In testimony before the Division of Budget and Deputy Education Secretary Manuel Rivera, NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan Lubin outlined the union's priorities for the governor's upcoming budget proposal.
"As you deliberate on the 2008-09 state budget, we urge you to carefully review the implementation of the Contracts for Excellence and strengthen, where needed, meaningful participation of all stakeholders in the implementation of school reform and as well as accountability for how dollars are spent," Lubin said at the mid-December hearing.
While Lubin recognized the multi-billion-dollar, multi-year education funding commitment made by the Legislature last year, he did offer recommendations to strengthen the foundation formula, including avoiding cutting any district from its base level of funding.
"The governor also rightly insisted on accountability for how foundation aid is spent ... otherwise, these increases could be squandered or directed to non-education purposes," he said.
Unfortunately, Lubin said, Monroe County has already been engaged in such "cynical behavior by cutting its own taxes and stealing revenue away" from 26 school districts across the county mid-year.
He urged restoration of "the rightful funding of our schools in Monroe County."
Another high priority issue for the statewide union, Lubin said, is reforming how charter schools are funded and placing a moratorium on charters in oversaturated districts like Albany and Buffalo. The union called for Impact Aid in addition to the Charter School Transition Aid, which in many cases didn't go far enough to aid districts.
"In light of a projected $4.3 billion budget shortfall, we are concerned with the governor's stated intent to once again propose an education tuition tax deduction voucher in the Executive Budget," Lubin testified. "This proposal is ill-advised and ill-timed."
NYSUT recommended flexibility for Universal Pre-Kindergarten funding, to allow more districts to offer the valuable and proven programs, as well as stronger class-size reduction provisions.
"We look forward to working with you and both houses of the Legislature to ensure that we deliver on the historic promise of providing an excellent education to every child and close the achievement gap that has left far too many children behind," Lubin testified.