WILLIAMSVILLE, NY (WBKW) — A shortage of state funds could leave school districts across our region without vital mental health services. The state's largest teachers union rolled into Western New York Friday with a ‘Fund our Future' bus tour.
One of the stops was in Williamsville.
New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) pulled up at Wiliamsville South High School demanding the state pay what is owed to school districts.
NYSUT president Andy Pallotta is leading union activists and school members in this fight for what is known as Foundation Aid.
“This is not something for luxuries like leather couches in the teachers room. This is for schools to have social workers and intervention specialist,” Pallotta explained.
The teachers union says the state owes $3.4 billion to 400 school districts across the state.
The Foundation Aid Formula was created more than a decade ago to offer districts resources to provide a ‘sound, basic education’ for all students. But the union says state continues to withholding the funds.
At Williamsville South educators and school social workers joined a round-table discussion about the growing mental health crisis among students. A school social worker pointed out that they are seeing mental health concerns in the classroom that include anxiety and depression.
NYSUT says the state owes Williamsville $12.6 million in Foundation Aid which could be used for more mental health programs. Williamsville Schools Superintendent Scott Martzloff says mental health among students is the 'most serious issue' affecting schools right now.
“Everyone is going to come in touch with someone who might be having some mental health challenges and you have to know how to respond appropriately or you are going to escalate the situation and make it a whole lot worse,” Martzloff stated.
The school district says without its share of the Foundation Aid, it doesn't have enough money to tackle the mental health issue.
“If we could put more counselors, more psychologists, more social workers in the schools, we would see a big benefit for the kids and if the state continues to cut the funding we're going to lose those social workers we’re going to lose those social worker, those counselors and then who do we go to when a student is in crisis,” said Michelle Licht, president, Williamsville Teachers Union.
NYSUT is also calling for a $2.1 billion increase in foundation aid in this year's budget