BY THE BOOKS: Pre-K teacher Linda Baldino reads a picture book with a student at the Teleport site of the Richmond Pre-K Center on Staten Island. (Erica Berger)
Chapter Leader UpdateFeb. 4, 2021
Chapter Leader UpdateFeb. 4, 2021
This Week's Focus
Mulgrew presses state lawmakers to “fund our future”
UFT President Michael Mulgrew testified at a Jan. 28 state budget hearing that in a year where our students, educators and families have been traumatized by the COVID-19 pandemic, the state must not reduce its support for New York City public schools. If the decrease in state aid during the current fiscal year is combined with the proposed reduction in the upcoming fiscal year, the state will have reduced its contribution to New York City schools by $1.5 billion over two years. Mulgrew said the proposed reduction in state school aid comes after the state’s share of the New York City education budget has continuously shrunk over the years from a high of nearly 50% in 2009 to a new low this year of around 36%. Mulgrew noted increased federal aid for city schools from COVID-19 relief legislation that should have supplemented state school aid has instead been used to supplant it. Mulgrew called for a real and meaningful increase in state school aid in the final state budget, which must be passed by April 1. To pay for that increase, the UFT called for a billionaire's wealth tax, an ultra-millionaire's income surcharge tax, a "pied-a-terre" luxury real estate tax and an increase in the state’s corporate tax rate. Mulgrew also advocated for state funding for the UFT Teacher Center, United Community Schools, the Positive Learning Collaborative and affordable child care. Challenging state lawmakers to step up for our public schools, Mulgrew said, “This cannot be our legacy in COVID. The $2.1 billion in federal education funds for New York City must reach New York City schools. All of it.”
DOE submits teacher evaluation plan to state for approval
New York State law requires that teachers be evaluated each year using a research-based method, a standardized rubric and measures of student learning. Last spring, Governor Cuomo issued an executive order to waive that law for the 2019-20 school year, but he declined to issue a waiver for this school year. So we are being held to the state law for teacher evaluation even though we are already halfway through the school year and our members have so much else on their plates. School districts across New York State had to submit plans by Feb. 1 for teacher evaluation for the 2020-21 school year. The DOE submitted its evaluation plan by the deadline. The UFT’s goal in its talks with the DOE was to make sure the evaluation plan reflected the unique circumstances and challenges facing teachers this school year. Teachers deserve a fair process and a fast and simple way to challenge a rating if a principal is not following the correct procedures. Details about the plan will be released once the state approves it.
UFT and the city discuss middle school reopening
We have made clear to the city Department of Education that the city does not currently have the capacity to conduct randomized weekly testing of 20 percent of staff and students in every school if middle schools were to reopen. We must have that level of testing in place in every school to keep our school communities safe. The city is working on a plan to increase its testing capacity. Until the city shows us that plan and convinces us that it has the resources in place to successfully implement it, we cannot reopen middle schools safely.
Federation of Nurses/UFT members ratify contract
Federation of Nurses/UFT members who are Licensed Practical Nurses with the Visiting Nurse Service of New York overwhelmingly ratified a two-year contract in which the union made no concessions while achieving a salary increase and negotiating regular consultation meetings with the employer. The contract went into effect on Feb. 1 and runs through January 2022. “We have achieved another on-time contract protecting our pensions and obtaining good economic and working conditions,” said UFT Vice President Anne Goldman, who leads the Federation of Nurses. A key provision of the contract preserves the pension benefits of current employees and guarantees that these benefits will be extended to new hires. The deal includes two 3% raises, the first effective on Sept. 1, 2021, and the second on July 1, 2022. Each member will see at least a $3,300 salary hike over the life of the contract.
Join our We Feed NYC fundraiser on Feb. 13
We are nine days away from our big We Feed NYC fundraiser to support local community-based food pantries. You won’t want to miss our four-hour lineup of entertainment and enrichment, hosted in part by 107.5 FM’s “Dr.” Bob Lee. Chef Philip DeMaiolo will show you how to cook a hearty meal for a family of four for under $20. The president of Body Sculpt New York, Vince Ferguson, will give you his expert fitness tips. Wellness maestros from MYNDSET will help you with healthy eating and mindfulness and self-care techniques. Drag Queen Story Hour will inspire a love of reading and diversity in children. There will also be student performances and music. Throughout this exciting event, you’ll have the opportunity to help feed New York City families in need. Attendance is free, but we hope you will support this vitally important cause with a charitable donation. Unable to attend on Feb. 13? You can donate to this worthy cause. You’ll receive a We Feed NYC tote bag with a donation of $100 or more.
Chapter Leader Checklist
- PROSE application process has begun: The PROSE Panel is now accepting applications from schools interested in becoming one of the Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools of Excellence (PROSE) beginning in the 2021-22 school year. PROSE is driven by collaboration and innovation, and the schools that join PROSE have opportunities to implement new ideas, share their work with other schools and develop sustainable school cultures that respect teachers and all members as professionals. You can download the application. The deadline to apply is Friday, March 12. For more information about PROSE, see the PROSE section of the UFT website, or send an email to PROSE@uft.org. A PROSE rep would be more than happy to set up a meeting with your school.
- New mechanism deals with random testing issues at schools: We can now involve principals, superintendents and executive superintendents in resolving problems with weekly random testing. A new form has been developed for principals to report a testing problem and have the issues escalated and resolved. Please encourage your principal to use this new form when your school has a testing issue. You should continue to report issues to your UFT district representative as well, so that the UFT can follow up with the DOE's COVID Response Situation Room.
