Now is not the time for the state to withhold funding that could help New York City students who have been traumatized by the life-changing effects of the pandemic. The governor’s executive budget proposes to reduce needed state school aid and then fill the gap with part of the $2.1 billion that New York State received for schools in the federal stimulus bill. Shortchanging our students now will have long-term consequences for them later.
There’s no question the pandemic has left its mark on our students. They have suffered personal losses, delayed learning and the interruption of so many things — from gatherings with friends to the celebration of milestones like graduation. The children of New York City will face enormous academic and emotional challenges when they return to school in the fall.
But instead of making a bigger investment in the educational resources and social-emotional support our students need, the state is attempting to cut education dollars for New York City public schools and trying to paper over the cuts with federal dollars.
The numbers don’t lie. New York State’s share of funding for our public schools this past year was about 36% — that’s down from an all-time high of about 50% in 2009. It defies reason for the state to decide that now — after the most disruptive and traumatizing year in recent memory — is the time to reduce its contribution to New York City public schools by a combined $1.5 billion between this year and last.
This cannot be our legacy in the COVID-19 era. In the weeks leading up to the April 1 deadline for passing a final state budget, the UFT will be vigorously lobbying state lawmakers and participating in the Fund Our Future campaign on social media.
New York State must increase its own investment in education. To pay for that increase, the UFT is calling for a billionaire’s wealth tax, an ultra-millionaire’s income surcharge tax, a “pied-a-terre” luxury real estate tax and an increase in the state’s corporate tax rate.
The state must support its public schools. We need both state and federal funding to do right by our students.