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UFT.org Home > Our Chapters > Retired Teachers > You Should Know > Resources for writing letters to the editor
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Resources for writing letters to the editor
Respond promptly — do not wait more than a couple of days to comment on a newspaper article.
Facts and figures must be accurate — do the research.
Be concise, focused and polite — provide a succinct single argument if disagreeing with something in an article.
Create a title — place in subject line.
Address the letter as "Dear Editor."
Place the text in the body of the email — no attachments.
Bcc your email to: email@example.com.
Limit your letter to two or three paragraphs — 200 word limit.
Paragraph 1: State the purpose of the letter — name the article you are responding to.
Introduce the problem and sum up your objection — make your point early.
Paragraph 2: Write a few sentences to support your view — cite sources, provide documentation.
Paragraph 3: Summarize your argument — end with a clever line.
Include your name, address, email address and phone number in the email — you may request your name not be published, but you must provide all information so that the newspaper can validate who you are.
SAMPLE LETTER ON TENURE
To The Editor,
Tenure for teachers is being unfairly attacked as a denial of rights to those who teachers serve: their students. A recent California court decision has instigated other such challenges here and elsewhere. The attacks are politically motivated with many misrepresentations.
Tenure is an absolutely necessary safeguard for teachers, students and quality public schools. Tenure means teachers can speak freely and strongly on matters of public concern. It means they have the freedom to teach effectively and oppose policies or cuts that harm students in partnership with parents. Real education improvement depends on parents, teachers and public officials working together, not by dividing them.
Tenure simply offers due process against favoritism, discrimination, patronage and arbitrary dismissal.
[GIVE ONE OR TWO EXAMPLES FROM YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCES AND OBSERVATIONS ON UNFAIR PRACTICES AND/OR HOW TENURE PROTECTION SAVED SOMEONE.]
Tenure laws have streamlined and shortened disciplinary hearings so that innocent, effective teachers are returned to work and guilty or ineffective ones are removed. Due process is the foundation of our judicial system and must be preserved.
NYSUT: Due process rights for teachers also safeguard students
Source: Media Relations
ALBANY, N.Y. July 28, 2014 — New York State United Teachers President Karen E. Magee released the following statement today in response to a lawsuit challenging due process rights for New York’s teachers:
"This is a politically motivated attack against every dedicated teacher in New York state. We are highly confident the courts will reject this attack as entirely without merit. We welcome the opportunity to expose the many lies and misrepresentations about tenure laws and establish, once and for all, the plain truth: Tenure is an absolutely necessary safeguard for teachers, for students and for quality public schools.
“Tenure means teachers can speak freely and strongly on matters of public concern. Tenure ensures that teachers have the freedom to teach effectively and the liberty to oppose policies or cuts that harm students. Teachers can partner with parents against inappropriate standardized testing and question Common Core precisely because they don’t have to fear reprisals for doing so. Tenure guarantees that caring and dedicated educators can continue to advocate with parents for what’s best for students.
“Before Campbell Brown’s cable TV show was canceled, its slogan was ‘No Bias, No Bull.’ Yet Campbell Brown is slinging both with abandon. She and her wealthy supporters seem to think that if teachers could be fired for any reason at any time, student achievement in high-poverty schools would miraculously soar. That ignores the enormous, well-documented challenges facing students and teachers in high-poverty communities. Pervasive, grinding poverty and chronic underfunding burden students in too many of our cities and poor rural communities. Homelessness, violent crime, overcrowded classrooms, students working to learn English and chronic budget shortfalls are among the outside influences — beyond the control of teachers — that unquestionably impact student achievement. It’s sensationalistic and unsupportable to say that tenure is the problem.
“Lost on the wealthy elite who attack teachers is that the very same decades-old rules governing tenure and seniority safeguard teachers’ rights in fully funded, high-achieving districts where nearly every single student graduates and is accepted to college. Tenure protects all teachers from nepotism, favoritism, discrimination, patronage and other forms of arbitrary dismissal. At its heart is the American value that one is innocent until proven guilty.
“When allegations of incompetence or misconduct arise — against a teacher or anyone else — such allegations shouldn’t be automatically assumed to be true. Rather, evidence should be carefully and quickly examined, and then ruled on impartially. Due process is the foundation of our judicial system. Similar safeguards are in place to ensure police officers, firefighters and other public servants at the state and local levels cannot be arbitrarily dismissed based on allegations or for politically motivated reasons.