- Signed up for the Feb. 10 Delegate Assembly? As your school’s elected union representative, your participation at Delegate Assembly meetings is a crucial part of the UFT policymaking process. And now that these meetings are virtual, attending is more convenient than ever.
Work in progress
The UFT is working on the following issues with the DOE and other city, state and federal-level entities as appropriate:
- Lobbying the state to pass an early retirement incentive for New York City educators
- A sensible teacher evaluation and development system for this school year
- Discussions about when and how to reopen middle schools
School Chapters on UFT.org
You Should Know
New guidelines to resolve operational issues about ICT programming
The DOE and the UFT have negotiated guidelines to resolve outstanding operational issues related to Integrated Co-Teaching programming. These guidelines can be used in addition to the guidelines for resolving blended learning issues involving multiple modalities, schedules and class size issues. Please review the new guidelines and share them with your staff. If you have ICT programming issues in your school, you can try to resolve them with your principal and submit an operational issues report. These guidelines are not exhaustive of all ICT programming scenarios, and the resolution of an operational issue does not mean that the school is in compliance with special education mandates. If you have any questions, contact your UFT district representative.
Customized support for tenured teachers this school year
The UFT's Peer Intervention Program can help tenured teachers with the new demands of blended and remote teaching in the 2020-21 school year. Tenured teachers can get confidential, one-on-one help from highly experienced colleagues in making the transition from the in-person school day to a remote learning environment. PIP provides support every step of the way, from creating effective online lessons and projects and selecting the most effective virtual learning activities, to developing video-based mini-lessons and more.
Medical & Wellness
Easy access to your optical benefits
In partnership with General Vision Services, the UFT Welfare Fund has introduced a new digital process for providing your free or discounted eye exams, eyeglasses and contact lenses. Now, a quick three-step online process at GVSUFT.com will provide access to your optical benefits without the need for paper certificates. First, check your eligibility. Then, find a provider. The final step is to go and get your services. In-network providers can now handle everything for you, including your eye exam, but you may still obtain out-of-network services if you prefer and submit claims via the GVS website.
UFT mayoral town hall on Feb. 23
Please encourage members in your chapter to join UFT President Michael Mulgrew for the union’s virtual mayoral town hall on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 5:30 p.m., which is the second in a series of mayoral forums to introduce some of the 35 candidates who are running for mayor this year. The UFT wants to give its members an opportunity to hear from candidates on issues of importance to them so they can cast an informed vote in the June 22 primary. Visit the UFT NYC 2021 website. UFT members met three contenders at the union’s first mayoral town hall on Feb. 2.
Salary & Personnel
W-2 forms in the mail or sent via email
Paper copies of W-2 forms for 2020 will not be delivered to schools or other work locations. The city Office of Payroll Administration will mail paper W-2 forms to members or deliver them via email to those members who chose electronic delivery. The Office of Payroll Administration will mail the forms to the member address on file at NYCAPS. Employees who receive paper paychecks at an alternative address to the one on file will receive the W-2 forms at that alternative address. NYCAPS expected to mail W-2s in late January. All in-service employees may print duplicate copies using NYCAPS Employee Self Service (ESS). Please note: Employees may use their existing ESS accounts. Read the NYCAPS memo. If a member is having trouble accessing an account, the member may email NYCAPS at NYCAPSESSPASSWORD@schools.nyc.gov.
Income tax information for members
Eligible educators can deduct from their federal income taxes up to $250 of unreimbursed expenses from 2020 for books, supplies, computer equipment (including related software and services), other equipment and supplementary materials they use in the classroom. The educator expense deduction is an “adjustment to gross income” so you can use it whether you use the standard deduction or itemize on your tax return. Unionized employees may no longer deduct their union dues on federal tax returns following the overhaul of federal tax law in 2017. But thanks to UFT lobbying, union members in New York State can deduct the full amount from their state taxes if they itemize deductions.
Issues with Gmail and UFT emails
Members who use Gmail as their primary account for receiving UFT emails may need to designate the UFT as a “primary inbox sender.” Some of the UFT’s emails land in Gmail’s promotions inbox and, as a result, some members have missed important updates about the vaccine program and other topics. Members should frequently check their promotions inbox for UFT emails. To ensure prompt delivery of UFT email to your primary inbox, open the email and select where it says "Not Promotions" at the top of the email. This action will direct emails from that sender to your primary inbox. You may have to repeat this process if you receive emails from various UFT sender accounts.
Register for our Black History Month Film series
As we celebrate Black History Month in February, the UFT invites you to a virtual film screening and discussion on Thursdays at 4 p.m. You can register for a single film or for as many as you’d like. On Feb. 11, the film is The Mighty Times: The Children’s March, an Oscar-winning short film about the civil rights marches in Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1960s. On Feb. 25, we’ll watch The Black Lives Matter Movement, a documentary that chronicles the growth of this important civil rights movement. We’ll also watch the first part of LA ’92, archival footage of the 1992 Los Angeles riots and other incendiary moments in Los Angeles history. On March 4, we’ll finish watching LA ’92 and also view A Love Song for Latasha, an experimental film that imagines a narrative by Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old old Black teenager who was shot and killed in 1991. The 1992 riots were, in part, a response to the outrage over her killer’s sentence and treatment.
Chapter Leader Communities
Share ideas with fellow chapter leaders in your district and find answers to questions about union rights and benefits.