Posts from Sarah Darville
April 5, 2013
Even as many unions nationwide are struggling to retain their clout, the United Federation of Teachers is still flexing considerable muscle in New York City. But with a teacher evaluation deal still up in the air and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s last months in office approaching, the teachers union is nonetheless at a crossroads.
Just how much the current moment translates into change for the UFT will not be clear for years. Other turning points in UFT history have been more obvious. Here are a few:
1960: The UFT is born out of rival factions
The Teachers Guild, a group made up primarily of older teachers, and the more confrontational High School Teachers Association merged in 1960 to create the UFT. Relations between the two groups, which were not the only unions representing city teachers, had thawed after members picketed together the previous year. The UFT’s future hegemony was not at all obvious then, as the union didn’t have collective bargaining power until December 1961 and the Teachers Guild didn’t dissolve until 1964. The UFT would play a crucial role in the education upheaval later that decade, including the 1968 teachers strike precipitated by the firing of teachers in Ocean Hill-Brownsville.
1968: Teachers strike for months (more…)
March 13, 2013
Every two weeks, $49.89 is taken out of teachers’ paychecks as UFT dues. Depending on their jobs, other members of the UFT contribute different amounts, ranging from $24.95 for paraprofessionals to $51.08 for psychologists and social workers. For all union members, dues are a flat fee determined by position, not a percentage of their salary.
The union doesn’t spend all of its money every year, or immediately, of course. But because member dues and fees are spent on all facets of the union’s operation, it’s reasonable to track dues to spending. If we did that for the union’s total spending for the 2011-2012 fiscal year ($166,528,712), this is how a teacher’s (then-lower, $49.39) dues payment would have been divided up:
(Scroll over the chart for details and look below the jump for even more information.)
March 5, 2013
It’s been nearly three years since Michael Mulgrew was elected to his first full term at the helm of the United Federation of Teachers, which means election season has arrived for the city’s teachers union.
As would-be candidates work to meet Wednesday’s deadline to collect the signatures they need to get on the ballots in April, we’ll be keeping you up to date on Mulgrew’s re-election bid and about what to expect from the changing union landscape.
What is clear is that there won’t be much suspense in the race for UFT president, as Mulgrew will almost certainly coast to a second full term. He’s backed by the union’s longtime dominant party, Unity, whose presidential candidate typically wins by a landslide. Three years ago, Mulgrew received 91 percent of the vote.
The unified support that the union’s leadership typically receives is one of many ways that the union has remained powerful in the face of threats. In other ways, too, the elections are about more than Mulgrew. There will be hundreds of positions on the ballot, including 90 executive board positions and delegates to the national and state unions, many with significant ability to impact decision-making. The vote totals also offer an opportunity to gauge dissent within the union — and this year, the dissenters are working hard to harness their power. (more…)
December 13, 2012
One billion dollars of the city’s teacher pension fund will be used to finance construction and repair projects for city roads, bridges, and homes, President Bill Clinton and other officials announced Thursday.
Clinton joined UFT President Michael Mulgrew, AFT President Randi Weingarten, City Comptroller John Liu, and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan to announce the pledge, which Clinton called “a remarkable commitment” to “properly rebuild in the aftermath of Sandy.”
“This storm exposed weaknesses in our infrastructure that must not only be repaired, but we must rebuild in a different way,” said Donovan, who is now in charge of federal Sandy recovery efforts.
This will be the first time the city’s teacher pension funds are used for infrastructure projects, Liu said, even though the idea has been around for years.
“There’s always been apprehension about, is it going to work, is it potentially a vicious circle? So what I’ve seen is everybody is waiting for somebody else to do it, and therefore nobody does it. I’m very proud that, in this case, New York City is taking the lead,” Liu said after the announcement. (more…)
August 12, 2011
The radical “restart” plans for 14 struggling schools seem likely to get off to a slow start.
In exchange for millions of dollars in federal School Improvement Grants, the city announced this week that it would turn over the reins of 14 schools to nonprofit Education Partnership Organizations. But with the start of the school year just weeks away, those groups say that much of their first year will be spent assessing needs and adding support, not making drastic changes.
“Whenever you’re in a position of partnering, you’re always balancing the need of that sense of urgency with the idea that there is a certain risk or downside to, say, overhauling the master schedule two weeks before school starts,” said Doug Elmer, the director of Diplomas Now, which will manage Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn and Newtown High School in Queens.
The nonprofits put in their bids to take over schools — where they’ll control everything from curriculum to hiring to budgeting — in May. But after a delay while the city and teachers union hammered out a deal over teacher evaluations in the struggling schools, the groups learned only in the last two weeks that the city wanted them to become EPOs. And they found only just this week which schools they would take over. The city had asked the schools and organizations to rank each other, then paired them off.
“It was a little bit of a flurry,” said Sheepshead Bay Principal Reesa Levy of the matching process. But she said she was excited to work with Diplomas Now. ”We’re actually thrilled. I think maybe this will give us that extra push.”
The federal government has promised up to $2 million a year for three years for the restart schools. (more…)
August 10, 2011
Public schools located in former Catholic school buildings will have to find another place to teach newly required sex education.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott surprised principals last night with the news that sex education will be mandatory in middle and high schools starting this year—a decision the New York Civil Liberties Union called “a great step forward for students’ health.”
