WATERTOWN, N.Y. March 6, 2020 — New York State United Teachers is visiting Watertown schools today to draw attention to the severe impact a lack of state funding has had on schools in the North Country 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 and school administrators Friday 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 the North Country’s middle class families and students through more underfunding of our education system. Fully funding our students’ futures can’t wait any longer.”
Watertown is owed nearly $11 million in state Foundation Aid funding. NYSUT officials first toured Ohio Elementary School, where educators say full funding would go a long way toward addressing student mental health and early intervention issues, as well as bolstering school safety. NYSUT officials also visited Watertown High School, where underfunding has led to a lack of elective courses and insufficient STEM course offerings.
Districtwide, underfunding has an impact on teacher recruitment and the district’s ability to meet various state mandates and special education needs.
“If our goal is to provide a high-quality education to every child, we cannot simply make do with underfunding from the state,” Superintendent Patricia LaBarr said. “Proper funding would mean we can offer more support for mental, emotional, and physical health needs; modern STEM courses; and enriching electives. Our students deserve nothing less.”
State lawmakers are joining with NYSUT in drawing attention to the serious needs schools are facing.
“Schools across Central and Northern New York — including many in rural areas — need an equitable state aid plan that supports quality education and increases opportunities for children,” state Sen. Patty Ritchie said. “When our region’s schools are properly funded, districts will be able to expand course offerings, enhance school safety and in short, create brighter futures for our students.”
“Education is the investment in our next generation of workforce, citizens, innovators, and leaders,” Assemblymember Mark Walczyk said. “Ensuring the schools of the front yard of America get their fair share of funding to provide quality education is critical. I'll be pushing hard as we near the budget deadline to ensure our schools and local taxpayers aren't hampered once again by some Albany funding scheme that leaves common sense and equity in the dust.”
“Our children deserve the best. We need to make sure they’re receiving the greatest quality education,” Assemblymember Ken Blankenbush said. “The budget proposal is drastically lower than the $2.1 billion increase requested by NYSUT. This is unacceptable. Education plays a major role in allowing our youth to succeed in life, and that’s why I’ll be fighting to ensure that our schools are fully funded and our children are provided every opportunity to achieve their full potential.”
As the state budget has taken shape, NYSUT’s Fund Our Future bus tour has visited school districts around New York that, like Watertown, 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.