PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. Jan. 31, 2020 — New York State United Teachers is visiting Long Island schools today to draw attention to the severe impact a lack of state funding has had on schools 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 Friday morning in Port Washington, 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 Long Island’s middle class families and students through more underfunding of our education system. Fully funding our students’ futures can’t wait any longer.”
During a stop at Weber Middle School, educators and administrators noted that the Port Washington Union Free School District is owed $4.9 million in Foundation Aid and highlighted some of the challenges this presents to educators, including increased class sizes and the loss of after-school programs.
“We don’t want to steal anybody’s piece of the pie,” Port Washington Superintendent Michael Hynes said. “We just want to make sure the pie is much larger and fully funded so we can move forward.”
The Fund Our Future bus is set to travel to the Riverhead Central School District later Friday afternoon.
Riverhead, which is owed more than $31.1 million, is facing overcrowded classrooms of more than 30 students and difficulties keeping up with the needs of an increasing population of English language learners.
“While the Harmed Suburban Five Districts show potential slight increases in funding, it is still nowhere near what is considered our fair share. The projected increase to Foundation Aid for Riverhead is actually only about 4.77 percent. This is not enough,” Riverhead Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez said. “We intend to push forward, increase our advocacy efforts and travel to Albany to ensure that our collective voices are heard. We are calling on our state legislators to represent the needs of our children and communities. We will continue to fight for our fair share.”
State lawmakers are joining with NYSUT in drawing attention to the serious needs schools are facing.
“As an educator, I will always support funding for education,” state Sen. Monica R. Martinez said. “It is imperative that our classroom sizes are manageable for teachers to effectively educate and help each student thrive. The services required by our students of all learning capabilities must be funded to ensure they meet state and federal standards to be successful in their education. I applaud the efforts of NYSUT for continuing to fight for the best interests of all students and their educational needs.”
“I am in full support of NYSUT’s ‘Fund our Future’ campaign. Urgent proactivity and efficient planning are vital for our children’s education here in the State of New York,” Assemblymember Taylor Darling said. “Schools in my district are owed the third highest amount of Foundation Aid — somewhere to the tune of $215 million. This inconceivable loss when we have so many unfunded mandates is further confirmation that education is and always has been a civil rights issue. We all know that education equals empowerment. We want our power back, so it is time to go and get it.”
“Ensuring our schoolchildren have the resources they need to unlock their full potential is one of my top priorities as a member of the Assembly’s Education Committee,” Assemblymember Kimberly Jean-Pierre said. “Unfortunately, our public schools have been shortchanged for far too long, and I stand with NYSUT in calling for a budget that fully funds Foundation Aid so that Long Island schools truly receive their fair share.”
As the state budget takes shape, NYSUT’s Fund Our Future bus tour is visiting school districts around New York that, like Port Washington and Riverhead, 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.