In April, it looked like a slam dunk.
NYSUT-backed legislation to fix the broken test-and-punish teacher evaluation system had strong bipartisan support in both houses.
By the end of June, thanks to the cynical Republican leadership in the Senate, it rolled to a stop like a deflated basketball.
As we prepare for the 2019 legislative session in New York, the game has changed.
Thanks in large part to the union’s support, Democrats won enough state Senate races in November’s general elections to secure a majority for the first time since 2010, and in the process gained control of the New York State Legislature. It’s time for a reset.
“Now that we have a new Senate, we would hope that their first order of business would be to fix this broken testing and evaluation system,” President Andy Pallotta told Newsday. The Annual Professional Performance Review law that was passed almost unanimously by the Assembly and blocked by the Republican leadership in the Senate last spring should be reintroduced when the 2019 session opens in January, he said.
Pallotta promised NYSUT will work with the Assembly and the Senate, now led by Democrats who owe their powerful majority to support from our union members, to pass a bill again.
“Our bill was derailed by senators who voted to enrich their anti-union, anti-public-education donors at the expense of students, parents and educators,” Pallotta said. “We need to complete that legislative commitment to local control and collective bargaining."
What else does the change of power mean in the new legislative session?
For years, NYSUT has worked with Assembly Democrats to seek more equitable state aid for schools and public higher education.
Virtually every progressive Democrat who ran for office campaigned on the need to provide more state funding for local districts. Advocates say the state’s 2003 Foundation Aid Formula, which was supposed to ensure fairer, more predictable distribution of aid, has never been implemented and the state owes billions to districts.
NYSUT also will continue to work with the Assembly and the new Senate leadership to ensure adequate and equitable funding for our chronically underfunded public higher education systems.
NYSUT has advocated many common-sense changes to the ill-conceived tax cap law that could make it more equitable and affordable for local institutions, including exemptions for certain capital expenses, mandatory costs and security investments. The union also seeks to eliminate the undemocratic 60 percent supermajority requirement to pass a local budget that exceeds the cap. NYSUT maintains the new Senate could remove many of the obstacles to these common-sense proposals.
Thanks to campaign donations from wealthy, private supporters of the charter school industry, the publicly funded but privately operated schools have enjoyed benevolent backing from Senate Republicans. NYSUT supported numerous progressive Democrats who want to increase oversight, transparency and accountability of the schools. Proposals to regulate them more closely routinely failed in the GOP-controlled Senate.
The state recently approved more charter school openings in New York City, moving closer to a legal limit on how many charters can operate in the state. The industry will be lobbying to raise that limit, and NYSUT will be working to cap it.