How Important are School Board Elections? Just Ask the Lawrence Teachers Association

Thursday, April 20, 2023
A Message from Newsletter Editor Linda Waldbaum
How important are School Board elections? What happens when the wrong people get elected? One needs only to look at the Lawrence Union Free School District for the grim answers to those questions. For the past twelve years, members of the Lawrence Teachers Association (LTA) have been without a contract. Let that sink in for a minute. Twelve years. Twelve years without a contract. Twelve years without a raise. Twelve years going to work and being devalued and disrespected by the very district who employs you.
The Lawrence Board of Education refuses to negotiate in good faith with the LTA. They wish to abolish class size limits, reducing the number of teachers by overcrowding classrooms. Moreover, the Lawrence BOE demands educators teach more than the typical five periods, which will eliminate more teaching positions and create even worse learning conditions for students and teachers. The Lawrence BOE refuses to fairly compensate their overworked and highly stressed teachers by making them the lowest paying public-school educators on Long Island. 
What is happening in the Lawrence School District is a travesty. As fellow union members, we cannot idly sit by and let the Lawrence BOE destroy public education in our backyard. Our strength is in numbers, and the Lawrence Teachers Association is asking for our support. They are holding a Unity Rally this Sunday in Cedarhurst (see flier below). If we can help change the tide of what is happening in Lawrence, it is a win for all teacher unions across the Island. It is no secret that public education is under attack, and various special interest groups are looking to undermine the system in any way they can. A big part of that is to destroy the strength of teacher unions. One day, we too may need the support of our fellow NYSUT members. It is our moral obligation, as unionists and public-school educators, to stand with Lawrence teachers in their time of need.
What is occurring in Lawrence is a cautionary tale of what can happen to a community when its BOE doesn’t support public education. It can wreak havoc on our jobs and the quality of education we provide to our students. There are two Board of Education seats up for election in Plainedge this year, and the very pro-public education incumbents are being challenged. It is imperative that all members of the PFT make every effort to help get the current Plainedge BOE President Cathy Flanagan and Trustee Sonny Spagnuolo re-elected. Both Cathy and Sonny have voting records that support teachers and public education and have always voted in favor of all proposed PFT contractual agreements. Our PFT contract closes at the end of next year. We need a BOE who has supported our teacher contracts in the past.
So, what can our PFT members do? When our union leadership asks members to make phone calls on behalf of these candidates, we should not hesitate. We should show our support by attending BOE meetings. If you are a PFT member who lives in the district, consider putting a sign for these candidates on your lawn and posting to social media. The time we invest to help maintain a pro-teacher, pro-public education climate in Plainedge is worth every minute. The stakes are too high NOT to invest our time! Ask any teacher in Lawrence! Help keep our union strong! Make a conscious choice to help maintain the health of our union and school district by committing a few hours of your time over the next few weeks to these crucial union endeavors.
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