Mr. Michael Mulgrew, President
United Federation of Teachers
New York, New York 10004
Dear Mr. Mulgrew,
Over the past few years, members of the opt out movement have become adept at distinguishing our allies from those who work against us, often behind the scenes. In light of your recent newsletter (see above) for the UFT’s Unity Caucus, it has become apparent which of these two camps you are truly affiliated with.
It is no secret, Mr. Mulgrew, that as president of the NYC teacher’s union, the UFT (the largest local teacher’s union in the state), you wield a tremendous amount of power within NYSUT. With approximately 800 voting delegates and the resources needed to send all of its delegates to statewide elections, the UFT often holds the voting majority in NYSUT. Therefore, you have the power to sway NYSUT’s powerful lobbying dollars and efforts towards policy and law that will either benefit or harm our children. For that reason, the opt out movement has shifted its attention to you.
In the outrageous document referenced above, you claim that districts have “lost” grant money due to opt out, when in fact that money was not theirs to begin with. You cannot “lose” something you do not already have and are not guaranteed to be awarded. While failing to test 95% of all students may exclude a district from APPLYING for a small monetary grant (25,000-75,000 dollars), no money is TAKEN from a district. To date, no school in NYS has lost money as a result of opt out numbers. On the other hand, high stakes testing has cost school districts MILLIONS of dollars over the past four years while the State continues to shirk its obligation to fully fund our schools. In addition, under the new ESSA guidelines, this reward status and grant application process comes to an end and will no longer be a factor.
In addition to providing your members with false information, you have demonized the brave and outspoken NYC educators who have encouraged opt out. You have inexplicably labeled these educators as “reckless and feckless”. This begs the question, why would an experienced educator and union leader dismiss and insult a historic act of civil disobedience? Surely, you are aware that the opt out movement has yielded the only successful means of resisting harmful “test and punish” policies that hurt not only your members, but all educators and students around the state.
It is no secret that you have failed to support efforts to reject the increased focus on test scores in the new teacher evaluation plan (3012-d), or that you have publicly vowed to defend the common core standards (standards that even the Governor’s skewed CC task force found to be flawed) with violence, if necessary. In addition to your disparaging comments aimed at those who support the opt out movement, your actions as president of the UFT would appear to reveal whose side you are really on.
When teachers, students, and unions were being abused, demonized, and demoralized, a call to action rang out from grassroots parent and educator organizations. Many teachers and local unions heeded the call. Progressive caucuses within the UFT such as MORE and the statewide caucus Stronger Together immediately stepped up and worked alongside parents to fight for the best interests of our children. Where were you?
Sadly, it seems apparent, Mr. Mulgrew, that you have been standing and working against us at every turn. Deals have been made, hands have been shaken, and forces have aligned to quell the increasing discontent of this growing tide of parents and educators fighting for the very survival of our schools and the well-being of our children. Opposition to our cause within NYSED, NYCDOE, USDOE as well as those who support illogical and damaging education policies have found an unlikely partner in you.
While your actions speak volumes, we urge you to prove us wrong and demonstrate that you are in fact, an ally of the opt out movement. Take a stand against a corrupt and harmful test-based accountability system, advocate for research and evidence-based education policies, and respect teachers, parents, and students who advocate the use of test refusal as a means of impacting policy and regulatory change.
We think it only fair to inform you that should the educators of New York City and New York State seek new leadership in their elected union officials, the parents of New York will stand in solidarity with those who seek to safeguard public education from harmful policies, regulations, and corrupt leadership.
New York State Allies for Public Education
MORE is a member of NYSAPE