An Essential Safety Net

July 9, 2014

Shortly before 1 a.m. this morning, a bill protecting our members from the worst consequences of the state's broken evaluation system passed the state Senate unanimously. That was the final piece we needed. With the Assembly leading the way and the governor on board, we achieved a three-way agreement that protects our members with a safety net extending through 2017. Members who receive a "developing" or "ineffective" rating in 2013-14 or 2014-15 will see those ratings recalculated and any portion based on the state's botched Common Core standardized tests will be removed.

The bottom line: A two-year safety net for members put in harm's way by the state's Common Core standardized tests.

Your activism was absolutely invaluable in supporting fierce advocacy by Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta, Director of Legislation Steve Allinger, and legislative staff, who persevered literally round-the-clock in the closing days of session. Vice President Catalina Fortino and Research and Educational Services, along with our Legal and Communications staff, provided strong support. And let me just say: There were more than a few curve balls. Just as negotiations seemed to be wrapping up, SED Commissioner John King took to the media with the claim that our APPR agreement would jeopardize New York's federal funds. Our strong and immediate rebuttal gained traction in mainstream and social media, and was subsequently reinforced (with an assist from the AFT) by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan himself.

This APPR agreement and our progress on edTPA are important steps forward -- but we are far from done. Hitting the "pause button" on consequences for teachers -- as we've already done for students -- is just the start of fixing what is clearly a broken system. In the days ahead, NYSUT will launch our own task force to work closely with parents in pressing solutions to the state's damaging test-driven system of education.

Just as importantly, we continue to push for a higher education endowment, the Dream Act, fixes to the tax cap and minimum wage, and other priorities that now become our "to do " list for the next legislative session.

For today, though, we can take a moment to appreciate what we have achieved with the APPR agreement. Two days ago, a board member posed a logical question: "What is NYSUT giving up to get this agreement?"

My answer was simple: "Not one thing." We prevailed on the merits. No future promises, no quid pro quo. As in any negotiation, we didn't get everything we wanted, but we fought hard and won an essential safety net for our members. And most importantly, we established that we will be fierce, pro-active and unwavering in defense of our principles -- as we continue the fight.

NYSUT Pushes On

June 5, 2014

The union continues a non-stop push for legislation to expand the moratorium on the use of standardized tests in high-stakes decisions that was established for students to include teachers and principals. I urge members to go to the Member Action Center to send a fax to legislators. The state budget included a two-year moratorium for students on the use of state tests -- click the link below.

tell legislators the same principle applies to teachers!

Opting Out - Spring 2014

May 10, 2014

The frustration of parents shows as the number of students opting out of math tests last week exceeded the earlier ELA tests. Parents of more than 34,000 students chose to excuse their children from taking the state's grade 3-8 English language arts exams in April, according to the New York State Allies for Public Education. Preliminary reports indicate many more opted out of the math tests.

Math Test Errors - Spring 2014

May 10, 2014

The fiasco of the missing pages in some of the state math tests given last week in more than 100 schools is yet another example of SED's flawed testing policies. Here's our news release.

NYSUT is compiling a list of affected schools and will press for whatever correctives are needed.

Mobilization May events

May 10, 2014

There are plenty of reasons to get people moving during Mobilization May.

At 2 p.m. May 17, thousands will gather in Manhattan's City Hall Park and march to the NYC Department of Education to support and celebrate the efforts of parents, teachers and community members who have worked to preserve and protect public education. The rally, coming just one day after the 60th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on educational equity, Brown v. the Board of Education, promises to be en exciting event, with remarks by public ed advocate Diane Ravitch.

The AFT, NEA and others are organizing a national week of action May 13-17 to mark the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, including a rally on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Brentwood TA hosts a "have fun, get fit" program from 9 a.m. to noon May 17.

Saratoga Adirondack BOCES EA plans a grassroots, T-shirt solidarity event for May 20 to help GOTV.

