Traditional public school offerings should be expanded to provide new mental health and physical support and services, universal pre-K should be expanded and the state's school receivership law should be repealed. 

Those were the recommendations made in a report released Wednesday by the New York State United Teachers, the umbrella labor group that backed more than a dozen policy changes to how schools function in the state. 

The report from the group comes as schools have over the last 22 months faced the upheaval and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report drew on recommendations from education workers on academic concerns for students as well as how poverty affects kids in the classroom. 

“Many are striving to return to what we considered ‘normal’ before the pandemic. But just returning to normal isn’t good enough for our students,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “Now is the time to redefine public education as a system that truly supports every child and ensures they have the tools to create a brighter future for our nation and our state. Our students deserve better.” 

The report calls for programs such as free school meals for students, a full expansion of universal pre-Kindergarten and reduced class sizes. It also backs the requirement that every school employ social workers, psychologists, counselors and nurses as well as end to putting schools into receivership. 

And the report backed alternatives to standardized testing. 

“Educators have been there for their students and communities throughout the pandemic, just as they always were,” Pallotta said. “But when children face poverty, when they need help processing trauma, when they don’t have the right tools to further their education, they don’t come to school ready to learn in the first place. What educators are asking for are the federal, state and local supports that every student deserves. Because when students thrive, we all thrive.”