ALBANY, N.Y. May 20, 2015 – New York voters delivered a strong vote of confidence in public education and the work of the state’s dedicated teachers, paraprofessionals and school leaders, approving 99 percent of school budgets in Tuesday’s balloting, according to a preliminary count by New York State United Teachers today.
“Parents and community members carefully reviewed school budgets and demonstrated the importance of local control by voting on their school budgets,” said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee. “In every region of the state, what we see today is a ringing endorsement of the work of teachers and school leaders in public schools on behalf of the state’s most important asset – its students.”
Magee said school budgets are, in essence, a ‘strategic plan’ for districts’ educational programs and fiscal priorities. “Parents and communities are united with educators across the state against the governor’s ‘test-and-punish’ agenda. All year, we have seen an outpouring of support from New Yorkers who know that our state has excellent public schools staffed by caring and dedicated educators,” Magee said. “We are thrilled to again see taxpayers give public education an enthusiastic ‘thumbs up’ by adopting school budgets in what appears to be record numbers.”
With information from 566 school districts, NYSUT said voters adopted 558 school budgets and defeated just 8, for a pass rate of 99 percent. A record 98.2 percent of budgets passed in 2014, and 95.3 percent won passage in the May vote in 2013.
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta said a $1.3 billion state aid increase is enabling school districts, in some parts of the state, to begin restoring programs and staff, but was still not enough to overcome the impact of state aid cuts imposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Meanwhile, he said, the undemocratic tax cap is denying communities local control over their schools and is allowing a minority of voters to dictate spending levels against the wishes of the majority. Just 19 districts even attempted over-rides on Tuesday, with 12 succeeding.
“Local taxpayers should be able to decide – without interference from Albany – how much they want to invest in programs for their own children in their own public schools,” Pallotta said. “The tax cap unfairly robs them of that choice while permitting 40 percent of the community to undemocratically dictate school spending.”
According to data contained in Property Tax Report Cards, school districts, on average, proposed budgets for 2015-16 that contain a 1.83 percent spending increase, below last year’s 2.63 percent. Tax levy increases in school budgets averaged 1.48 percent, below last year’s 1.98 percent and below the average tax levy for at least the previous eight years.
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.