Iannuzzi Pushes Governor's Panel

February 26, 2014

President Dick Iannuzzi urged Gov. Cuomo's Common Core panel to get down to serious business. "Now that the governor's panel is under way, it is imperative for it to conclude its work swiftly," he said. "The clock continues to tick away the time until another battery of inappropriate Common Core tests will be imposed on anxious and stressed students, parents and teachers." And in a letter published in today's New York Times, Iannuzzi rebutted a Times editorial that suggested there's little need for concern about the state's use of standardized tests. "You dismiss these concerns because only 1 percent of teachers were rated ineffective," Iannuzzi writes in reiterating NYSUT's call for a moratorium. "But if the tests are flawed, the results are flawed, regardless of how few teachers or students are harmed."

The Chained CPI

February 26, 2014

Today, it was reported President Obama heeded OUR call and struck the chained CPI cut to Social Security and other programs from his 2015 budget.

The 4 million member Alliance for Retired Americans made eliminating the chained CPI our top priority of the past year. You have been key in making that successful. Thank you.

•    Our “Human Chain Against the Chained CPI” events across the country paid off!
•    Our grassroots educational forums actually turned the language and understanding of the “chained CPI” into the “chained CPI benefit cut” for seniors, veterans and others

•    We will continue to do our part to educate, advocate and mobilize for retirement security for Americans who work hard and should be able to count on a secure retirement. 
•    Now that the pesky chained CPI is out of the way, we can focus on the real task at hand, articulated well by members of Congress like Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as well as Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), which is to expand Social Security so that it fits the retirement security needs of today.

Thanks so much for your confidence, support and especially activism! Together, we do make a difference!

Sincerely,
Richard Fiesta
Executive Director, Alliance for Retired Americans

The Chained CPI

February 26, 2014

Today, it was reported President Obama heeded OUR call and struck the chained CPI cut to Social Security and other programs from his 2015 budget.

The 4 million member Alliance for Retired Americans made eliminating the chained CPI our top priority of the past year. You have been key in making that successful. Thank you.

•    Our “Human Chain Against the Chained CPI” events across the country paid off!
•    Our grassroots educational forums actually turned the language and understanding of the “chained CPI” into the “chained CPI benefit cut” for seniors, veterans and others

•    We will continue to do our part to educate, advocate and mobilize for retirement security for Americans who work hard and should be able to count on a secure retirement. 
•    Now that the pesky chained CPI is out of the way, we can focus on the real task at hand, articulated well by members of Congress like Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as well as Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), which is to expand Social Security so that it fits the retirement security needs of today.

Thanks so much for your confidence, support and especially activism! Together, we do make a difference!

Sincerely,
Richard Fiesta
Executive Director, Alliance for Retired Americans

Have You Sent Your New Year's Message?

December 28, 2013

Have you sent your New Year's message to the Regents?

NYSUT has and will continue to use every opportunity to push the Regents and other policymakers in Albany in the right direction. We can't do it alone. If you haven't done it, there's still time for you and your members to sign and send NYSUT's open letter to the Regents. We just passed 10,000 signatures! Right after the start of the new year, NYSUT will deliver the message to the chancellor, the board and the commissioner.

Good News and Bad News from SED

December 28, 2013

NYSUT's non-stop push to hold the Regents Board members accountable for their actions/inactions is starting to bear some fruit. This week the board approved its State Aid proposal, calling for a $1.3 billion increase, including increased investments in universal pre-K, $125 million more for professional development, additional funding for Common Core instructional materials, enhanced support for Career and Technical Education, and more equitable funding for high needs districts.

While this is a positive step forward, NYSUT is seeking a $1.9 billion increase in funding. We continue to press SED to make the necessary course corrections in the implementation of the Common Core and to support a three-year moratorium on the use of state standardized test scores in making high stakes decisions about students or teachers. NYSUT will continue to press the case with all policymakers in Albany so that students and teachers will not be unfairly and unnecessarily harmed by the inability or unwillingness of bureaucrats in Albany to provide the tools, support and time necessary to get it right.

