We should be organizing members and parents at the school, district, borough, and citywide level to demonstrate to elected officials that we have many concerns that have lone gone unmet – overcrowded classrooms, deteriorating school conditions, the disappearance of educators of color, and punitive discipline programs just to name a few.Continue Reading...
Archives For contract
Each of the proposed contract changes sells out new teachers.
First, and most obviously, the new two-tired healthcare system. Obviously, any two-tired system flies in the face of solidarity. It began with the pension, is now leaking into healthcare, what’s next? Differing salary schedules based on start date? It’s deplorable that we could do the same work for different benefits. Healthcare is a human right; we all deserve access to the same quality care.
Second, and also obvious. Raises lower than the rate of inflation are no raises at all. The cost of living in New York (rents have increased 3.9% annually). Givebacks now set us back for the rest of our career.
Third, less obvious and maybe more scary, the new ‘psychological fitness’ screening. Instead of supporting new teachers through their first few years, we’re going to weed-out those deemed ‘unfit’? I can’t imagine what it would be like to spend years in school training to be a teacher, take out tens of thousands in debt for this pursuit, and then be told I’m ‘psychology unfit’. As a trauma survivor who takes medication I find this particularly frightening. The trauma I experienced as a child is part of what inspired me to become a teacher, and helps me connect with and support my students with similar experiences. The idea that the experiences that led me to teaching could also be the barrier that keeps out future generations is frightening. As an educator of color, I know this criteria will continue the whitening of our teaching force. Not to mention that the details of this criteria are not yet released, will be created by educorporations, and are unlikely to be scientifically backed (Sound familiar? Reminds me of our value-added evaluation system).
And on evaluations- teachers rated developing and ineffective with have even more observations. Many teachers are rated developing in their first years (which is logical, since we are still developing our craft); instead of supporting these teachers to become better teachers we are going to just add to the heat of admin fire. That will push more people who have the potential to be great teachers out of the field- even if they’re paid a little more to teach in hard-to-staff schools in the Bronx.
On that note- did anyone ask teachers who are leaving hard-to-staff schools what would make them stay? Maybe pay is part of the answer, but I’d guess that mentoring, class size, and support services for struggling students would be high on the list. Where are those provisions in this new contract?
So this is the deal we’re selling to new teachers: Get your education degree, spend tens of thousands of dollars doing so, but if the system decides you’re psychologically unfit you won’t be able to get a teaching job. If you do make it over this ambiguous hurdle, you will have crappy health care for at least the first few years, so make sure you don’t get sick while working 50+ hours a week in a room full of children. If you’re not yet an effective teacher in your first years, instead of supporting you, they’re going to increase the intensity of the scrutiny from your direct supervisors. Oh, and plan keep searching for new roommates every year, because your pay won’t be keeping up with that of your peers.
So what would a contract that supports new teachers look like? Quality healthcare for all and wages competitive with our peers in other fields. Less admin scrutiny and more supportive, non-evaluative mentoring for established colleagues. A clear path to tenure. Debt forgiveness… the list goes on.
Don’t sell out new teachers. We are the future of the profession. We are the future of our union.
On Oct. 12th after school, all UFT delegates & chapter leaders were summoned to an emergency delegate assembly to vote on whether or not to endorse the contract they negotiated for us (click here to learn more about how a UFT contract is negotiated and voted on). As we have for every contract in the 50+ year history of the union, the body voted to endorse it and send it on to the membership. I voted no at the delegate assembly, I will vote no again with my paper ballot as a UFT member, and I urge all of you do the same. I have a lot to say about this contract, but I have summarized some of my main reasons below:
— The “raises” are not raises, they are not even cost of living adjustments: 2%, 2.5% and 3% over 3 years and 7 months will not keep up with the national inflation rate under even the most optimistic projections, to say nothing of the much faster rising cost of living in NYC. Our buying power with our paychecks will be weaker than it is now when the contract is over in 2022 (as was the case with the contract we are currently finishing). NYC educators deserve better.
— There is no class size reduction: This is consistently the #1 request from both staff and parents on the NYCDOE school survey, and class sizes, which are significantly larger than in neighboring suburban districts, have not budged in more than 50 years. There is some language about more strictly enforcing the existing rules (which are routinely ignored), but it’s pretty weak sauce as far as I am concerned.