“New York’s tenure law has been streamlined in recent years to address concerns that due process hearings took too long and cost too much. In 2012, the state required all disciplinary hearings to be completed within a reasonable 155 days. Most times, cases are resolved before then. Innocent, effective teachers are returned to work and those who are guilty or ineffective are removed. New York’s teacher evaluation law provides a framework to identify teachers who are struggling and provide them with additional support, while acknowledging that, in rare cases, some teachers may not improve and must be removed in an expedited process from the classroom.
“Seniority rights are there for a reason. NYSUT fights vigorously for adequate and equitable funding for all public schools, and layoffs should always be an absolute last resort. When layoffs are completely unavoidable, however, New York must have a fair, objective process that doesn’t rely on subjective judgment or whim. A system based on seniority, which has served New York state fairly and objectively for a century, guards against abuses by those who would use ‘layoffs’ as another way to terminate those who advocate too fiercely, are older or are at the top of the pay scale.
“Those bankrolling this assault on teachers and reasonable protections against injustice have no interest in providing every child with a quality public school education. If they did, they long ago would have joined parents, teachers and unions in fighting for the resources all children need. This suit is just another attack on public education and on working people by wealthy elitists who stand to profit from privatizing public schools. It is telling that Brown refuses to identify her donors.
“NYSUT will fight this attack in the courts and in the court of public opinion, for our members and for the schoolchildren our members teach and advocate for every day.”
New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.
For your own local, weekly or community newspaper, you should be able to find their e-mail address on the editorial or title page or on-line.
Some of the larger newspaper addresses are listed here.
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Include full name, address and phone number. (This information will be used for verification purposes only). The Daily News reserves the right to edit letters.
New York Post
You must provide your first name, last name, email address, and the subject or issue you are writing about. Maximum number of words is 200. They reserve the right to edit and condense all letters.
New York Times
Email address: email@example.com
Letters to the editor should only be sent to the Times, and not to other publications. They do not publish open letters or third-party letters.
Letters for publication should be no longer than 150 words, must refer to an article that has appeared within the last seven days, and must include the writer's address and phone numbers. No attachments, please.
They cannot return or acknowledge unpublished letters. Writers of those letters selected for publication will be notified within a week. Letters may be shortened for space requirements.
Go to www.newsday.com/opinion/submit-your-letter-1.2516352 and submit the online form.
Before submitting your letter to the editor, please type your name at the end, as though you are signing it. If you leave your name off, Newsday will assume you intend to comment anonymously and will not print your letter. Letter cannot be more than 5,000 characters.
Staten Island Advance
Go to www.silive.com/mailforms/advanceletters/ and submit the online form.
Letters should be 200 or fewer words to be considered for publication in the print edition of the Advance (500 or fewer words for the on-line version only). The following MUST be included with your letter or it will not be considered for publication:
- Real full name
- Complete address (including house number, street and town)
- Daytime phone number
Wall Street Journal
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Address comments to Timothy Lemmer, the letters editor. Make sure to include your city and state in the email.
Original Letter sent by Retiree to the New York Times
To The Editor:
Are you sure that the Michael R. Bloomberg who wrote "Limit Pay, Not Unions" is the same person who is the mayor of New York City? I only ask because the author of the letter advocates negotiating with the unions to solve fiscal problems. With regard to the schools and the UFT, Mayor Bloomberg has done quite the opposite. The mayor has unilaterally:
- imposed a wage freeze
- sought legislation to end tenure and alter layoff rules
- closed schools
- refused to assign educators in the ATR pool into positions
The mayor has constantly sought to go around the union. On one of the rare occasions he has negotiated with the UFT, the heinous "rubber rooms" were eliminated. Instead of releasing hit lists, the mayor should be working with UFT President Michael Mulgrew on a way to avoid layoffs.
If only the mayor and the author were the same person.
Final copy of letter published in New York Times
To the Editor:
Are you sure that the Michael R. Bloomberg who wrote “Limit Pay, Not Unions” is the same person who is the mayor of New York City?
I ask only because the author of the article advocates negotiating with the unions to solve fiscal problems. With regard to the schools and the United Federation of Teachers, Mayor Bloomberg has done quite the opposite, such as unilaterally closing schools and imposing a wage freeze. The mayor has constantly sought to go around the union.
On one of the rare occasions that he has negotiated with the U.F.T., the heinous “rubber rooms” (where teachers accused of wrongdoing or incompetence could spend years doing nothing on full pay) were eliminated. Instead of working on hit lists of teachers, the mayor should be working with the union on a way to avoid layoffs.
New York, Feb. 28, 2011
The writer is a retired teacher.