ALBANY, N.Y. Jan. 27, 2016 - New York State United Teachers today called for a $2.6 billion increase in school aid and modifications to the property tax cap in order to fully fund programs that benefit students. NYSUT also called for major changes to the state's receivership law and urged legislators to fully support the expansion of community schools.
In testimony before the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees, NYSUT said the proposed $963 million state aid increase contained in the Executive Budget represented a "good starting point." However, NYSUT said the near 0 percent tax cap is severely crippling the ability of local school districts to raise revenue to support programs. NYSUT said a "true" 2 percent tax cap would have generated an additional $700 million for schools — money the state must now make up to ensure programs and services for students are not endangered by cuts.
NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said public education is beginning to move in the right direction and should use its estimated $5.4 billion surplus to invest in public schools. "We are making progress on many fronts but there is still work to do. This is the year the state should significantly increase the Foundation Formula, eliminate the Gap Elimination Adjustment and make good on its commitment that, no matter where students live or go to school, they have the opportunity for the sound, basic education the New York Constitution requires," Magee said.
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta said NYSUT's proposed $2.6 billion state aid increase includes targeted funds to support struggling schools; expand universal pre-kindergarten; invest in high-quality professional development; and support college and career pathways.
"Legislators understand the importance of investing in our public schools and ensuring New York's children have the programs and services they need to thrive," Pallotta said. "We are again calling on lawmakers to continue an upward trend in funding and help our public schools more fully recover from the painful cuts sustained during the 2008 recession."
Pallotta said modifications to the tax cap would enable local districts to relieve some of the funding pressure placed on the state, and bolster local control of schools. NYSUT urged the Legislature to change the allowable tax level limit to 2 percent or CPI, whichever is greater; eliminate the supermajority requirement; eliminate the possibility of negative levy limits; and expand the number of allowable exemptions to the cap.
In pressing for major changes to the state's receivership law, Pallotta said expanding the community schools model is the better approach. Pallotta said one year is not nearly enough time to turn around a struggling school and to begin addressing the myriad issues facing families living in poverty — issues that can be addressed with wraparound services provided through community schools.
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.