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NYS PTA Advocacy Campaigns

This has been an exciting month of advocacy. NYS PTA has four advocacy campaigns that all members can continue to educate and communicate to their legislators. These issues are: Restrict and Ban Marketing of E-cigarettes & ENDS to Children; Career and Technical Education and Pathways to Success; Support a $2 Billion Investment in Our Children; Heroin/Prescription Opioids. To Take Action on these issues, click here.

National PTA Legislation Conference/Lobby Day March 7-9


Following an incredible National PTA Legislation Conference in Washington, DC, NYS PTA Advocates went to Capitol Hill to meet with our representatives. Organized by Lana Ajemian, we met with Senator Charles Schumer, Congressman Tom Suozzi, Congressman Peter King, and Congresswoman Kathleen Rice. Advocates also met with staff from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Paul Tonko’s offices. A special congratulations to National PTA Youth Advocate of the Year Christian Ranieri from Suffolk who joined our team in the Capitol.

Thank you to our NYS PTA Team in Washington DC: Lana Ajemian, Gracemarie Rozea, Kyle Belokopitsky, Dana Platin, Susanne Smoller, Veronica Goldberg, Patrice Rachlin, Kathy Rea, Christian Ranieri and Carina Ranieri.

Click here for more pictures.

NYS PTA Lobby Day March 13


On March 13, Key and Local Advocacy Partners from across the state came together as NYS PTA advocates at the Capitol in Albany, NY. This passionate group of advocates met with Senate and Assembly representatives from across the state. NYS PTA was also recognized by Commissioner of Education Elia at the NYS Board of Regents meeting. Advocates discussed key issues with Governor Cuomo’s staff, Senator John Flanagan, Democratic Conference Leader Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Senator Carl Marcellino’s staff. NYS PTA also presented Assemblywoman Cathleen Nolan with the NYS PTA Honorary Life Membership.

Reflections from Lobby Day:

Amany Messieha Dgheim, Region Director, Central Hudson: “Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee, a strong advocate for public education, was recently appointed to the Assembly Education Committee. She shared with NYS PTA KAP Team 4 her “Why PTA”, because PTA is “standing strong for our children and their future.”

Karen Viola: “It was such a privilege to meet the NYS Regents and lobby on behalf of the NYS PTA during Lobby Day 2017! I appreciated the opportunity to discuss education issues that affect some of our most important Suffolk County citizens-our children. Thank you to all the Assemblymembers, Senators and staff who met with us.”

Mary McNamara, President Dobbs Ferry Council: “We had two students sharing their stories about CTE, and the dangers of marketing e-cigarettes to children. It really added more resonance with the representatives we met with. It really inspired my son to know his voice had value when presenting his personal story about a young student using an e-cigarette in his school.”

A special thank you to all the members of the NYS PTA Lobby Day team: President Gracemarie Rozea, Immediate  Past President Bonnie Russell, Executive Vice President Judy Van Haaren, Executive Director Kyle Belokopitsky, Vice President Dana Platin, Vice President Jane Harsha, Legislation Coordinator Susanne Smoller, Education Coordinator Catherine Romano, Wellness Coordinator Lucille Vitale, Operations/Events Manager Carol Raymond, Membership/Insurance Manager Dania Welch, Communications/Marketing Manager Aimee Tweedie, Events/Programs Associate Lynne Degnen, Central Hudson Region Director Amany Messieha Dgheim, Kelly Short and her son Hunter from Suffolk Region, Karen Viola from Port Jefferson, Northeastern Region Director Khriste Kunz-Murdie and her daughter Kearstin, Westchester-East Putnam PARP Chair Jeneane Eichenholtz, Dobbs Ferry Council PTA President Mary McNamara and her son Devin, Westchester-East Putnam Corresponding Secretary Melissa Cancro and her son Wesley, Mike Kean from Northeastern Region, Jill Paterson from Western Region, and Candy Ditkowski from Western Region.

Click here for more pictures.

