March/April 2022 Issue
February 19, 2022

Lobby efforts push Future Forward priorities

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source: NYSUT United
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Andy Pallotta
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NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said recently that last year’s commitment to a three-year phase in of the full Foundation Aid formula, along with the governor’s promise to honor that commitment, is “a tremendous step forward for education in New York.”

However, he told lawmakers, below, at a virtual joint hearing on the elementary and secondary education budget, it will take more than that to meet the needs of students, educators and their communities in the post-COVID–19 future.

Gov. Hochul introduced her 2022–23 executive budget proposal in January, kicking off the annual weeks of debate in the Legislature — not in the statehouse, due to COVID–19 restrictions — to negotiate a final fiscal plan for the state by April 1, the start of the fiscal year.

Pallotta, NYSUT legislative staff and volunteer political activists have shared the union’s groundbreaking Future Forward Taskforce Report (futureforwardny.org) widely as a blueprint for moving education forward. The report represents ground-level guidance by NYSUT members from every region of the state.

Pallotta said the union was pleased to see many of the items recommended in the FF report were included in the executive budget proposal. But the union’s testimony and subsequent lobbying efforts in Zoom meetings, written memos, phone calls — and even a virtual legislative reception — have focused on areas where we need to ensure that programs or services meet the needs of students and help them move forward from the past two years.

“The issues around schools being the centers of communities and having the wrap-around services that students and their families require — such as child nutrition, mental health and childcare, which we have been discussing for years — have been thrust into the forefront throughout this pandemic,” Pallotta said.

With the state’s commitment to fully fund school aid and federal pandemic relief funding in hand, “We have a unique opportunity to make lasting change to address the complex needs of our students,” he said.

NYSUT is calling for dedicated funding to expand the number of community schools; new laws to set minimum staffing levels and ensure there’s a social worker, school psychologist, counselor and nurse in every school; support for prospective teachers, particularly educators of color, and restoring funding to teacher centers.

The union also seeks repeal of the oppressive receivership law and punitive consequences of flawed standardized tests.

“Returning to ‘normal’ isn’t good enough for our students,” Pallotta said. “Now is the time to redefine public education as a system that truly supports every child and ensures they have the tools to create a brighter future for our nation and our state. Because when students thrive, we all thrive.”

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