Union Victories
June 10, 2024

2024 State Legislative Session – Victories

Author: NYSUT Communications
2024 State Legislative Session – Victories

As June arrives, it brings with it a trio of notable events: high school graduations, rising temperatures, and the conclusion of the New York state legislative session. This year is turning out to be a great year for public schools, educators, students and union members across the state. The Senate and Assembly have passed multiple bills championed by NYSUT.

Now, the focus shifts to Governor Kathy Hochul, as advocates encourage her to sign these crucial pieces of legislation into law, solidifying the progress made during this session and ensuring that the hard-fought efforts of NYSUT supporters come to fruition.

Read on for some of the many NYSUT-backed measures that earned legislative victories this session.

Union Wins

Budget Recap

What happened: In April, NYSUT notched incredible wins in the state budget that included: rejecting most of the proposed cuts to school aid and increasing Foundation Aid by $430 million more than the executive proposal; lowering the Final Average Salary calculation from five to three years for Tier 6 members — the biggest win for pension reform in 20 years; and saving SUNY Downstate while sending hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding to CUNY and SUNY campuses.

NYSUT leadership traveled the state to learn what proposed cuts to Foundation Aid would do to schools. Meanwhile our members rallied in Mount Vernon and Suffolk, demanding aid be restored.

Why it matters: Our members’ voices are powerful, and these victories would not have happened without the incredible outpouring of support from educators, students, parents and community members who know that properly funding education is vital to New York’s future.

What this means: Together we win and succeed in making New York stronger for working class families and students alike.

President Person says: “New York can and will lead the country with strong communities, engaged citizens and a world-class workforce. ... Our union advocacy in this year’s state budget puts us on the road to do just that.”


What happened: Following a decade-long process of negotiations and advocacy, education stakeholders and the State Education Department reached an agreement to return teacher evaluations to local control. After NYSUT President Melinda Person and State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa hand-delivered the legislation to lawmakers, NYSUT engaged an intense lobbying fight to ensure passage in the Assembly and the Senate.

Why it matters: The return of teacher evaluations to local control is an important issue, one that we have been fighting FOR since. This is about returning dignity and respect to the teaching profession and recognizing that teacher evaluations are best handled on a local level.

What this means: If signed, the new bill will allow teachers to focus on authentic learning, rather than just test-taking skills. Teachers will receive more transparent, immediate feedback from administrators and have more support in their educational career.

President Person says: “This has been a decade-long fight, and we are relieved to see it near the finish line. It would not have been possible without the tireless advocacy of our members, our legislative supporters and our statewide education partners.

This is a win for students, educators and communities, because it will allow instruction to focus on a love of teaching and learning, and it will treat our educators like the professionals they are.”

Fix Tier 6

What happened: This year NYSUT members campaigned, organized, and rallied around the issue of tier equity – they even held some pretty snazzy cocktail parties. In October, NYSUT leadership testified before the New York Senate, explaining that correcting Tier 6 is crucial to attracting more professionals to the teaching field. Ultimately, we took our fight to the Capitol. In April, all that NYSUT activism paid off when we won the biggest win for pension reform in 20 years – lowering the Final Average Salary (FAS) calculation from five to three years for Tier 6 members.

Why it matters: Fixing Tier 6 is about solidarity and fairness. It’s unfair that some NYSUT members must work longer, and contribute more, to earn significantly less in retirement.

What this means: This new math for FAS will mean more money for Tier 6 members annually in retirement - around $100,000 in additional retirement earnings for the average member. It also marks the second victory in the battle toward Tier 6 equity; in 2023, the vesting period for Tier 6 members was dropped from 10 to five years. These wins have spurred us on – and we won’t quit until we Fix Tier 6.

President Person says: “We want to eventually create parity for Tier 6 members — because 30 years should be a career. We’re hopeful that the Legislature and the governor can come together and agree on something that will give our members hope for the future.”  

School Temperature

What happened: Schools got hot is what happened! It’s been happening every year, but the issue is worsening as the climate changes and school facilities continue to age. This past September, when temps spiked well into the 90s across the state, our members raised the alarm about the ill effects of heat on their students. NYSUT hit the road and took lawmakers with them to visit schools and experience firsthand how difficult teaching and learning conditions become when the mercury rises.

