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"Ballots have been mailed to your home for the UFT election"

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Why are you running in the 2019 UFT elections?

I am running because UFT members deserve a union led by ourselves, a union responsive to the needs of membership, especially young untenured teachers.

Why are the 2019 UFT elections important?

UFT members deserve a union run for us, by us, not by bureaucrats. NYC parents, students, and community deserve a union that will actively fight for social justice.

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.

Peter Lamphere 2
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.

Peter Lamphere

I have been a guidance counselor for ten years. I have always believed in the power and promise of public education, a promise gone unfulfilled for so many.

Every student has a right to education but the type of education received depends on whether teachers, students and parents have ownership over their schools.

Leia Petty

I became a guidance counselor at a time when the profession was changing from academic advisement to an increased awareness that social emotional health is critical to academic success. More counselors in schools means that access to social emotional learning also becomes a right for all students.

The daily trauma and oppression faced my most students cannot be overcome merely through academic opportunity, it must be addressed through increased mental health supports in schools, access to reproductive healthcare in schools and more social workers working with families. The most challenging part of my job is witnessing the suffering that students and parents endure with the current punitive model imposed on most public schools.

Students and parents need support and community, not suspensions and risk of arrest. I believe that there are opportunities now to increase restorative justice approaches and to fight for more counselors and less cops in schools.

Los Angeles teachers just led and won a successful strike that addressed teacher working conditions along with demands to end random searches of students at the hands of the police.

For far too long, the interests of parents, students and teachers have been pitted against each other within schools.

I am running with the MORE caucus because I believe that needs to change. And I believe that with the current teacher’s rebellion, it is already beginning to change.

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The current leadership in the UFT does not have the courage to see this struggle through. They have been in power for decades and are resistant to change at a time when change is needed most.

There are currently more school safety agents in public schools than counselors. These priorities must change immediately and I am excited to be part of a social justice caucus working with parents and students to make this a reality.

We all deserve MORE.

-Leia Petty

 

 

I have been a proud NYC special education teacher since 2002. At the same time, I have to admit that we face untenable conditions. Currently, there are systemic shortages of time, resources, and staffing. Many of my colleagues and our students with special needs feel that they are not being heard or respected. We, the experts, are rarely called upon to inform decisions around school funding, policies that impact our students’ services, and the amount of paperwork we are required to complete. Piecemeal grievances and special education complaints are not enough to fix the root of the problem.

 

Jia Lee

 

A major problem is the Fair Student Funding formula, implemented under Chancellor Joel Klein, which changed the way schools are funded. Instead of having a separate budget for staffing needs, based on salary scale and special education provider needs, we now have a formula which allocates funding per pupil. Students with IEPs come with 1.5x the amount. This does not prioritize staffing needs but puts schools in a complicated position of being incentivized to hire fewer people and those who are lower on the salary scale. So, instead of putting students’ needs first, there is immense pressure to keep within a lean production budget. Our current union leadership has maintained support of the funding formula, as well as mayoral control, which has kept us in a powerless state as educators. Currently, the largest expenditure is in special education lawsuits with the city spending in 2017, $244.1 million in private school tuition for special education services. This is unacceptable in the largest and one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Imagine if that amount of funding was provided to schools where we, the specialists who work directly and understand the needs of our students the most, had more democratic voice. Instead, our union leadership has supported a multi-million dollar special education racket on the backs of our neediest students. We cannot wait for those in power to gain the sensibilities required to put power back into the hands who can make things better for our students and our working conditions. We need a union that leads from those who are working in the schools, and that is why I am running for the position of V.P. of Special Education.

-Jia Lee, Teacher and  UFT Chapter Leader at The Earth School

 

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MORE has signed on to the community letter, republished below, in response to Andrew Cuomo’s New York Times advertisement begging Amazon to reconsider its decision about its headquarters. 

The ad was, shamefully, signed by our union president, along with a slew of corporate CEOs and only four other union leaders, in yet another example of how our current union leadership cares more about currying favor with politicians and corporations than defending the interests and rights of working people in New York City. 

MORE is also a member of the Citywide Alliance Against Displacement, which wrote the this letter about why Amazon’s retreat is a victory for New Yorkers.  

