on SUNY campuses, an additional $8 is returned to the local economy, Lubin said, "This is precisely the time we should be investing more in SUNY as the spark that will ignite upstate New York's revitalization."
NYSUT represents more than 600,000 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.