As the school year begins, NYSUT’s new leadership is settling in and plotting a course for the future — not just for our union — but for thriving public schools and the communities they serve.
Our goals address core union values like good pay, access to quality, affordable health care and a voice in the workplace. They also aim to advance public education as one of the primary drivers of success, equity and advancement in our society.
This vision isn’t top-down. Our priorities come from and reflect our diverse and engaged membership across the state. One thing we’ve learned from the last year of labor activism is that all NYSUT members share a kinship with other professionals across the country fighting for dignity and benefits. We are at the front lines of addressing potentially life-changing technologies and their effects on our professions, the well-being of our children, and the implications for education and the workplace of tomorrow.
These goals are broad but achievable if we work together. For a complete and regularly updated list of NYSUT’s vision and policy agenda items, visit nysut.org/vision.
1. Support schools where students and educators can thrive.
NYSUT’s Public Schools Unite Us initiative is dedicated to the notion that our public schools belong to all of us. Now more than ever, we need strong public schools to unite us and be the center of our communities.
Grow the community school model
The community school model provides wrap-around services for students and families. Initially pioneered in inner-city districts, this model is flexible enough to be adapted to any community and has succeeded in suburban and rural settings. NYSUT will be working with lawmakers and community organizers to help build this successful model throughout the state.
Learn more at PublicSchoolsUniteUs.org/communityschools.
Improve school health and safety
Our members’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions, and our schools should be safe and welcoming spaces for all. Last year, NYSUT assembled our Safe Schools for All task force to examine school safety and make recommendations for administrators, elected officials and union leaders. This year, we’ll be taking the next steps and looking at other issues, such as classroom cell phone policies and the impacts of social media on student mental health and learning. As NYSUT United went to press, union leaders were urging the governor to sign the workplace violence bill passed by the Legislature this year. If signed, the law would include school districts on the list of employers required to develop and implement programs to prevent workplace violence. This would have immediate positive results, especially for our SRP members, who have long advocated for this legislation.
Learn more at PublicSchoolsUniteUs.org/safety.
Expand school meals
All students deserve healthy school meals — a full belly is foundational to success in the classroom. But from our city centers to the countryside, 1-in-7 students in New York state are going hungry. This past year, we saw a big step forward with the Legislature approving an expansion of funding for school meals, but we still have a ways to go to ensure no child goes hungry.
Learn more at PublicSchoolsUniteUs.org/Meals.
A New Deal for Higher Education
Our public colleges and universities provide a pathway to opportunity for countless New Yorkers. They’re also a natural extension of our K–12 public school system. We are pushing for a generational investment in our SUNY, CUNY and community colleges so every New Yorker can access quality higher education.
Learn more at NewDealforHigherEducation.org.
Enhance CTE programs and experiential learning
Career and Technical Education courses and hands-on learning programs are growing in popularity because they provide students with real-world skills and make learning fun. Successful experiential programs in our public schools can catapult high-school graduates directly into high-demand, good-paying careers. NYSUT will be pushing to expand these programs in districts throughout the state.
Read about successful experiential learning programs at [nysut.org/hands-on-learning].
Address the scourge of overtesting
Children are naturally ready to learn. It’s time we do away with the burdensome testing regime that sucks the joy and wonder out of learning and the creativity out of teaching. This fall, NYSUT leaders will be participating in a Blue Ribbon commission designed to address testing, student evaluations and graduation standards.
One way to return the joy to teaching and learning is moving the classroom outside. Learn about state funding available for field trips.
Push back against threats to learning and academic freedom
It’s a sad reality today that in schools across the country, a vocal minority of culture warriors are pushing to ban books in libraries and classrooms. We will continue to work with school districts and lawmakers to make sure teachers can teach age-appropriate concepts and embrace a complete, broad view of history without the stifling effects of book bans.
2. Ensure our members’ professions are enticing and sustainable career choices.
We want people to enter our professions and we want them to stay. The core mission of any labor union is to fight for safe working conditions, good pay and benefits for our members. We’ve never lost sight of this, and we show up to advocate for our members every day. But in these times, pay and benefits are only part of the equation. There are larger forces at play that affect our members, their careers and personal lives. Working in education or health care is not just a job; it’s a calling. But we need to make sure that answering that call and going into these careers comes with the security, respect and status that is due.
Fix Tier 6
It’s been over a decade since Tier 6 became part of the New York state pension system. Since then, more than 100,000 NYSUT members earn a significantly reduced pension as compared to earlier tiers. Not only is this unfair, it’s a betrayal of the promise of public service and a deterrent to new educators entering and staying in the profession.
See page 8 to learn more and get involved at FixTier6.org.
Attract more educators to the profession
The ongoing educator shortage is a generational struggle. In addition to our long-standing effort, Take a Look at Teaching, this coming year we’ll be rolling out initiatives such as pipeline projects specifically to recruit educators of color. We will also be working with elected officials on a wide variety of proposals to bring more educators in and break down some of the barriers that exist for those who want to explore careers in education.
Learn more at TakeaLookatTeaching.org.
How can we maintain high professional standards while avoiding onerous and unfair evaluations? By returning to district-level policies that allow educators and administrators to work together to create systems that work for their needs. This gives districts the flexibility to create fair and achievable evaluation systems that reflect the unique needs of their communities.
Push back against anti-educator, anti-public school propaganda
In certain corners of the media, teachers are the subjects of unfair attacks and scapegoats in a culture war they didn’t start. It’s time to fight back. Our Educator Inspired campaign will be launching later this fall to share the stories of educators who build students’ confidence, inspire their creativity and encourage them to do more and dream bigger
3. Build the power of our union
Through the strength of numbers, we can move policies and laws in directions that positively affect our members’ lives, public education, students and entire communities. Through power comes results that have tangible real-world effects. We won’t shy away from our collective power and voice, nor will we hesitate to use it to meet our goals.
Growing voice in the halls of power
A recent poll showed that voters don’t want lawyers and corporate executives as elected representatives. Who would they prefer? Teachers and other workers. We couldn’t agree more. We’ll be actively working to get more NYSUT members into the halls of power where they can speak to education issues first-hand. That’s what we did with NYS Senator John Mannion and this is just the beginning.
Organizing to build our strength
NYSUT is engaged in a renewed effort to organize new unions across the state. Union power comes from the grassroots, so we will build this up one member, one local association at a time.
Learn more at nysut.org/organizing.
Fighting against injustice
Social justice lies at the heart of unionism. As we fight to protect collective bargaining rights, strike back against education privatization and defend the rights of members, unions also demonstrate the power of member action and show how they can be vehicles for change within communities.
Learn more about the NYSUT Social Justice Academy.
Marking Our Victories Together
Ambitious goals are good and keep everyone motivated. But we also need to reflect on the victories we have achieved together over the past few years, and they are many:
- Fully funded Foundation Aid for the first time in 30 years
- Increase in school meal funding
- Record funding for higher education
- Elimination of the burdensome edTPA
And we’ve formed new unions all across the state and dozens of locals have new contracts with some of the best pay and benefits increases seen in years.
We’ll be keeping track of all of these victories that we’re acheiving together at nysut.org/Victories.
Victory Requires Us All
Union power comes from the mass of us pulling in the same direction and all pitching in what we can to reach the common goal.