May 24, 2016

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UUPers urge positive change in post-budget advocacy

uupdate 5-24-16

UUP members made a strong case May 24 for realistic funding of SUNY campuses and hospitals and fair treatment of the state’s next generation of teachers, in a productive day of post-budget advocacy as lawmakers hammered out final deals in the Legislature.

Topping the list of union priorities: a reinstated Maintenance of Effort that would pay SUNY’s operating costs, an idea which last year had nearly unanimous support from the Assembly and the Senate but was vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo; the enactment or preservation of funding programs that would recognize the unique role of SUNY teaching hospitals and health sciences centers in their urban and upstate settings; transparency and public accountability for the SUNY research foundations; and the removal of the educative Teacher Performance Assessment as a high-stakes requirement for teacher certification.

UUP members met with generally receptive and attentive staff and lawmakers. Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo), came off the Assembly floor for a meeting that lasted nearly 20 minutes with a delegation led by Oneonta Chapter President Bill Simons. Peoples-Stokes, above with Simons, left, and Oneonta Chapter member Ed Wesnofske, sat down with the delegation in a quiet corner outside of the Assembly chamber, read the materials and asked a number of questions.

“She was really gracious,” Simons said.

Addressing teacher certification issues

UUP member Amanda Merritt of SUNY New Paltz told staffers at the office of Assembly Member Michael Simanowitz (D-Queens), that the edTPA is driving talented young teachers out of New York.

“It’s the final high-stakes test that you have to pass, and what (students) are doing is completing their college degree, they’re doing their student teaching and they’re leaving New York,” she explained.

VP for Academics Jamie Dangler explained in meetings that there is no legislation yet that would fulfill the union’s two goals around teacher certification: removal of the edTPA as a mandatory requirement for certification, and a change in state procurement law to stop educational testing companies such as Pearson Inc.—which administers the edTPA—from profiting through students’ failure.

Under the current system, the least that a teaching student usually spends on certification test registration fees is about $1,000; many students spend far more if they fail and retake an exam. UUP wants the state to pay companies like Pearson for their services, instead of the current system, in which the company’s profit is built around test-registration fees.

“There’s really a complex set of problems with the certification exams; we do need legislation,” Dangler said, adding that lawmakers and the Regents are increasingly responsive to the union’s concerns about teacher certification.

UUP will continue pressing for its post-budget agenda. Watch the UUP website for future opportunities to advocate in Albany or in lawmakers’ home districts.

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