With the new administration in Washington, D.C., it’s more important than ever that our public schools and the students we teach have strong supporters.
Many of our immigrant students and their families are now fearful of deportation. Our transgender students may be more vulnerable to bullying after Trump revoked Obama’s rules on bathrooms. And any day now, we expect the White House to unveil a private-school voucher scheme that will siphon precious resources from public schools.
Mayor Bill de Blasio stands as an important bulwark against these damaging policies.
After enduring 20 years of Republican mayors who were intent on undermining public schools, we now have a mayor who is their champion.
Right out of the gate, de Blasio was single-minded in his drive to implement universal full-day prekindergarten in New York City. His success means every child entering kindergarten in the city now has a solid learning foundation.
When de Blasio appointed veteran educator Carmen Fariña as chancellor, it marked a break from a tradition of appointing people better suited to running a business than a large urban school district.
Fariña has steered the school system away from its previous relentless focus on testing and test prep. She has brought back the joy of learning by restoring funding for the arts and school libraries. And she has focused new attention on early literacy.
The new approach shows what public schools can accomplish when they are supported. Today, the New York City graduation rate is at an all-time high and the dropout rate is at an all-time low.
For all these reasons, UFT delegates voted in February to support de Blasio for re-election in November.
The union’s endorsement doesn’t mean we will always agree with the mayor. There will continue to be times when we wrangle over what policy or approach works best. But we start these discussions from a common premise: Public schools that educate all students form the bedrock of our democracy, and public school educators deserve respect and a voice in the decisions that affect them.