December 23, 2022

Union lays out ambitious legislative agenda

Author: Ben Amey
Source:  NYSUT Communications
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Looking ahead to the 2023 legislative session, NYSUT is focused with optimism and purpose.

The union is hoping to expand on victories from the 2022 legislative session and continue the fight to improve working and learning environments for students and educators, said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta.

One of the union’s major pushes this year is fixing Tier 6.

“We scored our first victories toward achieving tier equity last year, when vesting for Tier 6 was cut from 10 years to five,” Pallotta said. “Now we have to continue our fight to stem the ongoing teacher shortage and get more young people to enter the profession.”

Union members in Tiers 5 and 6 have significantly diminished benefits and must work longer before they can retire. “As unionists, we know that something that affects one of our members affects all of our members,” Pallotta said.

Safe Schools for All

The union’s legislative agenda also includes recommendations from the NYSUT Safe Schools for All Task Force. In addition to expanding the community schools model, the union will seek:

  • Access to more mental health professionals for students. This includes counselors, social workers, psychologists and other mental health practitioners and will ensure students have access to critical services and assistance without delay.
  • Union representation on school safety committees. This will ensure educators have input in safety conversations and expand representation on district- and building-level teams to include at least one staff person familiar with the needs of students with disabilities.
  • Passage of the School Workplace Violence Protection Act. This bill, vetoed by former Gov. Cuomo, would include schools under the 2006 Workplace Violence Prevention Act, which requires public employers across the state to adopt a comprehensive approach for preventing violence against public employees. A NYSUT statewide survey in 2016 found that 16 percent of members have been threatened on the job and one in 10 has been physically assaulted.

“Public school employees deserve the same protection against violence at work that other employees in New York receive,” Pallotta said.

Higher education

While this past year’s budget was a welcome change from austerity budgets of the past for SUNY and CUNY, these systems have been neglected for far too long. One good budget cannot simply erase the years of harm caused by cuts and flat budgets.

The union must build on gains made in 2022 and continue to invest in and strengthen the state’s public higher education systems.

NYSUT will seek:

  • An additional $350 million each for SUNY and CUNY for hiring mental health counselors, faculty retention and hiring, operating aid and other necessary expenditures.
  • $440 million in base aid for SUNY community colleges and $230 million in base aid to CUNY community colleges.

Additionally, NYSUT will urge the Legislature to take action on the following priorities:

  • reform APPR to restore local control over teacher evaluations;
  • eliminate the receivership process for school districts;
  • build on the success of the New York City class size bill and expand statewide;
  • continue the fight against the expansion of charter schools and enact reforms to hold them accountable;
  • and ensure that year three of fully funding Foundation Aid actually occurs.

We will continue to focus on improving working conditions for our members at public schools P–16, along with making schools the best environment they can be for students to learn, Pallotta said.

“We look forward to working with our partners at the state level to help us support public schools as the center of every community.”

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