Phone Phright?

We frequently ask members to make phone calls to our elected officials, but we know that a lot of you have a great deal of apprehension about it. The following article, from Lifehacker.com, tells you how to get past that initial anxiety and get it done. Direct calls to legislators is one of the most effective tools we have, so please check it out.

 

If you have phone phobia, you’re not alone. (I’m a recovering member of the club myself.) If the situation in this country is making you anxious, calling your reps is both a step toward a solution, and a way to give yourself a small amount of control over something. But you have to be able to actually make the call.

 

Calling isn’t the only way to be heard, but it’s one of the most effective. How do you get up the nerve to call? Cordelia Dillon at Echo Through the Fog has a friendly cartoon guide to talk you through the process. First, you block off some time on your schedule, and keep that appointment with yourself. Then you write yourself a script. The guide suggests some words to use. My own calls tend to follow this format:

Hi, I’m [name], a constituent from [place]. I’m calling to ask [Congressperson’s name] to vote [Yes/No] on [bill] because [reason].

The reason can include a personal story, or just your opinion on the most important thing about the bill. You can even skip that part if you’re not feeling up to it. If there’s no vote coming up, replace that part with “to speak out against [bad thing]” or to co-sponsor a certain bill, or whatever you want them to do. If the member of Congress you’re calling has recently done a good thing, feel free to use this:

 
 

Hi, I’m [name], a constituent from [place]. I want to thank [Congressperson’s name] for standing up for us by [thing they did].

You get the idea. I’ve never had to say anything more than my prepared speech, except to answer a question or two like:

  • What is your zip code?
  • Would you like to leave your full address so we can send you a response?

Say goodbye, and you’re done. I also like to thank the staffer for their time, especially on days I know they’re getting a lot of heat.

Is this sounding a little more doable? Dillon reminds us that it’s okay if you sound nervous. Your job isn’t to put on a perfect performance for the staffer, it’s to get your message through. As she says: “They get a lot of calls, so they don’t have time to judge you for how well you delivered your message.”

Clare Rose Picketing

Reminder – we’re asking everyone to wear red tomorrow, (preferably your SWRTA shirt) even if you’re not joining us on the picket line. NYSUT has declared May 1st a National Day of Action. It is also International Workers Day, as well as Loyalty Day in the United States. And of course, it’s ALWAYS a good day to show support for public education.

More Information About Picketing
SWRTA will be supporting Clare Rose workers between 2:30 and 5:30 tomorrow (May 1st). Erin Schmalzle, SWRTA Grievance VP, will be the point person until around 4:30. I hope to be there from around 3:30 to to the end.

We currently have just shy of 20 people who’ve responded positively. Since a good number of them are only able to stay for a short while, we’d love to get at least another 5-10 folks to make sure we have a continuous, solid presence.  If you haven’t already done so, please reply to say you’ll join us (or just show up).

Picketing is on the West side of William Floyd Parkway, immediately South of the Expressway. Turn right onto Rose Executive Blvd. You can park along that road or in the Police Station lot (that link was incorrect in yesterday’s email. It’s now fixed.)

BRING THE KIDS!
A few people asked if it’s okay to bring kids. Not only is it okay, it’s very much encouraged. It’s good bonding time, it’s a great learning opportunity, and having kids there is a reminder that, ultimately, all of our union work has a tremendous impact on the next generation.

SIGNS
A lot of people also asked about making signs. You definitely don’t need to, but it’s a good idea. Here are some ideas:

  • Union Busting Is Disgusting
  • SWRTA Supports Teamsters Local 812
  • Clare Rose Hurts Working Families
  • Tell Clare Rose To Not Cut Workers Pay and Benefits
  • Teachers Standing With Teamsters
  • SWRTA Stands with Teamsters Local 812
  • End the War on Workers

BOYCOTT
Again, for the duration of the strike, please don’t purchase any beer distributed by Clare Rose.

LATEST STRIKE NEWS

2017-18 State Budget Summary

The New York State Legislature finally reached an agreement on a state budget last week, a little more than a week past the deadline. This was the latest budget during Governor Cuomo’s time in office (although quite shy of the 2-4 month late budgets of the late ’90s and early 00’s). You can click here to see the final bill and get an understanding of why it is referred to as “The Big Ugly.”

