In the midst of a pandemic that hit New York state so hard, this year’s battles for an equitable state budget were more important than ever.
And, we won!
“We did it together!” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta.
The statewide union’s legislative staff, political action coordinators and hundreds of volunteer activists seized every opportunity in this challenging year.
“Thank you for every email, every phone call, and everything else you did to help get these critical budget victories over the finish line,” Pallotta said. “Together, we will always make a difference!”
After years of lobbying, marching and protesting, NYSUT members finally won progressive tax reform, ensuring that the ultrawealthy will pay their fair share to support public education, health care, small businesses, cultural groups and more.
After working for a generation with a broad coalition, NYSUT members this year won a commitment to fully phase in the Foundation Aid formula over the next three years, including payment of the $4 billion the state already owes to districts under the formula. The budget guarantees at least a 2 percent increase in Foundation Aid for every school district in the state.
NYSUT members and higher education activists made progress after a decade of chronic underfunding, with elimination of the TAP Gap over the next three years, additional funding for student opportunity programs, more than $1 billion in new capital funding for CUNY and SUNY, and restoration of proposed funding cuts to community colleges and four-year campuses.
The union also gained critical provisions to protect retirees’ health care.
“It’s an understatement to say it has been a tough year, but this budget brings hope for revival starting in 2021,” Pallotta said.
“That isn’t to say there is not more work to be done, though,” he said. “We now turn our attention to the remainder of the legislative session. We will continue to advocate on behalf of our members and those they serve to ensure our communities don’t just have what they need to return to normal, but that the policies in place help us come back stronger.”
Here’s what the enacted budget provides:
$19.8 billion in Foundation Aid, for a total of $29.5 billion, an 11 percent increase. It rejects the Local District Funding Adjustment and the executive proposal to reduce state support by $607 million. It fully funds expense-based aids and rejects proposals to consolidate them.
Federal COVID-19 Supplemental Stimulus
Before July 1, school districts must share plans on how to spend this one-shot funding on a variety of needs, such as: the safe return of students to in-person learning, educational technology and addressing the impact of COVID-19 on students. Parents, educators and other stakeholders must be part of the process.
The federal money is available for districts to use right away, but the state spending plan does not allow districts to use the federal money to increase their unrestricted reserves.
Implicit Bias Training
$1 million for NYSUT’s implicit bias training program — part of the “Many Threads, One Fabric” initiative which seeks to address racial and social injustice.
Funding to offer high speed broadband service at a cost of no more than $15 per month to lowincome families.
$250 million in community school funding as a set aside through Foundation Aid.
The budget restores mid-year cuts to teacher centers and provides $14.26 million for teacher centers 2021–22. It includes $2 million for mentoring and $184,000 for National Board Certification.
Special Schools $30 million capital fund for 4201 Schools, and $17.2 million to provide minimum wage assistance for 4201, 4410, Special Act and 853 Schools.
$11.5 million for mental health support grants to school districts.
$3 million for grants to school districts to increase the use of alternative approaches to student discipline.
$535 million for a three-year phase-in of statewide universal pre-K for 4-year-olds.
Using 2020–21 as a base year, the budget establishes a 98 percent funding floor for Base Aid for 2022 and includes a $50 FTE increase.
The spending plan eliminates the TAP Gap in four years. The maximum TAP award has been increased by $500 to $5,665 for 2021–22.
$230 million for the three SUNY hospitals to offset the costs associated with uncompensated care, and $150 million in capital funding for expenses incurred in the past year.
During the pandemic, SUNY hospitals were on the forefront of care delivery, and Downstate was converted to a COVID-19 only hospital.
It is important that these hospitals are compensated for the invaluable role they played.
In the remainder of the session we will be seeking hazard pay for UUP members who were on the frontline, as well as debt service relief for the hospitals.
The final budget rejected proposals to eliminate the full reimbursement of Medicare Part B standard premiums to retirees enrolled in New York State Health Insurance Plan, to eliminate the reimbursement of the Income Related Medicare Adjustment Amount, and to institute a graduated or sliding scale health insurance reimbursement system, preserving the current flat rate contribution.