New Law Allows NYSUT Leaders To Accrue Pension Time

State lawmakers in June quietly approved a measure that would expand an existing law to allow the leaders of the statewide teachers union to accrue pension time while working for the umbrella labor group.

The measure, signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on July 22, is considered revenue neutral: The New York State United Teachers union reimburses school districts for the cost.

NYSUT spokesman Carl Korn said the law clarifies an existing measure that’s been on the books since 1972, which applied to local teachers unions. The law approved in June added the words “statewide affiliate.”

“It was a technical bill to clear up an ambiguity,” he said, adding he’s unsure if any of NYSUT’s board members will take advantage of the new law, though it’s likely some will.

NYSUT elected a new slate of leaders, including a new president, in April.

It’s also not unusual for public labor leaders to accrue hours towards their pension while working for their union. PEF, CSEA and Council 82 have similar arrangements.

It’s unclear why the statewide union didn’t qualify earlier for such an arrangement.

The measure sailed through both the Senate and Assembly with only a handful of votes opposed. Introduced on June 9 in the Assembly, the bill cleared both chambers by June 20.

Its passage came at the same time changes to the state’s teacher evaluation measure — which slowed aspects of the implementation of Common Core standards in New York — were negotiated. Union officials insisted the evaluation agreement and the pension bill’s passage were not linked.

The pension change has gone more or less unnoticed, save for advocate teachers blogs, though not all union members agree this is a give-away to the organization’s leadership.

E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for New York State Policy said that even while the law is revenue neutral, it’s still troubling.

“This is big favor,” he said. “It may not be unprecedented to have such an arrangement, but in fact it’s a huge gift to the unions.”

He added the state’s pension system remains backed up by taxpayers, saying it sets an example for other labor groups.

“The last thing we need to be doing by fact or example is expanding access to the pension system whether it’s quote-un-quote paid for or not,” McMahon said.

In Some Races, PEF Plays It Safe

From the Morning Memo:

Much was made last week of the endorsement by PEF, the state’s second-largest public workers union, of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Democratic primary challenger Zephyr Teachout.

The nod was seen both as political muscle flexing by the union’s new president, Susan Kent, and a shot across Cuomo’s bow at a time when his relationship with several public sector unions is strained.

PEF also bucked the institutional Democratic trend and backed former NYC Councilman Oliver Koppell over IDC Leader Jeff Klein, despite the Cuomo-backed deal for Klein and his fellow renegades to abandon the GOP and strike a new deal with the so-called “regular” Democrats in exchange for (among other things) seeing primary challenges to IDC members dropped.

But a full list of PEF’s legislative endorsements provided to CapTon reveals the union wasn’t so politically provocative in all its candidate selections, even opting to sit on the sidelines rather than choose sides in races where incumbents have been charged with wrongdoing.

PEF did not issue endorsements in the Brooklyn race where embattled former Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson is fighting for his political life; or in the Binghamton race where Sen. Tom Libous, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, is doing the same.

Both Sampson and Libous have been slapped with federal corruption charges.

The union’s regional leaders recommended backing Sampson’s primary challenger Dell Smitherman, a former 1199 SEIU political coordinator, and Libous’ Democratic opponent, former Vestal Town Supervisor Anndrea Starzak; but those suggestions were not heeded when a final vote was taken at PEF’s conference last week.

PEF did back a primary challenger to another scandal-scarred senator, supporting former NYC Councilman Leroy Comrie over Sen. Malcolm Smith (another former Senate Democratic leader) in Queens.

On Long Island, PEF mostly stayed with the status quo, except in one notable case: It backed Democrat Ethan Irwin, a Levittown lawyer and former US Marine, over veteran GOP Sen. Kemp Hannon.

In two open seats on Long Island, PEF backed the Democratic candidates, choosing environmental activist Adrienne Esposito in the battle for GOP Sen. Lee Zeldin’s district (he’s running for Congress), and Dave Denenberg for ex-Sen. Chuck Fuschillo’s district.

PEF also opted for “no endorsement” in another Brooklyn district, which is represented by Sen. Simcha Felder – a Democrat who conferences with the Republicans.

In Western New York, PEF issued no endorsement in the 59th SD, which is represented by Republican Sen. Patrick Gallivan. It is also sitting out the 60th SD race, where GOP Sen. Mark Grisanti faces a primary challenge from attorney Kevin Stocker and a general election challenge from Democratic attorney Marc Panepinto.

