The school year is underway in New York, but the state's teachers union already looking ahead to January and a push to boost funding for schools.
New York State United Teachers union President Andy Pallotta is optimistic the state budget next year will reflect a long-sought desire for education advocates: A boost in school aid by $2.2 billion.
“We would love to see $2.2 billion,” said Pallotta. “These are the education leaders in this state and we would love to see the Legislature, the governor, all come through with a big number and a big increase to make up for the years there wasn't a great deal of funding for these schools.”
Pallotta says his focus as kids return to school remains on issues like education funding, which have been ranked among the most strident policy debates at the state Capitol.
“It's not just K to 12 funding. We're talking about higher ed-funding, because it's crucial we have a great CUNY and SUNY system in this state.”
Governor Cuomo's administration has touted the spending increases for education aid for the last several years, pointing to the record amount the state spends as a whole on schools statewide. Meanwhile, the state test scores in math and English have seen modest gains.
“We have and we take every positive thing that we see and we rejoice and we celebrate,” Pallotta said. “But we also know there's so much more to be done. We want parents and students are confident in the state education department. That they have a trust in it that it's looking out for their interests.”
Aside from funding, the teachers union is also closely watching the selection process for the new education commissioner after MaryEllen Elia announced she would step down to lead a national education group.
“It's crucial to us, to the entire state, that they have someone in there fighting for them,” said Pallotta.
While the state's kids are back to school, state lawmakers don't return to Albany until January.