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February 6, 2014

UUP tells lawmakers: SUNY needs increased funding for operating costs, teaching hospitals

– The State of New York needs to resume paying more of the cost of operating its public higher education system instead of forcing students to pay through tuition increases, and it should restore funding to its three teaching hospitals in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse.

That’s the view of Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D., president of United University Professions, the union that represents academic and professional faculty at the State University of New York, in testimony today at a legislative hearing on the proposed state budget.

Kowal told lawmakers the Executive Budget proposes flat funding for SUNY for the third year in a row, a practice that shifts responsibility for financing SUNY from the state to students through tuition. And he says that flies in the face of SUNY’s mission.

“Underfunding SUNY tramples upon the very reason SUNY was created—to ensure that each and every New York resident capable of earning a baccalaureate degree has access to that avenue of learning, regardless of affordability, “ Kowal testified. “SUNY campuses have felt the pain of continued state funding cuts; many campuses have reduced course offerings, resulting in fewer classes and larger class sizes.”

To ensure qualified students retain access to quality public higher education Kowal also urged legislators to create the New York State Public Higher Education Full-Time Faculty and Professional Staff Endowment.

“This endowment would rebuild SUNY and CUNY academic departments depleted by chronic underfunding. Endowment funds would also be designated to increase full-time faculty, professional, and support staff lines, and to move contingent and adjunct faculty into permanent positions,” Kowal said. “Considering that state funding to SUNY is down by nearly 40 percent since 2008, while enrollments have increased, the times demand that we be proactive and not reactive. This endowment accomplishes that, and much more.”

The UUP president also asked lawmakers to increase the state subsidy for SUNY teaching hospitals from the proposed $69 million to its former level of $128 million, and to provide an additional $99 million for Downstate Medical Center and $35 million for Upstate Medical University to maintain them as full-service public institutions. “I find it alarming—and frankly, amazing—that the state, within the last month alone, has managed to find more than $43 million in state funds to support private hospitals. Yet, the state has not mentioned, nor provided for, the needs of SUNY’s teaching hospitals or the communities they serve. It is a shame that state dollars are being sent to private hospitals, when SUNY’s public hospitals are in such dire need of that funding,” Kowal said.

He also called on lawmakers to remove the Executive Budget Article VII language that would permit private corporations to affiliate and operate hospitals, and to support the UUP-backed “Brooklyn Hospitals Safety-Net Plan,” which would ensure SUNY Downstate Medical Center will continue as a state-operated public hospital.

Kowal also urged legislators to put pressure on the State Education Department to remove a new assessment tool called edTPA as a requirement for new teacher certification, saying SED implemented the new policy too quickly and without adequate input from faculty.

UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 37,000 academic and professional faculty and retirees. UUP members work at 29 New York state-operated campuses, including SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and health science centers in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse. It is an affiliate of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.


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