The UFT championed its Five-Point Recovery Plan for New York City public schools during negotiations over the city budget due on June 30, advocating for federal COVID-19 relief funds to be used to help public school students recover from the pandemic.
In early May, the union launched its #OurKidsNeed campaign to press its allies on the City Council and the mayor to earmark money in the final city budget to accomplish the remaining — and most important pieces — of its plan: smaller class sizes and intervention teams in every school.
“Many of our students will return in September with academic losses and social-emotional scars from this pandemic,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “We need to do everything we can to make sure our students get the support they need.”
The city has received a $1.3 billion increase in school aid from the state and $6.9 billion in federal funding for education, which it can use over the next three school years.
“We want the city, state and federal funds spent wisely and in a way that our students and educators feel in the classroom on Day One,” Mulgrew said.
The union achieved the other three elements of its plan: trauma training and support groups for its members, college and career prep for high schoolers, and extended summer learning programs.
The UFT is also seeking city funding for its regular education initiatives: Teacher’s Choice, the UFT Teacher Center, the United Community Schools program, the Positive Learning Collaborative, the Dial-A-Teacher homework help program and the BRAVE anti-bullying hotline.
“It’s about investing in our students, it’s about investing in their needs,” explained Virginia Niles, a teacher from PS 157 in the Bronx who spoke about the UFT Teacher Center at the UFT’s May 17 virtual legislative reception, which gathered city lawmakers on Zoom to hear from UFT members and staff about the union’s priorities.
The UFT operates 115 Teacher Centers in schools in all five boroughs, providing professional development and support to educators. The program was crucial in supporting educators throughout the remote learning era.
“We cannot help students if we’re not helping ourselves first,” Niles said.
Maria Cruz, who also teaches at PS 157, spoke at the legislative reception about how the challenges students face at home can follow them into the classroom. “I have a little girl who comes in late at 10:30 in the morning every single day,” she said. “She’s 9 years old and has to take care of a newborn.”
Mulgrew told the City Council members at the reception that students need the city’s help.
“We know we have a lot of children who have been damaged by this pandemic,” he said. “We’re asking you to help us by getting our kids what they need.”
For the first time in decades, we have the federal funding to make meaningful, lasting changes — for our schools and students. We have already accomplished much of our Five-Point Recovery Plan, but we still need the mayor and the City Council to earmark funding in the city budget for the most important pieces — smaller class sizes and intervention teams in every school.
Let’s come together as a union to support the cause and spread the word. No one knows better than us what #OurKidsNeed. When you sign up, we’ll suggest things you can do on social media and other actions you can take to make our goals a reality.