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CONTACT: Mike Lisi (518) 640-6600
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February 8, 2016

UUP to lawmakers: Now is the time to invest in SUNY

ALBANY - United University Professions President Fred Kowal called on the state to significantly increase full-time faculty at SUNY through the creation of a permanent endowment for public higher education and to adopt a union initiative to stem a burgeoning crisis in teacher education.

Testifying today at a public hearing conducted by the Legislature’s joint fiscal committees, Kowal said the time is now for the state to commit to increase the proportion of full-time faculty to 70 percent. That can be accomplished by the creation of the Excelsior Excellence Fund.

“Such an endowment could provide the long-term and growing resources to rebuild SUNY and CUNY academic departments depleted by historic underfunding, support transition of accomplished adjunct faculty and part-time staff to full-time positions, and provide crucial intellectual investment to attract and grow new and emerging businesses,” said Kowal.

SUNY relies heavily on adjuncts and nontenured faculty; 56 percent of SUNY academics are ineligible for tenure. More than 6,100 academics are part-time; more than 4,200 are full-time, non-tenure track faculty. Full-time tenure-track faculty are crucial to the academic, service and research missions of campuses, he said.

Kowal urged legislators to budget $15 million to create UUP’s Recruiting and Educating Teachers for All program, which would increase diversity in the state’s teaching ranks, while recruiting underrepresented and economically disadvantaged individuals to the teaching profession. It would also help bring teachers to underresourced, high-needs districts.

“Diversity in education that begins with the teacher provides social benefits such as reinforcing the value of a student’s own identity, as well as providing more role models for all students,” said Kowal.

Modeled after the state’s successful Educational Opportunity Program, the initiative would provide financial assistance and support from counselors to help future teachers earn their teaching degrees. Students would have to be state residents and meet strict income guidelines.

Kowal also prodded lawmakers to restore the subsidy to SUNY’s three public hospitals to its 2008 level of $128 million. The governor has budgeted an $18 million reduction (to $69 million) in his 2016-17 Executive Budget. The appropriation is compensation to SUNY hospitals for being the only state entities that pay debt service and fringe benefits payments.

Additionally, Kowal pressed lawmakers to approve UUP’s proposal for a Brooklyn Health Care Plan to develop four SUNY Downstate owned-and-operated ambulatory care centers.

Kowal also called on lawmakers to:

    • Change to the state’s procurement law that would stop for-profit testing companies from profiting from student teachers by charging—and recharging—them fees to take mandatory exams. Students can end up spending $1,000 or more to take and retake tests. The state can enter into contracts with the companies to develop and assess tests for free. The companies, which make their money from student fees, have little incentive to fix flawed exams. UUP’s plan would have the State Education Department pay companies to develop the tests; SED would collect testing fees from students.
    • Institute the Buffalo Health Care Teaching Fellows program to streamline medical training for residents at the University at Buffalo Health Science Center. Under the plan, these fellows, who would be permanent SUNY employees, would focus on training residents and would have a 20 percent cap on clinical work. Currently, Academic Scholars—who are not connected to the medical school or its curriculum—train residents. The scholars devote the majority of their time to clinical practice.
    • Reconfigure SUNY’s performance-based funding program to support investment in full-time faculty as part of an education quality initiative.

“UUP believes that access to quality academic and support programs shouldn't depend on the zip code you were born into or your family’s bank account,” said Kowal. “The greatest engine of social progress and upward mobility is public higher education. Our confidence is high that our program will improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers. Such a goal is one that our members embrace enthusiastically, committed as we are to the best possible future for our university and, most importantly, our students.”

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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