A Moratorium on All Terminations of New York’s Probationary Educators:
Protect Untenured UFT Members During and After COVID-19
A failure of UFT leadership in recent years has been a lack of protection of probationary educators. In general, and especially during the COVID-19 crisis, these workers are the most vulnerable in our union. The UFT needs to fight with all means possible to ensure that no probationary teacher is discontinued through at least the end of the 2020-21 school year.
Further, the requirements for teacher tenure have ballooned over the past decade, with increasing materials, observations, and meetings – all with extra time, effort, stress – added to the process. Supervisors routinely threaten to discontinue untenured teachers if they resist violations of their rights, don’t pass “enough” students, or refuse to go along with illegal schemes, such as cheating, to enhance the boss’s reputation. Teams of five or more bureaucrats enter the overcrowded classrooms of probationary teachers, ostensibly to observe, in what amounts to disruption of learning and harassment of the teacher. With all of these pressures, it is no wonder that the recent rate of acceptance for tenure applications has been low. This needs to end now. While negotiating upcoming agreements, the UFT and the NYSUT need to demand a return to the old tenure application system and also achieve basic job protections for all staff. In the immediate, the UFT needs to demand provisions for relaxed scrutiny on all teacher tenure applications through at least the end of the 2020-21 school year.
The lack of teacher tenure protections is a threat to public education itself, worsening the learning conditions of students, as teachers fear to advocate for their students against harmful administration policies, both from the school and the city. Equally, the lack of protections for probationary educators is a threat to the union’s future. The attacks on our newest and most vulnerable members are attacks on us all.
Public education communities in NYC will continue to suffer unless our state and city unions achieve a return to the old tenure system in which there were no meaningless rituals or portfolios, and the teacher’s overall growth over the probationary period was the decisive factor. UFT and NYSUT need to protect the untenured as well as the tenured, especially as the minimum probationary period has expanded from three to four years, and is too often extended even further, with teachers being automatically extended without due process for their tenure applications, such that increasing numbers of teachers are untenured. The growing proportion of teachers who cannot enforce their contractual rights weakens our union. [Note: If you are an untenured educator who feels comfortable sharing a bit of your story, please respond to this questionaire created by the MORE media group.]
With all this in mind, in this time of crisis it is critical that the UFT and the NYSUT pressure the Governor and the State Legislature to address protections for all educators, schools and students, and heed our concerns as New York City educators. Therefore, we ask you to join in signing this petition:
To UFT President Michael Mulgrew and NYSUT President Karen E. Magee:
The circumstances of this radically disrupted school year demand a moratorium on all terminations of probationary teachers based on performance, beginning from the date New York City classes ended, March 13, 2020, through the end of the 2020-21 school year.
We, the undersigned members of the UFT and the NYSUT, insist the following:
- No teacher should be discontinued during this period because the length of the school year during which teachers could be observed, developed and evaluated under normal circumstances, ten months, has been reduced to approximately seven and a half months. The evaluation system is based on the promotion of each teacher’s growth throughout the entire school year. Teachers learn, grow, and improve throughout this time. The months of March through June should be when this growth manifests itself fully. Therefore, to terminate any teacher without allowing them that full and customary opportunity to develop would be unjust – not only to the teacher, but also to the students and communities whom they serve.
- For those teachers who were set to complete probation this year, have submitted their portfolios, and were receiving evaluations, those tenure applications should still be processed and the scrutiny on applications should be relaxed. No teacher should have their probationary periods continued during this crisis when they were due to be accepted for tenure.
If the UFT and the NYSUT do not secure these rights, it will be a stain upon our unions, not only in the eyes of probationary teachers, but of all teachers, who will see this as a failure to fight for the fair treatment of all of our members.
The UFT and the NYSUT thrive, in large part, because probationary teachers, who are effectively at-will employees, pay monthly dues in solidarity with their tenured union brothers and sisters, who have much stronger job security than they do.
We, the undersigned, believe you owe it to these newest members of our union to do everything in your power to assure fairness for them during this extraordinary time.