Basically, the UFT argument is that we are adhering to the law so we have no choice but to give up three vacation days. A very close look at the situation still reveals that there is some wiggle room that could have been used but was not.
The original calendar had us working 184 days. Subtract the 4 we were off for Sandy and we are still working the 180 required by state law. (I understand that some schools missed more than four working days but we are talking about the majority of the system.)
The problem is that there are not enough instructional days in that 180. The state only allows four conference days as part of the 180. We have already used all four up. There were the two in September before the kids came in, Election Day and Friday, November 2. That is the day the city made us come back to school after the storm but the kids stayed home. We did a great deal of orientation on that day which is allowable according to the state.
If the two remaining conference days (January 28 and June 6) are switched to teaching days, we would pretty much be in compliance with the state regulations. We would have 180 days with four used as conference days.
Don't let anyone tell you that Regents days and rating day don't count as State aidable. Here is what the state says:
Regents examination days, including rating days, count toward fulfilling the 180 required days of instruction, but schools need not take attendance on such days."
The city can still make the argument that the first day when we come back in September should not be an aidable day because we were preparing our rooms and there was only some professional development. I would contend that it should be counted as a conference day since much of the time was spent listening to the rules such as, "There will be no corporal punishment or verbal abuse," and we also did a great deal of professional development. That seems like an orientation to me.
If we concede on the first day, which I would not, then we would have to make up one day. There is precedent for us working on a legal holiday. Recall that in 1993 we missed a week because of the asbestos crisis. November 11, a legal holiday, fell on a Thursday that year. We taught that day. Would we rather work on MLK Day or Memorial Day than lose most of the mid-winter break?
Even if we take the worst case scenario for most of us, which I would not, and agree that we came to work for nothing on November 2 and September 4, it is still only two days that have to be made up, not three.
As for the hyper-compliance with the law that the UFT is now citing as the reason we must shorten the midwinter break, it doesn't hold up. Let's look at what the Commissioner's Regulations say concerning aidable days after the Regents: "Session days should not be scheduled after the June Regents examination period." The original NYC calendar has three days on it, June 26, 27 and 28, where schools are in session after the Regents are done. I guess our contract is out of compliance. Or, perhaps there is some flexibility here and something called the spirit of the law.
The point of all of this is to say that there could have been negotiations and the calendar could have been altered to preserve vacations, that teachers and students need to recharge, while still providing adequate instructional time. It could have been worked out if we were dealing with reasonable people. I blame the UFT leaders for not consulting with us before they agreed to something but the main culprits here are the City/DOE who as usual showed complete contempt for both teachers and students.
Since I am trying to be fair in the spirit of the holiday, I will add that the only part the DOE got right in this entire mess was allowing us not to lose sick bank time when people could not get to work after the storm. Does that make up for the rest of this?
The union's Q and A is printed below in its entirety so our leaders can have the last word.