The following is a top-line look at some of the key issues. For more detail, please see NYSUT’s detailed summary (from which this post was excerpted and modified).  For the sake of comparison, if you want to look back at what NYSUT was advocating for and what the individual houses were proposing, please see this prior post.

School Aid

  • The budget includes an increase of $1 billion in school aid, which includes an increase of $700 million in Foundation Aid and fully funds expense based aids. This is far less than is needed just to maintain everything at last year’s level.
  • The proposal to eliminate the Foundation Aid Formula was defeated.

Millionaires’ Tax

  • The Millionaire’s tax was extended for two years, without any progressive expansion.

Teacher Centers

  • Funding for Teacher Centers was restored and increased by $5.74 million, for a total of $20 million.

Charter Schools

  • The proposal to eliminate or increase the charter cap was defeated, as was the proposal to unfreeze charter school tuition rates which would have provided these schools with hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • The proposal to require school districts to reimburse charters for costs related to the employment of school-related professionals such as: nurses, food service workers and others was rejected ($124 million).
  • Charters will receive an additional $500 in funding per pupil in 2017-18 that will be paid in the first instance by the resident school district but is fully reimbursable by the state in the following school year. After 2017-18, per pupil charter school tuition payment increases are linked to the growth in per pupil spending in each school district, which is not be reimbursable by the State.

Tax Cap

  • There was no change to the Tax Cap law.

“Free College”

  • The final budget includes something that the Governor is touting as a major accomplishment, but critics say is just a gimmick to boost his progressive credentials in preparation for a 2020 Presidential run: Free tuition at SUNY and CUNY schools. Undoubtedly it will be a big help to many students who might not otherwise be able to attend college, but the program is extremely flawed, as described in this piece at Slate.com.

Union Dues Deduction

  • Union Dues may now be deducted from income for calculating State Income Tax. Previously, union dues could be included under miscellaneous deductions, which had to exceed 2% of adjusted gross income (this is still the case for Federal Income Tax). This will open the deduction up to many more people, but still only to those who itemize rather than taking the standard deduction. Estimated savings for those who can take advantage is somewhere around $75.

FOIL

  • The changes to the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) that would have made collective bargaining agreements subject to FOIL prior to their ratification by union members were not included in the budget.

NYSHIP Retiree Health Insurance Benefits

  • The Enacted Budget rejected the proposal to eliminate the reimbursement of Medicare Part B premium rates for NYSHIP retirees, as was the Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts (IRMAA). The Enacted Budget also preserves NYSHIP retirees’ individual (and their dependents) share of their health insurance cost, based upon their years of service and grade-level as a state employee.

Governor’s Right to Modify Budget

  • Because of the uncertainty stemming from the Federal budget proposed by the President, the State budget includes language allows the Governor to modify and limit state spending once the Federal budget is solidified. In that situation, the Legislature has ninety days to pass their own plan, and if after ninety days, the Legislature has not acted, the plan developed by the governor and the division of the budget will be put into place.

Welcome to Gerald Poole

The Shoreham-Wading River welcomes Gerald Poole as the new Superintendent of SWR Schools.

Mr. Poole began his career as an elementary teacher at Phillips Avenue School in Riverhead, where he taught 3rd grade and later worked as a literacy coach. He left Riverhead for an Assistant Supt. position in Valley Stream before taking the position in Freeport, which he has held for four years.

He is a lifelong east-ender who currently lives in Mattituck with his wife and two high school age sons. You can read more on the SWR Website and in this article from the News Review.

We offer Mr. Poole our sincere congratulations and look forward to working with him.

Support Christine Pellegrino

Christine Pellegrino, a veteran reading teacher in Baldwin, is running in a special election in the Ninth Assembly District to fill the vacancy created when Joseph Saladino was elected Supervisor of Oyster Bay.

For the past couple of years, NYSUT and the AFT have been pushing for teachers to run for office – from Boards of Ed, to town councils, etc, and Ms. Pellegrino is one of the most high-profile examples of this. Running as a Democrat in a very Republican skewing district, she is a longshot. But with enough support, a victory is definitely possible. And of course, this is not just about political party – it’s about protecting public education. Think back just to 2015, when the “Heavy-hearted” Democrats in the Assembly sold out public schools, and it’s clear to see the tremendous benefit of having an actual educator in that body.

