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.
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.