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Delegates thanked for role in long budget fight
by Michael Hirsch | December 22, 2011 New York Teacher issue
“I can’t thank you all enough,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew told delegates at the Dec. 7 Delegate Assembly, of their role leading up to the state Legislature’s Dec. 6 agreement that will make the state tax system more progressive and earmark $800 million of the new revenue for schools statewide.
“All of your work will guarantee that we will get a state funding increase for the children and schools of New York City,” he said.
Mulgrew said UFT members were instrumental in shifting the public dialogue from cutting spending to creating a fair tax system that meets the state’s needs.
The effort began last spring, he said, when the union gave office space and advice to community activists involved in the May 12 rally, many of whom went on to play a role in the Occupy Wall Street movement. UFT members continued to pound the message of economic fairness at rallies on Oct. 5, Nov. 17 and Dec. 1 and then with last-minute phone calls to key Senate Republicans, he said.
Mulgrew said that the UFT and its community partners concluded that changing the debate was critical in light of the yawning budget deficit facing the state.
“The national debate went from blaming bad teachers last year to blaming public employees to creating a deficit ceiling,” he said. “So we pushed a simple message: Millionaires need to pay their fair share.”
The union was able to persuade some upstate Republican senators to support tax reform, he said, “by telling them ‘this budget will destroy your town.’”
Mulgrew gave credit to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for embracing the need for a fairer tax system that could generate much-needed revenue.
Now, Mulgrew said, the union has to shift its attention to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“Once that additional $330 million in state revenue for New York City schools comes here, we have to watch the city very closely,” he said. “The mayor will say the city has no money and will probably blame it on our pensions.”
Mulgrew lamented that the Department of Education is not taking responsibility for providing meaningful curriculum to teachers. Instead, he said, principals are asking teachers to write curriculum on the fly.
He urged chapter leaders to contact Vice President for Education Catalina Fortino at firstname.lastname@example.org if their principals are asking teachers to write curriculum during their regular workday.
“It’s another piece of evidence that shows the DOE is not serious about educating children if they can’t give teachers the basic instructional material to teach children,” Mulgrew said.
Mulgrew said curriculum aligned with the new Common Core Learning Standards was vital.
“If we are going to make a meaningful difference in students’ lives, we need real curriculum,” he said. “These are the building blocks: real curriculum, real support for teachers. That’s where we can make a difference and we are going to keep on pushing.”