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Mulgrew maps out strategy to fight layoffs

Also proposes new co-location policy during rousing Spring Conference speech

UFT President Michael Mulgrew tells the Spring Conference audience that the mayo Bruce Cotler

UFT President Michael Mulgrew tells the Spring Conference audience that the mayor “can stop the layoffs and still have a very large budget surplus.  Let’s be clear — that money belongs to the people of New York City and not to Mayor Bloomberg.”

In a rousing speech that had the 2,000 attendees of the UFT’s May 7 Spring Education Conference on their feet clapping and joining in chants of “Enough is enough,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew laid out a plan to bring teachers, parents and community members out on the streets to fight teacher layoffs.

Mayor Bloomberg announced his intent to lay off 4,278 teachers the previous day, at the end of Teacher Appreciation Week, which Mulgrew termed “the cherry on top” of the cake.

Accusing the mayor of playing politics and using the budget as an excuse to extract concessions despite a $3.2 billion surplus, Mulgrew said, “He can stop the layoffs and still have a very large budget surplus. Let’s be clear — that money belongs to the people of New York City and not to Mayor Bloomberg.” The DOE has said that it would save $270 million with the potential layoffs.

The crowd responded with thunderous applause when he asked if they would “stand up and speak up for the students of this city” in a protest on May 12 and over the next six weeks as the budget is negotiated between the Mayor’s Office and the City Council.

Political supporters who spoke at the event held at the Hilton Hotel in midtown included City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson and City Comptroller John Liu, who all denounced the mayor’s layoff threats and spoke of the primacy of teachers in ensuring that students have a high quality education.

In his speech, Mulgrew also laid out policy initiatives to help strengthen and support the public school system, as opposed to the “buzzwords which won’t help our educational system get better.”

Mulgrew unveiled a new policy proposal for co-locations in New York City public schools to avoid pitting teachers against teachers and parents against parents as school communities battle for scarce resources.

“You cannot have a school system based on a model where you have winners and losers. That needs to change and it needs to change now,” he said.

Calling for a major change in how these co-locations are managed, Mulgrew said that all schools potentially involved in co-locations must be able to keep class sizes under agreed-upon limits; must have access and equity when it comes to the facilities in the building; and must share in capital improvements, whether it’s new bathrooms, libraries or technology, so that we are not “teaching children about injustice and inequality at a very early age.”

Finally, he called for a policy in which no co-location plan could move forward until the Community Education Council certifies that all these criteria are met.

Speaking about what he learned during the recent International Summit on the Teaching Profession in New York City, Mulgrew said all high-achieving nations view their teaching force as a partner. Mulgrew said educators from these other countries asked him: “All we hear in New York City is talk about the demonization of teachers: how do you expect to attract or keep the best and the brightest if all you hear are negative things?”

Those educators also told him that they conduct teacher evaluations to support teachers in their work so they can better help children and help them to develop as teachers throughout their careers. The framework and focus, Mulgrew noted, is entirely different from the “gotcha” evaluations that teachers confront in the United States.

Complete coverage of the UFT Spring Conference will be featured in the May 26 issue of the New York Teacher.

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