I am actually on the call early this month. We are being treated to some upbeat piano music.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew began his report by wishing all a happy new year. He said hopefully 2021 can be a better year than 2020. A lot going on.
Super crazy national government:
Second vote going on to impeach president. Was in schools. Tough to explain to students. We've never had media coverage where students can see what's happening in real time at all times. On top of the pandemic, we are trying to guide our students through this insanity at the national level. No support from the NYC Department of Ed. It is insane on what is happeniing in our country. Our focus from DC is vaccine and funding. Betsy DeVos quit so yeah. She will go down in history that she tried to take away equity, privatize and help vulture lenders. She tried to do everything in what we are against. She will go down as the worst Secretary of Education. Cardona is an improvement. He is a life-long educator. We applaud Biden for putting him in as Secretary of Education.
NY should get over $4 billion. NYC should get over $2.4 billion because of Title 1. Governor took over $1 billion from first stimulus and diverted it. They will be looking to us to fix some of the harm done by the pandemic. It is more than learning loss. If state supplants money coming from the federal government, we won't be able to help kids. Prioritization of children needs to be there. The fiscal year for city ends on June 30. Biden wants a stimulus and an infrastructure project. We want every school in NYC to be a carbon-free building. We will push aggressively for this. We want school buildings retrofitted.
Vaccines: State adapting federal guidelines. 5.1 million in NYS goes to 16.4 million people eligible to receive the vaccine in NYS with 1B. Federal releasing reserves of vaccines. Vaccine should lead to herd immunity. Vaccines will be released in two weeks. Pool of people eligible expanded but we still have a limited supply of vaccines. NYS has 300,000 vaccines. Governor said for unions to set up their own apparatus. Thank God we did it. Biden will get it out faster than two weeks. Some large healthcare systems running out of vaccines. What federal government did was very bad. They tripled the number of people eligible while not increasing the supply. Title I could be tripled.
We put $1.2 million into the Georgia runoff. We are pleased with the results helping our agenda. Damage to our country is huge from what is going on in DC. We should get a third stimulus from federal government.
Governor claims $63 billion deficit over three years. It is probably closer to $30 billion. In 2007-08, we had $700 million deficit. We were only large union that didn't get a layoff. Many layoffs in state in 2008-09. $9-10 billion deficits now. Safety Livelihood and profession throughout the pandemic. The biggest challenge is protecting our livelihoods. State will want to take money earmarked for education and supplant it. Next federal stimulus should cover city and state governments but it won't cover the deficit. We will push heavily on a revenue package. Assembly and Senate can override vetos. Governor has said nothing about education. Taxing the ultra-wealthy should be on the table. Rich people buying condos should not get tax breaks. Federal money should be add ons and not supplanted.
New State Ed Commissioner is Betty Rosa. We have worked well with her. Lester Young new Chancellor of the Board of Regents is a NYC educator. When was the last time we had an educator as chancellor in NYC, NYS, SED and DC? If state receives extra vaccines, it is going to local Departments of healths. City stockpiling vaccine and not getting it out. State outside of NYC getting out 74% of vaccines. NYC has only distributed 52% of vaccines it has received. We will see where this goes. With a major shortage of vaccines, we will see where this goes. If they continue to keep vaccines in storage, we will get angry. We need to get 65% to 70% vaccinated to get to herd immunity. With the expansion of who is eligible, we expect shortages. Biden will invoke the Defense Production Act to make pharmaceutical companies produce much more vaccine. Happy some are getting it now but we will see how this plays out. Members calling and emailing Mulgrew. He is advising to try every avenue. School nurses getting vaccines. Continue working with our partners. There is going to be a big scrum over vaccines. We are trying to communicate that clearly. We have a long way to go on the vaccines.
Schools staying open:
When the state came out with regulations, the state said districts had to negotiate a plan with unions. That's what we did in August. In September, state said counties could change their plan as long as it complies with state minimum standards. They could change but it is a health emergency just as making us work during spring break which we will be fighting in arbitration was a health emergency. State agreed that we had to have more testing. City positivity rate is not measured the same way the rest of the country measures. 9% was state requirement to close schools. Governor changed that. School district can remain open as long as they have a positivity rate below the area which they always will since people can't go to work if sick. We objected to the governor. Schools are very safe with our testing program. If by state numbers positivity rate goes to 9%, we have to go to war. It's just going to be what it is at this point. Doctors telling us schools are the safest place in the community. Yes, there is new information but they can't keep changing the rules. It has a detrimental effect. City number kept getting higher when the mayor was trying to get the governor to do some things. The city number is coming down. City number never counted. It has always been the state number.
