Webmaster:  Betty Jayne Volpe, bjvolpe@optonline.net

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.

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