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Our union needs to build power and exercise it. We are one of the largest union locals in the country and should be capable of fighting back against the powers that be, those who would squeeze us in the interest of tax “incentives” for the wealthy. Instead, for too long UFT leadership has acted like lobbyists towards our politicians and like customer support towards us, the members. No one has ever felt empowered by customer support.

We need choices in this election to keep the union healthy. After the Janus decision, why should new hires join? Why should current members stay? Too many members see the UFT as another deduction from their paycheck, another number to call when you give up on HR Connect, another vendor of CTLE hours. Too many members refer to the UFT as “them” rather than “us.” We need to strengthen our union by challenging leadership to do better, not weaken it by abandoning our colleagues to the whims of those who would stuff more children into classrooms and strip away our rights.

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[David Price, middle, MORE candidate for at-large seat]

There are lots of things to like about the UFT, but even those benefits are tenuous because of its top-down structure. My salary isn’t bad, but I’m still waiting on some of it to come in 2020. My district rep is great, and I would vote for him to be my district rep, but wasn’t given the chance to do so. This structure creates too much distance between union leadership and the rank-and-file membership. Our leadership has a fixed mindset about how to get things done at City Hall and in Albany: support incumbents (regardless of party) and negotiate behind closed doors. We need a leadership with a growth mindset about the power of the membership.

I was hired in 2012 and thus worked two years without a contract. I was hired in the first year of Tier VI of the retirement system and thus pay more into our retirement plan than all those before me. Seven years in and still with so much to learn, I’m shocked by how this short amount of time would qualify me as a veteran in so many schools. We need a union that works to keep and protect veteran teachers, rather than using attrition as a source of “savings” in each negotiation. Paying teachers more to work in hard-to-staff schools does not solve the root problems that make them hard to staff. Allowing the city and state to construct more and more complex and expensive hoops for us all to jump through in the name of “professionalism” (CTLE hours, edTPA, etc.) is not helping to attract dedicated and diverse applicants to the teaching pool. We did an amazing job of mobilizing in the face of Janus last year and kept our numbers strong, but I worry when little is said of how many new hires have not signed a union card.

MORE is fighting to build a union that sees beyond the nitty-gritty details of our contract and beyond the parallel bureaucracy that has developed in the UFT. Our union should be building strong chapters in our schools and strong alliances in our communities. Our students are over-tested and underfunded at school, while many of them face an ever more precarious life outside of school as New York City becomes a harder place to live for all but the rich. Because we believe in our students, we must fight for them, and thus we must build a union ready to do so, even if that means taking on fights that for too long have been treated as separate from our own.  

 

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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 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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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.

My name is Aixa Rodriguez. I am an ESL teacher and I am running on the MORE-UFT slate for Vice President for Education-At-Large.

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I’m running in the 2019 UFT elections because MORE has the values and the work ethic that most closely match mine. When I heard who was running on the MORE-UFT slate, I was convinced that this was the time to put my hat in the ring. This slate is deeply involved in social justice movements and has the experience, savvy, creativity and energy needed to give voice and analysis to the issues impacting our profession. Privatization is destroying public education and teachers need to be plugged in to counter that. We can no longer just blindly pay dues to a status quo, appeasement-oriented union; in the post-Janus reality, rank and file need to participate and make our voices heard as members of our union.

Educational Justice is an intersectional issue. Every social justice issue that you hear about intersects with the problems in public education. Unions have the power to make change happen that benefits society as a whole; in housing justice, food justice, environmental justice, and racial justice. Under mayoral control, community participation is limited, democracy is limited.  Our jobs are impacted by outside realities that are out of our individual control. This is why our union has to push for justice.

When bad decisions on real estate development are made, local school enrollment shrinks, teachers get excessed, space gets taken by charter school parasites, class sizes in co-located schools rise, programs get cut, and students get a narrower curriculum. When kids become homeless, go into the shelter system, and struggle academically and socially, they bring those challenges to our schools. The kids who are hungry, sleepy, wearing dirty, unwashed clothes, and getting bullied are our students.Those conditions become our working conditions at schools that are underfunded, under-resourced and understaffed.  We teachers live and teach in that reality. We need more counselors, social workers, community workers, paras, and school aides, and therapists. CFE must be fully funded by Albany. Fair student funding is a failed formula.

