Archive for the 'NYC' Category

New UFT Contract Passes: New Action Sees Many Gains, Yet Has Many Reservations

Members voted for a contract that has some very important gains. At the same time, it does not deal with some very important issues. While receiving an 80% vote from almost all units it was rejected by OT’s and PT’s. It is our obligation to stand in solidarity with the OT’s and PT’s. They will need our support.

We Have Serious Concerns

The most troublesome feature is health care givebacks, including the introduction of a two- tier health system. The contract promises to save the city a purported $1.1Billion over 3 years. This alone is cause for concern. We are very wary of the details, only some of which have been released. We do know that first year UFTers will no longer have the right to select their health plan – they will be automatically enrolled in an HMO, HIP. We need to stand vigilant against the real danger that the next go-around the city will demand a three-year two-tier, or a two-tier that lasts through the period of probation.

The membership should have been involved in the discussion… BEFORE DC37’s contract. Why did our membership not vote on this package BEFORE our representatives agreed to it at the MLC? Agreements at the MLC that bind us during negotiations, must be brought to the UFT membership first. We must guard against future incursions on our health care. The issue of Unity making deals with the City and the other unions, and presenting them to us done deals is very serious. We must end this anti-democratic practice.

Another concern is that the money is not great (2%, 2.5%, 3% over 3½ years). These raises do not keep up with inflationary for most titles – they do not miss by a lot, but they do not keep up.

The process was egregiously rushed. People like the idea of an early contract… but Delegates were notified to attend a meeting (Friday 10/12) the day after the agreement was reached (Thursday 10/11). Delegates were asked to vote on a document they could not have possibly read. By the way, there was a regularly scheduled DA Wednesday 10/17.  Unity clearly did not want serious discussions taking place in the schools. Why else was there such a rush?

Some Positive Aspects

The Negotiating Committee, including some rank and file members, actually did some of the negotiating this time – that’s a step ahead, although it falls far short of having meaningful engagement at the chapters.

Due process for paras. Before this contract, paraprofessionals could be suspended without pay based on a single allegation. This contract establishes elements of due process for paraprofessionals.

Easy route to resolve a range of school-level problems. The contract allows complaints to be brought to consultation, and if not resolved within five days, go to the district level. Five new classes of complaints do not require members to file an individual grievance. The categories are: Paperwork, Workspace, Workload, Basic Instructional Supplies, Professional Development, and Curriculum. Still there is no route to resolve unfair or inaccurate disciplinary letters. The right to grieve letters in the file, surrendered in 2005, must be restored.

More Arbitration Days. We get more arbitration days by agreeing to use existing days better. Class size grievances will be heard earlier, and resolved more quickly. In practical terms, arbitrators will handle 6 in a day (instead of 1). Salary, LODI, and religious observance arbitrations will be scheduled 5 per day, instead of one per day. The Grievance Department estimates that we will get an additional 140 days that we can use to arbitrate matters that are critical to us. Bloomberg’s Department of Education intentionally forced us to waste arbitration days, and de Blasio’s DoE had continued the practice. Now that should end.

Two observations. For most teachers (with an HE, or two consecutive E’s) there will be two observations per year. Unity Bigwigs wanted as many observations as possible (yes, many members of Unity Caucus argued for this – but the members wanted the numbers cut). And we did get the number of observations reduced. We still have a long way to go: Students’ test scores still factor into our observations, and our ability to challenge bad observations is blocked by current state law.

Anti-Harassment Language. We won language prohibiting retaliation, with a process that leads to arbitration. Enforcing it will not be easy – but this is the first time we will have such language:  This does not come close to solving the problem of the abusive administrator, but it is a step in the right direction. We’ve got all these new arbitration days – we have to press Unity to use them to push back on abusive administrators. New Action’s plan to deal with abusive administrators is much stronger. Contact us if you want further details.

ATRs – placed in vacancies Day 1 (instead of weeks later.) Salaries won’t count against the school.