Region Advocacy and Events

Westchester-East Putnam (WEP)


Westchester-East Putnam’s Advocacy Breakfast took place on Saturday, March 4, 2017. The theme was “The DeVos Agenda: School Choice – What Does It Mean?” and the event featured the following speakers: Senator George Latimer, Ranking Member NYS Senate Education Committee; Leonie Haimson, Network for Public Education; Joseph Hochreiter, Superintendent, Hendrick Hudson School District; and Dr. Joseph Ricca, Superintendent, Elmsford Union Free School District.

A press conference was held after in coordination with Alliance for Equal Education (AQE) and for the purpose of standing in solidarity with those marching statewide in the AQE People’s March for Education Justice on Saturday, March 4, 2017.

The Yonkers Council of PTAs introduced “If I Had” – an education advocacy public service announcement. The PSA features Yonkers Public School children and focuses on the overwhelming needs of the Yonkers Public Schools and invites the entire Yonkers community to support and participate in public education advocacy. The PSA can be viewed at the Yonkers Council of PTA/PTSA website.

Nassau Region


On March 4, 2017, Nassau Region PTA held a legislative conference, LEGCON2017, at Chateau Briand Caterers.

The conference opened with a Legislation/Education Panel Discussion. On the panel were: Lorraine Deller – Executive Director of the Nassau Suffolk School Boards Association; Dr. Julie Lutz – Member of the Long Island Education Coalition; Dr. Joseph Famularo – Nassau County Council of School Superintendents & Superintendent of Bellmore Schools; Dr. Kishore Kuncham – President of Reform Education Financial Inequities Today & Superintendent of Freeport Public Schools; and Dana Platin – NYS PTA Vice President. They were joined on the panel by Congressman Thomas Suozzi, NYS Senators – Todd Kaminsky and John Brooks, NYS Assemblymembers David McDonough, Charles Lavine, Thomas McKevitt, Edward Ra and Brian Curran and Michaella Solages. Also joining us for the event was Nassau County Legislator – Kevan Abrahams.

The next portion was an Advocacy workshop presented by Catherine M. Romano, NYS PTA, educating our attendees as to how all the stakeholders fit together, like cogs in a machine, to cooperatively create, enhance and maintain the education landscape.

We closed the event with a Fireside Chat on Education Policy (a favorite of attendees in the past at the NYS PTA LegEd Conference). Participating in the Fireside Chat were: Jhone M. Ebert, NYS Education Department (NYSED) Senior Deputy Commissioner for Education Policy, Regent Robert B. Tilles, NYS Board of Regents, and Kyle McCauley Belokopitsky, NYS PTA Executive Director.

The moderator for the Fireside Chat was Dr. Bruce A. Torff, Professor at the Hofstra University School of Education. We would like to thank all the parents, teachers, administrators, education policymakers and legislators who took the time to join us for this important advocacy event.

Resolutions Deadline April 15

If you’re planning to submit a new resolution to potentially be presented to our membership at the NYS PTA Convention in November, the deadline is April 15. Please send them to the NYS PTA Office at One Wembley Court, Albany, NY 12205. Instructions on how to write and submit a resolution can be found here.

NYS Budget

Governor Cuomo’s 2018 budget summary and full briefing book were released in January. The Summary of Assembly budget changes released March 13, and the Senate budget proposal booklet released March 15, are the base of budget negotiations that end with a full budget and legislation adoption on April 1.

Click here to read NYS PTA’s budget testimony.


Regents Meeting Summary – March

June 2016 Graduation Data for 2010-2012 Cohort: Notable are the continued gaps for subgroups and impact of NYC data. NYC uses two data systems that are not in synch with NYSED, making comparisons to state data challenging. Regents asked for more detailed data to determine results and why gaps remain.

Monitors Update on East Ramapo Central show some improvement in staffing, funding for facility improvements, leadership and teaching development. Rebuilding trust remains a huge hurdle. March P-12 meeting summary included charter school authorizations and renewals, Pathway Assessment approvals for Languages Other than EnglishAuthorization for EPI pen use at schoolAthletic Placement Process for grade 7-8 students who may be eligible for interscholastic sports based on maturity measures.

The Higher Ed Committee vote to eliminate ALST (Academic Literacy Skills Assessment) component of edTPA measures for teacher certification by blending literacy questions into the teacher performance assessment, following the Recommendations of the edTPA Task Force. High School Equivalency Pathways: 24 credits, TASC test, and National External Diploma Program were reviewed as part of the ongoing efforts to improve diploma acquisition.