The election is May 23, and it is very likely that we will be calling on you in the next few weeks to help in getting her elected.

In the meantime, learn more about Ms. Pellegrino from her website. And if you want to throw your support behind her right away, you can click here to find out how to help.

DeVostation by Charters

A few weeks ago I wrote about how the confirmation of Betsy DeVos would not be quite as bad as some might fear. That is still true, but we need to be careful about not going too far in the opposite extreme and assuming there’s nothing to worry about. The main point of that email was that most of DeVos’s key issues are actually state controlled (and if anything, she’s eager to push more control to the states). The downside of that is we are vulnerable to State Legislators who support the DeVos agenda, such as Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan.  And one area where Flanagan and the State Senate are very much in step is with charter schools.

The fact is, we don’t give a lot of thought to charter schools here at SWR. We don’t lose students to them, or have to deal with students coming back from them unprepared, and they don’t have any direct impact on our budget. At least they don’t appear to. But if we fail to see that the threat posed by charter schools is a threat to public schools overall – including us – then we’re missing the big picture. This cartoon definitely captures the idea…

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The Governor’s budget allocates more money for charter schools, including providing building aid, and allows charter schools to operate with virtually no accountability or transparency, siphoning much needed funding away from actual public schools.

The Assembly budget incorporates a number of proposals to address these issues, while the Senate bill is basically a gift to charters. Here’s NYSUT’s summary of the Assembly and Senate language on charters.

The Assembly rejects the Executive Budget proposal to increase the charter school tuition formula and further rejects the proposal to provide building aid to the charter industry.

The Assembly puts forth a number of proposals that seek to impose some level of transparency, fairness and accountability upon the charter school industry. Specifically these new initiatives would: authorize the auditing of educational management organizations; take into account the finances of charter schools prior to providing financial assistance for the lease or purchase of space; ensure the uniform enrollment of students with disabilities and those living in temporary housing and hold charters accountable if they do not enroll comparable populations of these students as neighboring schools; streamline suspension and discipline of charter school students; institute consistency in the charter schools approval process; disclose compensation paid to each person serving as a charter executive; disclose individuals, entities or corporations who provide gifts over $1,000; ensure charters conform to and are reporting finances according to accepted accounting principles; require charters to provide to the New York City chancellor or superintendent of the respective district, the names of students who withdraw from the charter school; require charters to provide the New York City chancellor or superintendent with a copy of its wait list to ensure they serve the same populations as neighboring school districts; provide that charters placed on probationary status for any reason must notify the parents and applicants of the school, and the state education department must identify on its website, the charter’s remedial action plan; and provide charter school parents a process by which a complaint can be brought against the charter school and made available on the school’s website.

The Assembly includes language to make the charter industry subject to provisions governing general public works projects and prevailing wage requirements.

The Assembly does not include the Executive Budget’s modified charter school transition aid proposal.

The Assembly provides $1.25 million in support for the conversion of charter schools in New York City ($1 million) and Buffalo ($250,000).

The Senate accepts the Executive Budget proposal to unfreeze the charter school tuition formula, (estimated cost of $120 million), provides statewide building aid (estimated cost of $103 million) to the charter industry and eliminates the statewide cap on charter schools.

The Senate provides new reimbursement payments to charter schools for nurses, security guards, custodians, food service workers and “other necessary support personnel” employed by the charter school in the amount of ten percent of the charter school basic tuition paid, if such staff is not otherwise provided by the school district (estimated cost of $124 million).

The Senate proposal provides the following to the charter industry in New York City: total facility rental costs, including but not limited to, lease payments, maintenance, costs of capital improvements, costs of occupancy, security, insurance and real property taxes or an increase of 30 percent, from 20 percent, of the charter school’s basic tuition for the current school year; and the co-location site or alternative space must be sufficient to accommodate all of the charter’s school grades at a given school level, as defined by the school, to be educated at a single location.

The Senate eliminates the authority of the New York City Department of Education to oversee pre-K contracts with charter schools.

The Senate accepts the Executive Budget’s modified charter school transition aid proposal.

