May 21, 2014

Voters again demonstrate strong support for school budgets: 98 percent approved

Source: NYSUT Media Relations
niskayuna budget vote
Caption: Photo by Andrew Watson.

ALBANY, N.Y. May 21, 2014 – Voters across New York state again demonstrated great confidence in their local schools, approving 98 percent of school budgets in Tuesday's balloting, according to a preliminary analysis by New York State United Teachers.

Based on an unofficial count as of 9 a.m., NYSUT said voters approved 549 school budgets and defeated 12 for an unofficial pass rate of 98 percent. In the 24 school districts seeking to pierce the undemocratic tax cap with a 60 percent supermajority vote, 14 succeeded. Vote counts were not immediately available for about 100 school districts, NYSUT said.

NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said voters' overwhelming support for public education comes as no surprise.

"New York's public schools do a great job. Parents and community members know it, and that confidence in teachers and school staff led to another ringing endorsement of responsible school budgets that invest in students and programs, and help move public education forward," she said.

Magee said this year's state aid increase helped school boards to hold average spending increases to 2.63 percent, and the average tax levy increase to 1.98 percent for 2014-15. Still, Magee said, NYSUT and its local unions worked hard to pass school budgets, aided by a $200,000 statewide radio campaign.

"Teachers and School-Related Professionals, together with other NYSUT members working in their communities, mailed postcards, went door to door, handed out fliers and made hundreds of thousands of phone calls to rally support for their school budgets and those candidates who support the programs and policies kids need to succeed," Magee said.

NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta said a $1.1 billion state aid increase stopped the hemorrhaging of education professionals and school programs this year, but was still not enough to overcome the impact of state aid cuts during the Great Recession. Meanwhile, he said, the undemocratic tax cap is denying communities local control over their schools and is allowing a minority of voters to dictate lower spending levels against the wishes of the majority.

"Local taxpayers should be able to decide – without interference from Albany – how much they want to invest in programs for their own children in their own public schools," Pallotta said. "The tax cap unfairly robs them of that choice while permitting 40 percent of the community to undemocratically dictate school spending."

New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.