As the grandson of immigrants, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's respect for teachers runs deep. "For both my parents, public education was the path to success," he said. "I get angry when I hear people disparaging teachers and public schools."
He recalled attending the 50th anniversary of his elementary school. One of his favorite teachers was his guest. "I was able to thank her and all the other teachers who helped me - it meant a lot," said DiNapoli.
That respect for educators infused his morning address, where he reiterated his long-standing defense of public education and secure pensions. He also thanked NYSUT activists for their advocacy, which helped restore nearly $1 billion in state education funding.
"This came about because you displayed tenacity and grassroots advocacy," said DiNapoli. "Thanks for raising your voices and making a difference."
He called on members to again use their voice to stem the tide of sequestration, which would result in a loss of $42.7 million in funding for the state's primary and secondary schools. "This will hurt students, and New York's property tax cap will make it more challenging," he said.
DiNapoli also applauded union members for making SUNY, CUNY and our community colleges strong institutions. "Thanks for ensuring that public higher education remains a quality education," he said. "We need a well-trained workforce to remain competitive."
And on the topic of defined benefit pension plans, DiNapoli held firm. "For those who try to replace these with defined contributions, I say... Not on my watch as state comptroller.'
"Challenging economic times should not be a rationale for taking away hard-earned benefits for public employees."