There are many reasons the NYS AFL-CIO is vehemently opposed to the Educational Opportunity Act in the Executive Budget.  The first and foremost is that it ignores the real difficulties that our public schools face and instead places blame squarely on the shoulders of the professional men and women who have dedicated their lives to the welfare, nurturing and betterment of our children.

This is evident throughout the education proposal but nowhere is it clearer than in the plan to allow for the negating of collective bargaining agreements in so called “underperforming” public schools and the tenure reform which really only eliminates due process for our teachers when it comes to discipline.  These proposals single out school employees, including teachers, administrative, operational and support staff, and also suggest that union representation is somehow responsible for the myriad of problems that frustrate our teachers across the state every day.

The proposal ignores poverty, malnutrition, substance abuse, developmental and behavioral issues and many of the other issues caused by socio-economic circumstances.  No matter if in a city or a rural area, if these issues are present and particularly if they are persistent, you can guarantee they will interfere with a child’s ability to learn.

The state testing and evaluation process can never account for these issues and to hold individual teachers and the entire collective bargaining process as responsible only exacerbates the problem.  It will discourage teachers from giving the real story to parents, especially when the news is not comforting.  It will discourage qualified individuals from applying to be teachers in the first place.  Worse, it will make our current teachers question whether the state has their back.

The vast majority of our teachers and school personnel are dedicated and effective despite what tests and evaluations say.  We need to do better for them.  Simply throwing our hands up and saying “blame the teacher” and “privatize our public schools” is not fighting for our children…it is more akin to surrender.

We urge the Governor to remove the receivership and due process proposals in the 21 day amendments and we urge all of our elected officials to find a more fair solution to make our public schools the best they can be.
Mario Cilento, President