Archive for April 28th, 2023

UFT Loses Big on Budget

This week, UFT educators lost big on budget. We lost particularly big in the City, but we lost big in the State as well.

In New York City, Mayor Adams doubled down on cutting school budgets. He framed his arguments around ‘enrollment declines,’ but then directed cuts in places that had nothing to do with enrollment. Per Chalkbeat, “Adams vowed that this specific cost-saving measure ‘will not take a dime from classrooms.’ Instead, that reduction — totaling $325 million — will largely come from recalculations on how much the city spends in fringe benefits, such as health insurance for teachers.” In other words, our Mayor told city residents ‘don’t worry, we aren’t defunding the schools, we’re defunding the teachers.’ Yes, the City has kept up with the line that there somehow won’t be a loss of benefits/services. But we know what they’ve meant by that in the past – Medicare Advantage instead of traditional Medicare, higher copays for GHI, and the threat of being switched off our current in-service health plan for something else – something worse. We also know that our Unity-led union leadership has been complicit with the forced reductions to our healthcare, has tried to deny us the right to vote, and has rammed through endorsements for council members willing to defund our schools.

At the State-level, we lost on ‘Zombie Charters.’ It’s not as bad as it could have been – we almost saw even bigger charter expansion, but it’s bad. Consider for a moment: we have a democratic governor—who we endorsed without a vote, by the way. Governor Hochul was then able to convince a democratic legislature, a legislature we’ve been lobbying for some time now, to revive Zombie charters in New York City as a condition to finalizing the State budget. Meanwhile, most of the positives of the State budget for UFT members are neutralized by the City misdirecting state funds and using them as an excuse to underfund its own share of education costs. Will the renewed energy devoted to charter schools lead to excessing (or worse) in affected districts? In the context of reduced City funding for schools, we can only assume the answer is yes, at least to some extent.

Make no mistake, hidden in the ‘wonk’ world of budget discussions, this was a terrible week for educators. In part, that’s because people the UFT endorsed without a vote, or with under-debated votes, are now positioned to do us harm – precisely because we helped put them in those positions of power. One thing is for sure: big reforms are needed for the UFT endorsement/lobbying process.

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