UFT President Michael Mulgrew informed delegates last Wednesday, February 24 that the UFT has a very, very strong case in our lawsuit to stop school closings. That was the main highlight of last week’s Delegate Assembly meeting. There was also a Department of Education Panel for Educational Policy meeting on 24th Street in Manhattan that same evening so I rushed up to attend and speak there.
Mulgrew’s lengthy report covered the teachers in Rhode Island who were all fired, our contract struggle, the “rubber rooms,” closing schools and more.
On the lawsuit to stop closing schools, it appears that Mulgrew is confident because clearly the DOE did not follow the process outlined in state law when they closed nineteen schools including Jamaica High School in January. He added that there was a major public reaction to our rally at the January 26 PEP meeting where all of the schools earmarked for closure were represented. He then said that the lawsuit will proceed with all legal vigor. As soon as we have any further information, we will bring it to you.
To show that the friendship between the UFT and the NAACP is solid, Mulgrew asked for a special order of business to allow an NAACP representative, Dr. Anna Lee Martin,( I think that was her name but I am sorry if I am wrong) to address the DA. She told us that if someone were chancellor for eight years and twenty of the schools he is responsible for are failing, then the chancellor should be unemployed. This was received by a rousing ovation from the Delegates. Dr. Martin also talked about the history of the strong bond between the two organizations.
Mulgrew told us that the DOE contract demands were leaked to reporters by the DOE and not the UFT. The demands are awful.
The President also informed us that Chancellor Joel Klein is purposely emphasizing the rubber room so he can get the state to change the law on teacher due process. Mulgrew then stated that we can try to fix this. He asked if there was approval for fixing the problem and he also said things would be much better if the DOE would just adhere to the law.
There was a resolution in support of the NAACP that passed unanimously, a Staff Directors’ Report followed by some questions. I stuck around to hear the new motions. One was passed for next months agenda saying that the UFT should be involved in any GED program changes. The annual motion to make May Day a national holiday was rejected as was a motion for next month to support the March 4 demonstration at the Governor’s midtown office and other actions to stop school closings. However, after this was voted down, Mulgrew emphasized that the UFT will be on board for the March 4 day of action in support of public education.
(UFT support or not, I will be out there on Thursday, March 4 at 4:00 p.m. after school at 40th Street and 3rd Avenue to protest school closings, charter invasions, the end of free metrocards for students and more. The more we show that we will not accept the closing of schools, the better chance we have of keeping this issue alive with the public. There are also City Council hearings Tuesday on school closings at City Hall where we should send representatives.)
After the new motion period ended, there were political endorsements that I didn’t really hear as I decided to rush to Chelsea to attend the PEP meeting and to try to get speaking time to talk about Jamaica High School. The agenda for the PEP revolved around charter schools being placed in public school buildings. I made it a little after 6:00 p.m. and the auditorium that seats well over 1,000 was packed with mostly charter school advocates. These people were well organized and enthusiastic as they praised their charter schools that were taking more space away from traditional public schools.
I do not understand how charter schools can be called public schools. They are selective as in general they take a lower percentage of special education and English Language Learners compared to public schools. To me this makes them basically private schools that use public funds. I will admit I was moved by their spirit but to hear stories about how selective some of these charters are and then hear about how public schools that teach everyone are so bad was unsettling. Any school that can select its students and then throw them out easily cannot be compared to traditional public schools. It’s not an apples to apples situation. We teach everyone.
I had to wait a long time to speak. I was able to take the mic at close to 10:30p.m. I told the Panel about “How the Other Half Lives” our lives at Jamaica High School where we are still starved of resources while we continue take in “Over the Counter” students even after we have been marked for closing. By that time the place was nearly empty as most of the elementary charter school pupils and their parents had gone home. Klein obviously supports the charters as their invasions into public schools were all accepted by the PEP. I left but it was reported to me that placing an Eagle Academy into IS 59 was rejected.