October 8, 2014
By Stephanie West
Albany, NY – Supreme Court Justice Philip Minardo has allowed the New York State United Teachers’ to intervene in defending the right to tenure. The motion – filed on behalf of seven individual teachers and the statewide union – now provides teachers with the opportunity to aggressively defend the state's tenure law, which for more than a century has allowed New York's educators to effectively advocate for students and protected good teachers from arbitrary firing. Equally important, it gives school teachers a real voice in answering this specious attack on public education.
"We will mount a vigorous defense against any attack on this fundamental and vital protection," said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee. "Tenure is an important safeguard to ensuring children receive a quality education by enabling teachers to speak out in the best interest of their students. Tenure is also a critical safeguard to ensuring all students have an effective teacher, protecting academic freedom and providing educators an environment in which they do not have to be in constant fear of unfair firing."
The state's tenure law initially faced two separate legal challenges – Davids v. New York and Wright v. New York. Those cases have since been consolidated before Justice Minardo in Richmond County. The office of State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is representing New York State.
The teachers' motion states the plaintiffs are attempting "to eviscerate laws that have been carefully designed and continually and rationally refined by the Legislature, over the course of more than a century, to attract and retain qualified, dedicated public school teachers, and to protect them from arbitrary dismissal, in the interest of promoting the best possible education for New York's schoolchildren. The evisceration of these laws would not only damage the professional and legal interest of school teachers, but would impair the right of New York's schoolchildren to a sound basic education."
"The misguided focus by the anti-union forces and their wealthy corporate backers on this essential due-process right – a right that is the very foundation of America's justice system – is little more than a distraction from what helps children most: recruiting and retaining quality teachers and providing resources that ensure all students have the opportunity to succeed," Magee said.
In addition to Magee and NYSUT, joining the suit as potential interveners include seven educators. Seth Cohen, an Earth Science teacher in Troy. Daniel Delehanty, a highly accomplished award-winning Advanced Placement social studies teacher in the Rochester City School District. Ashli Skura Dreher, an award-winning special education teacher at Lewiston-Porter High School. Kathleen Ferguson, an elementary teacher in Schenectady. Israel Martinez, a Spanish and French teacher, as well as a cross country, track and wrestling coach, in the Niagara Falls City School District. Richard Ognibene Jr., a chemistry teacher at Fairport Senior High School and 2008 New York State Teacher of the Year. Lonnette R. Tuck, a social studies teacher in White Plains since 1988.
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.