Public schools in New York will get an additional $1.1 billion in the new state budget.
The budget also extends for two years the so-called millionaire’s tax, preserving up to $4.5 billion in annual revenue, and keeps in place a cap limiting the number of charter schools, both positive outcomes for city public schools.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew lauded union members for the part they played.
“Your advocacy helped make sure the state budget did not include changes we knew would hurt our public schools — ending the millionaire’s tax and eliminating the current charter cap,” Mulgrew said. “Your calls, emails and faxes, and your demonstrations outside the offices of members of the Legislature, helped make sure the millionaire’s tax was extended and the current charter cap stays in place.”
Members of the UFT and its state affiliate, NYSUT, sent nearly 2,000 faxes and made nearly 1,000 phone calls to get their message to the Senate Republicans, who were pushing to expand and enrich the charter sector at the expense of neighborhood public schools. And on the same day as upstate protests, UFT members on March 24 picketed the offices of Republican senators Andrew Lanza on Staten Island and Marty Golden in Brooklyn to tell them why neighborhood public schools need and deserve their support.
A new budget provision also allows those members and their colleagues in all public and private unions to deduct their dues on state income taxes [see story].
The $153 billion budget passed on April 9, nine days into the 2017–18 fiscal year and a week after an emergency “budget extender” kept the government operating. It includes a hike of 4.4 percent — to $25.8 billion — in K–12 school aid. Of the $1.1 billion increase, $700 million will be foundation aid.
“Thanks to the efforts of Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie (a Bronx Democrat) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, schools in many of our neediest areas will receive an increase in foundation aid,” Mulgrew said.
Charter schools will receive an additional $500 per pupil in 2017–18. Charters in New York City also will get $8 million in new rent subsidies — an increase from 20 percent to 30 percent — but a measure that would have provided additional funds for statewide building facilities was defeated.
The budget also includes $50 million more through foundation aid set aside for community schools, an increase of $5.7 million in funding for Teacher Centers, an additional $5 million to expand high-quality prekindergarten in high-need school districts, $8 million to provide e-books to students in the City University of New York and the State University of New York systems, and free tuition at both two- and four-year schools in CUNY and SUNY for families with annual incomes up to $100,000 this year and $125,000 in three years.
The issue of mayoral control of city schools was not addressed and will be up for debate again when the legislative session resumes.
“In a national political climate that is hostile to public schools, we need a state budget that protects them,” Mulgrew said. “But the fight is far from over, particularly with the Trump administration considering a variety of federal measures that would damage public education.”
Mulgrew encouraged members to be vigilant and to use the union’s #PublicSchoolProud campaign to keep showing legislators the importance of public schools. “Stay focused, and stay ready to show our determination to fight for our kids and our schools,” Mulgrew said.