NIAGARA FALLS — A New York State United Teachers tour event stopped by several Western New York schools Friday to draw attention to the impact a lack of state funding has had on schools statewide.
Meeting with local union leaders, school administrators and elected officials Friday morning in Niagara Falls, NYSUT President Andy Pallotta called on state officials to make full funding of Foundation Aid — the underpinning of how New York funds schools — a top priority this legislative session.
“Our children do not get a do-over,” he said. “We hear every year that there is a budget gap, but the state can’t close it on the backs of Western New York’s middle class families and students through more underfunding of our education system. Fully funding our students’ futures can’t wait any longer.”
During stops at Niagara Falls High School and Niagara Street School, educators and administrators noted that the Niagara Falls City School District is owed $13.7 million in Foundation Aid. Due to underfunding, the district can offer only one social worker for every 2,000 students and only eight guidance counselors districtwide. At the same time, the district is not able to offer a librarian at any of its elementary schools.
“The Niagara Falls City School District is a very poor, small city school district that remains in litigation with the state of New York since 2011 over the state’s failure to follow its own funding formula, which would entitle the district to nearly $20 million more in Foundation Aid yearly,” Niagara Falls Superintendent Mark Laurrie said. “Even after taking the steps to rightsize our buildings, renegotiate health benefits with our union partners and to consolidate many functions, we fight a budget gap over $4 million every year. This is not equitable and far from a sound, basic education for our neediest students.”
The Fund Our Future bus traveled to the Williamsville and Kenmore-Tonawanda school districts later Friday afternoon.
In order to generate the revenue needed to fully fund Foundation Aid, in addition to other state services like health care, housing and transportation, NYSUT is supportive of new taxes on billionaires and ultramillionaires.