April 01, 2015

The fight continues, with help from the grassroots

Author: Liza Frenette
Source: NYSUT Communications
call out cuomo fund

The NYSUT "Call out Cuomo" fund has received a spirited boost from two local unions.

"One member said, 'If there's any time to give, now is the time,'" recalled Brandie Norton, local president of the Sandy Creek Teachers Association in Oswego County. "We've worked really hard to make things the best we can here."

Teachers from the Sandy Creek TA also had black, blue and yellow T-shirts made with the local's logo on front and the popular script on back: "Respect Public Education. It Works." This simple mantra has become the shout out for this year's rousing revolt against Gov. Andrew Cuomo's crushing anti-public education, anti-teacher proposals. The mantra was first printed on colorful, square NYSUT buttons.

The tiny Sandy Creek union, which is made up of just 108 members, contributed a mighty sum of $3,000 to the Call Out Cuomo cause. Visit to make a contribution or learn more; NYSUT will continue with its public advocacy and public relations campaigns throughout the year as some of the worst elements of the governor's billionaire-driven agenda are expected to resurface during the current legislative session.

Meanwhile, the forums, protests and rallies that have brought out people all over New York to defend public education are true "grassroots," Norton said. "They show that it's all people – kids, families, unions." For example, Sandy Creek TA chartered a bus for members to attend a forum in Fulton.

North Shore Schools Federated Employees donated $1,000 to the Call Out Cuomo fund, decrying that "universal access to a vibrant, rigorous publically funded education is a moral, economic and constitutional imperative," according to the resolution. The governor's budget, it reads, "Makes manifest his scorn for the students and teachers of public schools."

Because the public Sandy Creek school is a small, pre-K through 12 campus, she said administrators, teachers, staff and Board of Education members are able to work together to watch over students.

But providing for those students has been more of a challenge since Cuomo began underfunding schools. Already, Sandy Creek has had to give up cursive writing as a class; split science and social studies so that students now only receive half as much instruction in each; and split time in half for reading and math interventions.

And then there are the losses that aren't so easily tracked, such as the love of reading.

"Reading for fun is kind of hard now," she said, noting dispiritedly that the school's "Drop Everything and Read" program is also gone now. There is also no longer an elementary librarian.

Norton said Sandy Creekk has the highest high school graduation rate in the county: 98 percent.

"And we also have the highest poverty in the country," she said.

According to, Sandy Creek's per capita income for 2008-2012 was $19,679, "which is much lower than the state average of $32,104 and is lower than the national average of $28,051." The median household income is $38,438.

Greg Perles, vice president of the 330-member North Shore SFE led by Bruce Fichtman, wrote the resolution for his union requesting a donation to Call Out Cuomo. He said the governor's regressive proposals for teacher evaluations are "barely veiled efforts to bust unions, accelerate corporatization and advance the encroachment of privatization and charter schools."

Perles said Cuomo's fixation on standardized testing expose his beliefs about education as "injurious and fiscally irresponsible."

When the curriculum mandated by the governor produces bad test scores, he can then say, "See, the schools are broken," Perles said, adding that Cuomo's "stealth charter school agenda" is an excuse to underfund schools and "subject schools to the for-profit curriculum of his cronies."

"Our union is rolling up its sleeves and taking this agenda on," Perles said proudly.

The Call Out Cuomo fund states the following: "With a reckless, cynical agenda that favors hedge fund billionaires over needy children, rich contributors over parents and their families, and private education profiteers over public school teachers and staff, the Governor has shown once again that he is out of touch with the needs of the vast majority of New York's working families, our students, and our communities.

Contribute now to help us fight back! When you join this fight, you can be sure that every single dollar contributed to the "Call Out Cuomo" Fund will go directly toward fighting Gov. Cuomo's dangerous, anti-public schools agenda."

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