From NYSUT Leader Briefing:
Here are the low lights of the past week and, most importantly, next steps:
Gov. Cuomo rolled out as highest priority in his budget speech the need to reform the so-called education bureaucracy, a catch-all term he repeats endlessly when he lumps together the State Education Department and NYSUT. His budget was a combination of (little) carrots and (big) sticks. He said he would deliver on his promised restoration of education funds, but then announced restorations would be dependent on districts completing their teacher evaluation plans in a one-year drop-dead time frame.
Although he said education restorations would total 4 percent, his budget actually carves out $250 million of that amount for grants that would be awarded competitively. This approach, Iannuzzi said in a press release, creates "an uncertainty that districts cannot afford." Cuomo's budget, meanwhile, remains essentially flat for public higher education — despite laudatory words for the engine that drives New Yorks economy. We will have to push hard for CUNY, SUNY and our community colleges to get the investment they deserve. The one positive: there are no holes in the higher education budgets that would have to be filled by additional cuts or layoffs. For a detailed budget briefing prepared by NYSUT Legislative staff, go to K-12, Higher Education, Health Care, and Pension and Retirement.
For NYSUT's budget press release, click here.
NEXT STEPS: NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta will present NYSUT's testimony at legislative hearings Monday scheduled on a stepped up time frame that seems to signal the budget is on a fast track.
Another bad Tier 6 proposal
Cuomo outlined a second attempt at a Tier 6 proposal that is far worse than even last year's failed plan. Just two years after New York state instituted a Tier 5, Cuomo is pushing for another downgrade of pension benefits. And while a Tier 6 would apply only to future employees, it would also undercut the stability of the current pension system, by siphoning off thousands of new hires into a Defined Contribution plan that would do nothing to support the health of pension funding.
State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento made the point well: "We disagree with the contention that the current defined benefit pension is unsustainable. What is unsustainable is a society where each generation of middle class worker retires with less financial security than the one before."
NEXT STEPS: NYSUT is mounting a full-scale campaign in concert with the AFL-CIO to tell our legislators why they must say no to another tier. For starters, leaders are asked to blanket your local legislators with fliers that put a personal face on retirement security. NYSUT is developing a video and other materials as part of our concerted campaign. Meanwhile, tell your members to go now to the Albany Times Union's Capitol Confidential blog and leave your comment praising Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who is quoted as saying that dismantling current defined benefit plans is not a solution, noting that it would actually cost the state cost more to go to defined contributions and hurt the state's economy.
Threats on teacher evaluation
In speaking about implementation of the teacher evaluation law, Cuomo issued an ultimatum, threatening to impose his own process if NYSUT and SED cannot reach agreement on evaluation language in 30 days. The next few days will be critical as NYSUT presses SED to correct its regulations that the state Supreme Court found were in violation of the law. (SeeNYSUT press statement on discussions with SED.)
NYSUT members have buried the Regents in an avalanche of e-mails criticizing SED Commissioner John King for threatening to stop federal School Improvement Grants to needy districts if teacher evaluation plans aren't done to his satisfaction. NYSUT board members are sending letters to the editor, fueled by NYSUT talking points developed as part of our campaign, that hold King accountable for his decisions. For an excellent example, see Dona Murray's letter in the Binghamton Press. We need to keep up the pressure on SIG grants, so ask your members to keep e-mailing Regents through this link.
NEXT STEPS: A NYSUT ad campaign is in the works on evaluations. And NYSUT is recommending to local leaders that, if you can complete negotiations with your district on an acceptable evaluation plan, now is the time to do it. Meanwhile, NYSUT is calling on local leaders to contact your Regent in your home district and give them a clear and simple message (so short it could be Tweeted): Tell Commissioner King to do his job and work with NYSUT to move forward with implementation of the law.