ALBANY, N.Y. Feb. 14, 2017 – New York State United Teachers today backed the Regents’ call for a $2.1 billion state aid increase, and urged the Legislature to extend the millionaire’s tax and close the carried interest loophole to bring in badly needed revenue to support student learning.
In kicking off its “Public School Proud” campaign on Valentine’s Day, with red-and-white buttons and calls to “show the love” for public education, NYSUT acknowledged the Legislature’s support for increasing school aid over the past several years. However, NYSUT said that, with a 1.26 percent tax cap for 2016-17 on top of last year’s 0.12 percent cap, the state must invest $1.5 billion just to maintain academic programs and staff.
“Our public schools are working. Graduation rates are rising and we are putting more of a focus on teaching and learning instead of testing,” said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee. “And, while the proposed executive budget puts public education on the right path, we must continue to work together to help districts fund programs and $600 million in needed enhancements that went by the wayside during the economic downturn.”
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta said this year’s tax cap will harm the ability of local school districts to raise funding from their communities. “The 1.26 percent cap is not even the promised 2 percent,” he said. “School districts statewide will only be able to generate $200 million in local funds, and this places an even greater importance on school aid from Albany. For many school districts, state aid will be the only additional source of revenue.”
Pallotta said NYSUT also strongly supports maintaining the long-standing Foundation Aid formula, but is open to tweaks to update it and make it more progressive. He noted the Foundation Formula is a neutral measurement that spells out the ability of school districts to provide their students with the sound, basic education guaranteed by the state Constitution. “While the state has fallen far short of fully funding the formula, we believe the formula serves a vital purpose for school districts,” he said.
In testimony before the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees, Pallotta urged lawmakers to restore fairness to state tax collections by extending the expiring “millionaire’s tax” and enacting the Assembly’s progressive tax plan for the state’s highest earners. Doing so would generate about $5.6 billion to support public education, health care and infrastructure improvements, Pallotta said.
Pallotta also pressed the Legislature to close the “carried interest” tax loophole, which lets partners at private equity firms and hedge funds pay a greatly reduced federal tax rate on much of their income by declaring it to be capital gains. “We believe in fairness,” Pallotta said. “Ordinary income earned by hedge fund operators and private equity firms should be treated exactly the same as ordinary income earned by kindergarten teachers, nurses and truck drivers — and doing so would bring in roughly $3.5 billion a year to support middle-class families.”
NYSUT also testified in support of additional funding for community schools; again called for the repeal of the state’s receivership law; and called for expanded funding for early childhood programs, teacher professional development, and career and technical education.
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.