Why The ST Caucus?
A quick glance at the STCaucus mission statement below emphasizes the STCaucus' purpose and vision for a stronger more democratic NYSUT which gives equal voice to every member of NYSUT's rank and file.
ST Caucus Leadership is comprised of a group of education leaders from across the state that have shared concerns regarding the direction of education policy in NYS and its effects on NY's students.
Careful review of NYSUT as a statewide union shows that only 30% of NY's locals send delegates to the NYSUT annual statewide convention where NYSUT policy, procedure and elections take place. That shocking statistic supports the fact that most members of NYSUT's rank and file are not being represented in the decision making process that governs their day to day work lives. NYSUT must have full participation from all of its members in order for NYSUT to continue to be a relevant force for public education in the future. There are a myriad of reasons why such a small percentage of locals participate. The two most significant reasons are the expense of attending the convention and the fact that NYSUT has been controlled since its inception by only one caucus.
RA Expenses for Locals - The costs that are involved with traveling to, and/or staying at, the NYSUT annual convention are significant. In fact, for many locals the costs are simply prohibitive. In addition, many locals do not have release time that would allow delegates to attend a convention that takes place during the workweek. A local's commitment to attend the NYSUT Representative Assembly to either vote for NYSUT Leadership or to help set policy requires a commitment of time and money that many locals simply do not have. The voices of many of the Leaders from small locals across NY State are not heard only because they do not have a treasury that can support travel to these conventions.
The ST Caucus at the April 2015 NYSUT Convention brought two Constitutional Amendments to the floor of the Assembly that would mitigate these expenses fairly for all NY local's. One amendment would allow for regional voting for NYSUT officers and the other would allow for regional at-large directors to be elected by the delegates in the regions they represent. These amendments failed this year, but the ST Caucus will resubmit them next year in Rochester and the ST Caucus will need support from all locals to ensure their passage this time.
The issue with a single caucus- One caucus can only represent the interests of one group and stifles debate. In theory, the one caucus was supposed to moderate the influence of the largest locals in the state to ensure that every local had a voice. In reality though the existing single caucus only served to magnify the voice of a few large locals and gave those locals a stranglehold on NYSUT’s legislative and lobbying agenda. The ST Caucus offers a second voice that can drive debate and offer the perspective of every local including those in rural, suburban and urban locations around the state. One of the major reasons only 30% of locals send delegates, to the NYSUT RA is simply because locals do not believe their voice will be heard or make a difference. ST Caucus offers those locals an opportunity to have a larger voice by joining with like minded locals to stand parallel with our brothers and sisters in the large locals.
The STCaucus knows that a strong Union is the best protection for public education, teachers and children. Engaging and activating each member of the rank and file is the only way that NYSUT can be a force that represents the interests of public education, teachers and children. The Supreme Court's decision regarding the Friedrich’s case will require every member's efforts to secure collective bargaining rights for all and the only way to get every member activated is to first make each member believe that their voice matters.
The NYSUT Representative Assembly in April 2015 was the inaugural meeting of the ST Caucus. 500 delegates joined the STCaucus and together we were able to drive the conversation at the RA regarding APPR and high stakes testing. In fact, the STCaucus secured the overwhelming passage of three resolutions that are now officially NYSUT’s position on the following issues:
College and Career Readiness Benchmarks - NYSUT, by a resolution passed at its 2015 RA, stands opposed to the current College and Career Readiness Benchmarks and grade 3-8 ELA, Math and Science Assessments being used by NYSED because they are developmentally inappropriate as evidenced by:
The IREFUSE Movement - At the 2015 NYSUT RA, the IREFUSE resolution was passed unanimously. The STCaucus fully supports the resolution’s call for all teachers to refuse to allow their children to take the NYS Assessments.
RESOLVED that NYSUT opposes standardized high stakes testing that is currently pushed by the Federal and State governments, because this testing is not being used to further instruction for children, to help children, or to support the educational needs of children; and be it further
RESOLVED, that NYSUT advocates for an engaged and socially relevant curriculum that is student-based and supported by research; and be it further
RESOLVED, that NYSUT will embark on internal discussions to educate and seek feedback from members regarding standardized high stakes testing and its impact on students; and be it further
RESOLVED, that NYSUT will lobby the NYS Board of Regents to eliminate the use of high stakes testing; and be it further
RESOLVED, that NYSUT will ask that all of its members have their own children refuse to take the Grade 3-8 assessments: and be it further
RESOLVED, that NYSUT will organize other members and affiliates to increase opposition to high stakes testing; and be it further
RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution will be sent to the NY State Board of Education, the Governor of NYS, and all members of the NYS legislative branch; and be it finally
RESOLVED, that if after this resolution is passed at the 2015 NYSUT RA, the resolution be sent to the NYSUT Board of Directors for the purpose of having the NYSUT Board of Directors craft an appropriate version of the resolution that the NYSUT Board of Directors can vote to send to the American Federation of Teachers for consideration at the AFT July 2016 Convention.
RESOLVED, NYSUT recognizes the over 190,000 parents that refused the NYS ELA Exams and the over 150,000 that refused the NYS Math Exams. We must recognize the grassroots groups of parents who have worked on this for over 2 years: Long Island Opt Out, Lace to the Top, New York State Allies for Public Education, Change the Stakes, Class Size Matters, WCNY Opt Out, NYC Opt Out to name just a few. These amazing parent have stood up for their teachers, their public schools, and their communities. This Assembly and Executive board thanks them.
RESOLVED, that NYSUT is opposed to the current College and Career Readiness Benchmarks being used by NYSED and calls for the commissioning of a panel including educators and developmental psychologists to set new developmentally appropriate standards.
Anyone with RA experience knows that passage of these resolutions would have been impossible without the work of the STCaucus pushing back against the old single caucus business as usual agenda.
There are those within NYSUT that will try to portray the efforts of the STCaucus as divisive and/or damaging to NYSUT. STCaucus believes just the opposite; far from weakening NYSUT, these efforts strengthen NYSUT and force growth through discussion, engagement and mobilization of the rank and file. NYSUT has been emphasizing the need for locals to organize to combat a negative Friedrich’s decision, however they have not given members an agenda to organize around. STCaucus believes that the positions articulated above will resonate with the rank and file and will convince members that NYSUT represents members' core beliefs. Working together each member can and will make a difference that will support public education, teachers and students.
We are a group of education leaders from across the state that have shared concerns with the direction of education policy in NYS and how it ultimately affects our students. The caucus exists to enhance the democratic operation and process within NYSUT in order to provide an equal voice to the rank and file membership.