If you hear that schools are closing, that's a positive thing. 271 schools closed today. Our program was so that virus wouldn't spread in schools. Masks, social distancing, ventilation and cleaning all help but if there is any evidence that there is COVID in a school, it shuts down. Our testing system is successful. If we had our testing system set up around the country, it would be much better. Christmas Eve was a disaster when contact tracers sent out results when schools were closed. City said they want to let people go early because it was Christmas Eve. Closing schools stops it from spreading in schools. Random testing getting better but still has issues. Random lists for each school are generated by DOE. Leave it to DOE, that's not good. Now testing more children. When 2/3 of those tested are adults, it's not random. More students than adults now being tested. We prioritized those working in schools for vaccines. The city made the same decision but they put nothing in place to put that into play.
We have to have an evaluation system done by this month but we are getting nowhere with the DOE. People with the DOE we are negotiating with are in la-la land. We need a scientifically tested system to work with. DOE asking for ridiculous things. Our committee has met. There has to be a MOSL. We have to figure that out.
Chapter leaders have done a great job Almost 1700 filed. over 1,000 resolved. We are checking on them. ICT overburdening of teachers is a problem. Compensation is tied to almost all of the resolutions. We are not closing them until the chapter leader approves of the stipulation.
We have to work with the next City Council for next four years. Have people working on endorsements in every city council district. Districts do not align with school districts. Doing town halls with mayoral candidates. We probably will make an endorsement. It's too important not to make an endorsement. We need to know educational policy. Some Bloomberg associates are running. We are watching hedge funds.
Over 500 at chapter leader training. Thanks them for being chapter leader. This is the hardest time to ever be a chapter leader at the UFT. We are not the DOE if we have issues with computers. Thousands registered for one course but we had a computer problem. We will make sure people will get into courses. The elementary town hall, we didn't know 3,000 people wanted to attend. We have called Zoom to get more people in.
We Feed NYC, we are helping. Everyone distributing food right now is facing some major shortages. In a four week period, we were able to raise a little money. We delivered over 20,000 meals to organizations distributing food. A restaurant owner thanked us for giving him the ability to distribute food. You can donate to We Feed NYC.
Optical form of the UFT, Jeff Sorkin at UFT Welfare Fund went to an organization to go online. Email will come on that. We have gone paperless on optical.
Staff Director's Report:
Leroy Barr wishes a happy new year and notes there are over 2,000 on call. He then announces some upcoming dates of union activities including Black Lives Matter Week of Action lessons.
Question: D1 CL, Happy about efforts UFT has made on vaccine. Is UFT trying to rush vaccines so schools will open?
Mulgrew answer: First of all it is safety. Goal from March 5 on was to get schools closed and this is the only way through the pandemic. No other large school system open. Chicago opened on Monday. Emails are off the charts. At the last town hall, I said it's up to state to mandate the vaccine. Members are now emailing saying teachers should have to get vaccine to get back to school. In October, some wanted schools open, some wanted them schools. We are a union. There are always going to be differences. There has been so much craziness in the country the last two weeks. Mulgrew afraid on how these vaccines will be doled out. No conversations with NYC on opening schools. When we get to stage 1C, it will be almost everyone. Schools already being used to distribute vaccines. We know politically that people try to create wedge issues. We're smarter than that. We're all at the same anxiety level. We have a reputation as a large, powerful, responsible union. We have access to the thing that gets us through this. Some want people to be mandated to get vaccine. Internal stuff splits organizations. Mulgrew appreciates that question.
Question: Student participation uniformly low. The administration is telling us to pass kids who don't deserve it.
Answer: Law says our professional judgment can't be changed as long as we can back it up. We keep asking DOE to get kids who aren't engaged. All of you can talk about it. UFT asked the DOE to put an outside the school (district and citywide) program and the DOE refused to do it. State law says as long as you can back up why you gave a student a particular grade, nobody can touch it.
