Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul announced actions to expand and support a diverse teacher workforce in New York State. At an event at the United Federation of Teachers, Governor Hochul announced the first round of funding awards of the $30 million Empire State Teacher Residency Program. In addition, Governor Hochul signed legislation to direct the State Education Department to issue guidance to school districts for developing programs to attract underrepresented candidates into the teaching profession and legislation to develop and implement programs to prevent workplace violence in public schools.    

VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of the event is available here.

PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor’s Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:  

First of all, let’s talk about Aristotle. We want to talk about teachers, let’s go way back. What did Aristotle say about our teachers? He said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” I say, our teachers, they do educate the mind, but they also try to stimulate the heart and the soul. That is why we love our teachers because of what they do from the first day they walk in the door as a young, fresh, idealistic individual who wants to change the world to our children. All of those who’ve been here sometimes as long as 20, 30 plus years, and my God, we thank them every single day. So, if there’s any teachers in this room, I want everybody to give a round of applause for the teachers, the men and women who are educating the minds and the hearts.

You know, great teachers help people become better citizens, become activists, change agents, leaders of our communities, society, government, and that’s part of what we’re talking about here today. I know that we have some of the very best, and the leaders of the teachers’ organizations are second to none in our nation. And I could not be prouder to have my partners in this process of changing the hearts and minds of our children. 

People who have joined us here today, and I’m going to start with Michael Mulgrew, President of United Federation of Teachers. Thank you, Michael. You have been an incredible champion for many years. And made a profound difference on the trajectory of education, what happens in our classrooms, helping our teachers and children get through a global pandemic. And that’ll always be part of your legacy. Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Mulgrew, once again. 

Melinda Person is here and I’m so grateful to have her as a partner. She’s known – she may be new in this position, but not new to this role. She has been working tirelessly for many years, championing the causes of our teachers and our children because they go together, by the way. When you’re fighting for our teachers, you’re fighting for our children because they’re the beneficiaries of the teachers who are in those classrooms. So, Melinda, thank you. Thank you for fighting hard for some of the legislation that we are signing already today, showing the impact that you’ve had in your short tenure as well. 

I’m going to give a special shout out to Roberta Reardon here as well. Stand up, Roberta. She is our Commissioner of Labor. She has done an amazing job and I want to thank her for being such a strong friend and partner through all of this. 

And we have some of our elected leaders here today as well. Our champions Jessica Ramos, State Senator Brian Kavanaugh. Is Brian here as well? There you are. Thank you. Thank you very much for champions. John Liu, our Senator as well. Nader Sayegh, our State Assemblymember, Nader is here as well. Let’s thank all of them as well. 

And what we’re talking about today is how we rebuild the teacher workforce. Now, flashback to when I was a child. Everybody wanted to be a teacher if you were a young woman – teacher, or a nurse, right? Those are the only options. Anything else like, “What? You want to do that?” No, those are your options. They’re great options. They’re great options. Wonderful professions. There are a lot of jobs there as well. People wanted those jobs. There was a lot – a sense of purpose and nobility to go into both of those professions, but a lot has happened all along the way. Our teachers morph from being an educator to a social worker, to being a parent, to being a mental health professional nutritionist, caregiver, everything.

So, they’ve been asked to do so much more just in my lifetime. And we have seen a number of people leave the profession. It gets hard, especially after that pandemic when my own family members, I have so many teachers, believe me, I hear all about what the teachers want at Thanksgiving dinner in my household. You know, sisters-in-law and nieces and many family members. So, I know what they go through, the struggles and the passion they have. I literally was with my niece Jennifer a couple days ago, and she teaches a four-year-old Head Start program in a very poor district. And she was just bursting with pride. She says, “Aunt Kathy, I have kids with autism. I have kids who don’t speak English. I have kids that have all these problems. They don’t have parents, and I’m there to take care of them.” And I thought, “That’s what we need.” We need people to have that energy and that strength. But a lot of people, it’s been tough on the journey. They want to capture that essence of why they’re here, what they do. But life gets hard. 

