The HOPE Act: New York State’s New Proposed Civil Rights Law

“We have not had a new standalone civil rights law passed in New York state since the 1960s; currently, there is no law addressing hiring practices for educators,” stated William King Moss III, president of the Islip NAACP.

Moss elaborated that the proposed NAACP bill will have a lot to offer by focusing on racial inequalities in teacher hiring practices and outlawing all biases and cronyism that limit initial hiring and promotions.

Modeling a free exchange of thoughts and diversity is core to civic education. In March 2019, The National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University published in its report, titled Teacher Diversity in Long Island’s schools, that 61 percent of Long Island public schools do not have a Black teacher.

This study, an increased number of employment discrimination complaints to the branch, and an understanding of the role of schools in democracy raised alarm bells for the Islip Branch of the NAACP. In the aftermath of several Islip NAACP executive branch meetings, the following seven provisions were written and agreed on for proposed legislation, which they named Hiring Outstanding Professionals in Education (HOPE) Act.

1. No person shall be appointed to a certificated position in a public school unless the position was publicly advertised for a minimum of 14 consecutive days within the period of 90 days prior to the date of appointment. The 14 consecutive days may only be reduced to 7 consecutive days to appoint a classroom teacher within the 14 days prior to the first day of student attendance in August or September.

2. No person shall be appointed to a certificated position in a public school without having applied for the certificated position in response to a public advertisement of the certificated position on or before the published deadline.

3. No person shall be appointed to a certificated position prior to a school-conducted examination or scored assessment of fitness of at least 2 different persons for the specific certificated position. Such examinations or scored assessments of fitness may be, but are not limited to, one-to-one interviews, panel interviews, content area examinations, writing samples, demonstration lessons, and sample lesson plans with records of such examinations or scored assessments physically filed for a minimum of seven years and electronically filed permanently.

4. No person shall be appointed to a certificated position without possessing the requisite certificate for the certificated position according to commissioner regulations.

5. No person shall be appointed to a certificated position in a public school because of affinity for or animus against a race, creed, color, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or disability, as such term is defined in section two hundred ninety-two of the executive law.

6. The notice of employment opportunity for a certificated position located in part 1 of this section shall be deemed a civil right for persons who hold the requisite certification, according to commissioner regulations, for the certificated position.

7. Persons appointed to certificated positions outside of the requirements set forth in this section shall be unqualified for the appointed certificated position for all purposes of New York State Education Law.

The role of an educator is not just to instruct reading, math, and writing but provide and model the civics that reflect a democracy. According to educational philosopher George Counts, “our schools have to model a just society. High school is democracy’s finishing school.”

The proposed bill received sponsorship in the state assembly from New York Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor and in the senate from New York State Senator James Sanders Jr. of Queens. The bill currently is in committee awaiting a vote from both the senate and the assembly, followed by the governor signing it into law.

Christopher Verga has served as an executive board member of the NAACP Islip branch since 2017.