ALBANY, N.Y. May 24, 2011 – New York State United Teachers said property tax cap legislation proposed today by the Assembly would hurt students and fracture communities, by allowing undemocratic minority rule to overpower the will of the majority of voters who want to invest in their local schools.
"New York would be devastated by the toughest cap in the nation at a time when its public schools have suffered three years of the toughest cuts to education," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "There's no question this strikes at the heart of the educational needs of the most vulnerable students, especially children of color and children who live in poverty.
In fact, Iannuzzi said, "Two-thirds of the school budgets that would have failed under the undemocratic and unreasonable 'super-majority' vote proposed in this bill are in New York's neediest school districts. That's why this is wrong. That's why this is inequitable. That's why this is unfair."
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta noted the state NAACP, in a May 9 letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, strongly opposed the proposed 2 percent tax cap, saying it would "exacerbate the achievement gap" and "cause irreparable harm toward the education of students in this state."
In addition to locking in inequities in budget cuts suffered by poor and rural school districts, Pallotta said the Assembly tax cap proposal makes no exemption for spiraling health insurance costs and skyrocketing transportation costs in a year in which the price of diesel fuel rose 30 percent. Both, he said, are beyond the ability of school districts and municipalities to control and would lead to even deeper cuts to education programs.
"The most glaring inequity is the undemocratic way this bad bill sets up a 'protected class' – the 40 percent of voters who would be able to block the will of the majority when they want to invest more in their children, their schools and their property values by providing the best education possible to students," Pallotta said.
NYSUT President Iannuzzi said pending tax cap legislation is another blow to working New Yorkers.
"A terrible tax cap; three years of deep cuts to education; the state's failure to meet its constitutional obligations to equalize funding to poor and rural school districts – coupled with billions of dollars in tax breaks for the wealthy – lead to the question: How much more can New York's working families and low-wealth communities bear?"
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.