March 21, 2012

Committee of 100 activists press lawmakers for funding

Source: NYSUT Communications
Sandy Carner-Shafran of the Saratoga-Adirondack BOCES EA

Sandy Carner-Shafran of the
Saratoga-Adirondack BOCES
Education Association promises
to remember in November.
Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

More than 600 NYSUT education advocates, from pre-K through post-grad, told lawmakers Tuesday to make a real difference for schools across the state.

During the statewide union's Committee of 100 lobby day, the  advocates asked state representatives to reject competitive grants for schools and colleges and fund teacher centers and SUNY hospitals. [View photos.]

Also, in meeting after meeting, the grassroots lobbyists thanked those lawmakers who stood with labor in voting against pension reform - and expressed deep disappointment to those who voted for creating a Tier VI for new hires. [Find out how your representative voted on Tier 6.]

"You know I'm with you that Tier VI is not an answer," Assemblyman Sam Roberts, D-Syracuse, told a central New York contingent of members from the United University Professions chapter at the Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, Syracuse Teachers Association, East Syracuse-Minoa, North Syracuse Education Association and the Westhill District Education Association. "In fact, we ought to be giving more, not taking away, to make sure we get the best workers in public service."

"You're preaching to the choir, but I'm so glad you came," Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Pearl River, told first a Rockland county contingent and then a Professional Staff Congress group. Jaffee also voted against pension reform and agrees with increasing funds for community colleges and teacher centers.

Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Johnstown, listened to the litany of layoffs in the Fulton, Herkimer and Otsego counties he represents. Butler said the $200 million in competitive grants will go back into state aid because education funding should not be based on competitive grants. When Stacey Caruso-Sharpe of the Amsterdam Teachers Association and Matt Kirwan of the Scotia-Glenville Teachers Association talked about how aid formulas that distribute school aid unfairly are exacerbated by the revenue-limiting tax cap, he agreed that school funding still needs a lot of work.

Tuesday's lobbying effort was the first of NYSUT's two Committee of 100 events for the 2012 legislative session, and is just the latest in a series of events that started on Leap Day in February and continue through the month of March to press for state funding for K-12 schools, BOCES, and SUNY, CUNY and the community colleges.

New York's public colleges and universities have lost $1.7 billion in funding since 2008. UUP activists spoke of the need to rebuild SUNY academic departments by adding $25 million to the SUNY budget and restore the Health Science Centers and University Hospitals by adding $68 million to funding. UUP and Professional Staff Congress members also spoke of the need to increase funding for community colleges.

PSC President Barbara Bowen was among a number of speakers at a noon rally that decried the attacks against public education and public workers.