March 09, 2020

NYSUT draws attention to higher education funding needs, teacher shortage at Southern Tier events

Source:  NYSUT Media Relations
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CORNING, N.Y. March 9, 2020 — New York State United Teachers is visiting the Southern Tier today to draw attention to two pressing issues facing education in New York State: the need for additional funding for public higher education and the statewide teacher shortage.

Meeting with fellow NYSUT officials, faculty and students Monday afternoon at Corning Community College, NYSUT President Andy Pallotta called on the state to make increased funding for community colleges a priority in the upcoming state budget. Pallotta also advocated for new taxes on billionaires and ultramillionaires that would generate billions of dollars in new revenue for essential state services.

“The education provided by our community colleges is about more than just getting a degree — it’s about providing a pathway to the middle class for New Yorkers,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “Funding public higher education is funding the future of our state. That must be a priority this budget cycle.”

Professional Educators of Corning Community College (PECCC) members say proposed layoffs and cuts at Corning will deprive students of the courses and resources they need. Like other community colleges across the state, Corning’s tight budget is driven by underfunding by the state.

Without increases in state funding, which the executive budget proposal does not provide, community colleges statewide may be forced to raise tuition and/or eliminate programs and student services to balance their books.

What’s more, while state law requires that the state funds 40 percent of community college operations, the proposed state budget provides funding for only 28 percent of Corning’s operating needs.

NYSUT is advocating both for the state to meet its statutory obligation to cover 40 percent of operating costs for community colleges and to provide consistent, stable funding for community colleges as they deal with the effects of fluctuating enrollment.

“CCC cutting programs and dedicated faculty is not a solution to years of underfunding by the state, it’s a double whammy that is harmful to our students,” PECCC President Ryan Hersha said. “Instead of more draconian cuts, restoring what we’ve lost and ultimately expanding our offerings would go a long way toward better serving our current students and attracting new students looking for an affordable, quality education. We’re calling on state legislators and college trustees to listen to the needs of students and community members, and help our college to thrive again.”

NYSUT representatives are set to visit Thomas A. Edison High School (2083 College Ave., Elmira Heights) from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday evening for the latest in a series of summits aimed at encouraging students and career-changers to take a look at teaching.

The Elmira Heights Take a Look at Teaching Summit will engage educators, students, higher education faculty and policymakers in a dialogue about how to inspire a new generation to become teachers and help diversify the profession. Elmira Heights Teachers Association President Geoffrey Pierce, local union members and other education leaders will join NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene T. DiBrango for small group discussions exploring questions about and possible solutions to the shortage. The shortage has manifested in difficult to staff subject areas, such as special education and English as a Second Language, in districts statewide.

The discussions also will delve into the need to diversify the teaching workforce. While 43 percent of students statewide are Hispanic/Latinx or African-American, just 16 percent of the teachers are.

“The teacher shortage is no longer looming. It’s here,” DiBrango said. “Whether for English as a Second Language classes or even math and science classes, we need thousands of new teachers who can help our students flourish and achieve their full potential. The time to reverse this shortage is now.”

Enrollment in New York’s teacher education programs has declined by 53 percent since 2009. At the same time, the state Teachers’ Retirement System projects that one-third of the state’s teachers could retire in the next five years. SUNY projects that New York will need 180,000 teachers in the next decade.

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.

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