They have their own families to take care of. And again, teachers like I saw at one end of the table trying to teach a classroom, at the other of the end of the table in the kitchen, their own children trying to learn too. It was very hard. So, I’m not surprised that there’s been a loss. People gave their heart and soul and they gave so much. But now we have to take steps to rebuild our teacher workforce because not having enough teachers is not an option. That doesn’t work for us. And also, in the process, we have to do more to increase diversity in the ranks of our teachers – full stop. We have to do more.

And how we’re going to do that? Today, I’m signing legislation that’ll help increase the number of underrepresented teachers in our classrooms that are helping our kids and award funding to districts to help them accomplish this goal. Because we know teachers make it all happen and they shape our future. They mold the characters of our children. They spark their curiosity. They do so much. And the two organizations represented here today care about this and have been champions of the legislation they’re about to sign. UFT and NYSUT want this to happen. And so, what are we going to do? Give out a game plan. So, this is how you do it. This is how we can recruit. This is how we can get people out there talking about this. And I really believe that we can make a difference, but it starts with an intentional decision to change. That’s what we’re doing here today. And how we increase that diversity, we’ll talk about. Also, it starts with making sure that we have enough resources in the first place.

I’ve been Governor for two years. Seems longer, doesn’t it? It’s been a great two years. It truly has. It’s something, when I had Mr. James, my eighth-grade social studies teacher talked to me about government, what government was all about, learning about the branches of government, learning about Washington, took a field trip to Washington DC in 1968. Washington was burning at the time. I saw the flames, the riots after the assassination of Dr. King. I was a little kid learning about all this with my family and some classmates. Mr. James probably didn’t see that I’d be a Governor someday, but we lost him a couple years ago. I was at his wake, and I spoke to his wife about the fact that I am here today because of Mr. James. He sparked in me the knowledge that government can be a force of good for people. And I learned all about that. And at that young age, I decided I want to take my place someday. Maybe I’ll get to Washington, maybe someday at the end of it all, I can be a staffer for a Senator.

True story, that was as high as I was going. And I achieved that at age 27 as an attorney for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. So, I’m all good. But life is interesting, isn’t it? But I always think about Mr. James, that teacher who taught me the power, the importance of government and other people are learning about the power and importance of science and technology and math, and learning to care for people, the healing arts. But I needed to make sure that as Governor now, for two years, that we invest and make up for disinvestment. 

Since I’ve been Governor, education funding has gone up 17 percent, 17 percent. This past year, $34.5 billion, and I said I would also fully fund foundation aid for the first time ever because we talked and talked, and nothing happened. But it’s not just about that money. It’s not just about making sure we have good buildings. It’s also about experiencing, talking about that teacher shortage. And so, my recruitment plan, it’s so important to me personally. Because I want people to have that chance to fulfill their dreams like I did. Someone who wants to be a teacher, like my niece, Jennifer who was four years old when she said, Aunt Kathy, I want to be a teacher. And now she’s teaching four-year-olds. That to me, was a great reminder that dreams can come true and we’re here to make that happen. 

And we think about our obligation to make our workforce diverse. We’re failing terribly. You have to call out a problem before you can solve it, right? This is a problem. A 2022 report from the Education Trust said that one in five New York students attend a school without any teachers of color. Roughly one in 10 Black and Latino kids attend schools without teachers of the same race. And disparity grows for Asian students, 19 percent and a staggering, 76 percent of Native American students attend schools without teachers of their own racial or cultural backgrounds.

It’s just not numbers. It just – if we’re going to inspire kids, it really helps for them to see someone who looks like them, who made it as well, because to these children, the teachers are success. They made it, they’re in their authority position, right? Not just their parents, but there’s someone else for the first time, they see someone else in authority, and when they see someone who looks like them, they can relate to, the chance of them being inspired to do more, not just become a teacher themselves, but to be something important, something of consequence. This is a call to action to reshape our workforce in a way that children can see themselves reflected in these important positions of authority. So, we have to focus on this.

