At the close of the unprecedented 2020-21 school year, the NYSUT Board of Directors established a task force of exceptional educators from around the state to envision a way forward for our students, our members and our schools in a post-pandemic era. This newly formed Future Forward Task Force met over several months to discuss the role that public schools play in society, the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on students, educators, and families, and the ongoing challenges that schools face. These times have raised an important question: How can we best support our public schools as the center of every community?
The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us how central schools are to our communities. They are the cornerstone of our democracy. The ongoing pandemic, and the racial injustice that was revealed across the country, brought the chronic inequality of educational opportunity to the forefront in our communities. Returning to schooling exactly as it was pre-pandemic is neither possible nor acceptable. We must build the schools our students deserve – schools that realize our vision for the future. That’s how we build the future of New York and our nation — one student at a time.
Early on in these discussions, the Task Force members articulated a clear vision and purpose for our public schools in society. Our public schools should:
- develop and support the next generation of workers and leaders, teaching them the academic and social-emotional skills to lead prosperous and fulfilling careers,
- nurture the whole child,
- help students develop the skills they need to think critically, participate in democracy and pursue lifelong learning, and
- support families as they raise children to be healthy, caring and productive citizens.
Now is the time to implement proven practices that establish strong foundations for growth in our schools. Together, we can lay the groundwork for our students that will enable them to thrive academically, socially and emotionally. This report offers recommendations by educators from around the state to school leaders, policymakers and lawmakers. NYSUT is focused on identifying solutions to our challenges that will strengthen the core of our communities – our public schools.