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Hochul state budget plan ‘best I’ve seen’

New York Teacher
Hochul state budget

UFT President Michael Mulgrew gives his report at the Jan. 19 Delegate Assembly.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew lauded Gov. Kathy Hochul’s state budget proposal, telling the Delegate Assembly on Jan. 19 that “the starting place for the budget is the best I have ever seen since I’ve been president.”

Hochul proposed a $2.1 billion increase for the state’s public schools — a 7% funding boost that Mulgrew said “we have not seen in close to 20 years.” That increase represented a real commitment to fully fund New York public schools, a key element of the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, he added.

Mulgrew noted that Hochul’s plan also allocated funds for Teacher Centers statewide. No executive budget since 2006, when George Pataki was governor, has included Teacher Center funding, he said. Those funds have always been added later in budget negotiations.

But not all the budget news was positive, Mulgrew said. Hochul also proposed more funding for charter schools — though charters will not receive as big an increase as public schools — and the budget plan raised the amount of money that New York City would be required to give charters for facilities and space, even though these things are already included in the basic funding formula for charters.

“It sounds unfair,” Mulgrew said, “and it is unfair.”

Hochul also recommended a four-year extension of mayoral control in its current form, which Mulgrew said the union does not support.

“We don’t want to go back to school boards,” he said, “but we don’t believe this form of mayoral control has done what’s best for the children.”

Mulgrew said the UFT would lobby state lawmakers to keep the good provisions of the school governance law and eliminate the bad.

But UFT members will not be making their annual trek to Albany this year to make their pitch directly to state legislators. “The Legislature announced all lobbying will be done remotely because of the pandemic,” Mulgrew said.

Mulgrew called the first two weeks of January “two of the roughest weeks in New York City public schools ever” due to the omicron wave that resulted in many student and staff absences.

“What you all did was amazing,” he said. “I was in a number of schools and what I saw you all doing is why you’re all heroes.”

UFT Staff Director LeRoy Barr announced that materials had been sent to schools for the union elections this spring for president and other officers, executive board members and convention delegates. He said the statements by caucuses and independent candidates would be published in the Feb. 17 and April 14 issues of the New York Teacher.

The Delegate Assembly was once again hybrid, with some delegates attending in person at Shanker Hall and others participating by phone.