Double shot: UFT’s concerned about ventilation, NYSUT attacks budget cuts

Stephon Johnson | 9/10/2020, midnight
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration released the school building ventilation reports.
Closed public school in Brooklyn Nayaba Arinde photo

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration released the school building ventilation reports. However, teachers’ desires to go back to class remain tepid at best.

On Tuesday, Sept. 8, the Department of Education (DOE) released its ventilation reports and found that while most classrooms are safe, most bathrooms aren’t. Ninety-six percent of classrooms inspected had good and functioning ventilation systems, but 2,882 still needed repairs. As for bathrooms, only 57% were declared to have good ventilation systems. The city stated that it needed to repair 13,248 other bathrooms.

According to the United Federation of Teachers, at one Brooklyn school, staff arrived Tuesday to find that the DOE didn’t arrange a ventilation inspection, personal protective equipment (PPE) wasn’t in place, classrooms were dirty, bathrooms had no soap for hand-washing and discolored water flowed out of faucets. The mayor said they and other schools missing equipment, will be supplied immediately.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said that his union will keep an eye on any ventilation issues that arise in the ensuing weeks.

“Keeping everyone safe is our top priority,” stated Mulgrew. “Inspections by the DOE and the UFT identified these serious ventilation issues, and we will continue to monitor these buildings and other schools to make sure all ventilation problems are solved. Where repairs and upgrades cannot be made, we will work with the DOE to help find alternative space before students return Sept. 21.”

Mulgrew and company are doing their best to fight locally for its constituents to remain safe while on the job. Statewide, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) are pushing back against budget cuts from Albany. Union officials called on New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo to stop the 20% cuts in aid to school districts. The union’s even threatened legal action against Cuomo if he decides to go through with the cuts.

“No school district or student is immune to the adverse impacts of a 20% cut to state education aid,” stated NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “But what makes this all the more egregious is the disproportionate impact that cuts have on our neediest schoolchildren. We quite literally can’t wait any longer for action. In the absence of the federal government finally doing what’s right, the state needs to step in and prevent the decimation of our public education system at a time when needs are higher than ever before.”

This would disproportionately decimate poorer school districts in urban, suburban and rural communities alike. The poorest 10% of school districts receive some 80% of their funding from the state, while the richest 10% of districts receive only 10% of their funding from the state.

Budget cuts would affect the poorer districts in cities, rural areas and the suburbs. According to NYSUT, those districts are slated to lose $847 million in state aid. Salmon River, a rural area that has the lowest combined wealth ratio in New York State, would lose $3,876 per pupil. The City of Buffalo would lose $4,876 per pupil.

This week, Cuomo said that despite the desires of those to keep their current budgets, the state doesn’t have any money and needs stimulus money from Washington to help with the budget shortfall.

During a news conference this week, Cuomo said “I’m not giving up on the federal government funding.”

Pallotta expressed that he wanted Cuomo to raise taxes on the wealthy, but the governor said that he fears the wealthy would leave the state if any taxes are raised on them.

“If you have to raise revenues, better you do it nationally,” said Cuomo. “Why would you make one state raise taxes and put it at a competitive disadvantage with other states?”

Pallotta said its pertinent that the state find a way to keep money in education.

“Simply put, New York needs a bigger pie, which state leaders can create by asking the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share toward public services like education,” stated Pallotta.