ALBANY, N.Y. May 18, 2011 - New York State United Teachers today estimated that voters passed 93.5 percent of school budgets on the first try, demonstrating that New Yorkers value education and local control, and want to spare their schools from even deeper cuts.
According to a preliminary count, voters in 565 districts passed budgets, while 39 budgets went down in defeat Tuesday. Results for several dozen districts were not available. A final tabulation should be available by mid-afternoon.
With debate over an ill-conceived tax cap plan continuing in Albany, NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said the preliminary budget results suggest local communities are quite capable of democratically determining their own educational priorities, instead of being forced to accept a one-size-fits-all property tax cap imposed by Albany.
"We already have a democratic process for capping property taxes, and it works pretty well," said Iannuzzi, noting that 242 school districts - nearly 4 in 10 - reduced spending this year. The average spending increase this year was just 0.84 percent, the lowest ever documented.
Iannuzzi praised voters in local communities who supported school budgets, especially where drastic cuts in state aid made tax increases almost unavoidable. "We're thankful that so many local communities accepted, albeit grudgingly, the extra burden placed on them by the Legislature's failure to adequately fund education," he said. "Going forward, we will work with those communities to ensure that Albany meets its obligation to guarantee every child a quality education."
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta said this year's $1.3 billion cut in state education aid put school districts in untenable positions, forcing them to choose between draconian cuts to programs; layoffs of teachers and staff, or unpopular increases in local property taxes.
"The choice to give millionaires tax breaks while cutting funding to education will result in thousands of layoffs for middle-class professionals and diminished opportunities for students," Pallotta said. "Our students deserve better. The state needs to do its fair share and stop passing along the pain to students and local taxpayers in order to please the wealthiest and most privileged in our state."
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.