Hundreds of New York State United Teachers members went to Albany Feb. 15 to call on their state legislators and urge them to reject $1.5 billion in proposed education cuts.
The member lobbyists, including teachers and school support staff as well as college faculty and professionals, shared a common message: "Don't erase our progress." They presented the lawmakers with chalkboard erasers and asked them not to erase the progress students have made, while sharing with them stories about how deep budget cuts would damage programs, student achievement and the state's fragile economic recovery.
"Teachers and others who work in our public schools and colleges are taxpayers, too, and they understand that New York's fiscal crisis is serious," says NYSUT president and AFT vice president Richard Iannuzzi. "Educators have rolled up their sleeves and done the hard work to provide cost savings to their districts, while still protecting student programs and ensuring that classroom professionals are treated fairly. Now, it's time for the governor and Legislature to step up and protect public schools and colleges from even greater harm, and to ensure that the notion of 'shared sacrifice' includes all New Yorkers, including the most affluent."
The lobbying coincided with NYSUT executive vice president Andrew Pallotta's testimony to legislators. He said that a drop-off in federal aid, abandonment of the state's promise to fully fund the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision and the threat of an ill-conceived tax cap are squeezing school districts and creating a "perfect storm" that would be exacerbated by $1.5 billion in additional cuts. If enacted, the governor's proposed budget would balloon class sizes; deprive students of art, music and the services of guidance counselors; and lead to the elimination of extracurricular activities in many communities, Pallotta noted.
"NYSUT has made it clear it is willing to work, as partners, at the state and local level to preserve essential services," Pallotta said. "It should be absolutely clear, however, we can't cut our way to educational excellence, and New York voters understand that as well. They also understand that as deep cuts are proposed for education, the wealthiest 3 percent of New Yorkers would enjoy a multibillion-dollar tax cut—which they resoundingly oppose."
In New York City, meanwhile, the United Federation of Teachers launched a television ad campaign Feb. 12 urging Mayor Michael Bloomberg to protect teachers and schools, not millionaires. The 30-second spot, called "Blizzard," will run through Feb. 22 on local broadcast stations as well as cable television networks in the New York metropolitan area, including airtime on some of TV's most popular shows.
Of the ad, UFT president and AFT vice president Michael Mulgrew says, "Instead of making his number one priority attacking teachers, the mayor should join our effort to extend the millionaires tax to add several billion dollars to the state budget, eliminating any possibility of layoffs." [NYSUT, UFT]
February 15, 2011