UFT President Michael Mulgrew made the case for more funding for school programs that directly aid students in budget testimony on March 20 before the City Council Education Committee. At the same time, he asked the Council members to make sure state funds are not derailed or swallowed up by the city’s education bureaucracy.
“Everything we advocate for goes to schools, students and teachers,” he said.
He asked the City Council to push the de Blasio administration to baseline funds for Teacher’s Choice in the city budget this year at the same level as last year ($20 million). Teacher’s Choice should not be a special allocation by the City Council, he said, because teachers depend on those funds to buy school supplies to enhance learning.
The union is also seeking city funding for United Community Schools ($4 million), the Positive Learning Collaborative ($1.5 million), the anti-bullying program BRAVE ($286,400) and Dial-A-Teacher ($68,800).
All those programs have a direct impact on students, Mulgrew told committee members.
Mulgrew praised Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza but lambasted the “Land of Tweed” — the bureaucracy at the city Department of Education — where he said a “self-serving culture” drags its feet and fails to put students first.
“We do not feel there is urgency within that agency to get things done for our schools,” Mulgrew told the committee. “Help us move that bureaucracy.”
Mulgrew told the Council that the violent incidents that can lead to suspensions have fallen 54 percent among the six schools that joined the Positive Learning Collaborative in its inaugural year in September 2012. The program, now in 25 schools, provides staff with strategies to respond to and head off challenging student behavior. “It’s about having the entire school trained to create a positive environment,” he said.
The UFT’s 31 United Community Schools (formerly called Community Learning Schools) help stabilize families by providing everything from financial literacy programs to food aid. The BRAVE hotline, he said, helps students who are bullied in school; social workers and psychologists are available for these students and their parents. Dial-A-Teacher, staffed by 40 teachers, answers homework questions in nine languages from students and their parents.
About 25 student members of the Urban Youth Collaborative, a nonprofit youth organization that seeks to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, wore bright green T-shirts that read “Counselors Not Cops.” They stood and snapped their fingers in approval during an exchange between Mulgrew and Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger, a former New York City teacher, about the need for more school psychologists, social workers and counselors.
Mulgrew lamented that the UFT has to ask for these vital support staff — or pay for them out of union funds — while the DOE hires consultants to study the problems.
Treyger thanked Mulgrew and the UFT “for keeping the kids front and center.”