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  1. In vigils around the country, mourners honored Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — her life, her 27 years of service on the Supreme Court and the gains she helped achieve for education, women’s rights, and desegregation, among many other achievements.

    Teachers and students were among those who spoke out sorrowfully and hopefully at some of the New York State vigils, talking about Ginsburg’s role as a stalwart vote for sex equity in schools, desegregation, and separation of church and state.

    In the North Country, an online candlelit vigil for the Brooklyn-born Supreme Court justice drew educators, students, local and state judges, and U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, who has spoken of her legacy of justice.

    Prior to her appointment to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton, Ginsburg had worked as a professor at Columbia University and Rutgers University at a time when no firm in New York City would hire a female lawyer.

    National Education Association President Becky Pringle called out Ginsburg’s role as an educator.

    “As educators, we know that she is now considered, and always will be, a teacher and champion of racial and social justice. Her loss is more than a seat on the nine-justice Supreme Court; her loss is devastating and will be felt for generations. NEA members will honor her legacy by redoubling our efforts to fight for justice,” said Pringle.

    American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said Justice Ginsburg is an icon, calling her loss


  2. Picture this. You’re a teacher and you’ve got chronic, stage IV kidney disease and an autoimmune disease that requires you to take regular doses of immunosuppressants. A worldwide viral pandemic hits. Your school closes. Businesses shutter their doors. From Buffalo, to Long Island, to the North Country, to all points in between, New York State comes to a standstill and it stays that way for months on end.

    But you learn to adapt. You teach your classes remotely, and you find ways to reach your students and to make things work. Your hard work pays off and you successfully evaluate, and provide grades for your students during that disrupted semester, despite the interruptions, despite the hardships.

    Flash forward six months. The pandemic continues and the death count reaches nearly 200,000. Your health conditions put you at high risk. But despite proving over the last semester that you can effectively do your job remotely, your district demands that you return, in-person, to the classroom. Knowing that it puts you at significant risk for contracting the virus, and knowing that contracting the virus could very well endanger your life.

    Sarahjane Harrigan, an elementary music teacher at Watkins Glen Elementary School for over two decades, doesn’t have to imagine this scenario. She’s living it. After submitting an accommodation request to her district’s business manager in early August to provide remote music instruction to elementary students, her request was denied. A modified request to live stream instruction


  3. ALBANY, N.Y. Sept. 19, 2020 — New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta released the following statement today regarding the passing of Eadie Shanker:

    “The NYSUT family is saddened to hear of the passing of Eadie Shanker. Eadie’s commitment to labor and education served as an inspiration to scores of unionists. She helped lay the foundation for our union and her work has touched the lives of so many. Eadie will be missed, but her legacy will live on.”

    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.

    Eadie Shanker was the 2012 honoree for NYSUT's "Not for Ourselves Alone" award.


  4. The Orleans-Niagara BOCES Teachers Association has filed a Public Employee Health and Safety (PESH) complaint with the Department of Labor, charging the Orleans-Niagara BOCES has ignored the state’s COVID-19 protocols to protect students and staff.

    The complaint, prepared by NYSUT legal and field staff, raises numerous concerns related to a lack of social distancing, face coverings, school cleaning, personal protective equipment and mandatory health screenings.

    “During these unprecedented times, teachers cannot do their jobs effectively when basic health and safety procedures are ignored and protective supplies are not available,” said O-N BOCES TA President Deborah Hillburn. “Under Superintendent (Clark) Godshall’s leadership, the BOCES is dangerously exposing staff and students to contracting and spreading this deadly virus, particularly with students traveling back to their home districts when their half-day at BOCES is over.”

    Orleans-Niagara BOCES serves students from 13 component districts, with nine sites offering a variety of special education, alternative education and career and technical classes.

    Hillburn said BOCES sites began in-person classes on Sept. 8, with teachers and staff reporting for work the week before.

    Teachers immediately raised concerns about the lack of safety protocols. For example, student desks were as close as three feet; there was not enough personal protective equipment and cleaning and disinfection protocols were inconsistent. In addition, O-N BOCES has not


  5. ALBANY, N.Y. Sept. 16, 2020 — New York State United Teachers today announced it has filed a lawsuit against the state over reductions in state school aid for districts across New York, seeking the release of money withheld in July, August and September and an injunction against future withholding of or delayed school funding payments.

    The lawsuit filed in Albany County Supreme Court challenges the constitutionality of the unilateral executive budgetary powers provided for the state Division of Budget as part of this year’s state budget process. The union alleges that those unconstitutional powers have led to cuts that deprive students of their right to a sound basic education under the state Constitution.

    The suit points to the fact that some school districts have no more local resources to tap and are dependent on state funding. In such districts, a 20 percent cut “could be catastrophic, and certainly would lead to a ‘gross and glaring inadequacy.’”

    NYSUT has previously highlighted the devastation stemming from state cuts, including hundreds of layoffs in districts around New York.

    The lawsuit can be read in full here.

    “Time is up,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “With the loss of state funding driving cuts at the local level in districts around the state, we can’t just keep waiting for action at the federal level to fund our schools. At this point, a