May - June Issue
May 09, 2014


Source: NYSUT United

Hope for a clear vision

Good luck to our new president, Karen Magee. I hope she approach­es problems with an open mind and a clear vision to protect and defend the rights of educators and the integrity of the public schools in New York.

Francis A. Gentile | Dobbs Ferry

Veterans merit pension credits

Historically, New York state has done a pretty good job recognizing its veterans. There are property tax exemptions for almost all vet­erans. New York state also grants pension credits for all public ser­vice employees who served during WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War.

Unfortunately, some veterans who served during Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan are currently not en­titled to pension credits. However, thanks to a bill (S.4714-A) spon­sored by state Sen. William Larkin Jr. and co-sponsored by state Sen. Terry Gipson, there is a solution.

The bill would grant up to three years military service credit to members of public retirement sys­tems. The bill might stand a good chance of passing because there is also a companion bill (A.6974-A) sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin. I urge NYSUT to sup­port it. Noncombat veterans who are NYSUT members would appre­ciate the recognition of our service.

Rich Dambra | Beacon

Another sleight of hand

During his recent visit to Syracuse, Gov. Cuomo announced the newest Master Teachers in STEM fields. It brings to 319 the number of Master Teachers across the state, and a number are from Onondaga County and from our own school district. Our faculty is a superior one and clearly our teachers deserve to be commended for their professionalism and teaching ability. I commend them. Certainly many teachers could benefit from collaboration with them.

Having said that, let me explain why I think the program is one more in a long list of attacks on public education by the state and why NYSUT, Onondaga County TA and Jamesville-Dewitt FA must publicly call for its end.

This program is another sleight of hand by the current administra­tion to undermine public education. It is merit pay, plain and simple. It is just another step in creating a cor­porate model of education in which some win and others lose. Merit pay only increases competition and decreases collaboration and trust. It further demoralizes teachers and erodes the strength of our union and our profession.

While science, technology and mathematics are essential (and have been identified by President Obama as an urgent need), teach­ers of all curricula teach critical knowledge and skills to all children in their care. We are librarians build­ing research skills, second grade teachers strengthening reading abilities, language teachers helping to develop 21st century skills, guid­ance counselors preparing students for college and life, and special education teachers ensuring the success of students who need ad­ditional support — all doing our best to help students to be successful in their educations and to become effective citizens. Elevating one cur­riculum to a place of honor dimin­ishes the value of other curricular areas in the minds of students and the community, and this is a threat to public education.

And where is all of that money coming from? Millions of taxpayer dollars were set aside to fund the Master Teacher Program (not to mention the bazillions in funding for charter schools and the tax rebate in districts that don’t exceed the tax cap) while education funding fell far short of needed levels throughout the state. If that much money is available, it should be used to best benefit all areas of education. If, in­stead, it had been directed toward schools, districts would not have to lay off teachers, cut programs, eliminate electives and overcrowd classrooms.

Like Diane Ravitch said at Syracuse University recently, I be­lieve teachers are motivated by ide­alism, professionalism and a belief in the common good. The way to incentivize them, Ravitch said, is to treat them with respect, pay them appropriately, invest in their training and retain them. Like so many of the education policies of this adminis­tration, the Master Teacher Program does not rise to the challenge of any of those goals and should be eliminated.

Donna M. Oppedisano | Jamesville-Dewitt Faculty Association


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