Governor Cuomo, the State Department of Health, and the NY State Education Department all came out with detailed guidance on what measures schools should take to reopen in the fall to ensure health and safety as well as provide instructional and emotional support to their students. If the COVID positivity rates of all regions of the state remain under 5%, as they do currently, their schools will be eligible to reopen if they adopt the recommended protocols.
Yet little or nothing was said in these instructions about how schools can afford the expensive health and safety measures, as well as the extra staffing and space necessary to keep students engaged in learning while attending school in person in shifts to ensure social distancing.
As the National Academy of Sciences pointed out, “Many of the mitigation strategies currently under consideration (such as limiting classes to small cohorts of students or implementing physical distancing between students and staff) require substantial reconfiguring of space, purchase of additional equipment, adjustments to staffing patterns, and upgrades to school buildings. The financial costs of consistently implementing a number of potential mitigation strategies is considerable.”
Even to do an adequate job with full-time remote learning requires funding for additional devices, faster internet access, and more teachers and counselors, to provide more individualized and ongoing support and to keep group sizes small.
Our schools’ desperate need for more funding has been aggravated by the fact that Governor Cuomo hijacked the extra dollars that were funded by Congress in the CARES ACT to fill holes in state aid, instead of sending these dollars to schools to help them address the COVID crisis.
Now is the time for the Governor and our State Legislators to stand up for our schools and protect our children by providing them with the funds that are badly needed. They could do that easily by boosting taxes on the ultra-wealthy, including the Ultra-millionaires Tax on residents who earn above $5 million annually (S.8164 / A.10364), or above $1 million annually (S.7378/A.10363); and the Pied-a-Terre tax (S.44 / AA.4550), a surcharge on non-primary residences worth over five million dollars.
There is no doubt that the ultra-wealthy can afford this. In NY State, 118 billionaires saw their wealth increase by $77.3 billion during first three months of the pandemic. Michael Bloomberg saw his net worth increase by $12 billion during this period alone. All New Yorkers, including the ultra-wealthy, need to pitch in during this time of need, to ensure the health, safety and education of our kids. Below are links to your Legislators’ contact information and a script you can use. They will be back in session starting tomorrow.
Directions: Call your Legislators in their district offices – unless their phones are busy and then please call their Albany offices.
You can find your Assemblymember’s phone number here and your State Senator’s phone number here.
Script: Hi, my name is ________ and I am a constituent.
Our public schools desperately need more state aid to deal with the pandemic. I want to urge [Elected Name] to support the Fund Our Future package, including the Ultra-Millionaires Tax, the Billionaire Tax Shelter Tax and the Pied-a-terre Tax, so our kids can attend school safely next year. Can I count on [Elected Name] to sign onto these bills, and to ask the Legislative leaders to bring them to a vote?
Afterwards, if you have time, please enter their responses into our Google form here. Thanks!