Billy Jones, a candidate for Assembly District 115, was endorsed by the New York State United Teachers on Oct. 12, 2016.
Photo by Elizabeth Izzo
PLATTSBURGH — State assembly candidate Billy Jones has netted the support of the region’s teachers.
Jones locked in the endorsement of the New York State United Teachers union last week.
“NYSUT is very pleased to endorse Billy Jones because of what he stands for,” said NYSUT Local President Michele Bushey at a campaign event in Plattsburgh last week.
At the event, Jones, who serves as Franklin County Chairman, introduced his education platform, which includes increasing state aid to public schools and the elimination of the Common Core, which he said places teachers and students in high-pressure environments with “high stakes” testing.
“It seems as though lately teachers have kind of come under siege on certain issues and are asked to do too much,” Jones said. “But they do it.”
He also called for the expansion of full-day pre-K and early education programs.
The state, Jones said, should also pick up the tab for lead testing in public schools, which was mandated by the governor last month.
“I know Tupper Lake is having problems with it right now,” Jones said. “They’re going to have to find resources. As legislators, we need to provide the funding and the resources to help the school districts out with this. They’re already under tremendous pressure with certain state mandates.”
“We can put on mandates every day, but we need to make sure they’re funded.”
The endorsement, highly coveted, comes three weeks before voters will make a choice between Jones, a Democrat, and his Republican opponent, Kevin Mulverhill.
“It was rigorous and he earned it,” Bushey said. “We don’t give out endorsements lightly.”
The district, which covers all of Franklin and Clinton counties and a portion of St. Lawrence, includes a SUNY school and two community colleges.
Patty Bentley, a NYSUT political action coordinator, said as a county legislator, Jones has demonstrated he understands the funding formula that has led to a reduction of state aid in recent years.
“They have been underfunded consistently since the 1990s. That needs to change,” Bentley said.
Bentley said the endorsement will lead to an infusion of funds in the final weeks of the race, between $2,000 and $10,000 taken from a voluntary contributions from members, which number about 4,400 in the district.
NYSUT will also ramp up volunteer efforts, including phone banking and canvassing, to get out the vote before the election on Nov. 8.
Rod Sherman is a retired public educator with 45 years of teaching experience.
After listening to Jones discuss Common Core, Sherman said he was confident his four grandchildren and former colleagues in the state’s public education system would be in good hands.
“[The teachers] are going to get their classrooms back, and my grandchildren are going to get their teachers back so they can be creative and do the things I want for my grandchildren, and my children had decades ago.”
Jones and Mulverhill are running to fill the open seat being vacated by Janet Duprey (R-Peru), who previously received the NYSUT endorsement.
Bentley said Duprey was “highly respected” and will be missed.
Mulverhill said he knew the endorsement was coming.
State education policy, he said, needs to “even out” and local control needs to be returned to districts.
“[Education policy] needs to come down from local schools to establish local policies,” he said.
Mulverhill, a father of seven, said his family participated in the opt-out movement that has seen students sitting out the Common Core for the past two years.
His daughter, a high school sophomore, was becoming increasingly stressed-out, he said.
“We should be giving local school boards a lot more input.”