This weekend, union leaders from NYSUT’s two and four year campuses met in New York City to discuss issues of common concern. To begin the conference, the Community College contingent met to plan the Community College Conference for 2015. We are maintaining the AFT core message to “Reclaim the Promise” by offering workshops addressing our fundamental values and will provide practical tools for the membership to bring back to their campuses. A sampling of workshops will include Governance, Political Action, Organizing and Coalition Building. There will be more on this in the coming months.
Randi Weingarten, President of the AFT, attended and spoke on national trends. It seems that both the Republican and Democrat Governors Associations are engaging in anti-union rhetoric, attacking tenure, eliminating full-time positions and supporting privatization of the public universities by financial starvation. All faculty must remain vigilant, committed and actively engaged in reclaiming the promise of a high quality affordable public education. This includes active engagement with our elected officials. The NCCFT PAC co-chairs, Stephanie Sapiie and Dawn Smith, have competently established professional relationships on both the local and state levels. Unfortunately, our Governor does not share the same value of a public university system as was envisioned and created in New York. AFT staff also discussed President Obama’s initiative, “America’s College Promise”. This is an 800 page proposal that, if implemented, will not resemble the form as is presently written after public and political comment. The AFT and NYSUT Policy Council will be reviewing this proposal and will be actively engaged providing insight and recommendations.
NYSUT discussed issues surrounding “Start-Up NY” whereby businesses can establish tax-free locations on or near SUNY campuses if the nature of the business provides employment or internship opportunities for the students, aligns with the mission of the campus and does not contract our work out. While this seems benign, the lines on these rules are blurry and demonstrate a case study of privatization of the public university.
A spirited discussion ensued concerning Teacher Prep Assessments and the role of the AFT and NYSUT. The assessment would test the Teacher Prep students and, based on their grades, assess the professors that taught them. We cannot stress enough the importance of your vigilance in monitoring this initiative and how it relates to our campus activities.
Another interesting discussion concerned the “Take the Pledge” loan forgiveness program. One criteria of this program allows a portion of a college graduate’s student loan to be forgiven if that individual is employed for the public good. Nassau Community College meets this criteria. We will discuss this with the Administration about how to publicize this in order to assist anyone employed at Nassau to take advantage of the program.
Performance Based Funding was on the agenda. In order for PBF to be applied to the Community Colleges, the initiative must be legislated. NYSUT and the NCCFT have lobbied very hard over the past couple of years to keep this off the legislative agenda and have been successful. Our priorities are for Maintenance of Effort funding to provide for campus services, Collective Bargaining Agreement costs, full-time lines, inflation and other costs. The State not only has a surplus this year, but also realized over five billion dollars in revenue from a host of lawsuits. There will be many groups competing for this money, however, NYSUT and the NCCFT have lobbied consistently for a fair share.
As always, the NCCFT leadership, along with our advocacy partners in NYSUT and the AFT, are engaged in all aspects of Higher Education. We will keep you informed of the latest issues and ask you to join us in our efforts to insure the continuance of success.