Motorists and commuters from Buffalo to Long Island, and people surfing social media, will soon be seeing NYSUT’s widespread demand that lawmakers address the chronic underfunding that for too long has plagued the state’s public -education system.
This week, the statewide union launched a $300,000 multimedia campaign — funded through a National Education Association grant — that will include billboards, mass transit ads and digital advertisements that will play across a variety of social media platforms.
The multi-pronged campaign, which will run statewide through April, is a continuation of the Fund Our Future bus tour conducted last year by NYSUT, during which the union’s leadership traveled the state over a three-month span to highlight the immense difficulties with which schools are struggling due to an unrelenting shortage of state aid.
“New York State has a moral obligation to ensure every student receives a quality education and the chance to succeed no matter the ZIP code in which they live,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “But the persistent lack of appropriate state funding is robbing students of that opportunity. We are needlessly and recklessly risking the future of our children, who do not have the luxury of a ‘do-over.’ It is time Albany right this wrong, once and for all.”
The state owes a total of $4.05 billion to more than 400 school districts. The massive shortfall has wreaked havoc on school systems at a time when increasing demands are being placed upon them. The funding gap has left schools severely understaffed, resulted in larger class sizes and severe overcrowding, eroded academic intervention, mental health and interpretation services, and led to the elimination of hundreds of positions and programs. Consider:
- In Rochester, district officials enacted mid-year cuts last year of more than 100 teachers and nearly 70 support staff, a move that caused disruption for thousands of students.
- In Schenectady, 100 teachers and more than 200 School-Related Professionals were eliminated in September.
- In Riverhead on Long Island, overcrowding is so bad at Pulaski Street Elementary that lunch is served on a rotating basis to 420 students who are forced to eat in 11-minute shifts.
- In Kenmore, reading services are conducted out of coatrooms.
- In Niagara Falls, there’s one social worker for every 2,000 students and only eight guidance counselors for the district’s entire 7,000 student population.
Along with supporting the infusion of federal aid to supplement the state budget, NYSUT will continue fighting for passage of a progressive tax plan to raise revenues through new taxes on billionaires and ultramillionaires in New York state to ensure they pay their fair share.
Polls have shown an overwhelming majority of New York voters agree with NYSUT, and want to levy new taxes on the ultrawealthy, many of whom have grown richer during the COVID-19 pandemic while — like public schools — too many families have struggled just to scrape by.
“Teachers and school-related professionals have been doing nothing short of a remarkable job in an increasingly challenging and hamstrung environment,” said Pallotta. “But we can only tread water so long. The chronic underfunding that is plaguing our schools will eventually make it impossible for districts to keep their head above water. It’s time New York State keep its promise to our students and provide the funding necessary for the quality education to which they are entitled.”