ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM-TV)- New York State United Teachers is visiting schools in the Southern Tier to draw attention to the severe impact a lack of state funding has had on schools statewide.
Union activists are also highlighting the need for new revenues that will enable the state to tackle educational inequality, and other pressing needs.
“Our children do not get a do-over,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “We hear every year that there is a budget gap, but the state can’t close it on the backs of New York’s middle-class families and students through more underfunding of our education system. Fully funding our students’ futures can’t wait any longer.”
Meeting with local union leaders, school administrators, and elected officials Thursday morning in Elmira, NYSUT called on state officials to make full funding of Foundation Aid, the underpinning of how New York funds schools, a top priority this legislative session.
NYSUT also advocated for new taxes on billionaires and ultra millionaires that would generate billions of dollars in new revenue for essential state services.
During a stop at Diven Elementary School, educators and administrators noted that the Elmira City School District is owed $12.5 million in Foundation Aid. Educators and administrators say full funding would go a long way toward addressing students’ social-emotional needs, providing after-school programming and continuing the district’s 1:1 device program, which allows students to access laptops necessary for 21st Century lessons.
“We are excited to work with NYSUT to address the challenges we face with funding, so we can improve the programs and experiences we provide for Elmira’s students,” Elmira Superintendent Hillary Austin said. “Through our collaboration, we are hopeful that we can achieve full funding for our schools and provide the high-quality education our students deserve.”
The Fund Our Future bus is set to travel to the Schenevus Central School District later Thursday afternoon.
Schenevus is owed more than $700,000 and has been forced to cut AP classes, increase class sizes and go without a librarian because of underfunding.
“The state can’t just expect school districts to make due with another year of underfunding, forcing us to consider more cuts to our programs and services,” Schenevus Superintendent Theresa Carlin said. “Schenevus students deserve better. It’s time they got their fair share from the state.”
State lawmakers are joining with NYSUT in drawing attention to the serious needs schools are facing.
“I firmly believe that we must invest in our students and our schools, today, to ensure a better world tomorrow,” Assemblymember Brian Miller said. “When we properly fund our schools, we are funding essential resources and programs that help shape who our children will become: technology, new course offerings, art and music programs, athletics. All of these are important to the development of well-rounded individuals. Our school districts should not be forced into a ‘Hunger Games’ style of choosing which programs to keep or cut.”
As the state budget takes shape, the Fund Our Future bus tour will stop in school districts around New York that, like Elmira and Schenevus, have been underfunded by the state. Additional tour dates and locations will be announced in the near future.
NYSUT, as a member of the New York State Educational Conference Board, is calling for a $2.1 billion increase in state aid in the 2020-21 state budget, which includes the first installment of a three-year phase-in of the more than $3.4 billion in Foundation Aid owed to more than 400 school districts around New York.
In order to generate the revenue needed to fully fund Foundation Aid, in addition to other state services like health care, housing, and transportation, NYSUT is supportive of new taxes on billionaires and ultra millionaires.