ELLENVILLE, N.Y. Feb. 28, 2020 — New York State United Teachers is visiting schools in Ellenville and Kingston today to draw attention to the severe impact a lack of state funding has had on schools across the region and across the state. Union activists also are highlighting the need for new revenues that will enable the state to tackle educational inequality and other pressing needs.
Meeting with local union leaders and school administrators in Ellenville Friday morning as part of the Fund Our Future bus tour, NYSUT officials called on state officials to make full funding of Foundation Aid — the underpinning of how New York funds schools — a top priority this legislative session. NYSUT also advocated for new taxes on billionaires and ultramillionaires that would generate billions of dollars in new revenue for essential state services.
“Our children do not get a do-over,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “We hear every year that there is a budget gap, but the state can’t close it on the backs of New York’s middle class families and students through more underfunding of our education system. Fully funding our students’ futures can’t wait any longer.”
The Ellenville Central School District is owed $4.3 million in state Foundation Aid funding. Underfunding has left the district without enough supports for students’ social-emotional needs, as well as a lack of resources for arts and music programs.
“Pitting programs against each other or having to consider increasing class sizes in order to hire new counselors because we are underfunded isn’t what’s best for our students,” Superintendent Lisa Wiles said. “With full state funding, Ellenville would look to hire more counselors, create a school health clinic, offer better supports for students to combat absenteeism, and provide new foreign language opportunities and other enriching courses like arts and music — to name only a few of our needs. We’re looking to the state to do what’s right by our students and fully fund education this year.”
The Fund Our Future bus was set to travel to the Kingston City School District Friday afternoon for a roundtable discussion and school tour. Kingston is owed $14.7 million, leaving the district grappling with a tight budget amid growing student needs. Officials say additional state funding is necessary to hire additional English language interpreters who can work with an influx of English language learners. Meanwhile, a lack of resources means that a successful integrated classroom model at the elementary level may be on the chopping block.
“Proper and equitable funding of our schools is the only way to ensure our schools can provide students with the tools, skills and opportunities they need to be successful,” Superintendent Paul Paladino said. “As a small city school district, Kingston faces many challenges, and equitable funding will allow us to be more effective in reaching our students and their families.”
State lawmakers are joining with NYSUT in drawing attention to the serious needs schools are facing.
“Our rural students are not getting the opportunities they deserve,” state Sen. Jen Metzger said. “I represent 31 school districts in mostly rural communities, and the current amount of state Foundation Aid owed to these schools is a whopping $138 million dollars. The Ellenville School District, alone, is owed $4.3 million — a school in which over 70 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch. We have to make sure every child has access to a quality education. We should not shortchange our children.”
"Meeting the needs of every student in our state is a responsibility we all share,” Assemblymember Kevin Cahill said. “I will continue to work with my colleagues to fully fund our commitment to a quality education for every child. Thank you to our NYSUT sisters and brothers for their activism and creative approaches to increasing community awareness of the educational issues we are facing."
“I firmly believe that we must invest in our students and our schools, today, to ensure a better world tomorrow,” Assemblymember Brian Miller said. “When we properly fund our schools, we are funding essential resources and programs that help shape who our children will become: technology, new course offerings, arts and music programs, athletics. All of these are important to the development of well-rounded individuals. Our school districts should not be forced into a ‘Hunger Games’ style of choosing which programs to keep or cut.”
As the state budget takes shape, NYSUT’s Fund Our Future bus tour is visiting school districts across New York that, like Ellenville and Kingston, have been underfunded by the state. A full schedule of tour dates and stops can be found at FundOurFutureNY.org.
NYSUT, as a member of the New York State Educational Conference Board, is calling for a $2.1 billion increase in state aid in the 2020-21 state budget, which includes the first installment of a three-year phase-in of the more than $3.4 billion in Foundation Aid owed to more than 400 school districts around New York.
In order to generate the revenue needed to fully fund Foundation Aid, in addition to other state services like health care, housing and transportation, NYSUT is supportive of new taxes on billionaires and ultramillionaires.
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.