When we chose to work in schools that serve struggling kids we get judged and evaluated on their progress on inappropriate tests. To survive, many teachers teach to the test even as it kills their passion and creativity, burns them out, then leads to turnover and unstable schools. The kids get a test prep curriculum and are robbed of a well rounded quality education. Our autonomy and professionalism is impacted by high stakes testing. We are blamed and scapegoated, and our schools closed, our positions lost. Those of us who get a new position are lucky. The Absent Teacher Reserve has become a next stop for many a veteran teacher. Our working conditions are impacted by the culture of testocracy compounded by funding inequities that institutionalize ageism.

As teachers we need our contracts respected, our salaries to keep up with inflation, and our schools to be well staffed, resourced and funded. We need support with discipline, smaller class sizes, prep periods that are not taken away lightly. We need an evaluation and tenure system that doesn’t push out teachers from the profession.These needs coincide with student needs for recess, small group tutoring and reading intervention, sports, clubs and electives. We have seen in the #Red4Ed movement across the nation that parents and students are our natural allies in the fight for public schools that serve all children well. Let’s join that fight.

 

Aixa Rodriguez for UFT Vice President for Education-At-Large 2019

 

 

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[Aixa taking a group selfie at the MORE general meeting in January 2019]

There is a disconnect between UFT leadership and rank and file membership. As a result, there is a void and that void has to be filled at a time when unions and labor movements are being attacked and destroyed by unfriendly forces: right wingers, ed deformers, and many of the 1% who have accumulated most of the wealth, all aggressively pushing to disrupt and destabilize public education. The UFT leadership has shown utter silence on what matters to our students, teachers, parents, and communities. I declare my candidacy with an affirmation that, when I am elected as President of the UFT in April, I will continue the fight for our schools. 

There is no mincing of words when I declare that social justice matters in public education and it matters now more than ever. The UFT leadership should not dance around these issues. That is why I am running on the social justice slate of the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) in the UFT elections this March. We are a collective of educators ranging from Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists to Counselors and Social Workers to Classroom Teachers to Paraprofessionals to School Secretaries to all of the other members of our union. 

 

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In solidarity with OT/PTs for Pay Parity at Panel for Educational Policy meeting.

(Myrie on left after speaking at the podium)

 

Our caucus is also a part of a nationwide collective called the United Caucuses of Rank and File Educators (UCORE). We are fighting for social justice in many states: Arizona, California, Colorado, and North Carolina, to name a few, and here at home in New York.

Our students and educators deserve schools with low student to counselor ratios. Our schools deserve more counselors and restorative justice coordinators. Each school must be rated on the equitable hiring and retention of Black, Asian and Latinx educators. Culturally Relevant Curriculum must be implemented in each school and measured by the Scorecard developed by NYU. In addition, resources must match the demographics of student populations in individual schools. The UFT does not have a contract that addresses pay parity for Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists. The UFT leadership has used parliamentary maneuvers to avoid a vote from the  UFT Delegate Assembly on the Black Lives Matter at School resolution two years in a row. Our schools and our students deserve better.

It’s time to change the leadership when members in every borough are subject to harassment from supervisors.  Forget about the “strong contract” emphasized by leadership when probationary teachers and vulnerable staff members are scared to file a grievance and when chapter leaders and district representatives are unsupportive. Calls to activate and publish the names of abusive administrators have been ignored. I will have this list ready on Day One when I am elected.

Please look at what is happening around you in the communities where you work. Is there systemic racism and oppression?  Is there gentrification? Are any of your students homeless? Are students’ suspensions on the rise? Do you have space for art, music, a library, and an OT/PT room at your school? What about oversized classes? Are you nervous to talk about any of this? Are your ICT classes in compliance? Does the paraprofessional have a duty free lunch? Are you being forced to have meetings on your lunch? Are you being asked to give up your preps? Do your children have adequate materials and resources? Would you like to advocate for your students, but you are scared?

The MORE slate is here to advocate and agitate. Under our leadership, we will lead the UFT to the position where our working conditions will equate with our students’ learning conditions. 

Thank you for the work that you do for our students. 

 

Dermott Myrie for UFT President 2019  

 

Myrie Aixa Kevin Jia photo

MORE Caucus members running for UFT office  

(Front- Aixa Rodriguez- right, Jia Lee -left)

(Rear Kevin Prosen- left,  Dermott Myrie-right)