UFT News & Updates for December 20, 2019

Dear Colleagues,

Greetings from your scarcely seen chapter leader!  The break is near and after tomorrow, December 21, there’s a slightly longer amount of daylight each day.  Next week might be a good time to put some UFT workshops in your calendar for the New Year.  See the information below.  Keep in touch with me about any concerns, whether that be issues at school or with your union benefits.  I can be reached with calls or texts at 347-217-2219.

Upcoming Subject-area Workshop

One-day conference for K-12 social studies teachers on Crossing Frontiers Across the American West.  Cost:  $40.  Saturday, January 6 9:00 – 1:00 PM. Register soon if you are interested.

CTLE Courses Offered at the UFT Offices

Follow this link to a list of CTLE courses that are scheduled for January 11, 2020

Sign up form

MAP Workshop for Caregivers

UFT Member Assistant Program Workshop for Caregivers.  February 26, March 4, 11, 18, 25 April 1, 2020.  All of the sessions will be held at 52 Broadway, 12th floor conference room #1, Manhattan.

Next Student Debt Relief Webinar

The next webinar on the Student Debt Relief for Educators will be on Monday, Dec. 23.
This will be followed by another one on Saturday, January 4, 2020 9:30-11:30 AM.

Once you’ve watched a webinar, you can make an appointment to speak by phone with a loan specialist to discuss your situation. Use the online form to sign up.

Paraprofessionals Needing College Credits

If you are a paraprofessional and are not sure about your credit accumulation you should log into the TEACH account on the State Education Department’s website and find out what you’re missing.

Anyone receiving a notice of termination for lack of college credits can apply between February 1 and March 31, 2020 for the Career Training Program for the summer semester. The program pays tuition for from three to six credits per semester for undergraduate study at participating colleges and universities. Two and a half hours per week of release time and/or a summer stipend are also provided to support study. If you have specific questions about this contact the UFT’s certification specialists — Monica Christie, Jeremiah Bornemann or Stephanie Forbes — at 212-331-6311.

Borrowing from Retirement Funds

As a UFT member, you have two sources from which to borrow money. If you are in pension tiers 3, 4 or 6, you can borrow from your Qualified Pension Plan against your Member Contribution Accumulation Fund and against part of your additional member contributions. You may also borrow from your Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) account.

 The maximum amount you can borrow from your pension and your TDA is $50,000 provided you have sufficient funds. Loans are normally available within two weeks after you apply and under normal circumstances are not taxable. Both have convenient repayment plans. The interest rate for TDA loans is 7% per year and the interest rate for QPP loans is 6% per year.  Remember to compare the terms of TRS/BERS loans to other loans to understand all of the ramifications. For more information, see the Teachers’ Retirement System website.

Continuing Discussion of the Fight for CUNY

I appreciate the comments I’ve received about stories and links in my recent chapter newsletters.   A colleague wondered whether the large raise given to CUNY adjunct instructors will result in increased tuition for students.  

That would not seem to be the case since there are two sides to any labor agreement and the city’s assent should entail the necessary budgeting.  But who knows?  There’s been a long running trend of disinvestment from CUNY by both the state and city ever since the budget shocks of the 1970s.  In recent years the financial burden has dramatically shifted, such that CUNY’s operations are increasingly financed by student tuition.

Jumaane Williams is the city’s Public Advocate.  He spent seven years earning his undergraduate degree from Brooklyn College.  He went on to earn an advanced degree from the same school.  His editorial on the situation at the CUNY campuses is worth reading.  He describes the neglect presided over by our elected officials.  From 2008 to 2018, under Governors Paterson and Cuomo state funding declined 18 percent when corrected for inflation and rising enrollment.  He argues it’s time to make better funding a priority.

A booklet published by the Professional Staff Congress shows that currently 77 percent of CUNY students are minority, forty-five percent are first-generation college students, 34 percent enroll part-time and 36 percent are immigrants.

A 2018 study examined the role of colleges in providing social mobility for those at the bottom of the socio-economic food chain.  CUNY schools took an amazing seven places out of the top ten for four-year colleges across the nation and five places out of the top ten for two-years colleges when it comes to making an improvement in their students’ economic status.

In the words of the Public Advocate, “CUNY knows what works and just needs the resources to do it.”

New Hearings on Mayoral Control

On Monday of this week the Education Committee of the NYS Assembly began NEW hearings on mayoral control.  Last spring mayoral control of the DOE was renewed until 2022.  The purpose of the hearings according to Committee Chairperson Michael Bennedetto is to lay the groundwork for a potential revamping of governance of the city schools.

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters showed up to provide an overview of what has resulted from the DOE’s unchecked authority, including school closings, overcrowding, rampant co-locations and hundreds of millions wasted on tech boondoggles that have had to be abandoned.

