The measuring stick of any new political leadership is the first 100 days. Although we don’t expect to unseat the established power of a caucus that has been entrenched for over 50 years, we do have a plan should it happen. The establishment caucuses that supports Michael Mulgrew have become too complacent. They only attempt to negotiate back room deals and lobby politicians who long ago sold their souls to the highest bidders. Mulgrew and Unity officers, supported by New Action, have been out of the classroom for so many years that they have become totally cut off from the concerns of the rank and file. In fact the current leadership has been a co-signer to the many of the wrong-headed policies that has harmed much of what we love in our craft. Has Mulgrew been observed with cookie-cutter rubrics “Danielson” or been forced to institute unproven untested Common Core Standards on his students? We all know the answer is no. While the current leadership hides behind the doors of 52 broadway, our members must fend for themselves each and every day. Some are denied tenure, others U rated without legitimate reasons, yet others have their schools closed down. In all these cases the union that should be front and center defending us , but it does not have a strategy to respond. Years without a contract and the continued destruction of our job conditions continues to progress without any answers. The greatest detriment to all of us being successful educators is that the people making the decisions on our behalf, from the mayor, to our union, to the “educational” corporations, are not in the classroom.
When MORE is in leadership of our union we will stay in constant contact with our members, students, and their families. We will open up NY Teacher, Edwize, and our social media outlets for all discussion, including those that may be critical of our strategies . As union leaders we need to know every issue our members are facing in their schools so that we can address them properly. MORE will make daily visits to our chapters as part of the course of our work, in addition we will meet with parents and student groups on a regular basis. Any new educational policy or “reform” must be piloted and we will sit with all the participants to gather real feedback and demand revisions as needed.
The MORE strategy is simple: first and foremost those leading the union and writing educational policy must be real experienced classroom teachers and school based staff who face the rigors of our profession each and every day. We fully understand the issues facing our children and their educators. The MORE slate is ready to lead now. Our candidates have had many years as chapter leaders, delegates, and union organizers. Some have fought off charter co-locations, others have organized with parents, students, and community groups to fight budget cuts, while many of our candidates have led battles against harassing principals. Our candidates have organized their own schools in defense of teachers and filed successful grievances that have forced UFT to defend our own. We are ready now to mobilize our 80,000 members to fight for the working conditions our membership deserves and the learning conditions our student’s need. MORE will not sign on the dotted line when asked to sell out our members or even worse our students. Evaluations, learning standards, and assessments must be positive vehicles for real reform not an excuse to fill the pockets of corporate exploiters.
When we lead the UFT we will bring democracy to our entire membership, the highest-ranking body of our union. The members who pay dues each week must have a voice in any decision that dramatically changes our schools; evaluation schemes, curriculum, and mayoral control must be presented to the entire membership for a vote. Any union leadership must be responsive to the members it represents, not the other way around as it currently is.
Within our first 100 days we will turn our union into one that is robust and active, with our top officers visiting each and every school chapter to meet with our members and listen to their concerns. We will organize the chapter and show them how to fight back and offer all the necessary support, financial and organizational. Delegate assemblies will cease to be top-down, leader-driven propaganda meetings. We will bring back the union hall spirit that long drove successful labor movements where delegates lead the conversation and strategy making. Democracy means district and borough representatives will be elected through a democratic process as was the tradition in our union for many years to ensure accountability.
A MORE leadership will immediately reach out to community groups and advocates for racial, social, and economic justice and plan together how we can best reform our education system with our children as the highest priorities not profits. We will work with parent associations, school leadership teams, and students’ groups to ensure public education has equality of opportunity and condition. The Governor has been campaigning around the state explaining his belief in wrap-around services for public schools in low-income areas. The MORE leadership of UFT will demand he implements this now, beginning September 2013. We will also tell the Governor and all city/state lawmakers that now is the time for a moratorium on all school closings. We will take to the streets in the spirit of our Chicago brethren until these demands are met.
The ATR issue must be dealt with immediately, how can new educators be hired each year while experienced teachers and guidance counselors continue to be sent from school to school each week to fill in as substitutes? Theses excessed educators must be placed immediately and before any new hires. This will allow our children to have experienced educators in their schools and possibly even help to reduce class-sizes around the city. We will call for a moratorium on new hiring until every excessed educator is placed and refuse to negotiate with the city/state on any educational policy until this demand is met.
MORE will turn the UFT into an outspoken leader of student’s rights, exposing the corruption of political educational policies that turn our children into nothing more than data and profits. We will reaffirm our core belief that public education is the hallmark of any thriving democracy; therefore we will no longer allow our schools to be closed and privatized into charter schools. MORE will work to ensure that our union is at the forefront of all local and national labor issues. The UFT needs to put all its weight behind halting the destruction of unions and fighting for better working conditions for all of society, including a living wage for all. Within our first 100 days we will expose all the conditions that have allowed the so-called “school to prison” pipeline and publish a full report on our findings and suggestions for a remedy.
When our students and their families are hurting, we are all hurting. The UFT must work harder to make life better for all. This union will no longer be dormant when we are leading, the UFT will cease to be a signatory to our own demise. Instead we will lead a union that is organized and mobilized to stand up and fight for a great urban public education system.