ROCHESTER, N.Y. Feb. 6, 2020 — New York State United Teachers is visiting Rochester area schools today to draw attention to the severe impact a lack of state funding has had on schools in the Rochester area and statewide. Union activists are also highlighting the need for new revenues that will enable the state to tackle educational inequality, and other pressing needs.
Meeting with local union leaders, school administrators and elected officials Thursday morning in Brighton, NYSUT President Andy Pallotta 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. Pallotta 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,” Pallotta said. “We hear every year that there is a budget gap, but the state can’t close it on the backs of Rochester’s middle class families and students through more underfunding of our education system. Fully funding our students’ futures can’t wait any longer.”
During stops at Twelve Corners Middle School and Brighton High School, educators and administrators noted that the Brighton Central School District is owed at least $8 million. Educators and administrators say full funding would go a long way toward addressing the needs of all children, especially with their social-emotional needs.
“The state’s complete inability to fund Brighton’s Foundation Aid in an equitable manner relative to other districts has resulted in an unfair burden being put on local taxpayers,” Brighton Superintendent Dr. Kevin McGowan said. “This has inhibited the district’s ability to provide the additional opportunities that parents expect, that all students deserve and that the community depends on.”
The Fund Our Future bus is set to travel to the Rochester City School District later Thursday afternoon.
Rochester is owed $86 million in Foundation Aid. The district recently laid off more than 100 educators and paraprofessionals — mid-year cuts that have been disruptive for students citywide.
The underfunding has taken a toll at schools like School #2, where educators say underfunding has made it difficult for them to meet the social-emotional needs of students and has led to the loss of academic support services, including intervention and prevention programs, reading teachers and librarians. Meanwhile, at RISE School, underfunding has kept the district from expanding academic support services to better address the needs of all students.
“Rochester continues to lag behind its other Big Five Districts for equitable Foundation Aid,” Rochester Superintendent Terry Dade said. “Currently, the allocation the district receives is not adequate to provide the wraparound services that our students deserve.”
State lawmakers are joining with NYSUT in drawing attention to the serious needs schools are facing.
“Education for our children is paramount,” Assemblymember Harry Bronson said. “Every child deserves a good education and a shot at a brighter tomorrow. I have fought and will continue to fight for policies and funding that breaks down barriers and invests in our children. I am proud to promote community schools and other wraparound services, as well as to fight for equitable Foundation Aid that will support our children and their ability to achieve. Like you, I have been working so our young people have a real opportunity to fulfill their dreams no matter where they live.”
“Funding our public education and investing in our children’s future is extremely important,” state Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer said. “As someone who went through public grade school, high school, college and law school, I truly value our public education system.”
As the state budget takes shape, NYSUT’s Fund Our Future bus tour is visiting school districts around New York that, like Brighton and Rochester, 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.