Testifying in Albany on Feb. 6 on the executive budget, UFT President Michael Mulgrew called for a $2.2 billion increase in education funding in the coming fiscal year — substantially more than the governor proposed.
“With this level of support, New York City and other districts could focus on providing equity for their highest-need students and begin to create a level playing field for all schools,” he said. “We don’t want schools to face difficult choices over what can and can’t be funded.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed an increase of $956 million in state school aid. The state Board of Regents and the Education Conference Board have also called for a $2.2 billion increase.
Mulgrew also advocated for additional funding for three union-based education initiatives that have proven track records of success: the UFT Teacher Center, the UFT Community Learning Schools Initiative and the Positive Learning Collaborative, a joint DOE-UFT initiative to improve school climate.
The UFT is requesting that the state restore funding for teacher centers statewide to $40 million, the amount the centers received 10 years ago; provide $5 million to support the 31 community learning schools in low-income areas of the city; and allot $1.5 million to expand the Positive Learning Collaborative program, now in 26 schools, to 10 to 15 additional schools in New York City.
“While we have made many advances in school aid funding in recent years,” said Mulgrew, “there is still significant work to be done to further support and strengthen our school communities.”
The UFT president put forward a number of proposals for how the state could raise the revenue to pay for necessary public investments, such as education.
He said the state should not only extend its millionaire’s tax, which generates $4.4 billion a year, but also increase the rate for the wealthiest New Yorkers. He suggested levying a luxury tax on real estate transactions over $5 million.
Albany, Mulgrew said, could explore a “clawback” on the federal tax cut from large corporations that didn’t increase wages or create jobs. He said the state should close the carried-interest loophole, which allows hedge funders to pay lower rates on capital gains.
“While the vast majority of New Yorkers continue to struggle with stagnant salaries and rising everyday costs, the state’s richest citizens have seen their wealth multiply many times over,” Mulgrew said. “Addressing that substantial income inequality and preventing massive disinvestment requires this kind of boldness, and these mega-earners can afford it.”
The governor’s executive budget is the opening volley in the back-and-forth with state lawmakers. The state budget must be finalized by April 1, the start of the next state fiscal year.