Question: Update on retirement incentive? Will it help people with 20 years of service?
Answer: City unions (non-uniform) working on this. State will not give incentive to people who can retire in 20 years. It is one of our priorities. UFT goal to get as many as possible to be eligible. We have many new subs. The city knows this saves them money.
Question: Overzealous AP. Can they do observation now for any evaluation later?
Answer: No. DOE polices nothing. They put out stuff and when it is not done, they don't do anything to fix it.
Question: How can the situation room be improved so there are no gaps and people are infected and nobody knows?
Answer: Testing results coming back better. We are supposed to get test results within two days, they are now doing it within 4 days. Tell district representative. Priority is to get back positives quickly. Goal to monitor to keep schools safe. They are not DOE folks. We also want people to know that the process works. When people don't know results, it leads to anxiety and fear. Get information to district reps, we will get results.
Question: Any sense of when will middle schools and high schools be returning?
Answer: No. Using large high schools for vaccine distribution. DOE does not have the capacity to do the testing so they can't open up. Just because you take the vaccine, we don't know if you can spread it still. Still need a mask. If we ever get to that, we will need time. We should be open by September. We could open before then.
Question: Gifted and talented and specialized high schools?
Answer: We want a gifted and talented program but we should not start testing before third grade. We did not get a heads up on the specialized high schools. DOE has told us they will send out new guidance for the specialized high school exam which should be given in two weeks. We need a plan that works inside of the pandemic. We think every school should have a gifted and talented program. There should be a multiple measure test put in place.
Question: Someone gets a first vaccine but not a second, what happens?
Answer: You have to start over. Scheduled to go where you got the first shot. We agreed with the state and city that we can't go through that. Working with MLC. We got release time. DOE tried to reinterpret that. Michael Sill worked on that.
Question: I missed one on a specific school in the Bronx.
Question: Teacher remote, saying school not cleaned. What is the policy on daily cleaning?
Answer: Tell the UFT. Did a walkthrough of MLK HS campus. Custodian thankful we got involved. We will take care of it. Tell district rep. We will take care of it.
New Motion Period:
Resolution to honor Stacey Abrams and voters of Georgia. She lost election for governor but worked on organizing. Let's honor them for flipping Georgia from red to blue. Nobody spoke against putting this on next month's agenda. 89% voted in favor-11% no.
Resolution for next month to condemn President Trump.
RESOLVED that the United Federation of Teachers stands to protect the democratic process that President Trump and his followers are determined to undermine; and be it further
RESOLVED that the UFT condemns the actions of President Trump and the rioters as acts of domestic terrorism; and be it further
RESOLVED that as a result of these actions, Donald Trump is unfit to continue acting as our nation’s President and therefore should be removed from office immediately.
Motivator went over all of what Trump did last week and then what happened with the riots in DC. Nobody spoke against but someone had an objection to one of the resolved clauses being moot since Trump will be gone next week. 75% voted yes-25% voted no.
Special Orders of Business:
20 candidate endorsements for the city council.
8 new people
1 endorsement for Borough President Donavan Richards (Queens)
(I couldn't keep up with all of the names as they were read for City Council.)
Update with names:
RESOLVED, that the UFT endorses Jenny Low, Carlina Rivera, Keith Powers, Gale Brewer, Diana Ayala, Mark Gjonaj, Ischia Bravo, Sandra Ung, Francisco Moya, Sheker Krishnan, Adrienne Adams, Robert Holden, Lincoln Restler, Crystal Hudson, Darma Diaz, Alicka Ampry-Samuel, Justin Brannan, Kalman Yeger, Farah Louis and Ari Kagan to be the next City Council members to represent their respective districts;
Motivator says UFT members who are constituents in the respective districts who have been duly trained conducted the interviews.
Mulgrew: Viability, education, and labor issues are the criteria.
He asks if people want to pull individuals out for debate on particular candidates.
Jonathan Halabi says he wants Mark Joni pulled out to be discussed separately.
Motion to suspend the rules to allow debate on one candidate. Yes 41%-No 59%.
Vote on all candidates without any debate on the package: 83% yes-17% no