Archives For activism

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.

Why I am a Teacher Activist

February 19, 2015 — 1 Comment

#WhyImTeacherActivist

By Mindy Rosier

I have been a teacher for almost 18 years and the last 8 ½ with the DOE. I am now a newly delegate, however, I do feel it is important to share my story with you all to show you that you don’t need to have an official position to help organize your school. You can make a difference in any capacity. You need to educate yourself on this road of activism and justice. The truth is very ugly out there and we need to make an impact. We need to be fierce and unrelenting. We all have a voice and we need to use it loud and clear. Today we are fighting for our schools, our kids, and our livelihoods and I will be damned to let anyone take that away from us!

For way too long I was a complacent special ed teacher in Harlem who did what everyone else did. I complained with co-workers which really got nothing done other than cause more complaining.

My little District 75 school has been co-located with Success Academy for years. In fact, they began in my building. Over the years we have lost so much space to them, and what we gave up was never enough. In Oct 2013, Moskowitz came up with a plan that got pushed through via Bloomberg and his cronies that would have essentially kicked out my school. Enough was enough! During this time, I met Community Education Council 3’s VP Noah Gotbaum, Sen. Perkins, and a few others who spoke up for my school and something began stirring inside of me. Mayor de Blasio came into office and overturned that decision and saved my school. Of course Moskowitz got upset. In late November, I met Maria B. from the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) and she basically gave me a crash course in organizing. She saw something in me that I didn’t even think was possible. I was very quiet, and mostly kept to myself, but I was very angry and she tapped into that. A press conference was planned on the corner of my school. She told me who I needed to call including community leaders, elected officials, and parents. I contacted the media and I discovered how useful Twitter can be for getting the word out. Our press conference was amazing. Many great people showed up to speak and even though I did not know of MORE at the time, I found out later that some of them was there as well. I will never forget how Noah Gotbaum said to me that day, “you need to speak up.” I have never shut up after that. ( Here is the link to the complete story I wrote for Crooks and Liars about what happened to my school and our battle with Eva Moskowitz.) At the end of March, Maria organized another press conference but this time on the steps of Tweed. So once again, I helped contact community leaders, elected officials, parents, my fellow educators, and the media. New York Communities for a Change was involved in the planning of this too. Maria encouraged me to speak at this press conference from a teacher’s perspective. This was on school day morning and I got permission to take a personal day for this. As nervous as I was, I gave my speech. Noah felt my schools’ story was very important and wanted me to share it again at the Save Our Schools Rally a couple of days later.. After several elected officials, I gave my speech to hundreds of people at the NY Public Library and proudly marched to Governor Cuomo’s office.

By this time, I had grown more confident. I took to social media with no abandon and I met MORE. In the following months, I helped fellow MOREista Patrick, who is in the gen ed school in my building, write up a proposal for our two schools by providing him all the information needed for my school so that we could become a combined Community Learning School. We got accepted!! My admins have been very hands off on this new adventure and they just recently said that they are trusting me with this and are basically giving me free reign. Also throughout  this time, Fran S from UFT was also a driving force to help our school and would advise me when I needed to write something up and who to contact.

Over the summer, I was out of commision because of ankle surgery, however, I was still strong on social media. I still read, still got angry, and I did my own kind of protesting from my comfy chair. Once I was able to walk again, I did not stop and I have had my hands in many things. With the knowledge of how to organize people and how to make social media very useful, I never stopped. I created a daily online paper that collected top public education and political stories. I wrote some blogs. I wanted everyone to wake up and know what it is going on.There are too many complacent people out there, too many people not know what’s going on or simply not caring. It has become my mission to educate others, to mobilize, to organize and of course agitate. I am not above hijacking a hashtag to get the truth out there. I did so with #DontStealPossible when that came out and I have no problem sending out hundreds of tweets out daily. It is truly important to have conversations with everybody in your school and in your community.

This past year, I have come alive. Not only have I completely changed as a person, but all of this activism has revitalized me as a teacher. I have always loved being a teacher but knowing that I am also fighting for my students has given me the energy, the excitement, and desire to do more. My voice does matter and I encourage all of you to think about this and be loud and proud.

I will conclude with this. My journey over the past year will be one I will never forget. I have made many friends in several organizations including AQE, and as a “thank you” for all of the work they have done for me and my school, I pay it forward and assist them on issues that they are involved in that I too believe in. I have and will continue to march, rally, and protest. I will continue to use social media to the best of my abilities and I will continue to be at events with elected officials and get the truth out there. I will work hard to make my school an amazing Community Learning School, I will continue to be there for my school staff in any way I can be and I will keep fighting for my kids. I am a very passionate person when I believe in something and I believe it shows. I will never forget what Maria from AQE, Noah Gotbaum, and Fran S., did for me in helping to create the activist I am today. I will continue to speak up and speak out.  I will also forever be grateful to MORE for allowing me to grow with them and to fight alongside of them. We have lots of work to do and I am not going anywhere! I am far from being done yet and our battles are many.

Now, I know I have touched many nerves over my journey such as those in Success Academy, Families For Excellent Schools, and moaning Mona Davids and her puppet Sam, and that makes me VERY happy. To me that means I am doing something right. Everyone reading this little blog piece is powerful. Tap into that power, and give ‘em hell!!!

 

What is your #WhyImTeacherActivist story?

Submit your story to more@morecaucusnyc.org

In Solidarity!

 

 

"the only tired I was, was tired of giving in Rosa Parks"

Words to live by from Rosa Parks