Educators of different subjects in different regions of the state share a common denominator - June 8.
That's when they will descend on Albany and use their voice to fight for the future of public education.
"It's time for us to stand up and protect our students because they are our greatest asset," said Bridget Shaw, who teaches kindergarten in the Sherburne-Earlville Elementary school in rural central New York.
The Sherburne-Earlville Teachers Association is one of hundreds of NYSUT locals coming by the busload and carload to the One Voice United rally at noon Saturday, June 8, at the Empire State Plaza in Albany.
Thousands of teachers, support staff, higher education faculty and staffers and health care professionals will join parents, students and community activists in standing up for public education and standing against corporate control of schools and the state's obsession with standardized testing.
Rally participants will add their voice to the call for a moratorium on the use of standardized tests in highstakes decisions for students and teachers until the State Education Department and Regents allow enough time for the proper implementation of the state's new Common Core Standards.
"I'm public schools all the way from kindergarten through college," said Shannon Lundgren, a Bethlehem TA member who teaches Spanish in the secondary schools. She hopes the rally carries the message that a greater investment in public education - pre-K to higher ed - is sorely needed. Her other concern: Corporate influence over public education and an irresponsible property tax cap are damaging local control.
"There are so many amazing things our students can do, but none of it is being noticed behind a screen of bubble sheets and No. 2 pencils," she said, noting the overemphasis on standardized testing now means 3,200 minutes of state tests for elementary and middle school students, a five-fold increase from the 625 minutes spent on state tests in 2004.
Education supporters will also demand enactment of the DREAM Act; full investment in higher education; and legislation to help ensure safe, secure learning environments for every student.
Frank DeCelie, a member of the Herricks TA, said highstakes testing and the tax cap are causing "all sorts of damage [that] is now impacting my students." He participated in a Take Action Long Island forum in May where hundreds vowed to attend the June 8 rally. Rally participants will hear from NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi and journalist, author and television commentator John Nichols, who inspired union leaders in April at NYSUT's pre-RA Local and Retiree Council Presidents Conference. Musician Tom Chapin also will perform. Watch www.nysut.org for updates and more details.
Unions, civic groups and activist organizations continue to sign on to support the rally. They include the state AFLCIO, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Alliance for Quality Education, Citizen Action of New York, Class Size Matters, the New York state NAACP, New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, the Labor- Religion Coalition of New York State, First Israel AME Church, the Strong Economy for All Coalition, New York Students Rising, Occupy Albany, the New York Immigration Coalition, Business and Labor Coalition of New York, Save Our SUNY, Educate New York Now and the SUNY Student Assembly. Participants will be able to make their own posters. The event will also include a bounce house and face painting for young children.
"Yes, we must have the courage to speak up and speak out for public education," Iannuzzi said. "For too long politicians and policymakers have been undercutting good teaching practices while also underfunding our schools. We have to say: Enough is enough!"
Full coverage of the One Voice United rally to fight for the future of public education - June 8 in Albany - will appear on NYSUT's website, www.nysut.org, and in the July/August issue of NYSUT United.
You can also receive updates and follow the coverage on www.twitter.com with the hashtag #rallyJune8.