July-August 2012 Issue
June 27, 2012

NYSUT advances legislative agenda

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United

Marty Sommer of Southern
Westchester BOCES makes the
case to Senate Education
Chairman John Flanagan that
BOCES should be allowed to
accept out-of-state students. The
push began three years ago at a
BOCES meeting and was supported
by an RA resolution, Sommer said.
"This is a big opportunity that will
help us maintain andexpand programs
that are good for students."

In addition to protecting teachers' evaluation privacy, state lawmakers approved a number of NYSUT-backed bills in the final days of the legislative session. Some of NYSUT's successful priority bills, which need to be signed into law by the governor, included:

  • Allowing BOCES to accept out-of-state students and provide services to out-of-state districts. This will help more than a dozen BOCES maintain and expand programs and services. The State Education Department recently stopped allowing BOCES to accept students from contiguous states like Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
  • Allowing BOCES to contract with public libraries. Due to financial difficulties, many libraries, especially those in high-need rural and urban communities, are lacking reliable Internet service. This will enable the public library and BOCES to share the cost of maintaining improved systems.
  • Allowing school districts to attach a state seal of biliteracy to diplomas for students who are proficient in two languages.
  • Authorizing school districts to receive state aid even if they are not in session a full 180 days due to emergencies that are no fault of their own.
  • Requiring the state Energy and Research Development Agency (NYSERDA) to conduct a large-scale green schools study and report to the Legislature by July 13, 2013.

NYSUT also supported a governor's program bill that adds cyberbullying to the DIgnity for All Students Act, requiring schools to designate an official responsible for prompt action on any reports of cyberbullying and to provide staff training.

The bill defines cyberbullying as harassment, insults, taunting and threats through social media. It requires schools to coordinate with police "when appropriate" and develop a strategy for dealing with cyberbullying. The approved bill stops short of carrying criminal charges. One senator blamed the rise in cyberbullying for a recent string of teen suicides.

Just as important as the wins were bills NYSUT fought hard to prevent, including: ill-advised regional high school legislation; a "parent trigger" bill that would have allowed for takeover of underperforming schools with signatures of 51 percent of parents, as well as a voucher plan for religious schools; mandate relief legislation that removed school psychologists and other members from special education committees; two bills that privatized educational services for tutoring and alternative education for at-risk youth; and two bills that attacked 3020-a due process rights.

When the Legislature returns later this year, NYSUT will keep pressing for an increase in the minimum wage; a safe patient handling bill for nurses; repeal of the devastating property tax cap; legislation that makes SUNY/CUNY research foundations subject to the state's Freedom of Information Law; and a moratorium on school closures in New York City.

Through the coming months, NYSUT activists will develop strategies during statewide and regional conferences. NYSUT will also be reviewing legislative actions as local leaders consider upcoming endorsements for the state Legislature elections this fall. Watch www.nysut.org for updates.