Union Victories
April 22, 2024

NYSUT notches big wins in budget agreement

Source:  NYSUT Communications
NYSUT notches big wins in budget agreement

We advocated. We rallied. We won. It’s been a busy few months for NYSUT’s roster of dedicated lobbyists and activists, but making our voices heard in the halls of power has paid off in the final state budget. After many hours of negotiations, a cyber-attack and likely countless cups of coffee, the state Legislature approved a roughly $237 billion spending plan.

“NYSUT and nearly 700,000 members across the state this year made their voices heard to win a budget that supports public schools, colleges and the labor movement,” said NYSUT President Melinda Person. “We thank the Legislature and governor for a final agreement that demonstrates these priorities.”

“This budget will support our current educators and attract new educators by continuing the process of fixing Tiers 5 and 6 in the pension system,” continued Person. “It will boost the impact of our colleges and universities with additional funding and require a collaborative process to revitalize SUNY Downstate. It will restore the majority of proposed cuts to public school funding and, importantly, will begin the process of updating the Foundation Aid formula to ensure every student in the state has access to a sound, basic education,” Person said.

“New York can and will lead the country with strong communities, engaged citizens and a world-class workforce,” she concluded. “Our union advocacy in this year’s state budget puts us on the road to do just that.”

Here’s what’s in this year’s final budget:

Foundation Aid:

The budget rejects the proposed year-to-year cuts through save-harmless and restores most of the money that schools originally lost in the executive budget proposal. This funding is vital for strong public schools and ensuring our students, communities and educators get the resources they deserve.

This restoration of this essential funding would not have been possible without the thousands of NYSUT members, students, parents and concerned community members who took action, wrote their lawmakers, showed up to rallies and advocated for the restoration of Foundation Aid to levels our schools deserve.

The budget also lays out a framework for the process of updating the Foundation Aid formula. There will be a study, led by the Rockefeller Institute of Government and the New York State Education Department, to review and update the formula. The study is due Dec. 1, 2024.

As this process moves forward, we will work diligently to make sure that all stakeholders are represented and that their voices are heard.

Retirement Security - Fix Tier 6:

Thanks to NYSUT activism, we won the biggest win for pension reform in 20 years — lowering the Final Average Salary calculation from five to three years for Tier 6 members. Since members usually earn more later in their careers, a three-year calculation instead of a five-year calculation means more money every year in retirement. Exact figures will vary, but for an average teacher working in New York this would mean around $100,000 in additional lifetime retirement earnings. 

We’ve always known this would be a long-term fight and this represents another major step toward pension parity for ALL of our members.

SUNY Downstate Hospital:

The budget provides for the revitalization and modernization of SUNY Downstate, a major medical school and research hospital that cares for Brooklyn’s underserved populations. The proposal to close SUNY Downstate has been rejected and a commission — that includes union input — will be created to develop a proposal for the future of the hospital to ensure continued care for at-risk communities in Central Brooklyn.

SUNY/CUNY Operating Aid and SUNY Community College Aid:

The budget increases SUNY operating aid by $60 million, capital by $60 million and community college support by $6 million over the executive proposal. CUNY was pledged $40 million more in operating aid, $40 million more in capital and $4 million more in community college support than the executive proposal.

After years of underfunding, our higher education institutions need more full-time faculty, better adjunct pay, and increased funding for student mental health services. This funding is a good first step toward giving our world-class institutions the resources they need. 

Teacher Centers:

The budget provides $14.3 million in funding for teacher centers. These centers are state-funded professional development tools for all school districts, and they are essential to guiding educators through multiple instructional approaches and instructional technologies. We will continue to fight for full funding restoration.

Science of Reading:

The budget includes $10 million toward professional learning for an estimated 20,000 teachers in the Science of Reading instructional best practices. This training will be developed for educators, by educators, through NYSUT’s Education and Learning Trust, and it will give NYSUT members another tool to instill the love of reading in every student.

TAP Increase:

The budget increases the state's Tuition Assistance Program, adding $53 million and changing the minimum award from $500 to $1,000 and increasing income eligibility from $80,000 to $125,000. The income threshold is rising for the first time since 2000.

Retiree Waiver:

The budget extends the earnings cap waiver for public retirees who return to work in public schools, allowing them to earn over the statutory $35,000 cap.

IRMAA Proposal Rejected:

The budget rejects the executive plan to eliminate reimbursement for the Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts (IRMAA) for “higher” income state retirees. The proposal would have retroactively discontinued the IRMAA Medicare Part B reimbursement, costing affected retirees anywhere from $694 to $4,164 annually.

Many Threads, One Fabric:

The Legislature added over $1 million in funding for the continuation of NYSUT’s Many Threads, One Fabric training program.