During his speech at the RA Saturday morning, NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reiterated his support for educators, unions, public employees and NYSUT, and applauded their efforts in turning the tide on testing as well as in persuading lawmakers to increase funding for schools statewide.
DiNapoli told the delegates that the current year is an "important time in our state's history," and emphasized, "NYSUT has never been more effective" in changing the "tenor of the Legislature."
"You truly have made an incredible difference" in changing the test-and-punish agenda of so-called reformers to one that, with continued vigilance, will value students' needs and support for schools.
That change, he said, goes to the "fundamentals" as to why educators choose their careers: "You truly are the people who make a difference for the children and families of New York State."
In that same vein, he commended NYSUT's leadership and all the individual educators who descended upon Albany to lobby on behalf of students and schools, and congratulated their efforts in light of a funding increase for schools of $1.5 billion and the elimination of the reviled Gap Elimination Adjustment.
DiNapoli that NYSUT's work to support higher education is "one of the most important investments we can make, and urged NYSUT to continue its work "to make the DREAM Act a reality."
Moving on to another NYSUT priority, transparency with regard to charter school budgets, DiNapoli said it makes sense to demand accountability of charter schools just as the state demands it of other public schools. He fought for the state to have the right to audit charter schools, and having won the right, he and his staff have found irregularities during audits of some charters.
"We're going to keep auditing charter schools to protect taxpayer dollars," he said.
DiNapoli also spoke of the health care cost savings that unions are working toward in collaboration with management, and specifically praised the Franklinville Teachers Association in this area.
And, with a report that received a standing ovation from the crowd, he said, "You can rest easy that you are a member of a well-run pension plan." He said that the state didn't have to compromise on providing a secure retirement — the state and city pension funds are well-managed and well-funded.
He pointed out that because state employees have decent pensions, 80 percent of the state's retirees continue to live in New York State, thus spending those pension dollars right here in New York.
He assured the audience that the state would never change from a defined-pension benefit to a 401K while he was in office. "Not on my watch," he said, a vow that received another standing ovation.