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Facing a year of opportunities

New York Teacher

UFT President Michael Mulgrew - Profile Headshot

Welcome back from what I hope was a restful and enjoyable summer vacation. As always, the UFT is here to help you succeed and achieve your goals in the classroom. We are committed to fighting for teachers to have professional input in the school decisions that affect them and their students. And we will call out the Department of Education when principals are allowed to run amok. Every New York City public school needs to be well-managed and have a respectful culture.

This year, we have an opportunity to push our agenda on all fronts. Fair funding tops the UFT list of priorities; it will be the centerpiece of our Albany lobbying. Ten years ago, parents won a landmark lawsuit known as the Campaign for Fiscal Equity after proving that the state was not meeting its constitutional obligation to provide a sound, basic education for all schoolchildren.

Today, Albany has yet to fulfill its obligations under the 2008 settlement of that case. New York City schools alone are still owed $1.6 billion. The CFE funds would help to reduce class size in our schools and improve services to our growing population of English language learners and students with disabilities. This October, parents, teachers, students and community leaders are coming together to walk from New York City to Albany to put pressure on state lawmakers to act.

I’m asking you to lend your voice to this fight. Together, we can secure the funding our students are owed. We know that when we band together we can achieve our goals.

We showed the power of collective action earlier this year when we made our voices heard in Albany. Once again, we stymied an education tax credit proposal that would have benefited billionaire donors to private schools at the expense of public schools. We also helped make the case for greater scrutiny of charter schools. In the past year, we saw increased news coverage and analysis of dubious charter school practices in enrollment and discipline. With your help, we will continue to press for tighter monitoring of charter schools and to cast a spotlight on the fiscal and other inequities that shortchange our students and their families.

Teaching is one of the hardest jobs there is, but when we support one another we can more easily achieve our classroom goals. In that spirit, I’d like to extend a special welcome to our new members.

The UFT in partnership with the Department of Education sponsored New Teacher Week in late August. UFT Teacher Center specialists led workshops on understanding and effectively using the Individualized Educational Program; engaging students in productive classroom discussions; using formative assessments to gauge student learning and guide instruction; and having a successful integrated co-teaching team. We will be offering workshops, support groups and valuable information to our new teachers throughout the school year because we know the challenges they face.

I encourage all new members to get to know your chapter leader, who can guide you through all that the UFT has to offer to help you succeed.

The UFT also will be vigilant on our members’ behalf when it comes to questionable education policies. In the coming school year, we will monitor the impact of the Department of Education’s dubious ban on suspensions for students in kindergarten through 2nd grade, which was announced in July. I expressed my concerns to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and will continue to push the city for more resources, training and support.

Let me close by reminding you of the importance of your involvement and your vote in what is one of the most consequential presidential elections of our time. The next president will likely determine the balance of power on the U.S. Supreme Court for years to come. As we discovered with the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association lawsuit, the court has the power to do grave damage to the labor movement and to civil rights we hold dear.

The UFT and the AFT are committed to electing Hillary Clinton president of the United States in November. Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric over the summer only cemented our resolve. The alternative is unacceptable for our children, our families, our schools and our nation.

I wish you a rewarding and productive school year! Remember that the UFT is always here to support you.