For schools that operate in space leased from the Archdiocese of New York, the new requirement could induce a scheduling headache. A Department of Education spokeswoman, Barbara Morgan, confirmed that those schools would have to conduct the sex education lessons off-site in accordance with the archdiocese’s longstanding policy prohibiting sex education in space that it owns.
As Catholic schools have lost students in recent years, the archdiocese has closed dozens of schools, including 27 this year. The city has then rented some of those buildings to relieve its own space crunch. Last year, when the city decided to rent the former Saint Michael’s Academy to house the Clinton School for Artists and Writers, it noted that students would have to return to the school’s previous site for sex education.
Fran Davies, education spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said today that church officials were still researching the issue.
Most public schools housed in rented former Catholic school space are elementary schools, which are not affected by the new requirement. But at least a few middle and high schools, like West Brooklyn Community High School and El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice in Williamsburg, will have to make other plans if they haven’t already. (more…)
August 5, 2011
More than 50 schools have signed up for a new matchmaking program to help them pool positions.
The Department of Education has created a centralized process for principals looking to share teachers with another school —having a teacher work a few days a week at one school, and the rest of the week at another. In a notice to principals, the city said sharing teachers “may be a particularly efficient way to provide arts instruction.”
In the process’s first month, 38 schools have indicated interest in gaining a shared teacher. Eighteen of the schools are looking for an art, music, or dance teacher. Another 28 schools have indicated that they have someone to share, including nine arts teachers, according to DOE spokeswoman Barbara Morgan.
It’s a positive step toward providing more students with access to the arts, according to Richard Kessler, director of the nonprofit Center for Arts Education. But he’s not convinced principals have the support they need to share teachers effectively.
Splitting teacher schedules presents a logistical challenge for the principals who pay their salaries and teachers who might have to travel. Kessler said those logistical difficulties are one reason why the practice has become rare after being relatively common in the 1980s.
“The majority of principals just don’t know how you share faculty from school to school,” Kessler said, adding that he did not know of any schools currently sharing arts teachers. “There was a reason why it disappeared — it gets tricky traveling from one school to another. But in tough times, this is certainly better than nothing.” (more…)
August 4, 2011
Clemente Lopes is trying to keep his head above water.
As the principal of I.S. 10 in Long Island City for the last six years, Lopes is now in a situation familiar to principals across the city: trying to increase scores with fewer teachers, less money, and more students.
“As budget cuts increase and I have to make my classrooms bigger, I’m not so sure how my scores are going to reflect all those cuts,” Lopes said. “It’s getting to the point when I’m running out of options.”
Since the 2005-2006 school year, he’s eliminated 11 positions, even though he’s gone from a low of 849 students in the 2006-2007 school year to 957 students last year.
Facing the third straight year of citywide budget cuts, I.S. 10′s budget for this coming year is $6.49 million, down from a peak of $7.26 million for the 2008-2009 school year.
Lopes’ solutions to the budget crunch have been common ones: cutting instructional coaches, deans, after-school activities, tutoring, and textbook purchases. Now he’s worried that the trimming will cut into academic performance, too. (more…)
July 28, 2011
Schools are still waiting for the results of state ELA and math tests, exactly one year after the 2010 scores were announced.
The July 26 Principals’ Weekly newsletter said that the state had “postponed the release” of the grade 3-8 scores, though the New York State Education Department said today that results were right around the corner.
“The release this year is imminent and will be announced shortly,” NYSED spokesman Tom Dunn said.
The Principals’ Weekly item told principals that after the scores are released, they will need to send “July promotion update letters” to students who had been held back, and to students who failed the tests but had been promoted to the next grade on the expectation that they would pass.
Now, it looks like those July updates may not come until August.
Clemente Lopes, principal of Horace Greeley Middle School in Long Island City, said that he was anxious to see his school’s scores—for planning, but also out of curiosity.
“I’d like to see how my students perform. I’m like a parent—I want to know how my kids did,” he said. (more…)
July 28, 2011
James Horan is used to being creative, after spending years teaching physical education at an elementary school without a gym or outdoor space of its own.
Now, like many other city teachers, he’s going to need to use that creativity to find another position.
Horan was recently excessed after teaching for four and a half years at PS 68 in Ridgewood, Queens. Even though the school’s population has been shrinking for years, Horan thought his job was safe because it wasn’t included in the list of projected layoffs that the city circulated in February.
When layoffs were averted, he joined the cheers — only to be told one month later that budget reductions made his position too expensive for the school to maintain. The city has not yet released details about how many teachers shared Horan’s fate this year, but after three straight years of cuts, the number is sure to be significant. Principals eliminated nearly 2,000 positions last year.
“I just find it very frustrating,” Horan said. “Now that I’m excessed, it’s just very unexpected. Until June, everything’s great. I would have planned differently.”
Horan came to PS 68 as a first-year teacher in the spring of 2007, teaching 30 to 50 students at a time in an empty classroom that served as the school’s gym. The school hadn’t offered physical education in at least three years, he said, and he bought the program’s only supplies himself using Teacher’s Choice funds. (Those funds were also eliminated this year.) (more…)