Highlights from the latest issue of New York Teacher:
UFTers were out in force on June 16, joining thousands of parents, community members and fellow city workers at City Hall to fight for the critical services that New Yorkers depend on. “If we don’t make education a priority, we are lost,” said Alice O’Neil, chapter leader of Food and Finance HS, who came to stand up for her school and her students.
With no state budget and Albany leaders passing emergency spending bills that keep the state government running, the mayor has cut school budgets for next year on the assumption that the deepest cuts to education being contemplated in Albany will come to pass. Meanwhile, teachers across the city are wondering what’s left to cut at their schools.
The UFT took the fight to prevent budget cuts to City Hall on June 7. “Letting these cuts go forward,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew told the City Council finance committee regarding the city’s plan to shrink school spending by up to 7 percent in many schools, “means turning our backs on children in ways not seen since 1976.”
The UFT has given its enthusiastic endorsement to Washington Irving HS chapter leader and union activist Gregg Lundahl in an effort to oust incumbent Assemblyman Jonathan Bing. The Upper East Side Assemblyman was the chief sponsor of now dead-in-the-water state legislation that would have given the DOE unchecked power to lay off whom it chooses.
Just two days before layoff letters from the Department of Education were due to hit the mailboxes of 4,400 teachers across the city, Mayor Michael Bloomberg rescinded those notices and announced that there would be no layoffs. UFT President Michael Mulgrew applauded the mayor for calling off the layoffs. “I’m glad that he made the right decision to avoid massive disruption in the schools,” he said.
Novice filmmaker Madeleine Sackler’s debut documentary, “The Lottery,” appears at first glance to be a compelling look at four families’ search for the best education for their children. The action follows them in the months leading up to the lottery at which the next incoming class at Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Academy charter schools will be chosen.
A recent report by a research group said that the dizzying rate of management change at the Department of Education has made it hard to assess what’s working and what’s not. Were the 10 regions a good idea? Never mind, they were soon replaced by the School Support Organizations. Did they work? Well, who knows? But now we have a new Children First Networks system.
“So much of the time we’re focused on the problems in public schools that we don’t take the time to celebrate what’s good,” said UFT Bronx Borough Representative Jose Vargas, “especially the collaboration that goes on every day between the staff and administration at dozens of our schools.” On June 9, the Bronx UFT office hosted a fete to honor the chapter leaders and principals from those schools.
After a protracted bidding process by the city, the long-awaited expansion of the New York City TransitChek Program is finally coming to fruition. TransitChek enables members to pay for allowable commuting costs with pre-tax dollars, thus saving on income taxes. The city is in the process of transitioning its program to a new vendor and a more updated version that will expand coverage to all mass transit carriers such as the LIRR, PATH, MetroNorth and NJ Transit.
Across the city, thousands of UFT members attended wide-ranging programs and workshops marking professional development day on June 10. Some 1,100 members attended UFT safety training workshops in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens that focused on making the work environment safe and secure.