ALBANY, N.Y. Jan. 17, 2012 - New York State United Teachers today welcomed that Gov. Andrew Cuomo honored his commitment to boost education funding, but said this would still leave students with less state support than they need.
NYSUT also said the governor's plan to tie proposed school aid increases to agreements on a teacher and principal evaluation system, as well as competitive grants, is problematic and would create an uncertainty that districts cannot afford.
NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said that while the union "shares the governor's frustration over delays in implementing the evaluation law and many of his points about the education bureaucracy at SED, we think there are better ways to achieve implementation rather than tying it to funding increases that benefit students."
Iannuzzi pointed to frustration also shown by districts and local teachers unions that have been hampered by the State Education Department's failure to develop a model to measure student growth; a working data system; and the Department's appeal of a state Supreme Court's ruling validating the existing law.
Iannuzzi added, "After the court decision, NYSUT gave the State Education Department a proposed settlement that meets the department's needs, and would immediately jumpstart the process in many school districts. There has been no response. We welcome the governor's leadership in helping to implement what he characterized as a 'real teacher evaluation' law by moving to settle the lawsuit, break the logjam and move implementation of the teacher evaluation law forward."
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta said the budget's proposed Tier VI "would endanger the current workforce, as well as the pensions of retired public employees, by diverting or reducing contributions to state retirement funds." He noted that, just two years ago, unions worked collaboratively to deliver $35 billion in savings to taxpayers by agreeing to a new Tier V. "Enough is enough," Pallotta said. "Current and future public employees – just like all workers in the private sector – should have a measure of retirement security. This plan does the opposite."
Pallotta said the proposed budget also falls far short of what SUNY, CUNY and community colleges need. He said funding increases for public hospitals, colleges and universities - the economic lifeblood of communities likes Syracuse, Oswego, Cortland, Oneonta and Plattsburgh – must be a budget priority. "We agree with the governor that the answer is jobs, jobs, jobs. Our question is: Why don't we start with a greater investment in our public hospitals and higher education systems?" Pallotta said.
Pallotta pledged to work collaboratively with the governor and lawmakers to build on the positive elements in the proposed budget and to correct those that would shortchange students from pre-kindergarten all the way to the post-graduate level. "A new year brings a new opportunity for NYSUT and the Assembly, Senate and Governor's Office to work together in a positive way to improve education and enhance learning opportunities for all our students," he said.
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents some 600,000 classroom teachers and other school employees; faculty and other professionals at the state's community colleges, State University of New York and City University of New York, and other education and health professionals. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.