UFT President Michael Mulgrew told delegates on June 10 at the last Delegate Assembly of the school year that there is no end in sight to attacks intended to undermine public education both in New York State and around the country.
But he said that even as the UFT continues to combat these attacks, the union must also recognize the great work that members do in New York City public schools every day.
“I want to celebrate our schools,” Mulgrew said. “I want everyone to know what goes on inside our schools.”
He said that in the 2015–16 school year the union should work with parents’ groups to increase public awareness of the achievements that UFT members have made possible in New York City public schools, progress that he said is all the more remarkable in light of the more than two decades of attacks by former mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani.
Hedge fund managers and others in the charter school and privatization movement will go on trying to convince the public that the city’s schools are failing, Mulgrew said. The UFT must continue to counter this message with the facts, he said.
“We are the largest and most diverse school system in the entire country with the largest number of challenging students, and we do a damn good job,” Mulgrew said. “It really is about the respect, the passion and the dignity that you can find in every school in New York City and that we the members of the UFT bring to our children every day.”
Mulgrew cautioned that no matter what happens in the current New York State legislative session, which was slated to end in mid-June, the UFT will undoubtedly have to continue its fight in the coming school year against the toxic education agenda of Gov. Cuomo and others who are “trying to privatize and destabilize public education.”
Still, he said, the union’s work over the years has put New York in better stead than some other states where lawmakers are slashing public school funding, laying off thousands of educators and greatly increasing the amounts that teachers must pay for their health care and pensions.
In states including Michigan, Illinois and Alaska, he noted, the long-term strategy of the Tea Party movement was to implement tax cuts that are now forcing revenue-starved states to make huge spending reductions even as the economy improves.
In this environment of attacks on public education and unions around the country, Mulgrew said that he and other members of the executive committee of the American Federation of Teachers have begun to interview candidates running for U.S. president in 2016.
All candidates have been invited for the interviews, he said. Most of the Republicans have not responded to the invitations, but all of the Democratic hopefuls have come in for interviews, he said.
Mulgrew said the UFT’s priorities for next school year will include a continued focus on implementing the 2014 contract with the Department of Education to enhance the voice of members and to keep moving the city’s schools forward.
In addition, the UFT is working to strengthen its school chapters. Noting the chapter elections in schools, Mulgrew thanked all the chapter leaders in attendance who will not be returning in September for their work on behalf of their members and the union.