Last week NYSUT held it’s annual Representative Assembly, in which almost 2,000 delegates from locals across the state gather to elect officers and set our union’s agenda for the coming year.
This was an off-year election-wise (the President and other officers are up next year), so there isn’t much to report in that area.
NYSUT Delegates considered 49 resolutions, which are proposals for what actions the union will take or policies/legislation we will advocate for. Here are summaries of just a few:
Delegates overwhelmingly supported a resolution in support of advocating for “the creating of regulations to mandate full-time certified school librarians at every school library.” It also called for school librarians being “included in the Curriculum and Instruction” section in State Ed regulations, for the establishment of a Regents tasks force on librarians and school libraries, and the adoption of the Empire State Information Fluency Continuum as the statewide school library standards.
This is long overdue, and something that we support fully. It is critical that everyone involved in education policy recognize that digital technology can never replace librarians; that librarians are absolutely essential to ensuring that students become informed and users of these resources.
NYSUT Execute VP Jolene DiBrango put forth a special order of business to reinforce NYSUT’s commitment to advocating against the flawed 3-8 state tests. There was a bit of debate about the some of the specific language, but the overall message was universally accepted.
Another resolution that passed easily was calling for enforceable standards for room temperature, with a mandate that classes be cancelled or relocated if room temperature exceeds 90 degrees or goes below 60 degrees. (there is currently no regulation for maximum temperature)
Gun Violence / Active Shooter Drills
Delegates approved a resolution that opposes any state, federal, or local laws mandating or permitting arming of public school teachers, and advocates for rules that active shooter drills only be conducted without students present and that “no weapons and/or projectiles of any kind be utilized in the training with school staff”
A couple of notes on this…
1) As with many other issues at the RA, there was a good deal of debate about this. I mention this because we have members in our unit with political beliefs across the spectrum, and some have expressed a feeling that they don’t feel their voices are heard. I want to assure you that on any issue that could be considered even remotely political, there is opportunity for all sides have their say (in fact, there is a requirement that speakers on both sides be given the chance to speak before any vote), and rest assured, this does happen.
2) The language about “active shooter drills” does not refer to lockdown drills, but to drills with simulated shooting.
3) It seems insane that we would actually have to advocate that consultants/law enforcement officials not be allowed to shoot projectiles at teachers during drills, but this is a real thing that happens.
Various Funding Issues
School funding is always something that we have to fight for, and there we a number of resolutions related to this. A few examples are:
*Expediting approval and disbursement of Smart Schools Bond Funds (there are currently big delays in getting these funds to schools)
*Protecting schools from TAN costs (I’d actually never heard of this before – there is a lag between the time that districts need to pay their bills and when local towns collect taxes and pay them to districts, so districts have to borrow money every year from banks, costing them a total of $13 million in interest.) This resolution passed easily, but is unlikely to ever turn into actual legislation as banks make a lot of easy money on this.
*Payment of Foundation aid (schools in NY are currently owed $4.2 billion in aid per prior court rulings but has consistently failed to comply). This resolution called not just for lobbying but for a education program to inform NYSUT members and legislators about this issue. It’s also past easily, and is something we will continue to fight for.
*Changes to the tax cap. Without going into all the details, there was a resolution that proposed changes to how the tax cap is calculated. It did not pass, as the debate about it effectively highlighted how the unfairness of the tax cap impacts different districts differently. A change that might make it more fair for some districts would then become a huge financial burden on others, depending on how much state aid they get.
Again, this is just a sample of the issues that were debated. For anyone who really wants to really dig into this, I will try to get a full summary from NYSUT and make it available.