And PEF also passed up the opportunity to choose sides in the battle over retiring GOP Sen. George Maziarz’s seat in Niagara Falls, but did give a nod to Elaine Altman – a Democrat challenge Republican Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer.

Also seeing “no endorsement” votes in their districts from PEF were GOP Sens. Cathy Young (57th SD) and Jim Seward (51st SD).

In several contested races on which control of the Senate chamber could hinge, PEF sided with the Democrats. It backed Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk over her GOP opponent (for the second election cycle in a row) ex-Assemblyman George Amedore; Sen. Terry Gipson over Republican Dutchess County Legislator Sue Serino; and Sen. Ted O’Brien over his Republican challenger, former TV news anchor Rich Funke.

Inside NYSUT’s Endorsement Process

The three-day NYSUT endorsement conference that ended with the union opting not to pick a favorite in the governor’s race was a “grueling” process that took longer than expected due to internal debate over state legislative races – particularly in the Senate, a union official said.

The decision not to endorse Gov. Andrew Cuomo or any of his opponents for the second election in a row was pretty much “unanimous,” according to NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta. But when it came to the Legislature, it was a whole different ballgame.

“There were discussions like you wouldn’t believe,” Pallotta said during a telephone interview this morning. “Last cycle, things were pretty clear. This cycle, we had very different opinions from very different parts of the state on what direction we should go in, and how good individual assembly members and senators have been. Discussions went on for hours. We came out with a lot of ‘no endorsements.’”

It was not unusual, Pallotta said, for discussions over whether to endorse a single senator to last up to five hours, and for there to be no majority opinion on how to proceed at the end of those marathon talks.

There was also no consensus among union leaders about the effort to flip the Senate into Democratic hands – a push that largely originated with unions during the labor-backed Working Families Party’s debate over whether to endorse Gov. Andrew Cuomo or Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachout. In a deal brokered by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Cuomo ended up endorsing a Democrat-controlled Senate as well as the return of IDC members to the so-called regular Democratic conference.

But NYSUT members feel strongly that individual senators – both Republicans and Democrats – have been very supportive of their issues over the years, and they wanted to repay that loyalty with endorsements, Pallotta said. For example, NYSUT threw its support behind GOP Sen. Ken LaValle, longtime chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, even through it opted to take a pass in many of the Long Island districts – including the one represented by Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos. (Note: this line has been edited to correct an error; NYSUT did not endorse GOP Sen. Jack Martins over his Democratic challenger, Adam Haber, but stayed nuetral in that race).

NYSUT also remained loyal to the Senate Republicans’ second-in-command, Sen. Tonm Libous, of the Southern Tier, despite his indictment on charges that he lied to federal agents about helping his son get a job with a politically-connected law firm.

In several other contested races, however, NYSUT gave its support to the Democratic candidates, including Sens. Terry Gipson (Hudson Valley) and Ted O’Brien (Rochester) – both top GOP targets this fall.

It wasn’t a surprise for NYSUT to take a pass on backing Cuomo, given its 2010 “no endorsement” decision and rocky relationship with the governor since he took office in January 2011. Pallotta said he believes the governor wanted NYSUT’s endorsement, but was a little vague on whether Cuomo had formally sought the union’s nod, saying: “We’ve spoken with the different candidates…we’ve spoken with the governor, and he understands our situation and needs, as did (Green Party candidate) Howie Hawkins, and (Cuomo’s Democratic challenger) Zephyr Teachout.”

As for Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive, Pallotta said his name was brought forward, but “not as much” as Hawkins and Teachout were mentioned. That’s despite Astorino’s outspoken opposition to the Common Core, and effort to capitalize on the backlash to the controversial curriculum by creating the “Stop Common Core” independent ballot line.

Pallotta indicated NYSUT has not yet decided whether it will formally oppose Cuomo when the AFL-CIO holds its endorsement get-together in New York City next Monday. In 2010, the union did not back Cuomo, but also did not seek to block him from receiving the AFL endorsement, which is decided by a weighted vote of all its union affiliates.

“That will be exciting,” Pallotta chuckled. “We’ll see what happens…I can’t predict. It wouldn’t be fair to those who support the governor. There are folks coming to the convention who support the idea of an endorsement very strongly, and others who would want to see the governor get the endorsement. There’s a lot of freedom to speak at these conventions, and a lot of spirited discussions. We will let them come, and we will let them speak. We can’t keep our local presidents from speaking.”

