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‘Landslide’ victory in Ohio lauded
UFTers helped swing vote in favor of public-sector workers, Mulgrew says
by Cara Metz | November 24, 2011 New York Teacher issue
ATR measure breezes through
Delegates on Nov. 9 voted by an overwhelming majority to further support teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve with a resolution called “Dignity for All Teachers.”
The resolution calls for members and chapter leaders to welcome ATRs assigned to their buildings; demand that the Department of Education create a protocol for principals so that ATRs are treated professionally in every assignment; educate chapter leaders to defend the rights of ATRs; write about the issue in the New York Teacher; and ensure that ATRs are treated with dignity at all times.
Four other resolutions were passed in quick succession, with overwhelming support. They were:
- Support for the Occupy Wall Street movement and an extension of the millionaire’s tax to help fund public education;
- Support for the union’s BRAVE campaign against bullying in schools;
- Support for the 672 school support workers who were laid off on Oct. 7, by working in solidarity with their union, Local 372 of AFSCME District Council 37; and
- Support for President Obama’s jobs bill, which contains $30 billion earmarked to save teachers’ jobs across the country.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew opened the Nov. 9 Delegate Assembly with some good news: in Ohio the previous day, voters turned back by a 61-39 percent margin an attempt to prevent public-sector workers from being able to bargain collectively.
“What’s that called?” Mulgrew asked the delegates, who responded as one: “a landslide!”
Mulgrew noted that 25 UFT retirees and staffers had been on the ground in Ohio, knocking on doors and making phone calls to talk about the issue and get out the vote. Back home, union members fielded 50,000 phone calls to Ohio, he said.
“The work of the people from this union was amazing,” Mulgrew said. “This is what this union is all about.”
He said he hoped the election result signaled that “the national conversation and debate is shifting.”
Mulgrew urged the delegates to participate in two important upcoming rallies. On Dec. 1, UFT members will join with other union and community members in a march for jobs and economic fairness down Broadway from Herald Square to Union Square; on Dec. 10, the UFT, the NAACP and others will “Stand for Freedom” with a march and rally against voter suppression laws that are pending or have been passed in many states.
Mulgrew thanked chapter leaders for submitting an unprecedented 875 surveys on how budget cuts have affected their schools. That irrefutable data played a key role in getting the story out to the media at a Nov. 1 press conference outside PS 1 in Manhattan, he said, asking PS 1 Chapter Leader Christine Wong to stand and receive thanks.
“Our schools are suffering immensely right now and members are suffering under difficult circumstances,” he said, explaining why the union has launched its campaign against budget cuts two months early. Another year of cuts would irreparably harm the cation of this generation of students, he said.
Mulgrew reiterated the call for an extension of the state millionaire’s tax and increased funding for education. He told the delegates that the union has held legislative briefings with elected officials in Queens and Brooklyn to push for the tax’s renewal.
In another case of chapter leader engagement helping to shape the issues, Mulgrew thanked the many chapter leaders who responded to the union’s request for evidence about how the Danielson teacher evaluation framework is being misused. The Danielson model was only meant to be formally implemented in the 31 Transformation or Restart schools. Instead, Mulgrew said, the UFT has received reports of principals in different parts of the city using it not just for discussion but for evaluation.
“Before we had this evidence, the Department of Education thought everything was fine,” Mulgrew said. “They’re now admitting they have a problem — and in order to make change you have to acknowledge there is a problem.”
He asked the delegates to continue reporting problems with the DOE’s unwieldy, time-consuming new Special Education Student Information System (SESIS). In the ongoing arbitration, the union is seeking immediate relief, he said.
“Document, document, document all the time you are working on SESIS,” he advised.
Mulgrew also told the delegates that principals should not be telling teachers to write their own curriculum aligned with the new Common Core Learning Standards during the regular work day.
The responsibility for having research-based curriculum for all schools rests with the DOE, Mulgrew said.
“The DOE should be giving teachers real curriculum with lessons aligned to it and stop the test prep,” he said.
Addressing another area of concern, Mulgrew noted that 212 teachers serving in the Absent Teacher Reserve had found placements since Oct. 4. There are now 1,140 teachers in the ATR pool, he said, more than 200 fewer than last year at this point.
He urged the chapter leaders to make ATRs coming to their school feel welcome.