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Archive for June, 2011

NYC Labor Communicators Annual Convention on June 17

Metro NY Labor Communications Council

The Metro New York Labor Communications Council is having its annual convention on June 17, and the lineup is excellent. The morning panel on Framing the Public Sector will include PSC/CUNY President Barbara Bowen, AFSCME Public Affairs director Chris Policano, FAIR Program director Janine Jackson, Bill Hohlfeld of Ironworkers Local 46, and Amy Goodman of Democracy NOW! The Distinguished Labor Communicator Award will go to Frances Fox Piven.

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Getting it Right on Layoffs

In a report on WNYC today, Beth Fertig described the plight of a promising young teacher who is waiting to find out if he will be laid off by the mayor. In the report she wrote, “Lee, 26, teaches third grade at PS 124 in Manhattan’s Chinatown. The union contract requires the least experienced teachers to be let go first meaning that elementary teachers with less than four years’ experience are most at risk.”

Unfortunately, this is not true. The UFT contract makes only one reference to layoffs which is to say that if they are necessary they will done in accordance with applicable state law. It is the law and not the contract that creates a seniority based system for layoffs.  This is a small error in an otherwise well done report.

Seniority rules governing layoffs were first adopted in the early 1900s and then subsequently revised in the 1940s and 1970s. They were first established and then revised in direct response to abusive practices of basing layoffs on race, age, sex, religion, political affiliation, cronyism, family status, salary level or other non-objective standards. Lawsuits in the 1970’s challenging the criteria used in layoffs led to the state’s adoption of the current seniority law.

If the seniority layoff law were repealed today, there is nothing to suggest that we would not again have an era with layoffs determined by nepotism, racism, ageism, or any of the other isms or mere personal antipathy towards an otherwise qualified teacher. I don’t believe that anyone wants to go back to that era. More »

New York Teacher

New York Teacher, June 9, 2011Highlights from the June 9 issue of New York Teacher:

Can you hear us now?
UFT members began working closely with their local City Council members as the arena for the budget battle shifted to the negotiations between Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council on a final budget, which is due by June 30. In coordinated actions in districts across the city, members asked their Council representatives to make averting teacher layoffs their top priority in budget talks.

Calls for ‘no layoffs’ get louder
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s insistence that he needs to lay off teachers to balance next year’s budget came under mounting challenge from parents, legislators and experts as budget negotiations entered their final month. UFT President Michael Mulgrew joined a heavily attended press conference on June 1 to denounce the layoffs and question the mayor’s spending priorities.

Mulgrew: Layoffs worst way to balance budget
Layoffs are not the way to balance the city’s education budget, UFT President Michael Mulgrew testified at a City Council budget hearing on June 6. In fact, they would be the worst possible solution, he said.

NAACP: Inequality at heart of co-location lawsuit
Defending the NAACP and the UFT against a coordinated attack on their recent lawsuit challenging school closings and charter co-locations, NAACP New York State President Hazel Dukes convened parents, press and politicians at a press conference in front of the offices of the Harlem Success Charter Network on June 3 to set the record straight. More »

Stress? What Stress?

Are you ready for this? Be seated , because the news you are about to receive will be jarring. OK? Here goes:

Researchers at the University of Houston suspect that the stress that teachers undergo in the classroom may actually not be healthy for them, mentally or physically. A $1.6 million federal grant will fund an inquiry into how chronic stress impacts the classroom.

This investigation, reported recently in the Houston Chronicle, is undergone in good faith but if the outcome is not a foregone conclusion, then the sun has commenced to set in the east.

The stress of teaching surpasses that of practically any other career activity. The pressures are many-layered and often intractable. The rewards can be commensurate, which amount to a very rewarding professional life indeed, so certainly there’s a trade-off. But anyone who has actually worked “in the trenches,” knows that the wear and tear on the body and psyche can be momentous. More »

Why the NAACP is Suing New York

In Friday’s Washington Post NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous explains why the NAACP, the UFT and others are suing the DOE.

This lawsuit was filed for the most common reasons we have sued boards of education across the decades: Students are being grossly mistreated, their parents are being deeply disrespected and the entire community stands to suffer.

There are two issues we are particularly concerned about.

First, the city has located charter schools under the same roofs as traditional public schools in a way that is unfair and unjust. Their poor handling has led to many complaints from our members and their neighbors, including:

  • Students in the traditional public school must now eat lunch at 10 a.m. so that charter school students can enjoy lunch at noon.
  • The “regular school’s children” had library access for a little over four hours so that the “new charter school’s kids” could have access for almost seven.
  • “Traditional school students” were moved to a basement, where they were next to the boiler room, to make room for their charter school peers, and teachers of the regular students were forced to teach in the halls due to lack of space.

We are asking that the court require the city to follow state law and handle these shared space situations equitably.

Second, inequitable co-locations exacerbate the problem created by the city’s persistent failure to follow the law and engage parents before making major changes. New York state law requires the city to involve parents before announcing its intention to shut down a school or make way for a charter to share a school’s space.

Students from Renaissance Charter High School Return from Freedom Ride

Students from Renaissance Charter HS on their Freedom RideStudents from Renaissance Charter High School and four other local high schools recently returned from a journey which followed the path of the Freedom Riders of the early 1960s, a group of hundreds of college students and others who challenged segregation by traveling in integrated groups on inter-state buses through the deep South. The trip gave the fifty high school students and faculty who went a chance to meet individuals who fought social injustice as young people during the civil rights movement and to learn more about why and how people close to their age decided to take action.

Renaissance Charter social worker and UFT member Alison Rosow was one of the key organizers of the trip. She said her involvement actually began in the months after Katrina hit New Orleans, when she and a co-worker “were stunned” by the devastation and began looking for ways to help rebuild the city and address the deep-rooted racial inequalities which affected its residents. With cooperation from Renaissance Principal Stacey Gauthier, they were able to bring several dozen students down to New Orleans to help fix up homes and schools damaged by the storm and tutor students in local schools in 2007 and 2009. More »