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President's Perspective

A contract for education

New York Teacher

Michael Mulgrew Headshot 07-19

Michael Mulgrew, UFT President


Our union’s Delegate Assembly on May 7 voted overwhelmingly — by a 90 percent margin — to send our new proposed contract to the general membership for a ratification vote. We are now one step closer to having our first contract after five long years.

The contract on which you will vote is a contract for educators but, of equal importance, it is a contract for education that will benefit not only us but also the students, schools and communities we serve.

The new agreement will restore dignity and respect to our profession, improve our working conditions and secure the retroactive pay we are now owed while at the same time ensuring that our schools and students receive the supports that they need to succeed.

It is truly a landmark agreement.

We could not have won this contract under our previous mayor. Any agreement with him would have been toxic. He was dead set on destroying our union and the public school system as we know it, and you should be immensely proud to have stopped him.

Since we knew we could not negotiate with him, we took a different approach: We fought him and his misguided policies tooth-and-nail, employing every legal, political and grassroots tactic available to us. And we made a pivotal decision that has benefited us immensely: We turned to the community, strengthening our relationships with parents and other education advocates and community members and enlisting them in our fight.

Working hand in hand with our allies, we fought to push back against the Bloomberg administration’s “reforms,” but also to put forward a new and innovative vision for our schools. It was a long-term struggle, but we and our partners have over the last five years transformed the debate over education in our city. Our new contract is the product of that fight.

The tide has turned against the education “reformers” and the wrongheaded ideas they push. Those ideas are old and stale; they have been rejected time and time again by New York City’s teachers, parents and the general public alike. The election of Mayor de Blasio was the final refutation.

Lawyers and consultants will no longer be in the driver’s seat. Instead, it will be us: educators committed to changing public education for the better. We aren’t “reformers” — we are innovators, and the contract we have negotiated is full of innovative ideas that will help improve our schools.

The teacher leadership positions we have negotiated will encourage mentoring and the sharing of lessons not just within school buildings but between them, while the PROSE program will grant select schools more flexibility in how they operate in order to allow them to better serve their students and school communities.

Our critics in the media and at organizations like StudentsFirst claim that Mayor de Blasio has “given away the store.” The truth is that the mayor sees teachers as part of the solution to the challenges facing our public schools and recognizes the hard work that we do every day in our classrooms. That’s why he agreed to full retroactivity in our contract — to compensate us for the hard work that we did during five years without a raise.

We agreed that the money can be paid over time because the city did not have the funds to pay it all at once. Had we demanded our retro pay immediately, we would have had to accept many zeroes after the two 4 percent raises from 2009 and 2010. Instead we reached an agreement that provides for full retro pay for both in-service and retired members owed money, raises totaling 18 percent — before compounding — over the life of the contract and no givebacks.

The contract before you is a contract for education. It is a contract for innovation. And it is a contract for success that will transform our school system.

As always, I thank you for your support and patience and for all that you do for our city’s schools and children.

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