ALBANY, N.Y. Feb. 5, 2016 —A coalition of labor unions will join with the state Senate and Assembly Higher Education Committee chairs Monday to urge that lawmakers include in the forthcoming state budget ‘Maintenance of Effort’ funding to enable State University of New York and City University of New York campuses —which for years have been hamstrung by cuts in aid — to cover basic operating costs.
Representatives from New York State United Teachers, United University Professions, the Professional Staff Congress and District Council 37 will join Democratic Assemblywoman Deborah Glick of Manhattan and Republican state Sen. Kenneth LaValle of Port Jefferson at 11:30 a.m. Monday in the LCA press room of the Legislative Office Building in Albany.
“New York State has an obligation to ensure its SUNY and CUNY campuses are allocated the resources necessary to fulfill their mission of providing students a quality education so that they can succeed,” said NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta. “Modifications to the current MOE statutory provision will underscore the state’s commitment to New York’s outstanding public university systems and begin to address years of underfunding. An MOE says: ‘Public higher ed is of vital importance to this state’s future.’”
The bipartisan SUNY 2020, signed by Gov. Cuomo in August 2011, promised “rational” tuition increases of $300 annually over five years to help strengthen SUNY and CUNY. The additional revenue raised was earmarked to enhance academic programming; retain and hire esteemed faculty; and support students.
Instead, due to shortfalls in state higher education funding, that money has gone to pay electric and heating costs and other basic operations. Meanwhile, though some minor gains have been made recently in the hiring of faculty, the financial constraints at most campuses have prolonged the shortage of permanent faculty, resulting in a reduction of available classes. Fewer seats and program slots also have delayed graduation for some students, leading to additional student debt.
While the Legislature passed an MOE bill last year, it was vetoed by the governor who said the issue must be dealt with during state budget negotiations. Higher education advocates are now pushing for the inclusion of a new MOE as part of the 2016-17 state budget to cover mandatory costs such as collective bargaining, energy and other inflationary expenses, as well the operating costs incurred at SUNY hospitals.
“We are very disappointed the governor vetoed the Maintenance of Effort legislation that was passed last year by both houses in a near unanimous vote,” said Glick. “The legislation called for an MOE that covered all mandatory costs for both CUNY and SUNY such as utilities and contractual obligations. We are here to renew our call for a MOE for CUNY and SUNY. These public higher education systems are recognized by millions of New Yorkers as the avenue to the middle class.”
LaValle agreed. “Maintenance of Effort is vital to keep the State University of New York and the City University of New York operational,” he said. “The students in these university systems have invested in their education and it is time for the state of New York to make the same commitment by properly funding these central costs. Funding these costs should not be done on the backs of students. It is the state of New York’s obligation to provide for the continuing maintenance of these necessary costs for our higher education institutions.”
Unions representing higher education professionals statewide also urged lawmakers to include an MOE in the next state budget.
“For too long, SUNY students have been burdened with financing the lion’s share — 64 percent — of SUNY’s operating budget,” said Frederick Kowal, the president of UUP, which represents 35,000 SUNY faculty members. “Cash-strapped campuses have been forced to use NYSUNY 2020 tuition increases —revenue that was supposed to go to improve academic programs and services — to cover mandatory costs. A legitimate Maintenance of Effort would strengthen the state’s commitment to public higher education and ensure that tuition dollars enhance academic quality. SUNY students deserve far better.”
“The vetoed MOE bill would have protected students’ tuition dollars and the quality of their education by requiring the state to fund predictable increases to CUNY operating costs, such as inflationary rises in utilities, rent and collective bargaining. If it had been in effect this year, CUNY could have avoided $51 million in programmatic cuts,” said Barbara Bowen, a CUNY professor and president of the 25,000-member Professional Staff Congress which represents faculty and staff. “We thank the Legislature for its overwhelming support of the bill last year, and urge lawmakers to fight to make it part of the enacted budget for next year.”
“For tens of thousands of New Yorkers, quality, affordable higher education offered by the City University of New York has, and continues to be, a path to upward mobility,” said Henry Garrido, executive director of District Council 37, New York City’s largest public employees union. “That path is now being blocked by a lack of adequate state funding to CUNY, particularly the exclusion of MOE funding.”
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.