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NYSUT encourages districts to use funding increases wisely

This year we made historic funding gains for education. Thanks to NYSUT advocacy, we saw increased state revenue from tax reform. And that money, in combination with additional resources from the federal government, is keeping New York state’s pandemic recovery headed in the right direction.

School districts have a unique opportunity to put supports, services and programming in place to help students not just recover from the hardships of the past few years, but to thrive. In testimony I delivered before state senators last month — at a hearing that looked at how schools are using that funding — I encouraged lawmakers to make sure that districts invest wisely.

A year and a half ago, NYSUT started the “Fund Our Future” campaign to raise awareness about the funding needs of our schools and students. As part of the campaign, we launched a bus tour to visit schools around the state and highlight the need for additional educators, social workers, school counselors, school psychologists and school nurses.

NYSUT believes that all students should have access to trained health and mental healthcare professionals throughout the school day. Because the truth is, in a post-covid world, those services are needed now more than ever.

While students and educators are excited to be back in school, our members report numerous challenges … like seeing five-year olds entering kindergarten in diapers … stressed out and burned out school staff … and staffing shortages we haven’t seen in decades.

Typically, when we talk about shortages, we mean teachers. But read any news story these days and you’ll know the problem runs deeper. We need bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, teaching assistants, teacher aides and substitutes.

These issues aren’t surprising or new. However, how we respond to these problems can, and must be, different this time.

We have an opportunity to invest not only in academics, but in programs and services that benefit the whole child — initiatives that teach students conflict-resolution … how to process their feelings and emotions … and how to become civic-minded adults.

It’s unimaginable that, in the midst of a pandemic, we still have school buildings without a full-time school nurse, social worker, school counselor and school psychologist. NYSUT encourages districts to invest in filling these critically important positions.

We’ve convened a “Future Forward Task Force,” made up of members statewide, to consider these vital issues as we move forward. In my state senate testimony last month, I encouraged lawmakers to ensure that school districts work with community stakeholders to make these and other critically important investments in education.

By investing in services and supports that truly meet student needs, we have a chance to make real change. Let’s make sure we get it right.

Andy Pallotta, a former elementary teacher, is president of the more than 600,000-member New York State United Teachers.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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