February 2016 Issue
January 24, 2016

Magee: Progress inspires our activism agenda

Author: Karen E. Magee, President
Source: NYSUT United
NYSUT President Karen E. Magee

As we fully engage in this state budget season, we must do what we've always done — educate lawmakers and the public about what's important for our students, health care institutions and public schools and colleges.

All of us who work with students know how important it is to deliver multiple, well-coordinated messages simultaneously. It's important, for example, to recognize when students are making progress in order to keep morale high and motivate continued effort. At the same time, it's equally important to look beyond today's accomplishments and say: What's next? Where do we go from here?

After all, continued momentum is essential to long-term success.

The same theory applies to our advocacy work. With intense, widespread activism by parents and educators, we achieved genuine breakthroughs against test-and-punish and for teach-and-inspire.

You may have seen NYSUT's TV ad (and you can watch it again and share it: www.nysut.org/teachandinspire) where we made two points simultaneously: Thanks to all of us working together, we've made progress — and we're not done yet.

This is a multi-part message. It thanks the thousands of parents, students and NYSUT members whose efforts led to significant change; acknowledges our shared progress as the springboard to continued activism; and makes it clear that more must be done. We reiterate our urgent commitment for a major transformation in public education.

As I listened to Gov. Cuomo's State of the State address, I was struck by his more positive tone toward public education. His words of respect for the great work New York's dedicated teachers do in their classrooms are appreciated. As I told one reporter afterward, it appears the governor has been listening to students, parents and teachers and has — to use his word — rebooted some of his views about teachers and public education.

Yes, we are making progress!

As our ad makes clear, the Regents are acting to make many of the changes recommended by the governor's task force. That momentum must continue if the State Education Department is going to win back the trust of parents and educators. New York teachers will be at the forefront of the union work necessary to transform public education. This includes redesigning standards so they are New York standards developed by New York teachers for New York students.

"We're just getting started," as our ad says — and it covers a lot of ground.

We continue to press the Board of Regents and state education commissioner to advance the transformative agenda for public education forward.

We are calling for full funding for SUNY, CUNY and our community colleges. The governor's acknowledgment that CUNY professors and staff deserve a fair contract is important, but it must be accomplished without cuts to CUNY.

We view the governor's proposed school aid number as a starting point — not the finish line — in our continued advocacy for what students and schools need. We are advocating strongly for fairness on school receivership, the property tax cap and myriad issues regarding health care, public education and for SUNY, CUNY and community colleges — all priorities of our activist agenda.

Inspired by progress, committed to momentum, we will carry these and other issues forward in our communications, our legislative testimony and our activism in the days and weeks ahead. With your help, we will continue to be the voice that cannot be ignored.