ALBANY, N.Y. October 27, 2009 – New York State United Teachers has launched an advertising campaign against proposed midyear cuts to public schools and colleges, taking to the airways to call on the Legislature to reject damaging education cuts and instead tap the state's rainy day fund and pursue other cost-savings and efficiencies.
"Students in public schools and in our state colleges and universities – as well as other middle-class New Yorkers – have already 'shared the pain.' Isn't it time the state pursued viable alternatives that would help 'spare the pain?"' asked NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi.
Iannuzzi said school districts already eliminated more than 6,000 education positions since the recession hit, and the State University, City University and community college systems are again absorbing deep, painful cuts. In addition, Iannuzzi stressed New York state has also failed to meet its court-ordered obligation from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case to fully fund public schools in New York City and other places where students who live in poverty are caught in the achievement gap.
"These proposed midyear cuts would be devastating to public schools and students throughout our education system," Iannuzzi said. "They threaten to reverse all the progress we've made toward ending the achievement gap and providing an accessible, affordable public higher education system for all New Yorkers. In the end, these are the ingredients needed to turn the state's economy around."
NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan B. Lubin said what is missing from the executive proposal is a plan for the rebirth of New York's economy once the recession ends. "As the governor attempts to dismantle education, which is a foundation of the economy and a key to New York's economic resurgence, we see no plan and no thought to what New York would look like in five years or 10 years," Lubin said.
The first phase of the $200,000 NYSUT campaign began with radio ads in Albany and Long Island. The campaign will expand to include a statewide radio message, billboards and print ads, as well as work by grassroots activists to call on legislators to prevent education cuts that would threaten student progress, stall New York's economic recovery and shift costs to local taxpayers.
Lubin said the union's radio campaign urges the Legislature to "look for every opportunity to save on energy, prescription drug costs and other economies that do not affect students."
Lubin noted that unions successfully pushed for language in last year's budget that allows the state Health Department to negotiate directly with drug companies for lower-cost prescription drugs. "By simply using its bulk purchasing power, the state could force drug companies to provide lower-cost drugs for Medicaid and other programs," Lubin said. "We want to know why New York isn't more aggressively seeking savings."
Lubin said NYSUT wants legislators to eliminate the failed Empire Zone program, which would save $582 million next year; reduce the use of consultants and allow state workers to do the work at a savings of $730 million over three years; re-examine ways to reap new revenue through taxes on soda and other sugary drinks, as well as grocery bags to collect an additional $1.34 billion in revenue; and strategically tap the state's $1.3 billion in reserve or "rainy day" funds.
"Dipping into the rainy day fund now would help forestall these budget cuts and rescue schools and colleges from irreparable harm while buying time as the economy recovers," Lubin said.
NYSUT, the state's largest union, 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.
We're all trying to find shelter from the bad economic news that's been raining down on us.
It might get even worse.
Gov. Paterson's deep budget cuts could bring on a devastating storm that rips apart public education.
Our schools and colleges have already been hit hard.
More cuts in the middle of the year threaten student progress, stall economic recovery and pass the burden on to local taxpayers.
97 percent of New Yorkers say they want to find a way to weather the storm without causing chaos in public schools and colleges.
The Legislature must reject these cuts to education.
Instead, let's strategically tap the state's Rainy Day Fund and look for every opportunity to save on energy and other economies that don't affect students.
Ask your legislators to stand up for our kids and our future.
Stand up to the governor's cuts.
Because public education is the key to our economic recovery.