Canandaigua Teacher's Association

Dispatches From The Front Line

Teachers Win (For Now) in California

Despite a handful of changes to state tenure law in 2015, an historic lawsuit seeking to compel the New York State legislature to overhaul or even eliminate the tenure process for teachers in New York is proceeding to the New York State Appellate Division.

Last October, State Supreme Court Justice Philip Minardo ruled in St. George against the defendants in the case -- including the state and city teachers' unions -- who had sought to have the case dismissed based upon actions taken by the state Legislature during its last session.

In other news, the anti-union Friedrichs case, which was argued before the Supreme Court in California on January 11, resulted in a tied 4-4 vote after Justice Scalia's death left the Supreme Court with only 8 justices. A petition by the Center for Individual Rights filed on April 8 seeks to have the court rehear the case in the near future.

If the plaintiffs are successful, this could have far-reaching implications. Depending on how broadly or narrowly the justices rule, the court decision might impact the ability of all public unions, like NYSUT, from being able to collect mandatory agency fees. These fees have been essential for unions like NYSUT to defend our contracts, maintain collective bargaining of fair contracts, and pay for many other services, legal and political.

As we all know, the fight is being taken to us on all sides. Our union is indispensable, and provides political clout against the Goliath of education reform.

Without the funds and the influence that comes with strong membership, unions cannot lobby effectively for political issues that favor public educators. Who then would lobby for us instead?

In case you're still not convinced, take a look below at just a short list of benefits of NYSUT membership:

1. A contract that defines and defends our rights

2. Higher salary

3. Comprehensive health benefits

4. Fighting for our students and their communities

5. The power to enforce school health and safety

6. Professional support, training and advice

7. The right to representation
8. A collective voice

Want to know what you can do to help? Check out this link to stay informed and involved.

Opt-Out Movement Picks Up Steam

In this article in the Washington Post, Carol Burris describes the disheartening process of setting high cut scores on standardized tests, and her fear that low-income students would be "screwed" by this new reality.

The standardized tests and their high-stakes implications for teachers and schools is at the heart of the opt-out movement. Despite the U.S. Education Department's threats to penalize schools if they don't reach the 95% participation threshold, parents still chose to opt out about of the state 3-8 exams. The numbers are expected to reach or possibly even surpass the 200,000 students who opted out last year.

Find out why some believe the Department of Education's threats are mainly hollow here. And take heart, at least we don't live in Florida, which recently announced they will automatically hold back all 3rd graders who opted out of their state test.