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April 1, 2015

UUP: Mixed bag for SUNY in new state budget

ALBANY – United University Professions President Frederick Kowal, Ph.D., said he was concerned about certain aspects of the 2015-16 state budget, despite steps taken by the state Legislature to improve on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s flawed original budget proposal.

Most importantly, the enacted budget falls far short of properly funding SUNY, while instituting a mechanism to create a performance-based funding system for the University that may harm some campuses.

Kowal acknowledged that things would have been much worse if state lawmakers had not taken action to temper many of the governor’s draconian budget proposals in the enacted spending plan.

“Overall, this budget is not good news for public higher education,” said Kowal. “But without the intervention of our allies in the state Legislature, the budget would have been a disaster for higher ed. We thank the Legislature for taking a stand and protecting SUNY for our students.”

Legislators restored and increased funding to SUNY opportunity programs, and rejected the governor’s proposal for a private equity capital pilot program that could have opened the door to the privatization of SUNY’s three teaching hospitals in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse.

They also nullified the governor’s proposed $18.6 million cut in the state hospital subsidy and turned back his plan to hold 10 percent of funding appropriated to SUNY campuses until they complete a campus-specific performance funding plan.

The budget does not provide the necessary resources to meet SUNY’s growing needs and continues the University’s dependency on students for the bulk of its funding. Students pay 63 percent of SUNY’s operating costs through tuition and fees.

Additionally, a provision in the enacted budget gives the State Education Department commissioner the ability to suspend and deregister graduate teacher preparation programs based on test scores from deeply flawed certification exams.

Finally, Kowal remains uneasy about a lack of oversight of the $700 million allocated in the budget for capital spending on hospitals in Brooklyn.

“These funds could be very helpful in bringing about the changes needed to secure medical care for Brooklyn well into the 21st century. We urge the governor and the state health commissioner to consult with all stakeholders—including public unions—to ensure that this allocation of funds will result in stronger public hospitals that provide life-saving health care to all.”

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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