ALBANY, N.Y. November 12, 2008 - The 600,000-member New York State United Teachers today reiterated its position that midyear cuts to public education would be painful and disruptive, and called on state leaders to pursue constructive solutions to the budget crisis that would spare students and needy New Yorkers from harm.
"Midyear cuts would have a concentrated, painful impact on students - from pre-K through higher ed - and the neediest New Yorkers who rely on public services and who are already feeling much of the pain from the current crisis." said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "I'm confident the governor recognizes this, but believes there is no choice other than the steps being proposed. We respectfully disagree. We are committed to constructive solutions, but they must focus on the revenue side. Asking the richest New Yorkers to pay their fair share of the solution makes greater sense than compromising services the most vulnerable New Yorkers depend upon." Iannuzzi added: "Striking the right balance between raising revenue and providing essential services is key - this is an issue facing every local community, our state, our federal government and, soon, our president-elect."
NYSUT leaders stressed that the proposed cuts to public higher education would undercut campuses that have already suffered funding losses. "Public higher education is essential as the engine that can jumpstart our economy," said NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan B. Lubin, noting that SUNY and CUNY are already suffering from an earlier round of cuts. Community colleges would also be targeted under the governor's plan, "affecting accessibility for the New Yorkers suffering the most in this economic downturn."
Lubin said the union, in addition to working with the state's congressional delegation and state leaders to secure additional federal aid, has proposed to the Paterson administration a menu of constructive solutions. For example, he said, NYSUT would like the state to look more closely at using BOCES to share services, bulk purchasing of prescription drugs, closing loopholes to collect additional revenue and a more progressive income tax structure.
"Education cuts only worsen the state economy," Lubin said "A more progressive income tax structure would bring in billions of dollars in new revenue."
NYSUT leaders cautioned that today's proposal to slash $2 billion in spending does not take into consideration the potential of a federal stimulus package that could funnel needed federal aid to New York. In addition, the state budget still holds about $1 billion in rainy day funds designed for situations exactly like the one we are currently facing.
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.