Archives For Julie Cavanagh

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By Julie Cavanagh

Teacher/Chapter-leader P.S. 15k

A shortened version of this was published at WNYC/NPR Schoolbook 

The Wait Isn’t Over

UFT members and the children we serve have suffered over the last several years due to deteriorating learning and working conditions. The proposed new UFT contract highlights this administration’s commitment to the restoration of collaboration and communication between our union and the city. It is a welcome departure from the previous administration.

The proposed contract includes some steps forward in rebuilding respect for educators, voices of parents, and open dialogue between the city and its workers. There are changes in this proposed contract that will improve our students’ learning conditions and our working conditions. I have serious concerns, however, with several aspects of this proposal that undermine the importance of solidarity, that fall short of bringing us closer to the schools our students deserve, and that bring into question our value as workers.

Solidarity

The proposed contract will divide educators into several tiers. Once we destroy union solidarity, we destroy our union. Career ladders are nothing more than a merit pay scheme with a different name. The only incentive given here is for great teachers to leave the classroom, which is not a plan for long term school progress. Teacher leadership is critical to the success of schools, but dividing teachers by salary is not a way to achieve this goal.

Due process, job security, and fair evaluations for all educators are the foundations of any teacher’s union contract. There cannot be two sets of rules for educators. Those who were excessed through no fault of their own and were placed in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool should not be held to a different standard than their fellow union members.

I also hoped this contract would address pay parity.  Occupational and Physical Therapists, who are essential to the success of the children we serve, make considerably less than their educator colleagues. Paraprofessionals also deserve consideration in this contract, as they are underpaid for the important and challenging work they do.

The Schools Our Children Deserve

This proposal is a missed opportunity to improve the relationships with the communities we serve. I applaud the increased time for parent and teacher collaboration, but this step does not go far enough in advancing the policy issues that parents, educators, and our students are most concerned about.

I hoped this contract would go further in addressing issues of class size, developmentally inappropriate standards, lack of robust curriculum, targeted intervention for students, art instruction, too-large caseloads for counselors, psychologists, and social workers, over emphasis on high stakes testing, the deficit of resources for special needs children, and the continued reliance on flawed test based evaluation.

While I commend the effort to address the needs in hard-to-staff schools, I believe a different path should be taken. Wraparound services, reduced class size, additional nurses, librarians, social workers, counselors, healthy food initiatives, after-school and weekend academic programs, and extracurricular activities are all proven formulas for success, not $5,000 bonus pay. Simply, I feel this money would have been better spent on direct services to children.

I also commend the additional time for educators to work in teacher teams, engage in meaningful professional development, and complete the monumental tasks that we frankly do not currently have the time to complete. However, I am concerned that this time that has been reconfigured to support teachers leaves our children behind, because, with the information I have seen thus far, there will be no efforts to replace targeted intervention for students.

School Leadership Teams (SLTs), which consist of administrators, teachers, parents, and students at the high school level, should be empowered to make authentic decisions for their schools.  While I appreciate what I believe is the good intention behind the PROSE School Initiative, I am concerned about the possibility of “thin contracts” and the inherent acceptance of the assumption that the union contract and Chancellor Regulations have a negative impact on schools.  I would have rather seen these efforts directed at strengthening SLTs in all schools.

Our Value As Workers

UFT members are dedicated professionals, and although we didn’t become educators for the money, we do have families to raise and financial obligations that have become more difficult over the past five years.  I am a teacher, a wife, a mother, and a New Yorker; I want to live where I work and provide my son with every opportunity. I do my part to improve our schools and society for him, for all children, and for their families.

This proposed contract would have members accept raises that are less than two percent each year between 2009 – 2018, less than the rate of inflation. Salaries around the country have fallen behind, which has caused income inequality for many families of the children we serve. Every working man and woman deserves a living wage and annual cost of living increases. If our union does not take this stand, who will?

Our friends in virtually every other municipal labor union received the wage increases they deserved nearly five years ago. Today they continue to have the full 8% as part of their salary scale, even though most now also find themselves with expired contracts. UFT members will not receive these wage increases with retro-pay until 2020. In September, UFT members will walk into a 2% raise and $1,000 rather than the 8% we deserve.

If we accept this deal, other union members may be forced to accept similar bad contracts. This proposed contract sets a dangerous precedent.  Politicians now have the green light to refuse to negotiate in good faith and force pay freezes for workers, 0% pay raises, deferred raises and retro-pay and a contract that is below the rate of inflation.

The Contract Our Schools and Educators Deserve

UFT members have been without a contract for over five years. We, along with the communities we serve, have faced a tidal wave of attacks on our neighborhood schools. A new contract has the power to right these wrongs. I believe the path to real change must be traveled together. Only through the active involvement of our members, parents, and with respect for all students, can we achieve the promise of public education and the schools our children deserve.

