With the legislative session set to begin in January, NYSUT is fiercely committed to fight to make every public school across New York state a great school, to defend tenure and collective bargaining rights, to stand against privatization and unaccountable charter schools, to stop excessive testing and unfair teacher evaluations, to fight for quality health care, and to defend all the values and priorities the union stands for.
"The enemies of public schools and working people are relentless," said NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta. "But so are we. And in the end, we will win. Because we are right."
NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said the union will continue to press lawmakers to invest more in our public schools and colleges and restore equity to school funding.
"And, we will not relent until New York state stops the overreliance on standardized testing and data that is taking the joy out of teaching and learning. NYSUT stands ready to partner with elected leaders on both sides of the aisle to accomplish these and other goals," she said.
The governor has already outlined his plans to do battle with NYSUT in the coming session. Cuomo vows to create a more "rigorous" system for evaluating teacher performance, with greater "incentives," harsher "sanctions" and more "competition." He vows to do everything he can to grow more privately managed and publicly funded charter schools, which are not held accountable the way traditional public schools are.
Cuomo threw down the gauntlet when he told the Daily News he would "break what is in essence one of the only remaining public monopolies."
Those comments set off a national firestorm as NYSUT and national education advocates questioned the governor's choice of words.
"Public education is not a monopoly," Magee said. "It is the centerpiece of our democracy and what makes our nation great. The governor's comments are an unfortunate distraction from the serious conversation we must have in this state about addressing poverty, funding and real solutions that ensure that every child receives fair and equal access to a high-quality education."
Here are key issues that are expected to be targeted in the 2015 legislative session:
Due process rights
The constitutional protection of due process is under attack from deep-pocketed, anti-worker forces. Two groups have sued to ban tenure in New York state, and NYSUT is helping defend it, but the issue also could become a legislative question.
Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) has been fraught with problems since the law was enacted in 2010. The law is too punitive, too time-consuming, and it forces educators to make instructional decisions that serve the system, sometimes at the expense of students. The governor plans to make the law more stringent.
The charter school movement, overrun with profiteers and so-called reformers whose main goal is to privatize public education, now has a champion: Gov. Cuomo. Charter school operators want to make it easier to open more schools, siphon resources from traditional public schools and make money in the process.
The State Education Department's flawed implementation of the Common Core standards was well publicized by NYSUT, the Legislature and parent groups. We all know high standards are laudable, but implementing new standards and holding students and teachers accountable for them before the new curriculum was taught is ludicrous.
The governor and Legislature's failure to meet New York's education funding obligation must be reversed. The state must also end the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which continues to deny funding from needy districts even years after the fiscal crisis that created it has passed.
Another pressing funding issue is the undemocratic tax cap. It must be lifted or amended. Cutting state aid while limiting local capacity to raise revenue is starving schools, killing programs and short-changing students.
Public higher education
The insufficient level of state funding of public higher education must be corrected by legislators to ensure the quality, accessibility and affordability of college for students at the state and city university systems and their community colleges.
It will be crucial to support access to quality health care, especially in needy communities, by preserving our SUNY medical centers and the teaching hospitals that keep the next generation of doctors in the state.
Veterans pension bill
NYSUT will again advocate for passage of a bill to expand pension credits for all military service. Last spring, after years of lobbying, both houses passed a bill that would have allowed more public employees to purchase pension credits for the time they served. Days after his re-election, just before Veterans Day, Gov. Cuomo vetoed it. The bill would have expanded an existing law to include all military service; the current statute allows credit for specific times of conflict. Sign a petition — http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/override-gov-cuomos-veto — to send a message to the governor that you disagree with his veto.
Sign up to be an e-activist and stay on top of issues affecting union members and those they serve. Visit the NYSUT Member Action Center — mac.nysut.org — today!