Special Education

The US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that federal disability laws might allow for a student with a disability to pursue a case in court without having first to go through a lengthy administrative process. The case involved a student who wanted to bring her service dog to school. While school official felt that administrative procedures were easier and less costly, the justices wanted to make it easier for disabled students to protect their rights under Americans with Disabilities Act. Additional information can be found here.

The NYS Education Department released several memos about recent updates. The first deals with important changes to the requirements for superintendents to make a local determination for eligible students with disabilities to graduate with a local diploma. This document supersedes the guidance issued in June 2016. The memo can be found here.

The second memo provides schools with updated procedures for the administration of state assessments over multiple days. This is effective immediately. The memo can be found here.

Over 10 million children in the US, many with special needs depend upon Medicaid for their services. There is ongoing discussion about how Medicaid may be funded. Changes may impact these services. Additional information can be found here.

Commissioner Elia posted a document for parents with information about the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) the (CDOS) Commencement Credential; the 2017 Grades 3-8 Tests in ELA and Math. Read more here.

Parents need to be aware of pending legislation at both the federal and state level that might impact students with disabilities. Legislation was introduced into Congress this session that will seek to amend the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The bill is entitled “Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Education and Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 620).” If passed the bill will shift the burden of complying with ADA from business owners to the person with the disability. Additional information can be found here.

There is a free app which can help you to stay current on the issues. It describes itself as “Your Government, Made Simple.” The app is available on the App store or Google Play. Once you sign up,you will receive daily updates on your lawmakers and key developments on the issues you care about. Additional information can be found here.


The NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services recently announced $250,000 in funding to support 500 certified recovery peer advocates across New York. As part of Governor Cuomo’s ongoing efforts to increase support for New Yorkers recovering from substance abuse, this investment will help combat addiction and promote recovery in communities throughout the state. Funding will be available to offset costs associated with the certification application, examination fees, educational coursework and internship opportunities. Read entire article here.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a study concluding that despite the rise in opioid dependency in the US, a majority of parents who have prescription opioids at home do not report storing them safely. According to researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomsburg School of Public Health, just 32 percent of parents of young children under the age 7 reported storing prescription opioids safely; in a latched or locked location. Findings were even lower for parents of older children. The study included data from 681 adults with children in the home who had been prescribed opioid medications. However, according to the study, most of the parents indicated that they are aware of the dangers these drugs pose to children, with 70 percent of respondents saying that locking up the opioid drugs was a good way to keep their child from getting the medication and would prevent their child’s friends from getting the medication. Read the survey and news article here.

NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report stating New York’s water systems may require nearly $40 billion in repairs and improvements over the next two decades. Di Napoli said “Many drinking water systems in New York are over 100 years old and operating far beyond their useful life. Too many places are dealing with water main breaks, leaks, contaminated drinking water and other problems that can result in public health threats, property damage or inconvenience for residents and businesses. New York needs to significantly invest in this area, or we’re going to suffer the consequences. Unfortunately, paying for these solutions presents a considerable challenge.” The Executive Budget for State Fiscal Year 2017-18 proposes a $2 billion capital appropriation for water quality improvements. However, the estimated cost from the Environmental Protection Agency is $22 billion through the year 2030 just to maintain the existing infrastructure. NYS Department of Health estimates are much higher and concludes the state will need as much as $39 billion in capital financing for drinking water projects. Read more from Comptroller DiNapoli here and here.

Governor Cuomo issued a directive to NYSED that school districts must protect transgender students. In a letter to Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, the governor tells NYSED that they need to immediately send a directive to all school districts, making it clear that transgender students in this state are expressly protected from discrimination and harassment under New York State’s laws and policies. Read more from Governor Cuomo and his letter here.

Upcoming Awareness Events


Alcohol Awareness Month
National Autism Awareness Month
National Child Abuse Prevention Month
National Distracted Driving Awareness Month
National Donate Life Month
National Facial Protection Month
National Minority Health Month
Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month
Sexually Transmitted Infections Awareness Month