Government Relations Committee Meets with Commissioner Rosa, Senator Mayer, and Assemblyman Benedetto

The SAANYS Government Relations Committee (GRC) consists of two members from each of the twelve SAANYS regions. The GRC provides guidance on policy and regulations and to extend SAANYS advocacy work. The committee usually meets three times yearly to conduct in-person meetings with education leaders and legislators. The work of this group is invaluable and especially so during the last two years. Their expertise and on-the-ground understanding of member needs has been utilized in innumerable ways. Quite often, SAANYS receives requests from the Governor’s Office, NYSED, and NYSDOH regarding the intersection of the pandemic and educational programs. The input of the GRC  allows SAANYS to provide an on-the-ground perspective and is a  trusted partner at the state level. The GRC met recently with the commissioner of education and the senate and assembly education chairs. The following is a summary of the keys points made during each of these meetings.

Meeting with Commissioner Rosa on February 3, 2022

• During the first segment of the meeting, the GRC members highlighted the challenges that building administrators face daily. Among a long list, were contact tracing, mask resistance, student behavior, changing polices, staffing issues, and reduced instructional time.

• The second item on the agenda focused on staffing issues, and teacher/building administrator certification. The GRC was most candid with the commissioner on the challenges of recruiting and maintaining staff. Additionally, the inability in finding substitutes and the time needed for onboarding substitutes was discussed. The commissioner acknowledged and listened to the concerns brought forth and discussed how SED was attempting to alleviate system backlogs. SED has made a series of changes to certification and continues to seek ways for additional flexibility. GRC discussed collaborations that were successful between schools districts and surrounding colleges.

• The third item on the agenda was state assessments and APPR. During this discussion, the GRC members made a strong argument for the need to have APPR suspended again and to provide notification of such as soon as possible. They spoke of the endless hours needed to complete the evaluations and how challenging it was to do so in the current school environment. GRC also addressed the increased stress level of students anticipating taking the June Regents exams. Many students have not taken a Regents exam for two years and now and are experiencing increased anxiety.

• Another topic on the agenda was the mental health needs of students and staff. Concerns were expressed that the federal stimulus funding that was anticipated to provide additional staff for mental health services has not been realized in many schools. The commissioner expressed concern and would seek further information on this issue.

The meeting with Commissioner Rosa also included the attendance of many of SED’s senior staff. SAANYS is fortunate to have the opportunity to speak directly with such policymakers. The meetings are candid and probing. Additionally, SAANYS staff follows up with the commissioner on a monthly basis.

Meetings with Senator Shelly Mayer and Assemblyman Benedetto

Both Senator Mayer and Assemblyman Benedetto are chairs of their respective education committees in the senate and assembly. The focus of our meetings with these two legislators was APPR and the state budget. The GRC again stressed the need to suspend APPR, sooner rather than later. This suspension requires  legislative action, so their support on this request is very important. Both legislators understood fully the burden of APPR and were supportive of suspension.

The GRC expressed their thanks for the work of the legislature in working with the federal government to deliver federal funding for schools. The federal stimulus funding is extremely helpful for NY schools as we continue to deal with COVID-19. The GRC requested that funding for professional development for building administrators be included in the budget for building administrators. They also expressed their support for the salary cap waiver the would remove the $35,000 ceiling for retired educators s who wished to come back to a school setting.