Friday, October 21, 2022
A Message from Newsletter Editor Linda Waldbaum
Election Day is less than a month away. Have you considered how you will cast your vote for the gubernatorial seat? As a state employee, a public school educator, and a member of a labor union, it is imperative that you familiarize yourself with how each of the candidates stands on issues that directly impact your employment, pension, and health care.
Kathy Hochul was sworn in as Governor of New York State a little over a year ago. In her short tenure, Hochul’s actions have demonstrated her strong support towards public education and labor unions. Last April, she announced an unprecedented statewide school aid increase of 2.1 billion dollars. This represents a 7.2 % increase in funding, which is the largest percent increase in NYS history. The money will go toward recruiting and retaining quality teachers. The budget has set aside grant money for paraprofessionals and teaching assistants who remain employed to pursue a teaching degree. In addition, Hochul has temporarily waived the income cap retirees with the hope that these experienced teachers may rejoin the workforce where there is a shortage of teachers.
Moreover, Hochul has taken aggressive measures to offer the necessary support to fill the learning gap brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes support for extended school day or school year programs, after-school programs and mental health professionals. In addition to the direct school aid Hochul has outlined in her budget, she has also made steps in correcting one of the several egregious provisions of the Tier 6 New York State Retirement System. Hochul has lowered the vesting from 10 years to 5 years and has changed the over-time calculations for salary and wages earned during Covid, so members are not punished by lost wages. Hochul also supports NYSUT’s effort to extend the moratorium on APPR and she has signed legislation to extend COVID death benefits for public employees through 2023. Governor Hochul recognizes investing in teachers and public education is investing in the future of New York State.
In stark contrast to Hochul, Congressman Lee Zeldin has voted to decimate programs that fund public schools, early childhood learning, and after-school programs by slashing $25.6 billion from the federal budget (HR 2740, Amdt. 306, Vote #289, 6/13/2019). He recently voted against the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019 (PRO Act). The bill would strengthen penalties against businesses that discriminate when their workers try to unionize and protect their rights to strike without fear of being fired. In addition, the PRO Act would also eliminate state "right to work" laws and prohibit employers from holding captive audience meetings during organizing campaigns. Ultimately, the bill would ensure that all workers have the right to join a union. As if voting against that bill was not enough, Zeldin voted in favor of 3 amendments to the PRO Act that would have undercut workers’ ability to unionize and bargain (HR 2474, Vote #50, 2/6/2020).
During Zeldin’s campaign, he unveiled his educational plan: “Student First,” which includes expansion of charter schools. Charter schools are subsidized with tax payer dollars but are not held to the same academic or financial standards that traditional public schools are. Expansion of the charter school industry or “for profit” education spreads the financial resources of the public school system thin. Each school has less money to put toward educational programs. Moreover, charter schools can provide education with an a la carte approach because they are not held to the curriculum standards established by the State, thus creating educational chaos resulting in disparity in the educational quality of students across the State.
Actions speak louder than words, and it is clear by the actions of these two candidates, that there is only one who is pro-union, pro-public education, and pro-teacher: Kathy Hochul. She is the first gubernatorial candidate in fifteen years to earn a NYSUT endorsement, which should speak volumes to all public educators when they go out to vote on November 8th. Will you vote for someone who will fix Tier 6 or for someone who devalues teachers and would not hesitate to take benefits away from established tiers? Will you vote for someone who invests in public education as opposed to someone who will decimate it?
Your job is your livelihood. It is your mortgage, your children’s future, and the security of your retirement. Do not underestimate the importance and power of voting for your job on November 8th!