ALBANY, N.Y. February 23, 2010 - New York State United Teachers launched a statewide campaign today with two new television ads reminding New Yorkers that investing in public schools and higher education is the best way to help New York dig its way out of the current recession.
The ad campaign comes as school districts prepare their budgets and amid signs that many are proposing devastating cuts to student programs and layoffs of teachers and support staff. Meanwhile, deep cuts proposed for SUNY, CUNY and the state's community colleges threaten to undermine opportunities for students looking to start careers and unemployed workers training for new jobs.
NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said the two ads share a common theme: Education cuts would delay – if not cripple – the state's economic recovery. "New York's recovery will hinge on business' ability to hire skilled workers to develop new products in what is emerging as a knowledge-based economy," Iannuzzi said. "If Albany fails to reject the governor's proposed education cuts to public schools, to SUNY, CUNY and their community colleges, business leaders will go out of state to hire skilled workers for knowledge-based jobs or they may not be in a position to create any new jobs at all."
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta said the more than $1.5 million television campaign, which will air for at least three weeks in markets in every corner of the state, features one 30-second spot called "Made it Through," which opens with archival footage of the Great Depression, the war effort in the 1940s and men building new skyscrapers.
"Those were tough times, but they made it through," a narrator explains. "Our parents, grandparents… working hard to build a better future for the next generation of New Yorkers… a future made strong through public education." As the ad cuts to a more contemporary shot of a foreclosure sign in front of a modest house, the narrator continues, "These are tough times, too, but cutting education is the wrong way to go. Let's remember what the past has taught us ... that we should keep investing in our kids. Because there's always hope for the future, and it starts in our public schools."
The second 30-second ad, called "Macro Economics," is set in a college lecture hall. "Enrollment is up at SUNY, CUNY and their community colleges. A generation prepares for high-tech jobs of the future. Others learn new skills for good jobs, today," the narrator says. "So when the governor slashes higher education and diverts tuition money away from learning, it's more than dollars he's cutting… it's the hope we can turn things around."
The ad concludes with a message that New York can't afford cuts to SUNY, CUNY and community colleges.
Pallotta said the NYSUT television ads will air on network affiliates and on cable stations in eight upstate markets - Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Elmira, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and Watertown - and on cable TV on Long Island and in the New York City area. They will be shown on CNN, the Weather Channel, Discovery, TNT, TBS, New York 1 and other major stations.
Pallotta said the campaign, paid for by the union's political action funds, is tied to public opinion polls that show New Yorkers value education and want lawmakers to find alternatives to eliminating programs, raising property taxes and cutting more education jobs. He noted that, last year, districts eliminated more than 5,000 teaching and support staff jobs - a blow softened only by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which the Obama administration credits with saving 18,600 education jobs in New York.
One NYSUT proposal, Pallotta said, is to change the stock transfer tax,an existing sales tax on stock transactions currently fully rebated to Wall Street brokers. NYSUT said if 80 percent of the $16 billion raised annually by the stock transfer tax was rebated, the state would not only reduce trading volatility, but collect $3.2 billion in new revenue to support education programs.
Pallotta noted New York is already $4.2 billion behind in its court-ordered obligation to fully fund schools, especially those where students in poverty have been denied access to the programs and resources they need. "Our public schools and colleges need additional resources so our education system can continue the tremendous progress it's made," Pallotta said. "While we understand these are difficult economic times, education provides the best hope for a generation of young people and for our state's overall economic recovery."
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.