Over the fall, we collected over 800 stories from educators and parents across the state about extreme heat in classrooms. This May, when temps began to rise, our educators sounded off again about the way heat hits kids differently. 

On the MAC, nearly 22,000 people told our lawmakers to address this issue. And just in the past few weeks, we brought the heat to legislators, literally, by setting up a sauna in the Capitol to recreate sweltering classroom conditions.

Why it matters: Our members’ working conditions are our students’ learning conditions, and we should do everything we can to make schools safe and comfortable. We also have mountains of data that shows that extreme heat is unhealthy for students and compromises their ability to learn.

What this means: The bill establishes a maximum temperature in school buildings and facilities and requires schools to follow procedures when temperatures rise. Specifically, when temperatures in our schools reach between 82 degrees and 87 degrees, the school would be required to determine how to address high-heat conditions (e.g., provide water, air conditioning, close classroom shades, open windows, turn off lights, etc.). If the temperature rises further still, additional measures will need to be taken.

President Person says: “Safe and comfortable environments for teaching and learning should be the starting point for ensuring the best educational opportunities for our students. We’re grateful the Legislature has felt the heat on this one - just like our educators and students have every fall and spring - and have taken important steps to address overheated schools.” 

Social Media Safety

What happened: NYSUT members witnessed Big Tech make a big social media-shaped hole in their students’ lives, and they decided to fight back – fight back against the toxic and addictive content constantly being foisted upon young people and fight back against the loss of minors’ privacy. In October, NYSUT leadership joined Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York State Attorney General Letitia James to announce new legislation aimed at online safety for children, and throughout the fall and winter, NYSUT members kept the pressure on their legislators, sending more than 3,000 emails to representatives. In May, NYSUT President Melinda Person joined the governor to urge the Legislature to act on the bills.

Why it matters: We care about the well-being of our students. Social media and cell phone use appear to be a major culprit for lack of attention and the notable decline in mental health of our students. They need to be addressed.

What this means for members: The passage of the Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act and the New York Child Data Protection Act will safeguard our most vulnerable citizens from some of the most toxic aspects of social media.

President Person says: “Educators see the harmful effects of social media on our kids every day, and this legislation is a tremendous first step toward ensuring these influences remain in their proper places. We are grateful to the Legislature, the Attorney General and the governor for championing the mental health of our students as they navigate this rapidly changing world online.

These platforms have potential to enhance teaching, learning and connectivity, but should never risk our children’s safety. New York can lead the nation in creating protections for the mental and physical health of the future generation, and this is just the beginning.”


What happened: Following years of advocacy, including by SRP members during their SRP Lobby Day at the state Capitol this year, the Assembly and Senate finally passed toileting and diapering regulations. Over 3,000 of you emailed your legislators about this issue!

Why it matters: Important work deserves dignity. Our members deserve a work environment that is safe, sanitary and where they are treated with respect. Members who diaper and toilet should be properly trained, compensated and protected for the valuable work they do. Our students also deserve respect, so setting clear guidelines helps us all. 

What this means: Instead of a patchwork of individual regulations at the district level, the State Education Department will now create uniform standards statewide in public schools. This will ensure students and educators have increased protections in the workplace.

President Person says: “Caring for our students does not need to be at odds with dignity of our educators. This new bill helps ensure both by ensuring clear standards, expectations and by properly compensating our members who are doing crucial work in the service of others.”

Firearm Storage

What happened: 2,500 of you contacted your state legislators and called on them to reduce gun deaths among children through education on the safe storage of firearms. The Senate and Assembly passed a bill to make sure people get educational materials related to safe firearm storage, county and local specific firearm laws, child access prevention and more when they receive a firearm license.

Why it matters: Firearms are the leading cause of death among children and teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every year, more than 21,000 children and teens are shot and killed or wounded. We can keep our children safer and make sure that fewer children are exposed to gun violence every year.

What this means: New Yorkers obtaining firearm licenses will now be made aware of how to keep those firearms out of the reach of children and teens. The state Division of Criminal Justice Services will also be developing a public awareness campaign on the safe storage of firearms, rifles and shotguns and child access and prevention.

