May/June 2019 Issue
April 19, 2019

School budget votes more important than ever

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source: NYSUT United
school bdget voting
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In some ways, this year’s budget was a one-two punch against public education. In addition to severely underfunding schools, the governor and lawmakers chose to make permanent the ill-conceived tax cap.

Now, in perpetuity, the cap will be tied to the previous year’s rate of inflation, or 2 percent, whichever is LOWER. The financial pressure on schools will increase, since the law limits the ability of districts to raise revenue locally to offset losses in state aid. Who pays the price? The kids.

“This is an arbitrary and inadequate way to address school funding,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “It’s unfair to taxpayers, it’s undemocratic and it hurts students, especially in higher-need, lowerincome districts.”

This makes it more important than ever to support local school budget votes and board elections statewide on Tuesday, May 21.

Districts that seek to exceed the cap to make up for inadequate school aid must gain a supermajority of 60 percent yes votes to pass the budget. It’s a risky proposition.

It’s important to realize any budget that does not win voter approval translates into a 0 percent cap. That means, if the budget in a district goes down once, the school board can choose to have a revote, but may go directly to contingency and there would be no additional resources for the education of children.

That’s a scenario that’s particularly troubling when you consider that, in New York state, there have been several years of cuts in education aid. Many mandatory annual costs increase faster than inflation, so a flat budget becomes a slashed spending plan. As a result, students, schools and communities continue to cope with thousands of layoffs and cuts to programs.

Pallotta says student success is at risk like never before.

“Education is not a frivolous expense,” he said. “It’s an investment in the future — not only in the future of our students, but the economic well-being of our state. When you go to the polls on May 21, know what’s at stake.

“Voting ‘yes’ on your budget this year is an important step toward helping schools recover from the troubling fiscal constraints under which they’ve been operating the past few years, and a critical investment in our children’s education and future,” he said.

NYSUT provides tools and guidance for local union activists and volunteers to help pass school budgets and elect pro-public education board members. If you would like to help Get Out the Vote for May 21 — either for your work district or your home district — contact your union rep or your NYSUT Regional Political Organizer through www.nysut.org/RPO.

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