In testimony to the state Legislature, NYSUT says the proposed state education budget would slash school spending by $2.5 billion, leading to thousands of layoffs of teachers and school staff and an unprecedented retrenchment in programs that help students meet state standards and graduate from high school.
ALBANY, N.Y. January 28, 2009 – The proposed state education budget would slash school spending by $2.5 billion, leading to thousands of layoffs of teachers and school staff and an unprecedented retrenchment in programs that help students meet state standards and graduate from high school, New York State United Teachers testified today.
The 600,000-member union said, however, that swift action by Congress on the federal stimulus package and a willingness by state leaders to ask the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay their fair share would save jobs and prevent widespread dismantling of school programs that help children, particularly those who live in poverty and who are at risk of dropping out.
"We don't underestimate the seriousness of this once-in-a-lifetime financial crisis. But we also can't discount the hard truth that the very future of a generation of students teeters on the edge," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "Rather than massive cuts that would lead to layoffs; ballooning class sizes and elimination of after-school, summer school and tutoring programs – which would set schools back years – we must aggressively seek federal aid from Washington and ask the most affluent New Yorkers to pay their fair share of taxes."
Iannuzzi called on state leaders to use the federal stimulus money as intended – to restore education and health care cuts; to create jobs and to re-start local economies. "The business and labor communities are united behind the goals of this federal stimulus package," he said. "Now, we call on our leaders in Albany to put in place another important piece of the puzzle."
In testimony before the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees, NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan B. Lubin said the devastating impact of the proposed executive budget is coming into focus as school boards begin to construct their own budgets for the 2009-10 school year.
In addition to deep program cuts, school boards are preparing budgets containing thousands of layoffs of teachers, teaching assistants and aides. He noted 500 layoffs are being floated in Rochester, 500 in Orange County and 100 or more in Schenectady. An economist estimated Tuesday that Long Island schools, which face a $157 million cut in state aid, would shed 3,400 teachers and staff.
"After all the progress our schools have made toward raising test scores and closing the achievement gap, budget cuts of this magnitude would set us back many, many years," Lubin said. "We cannot afford to jeopardize even a single year of a student's time in school."
Lubin said NYSUT is working with New York's congressional delegation toward passage of the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act. He said the House bill would include $17 billion in new, non-capital aid over the next two years, including billions of dollars for schools. He said the House bill, as well as the Senate package pushed by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer - which would deliver some $6.4 billion in education stimulus money over two years - "would go a long way toward closing the state budget deficit."
He noted NYSUT is part of a large coalition pressing the governor and Legislature to raise the income tax on New Yorkers who earn more than $250,000 a year – a proposal, numerous polls show, which has overwhelming statewide support. "A reasonable increase in the personal income tax would generate up to $6 billion annually – money that could be used to avoid cuts to education and health care and keep property tax increases to a minimum," Lubin said.
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents more than 600,000 classroom teachers and other school employees; faculty and other professionals at the state's community colleges, State University of New York and City University of New York, and other education and health professionals. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.