The 2020 session of the state Legislature has been one of the most unusual ever.
Slated for Jan. 8 through June 2, it was suspended April 2 due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. It resumed, however, on May 26 only to adjourn June 10. The Legislature reconvened from July 20 to 24, addressing mainly COVID-related measures.
Since then, it remains technically in session, and lawmakers may well come back to Albany after the elections.
New York and other states await federal action to provide another stimulus package that would support schools, higher ed and health care — which, depending on the day, appears to be imminent or a dead deal.
And now, we wait for the results of the Nov. 3 election. If the federal aid fails to come through, NYSUT stands by its demand to raise revenues with new taxes on the wealthy. (See page 14)
NYSUT has shifted to virtual lobbying and Zoom meetings with legislators and union members. With the state capitol closed to the public, NYSUT plans to hold virtual lobby days this year.
Unions push teacher prep change
One of the potential “wins” that has come out of the Legislature this session has been to the governor’s desk before, and it did not get any further.
NYSUT and its higher education affiliates hope the circumstances of the pandemic will clarify the value of this bill intended to help aspiring educators begin their careers.
The legislation, which passed both houses of the Legislature this year, would remove the requirement that applicants admitted into graduate-level education programs must have a 3.0 minimum grade point average as undergrads. The bill was vetoed last year.
“We are working for a different result when the bill goes to the governor this time,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “COVID and the chaos it has brought with it has certainly caused GPAs to drop for many qualified students, through no lack of effort, ability or commitment.”
NYSUT, United University Professions and the Professional Staff Congress are working to educate the executive on the importance of this change.
With the teacher shortage, NYSUT has been pushing ways to allow teacher preparation programs more latitude for admitting strong candidates.
“Even without the pandemic,” Pallotta said, “many capable individuals, including English language learners and career-changers who may not have attained a 3.0 in college, would be able to meet graduate standards if given an opportunity.”
New York State requires teachers who hold an initial certificate to earn a master’s degree within five years to obtain permanent certification. In 2015, the law was changed to require candidates for the required graduate programs to hold at least a 3.0 GPA upon admission.
NYSUT has maintained that higher ed institutions use a wide range of factors in the development of quality teachers candidates, and there is no evidence that GPA is especially significant in predicting excellence. It only limits access for many potential teachers.
“This severely limits access to
programs for highly talented students who would make excellent teachers,” said Jolene DiBrango, NYSUT executive vice president, who is NYSUT’s liaison to the Board of Regents and the State Education Department.