Key New Action Contract Demands were Ignored

Fight abusive administrators. We need to keep pressing the union to respond to members in schools with abusive administrators who attack our members and go after UFT Chapter Leaders. · Reduce Class Size. Expedited procedures are one thing, but reducing class sizes should be the goal. We need to end the false dichotomy between raises and reducing class size. We should target lower grades, and we should target higher needs districts. · Restore the Right to Grieve Letters in the File · Reduce caseloads of counselors, psychologists, and other support staff · End Fair Student Funding/Return to Unit Costing · Ensure real due process for probationary teachers.

Conclusions

This tentative contract has good new provisions, especially due process for paras, reduced observations, and some repairs to our grievance machinery. It also has disappointing salaries, and a dangerous change in our health care. There are issues (class size, abusive administrators) that we need to continue to deal with outside of the contract. And we must challenge Unity’s practice of making deals at the MLC without membership oversight. Finally, a union that fails to involve the membership at every step of contract negotiations is making a catastrophic mistake.

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UFT High School Executive Board asked for endorsement of the anti-IDC Challengers

Primary Endorsements; Primary Elections

There was no meeting to decide who the UFT would support at the NYSUT endorsement conference in August. And there were hot races for the NY State Senate – in the wake of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, progressive challengers, including Robert Jackson who the UFT awarded the John Dewey Award for his work for education, were organizing strong primary challenges.

So we wrote to UFT President Mulgrew, all seven of us: KJ Ahluwalia, Arthur Goldstein, Ashraya Gupta,
Jonathan Halabi, Marcus McArthur, Kate Martin-Bridge, and Mike Schirtzer. By the way, we are the only UFTers elected directly by the High School Division. We urged support for challengers in the races against the IDC (the group that ran as Democrats but caucused as Republicans, enriching themselves while blocking legislation we needed). The challengers we wanted to support were: Alessandra Biaggi, Robert Jackson, John Liu, Zellnor Myrie, Jessica Ramos, and Jasmine Robinson.

And then, since we didn’t really get an answer, we wrote to ask who the UFT leadership were supporting. The response was that there was “a neutral start” to each discussion.

NYSUT’s Endorsements were Embarrassing

At NYSUT, only one challenger, Zellnor Myrie got the endorsement. The UFT blocked the endorsement of Biaggi. Worse, two IDC members were endorsed (with UFT concurrence): Jose Peralta and Marisol Alcantara. Endorsing Alcantara meant working against Robert Jackson, a true champion for public education. What a shame.

But the Challengers Still Won

Despite the NYSUT mistakes, five of the six challengers in NYC won, including Jackson and Biaggi, who defeated IDC kingpin Jeff Klein. UFT members, despite the NYSUT mistakes, worked on the challengers’ campaigns, and were part of the successful grassroots mobilizations. These members are showing the way forward, away from backroom deals, towards progressive, participatory activism. Our union’s political action needs to follow suit.

(from the September 2018 New Action Chapter Leaders Meeting flyer )

Janus – It Takes a Fight to Win

This year the UFT and membership may face the most difficult year in our history with the adverse U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Janus case. We are convinced Chapter Leaders and activists in our schools will rise to the occasion and support our union by convincing every member to pay union dues. New Action is committed to make that happen.

But much more needs to be done to make this a reality. While the union has made considerable efforts to inform members about the benefits they derive from being members (specifically their efforts to set up committees in each school; sending activists to go door to door knocking, and using the NY Teacher to publicize the importance of the union to its members) they have missed the boat in key areas. UFT members want and need a more pro-active, militant response from our union. There is no simple solution but New Action offers a few for your consideration:

COMBAT ABUSIVE ADMINISTRATORS – Principals who harass our members and single out chapter leaders are a persistent problem in too many schools. The union needs to go after these abusers and let the membership know we will not tolerate this behavior. We have helped some members find support by appealing to the leadership at the UFT Executive Board. But members are too often rebuffed before they get there. The union, at every level, needs to take on abusive administrators.

