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Mulgrew gives Cuomo’s budget a thumbs-up

El-Wise Noisette UFT President Michael Mulgrew makes a point to legislators, while NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta looks on.

In testimony before state lawmakers on Jan. 29, UFT President Michael Mulgrew praised the governor’s proposed executive budget, which features a 4.4 percent increase in education spending next year.

He called that increase “an important step forward” for a school system that has suffered several years of budget cuts.

“We urgently need to reinvest in our classrooms and reverse years of cuts that have led to larger class sizes and the loss of many programs and services that students depend on,” he said. “We also need to begin rebuilding our teaching ranks, which were decimated by the hiring freeze.”

Mulgrew asked lawmakers to support the governor’s education proposals — $15 million for the development of community learning schools, grants to allow schools to extend learning time, a career ladder for teachers and $25 million for full-day prekindergarten. Mulgrew called it “a strong package of proposals that will help move our schools and our profession forward.”

One key area that the governor’s executive budget did not fund is Teacher Centers.

“This is unfortunate,” Mulgrew said. “Teacher Center funding must be restored; where else will our educators go to get relevant professional development?”

In New York City, he noted, many new teachers continue to leave the system within their first few years. He cited studies that say that many more new teachers would stay if they received appropriate mentoring and support — services that Teacher Centers can provide if properly funded.

Mulgrew also asked lawmakers to consider additional funding for child care that would enhance early childhood education beyond the governor’s proposal to extend full-day pre-K in low-income districts.

Noting that “the days of simply watching children while their parents are at work are long gone,” Mulgrew gave specifics on how the 20,000 family child care providers represented by the UFT are giving young children a strong academic foundation.

Mulgrew also used his testimony to set the record straight on how negotiations for a teacher evaluation deal fell apart, costing the city’s schools $240 million in state funding this year. In response to questions from the panel, he made it clear that the mayor’s stated reasons for why the negotiations fell apart were not correct and that State Education Commissioner John King supported the union’s version of events.

Mulgrew pledged the UFT’s commitment to negotiating an evaluation system that helps and supports teachers. But no deal has been reached, he said, because “we need people on the other side of the table who are interested in creating a system that will truly help teachers improve, not in leaving a legacy of blame.”

The UFT will journey en masse to Albany for a full day of lobbying on March 6.

While the deadline for the state to adopt a budget is April 1, many lawmakers have said that they aim to get a budget done by March 21 this year.

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