In 2023, NYSUT members came together and got a lot accomplished. Our list of victories is long, and we’re all part of a labor movement that is seeing a resurgence of popularity and strength.
But we’re not resting on our laurels; there’s much more to be done.
As the 2024 legislative session begins in Albany, NYSUT will be back at it, fighting for strong public schools for students and educators and the rights and dignity of all our members. We’ll also be advocating for measures that will help to make New York a world economic leader for decades to come.
Below is a short list of just some of our major initiatives this year. Stay tuned for more as the year progresses.
Protecting kids and educators from extreme heat in schools
When classrooms are too hot, students can’t learn and teachers can’t teach. This school year, more than 1,000 educators, parents and students shared stories showing how classroom conditions deteriorate in hot temperatures and how educators are powerless to improve them without assistance from district officials or state leaders. Stories ranged from cafeteria workers preparing and serving food in 100 degree-plus kitchens to students and educators passing out and being taken away in ambulances because of soaring classroom temperatures.
The first two weeks of September were especially brutal. NYSUT President Melinda Person visited a few roasting schools and even brought along some lawmakers to see first-hand what our educators and students deal with.
“When schools are too hot, students can’t learn, and teachers can’t teach. Even animal shelters have maximum heat limits. Our schools do not, and it is disrespectful to both our students and educators." — Melinda Person, NYSUT President
NYSUT wants: Legislation that would establish a maximum temperature of 88 degrees in classrooms and school facilities. Any higher temperature would require that students and staff be removed from the overheated classroom, cafeteria or support service area. It also would define any day where the temperature reaches 82 degrees indoors as an extreme heat condition day, triggering additional precautions to keep our kids and educators safe.
Replacing the receivership system
Receivership schools are those that the state has decided are "failing" and need to have their operations taken over by state administrators. What this ACTUALLY does is take schools that are already serving disadvantaged communities and put even more restrictions on them. Essentially, it's punishing the schools we should be giving the most help to – those facing additional challenges where students are experiencing poverty, hunger and homelessness.
“The intent for receivership was to actually support schools and help them turn around, but instead has resulted in shame-and-blame consequences.” — Melinda Person, NYSUT President
NYSUT wants: The creation of a better system that gives schools the resources and tools to meet New York’s high educational standards instead of using arbitrary labels to shame and blame our disadvantaged districts and schools.
The state’s flawed testing system does not adequately measure student learning or performance, yet we use it to evaluate teachers. It is long past time to allow local school professionals – superintendents, administrators, school boards and teachers – to design better ways to support teachers and help them grow.
“Returning teacher evaluations to local control would allow educators — and New York state — to again put the emphasis back on what matters most in our classrooms — teaching and learning.” — Melinda Person, NYSUT President
NYSUT wants: A local evaluation system for teacher accountability that prioritizes the love of teaching and learning, not punitive testing. Instead of test-and-punish, districts should have the option to develop their own systems to evaluate their own teachers.
Expand the community school model
A community school is a partnership between a school, surrounding service providers and local organizations. Community schools are hubs where kids and families are connected to wraparound services they might not receive otherwise, such as health care, housing assistance, legal aid, mentoring, expanded learning programs and adult education. They support the whole child, engage families and strengthen the entire community. And they work in every district – suburban, urban and rural – because they adapt to the unique needs of the families they serve.
“As we work to reduce and hopefully eliminate poverty in New York state, we should remember the instrumental role that community schools can play. Locally built collaborative centers that leverage community resources to provide necessities for students and their families will help set them up for success.” — Melinda Person, NYSUT President
NYSUT wants: A $100 million investment from the state to potentially double the number of schools utilizing the community school model and to support the hiring of community school directors.
Support our SUNY, CUNY and community colleges
The SUNY system is under severe financial strain due to years of underfunding. While SUNY, CUNY and community colleges received historic funding increases in last year’s budget, the money was not distributed equitably and SUNY campuses and hospitals across the state continue to struggle. In recent months, several institutions have announced forced cuts to vital programs. New York must empower our institutions of higher learning to provide affordable, sustainable access to higher education now and into the future.
“Every New Yorker deserves access to public higher education. New York state must invest in and strengthen our SUNY, CUNY and community colleges.” — Melinda Person, NYSUT President
NYSUT wants: A true New Deal for Higher Ed, including funding to substantially increase the number of full-time faculty, increase pay for adjuncts and to support SUNY hospitals. The state must also provide increased funds for student mental health services to support students who are facing financial and personal difficulties, including food insecurity.
Fix Tiers 5 & 6
Fixing Tier 6 is about fairness and about keeping the teaching profession attractive. Currently, state employees in Tier 6 must work far longer and contribute far more of their paycheck for what amounts to a smaller pension when they retire, compared to those in Tier 4. Fixing Tier 6 is essential to helping combat the ongoing teacher shortage and making education an attractive and rewarding career.
“Tier 6 only creates inequity, giving new public workers significantly fewer benefits than their longer-serving colleagues. To make education a profession of choice, our members need retirement plans they can rely on. I’m all in to fix Tier 6.” — Melinda Person, NYSUT President
NYSUT wants: To reduce the Final Average Salary calculation from five to three years for Tier 6 members to increase their pension earnings and bring parity with Tier 4.
One in five children in New York state lives in poverty. In 2024, in one of the most vibrant economies in the world, that’s a tragedy. Before they’ve ever entered a classroom, poverty is affecting children’s ability to learn and perform well at school. It does not need to be this way. Poverty is a policy choice that we can fix, and this year, NYSUT will be pushing our lawmakers to make the right choice and address this root-cause of so many education issues in our state.
“A child cannot learn when they are hungry, do not have a permanent home or are living in transitional housing.” — Melinda Person, NYSUT President
NYSUT wants: To unite with partners across the state to address the basic needs too many of our students are lacking. This includes building upon last year’s school meal expansion so every child has access to nutritious food, strengthening healthcare for our kids and addressing housing affordability.