As I began to pen (I should say keystroke) this column, I knew it had to be one of thanks and reflection. As 2013 draws to a close, the work we have done together for our professions and the people we serve stands out as example after example of commitment and solidarity.
The sights and sounds of the just-passed National Day of Action are still vivid. My head, as well as my heart, are full of the images and voices of so many who planned and participated in events across New York on Dec. 9.
NYSUT's website is filled with photos of members demonstrating their commitment and solidarity. Sometimes they did this in very simple ways, like wearing blue, or more boldly by picketing the home of a Regent, as our sisters and brothers of the Buffalo Teachers Federation did.
Partnering with parents and other community allies, our members once again did NYSUT proud by very publicly calling for a greater state investment in pre-K through post-graduate education, as well as in health care and public services. They demanded a renewed focus on teaching and learning instead of testing, and called for a three-year moratorium on the high-stakes consequences to both students and teachers from the state's obsessive standardized tests.
With one voice, in solidarity, and in blue, we said it is time to reclaim the promise of public education.
We witnessed this same commitment last June, when nearly 20,000 made their way to Albany on a Saturday afternoon to throw down the gauntlet to the Regents and commissioner. That day we made clear that SED must start listening to the real education stakeholders — the educators, students and parents.
And at forums, meetings, hearings and rallies — from Lake Placid to Long Island, from Buffalo to Brooklyn — and in letters and online petitions, you stood up and spoke out about the negative effects the state's rushed implementation of the Common Core has had on students and how SED's over-reliance on testing has negatively impacted the way teachers teach and students learn.
While we enter the new year with genuine momentum, we know significant challenges still lie ahead. We must work with state lawmakers to ensure schools and colleges have the fiscal resources they need — shared equitably — to provide the robust, well-rounded education students deserve.
We must continue to address those critical issues surrounding the new standards and testing. We must insist on the tools and professional development educators require to meet the needs of diverse learners.
We must push back against those who would allow corporate interests to impose a one-size-fits-all curriculum on SUNY, CUNY and our community colleges. We must advocate for universal early-childhood education and full-day kindergarten.
And we must demand a moratorium, not only on high-stakes consequences connected to inappropriate K-12 assessments, but also a moratorium on policies and programs that benefit corporate profiteers at the expense of higher education's academic mission and the needs of its students.
We must demand that policymakers in Albany prioritize what is important to their constituents and their communities — providing adequate resources for public schools and colleges and a renewed focus on teaching and learning at every level.
The One Voice United Rally and the Day of Action were successful because so many local leaders understood the strategy and vision. They recognized the need to seize this moment, pushing aside the naysayers and political opportunists among us and focused their attention on those who are willing to do the hard work of organizing and mobilizing our members and our communities to demand and effect change.
As we close out one year and usher in another, we can't afford to listen to those who call for the perfect moment, the perfect law or the perfect elected official, and then celebrate superficial "victories." Nor can we yield to those who constantly bend with the wind — waffling between criticism that our strategy is not aggressive enough, or that it's too aggressive depending upon the breeze.
While we move through this holiday season reflecting on our blessings, personal and/or professional, let us take advantage of the shifting momentum and seize the day. Let us celebrate leadership that is not opportunistic, but, rather, creates opportunity because that, my dear sisters and brothers, defines so many of you — and I am thankful to serve you.
Note: Your comments on this column or any issue you wish to share directly with me are welcomed. Email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow President Iannuzzi on Twitter: @RichardIannuzzi