NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan Lubin called on members to continue the mobilization that helped them elect Barack Obama president and win several key legislative battles this spring.
"I ask you once again, in the face of different times: Draw a larger circle around your community," Lubin told NYSUT delegates during his legislative summary at the RA. "In Robert F. Kennedy's words: 'Speak up, speak out.'"
Just weeks ago, 30,000 to 40,000 members risked losing their jobs because of the state budget crisis, Lubin noted.
While the threat of layoffs has not completely passed, it is unlikely the numbers will be anywhere near as large, he said.
NYSUT also staved off threats to pre-kindergarten programs, and went from a $700 million budget cut for education funding to a net increase of $435 million. Teacher centers saw the restoration of $40 million in funds.
"This great program faced elimination, and you brought it back," Lubin said to cheers.
He also singled out the Syracuse delegation to commend Syracuse teachers for participating in the "Say Yes to Education" program in the Syracuse public schools.
The national program offers full support, including college tuition, for at-risk inner-city youth to increase high school and college graduation rates.
But there is work yet ahead, Lubin warned, telling members that "instead of closing the gap, we're merely treading water this year."
Lawmakers decided against a Tier 5 pension plan for public employees, but the idea could resurface.
At a time when Wall Street bonuses and "golden parachutes" are much in the news, Lubin said NYSUT will continue to remind lawmakers that members will never see such rewards for their service.
"All we have is a modest pension at the end of a long, hard career," Lubin said, noting that the average Employees' Retirement System pension is $19,000 anually, and the average Teachers' Retirement System pension is $34,000.
The state also responded to NYSUT's campaign for income tax reform by increasing the taxes on the state's wealthiest residents - but only until 2012, when the reform will sunset unless the state extends it or makes it permanent.
Lubin urged members to remain vigilant in the coming months.
Programs and benefits that seem safe for now may come under further attack, he warned, and members as well as locals should band together and draw on NYSUT's extensive lobbying experience as they plan their upcoming strategies.
"If you're doing it alone, you're doing it wrong," he said.