Many teachers I know, and my amazing colleagues at PS 15, would have happily conceded some financial compensation in favor of a greater improvement to teaching and learning conditions.  Given that this contract extends beyond the next Mayoral election, we have surrendered vast opportunities for meaningful improvements and progressive “reform”.

I encourage school communities in the coming days and weeks to have collective, open and transparent discussions in their chapters, during lunch, and with their families, the kind of conversations we should be having in our union hall, to reach an informed decision on members’ ratification vote.

Please see our contract tab on this site for fliers and additional articles

 

4.8.14 Eng-flyer

Join parents, students, educators and community members at this important rally on Thursday at 4:00. Meet in front of the steps of the New York City Public Library @5th Ave. and 41st Street with a march to Governor Cuomo’s office to follow. On Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/savenycpubliceducation

By Julie Cavanagh

Teacher/Chapter-Leader P.S.15k

Last week charter schools received a windfall to the tune of tens of millions of potential dollars in free space, either in a public school or in a city-subsidized private space, more per pupil funding than public schools, and an essentially unfettered ability to expand at the expense of existing public schools.

The charter school giveaways in last week’s budget were nothing short of a death sentence for the sustainability of New York City’s public school system:

  • The financial burden of providing and paying for charter school space and services for co-locations will be crippling. This will be especially difficult once the cap of 200 charter schools is reached. There are 52 charter schools left on the cap in NYC, but there will be “more” because existing charters can expand grades without being included in the cap. So, for example, if a charter opened as an elementary, it can expand to include middle school and/or high school grades without a cap deduction. In addition, the Cuomo-led legislation to provide space to charters — only in NYC — is an unfunded mandate. The city is required to find the resources to pay. Only after $40 million is spent on private charter rent, will the state contribute to an undetermined amount of assistance. We need funding policies that will support the facilities and space needed for the approximately 94%[i] of public school children learning in overcrowded and substandard facilities.
  • Charters schools receive MORE per pupil funding than public schools. This creates even greater inequity in our school system favoring the approximately 6% of NYC’s school children who currently attend charter schools. Combine that with the millions in private funding charters receive from millionaire and billionaire donors who have an interest in privatizing our education system and the goal becomes clear: undermine and dismantle every child’s right to go to the school of his or her choice. The new policy will force students fill out an application, win a lottery, and adhere to undemocratic governance and a set of rules that leave families vulnerable to discrimination and push-out, not to mention increased segregation in an already segregated school system. We need policies that seek to create equity and increase the integration of our school system, not make it worse.
  • The language in the budget seems to suggest that an existing charter in a public school cannot be prevented from expanding, which it will do at the expense of the existing public school. We need policies that seek to expand our existing public schools. There are many more public schools serving ALL of NYC’s children well and those schools and their best practices should be held up as models. Charters, by contrast, serve far fewer of our neediest children while boasting achievement numbers similar to public schools. The overwhelming majority of New York City families choose public schools and their rights should be respected and protected. They should not be forced into charters.
  • The new law requiring charter space puts the expansion of public schools in New York City at risk because it encourages charter school expansion over the expansion of public schools. New York City schools have some of the highest class sizes and most overcrowding in the state. We need support to help end this crisis, not make it worse.
  • The financial sustainability of our school system is at risk. As more public dollars are funneled into education corporations and charter schools, fewer public dollars are available for our public schools. At a certain point, and I have heard the “tipping point” is 10% enrollment in charter schools in NYC, we will reach a financial crisis that will make it impossible to balance the funding needs for both charters and public schools, thus allowing the kind of wholesale transfer of public schools to charter operators as we have seen in New Orleans and Philadelphia.

 

Governor Cuomo not only allowed the charter school windfall to be central to this year’s budget, he was one of, if not the, architect(s). The self-proclaimed “student lobbyist” is truly a charter-hedge-funder lobbyist beholden to campaign dollars in an election year and further influenced by his national political aspirations.

 

Legislators from around the state, save a brave few such as my own state Senator Montgomery and Harlem’s Senator Perkins whose constituents have experienced the horrors and inequity of charter co-locations and expansion first hand, said precious little and took no stand in rejecting this budget.

 

Our Mayor, who ran on putting an end to the favor of charters at the expense of our public schools and received a clear mandate to do so by the voters in our city, was at the very least powerless to stop the giveaway and at worst raised no vocal objection, perhaps considering funding for universal Pre-K a worthy enough win, even though charters will also have the right to open Pre-K.

 

Our own United Federation of Teachers did not mount a fight back against this. In fact, their poor policy choices have made it difficult for UFT leaders to do since they have co-located two union-run charter schools themselves. New York Communities for Change has withdrawn its participation in the parent-led co-location lawsuit, a lawsuit that seeks to charge charters rent for use of public space — a policy that will now be illegal in New York City if the provision in the state budget is not changed.