President Person says: “Public schools are the centers of our communities and one of the main resources for information for parents on child safety. If this notification and education process can save one life, it’s more than worth it.”

Civil Service Exams

What happened: The New York state civil service exams, which many NYSUT SRPs and other members must take to get job placements or promotions, have been stagnating for years. The questions on many exams were not updated to meet modern requirements or job experiences. NYSUT joined with a coalition of other unions and trade organizations to push for more relevant, up-to-date civil service tests.

Why it matters: It’s important that tests for employment be relevant to the job experience of those taking them.

What this means: New legislation will require the New York State Department of Civil Service to review and, if necessary, update the questions on civil service exams every five years beginning in 2025.

President Person says: “To ensure our members are fairly evaluated, state civil service exams must be updated regularly so they accurately assess their day-to-day job responsibilities.”

Addressing IDAs and Tax Exemptions

What happened: The Senate and Assembly passed a bill to make sure that local unions and school members are part of the decision-making process for Industrial Development Agencies.

Why it matters: Corporations siphon away roughly $1.8 billion a year from our public schools through IDAs. IDAs can create deals that exempt businesses from paying full property taxes, something that hurts our public schools. By having representatives from the school district and local unions on the IDA, we can make sure that our voices our heard and that our schools and communities have the resources they need and deserve.

What this means: Local unions and school districts will now have a voice at the table for what businesses come into their communities and how those businesses are taxed, making sure the needs of our public schools are met. It will make IDAs more open and responsive to the communities they serve.

President Person says: “In New York we are united by our support for our great public schools. So it’s unconscionable we also have a system that allows private companies to come in and create demands on our districts while avoiding the financial responsibility to our students. Our schools need and deserve every dollar they’ve been promised, and NYSUT will keep fighting to make that happen.”

Regulation of Artificial Intelligence

What happened: NYSUT worked with a coalition of labor groups to support legislation introducing some simple but necessary regulations to Artificial Intelligence technology, specifically how the state government uses and manages AI.

Why it matters: The rise of AI has huge implications for NYSUT members, specifically how it affects education and labor. This is just the beginning of addressing the proliferation of AI and its effects on security and the workforce.

What this means: Known as the Legislative Oversight of Automated Decision-making in Government Act (LOADinG Act), the bill regulates the use of artificial intelligence (AI) by state agencies. It requires public awareness and input of AI usage in state government and mandates monitoring and periodic reviews of AI systems. The bill ensures proper oversight, accountability and public input in the use of AI to improve public services while preventing job loss and discriminatory outcomes.

Items We’re Still Working On

SUNY Community College Board of Trustees

What happened: NYSUT has been pushing for the Board of Trustees at SUNY community colleges to have faculty or staff representation.

Our SUNY community college staff and faculty deserve a seat at the table for their voices to be heard. Additionally, staff and faculty at community colleges are the ones interacting with students every day. A staff or faculty representative will be able to effectively communicate the needs of the students to the Board of Trustees.

By the end of session, the NYSUT-supported bill passed the Senate and made it to the Assembly calendar. This is a promising sign for getting this bill passed next session.


What happened: Educators throughout the state have reported that students vaping in schools — including in the middle of class — is a disturbing trend that’s been on the rise. One of the reasons this is even possible is because companies that make vaping products have started making them look like pens, pencils and other regular school supplies. Not only is vaping dangerous for children, it’s also a major disruption to teaching and learning in the classroom.

NYSUT is backing a bill to prohibit the sale of vape products that resemble school supplies, toys or are packaged or advertised in any way to appeal to or target minors. This bill passed the Senate, but the Assembly ran out of time to vote on it this year. We expect it will be picked up next session.

Freedom to Read

What happened: Book challenges are on the rise nationally and in New York, as part of a coordinated, well-funded attack on public education — but our members are fighting back and protecting students’ freedom to learn. Having a diversity of reading materials in school libraries helps students develop empathy and tolerance for others and helps marginalized people feel recognized and understood.

NYSUT was pushing lawmakers to pass bills aimed at ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to collections and programming that reflect the diverse interests of their communities. In the end, legislation was passed by the Senate, but time ran out for the Assembly to take it up. We expect this to be revisited next session.