Clarion Masthead

Critical month for the state budget

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State Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon spoke about the needs of disabled students at CUNY.
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Professors having to carry around chalk in their pockets. Students dragging in spare chairs from other classrooms so they have a place to sit for their class. A shortage of full-time faculty and poverty pay for part-time instructors.

These are the scenes of how austerity funding has hurt CUNY. PSC President Barbara Bowen described this disrepair before a group of State Assembly members gathered for a meeting on February 10. “We’ve all lived it,” she said.

DROP IN FULL-TIME FACULTY

Bowen said that over the years not only has enrollment throughout the CUNY system been rising but the number of full-time instructors has also fallen. She compounded those issues with the constant poverty many students have to live with while struggling to pay tuition, get to class on time and hold down jobs just to get by. For example, Bowen noted that PSC members at Hostos Community College reported that students were going without meals in order to save money – some instructors reported sharing their lunches with students.

The message the PSC had for lawmakers was that the main goal for the PSC in Albany is to achieve full funding for CUNY’s budget, which as Clarion previously reported, would include enough funding for 1,000 new full-time faculty lines and an adjunct pay raise to $7,000 per course.

The union recognizes that the governor’s proposal for free tuition for some full-time students indicates that there is widespread political interest in making public higher education a policy priority.

The union, therefore, believes that there is political will for full funding, which the union believes is of critical importance to making the governor’s tuition proposal a reality, Bowen said.

“Let’s not lose this opportunity,” Bowen said.

FACING FEDERAL CUTS

The union has already testified before a state legislative panel on the governor’s proposed funding for CUNY, and the union will be making several lobbying trips to Albany over the next month.

The union believes there are enough potential revenue streams to achieve full funding for CUNY. The complication, said First Vice President Michael Fabricant, is dealing with the consequences of cuts at the federal level by the Trump administration. As Fabricant said, cuts to Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act would force the governor to rework the budget he has put forth. Still, Fabricant was optimistic about what the union could achieve.

“It could be grim,” he said, “but it’s a chance for the state to shine.”