Teacher centers have developed a unique tool that helps a school community begin to understand what life is like with a shortage of money and an abundance of stress. The "Poverty Simulation" illuminates poverty from many different angles and leads to a discussion of potential for change. In Utica and Albany, where it started, and in Oceanside on Long Island, the program is really catching on.
"It was life-changing," said Betsy Weinman of the Oceanside Federation of Teachers. More than 60 attended the event Weinman helped organize, including local legislators and administrators, and at least four asked that the program be presented in their own communities.
This is but one of dozens of unique and innovative professional development programs that would not exist without the state's network of 125 teacher centers. The centers serve educators in 675 public school districts and 1,000 non-public and charter schools.
Yet, these resource and computer training centers, established in state Education Law 32 years ago, face an annual fight for survival. Again this year, the governor's executive budget proposal would zero out funding for them.
"It's unconscionable that we have to fight this battle every year," said Andy Pallotta, NYSUT executive vice president. "Teacher centers are the only funded vehicle guaranteed to support professional development in all school districts, including more than 200 high-need districts."
NYSUT is strongly urging the Legislature to restore funding to the 2008–09 level of $40 million.
At a time when New York asks educators to comply with ever higher learning standards to ensure students are ready for college and careers, "we must provide them with the resources and tools they need," Pallotta said.