January 30, 2013
By Susan Smith, LaborPress Albany Bureau
ALBANY, N.Y. – New York State United Teachers commenting on the proposed executive budget has stated that it builds on positive education initiatives essential to ending the achievement gap and raising overall student performance. NYSUT noted that state aid to public schools and colleges still remains below what's needed to reverse previous budgets and the property tax cap.
According to NYSUT, the proposed $889 million increase in education spending would bring total state aid to schools to $21 billion, still about $100 million less than the $21.1 billion that New York state invested in the state's nearly 700 school districts in 2008-09. Holding funding flat for SUNY, CUNY and community colleges – and significantly reducing state funding to SUNY hospitals – will curtail the ability of those institutions to train the next generation of workers and help revitalize the state's economy, the union added.
"This proposal starts what can be a positive budget for New York's schoolchildren," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "It takes many steps in the right direction, but we still need to address years of inequality and the state's failure to meet its legal obligation, in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, to address the achievement gap by investing more in its low-wealth, high-need school districts." Iannuzzi added, "Community schools, full-day pre-kindergarten and more time in the classroom for our most at-risk students are all great ideas that will require a much greater investment of state resources."
Iannuzzi also credited the executive's budget's plan to raise the minimum wage and increase unemployment benefits for displaced workers. "Unemployment benefits and the minimum wage in New York have lagged behind other states for far too long. This proposal takes significant steps in addressing both issues," said Iannuzzi.
NYSUT praised several education initiatives in the proposed education budget, including $25 million in funding for full-day pre-kindergarten programs and $20 million for extended learning time – ideas embraced by the governor's Education Reform Commission and in his State of the State address. In addition, NYSUT said a new "career ladder" for master teachers who help train other teachers, and a 'bar exam' for aspiring educators would be "steps toward increasing the stature of the teaching profession."