ALBANY, N.Y. Jan. 2, 2013 - New York State United Teachers said the Education Reform Commission's interim report can serve as a template for productive discussions about how to further improve New York's already strong public education system.
NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said the commission's report recognizes that excellence abounds in New York's public schools, and that a key goal going forward will be to find ways to replicate that excellence so that every child has an equal opportunity to succeed.
"The commission has done its homework. Its initial report indicates it has listened to the ideas and concerns of students, parents and teachers - as well as other key stakeholders," Iannuzzi said.
Iannuzzi noted two recommendations, in particular, are closely aligned with the union's own long-term advocacy efforts.
"Recommendations that New York expand access to full-day pre-kindergarten for students in high-need communities and recognition that better collaboration and coordination are needed to deliver social services to our most vulnerable students are two important steps that New York state can take immediately to help close the achievement gap," Iannuzzi said. "We look forward to working to turn these recommendations into budget and policy realities."
In addition, Iannuzzi said streamlining the school district merger and consolidation process - while still ensuring communities have a voice and a vote - makes fiscal and educational sense. He said, "One clear benefit of district consolidation - and creation of regional high schools - would be to allow small, rural districts to expand access to Advanced Placement courses, foreign languages and extra-curricular opportunities to more students."
Iannuzzi added that NYSUT would work with the governor and Legislature to expand educational opportunities, preserve community voice and produce efficiencies that could mean cost-savings to taxpayers. He stressed that state leaders must continue to listen to the voices of teachers and other NYSUT members as the commission's work continues.
NYSUT said other proposals - such as strengthening the profession by raising the bar for both prospective teachers and teacher preparation programs - merit greater discussion that should include the meaningful participation of higher education faculty at SUNY, CUNY and private colleges.
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.