Power to Billionaires and their Corporations over Our Communities’ Future

As New Yorkers we believe every person has the right to good union jobs, safe and dignified affordable housing, strong and stable communities, a great public education, and a voice in our democracy. Because of these values, we must oppose Governor Cuomo’s failed economic development policies that give more power over our communities’ futures to billionaires and their corporations.

Continue Reading…

I’m proud to be a UFT member, but we should not sit back and depend on top UFT officials or Mayor De Blasio to resolve problems that affect us as educators. As UFT rank-and-file members, and as working people, we have to organize from the bottom-up for the conditions that would make safe, culturally-relevant, meaningful educational work possible for all students, teachers and others in education.

 

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Above: John C. Antush, Chapter leader at City-As-School High School, MORE-UFT Candidate for Vice President of High Schools.

 

First, within our UFT chapters we can play a role in overhauling the UFT to make it an agenda-setting member-led union. MORE-UFT members and other rank-and-file UFTers petitioned in our chapters, conducted walk-ins, took to social media, and protested at City Hall to help win parental leave. We can use similar tactics on a larger scale to reverse the erosion of rights for new teachers such as longer pre-tenure probation, proliferation of meaningless tenure application requirements, and the lack of feedback and transparency when tenure applications are rejected. We can also push to restore defenses for higher-paid senior teachers, who are more likely to be targeted ever since principals were made more responsible for school budgets in 2007. Are older teachers, teachers of color, or LGBTQ+ teachers facing a higher-rate of 3020a hearings? In our chapters we can start to discuss and build momentum to find solutions for these and many other problems.  

Second, we can connect our chapters with our larger school communities including other DOE employees, parents and students, to address common issues. For example, we need a real conversation about class size. According to city statistics, in 2017, 595,000 students–over half the city’s students — were in overcrowded schools and classrooms. Encouraging Chapter Leaders to inform UFT central about class size violations is not enough. We need a grassroots movement to get at the roots of overcrowding. Active, organized chapters and school communities can start to ask: why do class size violations occur? Is it due to the structure of school funding? We can think bigger: Are legal class size limits too high? How would enforced lower legal cap sizes, with loopholes eliminated, transform schools? Another issue is staff-to-student ratios. What kinds of increases in staff are needed to ensure all IEPs are adequately serviced? What kind of staff ratios are needed to make schools safe so that effective restorative justice practices can be implemented?

 

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(Above: MORE-UFT members Annie Tan, Karen Arneson, and John Antush celebrating the victory of 83-85 Bowery tenants in Chinatown at Jing Fong Restaurant with National Mobilization Against Sweatshops and Chinese Staff & Workers Association.)

 

Finally, we can organize with others to address larger problems affecting us and other working people as a whole. Educators are scapegoated for problems of class and racism that affect students’ performance — such as the housing crisis. In the 2017-2018 school year, 114,659 of our K-12 students were homeless; one-in-ten lived in temporary shelters. How many more simply dropped out of school? I work at a transfer school. Some of our students live in temporary shelters or with friends. Many more have trouble in school because they are working jobs to pay for, or contribute to, rent. Aside from being a human rights violation and a horrible hardship that disrupts education, the affordable housing crisis impacts our job security. As student populations are displaced, school staff are excessed, depriving remaining students of arts, phys ed and the full range educational opportunities and support services. Wrap-around services, “community schools,” the Bronx plan, and “renewal school” aid are obviously not sufficient to ensure young people’s basic human right to an education. Further, many teachers cannot afford to live near their schools or even within the five boroughs. To address this problem, MORE-UFT members have joined others in the Citywide Alliance Against Displacement to organize for alternatives to De Blasio’s housing and rezoning plans, which are pushing low- and middle-income people — including education workers, students and their families — out of New York City.

 

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(Above: MLK Day 2018, Educators Against Displacement)

 

By organizing in our chapters to push back erosion of our working conditions; by uniting in our school communities with students, parents and other DOE employees around common issues like class size; and by organizing with other working people around larger issues we hold in common, like opposing housing and rezoning policies that displace our communities, we can fight for conditions that will make meaningful educational work possible and help establish the schools our students deserve.