NYSUT Calls for 3-year Moratorium

September 25, 2013

Updated November 2013
The events of the past several months continue to strengthen our argument for a moratorium:  a moratorium on the high stakes consequences of state standardized tests. This position allows us to remain committed to accountability, appropriate testing and the potential Common Core has to offer — if done right. A three-year moratorium allows for a reasonable period of time to repair the damage done last year, an opportunity to collect and analyze data appropriately, examine curriculum associated with the CCSS and make adjustments as needed.

As a strategy, a three-year moratorium keeps us aligned with our allies among parents, administrators and community groups. This places us in a strong position to achieve a favorable outcome that improves conditions for our members and the students they teach — our ultimate goal. As our legislative department finalizes language, I doubt we will have any trouble finding multiple sponsors!

In solidarity,

Richard C. Iannuzzi
President

**************

October 2013

This week the State Senate Education Committee held a hearing entitled "The Regents Reform Agenda: 'Assessing' Our Progress" in Brentwood. It is the first of four scheduled hearings over the next six weeks.

Nadia Resnikoff, president of the Middle County Teachers' Association and a member of the NYSUT Board of Directors, testified on behalf of NYSUT. Here's more from NYSUT.org.

She outlined the problems related to SED's rocky implementation of Common Core testing, the need for sufficient resources and transparency in the use of standardized tests, and ways in which the state can get it right. She launched NYSUT's call for a three-year moratorium on high-stakes consequences for students and teachers and postponement of the implementation of the Common Core Regents exams as a graduation requirement.

Testimony at the Senate hearings echoed the concerns that parents and teachers have repeatedly expressed about the pace of the Common Core's implementation, and the tremendous increase in the instruction time lost to standardized testing. Parents told lawmakers about the stress created by high-stakes testing, while one principal noted that fifth-grade students in her school will take 19 state and local tests this year.

Three more Senate hearings are slated for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, in Syracuse; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, in Buffalo; and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, in New York City.

Monitoring the New Evaluation Procedures

September 17, 2013

Public school classroom teachers should have received their 2012-13 composite scores and ratings by the end of the day on Sept. 3. Teacher Improvement Plans (TIPs), where required, must be provided within 10 school days after classes begin.

NYSUT is aggressively monitoring the delivery of scores, development of TIPs and number of appeals, and "will provide full protection and advocacy in support of our members' rights," NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi said.

NYSUT continues to challenge the timing, quality and nature of the testing and scoring as well as the rocky implementation of Common Core State Standards. It's important for local leaders to consult with their labor relations specialists and regional offices about ongoing developments. Resources are available on the Web site to help members understand what's next in the teacher evaluation process and how growth scores are determined

Charter Schools

September 17, 2013

The State Education Department has received 50 "Letters of Intent" for proposed charter schools. Of the 50, SED has accepted 28 and invited those entities to submit full applications by Sept. 18. They are in New York City (22), Buffalo, Oswego, Potsdam and Rochester. You can download the list as xls or pdf.

In addition, five other applications are working their way through SED's approval process. The five are in New York City (3), East Ramapo and Warwick Valley.

At the same time, the SUNY Board of Trustees, another charter-authorizer, has received 13 preliminary proposals to create new charter schools in New York City (11), Syracuse and Rochester. Click here for SUNY list.

NYSUT's Research and Educational Services Department today alerted all local presidents in school districts where charter schools might be in the pipeline. NYSUT will continue monitoring developments as the applications move forward.

Affordable Care Act

September 17, 2013

Affordable Care Act Will be a Boon for Early Retirees

The Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges, set to open this October, are expected to make health insurance less costly and easier to obtain for early retirees.  Currently, many Americans who retire before 65 and are no longer insured through their employers find it extremely difficult to obtain health insurance. Many insurers charge higher premiums, or even refuse coverage, based on age or pre-existing conditions that are common among older Americans. Under the Affordable Care Act, it will be illegal for insurers to charge higher premiums based on pre-existing conditions, and there will be a cap on how much premiums can rise based on age.  Additionally, low-income individuals will receive subsidies to help purchase insurance.  To learn more, read a New York Times article at http://tinyurl.com/owoee93.

