Kathy Pilling-Whitney, president of the Elmira Teachers Association, summed up teacher sentiment in one word: "heartsick."
"They are sad at the loss of respect, sad at the ridiculousness of the kinds of tests given that are tied to our [evaluations]," she told the Star-Gazette in May. "I would like to see more equity in funding per student ... I want to see opportunity for all of our kids."
Pilling-Whitney and her local were among the thousands of NYSUT members in Olean, Glens Falls, Kingston, Massapequa, Guilderland and nearly 50 other sites in every corner of the state in a Day of Advocacy to call for an end to Gov. Cuomo's vindictive agenda and "Reclaim the Joy of Teaching and Learning." They urged state lawmakers to use the rest of the legislative session to enact measures that protect and enhance — not punish — public education.
The action coincided with the launch of NYSUT's newest multi-media campaign — radio and Internet video ads and billboards — that expose Cuomo's proposed education tax credit for what it really is: a shell game allowing corporations and the super rich to divert tax dollars to elite private schools.
The 60-second radio ad features a fictional character, "Mr. Moneybags," who boasts that the tax credit is "a scheme designed to favor us 'zillionaires' and our exclusive schools," resulting in fewer resources for public school students.
NYSUT is also demanding that lawmakers push back against Cuomo's call to lift the charter school cap and his unworkable teacher evaluation plan.
"We are committed to ramping up our efforts to protect students, educators, public schools and our SUNY and CUNY campuses," said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee. "If the state is serious about improving the future of our children and its public education systems, then it must provide students and educators the teaching and learning conditions necessary to succeed."
NYSUT's campaign centers on the union's nine-point legislative plan that calls on lawmakers to:
- Free school aid from the November deadline for APPR.
- Remove test scores from APPR.
- Support local decision-making in the hiring, tenure and discipline of teachers.
- Amend the receivership provision to give struggling schools a true year or more to turn around and show improvement.
- Reform the tax cap to allow for common-sense exemptions or adjustments for things like enrollment growth.
- Pass legislation supporting parents' right to opt their children out of developmentally inappropriate tests.
- Retain local control and repeal mandatory outside evaluators.
- Enact and implement true charter school accountability.
- Support community schools legislation.
"Every day our state's public school teachers dedicate themselves to ensuring all students have an opportunity to succeed because they care and because they know that education improves lives," said NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta.
"We need to start over. We need to get all the stakeholders involved back to the table; that includes administrators, teachers, school board members and parents," Wallkill teacher and rally organizer Richard Shands told the Hudson Valley News, "because right now, it has become very political."
- Keep up the pressure! Go to mac.nysut.org and support NYSUT's campaign to "Call Out Cuomo."