Recession special: UFT employees take summer Fridays
If you call the UFT’s main offices on a Friday this summer, don’t expect anyone to pick up. From now until the end of August, most employees will be taking the day off to save the union money.
Like any large organization or business, the UFT is feeling the effects of the recession and the predicted effects of a citywide teacher hiring freeze that’s currently in place. And fewer teachers hired this summer means fewer dues payments for the UFT. So, for the rest of the summer, the majority of the main office will take Fridays off and much of the building will shut down. The summer Fridays are not furloughs — employees will still be paid.
A spokesman for the UFT, Peter Kadushin, said the days off, which amount to a total of eight, are one of several cost cutting plans, and would likely shave 40 percent off the UFT’s energy bill.
“Unions are no different than any other organization or corporation,” Kadushin said, “so when you have economic uncertainty, unions aren’t immune to any of those downturns.”
UPDATE: A call to the UFT’s press office was answered on the first ring on Friday. A spokesman, Ron Davis, said both the communications and grievance departments will be open on all Fridays during the summer.
Kadushin said offices in boroughs outside of Manhattan would stay open on Fridays, and that rather than cutting services, employees would reschedule work done on Fridays for other days of the week.
A different teachers’ union, the National Education Association, has been criticized for raising its members’ dues during the financial downturn.
Actress and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon announced Monday that she’s running for governor of New York, ending months of speculation and launching a campaign that will likely spotlight education.
Nixon, who starred as Miranda in the TV series “Sex and the City,” will face New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in September’s Democratic primary.
Nixon has been active in New York education circles for more than a decade. She served as a longtime spokeswoman for the Alliance for Quality Education, a union-backed advocacy organization. Though Nixon will step down from that role, according to a campaign spokeswoman, education promises to be a centerpiece of her campaign.
In a campaign kickoff video posted to Twitter, Nixon calls herself “a proud public school graduate, and a prouder public school parent.” Nixon has three children.
“I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today,” she says.
Nixon’s advocacy began when her oldest child started school, which was around the same time the recession wreaked havoc on education budgets. She has slammed Gov. Cuomo for his spending on education during his two terms in office, and she has campaigned for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
In 2008, she stepped into an emotional fight on the Upper West Side over a plan to deal with overcrowding and segregation that would have impacted her daughter’s school. In a video of brief remarks during a public meeting where the plan was discussed, Nixon is shouted down as she claims the proposal would lead to a “de facto segregated” school building.
Nixon faces steep competition in her first run for office. She is up against an incumbent governor who has amassed a $30 million war chest, according to the New York Times. If elected, she would be the first woman and the first openly gay governor in the state.
In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.
“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”
That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.
Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.
“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.
During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.
Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.
“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”