ALBANY, N.Y. March 5, 2013 - New York State United Teachers activists from across the state will descend upon the Capitol Tuesday to demand lawmakers increase funding for New York's public school and higher education systems.
NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said while the aid increase in the proposed executive budget is a step in the right direction and would help advance important initiatives to help close the achievement gap, "the simple fact remains that our students and schools continue to feel the adverse impact of consecutive years of deep and hurtful budget cuts made during 2010 and 2011, as well as a misguided property tax cap that has further reduced critical education revenues.
"The state Legislature has the opportunity to further build upon the proposed state budget and provide schools with the resources necessary to ensure the best possible education is delivered to our students," Iannuzzi said. "The time has come to do what's right."
While the proposed $889 million increase in education spending under the executive budget would bring total state aid to schools to $21 billion, that amount is still almost $500 million less than the total education aid package passed by the Legislature back in 2009-10. Iannuzzi noted the Legislature also remains billions of dollars behind in its legal obligation to low-wealth schools under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, which determined the state had shortchanged high-needs districts for several years.
Teachers and other education professionals making up NYSUT's special committee of volunteer activists are expected to begin arriving at the Empire State Plaza concourse around 8 a.m. and meet with their hometown lawmakers into the early afternoon.
Besides demanding more school aid, NYSUT activists will also be speaking with legislators about the need to increase funding for the state's higher education system. The proposed executive budget would once again hold flat aid to the State and City university systems, as well as to community colleges.
The spending plan also would significantly reduce state funding to SUNY hospitals. Doing so would not only prohibit the ability of these institutions to train the next generation of workers, but also could result in thousands of layoffs, further hurting the state's economy.
Activists will call for a full restoration of $128 million - (the amount provided in 2010-11) - to the SUNY hospital system. The NYSUT members will also specifically request the state Legislature provide the funding needed to keep SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn a public institution. The hospital, under funding in the proposed state budget, is in danger of being closed or privatized, which could result in the loss of several hundred jobs and would threaten access to vital health services throughout the struggling central Brooklyn community.
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta said the continued failure to adequately fund the state's SUNY/CUNY systems not only jeopardizes the ability of New Yorkers to access affordable higher education, it also threatens the state's economy. SUNY and CUNY and the skilled workforce they provide are the backbone for many of the state's local economies, and New York's community colleges are a vital tool in re-training displaced workers.
"Despite the tremendous financial challenges the state's higher education system has faced these past several years, it remains one of the nation's premier university systems. That is simply a credit to its professional and dedicated faculty and staff," said Pallotta. "But, the truth is, without a commitment once and for all from state lawmakers to provide adequate state funding, it will become increasingly difficult for these institutions to carry out their missions."
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.