ALBANY, N.Y. May 21, 2012 - Hundreds of grassroots lobbyists from New York State United Teachers will vigorously press lawmakers Tuesday to enact legislation protecting the privacy rights of teachers by shielding their evaluations from exploitation by the public and news media.
"This is an opportunity for legislators and the Governor to do the right thing and show respect for the state's teachers," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "Every employee, public and private, should be able to expect a certain level of confidentiality when it comes to personnel records. Elected officials who say otherwise have lost touch with the people they represent."
NYSUT activists will call for legislation to remove the right of the media and public to have access to teacher and principal evaluations, as at least 26 states have already done. Iannuzzi said preventing public exposure of teachers' evaluations is essential to the purpose of New York's teacher-principal evaluation law – improving teacher quality in order to enhance student learning.
Teachers and other educators who are members of NYSUT's special committee of volunteer activists will arrive at the concourse of the Empire State Plaza (Madison Avenue.) at about 9 a.m. on Tuesday, and meet with their hometown lawmakers from 9 a.m. to midafternoon.
Also on NYSUT's agenda is discussion of the damage being caused by the new property tax cap which, in its first year, has already contributed to larger class sizes; elimination of Advanced Placement courses and other programs; as well as layoffs of some 4,000 teachers and school staff.
NYSUT activists will seek to amend the tax cap to allow voters to override the cap with a simple majority, and to protect students - and school programs - from being penalized by excluding from the tax cap rising costs outside the control of school districts, such as higher gasoline, health insurance and heating oil prices.
While voters adopted 96 percent of school budgets, 19 of the 24 budget defeats occurred in districts that sought to over-ride the cap, even though many - like New Paltz with 59.3 percent and Elmira with 55 percent - won overwhelming support from voters.
"In any other vote, 59 percent is considered a landslide," added NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta. "Under this perversion of democracy, 59 percent voting 'yes' is a defeat. Forty percent of voters shouldn't have the power to dictate to the majority how much is spent educating students."
NYSUT's end-of-session agenda also includes promoting a higher minimum wage; legislation that would enable BOCES to enter into contracts with out-of-state school districts; opposition to a parent-trigger bill; as well as a two-year moratorium on school closings in New York City.
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO