SYRACUSE, N.Y. Feb. 14, 2020 — New York State United Teachers is visiting Central New York schools today to draw attention to the severe impact a lack of state funding has had on schools in Central New York and across the state. 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 Friday morning in Syracuse as part of the Fund Our Future bus tour, 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 Central 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.”
“This fight to Fund Our Future is about reinvesting in our schools and communities after a decade of neglect and austerity in our country’s schools,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “Our demand today is that New York make good on the more than $3.4 billion in Foundation Aid owed to more than 400 school districts around New York. We’re speaking up to make sure that students are not an afterthought when budget decisions are made — not just here in New York, but across the country.”
During a stop at Franklin Elementary School (428 S. Alvord St., Syracuse), educators and administrators noted that the Syracuse City School District is owed $48.7 million in Foundation Aid. Continued academic progress with a focus on early literacy and mathematics and the increased social-emotional needs of students are top priorities that the district is looking to address through additional funding.
“We are starting to see real gains in student achievement including our highest graduation rate in the past 10 years, but in order to sustain this progress we need the continued support from our elected officials,” Syracuse Superintendent Jaime Alicea said. “Student achievement is dependent on many factors including the physical and mental well-being of our students and their families. The needs facing our students and families continue to increase and we currently spend more than $20 million per year on social-emotional and health care costs for them.”
The Fund Our Future bus is set to travel to the Auburn Enlarged City School District later Friday afternoon.
Auburn is owed $6.4 million in Foundation Aid. The district is grappling with a lack of social workers and counselors to meet students social-emotional needs, a reduction of art and music classes and increased class sizes that in some grades have peaked at 30 or more students.
“We cannot be expected to force students to go without the staff and programs they need to thrive,” Auburn Superintendent Jeffrey Pirozzolo said. “We need the state to step in and fully fund Auburn’s schools now to ensure every child has a bright future ahead of them.”
State lawmakers are joining with NYSUT in drawing attention to the serious needs schools are facing.
“It is the responsibility of the state to provide a sound, basic education to our children,” said Assemblyman William B. Magnarelli. “Providing sufficient resources in our budget is how this is accomplished each year. We in the Assembly continue to work toward making sure those necessary resources are provided.”
Added Senator Rachel May, “Schools across the 53rd District have been chronically underfunded for years. Each budget cycle we have to fight to secure funding, while our schools struggle. Our school districts are united in the effort to secure Foundation Aid wherever it is due and I am committed to bringing their fight to Albany. Thank you to NYSUT who continues tirelessly in their efforts to support our teachers and our students.”
"As the budget negotiation process continues, education will be one of my top priorities for increased funding," said Assemblymember Pamela J. Hunter. "The issues identified by NYSUT at Franklin Elementary School and elsewhere underscore the hardships caused by chronic underfunding. These challenges are largely shouldered by our teachers and underprivileged students and must be remedied as soon as possible."
As the state budget takes shape, the Fund Our Future bus tour will stop in school districts around New York that, like Syracuse and Auburn, have been underfunded by the state. Additional tour dates and locations will be announced in the near future.
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 public education, in addition to other state services like public higher education, 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.