NYSUT's ability to productively channel anger over state budget cutbacks allowed union voters to make election history last November. "Most of our progressive candidates were told they would lose," NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta reminded convention delegates.
"We were told that they would be outspent, that they were tilting at windmills." Instead, union support elected four new state senators - Ted O'Brien of Rochester, Terry Gipson of Rhinebeck, George Latimer of Rye and Cecilia Tkaczyk of Duanesburg - and re-elected Joe Addabbo Jr. of Queens.
Pallotta detailed how Tkaczyk won a razor-thin victory in the 46th Senate District, which had been designed specifically for then-Assemblyman George Amedore, a Republican, to become a senator.
"It took 75 days to count the ballots, but she won by 19 votes," Pallotta said.
NYSUT supported pro-labor candidates with a formula Pallotta outlined at the 2012 RA - resilience, resources and respect. The union won hardfought appreciation from lawmakers because "we were resilient when we got knocked down ... and we were resourceful with nearly $9 million in VOTE-COPE contributions."
That respect means lawmakers "can no longer pass a bunch of onehouse bills attacking us and not expect something in return," he said.
Every day anger grows over the state's obsession with testing, Pallotta said.
Holding up news reports from the February release of the MetLife Survey that said teacher job satisfaction had dropped by 23 percent since 2008, Pallotta said the union can do something about the fact that morale for educators from pre-K through college is at its lowest point in 25 years. It's no wonder, Pallotta said, as budget cuts mean students lose programs and educators.
"Rather than throwing up our hands in disgust, I say we take back our profession and we start with the issue of testing," he said.
Support new testing bill
Urging delegates to make legislative history this year, he announced NYSUT's support for the Truth About Testing Act, which is actually two bills just put before the state Assembly. One bill, A-6593, would prohibit administering tests to students from kindergarten through second grade unless diagnostic in nature. The second bill, A-6594, would require a thorough review of testing costs, including what it costs to develop tests, prepare students for them, administer them and grade them.
"To those who have demanded 'data-driven' accountability, we say we want some data, too," Pallotta said.
He asked delegates to channel their anger by urging lawmakers to pass the Truth About Testing Act.
"We can read history ... teach history ... write history ... but most of all, we can make history," Pallotta said.