article
April 08, 2014

Delegates set NYSUT policy for coming year

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: RA Reporter
RA Resolutions

Fighting for higher education faculty, an end to testing madness and retirement security for all were among the resolutions approved by delegates on the last day of the Representative Assembly.

In all, 55 resolutions and two special orders of business were considered, completing a comprehensive agenda for the statewide union for the coming year. For higher ed, delegates approved a resolution opposing a de facto core curriculum in the SUNY system, with Kevin Peterman, president of the Faculty Association of Suffolk Community College, explaining the curriculum is coming "topdown from Albany without faculty voice."

Cayuga Community College FA's Eric Zizza called it a "blatant attack on faculty autonomy that needs to go down."

Delegates also approved a resolution on behalf of future teachers, calling for an end to the rushed implementation of edTPA, a new certification exam being imposed on teacher candidates. The resolution says NYSUT rejects the notion that edTPA is an appropriate assessment, or that teacher education programs had enough time to prepare candidates for the new exam.

UUP members, led by UUP President Fred Kowal, speak in support of a resolution supporting SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Photo by Michael Campbell.
UUP members, led by UUP President Fred Kowal, speak in support of a resolution supporting SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Photo by Michael Campbell. 

Other higher education resolutions called for support of SUNY Downstate Medical Center, expanding and increasing Tuition Assistance Program state aid for students, and calling for CUNY to withdraw its "Expressive Conduct" policy that stifles protests and political movements among students, staff and faculty.

Delegates referred to the Board a resolution calling on NYSUT to lobby for restored Medicaid funding for schoolbased psychological services. Bedford TA's Adam Yuro said school districts have lost nearly $100 million for school-based mental health services due to revised federal reimbursement policies. The resolution was referred for further study after some argued it could open the door to privatization.

"We need psychological services for students to overcome adversity," said Commack TA's Rob Ciani. "We're leaving money on the table that could go to solving problems."

Other educational issue resolutions call for reducing out-of-school suspensions, establishing maximum numbers of students with disabilities in co-teaching classrooms, urging SED to address problems with the redesigned New York State Alternate Assessment and permanently waiving standardized testing for special education students.

Delegates approved a measure directing NYSUT to pursue legislation mandating maximum caseload numbers for social workers, psychologists, guidance counselors and speech therapists. Delegates also approved a resolution urging SED to invest in quality professional development around the Common Core Learning Standards and creating a NYSUT Module and Domain Task Force to review SED's Common Core materials and seek feedback from teachers who are using SED's lesson plans.

On testing, delegates called for shifting the focus of education away from tests, urging SED to eliminate field testing embedded within state assessments, and legislation calling for the complete withdrawal from the implementation of Commmon Core standards. A resolution calling for a halt to implementation of SED's inBloom contract was tabled after the department recently ended its contract.

A resolution seeking legislative repeal of parts of the state's teacher evaluation law was referred to the NYSUT Board for further study.

Delegates supported a number of pension and retirement resolutions: encouraging retiree membership; supporting retirement security for all; opposing the use of chained CPI when calculating Social Security cost-of-living adjustments, health insurance for retirees of Special Act districts; and tier equity for the beneficiaries of members who select maximum and die prior to collecting their pensions.

Other resolutions called for elimining the negative impact of delaying or transferring served credit for Tier 3 and 4 members; providing prior service recognition equity; and supporting the appeal of legal decisions on pensions in Detroit.

In a funny exchange, Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore successfully amended a resolution supporting Gov. Cuomo's Women's Equality Act to delete the governor's name. Asked if he wanted to speak to the amendment, Rumore said, "I don't think I have to." Saratoga Adirondack BOCES EA's Sandra Carner-Shafran supported the idea, noting "It's an oxymoron to have Gov. Cuomo's name with anything I support."

PSC President Barbara Bowen introduced a special order of business thanking the outgoing officers for their service and delegates responded with a standing ovation and much applause.