And I’ll also say that research from John Hopkins showed that Black students who had one Black teacher, Black students, Black teacher by third grade, were 13 percent more likely to enroll in college. Because guess what? They saw important individual who looked like them, who had to go to college themselves to be there, and that was the inspiration. If a Black child has two teachers by the time they’re in third grade who look like them, they’re 32 percent more likely to go to college. I mean, that’s astounding. That’s astounding to me. How do you argue with that? So, it’s not just a policy decision we’re making here today, it’s a moral obligation to ensure that these children have a shot. And it’s really not just matching a student to someone of the same race or same background. It’s allowing all the children to be exposed to this, right? This is how we inspire tolerance because what we’re seeing here today is a very intolerant society in ways that I didn’t experience growing up. I wasn’t aware. People weren’t talking about it as much. 

Yes, there was systemic racism. It’s always been there. But now what is percolating up – and truly in the last 5, 7, 8 years – is something we have to push back down. We have to take hold of this. And one way we can foster that tolerance for adults is to start when they’re children. Let them see teachers and other people of influence who come from a different background. Just imagine the tolerance that that’ll build. We’ll be a radically different society if we offer that to our students. Think about it. That’s what I’m excited about. 

So, I’m signing legislation that’ll help school districts develop programs that attract underrepresented candidates into teaching, we’ll help fund it, and that builds on programs like our Empire State Teacher Residency Program. We put $30 million to help pay for master’s degrees and certification programs as well to help our teachers because they’re not making a lot of money. Right? Okay, you know what I’m talking about. That’s what passion’s all about. Passion. You’re not doing it for the money, you’re doing it for the end result, and it’s leaving this place better than you found it.

That’s what mom told me. Mom and dad both taught me that. And that’s why when I was growing up, my refrigerator sign said – other than study harder – “Do into the world and do well. Most importantly, go into the world and do good.” That’s what teachers do every single day. They do good every single day. And we need to be helping them – helping them with their cost of that education so it’s not a crushing burden on them or a deterrent for people who otherwise might want to go into this.

So, the other issue we want to talk about today is safety in the workplace. We talk about that all the time. But who talks about safety in a classroom? You’re a teacher. Depending on your school district and maybe the age of your students, who knows? Workplace violence is now the leading cause of deaths on the job in this country. Sad statement of fact. But also, the classroom is a workplace. The school is a workplace. And that has been ignored when we’re talking about laws that protect the individuals in those buildings, particularly our teachers. And our student administrators – but the teachers are exposed to this. 

So, we are going to develop a state law, which our law now requires employers to develop, have workplace violence prevention programs – every workplace except classrooms and schools, right? Linda and I talked about this. Why is it that every other workplace matters, that there’s a requirement that there be a plan in place except in schools and in classrooms. So, the law does not include public schools, but after today, it sure will. We are signing legislation that add public school to this law, so our educators feel safe at work. 

So, I’m excited. There’s always this fresh feeling the beginning of a school year, right? I always get a little nervous. “Is my paper done? Am I going to get in trouble?” But for teachers, it is a fresh start. It’s a fresh start. And I just want to applaud all of you who’ve chosen this profession and your leaders, because I cannot imagine where we’d be without you. I cannot imagine. 

So, our gratitude must be demonstrated, not just in words and nice events around the beginning of the school year. And I went to a school in Tarrytown yesterday, and I had the best time playing a little catch with the kids out in the field and having lunch. It was great. Just reminds you of the innocence, the innocence, you see the possibilities. I asked a group of girls how many girl governors they thought we had, and they had to think about it. I said, “One.” I said, “And who’s next? Who’s here is going to be next?” And they all got excited. 

So, that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to make a difference. And one person who has already made a difference, one of our greatest champions of education, our leader, Mike Mulgrew. Come on up here, Mike, and say a few words. Thank you.