ALBANY, N.Y. January 15, 2009 - Proposed cuts to the State University, City University and community college systems would deny students access to higher education, damage academic programs and hurt local economies, particularly upstate, New York State United Teachers testified today.
"In tough times, demand for education and job training grows. As people lose jobs, they seek further education and technical skills to become more marketable. Community colleges, especially, become gateways to achieving a college degree," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "This is precisely the time New York should be investing in public education to ensure high-quality SUNY, CUNY and community college programs are available to New Yorkers looking to hone their skills for the jobs of the future."
NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan B. Lubin noted state support for SUNY and CUNY declined by $215 million in 2008-09. The executive budget also proposes midyear cuts for community colleges. He said the state must protect student access and the core mission of these institutions in 2009-10.
"The core mission of our higher education institutions is in jeopardy, and it's fair to ask how long it would take for them to fully recover," Lubin said. "Reducing access to college for New York students not only hurts our future competitiveness and forces New York businesses to look out of state or to other countries for highly skilled workers, it also cripples places like Oswego, Geneseo, New Paltz and Cortland, which rely on students on campus to fuel their local economies."
In testimony before the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means Committees, Lubin noted that some 80 percent of SUNY and CUNY graduates remain in New York after graduation. "We urge you to make a concerted effort to keep students in this state and not force our youth to leave simply to have an opportunity for a college education," Lubin said.
Lubin also noted the proposed budget reduces state support to SUNY hospitals by $25 million, further hurting communities which rely on public hospitals for quality medical care.
Lubin said New York leaders must continue to press the state's congressional delegation for federal stimulus money for education and health care. And, he said, a more progressive income tax would generate some $5 billion in new revenue annually. "For too long, middle-class New Yorkers have carried the burden of higher property taxes and fees," he said. "It's time to ask wealthy New Yorkers to now pay their fair share, so that New York's education system can continue to move forward."
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.