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NYSUT announces new advancing racial justice in education agenda

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Thu, Feb 25th 2021 08:20 am

New York State United Teachers on Wednesday announced a new state legislative agenda intended to promote racial and social justice in education, calling for funding in the upcoming state budget to help improve school climates, foster implicit bias training programs for educators, and diversify the education workforce. 

The announcement was made during NYSUT’s evening Black History Month Celebration and conversation with state Board of Regents Chancellor Dr. Lester Young Jr. on diversifying the education workforce.

NYSUT’s advancing racial justice in education agenda builds on the union’s ongoing social justice work both in education and in communities across the state and is designed to help carry forward important conversations around diversity and racial justice held during Black History Month celebrations.

“Social justice work is union work, and as a union of educators from diverse communities across New York, we know we can play a significant role in bringing about important social change,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “Whether it’s fighting for greater equity in school funding or seeking new ways to diversify the education workforce, there is work that can and should be done this legislative session to move us toward a more just public education system.”

NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer J. Philippe Abraham, who leads the union’s social justice work, added, “I’m always heartened to see a renewed focus on racial equity each year during Black History Month, but these are the kinds of conversations that we need to have year-round. Organized labor has an important platform for effecting social change and bringing about greater racial justice. With state support, we can accelerate long-term social justice efforts across New York.”

The union’s advancing racial justice in education agenda includes:

•Addressing school climate 

NYSUT is requesting $2 million in the state budget to replicate statewide a union-created positive learning collaborative (PLC) partnership in New York City that aims to improve overall school climate, reduce school suspensions and improve academic outcomes. More information on the United Federation of Teachers’ PLC, run in partnership with the New York City Department of Education, can be found here. The UFT also is seeking $2 million to expand its New York City-specific program.

•Addressing implicit bias 

$1 million in the state budget would help expand a NYSUT-led implicit bias training to an additional 20,000 educators statewide in the coming year. More information on the union’s training program can be found here.

•Addressing the teacher shortage 

As NYSUT has detailed through its “Take a Look at Teaching” initiative, New York faces a teacher shortage, with enrollment in teacher preparation programs declining by 53% from 2009-17, and nearly a third of the teaching workforce approaching retirement age. All students benefit from a diverse educator workforce. To help diversify the workforce, NYSUT is seeking: 

√ A restoration of funding for the state’s teacher-mentor and “Teachers of Tomorrow” programs, which are eliminated under the executive budget proposal; 

√ A request for $1 million in new funding to support locally driven “grow your own” programs that aim to foster aspiring teachers’ interest in an education career and help school districts build an educator pipeline that supplies them with teachers who can better reflect the student populations they serve; and 

√ A request to preserve $18 million in the executive budget for the state’s “My Brother’s Keeper” program. “MBK” supports grant programs that include the Teacher Opportunity Corps, which provide mentorship opportunities for educators in an effort to retain more teachers who come from communities of color that are historically underrepresented in education.

New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

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