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December 15, 2015
UUP unveils innovative action plan for 2016
ALBANY – Fulfilling a promise that the union would be a catalyst for positive change, United University Professions President Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D., today introduced the union’s 2016 legislative action plan.
The agenda includes proposals to create and expand green technology and renewable energy programs at the State University of New York, and to increase diversity in teaching in New York by creating an opportunity program to recruit underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students to become teachers.
“When I became president of UUP, I pledged that we’d come up with innovative ideas backed by detailed, workable plans to help bring those ideas to fruition. Today, we’re proud to present our new set of legislative proposals for 2016, proposals that would help students, SUNY and all New Yorkers,” Kowal said.
In an effort to foster the expansion of renewable energy programs at SUNY, Kowal called for the creation of the Green Energy Intellectual Capital Investment Fund.
“We’re asking that dollars be budgeted to hire faculty and staff, and to purchase lab equipment and advanced machinery to train students in the burgeoning clean energy field,” Kowal said. “Renewable energy is a growing field that creates jobs and economic opportunity for all New Yorkers.”
The fund would draw monies from private clean technology and renewable energy businesses that locate on or near SUNY campuses as part of the START-UP NY program. The firms would pay a percentage of the cost to create and expand renewable energy programs on SUNY campuses. The amount they contribute would be matched by state dollars.
UUP is also looking to address the declining numbers of students studying to become teachers by introducing Recruiting and Educating Teachers for All. The teacher opportunity program would target the problem of attracting and retaining teachers by recruiting underrepresented and economically disadvantaged individuals to the teaching profession.
“The teaching profession is in crisis, with enrollments in New York’s teacher education programs down by nearly 40 percent in a four-year period ending in 2013,” Kowal said. “Who will be there to teach our children years from now? It’s a problem we can’t wait to address.”
Modeled after the state’s successful Educational Opportunity Program, the initiative would provide financial assistance and support from counselors to help future teachers earn their teaching degrees. Students would have to be state residents and meet strict income guidelines.
The union is also calling for a change to the state’s procurement law that would stop for-profit testing companies from making a profit off of student teachers by charging—and recharging—them fees to take mandatory exams.
Currently, testing companies can enter into contracts with the state to develop and assess tests for free. The companies then administer the tests and charge students fees for their products; students can end up spending $1,000 or more to take and retake tests.
The test companies have little incentive to fix flawed exams, since the firms profit every time a student retakes a test. The UUP plan would have the State Education Department pay companies to develop the tests. SED would collect testing fees from students.
“Companies like Pearson are taking advantage of struggling students. They are not being held accountable for faulty tests. This is unfair and it must end now,” Kowal said.
UUP’s final proposal would establish a Teaching Health Care Fellow program at the University at Buffalo’s medical school. It would fund new positions for as many as 75 health care teaching fellows—medical and osteopathic doctors—who would be SUNY employees. They would teach, mentor and work with 750 resident physicians at nearly a dozen Buffalo area hospitals.
The program would help stabilize the relationship between the medical school and Buffalo area hospitals where it would place resident physicians. The university is the only SUNY medical school without an attached hospital.
The union’s proposal asks for $15 million in state funds to pay for the supervising physicians—who make up half of the medical school faculty, but who are not now paid by the state. This proposal supports the transformation of health care advocated by the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) program in New York State and the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“Our four programs are indicative of the leadership and foresight we bring to public higher education. We look to working with state lawmakers to gain approval of our proposals,” Kowal concluded.
UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 42,000 academic and professional faculty and retirees. UUP members work at 29 New York state-operated campuses, including SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and health science centers in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse. It is an affiliate of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.
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