— Healthcare givebacks: President Mulgrew keeps repeating, as he always does, that there are “no givebacks” in this contract. This is disingenuous; the NYC public sector unions have collectively already agreed to find more than a billion dollars of healthcare savings for the city during the life of this contract. You’ll recall we had something similar in our last contract, with x number of billions of dollars every year being cut from the money the city spends on our healthcare (which lead to the higher copays for urgent care and ER use among other things). This is to make sure we can still look at our paystubs and see that we are contributing $0 to our health insurance, which is nice and all, but our healthcare coverage being eroded in less visible ways that we feel less viscerally than deductions on our paychecks is no less real and problematic. These givebacks weren’t purely a UFT thing, it was all the city unions (in the form of the Municipal Labor Council), and that deal was already signed (without our vote) in July. You may hear from the UFT that this isn’t an issue of this contract since it has already been signed and involves other unions, but the fact that it was agreed to by our leadership months ago without consulting us does not make it any better; in fact, it makes it much worse. A “NO” vote on the contract from the rank and file membership would be an unmistakable message to leadership that we demand better.
— They did nothing with the extended time/extra parent teacher conferences: The former was a huge giveback in the 2005 contract, and the latter was from the last contract with Carmen Farina, which also included re-working the 155 minutes. The extended time was ridiculous when we were arguing about how to time the 37.5 minute increments, it was ridiculous when we were trying to figure what to do after we stopped meeting with the kids during that time, and it’s ridiculous today. This contract doesn’t get rid of it entirely, which is what should really happen, but it also doesn’t even try to make it less onerous. Between that and the extra parent teacher conference/meet the teacher days, there were a bunch of failed, silly experiments that needed to get cleared out with this contract and were not.
— We can do better: How do I know? Because we haven’t even tried. There has been zero mobilization of the membership. Leadership used to at least pretend they were trying to leverage the people power of the ~200,000 UFT members for a better contract with a lame rally, but they can’t even be bothered to go through that charade anymore. They think their backroom dealing and political contributions will save us, but that is not the moment we live in. In the last nine months, educators have risen up and won significant victories across the country with aggressive picketing, rallies, PR campaigns that get the parents onboard, occupying state houses, credible strike threats and actual strikes- most of this in red states with hostile anti-labor governments where striking is just as “illegal”*** as it is for us here, and where the teachers aren’t even unionized in a way that we would recognize in NYC. They weren’t retaliated against because they had demonstrated their power, and even “Right-To-Work” Republicans were not willing/able to punish the striking, militant educators. There are some very good things in this contract; the one that stands out to me is the pay bump/introduction of due process rights for paras, and those things must be preserved as part of a better contract when our leadership is sent back to the bargaining table after a successful “NO” vote. The argument that we have it better than educators in WV, AZ and OK (where the pay and conditions are atrocious), so we should be happy with whatever we get and not fight for better, which has been circulating among many UNITY caucus people, strikes me as truly bizarre coming from union activists/staffers.
UFT Chapter Leader, PS 58, The Carroll School
*** “There Is No Illegal Strike, Just an Unsuccessful One”
by Alexandra Alves, Chapter Leader, PS 2M
[To speak up about evaluation demands in our upcoming contract, please join MORE at our contract forum on Wednesday, March 14th, 4:30-6:30pm @ CUNY Graduate Center. RSVP / Details here]
Do you dread the Danielson based drive-by observation and the inevitable feedback session and rating, which happens not only once or twice, but several times a year, even though you have consistently received effective and highly effective ratings throughout your career?
Do you feel as if you have lost all pedagogical control over what you teach and how you teach it?
Do you feel utterly devalued as an educator and a professional and thrown up your hands in despair, because nothing you do is quite good enough?
Have you experienced a significant increase in your workplace stress level, lack of sleep and even health related issues, all stemming from a punitive evaluation system which has demoralized you and stripped you of any sense of empowerment and self worth as a professional and educator?
If so, you are not alone. The upcoming contract negotiations has educators all over the city wondering if the UFT leadership realizes just how bad teaching conditions are under the current evaluation system, and whether or not it will make it a priority to demand a lowering of the mandated evaluations to the New York State minimum of two per school year (for starters).
What, exactly, is the problem with the current evaluation system, the union leadership must be wondering, especially if it is in fact true that 97% of NYC teachers receive a highly effective or effective overall ratings? Continue Reading…
Our 2nd event of the 2014 Summer Series on Wednesday 7/30 features a discussion on the new contract. More information below and here.
A preview of the contract and our discussion by John Elfrank-Dana, Chapter Leader of Murray Bergtraum High School: