"Ballots have been mailed to your home for the UFT election"

Our union needs to build power and exercise it. We are one of the largest union locals in the country and should be capable of fighting back against the powers that be, those who would squeeze us in the interest of tax “incentives” for the wealthy. Instead, for too long UFT leadership has acted like lobbyists towards our politicians and like customer support towards us, the members. No one has ever felt empowered by customer support.

We need choices in this election to keep the union healthy. After the Janus decision, why should new hires join? Why should current members stay? Too many members see the UFT as another deduction from their paycheck, another number to call when you give up on HR Connect, another vendor of CTLE hours. Too many members refer to the UFT as “them” rather than “us.” We need to strengthen our union by challenging leadership to do better, not weaken it by abandoning our colleagues to the whims of those who would stuff more children into classrooms and strip away our rights.

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[David Price, middle, MORE candidate for at-large seat]

There are lots of things to like about the UFT, but even those benefits are tenuous because of its top-down structure. My salary isn’t bad, but I’m still waiting on some of it to come in 2020. My district rep is great, and I would vote for him to be my district rep, but wasn’t given the chance to do so. This structure creates too much distance between union leadership and the rank-and-file membership. Our leadership has a fixed mindset about how to get things done at City Hall and in Albany: support incumbents (regardless of party) and negotiate behind closed doors. We need a leadership with a growth mindset about the power of the membership.

I was hired in 2012 and thus worked two years without a contract. I was hired in the first year of Tier VI of the retirement system and thus pay more into our retirement plan than all those before me. Seven years in and still with so much to learn, I’m shocked by how this short amount of time would qualify me as a veteran in so many schools. We need a union that works to keep and protect veteran teachers, rather than using attrition as a source of “savings” in each negotiation. Paying teachers more to work in hard-to-staff schools does not solve the root problems that make them hard to staff. Allowing the city and state to construct more and more complex and expensive hoops for us all to jump through in the name of “professionalism” (CTLE hours, edTPA, etc.) is not helping to attract dedicated and diverse applicants to the teaching pool. We did an amazing job of mobilizing in the face of Janus last year and kept our numbers strong, but I worry when little is said of how many new hires have not signed a union card.

MORE is fighting to build a union that sees beyond the nitty-gritty details of our contract and beyond the parallel bureaucracy that has developed in the UFT. Our union should be building strong chapters in our schools and strong alliances in our communities. Our students are over-tested and underfunded at school, while many of them face an ever more precarious life outside of school as New York City becomes a harder place to live for all but the rich. Because we believe in our students, we must fight for them, and thus we must build a union ready to do so, even if that means taking on fights that for too long have been treated as separate from our own.  

 

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Why are you running in the 2019 UFT elections?

I am running because UFT members deserve a union led by ourselves, a union responsive to the needs of membership, especially young untenured teachers.

Why are the 2019 UFT elections important?

UFT members deserve a union run for us, by us, not by bureaucrats. NYC parents, students, and community deserve a union that will actively fight for social justice.

I’m running in the elections because the #RedForEd rebellions that have swept the nation have shown that educators who organize a strong network of rank and file union members can win impressive changes in their unions and school districts. The fightback in Washington State, LA, Oakland,  West Virginia and Arizona have inspired me to build that kind of organization here in New York City.

I became an educator straight out of college because it was a stable job in the midst of a recession. I saw many of the folks I started with not last through their first years, and realized that we needed a stronger union to defend untenured teachers.  I’ve been working as a math teacher for 15 years now and currently teach at a bilingual school for Latin American immigrants where I teach Algebra II and Robotics.

Peter Lamphere 2
The omnipresent (and unaddressed) segregation of the public schools where I grew up had a profound political effect on me. Now that I teach in the most segregated school system in the country, the impacts of race and class on the education of our students is to stark to be ignored  – and must therefore be central to any project of changing education for the better.  We have to make #BlackLivesMatter in school, too.

The vision of MORE is shaped by the ongoing fights of educator-organizers across the country who galvanized their coworkers, students, parents and neighbors.  It couldn’t be a starker contrast to the strategy put forward by Mulgrew and co. in the UFT leadership, who rely on their cozy relationship with politicians like Andrew Cuomo to get things done in Albany.  This means that we don’t fight around the things that we need in our classrooms – like lower class sizes, freedom from high-stakes testing, or defense against autocratic administrators. And, as a result the majority of union members don’t see the UFT as a vehicle for change in their workplace. We have to organize to change that.

The 2019 UFT elections are crucial moment to reach out to our coworkers and communities and convince them of the need for knitting together educators and parents who want to see change into a common network of activists. De Blasio and Cuomo have already started talking about looming budget cuts – the current economic expansion will not last forever. We need to build a strong network now in order to be prepared to fight for stronger funding for our students and our jobs going forward.

Peter Lamphere

I have been a guidance counselor for ten years. I have always believed in the power and promise of public education, a promise gone unfulfilled for so many.

Every student has a right to education but the type of education received depends on whether teachers, students and parents have ownership over their schools.

Leia Petty

I became a guidance counselor at a time when the profession was changing from academic advisement to an increased awareness that social emotional health is critical to academic success. More counselors in schools means that access to social emotional learning also becomes a right for all students.

The daily trauma and oppression faced my most students cannot be overcome merely through academic opportunity, it must be addressed through increased mental health supports in schools, access to reproductive healthcare in schools and more social workers working with families. The most challenging part of my job is witnessing the suffering that students and parents endure with the current punitive model imposed on most public schools.

Students and parents need support and community, not suspensions and risk of arrest. I believe that there are opportunities now to increase restorative justice approaches and to fight for more counselors and less cops in schools.

Los Angeles teachers just led and won a successful strike that addressed teacher working conditions along with demands to end random searches of students at the hands of the police.

For far too long, the interests of parents, students and teachers have been pitted against each other within schools.

I am running with the MORE caucus because I believe that needs to change. And I believe that with the current teacher’s rebellion, it is already beginning to change.

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The current leadership in the UFT does not have the courage to see this struggle through. They have been in power for decades and are resistant to change at a time when change is needed most.

There are currently more school safety agents in public schools than counselors. These priorities must change immediately and I am excited to be part of a social justice caucus working with parents and students to make this a reality.

We all deserve MORE.

-Leia Petty

 

 

I have been a proud NYC special education teacher since 2002. At the same time, I have to admit that we face untenable conditions. Currently, there are systemic shortages of time, resources, and staffing. Many of my colleagues and our students with special needs feel that they are not being heard or respected. We, the experts, are rarely called upon to inform decisions around school funding, policies that impact our students’ services, and the amount of paperwork we are required to complete. Piecemeal grievances and special education complaints are not enough to fix the root of the problem.

 

Jia Lee

 

A major problem is the Fair Student Funding formula, implemented under Chancellor Joel Klein, which changed the way schools are funded. Instead of having a separate budget for staffing needs, based on salary scale and special education provider needs, we now have a formula which allocates funding per pupil. Students with IEPs come with 1.5x the amount. This does not prioritize staffing needs but puts schools in a complicated position of being incentivized to hire fewer people and those who are lower on the salary scale. So, instead of putting students’ needs first, there is immense pressure to keep within a lean production budget. Our current union leadership has maintained support of the funding formula, as well as mayoral control, which has kept us in a powerless state as educators. Currently, the largest expenditure is in special education lawsuits with the city spending in 2017, $244.1 million in private school tuition for special education services. This is unacceptable in the largest and one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Imagine if that amount of funding was provided to schools where we, the specialists who work directly and understand the needs of our students the most, had more democratic voice. Instead, our union leadership has supported a multi-million dollar special education racket on the backs of our neediest students. We cannot wait for those in power to gain the sensibilities required to put power back into the hands who can make things better for our students and our working conditions. We need a union that leads from those who are working in the schools, and that is why I am running for the position of V.P. of Special Education.

-Jia Lee, Teacher and  UFT Chapter Leader at The Earth School

 

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