A Letter From Randi Weingarten

October 28, 2015

Saturday morning, the Obama White House and the Department of Education acknowledged that the obsession with high-stakes testing has gone too far, and admitted their own policies helped drive the problem.

Yes, it’s just a beginning. But it is a huge step. And it happened because educators and parents spoke up until the White House listened.

The White House has promised new guidance on testing by January—and we’re asking them to listen to stakeholders as they craft a solution.

Testing should help inform instruction, not drive instruction. We need to get back to focusing on the whole child—teaching our kids how to build relationships, how to be resilient and how to think critically. We need to celebrate improvement and the joy of learning, not sanction based on high-stakes standardized tests.

It’s a big deal that the president and the secretaries of education—both current and future—are saying that they get it and are pledging to address the fixation on testing in tangible ways. Yes, the devil is in the details, but today it’s clear: Parents, students and educators, your voice matters and you were heard. 

It’s up to Congress to fix No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and get rid of the worst impacts of testing, but the Department of Education can make a big difference right away. The department’s policies—from Race to the Top and NCLB waivers to impending teacher prep policy—play a significant role in driving the testing fixation, and they can play a big role in changing the role of tests while we work with Congress to fix the law.

The fixation on testing hasn’t moved the needle on student achievement, and Americans can see it’s time to get back to focusing on teaching and learning.

That’s why overwhelming numbers of Americans think there is too much testing, as seen in the recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll, and it’s why legislators on both sides of the aisle want to fix NCLB, a law that drove overtesting and school closings.

As we work with Congress to fix NCLB, we need to ensure that the new guidelines from the administration take parent, student and educator voice seriously.

Sign our petition to President Obama and the Department of Education, and help us reclaim the joy of teaching and learning in our classrooms.

In unity,

Randi Weingarten
AFT President

Washington Supreme Court Strikes Down Charter School Law

September 20, 2015

A 6-3 decision of the Washington State Supreme Court struck down that state's 2012 voter referendum establishing charter schools there. The majority held, under the specific provisions of the Washington State Constitution and state judicial precedents going back more than a century, that common (public) school funding could not be used to support charters. The court determined that a charter school, which is not subject to voter control through an elected school board, is simply not a public school. Charter advocates, backed by the Gates Foundation, are vowing to seek a legislative "fix", though the prospects for that are very uncertain. This out-of-state decision has no direct application to New York law. Still, the court's powerful reaffirmation of local control of education may be useful in arguing for the preservation of local control in New York, in cases like the Tax Cap and under the new receivership law.

Gun Violence- New York

September 3, 2015

New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Applauds Albany Common Council's Passage of Firearm Safe Storage Law

Albany, NY – September 2, 2015 – This evening the Albany Common Council passed a law requiring the safe storage of firearms and ammunition. New Yorkers Against Gun Violence applauds the passage of this law, which is designed to prevent unintentional shootings, suicides, homicides and gun thefts.

The law requires any person who owns or is custodian of a firearm to safely store it in a locked container or with a trigger lock when the firearm is out of his/her immediate possession or control. In addition, the law requires retailers selling firearms to post a notice that notifies purchasers of the safe storage law and the penalties incurred if the law is violated.

AFT Petition

January 19, 2015

Please sign this AFT e-Activist petition <http://action.aft.org/c/44/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=7691>  and tell USDOE that testing and other invalid measures will not work to determine the success of teacher prep programs. New proposed regulations would use unreliable, out-of-context data like K-12 standardized test scores and employment numbers to punish teacher prep programs.

We have until Feb. 2 to comment before DOE writes the final regs. They need to hear from educators.

NYSUT's Media Presence

January 19, 2015

In front of cameras and behind the scenes, NYSUT's ramped up media presence is gaining traction and getting the facts out. This recent editorial from The New York Times <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/05/opinion/the-central-crisis-in-new-york-education.html>  helps make our case that schools require fair and equitable funding and solutions for poverty in communities in order to best serve students.

This item from the Daily Kos blog <http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/01/01/1346557/-Teachers-aren-t-just-under-attack-they-re-also-underpaid>  exposes the myths and realities of teacher compensation vis a vis comparable professions. Guess what, no one enters the profession to get rich.

Pension Cuts

January 19, 2015

State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento responds to a recent editorial which advocated cuts to public employee retiree pensions.  Read his letter to the editor here.