Part of the reason that there are so few controls on the DOE is that mayoral control was established by state law remains mostly out of the reach of the City Council.  According to City Council Member Mark Treyger, chair of the Education Committee, although the school system takes up a third of so of the city budget, the Council has no say in the appointment of chancellors, and can’t pass any laws affecting DOE functions beyond requiring certain reports. “It speaks to a real imbalance in terms of authority and proper oversight over a critical agency,” he said.

Investigating the Investigators

In the City Council chambers, Council Member Treyger is planning to hold a hearing on the performance of the Special Commissioner of Investigation along with Ritchie Torres, the Oversight and Investigations Committee chairman.   The SCI, which is supposed to be uncovering wrongdoing in the DOE, has come under intense scrutiny after a whistle-blower on its own investigative staff sent a letter charging that the agency with blocking probes of misconduct by Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Carranza and other DOE executives.

I would like to think more attention will soon be paid to the Office of Special Investigations, the DOE in-house unit, which is currently holding hundreds of teachers in an archipelago of reassignment centers throughout the city.  Questions need to be raised about what its real purpose is.

Since I was removed from ENYFA, I’ve come into the company of four other chapter leaders in the building I’m assigned to who were also removed from their schools.  There is Ms. A. who is chapter leader at a middle school in District 13.  She is awaiting a hearing on charges that she was stapling papers while she was proctoring a test and that she didn’t hold a restorative justice circle with her students when directed to do so. 

After Ms. A. made a complaint about conditions in the room where a dozen or so of us have to sit, she was relocated to a room on Court Street where she sits by herself all day without cell phone service or wifi.  Ms. A’s situation seems to fit a general pattern of union activists taken out of Title 1 schools with weak school leadership that are loath to collaborate with their teachers.  She’s a grandmother, originally from Trinidad and has been through it before, a previous round of charges that were not substantiated, and she has a good sense of irony about what bizarre things are possible given the present state of our profession.

Another reassigned chapter leader is Ms. T. who has responsibility for about 250 members who are adult education teachers in District 79.  She is busy all day communicating with members by phone and email, being unable to visit the work sites.  She also meets with her members at UFT offices.  It should be obvious to anyone who encounters Ms. T. that she was removed for doing her job as chapter leader.  She is extremely diligent and regularly leads a group of the reassigned teachers to the Brooklyn Tabernacle for lunch hour services.

I feel like I’m the bad boy in our group with my history of publicly criticizing DOE policies and even the shortcomings of OSI.  After OSI squelched an investigation of regents’ cheating that I had close knowledge of a while back, I spent several years pestering them with Freedom of Information requests to document their complicity in the cover-up.  Perhaps after that mischief it serves me right to have fallen into their clutches and be on the receiving end of accusations.  However it goes, I will try to learn from the experience so that I’m ready to help colleagues when they face anything similar.

Free Resources for the Classroom

From the Film Board of Canada here is the Indigenous Cinema Collection.  It’s a large holding with many films and clips in a vast range of themes and styles.

Educators can find a free reference guide and a series of four short videos to help them create a safe and supportive space for their immigrant students. An accompanying guide provides fiction and nonfiction titles for Pre-K–12, curricular materials, a film list, posters and handouts, information about advocacy groups and resources for families as well as supports for undocumented students applying to college. These materials are provided by CUNY and funded in large part by a grant from the State Education Department.

Opportunities for Students

Kids go free on Kids’ Night on Broadway: Tickets are on sale for Kids’ Night on Broadway, sponsored by the Broadway league. Kids 18 and under can see a participating show, including “Frozen,” “Mean Girls” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” for free on Tuesday, Feb. 25, when accompanied by an adult paying full price for a ticket. A Kids’ Night on Broadway ticket also includes restaurant discounts, parking discounts and more. Select shows will offer in-theater activities for kids, including talkbacks and activity books. Use promo code KNBWAY20.

Paid law internship for high school students: Teachers in high schools are asked to encourage students interested in law to apply for the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program, an intensive paid internship program that places New York City public high school students with legal employers for the summer and exposes them to the legal profession.

Applicants must submit copies of their transcript, working papers, a resume and a recommendation letter from a teacher or guidance counselor. They must also supply a document detailing their availability for an interview at the City Bar (Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., after school hours or during spring break). Students must also write a 300-500 word essay on why they would like to participate in the program and describe how at least one of Justice Thurgood Marshall’s accomplishments aligns with their goals. The application deadline is Jan. 3. For more information, see the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program flier. For full requirements and to submit an application, use the online form

There are now openings for BRIC Artists in Residence.  Although attendance at the information sessions are not required, they are an opportunity to speak directly with program staff and to see the Artist Studio space.

Upcoming information session dates are: Tuesday, January 21, 2020: 6:30-8PM

Please RSVP to these sessions HERE. All information sessions will be held at BRIC House, 647 Fulton Street, Downtown Brooklyn.

Good & Welfare

I hope everyone will have a rejuvinating break!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.