[ Fighting for you ]

Unionists elect public ed supporters, show anti-public school board members the door

Ben Amey and Kara Smith

hen NYSUT members work together, we get big things done. Nowhere was that more evident on the local level this year than school board elections, where several locals worked, some for the first time, to elect pro-public school candidates to school boards and pass district budgets.

New York voters delivered a strong vote of confidence in their public schools, passing 99 percent of school district budgets in May. Local unions endorsed 360 candidates in board elections. Eighty-five percent of those candidates were elected, including 75 NYSUT members.

On Long Island, the Brentwood Teachers Association and Babylon TA both secured big wins. In Brentwood, the union endorsed and supported two pro-union candidates, one a retired teacher and the other a former student.

“These two candidates have unique perspectives … they both have the vision and mindset of doing what’s best for kids,” said Kevin Coyne, Brentwood TA president. More than 700 BTA members volunteered to make nearly 4,500 phone calls and knock on almost 2,000 doors to flip two seats away from anti-public education candidates.

Babylon was facing devastating cuts if they didn’t try and override the state mandated tax cap. Babylon TA members kicked it into high gear with a community outreach campaign including phone banks, mailers, social media and canvassing. The work paid off — the school budget passed with 61.9 percent of the vote, just 1.9 percent more than needed to override the cap.

“It was really cool to see people join in that I wouldn’t have expected,” said Alex Marange, Babylon TA’s political action and public relations chair. “It definitely makes me think about what we can do next year.”

In the Capital Region, Duanesburg was facing an election where anti-public school candidates could secure a majority. Despite never having gotten involved politically before, the Duanesburg TA knew they had to act.

“Our goal was to get as many people out to vote as possible,” said Shannon Gordon, Duanesburg TA co-president. Mailers, phone calls, text messages and a robocall from a local Olympic medalist were part of the push, much of it funded through a VOTE-COPE Solidarity Grant. Both candidates won, and planning is in the works for the three seats that will be open next year.

And in Western New York, the Greece TA and the Association of Greece Central Educational Professionals teamed with the district’s other unions, the Greece Administrators and Supervisory Association and the Teamsters, to help elect three pro-union candidates to the school board. All three candidates won by wide margins.

“As unionists, we have a responsibility to students, staff and the greater Greece community — we’re committed to working collaboratively with the district toward continuous improvement,” said Brian Ebertz, Greece TA president and NYSUT Board member.