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NYSUT President Andrew Pallotta speaks to Committee of 100, March 2, 2020. Photo from NYSUT photostream.

RC 10 members Bonnie Maxon, Vince Pelliccia, Priscilla Mueller and Deb Escobar attended the NYSUT Committee of 100 on March 2-3, 2020. The reports are as follows:

Representatives were treated to talks from NYSUT officials including President Andrew Pallotta and others. Pallotta discussed the “Fund Our Future” NYSUT bus which is traveling across the state, a positive image for our union. He stated that the Governor is taking notice and people are paying attention that schools are not receiving funding that is owed to them. He also stated that we have a crisis of current needs in schools, including needs for mental health, psychologist, social workers. In Auburn, for example, The ratio of guidance counselors to students is one to 2,500 in elementary schools. Pallotta said that “With numbers like that, NY is not a progressive state.”

He also discussed the fact that there are 112 billionaires in New York State, and they should be paying their fair share. NYSUT supports taxing the ultra-wealthy to generate $10 billion per year, an enhanced millionaire’s tax generating $2.2 billion in revenue, and a transfer tax on luxury second homes in NYC that would generate $5 million per year.

NYSUT urges the legislature to increase school aid by $1.6 billion to begin a three year phase-in of foundation aid. NYSUT also opposes the proposed merger of ten separate aids into foundation aid, the creation of a new tier in building aid, and a cap on transportation aid.

NYSUT urges the legislature to reject the executive budget proposal to increase funding to charter schools and calls for a charter tuition formula fix to address public school districts subsidizing charter schools. Taxpayers should not pay for tuition increases that go directly to shareholders. The charter school experiment is a failure and it is time to support public education, not for-profit companies.

NYSUT also urges the legislature to require charter schools to disclose financial information on contracts signed with education management organizations. It is taxpayer money and should be accounted for.

NYSUT urges the legislature to amend the tax cap so schools can raise their tax levy by 2 percent or CPI, whichever is greater, and remove the 60% supermajority requirement to exceed the cap.

Other topics included Special Education mandate relief, and a ban on the gender-based discrimination which is called the “pink tax.”

RC 10 representatives went to a number of meetings with legislators to lobby them for increased school funding, and share other concerns. Here are the results:

*All four members attended the meeting with Carrie Woerner. Carrie is a great friend of public education. She is well informed and concerned. She felt that the Tax Cap was going to remain as long as we had Governor Cuomo in office. She felt that financial aid “buckets” should be flexible, but the categories should be “like buckets,” not “unlike buckets.” Vince made the point that charter schools take critical public school funding, and she agreed and stated that charters “cherry pick” students. She also felt we should protect BOCES funding.

Vince and Bonnie visited Jake Ashby, who represents most of Rensselaer County, parts of Washington and Columbia counties. He was pleasant, asked questions and understood that rural schools have financial difficulties supporting their programs. Bonnie spoke about the Special Education residential schools and the Executive Budget proposal to shift the cost of special education residential placements from the Office of Children and Family Services to school districts. This would eliminate the 18.42 percent state share for placements. He seemed to understand this problem for school districts. He was aware that his district has several of these Special Education residential schools.

He did say that he would have to think about NYSUT’s thoughts on the tax cap.                                                                            

Deb and Priscilla attended the meeting with Phil Steck. He advocated for a .25% tax on stock and bond transfers. Though funds raised by this tax would go towards infrastructure, his point was that this would free up money that is normally used for infrastructure and that could go towards school. Deb pointed out that public schools are infrastructure.

Priscilla met with Neil Breslin and advocated for the billionaire’s tax. Each Senator was given a pledge to sign that they would support this proposal.

Priscilla and Bonnie met with John McDonald. He was in touch with the items we spoke about, and mentioned that his wife is a teacher so he hears our concerns at home.

As usual, Senator Daphne Jordan (43rd District) canceled the meeting late the night before, and did not make any of her staff available.

Deb and Priscilla met with a representative from Pat Fahy’s office who was very knowledgeable on our concerns and took copious notes. She stated that Fahy wrote a letter on February 1 to the Speaker asking for foundation aid three-year phase in. She is also against merging separate aid categories into foundation aid, and wants more money for community schools, opioid crisis, etc.

Deb met with a representative from Senator Amedore’s office who was stone-faced and noncommittal, took no notes, made no comments. Amedore is retiring this year and it appeared to Deb that his staff had a case of “senioritis.”

Deb met with Senator Tedisco, who is always favorable to education. He seemed frustrated to be in the minority but said he was, as always supportive of more aid to schools. He did not commit to sign the pledge for taxing billionaires.

A rally was held on the Million Dollar staircase at noon, but it was so crowded and the sound was so bad that it was nearly impossible to hear the speakers.