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UFT High School Reps Letter to Leadership on Opposing IDC

You've probably heard of the IDC, or the Independent Democratic Conference in the NY State Senate. They were elected as Democrats but caucused with the Republicans. There are a whole lot of bills that have been passed by the Assembly but withered and died in the Senate, not the least of which was one proposing universal health care for New Yorkers. We support candidates who oppose those who allowed this to happen. Here is our letter, to date unanswered.

Primary elections for New York State Senate will occur on September 13. NYSUT makes endorsements for state-level offices. The NYSUT Endorsement Conference is on August 6-7. At that conference, the UFT will be making some recommendations to NYSUT. We are especially concerned about NY State Senate primaries in New York City Districts.

We have not had an opportunity to speak to the recommendations that the UFT will make. Endorsements go through the Executive Board and Delegate Assembly. There is no such formal process for recommendations. But these recommendations carry nearly the weight of an endorsement, as NYSUT concurs with the UFT’s recommendation in the overwhelming majority of cases.

We are the elected representatives of high school members of the United Federation of Teachers, directly elected by those members. We would like to have voice on these recommendations. 

We particularly would like to urge NYSUT to endorse:  Alessandra Biaggi, Robert Jackson, John Liu, Zellnor Myrie, Jessica Ramos, and Jasmine Robinson in their respective New York State Senate primary races. Especially since the victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, there has been heightened interest and a groundswell of support for progressive challengers to the status quo. Each of these candidates is running on a progressive platform.

We would like to highlight the career and contributions of Robert Jackson in particular. Jackson is an activist who has dedicated his career as a public servant to public education and children. In 1991, as CSB6 President, Robert Jackson co-founded the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE). Jackson was lead plaintiff as CFE sued the State of New York for failing to properly fund NYC's public schools. The trial court agreed. Jackson walked 150 miles from New York City to Albany to dramatize the case. Jackson served in the NY City Council for a decade, where he earned our respect as Chair of the Education Committee. Jackson was honored with the UFT’s John Dewey Award in 2012.

Their opponents are former members of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC). Tbey helped the Republicans control the State Senate for several sessions. They rely on anti-teacher union funding, either directly from Democrats for Education Reform (anti-union, anti-public schools), New Yorkers for Putting Students First (Michelle Rhee), Great Public Schools PAC (Eva Moskowitz), or indirectly through the Senate Independence Campaign Committee, which may in fact be an illegal campaign financing scheme (https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Sugarman-cracks-down-on-former-IDC-campaign-13100468.php)

The Executive Board is not scheduled to meet before the NYSUT Endorsement Conference, nor before the September 13 primary elections. The Delegate Assembly is not scheduled to meet before the NYSUT Endorsement Conference, nor before the September 13 primary elections. 

We do not know how our voices can best be heard, but we have a few ideas:  an in-person meeting, a call-in meeting, an e-mail discussion, or by allowing one of our representatives to speak for high school teachers at the conference in Albany. We are open to others.

We look forward to your positive response,

KJ Ahluwalia, United Federation of Teachers, Executive Board, High School Division
Arthur Goldstein, United Federation of Teachers, Executive Board, High School Division
Ashraya Gupta, United Federation of Teachers, Executive Board, High School Division
Jonathan Halabi, United Federation of Teachers, Executive Board, High School Division
Marcus McArthur, United Federation of Teachers, Executive Board, High School Division
Kate Martin-Bridge, United Federation of Teachers, Executive Board, High School Division
Mike Schirtzer, United Federation of Teachers, Executive Board, High School Division

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