NYSUT Passes On Cuomo, Again

The statewide teachers union is poised to unveil its endorsements for the upcoming 2014 elections, and once again, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has failed to make the cut.

An endorsement list obtained by SoP after NYSUT leaders met behind closed doors yesterday outside Albany, shows the union is – as we knew, thanks to the early decision on these races – supporting both of Cuomo’s fellow Democratic statewide officials, AG Eric Schneiderman and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, for re-election.

There is no endorsement in the governor’s race.

It was not immediately clear whether Cuomo had even bothered to seek NYSUT’s support, or if the union had interviewed his opponents – Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and Democratic Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachout.

Efforts to reach the union’s spokesman to obtain answers to these questions were unsuccessful.

NYSUT’s new president, Karen Magee, was scheduled for a CapTon interview last night, but cancelled at the last minute because the endorsement meetings went long.

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that NYSUT is sitting out the governor’s race. The union did the same thing in 2010, although it did not actively oppose then-AG Cuomo when it came time to decide the AFL-CIO endorsement, which is decided by a weighted vote. (He got the nod).

Magee has made clear since she ousted former NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi this past spring that her members were unlikely to back Cuomo this time around.

It would be generous to describe the relationship between NYSUT and Cuomo as “rocky.” The two have clashed numerous times over everything from the property tax cap and pension reform to teacher evaluations and the Common Core curriculum.

The union is also issuing a slew of legislative endorsements, backing mostly – but not entirely – Democratic Senate and Assembly candidates.

NYSUT chose sides in some, but not all, of the contested Senate races as the Democrats and Republicans battle it out (yet again) for control of the chamber.

However, there are a number of races on Long Island where NYSUT is sitting things out at the moment.

For example, the union did not pick a favorite in the 7th SD race where GOP Sen. Jack Martins is battling Democrat Adam Haber.

It did back Democratic environmental advocate Adrienne Esposito over Republican Islip Supervisor Tom Croci, who was tapped to run when Town Board Member Anthony Senft quit the race in the 2nd SD (Sen. Lee Zeldin is running for Congress).

NYSUT is holding out on a number of incumbent Republican senators. It did not back a candidate in the 4th SD where GOP Sen. Phil Boyle is seeking re-election, or the 6th, where GOP Sen. Kemp Hannon is running againn.

The union notably remained mum on Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos, who is running for another term in the 9th SD.

NYSUT is backing all the IDC members save one: Queens Sen. Tony Avella (11th SD), who is facing a strong primary challenge from former NYC Councilman John Liu. Liu has garnered labor support even though the unions are supposedly all in for the IDC-regular Democrat reunification effort.
The union made no endorsement in the 17th SD, represented by Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder, who sits with the GOP; or in the 19th SD, where embattled former Democratic Senate Leader John Sampson is fighting for his political life in the September primary; or in the 32nd SD, represented by conservative Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr.

In other contested races, NYSUT supported Democratic candidates including:

Former NYC Councilman Leory Comrie against scandal-scarred Queens Sen. Malcom Smith (this is a primary); Bronx Sen. Gustavo Rivera over NYC Councilman Fernando Cabrera (also a primary); Dave Denenberg for the seat of former Long Island GOP Sen. Chuck Fuschillo; Democrat Justin Wagner for the seat of retiring Hudson Valley GOP Sen. Greg Ball; Sen. Terry Gipson, who faces a challenge from GOP Dutchess County Legislator Sue Serino; and Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, who is trying to fend off a second challenge from former GOP Assemblyman George Amedore; Sen. Ted O’Brien, fighting a challenge from Republican former Rochester TV anchor Rich Funke; teacher Elaine Altman, who is challenging GOP Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer; and attorney Marc Panepinto, who is trying to unseat GOP Sen. Mark Grisanti.

GOP Sen. Tom Libous made the cut with NYSUT, despite his health and legal troubles. He’s being challenged by former Democratic Vestal Town Supervisor Anndrea Starzak.

For the seat being left vacant by retiring GOP Sen. George Maziarz, NYSUT is backing Republican-turned-Democrat Johnny Destino. It also is supporting Sen. Tim Kennedy over his Democratic primary challenger, Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant.