The Senate proposal does not include any transparency or accountability measures for the charter industry.

We cannot let this stand. Please take action today (the budget is due at the end of this week!)

CLICK HERE TO SEND A FAX

CLICK HERE TO CALL YOUR SENATOR

One-House Bills

Here’s a summary of the Assembly and Senate one-house bills and how they compare to the Governor’s Budget and what NYSUT was advocating for. As a reminder, the final budget is due by midnight this Friday, March 31st.

I’ve top-lined all the items listed in the previous post.

School Aid
The Governor’s budget called for an increase of $1Billion in education spending. We told legislators that that number should be $2.1B

  • The Assembly budget includes an increase of $1.8B
  • The Senate budget calls for $1.3B

The Governor’s budget eliminated the Foundation Aid formula. We asked for it to be maintained and for back aid to be repaid.

  • The Assembly budget includes $1.4B in Foundation Aid and a four-year phase-in of total Foundation Aid
  • The Senate budget includes $0.9B in Foundation Aid

Teacher Centers
The Governor’s budget eliminated funding for teacher centers. We advocated for reinstating their funding levels back to the 2008-09 level of $40 million.

  • The Assembly restores Teacher Center funding to last year’s level of $14.3M
  • The Senate budget does not address funding for Teacher Centers

APPR 
As expected, neither house addressed APPR in their budget.

Tax Cap
We advocated for amending the tax cap to a “true 2,” meaning that it would be 2% of the rate of inflation – whichever is GREATER (it is currently based on whichever is LESS). We also advocated for exemptions based on increased enrollment and other factors.

  • The Assembly proposal requires PILOTs and BOCES capital to be exempt from the tax cap, as well as establishing a zero percent minimum to prevent negative tax caps.
  • The Senate proposal would make the tax cap permanent and extend its current provisions to include New York City.

Special Education Waivers
The Governor’s budget includes language that would allow school districts, BOCES, special ed providers, and private schools to petition for flexibility in complying with certain special education requirements. We are lobbying against this.

  • The Assembly bill rejects the waiver
  • The Senate bill accepts the waiver

State Revenue
The Governor’s budget includes extension of the “millionaire’s tax.” NYSUT advocated to make it more progressive, which could raise an additional $5.6B in revenue for the state.

  • The Assembly budget includes a progressive income tax surcharge
  • The Senate proposal does not address a personal income tax surcharge

Democratic Assemblymen introduced a bill earlier this month that would compensate for the Carried Interest Loophole, which could raise state revenue by $3.5B. Neither house addressed the loophole in their budgets.

Freedom of Information Law
Language in the Governor’s budget would allow public disclosure (via a FOIL request) of the terms of new collective bargaining agreements BEFORE THEY ARE VOTED on by employee organization.

  • The Assembly rejected this proposal
  • The Senate accepted these provisions, but noted they are open to modifications as part of the budget negotiations process

Other Issues
As noted last time, there are quite a few other important issues in the budget. I’ve tried to hit on some of the most critical items, but there are a few that I did not mention last time, which definitely deserve notice.

Vouchers and Tax Credits: The Assembly does not include voucher or tax credit proposals, but the Senate proposes the “Education Affordability Act.” This would provide tax credits made to local educational organizations and not-for profits, would create a tax credit for parents who home school, and provide a tax credit for educators who purchase supplies. It would cost the state $675M over three years.

ELL: The Assembly plan provides $15M for ELL programs. The Senate plan provides no extra funding, but provides flexibility in hiring dual certified teachers to comply with Part 154.

Students in Temporary Housing: The Assembly includes school district funding of $10M for students in temporary housing. The Senate plan includes no additional funding, but creates a process to allow students in such housing to continue to attend school prior to displacement.

IRMAA – The Governor’s budget sought a change in civil service law to freeze Medicare Part B premium support at $104.90 for all NYSHIP retirees with Medicare primary insurance, as well as eliminate the reimbursement of the Income Related Monthly Adjustment (IRMAA), effectively resulting in a decrease in benefits. NYSUT lobbied against these proposals, both of which were rejected by both houses.

Charter Schools – The charter school issues in the budget are pretty significant and probably should have been mentioned in the prior post. As such, we’ll break that part out into a separate post.