Capital Region state lawmakers gathered outside the New York State Education Building Wednesday to call for more federal funding to rescue schools on the eve of an already difficult school year.
Students are returning to school around New York, many of them able to attend classes in-person. Democratic 109th district Assemblymember Pat Fahy says the academic future of a "whole host of children" is uncertain.
"Here in Albany, Schenectady, Buffalo, Rochester, a number of our city schools today do not have that option, while their neighbors outside city limits, too many of our cities, are provided the option to send their child to do in-person learning."
Fahy argues all families should be given the option of allowing their children to take physical classes in a school building.
We need that federal stimulus package. We also need to make sure that not just public schools are feeling this pain. We know there is going to be pain. We wanna do all we can to minimize it. But we know it can't just be our public schools. It has to be more equitable and it has to also include some of the public dollars we use for private schools as well as for charter schools."
Fellow-Democratic Assemblymember Phil Steck of Colonie is pushing for restoration of the Stock Transfer Tax to raise revenue for urban schools hard-hit by aid cuts. Districts in the Capital Region’s cities are bracing for massive layoffs and more virtual instruction.
The 110th district representative says Governor Andrew Cuomo could implement that action instantly.
"...because the Stock Transfer Tax is in theory collected and rebated back to Wall Street. It's a sales tax. The companies that are on Wall Street don't pay the Stock Transfer Tax. It's the people trading who do. So, it's like when you go to the store, it's not the merchant who pays the tax, you pay the tax, the merchant just resends it to the state. So again, (snaps fingers) he could do it this very instant."
Steck says the bill would drive the economy forward. He mused about why Governor Cuomo may not be inclined to sign it.
"There are really two reasons. One is philosophical and one is practical. Philosophically the governor came out of the theory of 1980 that we have to be more like Ronald Reagan and any tax increase is a bad thing. I think there's the philosophical side, there's a practical side. It costs $30 million to run for governor of this state, and where do you think he gets a lot of those contributions?"
Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi responded to a request for comment: “I’m too focused on the pandemic to respond to this stupid pot shot from the cheap seats.”
Meanwhile, the New York State United Teachers union says it’s preparing a lawsuit over the 20 percent cuts to state aid for education. In a statement, NYSUT says the state constitution requires every student to receive a sound education, and says it will sue if New York withholds the aid this month. NYSUT says the cuts disproportionately affect high-need districts.
Cuomo says without federal relief, the state is “broke” and facing a $30 billion revenue shortfall over the next two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.