Avella Receives 1199/SEIU Endorsement

The campaign of Independent Democratic Conference Sen. Tony Avella announced Friday the Queens lawmaker had received the nod from 1199/SEIU, a key labor group that was instrumental in helping Gov. Andrew Cuomo receive the endorsement of the Working Families Party.

Avella faces Democratic former city Comptroller John Liu in a primary.

“From safe staffing to quality standards for healthcare, 1199 SEIU has been at the forefront of protecting healthcare workers and their patients,” Avella said in a statement. “It is my honor to receive their endorsement today, and I look forward to working with them in the upcoming legislative session.”

Following an agreement brokered by Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the independent Democrats are expected to form a new majority coalition with mainline conference Democrats after Election Day.

But primaries launched against the IDC lawmakers remain, including a contest between the conference’s leader, Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein, and former city Councilman Oliver Koppell.

The WFP plans to officially stay neutral in these primaries, while 1199/SEIU previously indicated it would help IDC lawmakers in their re-election efforts.

32BJ SEIU Endorses 37 Senate Democrats

A key labor union on Wednesday endorsed 37 Democrats running for the state Senate, including several who are competing in battleground districts.

The endorsements from 32BJ SEIU for Senate Democrats were coupled with endorsements in 105 Assembly races.

In addition to endorsing IDC Leader Jeff Klein last week, the labor union backed incumbents in the mainline conference: Terry Gipson, Cecilia Tkaczyk and Ted O’Brien — a trio of Democrats who are top targets for Senate Republicans this year.

The union also endorsed Leroy Comrie, a challenger to Sen. Malcolm Smith who is under indictment for his alleged role in a bribery scheme as well as Dell Smitherman, who is trying to unseat Sen. John Sampson, who faces embezzlement charges.

Endorsements were also given to Democrats running in districts they hope to flip, including Justin Wagner, who is seeking to take outgoing Sen. Greg Ball’s seat, and Adam Haber, running against Republican Sen. Jack Martins.

“We will mobilize our members and focus our resources this primary season on taking back the Senate for the Democrats,” said Héctor Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU. “A solid Democratic majority in the Senate, combined with a Democratic-led Assembly, will mean that we can pass legislation like the DREAM ACT, campaign finance reform and a higher minimum wage, which will concretely improve the lives of working families.”

The union did not endorse in Sen. Tony Avella’s race, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference who faces former city Comptroller John Liu in a Democratic primary.

The labor-aligned Working Families Party is staying neutral in that contest.

Astorino to Cuomo: Be Like Truman, Avoid LIRR Strike

Westchester County Executive and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino is slamming Gov. Andrew Cuomo for refusing to get involved in ongoing contract dispute between the MTA and the LIRR, which could lead to a crippling strike of the commuter railroad’s employees.

Cuomo said yesterday that the idea of a strike causes “so much anxiety I don’t even like to think about it,” adding: “There is no good alternative to the LIRR on Long Island. The commute would be horrendous, however we do it.”

But the governor also shrugged off calls from local elected officials for him to insert himself into the contract talks in an effort to resolve the impasse before the July 20 deadline, saying this is a mess that Congress needs to clean up. That’s not holding water with Astorino, who said in a video today:

“As the clock ticks down on a looming Long Island Railroad strike, Mr. Cuomo is washing his hands of the matter,” Astorino said. “He’s telling New Yorkers to call their member of congress, call their senators, email the White House – do anything, but for god’s sake don’t bother him. He’s not responsible. But when the very same negotiating team working on the Long Island Railroad issue successfully negotiated an MTA settlement, guess who took credit? You guessed it, Andrew Cuomo.”

Cuomo does have a track record of successful intervention in union contract disputes. In April, as Astorino noted, he got involved in a 2-year-old contract dispute between the MTA and New York City transit workers. The result was a five-year deal.

In September 2012, Cuomo jumped in to mediate between the Communications Workers of America and Verizon Communications after 13 months of stalled talks. And, in July of that year, the governor stepped in to end a nearly four-week lockout of 8,000 Utility Workers Union of America employees at ConEd.

Astorino opened his video monologue with a refernce to President Truman, who kept a sign on his White House desk that read: “The buck stops here.”

“There’s a major railroad strike coming that will affect hundreds of thousands of lives. You have to get involved. It’s gut check time, governor. Just ask yourself, ‘What would Harry Truman do?’”

