Friday, May 6, 2011

New York— The Mayor’s latest round of proposed cuts to CUNY would undermine already-degraded learning and working conditions at the City University of New York (CUNY), according to Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC/CUNY), the union that represents faculty and professional staff at CUNY.

“Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to cut CUNY, especially the community colleges, is a decision to deny low-income, minority and immigrant students an adequate learning environment, to pack them into over-crowded classrooms, increase their time to graduation, raise their tuition, and relegate their instruction, mentoring and guidance to overworked, under-resourced faculty and staff,” said Bowen. “It’s unconscionable that the Mayor would subject New York’s community college students to such cuts at a time when city revenues are growing and there are fairer ways of balancing the budget.

Forty-six percent of CUNY’s community college students come from households with annual incomes of $20,000 or less. Eighty-one percent are students of color, and 38.2 percent speak a native language other than English.

City tax revenue is projected to be $2 billion higher than anticipated for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 and 2012.

According to Bowen, the Mayor’s cuts would be especially devastating given funding reductions from the state. The latest state budget reduces direct aid to CUNY community colleges by $12.3 million.

“CUNY’s community college students are making a heroic effort to succeed despite the effects of multiple state funding cuts,” she said. “If the Mayor’s budget is approved as proposed, we will see more students forced to drop out and longer times to graduation for the most vulnerable students. A thousand CUNY faculty, staff and students were in front of City hall yesterday calling for restoration of funds.”

PSC is still analyzing the Executive Budget. First Vice-president Steve London believes the cuts laid out in the Mayor’s preliminary budget cuts were so draconian that the City Council will have to pursue new sources of revenue to ensure that CUNY’s need are met.

"We are looking to the City Council, as we have in years past, to restore the funds the Mayor proposes to cut. The cuts this year, however, are so deep and far-reaching that the Council and the Mayor must do more,” said London. “They should agree to close hedge fund tax loopholes and increase the top marginal tax rates to fund CUNY so students can get the education they deserve. The choice is clear: close tax loopholes on the hedge funds or deny opportunity to CUNY's students."

PSC’s analysis of the preliminary budget, as released in January and amended in February, showed that the Mayor planned to reduce funding for CUNY community college by approximately $37 million, compared to last year’s adopted budget (2010-2011). He also left unfunded mandatory expense increases resulting from inflation, enrollment growth and programmatic expansion to the tune of $25.9 million in the preliminary budget. Important scholarship and mentorship programs were also zeroed out.

The Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, affiliated with NYSUT and the AFT, represents the 22,000 faculty and professional staff at the City University of New York. It works to advance the professional lives of its members, enhance their terms and conditions of employment, and maintain the strength of the nation’s largest, oldest and most visible urban public university.