New York, New York: In response to Mayor De Blasio and UFT President Michael Mulgrew’s announcement of an agreement to delay in-person instruction for the 2020-2021 school year by two weeks, the MORE-UFT caucus released the following statement:
We welcome a slight delay of in-person school reopening in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, and recognize that our advocacy with our parent, student, and organizational partners got us to this point.
However, we reject both the substance of the agreement that UFT leadership made with the Mayor as well as the process, including lack of transparency and inclusion of rank-and-file members, that produced this “deal.” Michael Mulgrew made this agreement directly with the Mayor and other union leaders without meaningful input from rank-and-file union members. UFT rank-and-file members, students, and families will be most impacted by this agreement and deserve to be heard.
The agreement fails to address health and safety concerns about the Mayor’s plan from educators, families and students. At the Delegate Assembly today, school chapter Leaders and delegates were forced to vote just hours after the Mayor and President Mulgrew negotiated, without seeing the language of the resolution or their school’s ventilation inspection reports, over a telephone assembly, and when, under this deal, UFT members will return to classrooms in-person September 8th.
The agreement also fails to meet the UFT leadership’s original demand for universal testing and basic safety measures. According to the agreement between the UFT and the Mayor, there will be more testing for students and teachers; however, testing won’t be universal. School COVID-19 testing will be monthly and only 10-20% of persons in school buildings will be tested, without clarity on staffing or any guarantee of timely or relevant results. Although the UFT made demands for PPE and ventilation upgrades, staff still need to report to unsafe buildings next week without indication those demands have been met, including those with high-risk family members and those whose applications for medical accommodations have been denied. Although the mayor promised a nurse in every school building, there are over 300 nurse vacancies, and with a budget crisis, nurses are being denied medical accommodations to work remotely.
Moreover, this agreement does nothing to address myriad other concerns raised by advocates, teachers and parents, including the increased risk for schools in neighborhoods with high infection rates, the safety of students eating meals indoors, safety concerns around mass transit and an underfunded MTA, or the massive budget cuts that Governor Cuomo is pushing through at the state level, possible layoffs still looming, and what those cuts will mean for class sizes and safety. The MORE caucus continues to demand no full reopening of in-person schools until 14 days of no new cases, financial support and real childcare options for families, full funding of our schools, and parent, teacher, and student decision making in reopening, not more backroom deals from union leadership that is failing to represent its members.