President's perspective

Students, schools counting on us

Michael Mulgrew - 155 x 230 As the race for mayor quickly approaches, we are looking toward a brighter future than what we have had for the past few years.

We have been hard at work for two years now, lobbying and engaging in political action to make sure that education will be a central piece of the mayoral race. And at this point all of the Democratic candidates for mayor have come out in support of the things we believe in most strongly: that the administration needs to start supporting teachers, not bashing them; that closing schools is not an educational policy, it just means that the administration itself is a failure; that we have to talk about how education is going to help kids, not about how it will advance a political agenda.

All of the Democratic candidates seem to understand that what the mayor has done has not been good for our schools. And the city understands that his “education legacy” is crumbling around him.

For nearly a month now, 150,000 New York City public school students, including 53,000 special-needs children, have lacked the bus service they need to get to and from school. Mayor Bloomberg could step in and end the yellow school bus strike — but he is intent on busting the drivers’ union, even at the cost of our children’s education.

When you’re a billionaire, it’s easy to say — as the mayor did in his recent budget testimony in Albany — that “money is not the answer to everything.” But our students aren’t billionaires — and their schools can’t afford to lose any more money. That’s why we hope the city will meet the state’s Feb. 15 deadline to submit a viable training and implementation plan for a new evaluation system to the State Education Department. But our hopes aren’t high, since the initial draft shared with us failed to include even a word about training administrators in the proper use of student learning measures.

Crafting a teacher evaluation and support system is just one of the challenges we face going forward. The working conditions in our schools are horrible. A new teacher evaluation system must be used as a mechanism to make working conditions better.

That means every teacher should have less paperwork and be supplied with a curriculum aligned to the Common Core Learning Standards, with scope and sequence. Education is about helping students succeed and the school system needs to support teachers and help us to succeed. This has to be the focus of our advocacy as we move toward a new administration.

That’s why the upcoming race for mayor is so important. We need a real education mayor who believes in the importance of public education and recognizes that the Department of Education’s job is to help and support teachers so we can help kids. We need a mayor who is willing to work with us to move our school system forward. We don’t always have to agree, but the mayor should be willing to listen.

It all comes down to the elections this year; it’s all about politics now.

Our endorsement, and the work that comes with it, could decide the next mayor, but only if each of us — and our family members, our friends and our neighbors — vote. That’s why at our Feb. 6 Delegate Assembly we unveiled our new get-out-the-vote campaign.

Every month from now through June, we will be endorsing candidates running for various citywide offices. We’ll also be asking you to wear pins that say “I Vote,” to fill out “I pledge to vote” postcards, and to speak with your colleagues, family, friends and neighbors about the importance of voting in this year’s elections.

We have also launched a social media campaign asking members to hold up a sign saying that they’ll be choosing the next mayor and then post it online for us to share on Facebook and Twittter. To find out more, go to www.uft.org/ivote.

Mayor Bloomberg has been a difficult mayor for this union and for our city’s schools and schoolchildren. But he’s on his way out, and it’s time for a change. This is our opportunity to elect a new mayor who will help us move our school system forward. Our students and our schools are counting on us.

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