Right to Work For Less

December 14, 2014

“Right to Work for Less” Legislation Rears its Ugly Head in Several States

Following the 2014 elections, one of the most immediate threats to unions comes from so-called right-to-work legislation, which allows employees to opt out of joining a labor union even when that union negotiates business for their benefit. According to The Washington Post, Republicans in at least five states — Wisconsin, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Ohio and Missouri — have introduced or plan to introduce versions of the law in legislative sessions that will begin in January. Wisconsin appears to be the most likely battleground between business interests and labor unions. Legislators in Colorado, Kentucky, Montana and Pennsylvania are all likely to push similar laws, though Democratic governors in each state can act as firewalls. More at http://tinyurl.com/on8mxaf.

Expand Social Security

December 14, 2014

Sherrod Brown to Introduce Harkin Bill to Expand Social Security in 114th Congress

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has announced plans to reintroduce Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) Strengthening Social Security Act in the next Congress. The bill would change the Social Security benefit formula, ensuring that cost of living adjustments adequately reflect the living expenses of retirees, and improve the long term financial condition of the Social Security Trust Fund. The legislation is designed to immediately increase current benefits by about $800 annually. More at http://tinyurl.com/m8cawku. Sen. Harkin, retiring this month, said, “I could not be more pleased that Senator Brown has decided to champion this legislation in the next Congress. Senator Brown’s commitment to Social Security is unrivaled, and seniors should be thrilled to have an ally like Senator Brown on their side.”

Multiple Pathways to Graduation

November 23, 2014

The public comment period for the new pathways to graduation for students in the arts, humanities, STEM and Career and Technical Education has begun and will end Dec. 20. Calling it a long overdue step in the right direction, NYSUT is asking members to submit comments in support of the move. Here's our news release <http://www.nysut.org/news/2014/october/regents-approval-of-new-cte-pathways-the-right-move>  on the Regents's announcement with links to the draft language and supporting material. Public comments can be submitted to Cosimo Tangorra, Jr., Deputy Commissioner, State Education Department, Office of P-12 Education, State Education Building, 2M West, 89 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12234, (518) 474-5520, email: NYSEDP12@mail.nysed.gov.

NYSUT has said the proposed pathways would allow all students to graduate by demonstrating they have a strong, core academic background, as well as the knowledge, skills and coursework in CTE or other areas to apply their interests to industry-related jobs in their chosen fields.

Innovation Fund Grant

November 23, 2014

NYSUT has won an AFT Innovation Fund grant http://www.nysut.org/news/2014/november/aft-awards-grants-for-new-york-connecticut-teachers-to-have-voice-on-standards  for teachers to offer solutions to problems with their state's rollout of the Common Core State Standards. It will help the union fulfill the mandates of a resolution adopted at the NYSUT RA earlier this year.

NYSUT will use its six-month, $30,000 grant to make recommendations to address the state's implementation of both the Common Core State Standards and assessments. A union task force will review and critique the state's math and English language arts modules, developed by outside vendors, which have received wide criticism from teachers.

The task force also will scrutinize the state's process for developing standardized tests; probe whether practitioners were involved in the local implementation of the state Common Core Learning Standards and development of curriculum; and consider whether the state's professional development afforded teachers enough support.

"Given the profound problems with the state's materials used for the initial Common Core rollout -- units that weren't developed with educators -- we're anxious to roll up our sleeves and get to work on a critique aimed at improving the materials and making sure they are developmentally appropriate for students," said President Karen Magee.

Medicare Part B Premiums

October 22, 2014

Premiums for Medicare Part B, including the Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA), will not increase in 2015. The IRMAA for Medicare Part D (prescription drug) will increase slightly in 2015. For additional information concerning Medicare, members can access www.medicare.gov.

Look for the NYSUT Voter Guide in the Mail

October 22, 2014

Our members should be receiving the 2014 NYSUT Voter Guide soon. The message: "On Nov. 4, you decide -- you have the power." It includes explanations of how and why it is important for NYSUT to make endorsements, and why it is important for union members to support them.

"We need to do everything we can," says NYSUT Exec VP Andy Pallotta, "and we can do so much."

The guide provides a rundown of every Assembly, state Senate and congressional race in which NYSUT endorsed candidates. It also provides more information on priority races and statewide campaigns.

The guide is brought to you by VOTE-COPE, so if you find it useful, please make a contribution using the coupon on the back and pre-addressed envelope you'll find inside.

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

View older posts »

Webmaster:  Betty Jayne Volpe, bjvolpe@optonline.net