ALBANY, N.Y. February 1, 2011 - New York State United Teachers today said the proposed executive budget is a "recipe for a devastating impact on public schools and higher education" and is especially troubling in light of the irresponsible tax cap proposed by the governor and passed by the Senate.
"These proposed cuts are significant and, if enacted, would impact the classroom both directly and indirectly," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "I can't say that we share the executive's belief that a cut in state aid this significant - coming on top of a nearly $1.9 billion decrease over the previous two years - can be absorbed without teacher layoffs and the loss of other important education professionals."
"Couple all this with a devastating tax cap bill passed by the Senate and we have a potential recipe for a devastating impact in many districts - especially low-wealth districts," he said.
"Clearly, we agree that greater administrative and management efficiencies, the use of district reserve funds, and redirecting federal dollars should be looked at very carefully and implemented before layoffs are considered," Iannuzzi said. "But, many of these decisions must be local decisions, and determined district by district."
Iannuzzi also noted that large cities outside New York City - such as Yonkers, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany - would be hit particularly hard by the budget proposal, especially when mandated local payments to charter schools are factored in.
The NYSUT president also expressed great concern about the proposed impact on the State University, City University and the state's vital network of community colleges. "The systemic dismantling of state support for higher education leaves almost no room to absorb these cuts," Iannuzzi added.
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta noted that NYSUT is committed to working with legislative leaders and the governor toward a responsible compromise that looks at spending and resources. "This is not the way to start. Our role now is to work with the Legislature to ensure the state budget it adopts meets the governor's vision of turning around the state's economy, while still protecting education, our SUNY hospitals, libraries and other vital services that students and working New Yorkers count on," Pallotta said.
FACTS FOR REPORTERS ON EDUCATION FUNDING AND THE STATE BUDGET
In 2008-09, the state provided $21.4 billion in school aid. The comparable 2010-11 figure, based on data released by the State Education Department on Nov. 15, is $19.59 billion. This reduction of more than $1.8 billion represents an 8.67 percent cut in state support for public schools since 2008-09.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding ($725 million) and the federal Jobs Bill ($607 million) have helped to offset some cuts in total aid to schools. If federal funds are added to the state funding, then total education aid has declined by $527 million, or 2.5 percent, since 2008-09.
In response to the state's fiscal crisis, school boards have eliminated nearly 15,000 education jobs, most through attrition and retirement. Hundreds of local teachers unions have restructured their agreements to provide cost-savings to taxpayers, including accepting wage freezes, furloughs, higher health insurance premiums, and voluntarily returning pay to districts.
Opinion polls show that New Yorkers strongly oppose state cuts to education. The most recent polls show New Yorkers, by a 79-18 margin, are firmly against state education cuts (Quinnipiac, Jan. 26) and, by 74-23, would want their state senator to vote against a hypothetical $1 billion cut in education aid (Siena Research, Dec. 13).
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.