ALBANY, N.Y. May 22, 2013 - New Yorkers once again signaled strong support for their local schools, voting overwhelmingly across the state to protect essential programs that serve students. Voters adopted 95 percent of school budgets, a preliminary count by New York State United Teachers showed today.
Voters approved 555 school budgets in Tuesday's voting, while 29 budgets went down in defeat, the NYSUT count showed. Of the 27 school districts which sought to override the property tax cap through a super-majority vote, just 7, or 26 percent, succeeded. Budget vote results were not immediately available for about 110 districts.
NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi called the successful voting day "a resoundingly positive message about public education.
"New Yorkers understand that the critics are wrong and that the vast, vast majority of public schools are succeeding. They see that investing in public education and students' futures is the right direction for our state, and they voted to support what teachers and children need to be successful," Iannuzzi said.
NYSUT and more than one dozen education, community, civil rights and religious organizations will carry that message to Albany June 8, when thousands will rally to fight for the future of public education.
Iannuzzi said that while this year's state aid increase stopped the hemorrhaging of programs, teachers and staff, public schools will still have less state aid overall in 2013-14 than five years ago, even as the undemocratic property tax cap cripples local control and the ability of communities to make their own decisions about how much to invest in supporting local schools.
"Nearly every school board feared alienating voters by going above the arbitrary tax cap, even when they knew that ensuing budget cuts would hurt students in their communities. Although this year's school budgets stabilized compared to the past few years, we still see class sizes increasing; communities closing schools; sports, music and art programs cut, and Advanced Placement and other electives eliminated from course catalogs," Iannuzzi added. "In some communities, voters clearly wanted to protect the strength and reputation of their schools and came out in droves to support students and override the tax cap."
He added, "Tragically, the undemocratic supermajority override required reaped havoc on those districts that needed to pierce the cap but could not overcome the 60 percent needed. The Legislature or the courts must address this injustice."
The average property tax levy increased 2.9 percent this year, while districts used about $262 million more in reserves than last year to balance their budgets.
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.