De Blasio: Not our friend, but we knew that, and now UFT Leadership must act on it
A joint statement from Lydia Howrilka, UFT Solidarity Presidential Candidate, and the UFT Solidarity Council
Last night, the geniuses that run NY state and city finally made the call to cancel school today, without the courtesy of even an email to the UFT members who were kept waiting and worrying until the last minute to find out whether we’d be forced to head to work in overcrowded schools that lack the necessary sanitary supplies and even hot water required to prevent COVID-19 transmission. We are relieved that the decision to shutter schools was finally made, but continue to be outraged that this call was made at the last minute when there is no reason that it needed to be.
Long Island and Hudson County schools closed sooner and in Jersey City the preparation was far superior to what’s taken place in NYC. Mayor Steven Fulop made the call early last week, and Jersey City schools gave out instructions for distance learning and transitioned toward serving ready-made meals for families that require them. Meanwhile De Blasio trotted out excuses for not making the call to #closetheschools, stating that many children depend on schools for a hot meal and that many parents who will be on the front lines during this health crisis depend on schools for child care. Better planning and proactive management could have dealt with both those issues, and waiting until the last minute to make parents scramble to find child care arrangements is unconscionable when this should have been decided days ago.
For the UFT’s leadership, this debacle is the culmination of years of employing a strategy of singing the mayor’s praises and hoping the flattery pays off while refusing to push back or criticize anything. De Blasio changed the DOE’s cell phone policy in the middle of the school year, providing no resources to deal with the instructional disruption this would cause, and the UFT was silent. De Blasio left the same Bloomberg era lawyers and bureaucrats that defended abusive administrators in charge, and the UFT did nothing about it. De Blasio chose to spend his time in Iowa on a vanity campaign for President instead of paying attention to New York City, and UFT President Michael Mulgrew sent out an email asking us to donate to the De Blasio campaign to get ‘more New York voices’ into the Presidential race.
We’ve recently heard from UFT Childcare providers that they are obligated to remain open so parents have an option of childcare if they need to go to work (one of our members said she only had one child present today!), as per a letter from LeRoy Barr. We will be posting their open letter shortly. We’ve also heard from members of the Teachers Assigned Chapter (which represents a wide variety of educators from literacy coaches to teachers in Central Special Education offices) that they are being mandated to report to their central offices for work. For many of them, their work can be done remotely yet why are they being forced to report to their offices? School nurses received a vaguely worded robocall that their schedules would be staggered and they would be assigned to a location to help deal with the pandemic. We await additional news and will report.
Given the years of incompetence and neglect that we’ve seen from the De Blasio administration, we UFT members must raise our New York voices to proclaim that we will never tolerate any of this from a future mayor and that we will demand better from the United Federation of Teachers going forward.