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April 2015

Working together

Kevin Peterman


kevin peterman
Kevin Peterman (left) converses with NYSUT executive vice president Andrew Pallotta and SCCC president Shaun McKay. (photo by Victoria Pendzick)

As you probably know, the state budget increased FTE base aid for community colleges $100, bringing the total to $2,597 per FTE. This was not an easy task and it is better than the $75 FTE increase we received last year. It was clearly the result of planning and working together.

There were many issues in play as the Assembly, Senate and the Governor negotiated an “on time” $150 billion budget. Higher ed—CUNY, SUNY and community colleges—were, in my opinion, not a high priority for many of our elected officials. But Senator LaValle, the chair of the Senate’s Higher Education Committee, did ensure that community colleges were not shut out in the budget process. It wasn’t until the final hours of the budget talks until we definitively knew that community colleges would receive an increase.

On Friday, March 27, I got a call from Senator LaValle telling me he was pushing hard for the $100 increase, but that negotiations were still proceeding. On Sunday morning at 1:30 a.m. I received a text message from NYSUT’s assistant director of legislation Chris Black confirming that the $100 increase was in the legislation. You see, Chris was reporting from outside the legislative chamber and just read the bill giving community colleges the increase.

As I reported in previous WORD articles, the budget process for SUNY’s community colleges started in November. Community college presidents, community college union presidents, SUNY staff and NYSUT leaders met to discuss the 2015-16 budget plan. Working together, we developed a strategy to ask for $250 increases on FTE aid for several years. Our goal was to get the state to fund its community colleges at the legally required 40%.

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Kevin Peterman addresses SCCC students during Community College Advocacy Day in Albany. (photo by Victoria Pendzick)

In late December I met with SCCC’s student leaders and discussed the importance of getting involved. And that they did!

Students collected over 1,600 names and used social media asking Albany to properly fund its community colleges. In early March two busloads of students joined Dr. McKay and members of his administration to visit legislators in Albany. I joined them, and they were outstanding. They told their stories; they put a face on how important SCCC was to their educational growth. They made me proud.

I also spoke at the three campus governance meetings explaining the budget process and the funding sources SCCC has to rely on for its budget. Faculty joined in and contacted their legislators and advocated for more funding—truly a team effort.

As a result of a clear plan, starting early, working together and staying on point we were able to get a larger increase in funding than we got last year.

We will begin the process again this November, and I hope to have all community college presidents and all community college union presidents in attendance as we plan for the next budget cycle.

But before this academic year ends we will be proceeding to the next phase of the college’s 2015-16 budget. Now that we know what the funding amount will be from the state we need to get funding from Suffolk County and get the 2015-16 budget approved by the Suffolk County Legislature.

The process is not over, but again, working together we will succeed.

Activism works!