May/June 2022 Issue
April 16, 2022

Union activism delivers in state budget

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source: NYSUT United
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Caption: President Pallotta, center, speaks at a news conference with lawmakers and activists to advocate for funding to hire mental health professionals in schools. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Addressing many of the proposals in NYSUT’s Future Forward Task Force report, the enacted 2022–23 New York state budget moves us a step closer to finally keeping the promise to fully fund Foundation Aid, addresses the teacher shortage and includes needed resources for higher education.

Thanks to NYSUT’s advocacy, the fiscal plan increases support for pre-K and expands funding for mental health services. It also provides more for SUNY and CUNY and community colleges, as well as relief for SUNY hospitals.

NYSUT and the house of labor won big as the budget also begins to fix the deeply flawed Tier 6 pension plan, and includes long-deserved bonus compensation for health care workers in education and health care settings who have sacrificed so much during the pandemic.

“This budget delivers historic resources for education, continues the promise to fully fund Foundation Aid and ends the TAP Gap, all critical steps years in the making,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta.

“It provides funding to hire mental health staff to support students at every level and to bolster professional learning for educators through teacher centers and implicit bias training,” he said.

“But redefining public education as a system that truly supports every child is unceasing work, which is why we’ll continue fighting for dedicated funding for community schools that would deliver transformative supports for families in every community,” he said. (See related article.)

The pension reform “that will ensure public servants in Tier 6 have access to a high-quality, fair pension,” Pallotta said, is not only more equitable, it is critical to tackling the shortage of educators.

“This gives us yet another tool for attracting the next generation of teachers, School-Related Professionals and public employees into state and local service.

“Significant resources for SUNY and CUNY mark a step toward transformational change for our public higher education system,” Pallotta said. The promise to cover debt service for SUNY hospitals, “the backbone of the state’s pandemic response,” he said, is essential for continued quality public health care for New Yorkers.

There is much more work to do.

“The legislative session is not done yet, so neither is our work,” Pallotta said. “We will continue to advocate on behalf of our members and those they serve as we strive to move our state and our future forward.”

The $220 billion spending plan represents an increase of 1.7 percent over the executive budget and 3.8 percent over last year’s enacted budget. Here are some highlights:

School Aid

A total school aid amount of $31.2 billion, marking the second year of the three-year phase-in of the Foundation Aid formula.

Each school district receives at least a 3 percent increase in Foundation Aid.

COVID-19 grants

NYSUT has relentlessly emphasized the need to address the social-emotional needs of children striving to emerge from the pandemic. The budget allocates $100 million for school districts and BOCES to address student well-being and learning loss.

These grants can be used to employ mental health professionals and expand school-based mental health services or other evidence-based mental health supports for students and school staff.

There’s a further $10 million for student mental health support grants to school districts.

Implicit bias

Funding was increased to $1.25 million for the “Many Threads, One Fabric” NYSUT–led implicit bias training for public school educators.

Teacher centers

The union’s support boosted funding by nearly 50 percent to $21.4 million for teacher centers and $368,000 for National Board Certification.

Community Schools

The fiscal plan continues to provide $250 million in community school funding as a set aside through Foundation Aid.

4201 schools

Nearly $106 million goes to 4201 Schools; $900,000 each goes to the NY School for the Deaf and the Henry Viscardi school; $500,000 each for Mill Neck Manor School and the Cleary School; and $150,000 for the St. Frances de Sales School for the Deaf.

Minimum wage

$17.2 million for increased salaries for staff in 4201, 4410, Special Act and 853 Schools that are covered by the increased minimum wage law.

Universal Pre-K

$125 million for expansion of universal pre-kindergarten and funding for full-day kindergarten.

School meals

$34.4 million for the school meal program.

Teacher residency

$30 million for teacher residency programs, $25 million for the Teachers of Tomorrow program and $2 million for the Teacher-Mentor Intern Program.

School bus driver training grants

$400,000 per school year to school districts, BOCES or to contract with not-for-profit educational organizations for bus driver training.


HIGHER ED

SUNY and CUNY

$892 million in state aid for SUNY state-operated campuses and $729 million for CUNY senior colleges.

Community Colleges

Using 2021–22 as the base year, the budget establishes a 100 percent funding floor for CC Base Aid, which amounts to a $3.8 million boost for SUNY CCs.

TAP expansion

Expands TAP to $1 billion and includes community college part-time students as well as students in non-degree programs leading to employment; at long last, eliminates the TAP Gap by fully funding TAP tuition credits beginning in fiscal year 2023.

Mental health

CUNY and SUNY get $2 million each for mental health services.

Full-time faculty

$106 million to be divided equally between SUNY and CUNY to fund new full-time faculty positions at senior and community colleges.

SUNY hospitals

$67 million for debt service.

Modernization

The budget also makes SUNY hospitals eligible — along with community colleges and state-operated campuses — to receive a portion of $60 million allocated to SUNY to modernize operations. CUNY receives $40 million.

Expansion of nursing programs

$3 million to CUNY and $2.6 million to SUNY to expand nursing programs.


LABOR

Earnings cap

Suspends the wage cap through June 2023 for public retirees who return to work in school districts and BOCES.

Public pensions

Changes to public pension plans include reducing employee vesting requirements from 10 years of service to five years of service for Tiers 5 and 6; and excluding overtime from the calculation when determining the employee contribution payment for Tier 6 members during COVID-19.

HEALTH and SAFETY

Recruitment and retention

The budget provides bonuses to front-line health and mental health care workers who earn $125,000 or less and, due to NYSUT lobbying, expands covered titles beyond nurses to include therapists, psychologists and social workers, and more, and includes educational work settings.

Also establishes a Nurses Across NY program.

School-based health centers

$1.9 million for school-based health centers.


SOCIAL JUSTICE

Gender options

It provides an “X” option for transgender and non-binary New Yorkers when dealing with agencies outside of DMV that collect gender information.

Marriage certificates

The plan creates a process for New Yorkers to more accurately reflect a name change or gender identity.

 

 

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