The month of June means high school graduation, warmer weather and the end of the New York state legislative session. This year, the Senate and Assembly passed a flurry of bills that NYSUT activists and staffers fought hard for. Attention now shifts to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office to encourage her to sign those bills into law.
Read on for some of the many NYSUT-backed measures that earned legislative victories this session.
What happened: The state finally fulfilled its promise to fully fund Foundation Aid. New York state school aid totals $34 billion and includes a $2.6 billion Foundation Aid increase.
NYSUT believes: This investment means that students will finally get more of the tools and resources they need to thrive in the classroom. This was decades in the making and something we’ve been pushing hard for through our Fund Our Future campaign.
What this means for members: More classroom resources for educators and students. Hiring of needed staff. Updates to supplies and materials. The list could go on and will vary from district to district. View your school district’s projected aid run.
President Person says: “The full funding of Foundation Aid represents a historic moment for New York and our public schools. The state is at last keeping a promise that has been broken for far too long.”
Workplace Violence Protection
What happened: The legislature passed a bill to include public schools in the state’s Workplace Violence Protection Act.
NYSUT believes: This is an important step forward to protect teachers and School-Related Professionals. Now, the governor needs to sign it!
What this means for members: Schools would be required to complete a risk assessment to evaluate workplace violence and develop and implement programs to prevent and minimize it. Staff would be able to request an inspection by the Departments of Labor if dangerous environments are not being addressed.
President Person says: “For too long, our members have been left out of these crucial workplace protections. With the passage of this bill, we are continuing to make sure that all educators have a workplace where they are safe and treated with dignity.”
What happened: The legislature approved a change requiring an independent officer to oversee disciplinary hearings for school staff and other public employees. Current law lets the body bringing charges against the employee to run the hearings, ultimately affecting the disciplinary action that follows.
NYSUT believes: Due process rights are fundamental to our union values, and this is the only way to fully support the protections our civil service employees deserve.
What this means for members: This bill would give both the employer and the employee equal opportunities to present their respective cases. It would also ensure that the employee is not suspended without pay while any charges are pending.
President Person says: “Teachers and their unions have no stake in protecting anyone who hurts children or who tarnishes our profession, but due process is a foundation of our Constitution. NYSUT supports a fair and objective hearing process.”
Grow Your Own
What happened: The legislature passed a bill that requires the state education department to develop guidelines for Grow Your Own initiatives, aimed at attracting underrepresented candidates to teaching.
NYSUT believes: Representation in schools matters and NYSUT is committed to recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce, encouraging students of color to consider a career in education and supporting educators of color through professional development.
What this means for members: The state education department will work with districts and higher education institutions to develop strategies for recruitment such as creating an early pipeline in secondary school, establishing partnerships with community-based organizations, and identifying existing funding sources.
President Person says: “NYSUT has been out front in sounding the alarm on the teacher shortage. Grow Your Own programs are a strategic way to develop aspiring educators who are strongly connected to the school and community.”
Captive Audience Meetings
What happened: Lawmakers passed a bill that would ban mandatory anti-union meetings in the workplace.
NYSUT believes: Employees should not be forced to listen to employer speech concerning the exercise of their statutory labor rights, especially during organizing campaigns.
What this means for members: The bill would prevent employers from requiring workers to attend meetings in which the company expresses its religious or political views, including the choice of whether to join a labor organization.
President Person says: “We have seen these kinds of meetings used to threaten and intimidate workers. Employees have a protected right not to listen to such speech, and ensuring they can do so without retribution is a victory for labor organizations across New York.”
What happened: There was consensus among stakeholders — SED, district administrators, educators, parents’ groups and union leaders — that the current one-size-fits-all teacher evaluation system needs to be fixed. NYSUT was pushing this hard and was ready to go. But the clock ran out on the legislative session to agree on the particulars of a lasting solution.
NYSUT believes: The current evaluation system is over-reliant on testing, takes the joy out of teaching and learning and needs to be fixed to return evaluations to local control. If locals and school districts like their current APPR plan, they should be able to keep them. But locals and school districts should be able to de-link tests from teacher evaluations as long as they can adhere to state testing standards. Read President Melinda Person’s op-ed for more details.
What this means for members: The APPR system that had been on pause will resume, using this year’s testing scores as comparison for next year’s scores and evaluations.
Solutions Not Suspensions
What happened: The Senate and Assembly could not agree on particulars of a bill that would limit suspensions as a go-to method of discipline in schools, so it will wait until next year.
NYSUT believes: The best place for students is in the classroom and we wholeheartedly support the intent of this legislation. Suspension disproportionately affects students from underserved communities, and lawmakers are right to seek to correct that injustice. But NYSUT urged the Legislature to include necessary resources to support students' mental health and address the root causes of disruptive behavior.
What this means for members: No changes in the short term. Our fight for safe schools and healthy learning environments continues.
What happened: The governor’s proposed budget allowed for the creation of over 100 new charters, a majority of them to be opened in New York City. NYSUT and the UFT pushed back hard on this expansion of unaccountable corporate charters. In the end, New York state lawmakers approved 22 zombie charters, 14 in New York City and eight for the rest of the state. Further accountability measures were not passed by the end of session.
NYSUT believes: Corporate charters drain vital funding from districts while under-enrolling English Language Learners and students with disabilities. In New York City alone, 72 percent of Foundation Aid increases over the last five years have gone toward charter payments. We will continue fighting for transparency and accountability from the charter school industry.”
What this means for members: While NYSUT was successful in curtailing the total number of new charters, having any new corporate charters added to the system continues to pull taxpayer funds away from supporting schools that do the most good for the most students.