Know your rights

Instructional materials and class size

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As we enter a new school year, teachers should be aware of the rights of their students to instructional materials and reasonable class sizes.

While teachers are the only professionals to routinely spend their own money to assist those they serve, this fact doesn’t excuse the Department of Education from its responsibility to provide basic supplies.

Books and supplies

It is your principal’s obligation to provide you with basic instructional supplies and books, including textbooks, paper, chalk, microscopes and math manipulatives.

That’s a contractual right, written into Article 7R of the teachers’ contract, which states that schools are responsible for providing “appropriate and sufficient basic instructional supplies and books to deliver an effective educational program” for students.

If you find yourself short of basic supplies, let your chapter leader know. The chapter leader will schedule a special meeting with the principal to try to resolve the issue.

At the same time, your chapter leader should notify your UFT district representative to see if he or she can help resolve the matter. If necessary, the union will help you pursue the matter with the chancellor.

A boost in Teacher’s Choice

Teacher’s Choice, a City Council-funded program that helps teachers purchase supplies for their classrooms, is an important supplement for obtaining basic instructional supplies.

Each year, the union lobbies hard for funding for Teacher’s Choice. Earlier this year, hundreds of UFT members participated in a social media campaign to increase the program’s funding. Thanks, in part, to that campaign, teachers will get $148 each — a 21 percent increase — to help cover what they spend out of pocket on classroom supplies for the 2016–17 school year. Guidance counselors, social workers, school psychologists, lab specialists and secretaries receive smaller amounts of Teacher’s Choice funds.

Remember to save your receipts for Teacher’s Choice purchases. In early 2017, as in previous years, you will need to submit receipts as proof of purchase along with the DOE’s Statement of Purpose/Accountability form.

Class size

Keeping class sizes within proper limits is not just a professional and contractual right to enable you to do your job better, it’s also an educational benefit for students, who will receive more individual attention.

Contractual class-size limits vary with the school level, type of class and other factors. Within the first few days of each school year or term, check with your chapter leader to find out if your classes exceed the appropriate class-size maximums.

If on the 10th school day (which this year falls on Sept. 22) your classes exceed those limits, the chapter leader will notify your UFT district representative and the union will file a grievance on behalf of the school. This will be done even if the principal says there is neither the space nor the budget allotment to create smaller or additional classes.

Class-size staffing ratios for students with disabilities are determined by the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) and state education law. Call your UFT borough office if you believe your special education class is oversized.

Note to UFT chapter leaders: Your UFT district representative will be asking you to report your school’s class-size numbers on the first (Sept. 8), sixth (Sept. 16) and 10th (Sept. 22) days of the new school year. It is extremely important to get accurate information to your district representative on those dates.

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