Talks between the LIRR and the union broke down yesterday. MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast is meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill today to push for an intervention should a strike develop. Federal mediators have agreed to join the negotiations. The unionized worked are seeking a 17 percent raise over six years and no changes to either work rules or pension contributions.

So far, the MTA has not released a contingency plan for commuters who rely on the LIRR, constituting some 330,000 rides a day.

Today, the MTA started what it called a “communications blitz” aimed at alerting New Yorkers to the potential for a service disruption.

“We continue to hope that we can avoid a work stoppage at the bargaining table,” said Prendergast. “But nevertheless, we want LIRR customers and all Long Island residents to be aware that there is a potential for a disruption of service and what that might mean.”

Print ads are appearing in seven daily newspapers, and radio ads are airing on 11 stations. Updated information is also available on the MTA’s website.

What Would Truman Do? from Rob Astorino on Vimeo.

SEIU 1199 All In for Regular Dems

The first item from the morning memo:

The powerful health care workers union SEIU 1199 has “pretty much jumped in” to back all five IDC members as a reward for conference leader Jeff Klein’s agreement to abandon the GOP and cut a power-sharing deal with his fellow Democrats.

That’s according to 1199′s political director Kevin Finnegan, who said he and union President George Gresham will recommend that the IDC slate be formally endorsed by 1199′s council when it meets during the third week in July.

“Then we’ll be all in,” Finnegan said during a telephone interview last night. “I don’t know what that means at this point.”

“I don’t know if it’s in the form of an independent expenditure, or contributions to the DSCC or to some sort of coorindated campaign. That all needs to be worked out. That’s sort of the second-to-last step to this working out.”

This move is certainly not a surprise, since 1199 played a key role in brokering the WFP endorsement deal for Gov. Andrew Cuomo that started the ball rolling toward the IDC-regular Democrat reunification.

And Finnegan has been clear that his union is severing ties with the Senate GOP, declining to provide the conference with any campaign cash or endorsements for the first time in more than a decade.

But the loss of 1199′s support is still a blow to the two IDC primary challengers who have yet to end their campaigns since last week’s reunification announcement: Former NYC Councilman Oliver Koppell, who is challenging Klein; and former NYC Comptroller John Liu, who is running against the IDC’s newest member, Queens Sen. Tony Avella.

Koppell and Liu also have both been endorsed by the WFP, which so far hasn’t yanked its support, but has been instrumental in the push for a Democat-controlled Senate.

Finnegan said he expects there will be push back from the 1199 council over the union’s move to abandon Liu, who has considerable support among its members.

“My union has a long and great relationship with John Liu, and we wish him the best,” a clearly uncomfortable Finnegan said. “But we’ve made compacts with folks that prevent us from endorsing him.”

“…We’re committed, and when we’re committed, we’re going to do what we always do,” Finnegan continued. “We have thousands of members in that district, and we’re going to tell them to vote for our candidate – Tony Avella.”

Of course, this isn’t a 100 percent done deal yet. And Finnegan allowed that it’s possible the council will vote to remain neutral in the Liu-Avella race, though he believes there is strong support for the reunification movement.

And what if Liu manages to eke out a victory without 1199? After all, he does still have considerable labor support, including from HTC, which is another big backer of the IDC-Democrat deal.

“John would be a welcome member to the Senate,” Finnegan said. “He’ll join the Democratic conference; it doesn’t change the numbers, so it’s not consequential.”

“We’re going to do what we said we would do…but if John wins, we’ll embrace him as part of the family.”

The deal Klein struck reportedly also calls for IDC-supported primary challengers to regular Democrats to stand down.

For example, former NYC Councilman Fernando Cabrera (a former Republican) is campaigning to oust his fellow Democrat, Sen. Gustavo Rivera, in the Bronx; while in Buffalo, Sen. Tim Kennedy is fighting the second challenge in two years mounted by Erie County Legislature Minority Leader Betty Jean Grant, who is backed by the local Democratic Party.

As far as I can tell, those two challenges still stand, so it looks like there’s still some kinks to be worked out in the grand Democratic Senate takeover deal.

WFP Raises Off IDC-Dem Deal

Part II of today’s Morning Memo:

The WFP is wasting no time is trying to capitalize on the news that Klein and breakaway conference have agreed to strike a power-sharing deal with the regular Democrats.

