Andrew Pallotta: New Year Offers New Promise For Public Education

Dec 18, 2018

For many of us, the holiday season and the New Year are opportunities to reflect on the blessings we’ve enjoyed over the past year. For educators and working families, this has been a particularly good year, with much to be grateful for.

More than anything else, 2018 was the year educators found — and raised — their voices, both in New York State and nationwide.

We saw that in the wave of Red for Ed rallies around the country. From West Virginia and Kentucky, to Arizona, Colorado and North Carolina — teachers hit the streets to demand better pay, better working conditions and the pensions they were promised.

Their activism — and more importantly, the victories they gained through that activism — were a testament to the value of strong unions, and an inspiration to anyone concerned about the challenges facing working families.

Topping the list of things to be thankful for in New York are the results of this year’s state elections. Thanks to the dedication, passion and hard work of thousands of education activists statewide, we have a state senate that will fight for education funding … will listen to the voice of parents and educators … will return sanity to the state’s testing and teacher evaluation system … and that will fight to increase funding for higher education.

Our members came out strong, demonstrating that educators are a force to be reckoned with. When the state senate rejected reforms to the teacher evaluation system — via a bill sponsored by 55 out of 63 senators! — it was a defining moment for our members.

We vowed right then and there to replace the elected officials who had turned their backs on students and teachers, with true champions — men and women who are committed to fighting for public education. 

We made good on that promise. NYSUT members worked tirelessly on behalf of candidates who value public education, staffing countless phone banks and canvassing door-to-door.  

The results are impressive. In the Assembly, 95 percent of the candidates we endorsed won. In the state Senate, the numbers were equally solid, 88 percent of our endorsed candidates claimed victory. 

None of these accomplishments would have been possible without our union, and the members who have fought to keep it strong. That’s why I am grateful for our members’ response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Janus v. AFSCME case earlier this year. 

We knew it was coming, but the decision by the highest court in the land — to bolster efforts by billionaire activists like Betsy DeVos to break unions — is a clear attack on working people. I could not be prouder of the way our members responded.

In the face of a $10 million campaign by radical anti-union forces trying to convince teachers to leave their union, our members said “no,” I’m sticking with my union.

For these reasons, I’m grateful for what we have earned and achieved together this year, and I’m excited for what’s to come. 

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

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