 

The true student-lobbyists, parents, students, rank-and-file educators and community members, must stand together to demand full funding and support for our public schools. We must make it clear that an investment in a system that serves ALL children that is governed by the people (however flawed in a system with mayoral control), not private unaccountable and non-transparent interests, is vital to the health and success of our children.

 

We must stand together and demand the schools our children deserve: facilities deserving of the wealthiest nation in the world, rich and well-rounded curriculum and services, experienced and supported educators, smaller class sizes, and the right to attend a neighborhood public school that is excellent AND open to all.

 

My school community experienced co-location first hand. We were fortunate to mount a fight back that ended our co-location. However, that win was bitter sweet, because the charter, PAVE Academy, was awarded more than 20 million dollars in precious capital funds to build its own building in our neighborhood. We also engaged in a less-known fight back for another charter expansion in our neighborhood, a charter that sought to further segregate the neighborhood by creating a “boutique” charter targeted at the gentrifying population of Red Hook. Thankfully that charter was not approved. We have learned from both of these experiences that charter space support and expansion in communities results in a negative impact on the community itself, causing unnecessary strain and tension, as well as on the existing schools, and in our case, a school that was and is a high quality option. But equally important, because these issues were at our doorstep, we also understand the deep systemic issues surrounding charters: the drive to privatize our public education system, the impact of charter push-out, the impact of a two-tiered system where one school is privileged over another, and the bigger picture of the undermining of public education and all that entails from worker protections, to funding, to the way children are treated.

 

MORE stands in solidarity with the approximately 94% of families who want high quality neighborhood schools for their children. We cannot achieve the promise of public education if the funding, facilities and services we need to provide are at-risk. Please join us and families across the city and send Governor Cuomo a message this Thursday: you are not our student’s lobbyist. You do not stand for children. You stand for your own political interests fueled by charter school dollars and we will hold you accountable!

 

[i] Charter school enrollment in 2011-2012 was 47,780 (according to www.nycsca.org’s report for capital fund projections) out of approximately 1.1 million school children in New York City., yielding an approximate 4% enrollment in charter schools at that time. Cited numbers currently range from 3%-6%. The New York City Charter school Center states approximately 70,000 children attend charter schools in NYC . Based on this information this post estimates current charter enrollment at 6% and public school enrollment at 94%.

 

TMLOGO.NORTHLAND

 

 

Our friends at Labor Notes are having the premier union conference and workshops in NYC this Saturday.
Labor Notes is an organization that is dedicated to rank-and-file members, local union leaders, and labor activists who know the labor movement is worth fighting for. They encourage connections between workers in different unions, workers centers, communities, industries, and countries to strengthen the movement—from the bottom up. MORE’s own Julie Cavanagh will be in attendance and making a brief speech, as well as many other members of MORE. We encourage you to register for this great chance to learn union and community organizing from experienced activists.

Register Today: New York City Troublemakers School, May 18 

Join us for a day of skill-building workshops, education, and strategydiscussions to put some movement back in the labor movement. 

Click here for details and registration (just $25, with lunch included.)

With Cablevision technician Lawrence Hendrickson on CWA’s struggle for a first contract, intensive care nurse Julie Semente on her union’s effort to stop the closure of Brooklyn’s Long Island College Hospital, and Chicago Teachers Union member Nate Rasmussen on their strike last fall and the continuing effort to rescue public education in Chicago.

Also with Josh Freeman on Lessons from New York Labor History; Dave Newman of NYCOSH on an Organizing Approach to Health and Safety; Labor law expert Robert Schwartz on Just Cause: How to Win Discipline Cases; and a discussion of After Bloomberg: A Union Agenda for New York City.

Plus workshops and panels on:

  • Beating Apathy
  • Dealing with Difficult Supervisors
  • Secrets of a Successful Organizer
  • Roots of the Public Sector Budget Crisis
  • Raising Wages for Low-Wage Workers 
  • Labor-Community Alliances Done Right
  • Using Direct Action to Get Results   

 

When: Saturday, May 18,  9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Where: The High School for Health Professions and Human Services, 345 E 15th St, Manhattan (between 1st and 2nd Aves.)

 

For more info or to register, click here. 

 

Questions? Suggestions? Need child care? Contact Samantha Winslow,718-284-4144samantha@labornotes.org. 

What Is a Troublemaker’s School?
  
Wondering what a Troublemakers School is?  They just had one in Portland, Oregon, and here’s a report.TMLOGO.NORTHLAND

Jullie Cavanagh Speech at “The Schools New York’s Children Deserve” from Grassroots Education Movement on Vimeo.

Sunday April 14th 2013