The March 25 DA had a marathon Randi Weingarten report that was followed by a political endorsement and a resolution on special education. That was it except for a few questions and the annual resolution for the Union to support May Day activities that, surprise-surprise, was turned down.
The only part of the DA that I found to be truly interesting was that Randi said that with the Contract expiring at the end of October, next month we would need to set aside time at the DA to discuss our aspirations in bargaining. Please attend that meeting folks.
Today, at Jamaica we discussed the next Contract briefly at our Chapter Meeting and everyone strongly agreed that it is time for us to get back what we gave away in 2005. We hope that every Chapter will be having discussions on the upcoming Contract.
Reading through the rest of this unabridged DA report is kind of like going through a junk shop. There is plenty you might want to ignore but occasionally you could find something that is valuable. Happy hunting.
It was quite difficult for me to stay awake at the March DA as I was thoroughly bored listening to the President's Report that lasted over an hour. Randi Weingarten started by thanking us for showing up 70,000 strong at the March 5 rally at City Hall and she noted the lack of major press coverage.
She then stated that many of our members were dissappointed with President Obama's education speech. She said, however, that the federal stimulus plan would put $100 billion of federal funds into education for the next two years and this was almost double the current federal education allocation. She then told us that Obama was getting hammered because of the trillion dollar deficits and that his education speech was much like his education platform in the campaign and that's why we originally supported Hillary Clinton. She added, however, that there was a great deal to applaud in the speech including his saying that we need to develop student critical thinking skills and that testing isn't everything. Obama also noted that schools neeed resources.
Randi then talked about how people concentrated on Obama's support for merit pay and lifting the cap on charter schools. She said that we had convinced Obama that education reform has to be done with teachers and not to teachers. She then talked about how we have to drive education funds into the classrooms.
She moved on to the state and told us how lobby day was important and how we must use our political clout. She urged members to keep going to UFT.org to send faxes to legislators. She told us about a potential new Tier V pension that the entire public sector labor movement was lobbying against but the newspapers would not run a UFT OpEd piece on our pension. Randi continued by saying our goal with the New York State budget is to make us whole, have tighter class size language and keep teacher centers. She concluded this section by predicting that we might actually have an on time state budget.
Randi then told us that after the budget is done, Mayoral control of the schools, which expires in June and must be renewed by the legislature, would be the next big issue. She noted Klein's popularity is down according to a recent poll.
She then praised Cathy Nolan and the hearings the State Assembly Education Committee is holding on school governance. She said the Committee was asking very tough questions to DOE officials and the Committee is as angry at the DOE as we are. Randi then talked about how it is ridiculous that we have to use the courts to force Klein to obey laws. She mentioned a lawsuit that was filed because the DOE is changing zoning rules without going to Community Education Councils.
Randi continued by talking about the UFT's "Principals in Need of Improvement" program which has been effective in MS 8 and PS 14. She told us that it helps when fighting a principal to have strong community involvement. She then stated that Eva Moskowitz is organizing against us in Harlem but we will engage the community.
She closed by saying the parents are as frustrated as we are so we are building the case for checks and balances in school governance and although we are not out of the woods yet, we are better off than most of the rest of the country.
UFT Secretary Mike Mendel then talked about how the DOE and DOT have violated the parking agreement. He said the situation is not acceptable for next year and there would have to be a new plan within two weeks.
This was followed by the District 31 representative talking about School Leadership Teams and Aminda Gentile speaking about reducing paper work.
Randi was then asked a question about layoffs and she answered that by law and contract, there is a system of last hired=first fired that must be protected. (Everyone who is saying that UFT leaders are preparing us for a massive layoff of senior teachers should believe Randi on this one. It's not going to happen.)
Contrast this to Randi's answer to the next question from Steve Hester who asked about healthcare. He stated that we have strong contractual language on healthcare in Article 3. He then asked why should we even negotiate on the issue? Randi's answer was that we rejected a Tier V pension for new hires and a 10% healthcare premium payment but in the seventies during the fiscal crisis, we didn't negotiate because we had a contract and it ended up causing a disprortionate share of teacher layoffs.
Translation and I hope I'm wrong: Watch out for healthcare cuts or some kind of increase in copays or GHI's basic plan not being free.
This was followed by Joan Heymont making the May Day resolution which is an annual DA motion that always fails and also allows a Unity person to rise and score some points with the leadership by opposing it. There was another
resolution on the Stella D'oro workers where Randi said that since it is already UFT policy to support them, we didn't need to have another resolution.
Finally, it was time to go but Randi extended so we could endorse Reuben Diaz Jr. for Bronx Borough President and then Carmen Alvarez gave a presentation on the UFT joining the ARISE coalition to support special education. This carried unanimously.