ALBANY, N.Y ., June 23, 2008 — New York State United Teachers today celebrated strong improvement in test scores, led by dramatic — and, in some grades — double-digit gains among students in the Big Five school districts. NYSUT noted a proposed property tax cap would jeopardize the state's increasingly successful efforts to close the achievement gap.
NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said test results released today are yet another sign that the state's historic investment in public education — combined with local property taxpayers voting repeatedly to support their local school budgets — is paying off in the classroom.
"These gains are impressive. They leave no doubt that children — especially those who live in poverty — are achieving at higher levels. New Yorkers want quality schools and they want a voice in what happens in the schools in their own communities," Iannuzzi said. He noted the gains underscore that. "An artificial cap would jeopardize the overall progress we are making and could thwart our efforts to end the achievement gap."
NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira said the results of the tests, required under No Child Left Behind, are particularly encouraging because they demonstrate that local and state funding increases over the last two years are making a difference.
Neira noted the number of students demonstrating proficiency in math in grades 3 through 8 climbed 8.2 percent, while the percentage of students scoring at Levels 3 and 4 in English Language Arts rose 5.3 percent. Students in the Big 5 school districts, which benefited from significant funding increases under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision and Contracts for Excellence, "showed improvement that, in some cases, is nothing short of spectacular," Neira said. "Teachers and parents, working together with the right resources, is the formula for success."
"School districts have been using the state and local increases in funding wisely to lower class sizes, provide more support for students who are struggling and increase instructional time," Neira said. " New York is heading in the right direction."
NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan B. Lubin noted that as school districts' costs for fuel, health insurance and utilities rise — and school districts possibly facing arbitrary caps on how much local revenue they can raise for education — programs to help students will undoubtedly suffer. "Caps are the wrong approach to providing tax relief," Lubin said, citing a new poll released today by a Dutchess County tax reform group that shows broad support for a circuit-breaker that would limit the percentage of a household's income that could be tapped for property taxes.
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents some 600,000 classroom teachers and other school employees; faculty and other professionals at the state's community colleges, State University of New York and City University of New York, and other education and health professionals. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.