INVOLVE MEMBERS IN A REAL CONTRACT FIGHT – The secret negotiations must end. Members should be involved any contract fight. What are the issues? We must ask school chapters to meet and hear reports on any progress! We must have them engaged in a real struggle.

UPHOLD THE CONTRACT – Principals are doing an end run around the contract. The union needs to consistently show it is there for us, has our backs. Too many administrators ignore our rights on programming, class size, professional assignments, etc. These should be challenged aggressively, individually and collectively. We must restore the right to grieve letters to the file.

ADDRESS THE PROBLEMATIC EVALUATION SYSTEM – Members have the right to challenge technical problems in APPR, but not the AP’s mistakes. And we know that administrators are often wrong – members need the right to challenge supervisory judgment. The number of observations is unnecessarily high: teachers who are year after year satisfactory need not be observed more than twice a year. But fundamentally the problem is deeper – ratings based on student test-scores are arbitrary and unfair. We need to repeal the State Law that established this.

END PATRONAGE – Hundreds are given part time union jobs based on membership in Unity Caucus. All they have in common is the agreement, when there is a vote, not to make up their own mind but to vote as Unity tells them. This system undermines members’ confidence in our union.

EMPOWER LOCAL LEADERS – Chapter Leaders (CLs) are volunteers. They are directly elected by their members. They should be the backbone of our union. But their representatives, the District Reps (DRs), are appointed by the President. They are responsive to 52 Broadway first, and issue directives to CLs. We should return to a system where DRs are accountable to CLs; we should return to the long-established practice of direct election of DRs by Chapter Leaders.

(from the September 2018 New Action Chapter Leaders Meeting flyer )

In Support of Opt Out

In New York State our children are being inundated with Common Core exams that determine their teachers’ ratings (even gym, art and music teachers!) and narrow the entire school year to a rigid “teach to the test” agenda.  We stand in solidarity with parents who want to opt their children out of this needless overtesting. We call for an end to the discredited practice of tying teacher ratings to high-stakes tests that serve no purpose for students.  The “test and punish” agenda of the Cuomo administration is very good for testing companies like Pearson and extremely bad for all the real stakeholders in education: teachers, parents and students.

We applaud the statement by NYSUT President Karen Magee supporting Opt Out. New Action/UFT supports the opt out movement, and we recognize the hard work of the NYC parents and educators who are spreading the word.  In just one case, the Brooklyn New School, 84% of parents chose to opt their children out.  It is time for our union leadership to get on board.

Unfairly Discontinued Probationers

Probation is a training period. Principals, APs and mentors work with beginning teachers. But during the probationary period, teachers can be discontinued at any time. Under Bloomberg weak, abusive, or incompetent principals used probationers as scapegoats. They did not try to help these teachers. And in many cases these abusive administrators unfairly terminated new teachers.

Probationers who have been discontinued have the right to be rehired, either in another district or under another license. But the DoE has effectively blocked principals who want to hire them. September 2, 2014 New Action organized a press conference for discontinued probationers who had been offered positions by other principals, but who the networks or the department blocked.

This school year New Action/UFT members have been meeting with discontinued probationers, UFT officials, and representatives of Chancellor Farina to discuss the issue. We are cautiously optimistic that principals will once again be allowed to hire previously discontinued probationers. But this is not enough.

New Action/UFT has been in the forefront of the fight against abusive and often corrupt administrators. Where a principal has shown questionable judgment, it is in our mutual interest to challenge that judgment. We support the Chancellor’s vision for collaborative schools for NYC students. But the school system the Chancellor envisions cannot happen as long as hundreds of capricious, arbitrary administrators lead schools.

Funding

The current teacher funding formula is another Klein leftover. It encourages principals to avoid hiring experienced educators. It punishes schools that hire them. This hurts principals, teachers, schools, kids. Shouldn’t Mulgrew and Fariña be ending Fair Student Funding?