Social Security & Medicare

June 6, 2013

Trustees Reports: Social Security Steady, Medicare Financial Outlook Improved
The Social Security and Medicare Trustees issued their annual reports on the state of the two programs’ finances today. Social Security, according to its Trustees, has a $2.7 trillion surplus, enough to fully meet the demands of a growing retiree cohort through 2033 – the same as last year. With no action from Congress, it would cover most benefits through 2087. The Trustees report for Medicare noted that its Trust Fund, which covers hospital care, can fully pay benefits through 2026 – two years later than forecast last year. The Medicare trustees report shows reduced cost growth; this is further proof in many experts’ eyes that health care reform is working for seniors.

Seniors and Credit Card Debt

April 1, 2013

Seniors Face Growing Credit Card Debt Crisis

According to two recent studies, seniors are facing an alarming, and growing, debt crisis. A report from AARP’s Public Policy institute and Demos, a research organization, compared the amount of credit card debt held by different age groups. The report found that Americans over the age of 50 carried an average balance of $8,278, while those under the age of 50 had a comparatively lower average balance of $6,258. A second study, from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, found that the percentage of income that Americans over 75 spend on debt payments substantially increased from 4.5 percent to 7.1 percent in just three years between 2007 and 2010. Experts pinpoint medical expenses as one of the primary causes of the increased debt. To read the New York Times write-up on that issue, go to http://tinyurl.com/chc7snk.

A Court Victory

February 28, 2013

Court of Appeals upholds privacy of pension information for teachers

The union hailed a unanimous appellate court ruling that affirms retired teachers have privacy rights that prevent their annual pensions from being published on websites and in newspapers.

"This is an important victory for our retired members," said President Dick Iannuzzi. "We are pleased that New York's appellate court has recognized that, after decades of dedicated service to their students and school districts, the privacy rights of retired teachers in the New York State Teachers' Retirement System should be protected."

Social Security - Direct Deposit

January 15, 2013
Social Security Checks: You are asked to Switch to Direct Deposit by March 1

Millions of Americans still receiving paper checks for Social Security and other federal benefits have less than two months to switch to electronic payments. In an effort to cut spending, federal officials began retiring paper checks in favor of direct deposits and prepaid “Direct Express” debit cards in May 2011. Since then, the Treasury Department has required all new recipients of payments from federal benefits programs -- including Social Security, Supplemental Security Income disability, Veterans Affairs and government pension plans -- to sign up for electronic payments. It set a March 1, 2013, deadline for all other recipients to do the same.

According to CNN, approximately 93% of payments are now being made electronically. However, about 5 million checks are still mailed each month -- representing an additional $4.6 million in monthly costs, since each mailed check costs 92 cents more than a direct deposit transfer, Treasury officials said on Tuesday. The agency said if it didn't push for the switch to electronic transfers, it would cost taxpayers another $1 billion over the next 10 years. Anyone who fails to make the change will still receive paper checks, but will be the target of more aggressive communication efforts, such as additional mailings, said Walt Henderson, a Treasury official. He warned that after March 1, Social Security beneficiaries receiving paper checks are not in compliance.

New W-2 Reporting Requirements

December 17, 2012

The Affordable Care Act requires employers to report the cost of health insurance coverage on W-2 forms issued in 2013 for calendar year 2012. Please note that this is informational reporting only with the intent to make employees more informed consumers.  This amount is not taxable. For further information, go here.

Right to Work for Less law - Michigan

December 17, 2012

Labor unions are preparing to challenge the devastating union-busting bill signed into law this week by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. The law, which affects public and private sector workers, takes effect in early April and does not change existing contracts. In other words, if a contract does not expire until 2015, that's when the new law will take effect.

Union leaders are already working to muster public support for overturning this law, which was criticized by President Barack ObamaAFT President Randi Weingarten and many others such as AFT.

View older posts »

Webmaster:  Betty Jayne Volpe, bjvolpe@optonline.net