Hope for a clear vision
Good luck to our new president, Karen Magee. I hope she approaches problems with an open mind and a clear vision to protect and defend the rights of educators and the integrity of the public schools in New York.
Francis A. Gentile | Dobbs Ferry
Veterans merit pension credits
Historically, New York state has done a pretty good job recognizing its veterans. There are property tax exemptions for almost all veterans. New York state also grants pension credits for all public service employees who served during WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War.
Unfortunately, some veterans who served during Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan are currently not entitled to pension credits. However, thanks to a bill (S.4714-A) sponsored by state Sen. William Larkin Jr. and co-sponsored by state Sen. Terry Gipson, there is a solution.
The bill would grant up to three years military service credit to members of public retirement systems. The bill might stand a good chance of passing because there is also a companion bill (A.6974-A) sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin. I urge NYSUT to support it. Noncombat veterans who are NYSUT members would appreciate the recognition of our service.
Rich Dambra | Beacon
Another sleight of hand
During his recent visit to Syracuse, Gov. Cuomo announced the newest Master Teachers in STEM fields. It brings to 319 the number of Master Teachers across the state, and a number are from Onondaga County and from our own school district. Our faculty is a superior one and clearly our teachers deserve to be commended for their professionalism and teaching ability. I commend them. Certainly many teachers could benefit from collaboration with them.
Having said that, let me explain why I think the program is one more in a long list of attacks on public education by the state and why NYSUT, Onondaga County TA and Jamesville-Dewitt FA must publicly call for its end.
This program is another sleight of hand by the current administration to undermine public education. It is merit pay, plain and simple. It is just another step in creating a corporate model of education in which some win and others lose. Merit pay only increases competition and decreases collaboration and trust. It further demoralizes teachers and erodes the strength of our union and our profession.
While science, technology and mathematics are essential (and have been identified by President Obama as an urgent need), teachers of all curricula teach critical knowledge and skills to all children in their care. We are librarians building research skills, second grade teachers strengthening reading abilities, language teachers helping to develop 21st century skills, guidance counselors preparing students for college and life, and special education teachers ensuring the success of students who need additional support — all doing our best to help students to be successful in their educations and to become effective citizens. Elevating one curriculum to a place of honor diminishes the value of other curricular areas in the minds of students and the community, and this is a threat to public education.
And where is all of that money coming from? Millions of taxpayer dollars were set aside to fund the Master Teacher Program (not to mention the bazillions in funding for charter schools and the tax rebate in districts that don’t exceed the tax cap) while education funding fell far short of needed levels throughout the state. If that much money is available, it should be used to best benefit all areas of education. If, instead, it had been directed toward schools, districts would not have to lay off teachers, cut programs, eliminate electives and overcrowd classrooms.
Like Diane Ravitch said at Syracuse University recently, I believe teachers are motivated by idealism, professionalism and a belief in the common good. The way to incentivize them, Ravitch said, is to treat them with respect, pay them appropriately, invest in their training and retain them. Like so many of the education policies of this administration, the Master Teacher Program does not rise to the challenge of any of those goals and should be eliminated.
Donna M. Oppedisano | Jamesville-Dewitt Faculty Association
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