Investing in education has never been more important.
During the toughest budget time lawmakers and taxpayers have seen in decades, the UFT's message at the union's annual kickoff legislative meeting in Albany was consistent.
"We made a promise to every child, every student in our city and across our state of a quality education," UFT President Mike Mulgrew told every lawmaker who came to meet with the union's representatives on Feb. 2. "Cutting state aid as the governor proposes ... breaks that promise."
Gov. David Paterson has proposed cutting more than $2.7 billion in education and health care aid. New York City schools would be cut by $466 million for 2010-11.
Joining the UFT in New York City's kickoff campaign to restore the cuts were all of NYSUT's officers.
"We cannot get this economy back on track by dismantling education," NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi told Sen. Majority Leader John Sampson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Instead of cuts, the city and state unions have proposed alternative ways to increase revenues that if enacted would save $1.4 billion a year.
Educators and lawmakers also discussed the need to reform the state's charter school law before a cap on the number of charter schools can be lifted. NYSUT and the UFT back changes that would ensure equal opportunities for all students; fair funding and transparency about how taxpayer dollars are spent in the schools.
Whether it was Mulgrew, Iannuzzi or UFT district representatives from Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx or Staten Island, lawmakers heard how schools and communities should not bear the brunt of cuts in this economic crisis.
Listening were lawmakers from across the state, including Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, both Democrats from Queens who chair key education committees, as well as Republicans including Sen. Andrew Lanza of Staten Island and Sen. John Flanagan from Smithtown, Long Island.
"The lawmakers heard what we had to say about the changes that need to happen," said Emil Pietromonaco, Staten Island borough representative. "We had very productive conversations."
Sen. Eric Schneiderman, D-Bronx, thanked the UFTers for making the long trek north.
"There are so many great public schools in our city and across our state, and I don't think that gets publicized enough," Schneiderman said.