In an email with the subject line “Guess Who’s Back?” WFP State Director Bill Lipton crowed over the news that Klein et al would be forming a “new progressive majority coalition” that (theoretically) will enable passage of a host of blocked bills – from the Women’s Equality Act to public campaign financing.

But Lipton also recognized that even with the IDC on their side, the Democrats would be holding an extremely slim, one-seat margin in the chamber – and that’s assuming they hold every seat they’ve got in the upcoming elections.

“There are three progressive Democrats in swing districts elected with the help of Obama’s 2012 wave,” Lipton wrote.

“Holding those seats will take real work. There are also three formerly Republican held open-seats that could be ripe pick-up opportunities to expand the majority.”

“We need to start raising the money to run competitive races in all six of those seats starting now. Can you contribute $3 to elect a progressive majority in the State Senate?”

“…it’ll take a lot more work to get to that progressive vision we’re dreaming about.”

“And there’s no doubt that the billionaires and bankers and the right wing forces will spend big to stop this from happening. They’ll pour untold millions into New York State Republicans to stop us from putting New York on a progressive path.”

I believe the three swing district Democrats Lipton is referring to are Sens. Terry Gipson, Cecilia Tkaczyk and Ted O’Brien.

The open seats include two on Long Island – one vacated by ex-Sen. Chuck Fuschillo, the other to be given up by Sen. Lee Zeldin as he challenges Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in NY-1 – and one in the Hudson Valley that currently belongs to retiring Sen. Greg Ball.

Part of Cuomo’s WFP endorsement deal also reportedly included creation of a $10 million fund to help the Democrats take back the Senate, but it remains unclear exactly where all that cash will come from – and how much, if any, Cuomo himself will be contributing.

NYSUT Pledges to Defend Teacher Tenure Against ‘Celebrity Dilettantes’

NYSUT is pledging to defend New York’s teacher tenure system in the face of a legal challenge backed by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown’s education reform organization.

In a lengthy statement, NYSUT President Karen Magee said the more than 100-year-old teacher tenure system in New York is “wildly misunderstood,” insisting that it is neither negotiated by teachers as part of their contract nor a promise of a job for life – even with poor performance or a history of mistreatment of students.

“Earning tenure in New York simply means that, if a teacher is accused of incompetence or wrongdoing, she is entitled to a fair hearing before she can be fired,” Magee said. “In the United States, we call that due process of law.”

“Well-off schools with the highest student test scores come under the same tenure law as struggling schools in high-poverty areas. Tenure is not a cause of low student achievement.”

Brown’s organization, the Partnership for Educational Justice, is assisting the families of six students in their plan to challenge New York’s tenure and seniority laws, arguing that it is too expensive, time-consuming and burdensome to get rid of bad teachers, which prevents kids from receiving their constitutionally mandated sound, basic education.

The move by Brown & Co. follows a ruling in California that struck down that state’s laws on tenure, dismissal and seniority on the basis that they disproportionately impact students in low-income and minority communities.

Magee said Brown “has got it all wrong” on teacher tenure, arguing that it protects students and teachers alike.

“While tenure is a necessary safeguard for a teacher wrongly accused of misconduct or incompetence, it also protects children’s right to a good education,” the NYSUT president said.

“Because tenure exists, teachers in New York state can — and do — challenge the state’s obsession with over-testing and how it hurts our students. Because tenure exists, teachers in New York state can — and do — stand up for decent class sizes, for art and music, and for the books and technology all students need.”

“Because of tenure, a teacher can stand up for his students in special education, for English language learners and for students who live in poverty. It means a teacher can’t be arbitrarily fired for challenging the status quo. While they may bill themselves as ‘reformers,’ the wealthy elite don’t want to address the real reason why some students in some of our schools are struggling — and that’s poverty.”

“If hedge fund millionaires and celebrity dilettantes were truly interested in guaranteeing students a quality education, they would join parents and unions in fighting for fair funding for all children, not just the affluent.”

The real problem, in Magee’s eyes, is that wealthy New Yorkers are trying to dismantle the publicly funded school system – complete with the powerful teachers unions – because they don’t want to pay their “fair share” in taxes to support the education of all children, not just the “elite.”

“NYSUT will mount an aggressive and vigorous challenge to any attempt to strip New York’s teachers of this essential and fundamental right,” Magee promised.