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Andrew Pallotta: A New Year Brings A New Day

Elections are one of the great things about our democracy. Every two years, or every four years, we take a look at our nation’s direction, and the direction of our communities, and we decide if we want change, or if we want to stay the course.

No matter which candidates and political parties you support, this simple concept is the cornerstone of our democracy.  It’s something that should make us all proud.

Last month, the voters decided. Record numbers of people cast their ballots. Together, they chose change. 

Whether you agreed or not, it means a new day is coming.

A new day means different things for different people. For me, it means a new day for public education in this country.

A new day means having a professional public educator in the White House.  Dr. Jill Biden, our next First Lady, is a community college professor. She has indicated that she plans to continue teaching while serving as First Lady. That’s a tremendous statement for those of us who’ve dedicated our lives to serving students.

A new day means an end to the disastrous policies of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Since she’s spent her tenure encouraging states to use public money to fund private schools — and I’ve spent my career advocating for public school students and educators — we don’t really see eye to eye on policy.

Replacing her with someone who actually has experience in public school classrooms would help ensure that the next Secretary of Education understands the real needs of students and educators and is committed to the success of all students, regardless of where they live or how much money their family earns. I also hope they truly value public schools, colleges and universities and public educators.

Hopefully, a new day means finally passing a federal COVID-relief bill that provides state and local governments – and yes, school districts, public colleges and universities – the funding they need to serve our communities during this time of crisis.  Because Congress has failed to act, and critical resources aren’t coming from Albany, our school districts face draconian cuts ... and students at public colleges and universities statewide struggle to afford tuition and get access to the classes they need. That needs to stop.

A new day means increased federal spending for the Title I program that targets high-poverty schools … funds to double the number of school psychologists, counselors, nurses and social workers … investments in school infrastructure … and increased federal spending for special education.

And, finally, a new day means a new chance to get this coronavirus pandemic under control. With a partner in Washington, New York could finally see the funds needed to purchase personal protective equipment, update school ventilation systems and help offset many of the other unexpected costs districts have incurred during the pandemic.

So, as 2020 draws to a close, I’m looking forward to a new day for New York’s educators, students and communities.  

I'm grateful that a record number of Americans turned out to vote. I'm grateful that we’re embarking on the next chapter in our nation’s long and storied history of freedom and democracy. And I’m grateful that we’ve shattered yet another glass ceiling as we welcome our first female, woman of color vice president. 

Here’s hoping that 2021 will be a year of happiness, unity and good health.

Andy Pallotta, a former elementary teacher, is president of the more than 600,000-member New York State United Teachers.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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