January 26, 2010

Higher Ed: NYSUT leaders press lawmakers to restore funding

Source: NYSUT News Wire
Caption: NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta thanks Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for his support of higher ed. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

NYSUT members and leaders from the State University and City University of New York presented a united front to lawmakers Tuesday as they tried to stave off the worst budget cuts to public higher education in New York in more than 20 years.

"Our members are energized," said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, which represents 20,000 CUNY faculty and staff. "They think they can keep that momentum going."

Under Gov. David Paterson's budget proposal, CUNY faces a $63.6 million cut to its senior colleges, and a cut of $1.8 million to its six community colleges.

Phil Smith, president of United University Professions, gave an impassioned send-off to dozens of UUP members before they dispersed to lawmaker's offices in the Legislative Office Building Tuesday morning. UUP represents more than 34,000 academic and professional faculty at SUNY. SUNY faces a $118 million cut in Gov. David Paterson's budget proposal.

"If it stands, it will mean a $528 million total cut in the last two years," Smith said. "That's fully one quarter of SUNY's current operating budget. That's a huge cut."

NYSUT's executive vice president, Andy Pallotta, was joined by Bowen and PSC First Vice President Steve London for a meeting with Assembly Member Susan John, D-Rochester.

State Sen. Antoine Thompson, a Buffalo Democrat and a graduate of SUNY Brockport, called the cuts "a tragedy," as he met with a delegation of UUP members and leaders.

"SUNY's been running lean now for 25 years," Thompson told the UUP delegation, which included statewide Vice President for Academics Fred Floss.

NYSUT leaders will be back before lawmakers Wednesday (Jan. 27) to continue pressing for restoration of funds to all public higher education, when they present their testimony about the governor's budget proposal before a joint panel of the Senate Finance Committee and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee .