Feb. 10, 2015

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Kowal urges lawmakers to invest in SUNY, save teacher prep programs

uupdate 2-10-15

Click here for UUP's testimony

UUP President Fred Kowal, center, criticizes the governor’s proposed state budget during his Feb. 10 testimony before a legislative budget hearing in Albany.

Flanked by PSC/CUNY President Barbara Bowen and NYSUT Director of Legislation Steve Allinger, Kowal told members of the Legislature’s joint fiscal committees that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2015-16 budget continues a trend of disinvestment in SUNY. Once again, the governor’s spending plan would force students to shoulder the majority of the University’s funding through tuition and fees.

“This Executive Budget fails to provide funding necessary to support SUNY’s public hospitals and the basic expenses of the University’s state-operated campuses,” he said. “This can be tolerated no longer. The state must provide SUNY with its fair share to fulfill its mission to provide educational services of the highest quality, with the broadest possible access.”

In his testimony, Kowal urged legislators to increase aid for SUNY’s operating costs by $131.4 million, which would bring the state closer to funding 50 percent of SUNY’s operating budget. State funding currently covers just 37 percent of SUNY’s costs, with the remaining 63 percent borne by students.

Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) agreed that change is necessary.

“Too much of the burden (of funding SUNY) has fallen on the students and not on the state,” she said.

Kowal spoke out against the governor’s plans for SUNY’s teacher preparation programs, pointing to a budget provision that would tie the closure of teacher prep programs at public or private college campuses to students’ test scores.

“The governor’s proposal is based on unfounded assertions about the state of teacher prep programs. He is trying to eliminate programs that have proven effective,” Kowal testified.

Kowal’s concerns registered with lawmakers, including Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca), who peppered SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher with questions about the edTPA teacher performance assessment during the chancellor’s testimony earlier in the day.

Assembly member Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Brooklyn) questioned the chancellor over proposed funding cuts to SUNY’s Educational Opportunity Program as a group of nearly 50 UAlbany EOP students listened. The students were in Albany to participate in UUP’s advocacy day for EOP and SUNY’s Educational Opportunity Centers; the governor slashed EOP funding by $1.3 million in his proposed budget.

Kowal called for the restoration of funding for EOP in his testimony.

He also opposed the governor’s performance-based funding proposal, and urged lawmakers to reverse a proposed $19 million cut in the state hospital subsidy and to reject Article VII budget language that would allow private investors to own and operate SUNY hospitals.

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