Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed a restful summer break, and you’re re-energized for the year ahead. As the new school year unfolds, we as a union, as always, have our eye on the challenges ahead. The most pressing for us are the mayor’s needless budget cuts that we fought against throughout the summer, a class-size bill that requires the governor’s signature to become law, and contract negotiations that we are eager to begin.
Even with these issues on the horizon, I feel more optimistic about this coming school year than I have at this moment in the previous two years because we have had to face these kinds of issues before and we know how to deal with them as a union. We are finally beginning a year without having to fight for basic health and safety protections and constantly wondering what is coming next in this pandemic.
We have protocols in place for COVID-19 that follow CDC guidelines, and we have learned over the last two years how to monitor the situation in schools to modify those protocols when the need arises. It gives me hope that we can spend this year focusing on the needs of our students and the other important topics that demand our attention.
Despite the valiant efforts of scores of UFT members, parents and advocacy groups in July and August, the new school year may start with the mayor’s school budget cuts in place. A lower court ’s ruling invalidating the city Department of Education budget on procedural grounds was placed on hold by the Appellate Division until it hears the city’s appeal. That court hearing has been pushed back until the end of September. It’s baffling that the mayor has dug in his heels about these needless cuts when the city has more federal and state aid than ever before. We will continue to support the lawsuit and prod this administration to overhaul the Fair Student Funding formula so our schools won’t suffer further damaging cuts as a result of this formula in the future.
Gov. Kathy Hochul recently signaled her support for the historic class-size bill that the State Legislature passed in June. If she signs it, the legislation would significantly decrease class sizes in New York City over five years. As educators, we know the tremendous impact that smaller class sizes would have on our school system. We continue to urge the governor to sign the bill.
The DOE-UFT contract expires on Sept. 13, and we need to enter negotiations with the city and the DOE for a new one. Under state law, the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement remain in effect until a new agreement is reached. We have done the groundwork to prepare for talks: We created a union negotiating committee of 500 members representing all chapters and divisions, and 32,000 members filled out our online contract survey. Your responses will be reflected in our bargaining strategy when talks begin.
If there is anything that we have proven over the last few years, it is that when we fight together as a union, we get things done.
We head into this school year with a renewed sense of purpose and vision for where we want to move our schools. Our worth to this city is immeasurable, and we are ready to make sure that we get what we need to keep our profession and our schools moving forward.
I look forward to working with you this year to achieve our common goals, and I wish you and your students a wonderful start to the new school year.