UFT Legislative Priorities 2016

Equity and Access

New York’s public school children have waited more than a decade for the state to fulfill its promise to provide the resources all of our students need to succeed.

We hope that will change this year: As a state, we are no longer operating in a deficit; in fact, the state comptroller has identified a multi-billion dollar surplus, much of which is recurring revenue.

This is an important moment for New York to stand by its pledge and provide equal opportunities for all children – those with intellectual gifts, those who are economically disadvantaged, those who make glorious music, those with special needs and, like many children, those who fit into two or more of these categories.

Increase School Aid

Thanks to intense lobbying by parents, teachers and advocates, and strong support from many of our elected leaders in the Assembly and Senate, last year’s state budget included a 6.1 percent increase in school aid. It was a big step in the right direction. However public school students are still being shorted money the state’s highest court deemed is their right to receive and what Albany agreed to pay.

  • Under the terms of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) settlement, the state owes New York students $4.8 billion, nearly half of which – $2 billion – is owed to New York City schools.
  • This money would allow schools to lower class size – an original requirement of the CFE agreement.
  • CFE funds would enable schools to hire staff to serve the growing numbers of English Language Learners and special education students, as well as guidance counselors, social workers, school psychologists and nurses to provide wrap-around services. To accomplish this, the UFT is asking the state Legislature to allocate $2 billion statewide to high-needs school districts.
  • To see how much your school or district is owed under the CFE settlement, please visit www.cfemoneyowednys.org.

End the Charter Equity Gap

Charter schools were originally designed as incubators for academic experimentation, where teachers could formulate and implement ideas and strategies to help improve academic outcomes, especially for high-needs students. Yet enrollment data shows that charter schools do not accept or keep the same number of numbers of English Language Learners, special education students or homeless children compared to traditional public schools in the same neighborhoods. The UFT calls for charter equity legislation to require taxpayer-funded charters to accept and keep comparable numbers of high-needs students as district public schools.

Fund Curriculum and Teacher Training

The voices of parents, teachers, advocates and legislators were also heard when the NYS Common Core Task Force recommended a four-year hiatus in the use of high-stakes tests to evaluate students and teachers, as well as the creation of new statewide standards, with parents and teachers at the center of the process.

As the state develops those new standards, it is imperative that we make curriculum and teacher training priorities and that they are properly funded. New York cannot afford a repeat of its last disastrous implementation of the standards, when students were tested on material their teachers had never seen, let alone received training on or taught.

Fund Teacher Centers

New York City’s award-winning Teachers Centers are positioned to play a leading role in providing the necessary training once the new standards are in place. Teacher Center staff work with all members of the school community — including administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals and even parents — and they provide direct support to classrooms to support student learning.

Unfortunately, NYC Teacher Centers have seen major funding cuts, from $16.8 million in 2010 to the current funding level of $6 million. The UFT is advocating for $40 million statewide for Teachers Centers, with additional funding for NYC Teachers Centers to provide our school communities with the professional learning opportunities they need.

Fund Community

The NYC Community Learning Schools Initiative facilitates partnerships between schools and non-profits, businesses and government. The initiative helps public schools develop support services with the goal of breaking down barriers that keep many children from academic success.

Those services, including dental and eye exams, crisis mental health counseling, emergency food supplies, academic enrichment programs, college and job counseling, and parenting seminars, are seamlessly integrated into school buildings to address the health, safety and social service needs of students and communities, and thus create a better learning environment. The UFT supports additional funding for existing community schools to support resource coordination, programming and services.

Support Alternatives to Receivership

State takeover of public schools has failed wherever it has occurred, including in New Jersey, Indiana, Pennsylvania and in nearby Roosevelt, Long Island. Closing schools disrupts communities and hurts the school’s most vulnerable students, according to a recent study by the city’s Independent Budget Office.

The UFT supports Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call to invest $100 million to transform all of the state’s lowest-performing schools into Community Schools rather than target them for receivership.

Generate Much-Needed Revenue

  • The UFT supports revenue and transparency initiatives that ensure the wealthy pay their fair share.
  • New York State could generate up to $5.2 billion a year by closing the carried interest loophole at the state level, allowing us to capture our share of revenue lost due to Congressional inaction on the subject.
  • The UFT calls for transparency on fees and returns from all hedge funds and private equity funds seeking investments from public pension funds.

Mayoral Control

While we support the idea of mayoral control, we do not support the version now in place in New York City. No one wants to go back to the old system of school boards, but stronger checks and balances need to be in place.

Invest in Technology and "Career and Technical Education" (CTE) Programs

  • Through CTE high schools and programs such as “Promising Pathways in Career and Technical Education,” students benefit from partnerships between schools, local colleges, industry partners and business organizations.
  • The UFT advocates for increased investment in these programs, in efforts to certify teachers in emerging technologies, and in school technology, bandwidth and basic coding classes for all students.

Working Families

The UFT supports the efforts of Gov. Cuomo, Speaker Carl E. Heastie and the Assembly majority to strengthen the rights of working families, protect undocumented students and empower women.

Paid Family Leave

Too many workers struggle with balancing their families’ needs with the demands of their jobs. Federal law protects a worker’s job during a leave for specified family and medical reasons, but does not require employers to pay employees during the leave.

The UFT supports efforts to make paid family and medical leave available to all working families who need that time off from their jobs after the birth or adoption of a child or to care for a seriously ill relative.

Save the Home Child Care System

New York City’s 15,000 home-based child care providers (and more than 40,000 statewide) give the children in their care a strong foundation for learning and enable thousands of low-income New Yorkers, predominantly families of color, to work by providing high-quality, affordable care for their children, from infancy to age 13. Sadly, only 27% of income-eligible families in New York City currently receive subsidized child care.

New unfunded federal mandates could mean the loss of thousands of existing child care slots, and persistently low reimbursement rates are already driving providers out of the profession.

The UFT strongly supports preserving and maintaining all existing day care slots. We also believe that providers deserve a raise for the vital service they provide.

Dream Act

Undocumented students who graduate from a New York high school or receive their GED here deserve access to higher education and state financial aid programs such as the Tuition Assistance Program and the Dream Act. We support legislation that would provide these students with access to TAP and other financial aid programs.

Protecting Women and Promoting Workplace Equality

The UFT supports equality for women in the workplace, including pay equity and stronger accommodations for expectant mothers. The UFT also supports protections for those who are victims of housing discrimination, domestic violence and human trafficking, and we urge the state to codify the 1973 Roe v. Wade US Supreme Court decision to ensure that New York women remain in control of their reproductive health.

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