January 22, 2013

Progress on budget, but some school needs still unmet

Source: NYSUT Media Relations

ALBANY, N.Y. Jan. 22, 2013 - New York State United Teachers today said the proposed executive budget builds on positive education initiatives that are essential to ending the achievement gap and raising overall student performance. NYSUT noted that state aid to public schools and colleges still remains below what's needed to reverse damage wrought by the Great Recession, previous budgets and the property tax cap.

NYSUT said the proposed $889 million increase in education spending would bring total state aid to schools to $21 billion, still about $100 million less than the $21.1 billion that New York state invested in the state's nearly 700 school districts in 2008-09. Holding funding flat for SUNY, CUNY and community colleges - and significantly reducing state funding to SUNY hospitals - will curtail the ability of those institutions to train the next generation of workers and help revitalize the state's economy, the union added.

"This proposal starts what can be a positive budget for New York's schoolchildren," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "It takes many steps in the right direction, but we still need to address years of inequality and the state's failure to meet its legal obligation, in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, to address the achievement gap by investing more in its low-wealth, high-need school districts." Iannuzzi added, "Community schools, full-day pre-kindergarten and more time in the classroom for our most at-risk students are all great ideas that will require a much greater investment of state resources."

Iannuzzi also credited the executive's budget's plan to raise the minimum wage and increase unemployment benefits for displaced workers. "Unemployment benefits and the minimum wage in New York have lagged behind other states for far too long. This proposal takes significant steps in addressing both issues," said Iannuzzi.

While details and fine print of budget language must still be fully analyzed, NYSUT praised several education initiatives in the proposed education budget, including $25 million in funding for full-day pre-kindergarten programs and $20 million for extended learning time - ideas embraced by the governor's Education Reform Commission and in his State of the State address. In addition, NYSUT said a new "career ladder" for master teachers who help train other teachers, and a 'bar exam' for aspiring educators would be "steps toward increasing the stature of the teaching profession."

NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta applauded the governor's proposal to recognize the short-term spike in pension contributions stemming from Wall Street's collapse in 2008-09. In addition, Pallotta said greater access and more support are needed for worthy programs, such as full-day pre-kindergarten.

"These quality programs should be available to all children," Pallotta said. "Providing students what they need to succeed in school is a moral imperative. We will again strongly advocate for all children and oppose having students compete for what they deserve in the first place."

Pallotta said the union would also fight to reverse deep cuts to SUNY teaching hospitals, which are already in deep distress. "SUNY teaching hospitals need more state support," he said.

Pallotta noted the union - and its 600,000 members - would strongly advocate for what the state's public schools, colleges and hospitals need to succeed and said, "NYSUT vows to work with the governor, and elected leaders in the Assembly and Senate, to craft a final budget that better meets the needs of the state's public institutions and the New Yorkers they serve."

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.

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