NYC TEACHERS LOOK FOR NEW, SAFE SYSTEM AS SEPTEMBER SWIFTLY APPROACHES

THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION FACES LOGISTICAL CHALLENGES IN DEVELOPING A SOCIAL DISTANCING PLAN.

CLEANING NEEDS WILL COST MORE MONEY, BUT BUDGETS WILL BE ESPECIALLY TIGHT THIS YEAR.

PARENTS NEED TO BE ASSURED THAT SCHOOL WILL BE SAFE FOR THEIR KIDS.

As New York City looks to the start of a new academic year, there is growing concern about the safety of returning to normal schooling—particularly as a dangerous inflammatory syndrome linked to COVID-19 emerges in kids. Educators have been affected, with more than 60 Department of Education staff deaths, and there have been allegations that, prior to the system-wide shutdown, the health department put both educators and students at risk by not following proper cleaning guidelines. Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers, talks with correspondent Maddie Orton about what safety measures should be established before schools consider reopening their doors, and he cautions against lawmakers “reimagining” the city’s educational system without facing the realities of classroom learning.

Aired on May 20, 2020. 

TRANSCRIPT

> HI, WITH UNPRECEDENTED HEALTH AND SAFETY CONCERNS, THE UPCOMING SCHOOL YEAR WILL BE LIKE NO OTHER.

I'M SPEAKING TO PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED FEDERATION OF TEACHERS.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING THE WEEK.

I GREATLY APPRECIATE IT.

I UNDERSTAND 61 OF YOUR MEMBERS OF THE FEDERATION TEACHERS HAVE DIED FROM THE VIRUS.

THANK YOU FOR THAT.

IT'S BEEN QUITE ROUGH.

IT'S ALWAYS -- BUT THE FACT SO MANY FAMILIES, ALL PEOPLE ARE PASSING, IT'S WHAT THEY'RE FACING.

THE FACT THEY REALLY CAN'T DO THE PROPER THINGS IN TERMS OF WHAT WE LEARNED AS A SOCIETY IN TERMS OF BURYING PEOPLE.

WAKES, SHIVERS, ALL OF THOSE THINGS ARE NOT THERE RIGHT NOW.

AS WELL AS THIS IS A GREAT EFFECT ON EVERY SCHOOL COMMUNITY THAT'S BEEN EFFECTED.

SO, I THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONDOLENCES.

OBVIOUSLY SAFETY CONCERNS ARE PRIMARY GOING TO THE UPCOMING YEAR.

WHAT MEASURES NEED TO BE IN PLACES IN YOUR MIND FOR TEACHERS, STUDENTS, FACULTY TO FEEL SAFE COMING BACK?

THAT'S A BIG QUESTION WE'RE HAVING RIGHT NOW.

AND WE KNOW WHEN THE SCHOOLS WERE CLOSED, IT WAS A BIG FIGHT TO GET THE SCHOOLS CLOSED.

BUT THE BIGGEST MISTAKE THAT WAS MADE IS THERE WAS NO PLANNING ON HOW TO GO TO SCHOOLS.

IT'S NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE.

AND BECAUSE EVERYONE WAS INVOLVED IN WHETHER TO OPEN OR CLOSE THE SCHOOLS, THAT PLANNING NEVER HAPPENED.

AND WE CAN'T ALLOW THAT TO HAPPEN AGAIN.

THERE'S ONLY THREE OPTIONS.

WE REMAIN CLOSED.

THERE'S A CURE AND NO PBODY HASO WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING.

OR WE'RE GOING TO AD HERE TO THE GUIDELINES OF SOCIAL DISTANCING.

SO, THE FIRST ONE WE REMAIN CLOSED TO KEEP OUR REMOTE SYSTEM.

WE'LL MAKE CHANGES IN TERMS OF REMOTE INSTRUCTION.

THAT'S -- THAT WE CAN DO.

IT WON'T TAKES A MUCH PLANNING.

WE GET A CURE, WE'RE ALL GREAT.

THIS IS THE ONE THAT LOOKS MOST LIKELY.

WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A PLACE TO INSURE WE HAVE SAFETY INSIDE OF OUR BUILDINGS.

WHAT ARE WE DOING TO MAKE SURE WHEN THEY ENTER THE BUILD RG NOT ABOUT TO SPREAD THE VIRUS.

WE DO A LOT OF WORK WITH PARENTS.

PARENTS TOLD US OVER AND OVER AGAIN THAT THEY WANT SCHOOLS TO OPEN BUT THEY WANT TO MAKE SURE THEIR CHILD IS SAFE AND NOT BRINGING THE VIRUS BACK INTO THE HOUSE.

OVER THE LAST FEW DAYS, THAT CONCERN IS STILL THERE BUT NOW WITH THE HORRENDOUS NEWS ABOUT CHILDREN GETTING SICK AND PASSING AWAY, THERE'S NOW THAT ADDITIONAL CONCERN, RIGHTFULLY SO.

SO, NOW THE WHOLE IDEA OF WHAT ARE WE DOING TO MAKE SURE THAT CHILDREN ARE SAFE WHEN THEY ENTER A SCHOOL BUILDING BECOMES PARAMOUNT IN TERMS OF OUR ABILITY TO GET SCHOOLS OPEN.

WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THEY CAN SEND THEIR CHILD AND BE SURE THEIR CHILD IS SAFE.

IT GETS COMPLICATED ABOUT HOW YOU DO SOCIAL DISTANCING INSIDE OF THE BUILDING.

AS I SAID IT'S SPREADING THE VIRUS.

WHAT IF WE'RE IN THE BUILDING IN TERMS OF MAKING SURE WE'RE DOING EVERYTHING WE CAN POSSIBLY DO.

SO, IF THE VIRUS DOES GET IN THE BUILDING, IT DOESN'T SPREAD.

AND THAT'S COMPLICATED.

SO, WHAT IS UFT, WHAT IS EVERYBODY LOOKING TO DO SEE BEST PRACTICES FOR THEM?

WELL, THANKFULLY, IN TERMS OF BEST PRACTICES, THERE ISN'T REALLY A BEST PRACTICE.

WE LOOK TO THE OTHER COUNTRIES THAT HAVE OPENED UP, NOBODY HAS DONE THE SAME MODEL OF ANY PLACE.

AND EACH ONE HAS HAD THEIR OWN DIFFICULTIES.

SO, IF YOU TRY TO KEEP AHEAD OF IT AND WE'RE TRYING TO LEARN FROM IT.

BUT SOCIAL DISTANCING, THE TESTING REGIMEN.

SO, RIGHT NOW DO WE HAVE ENOUGH HAND-WASHING STATIONS IN THE SCHOOLS?

DO WE TURN FOUNTAINS INTO HAND-WASHING STATIONS?

HOW MANY STUDENTS DO YOU BRING IN AT ANY GIVEN TIME.

WHAT'S THE SQUARE FOOTAGE OF A CLASSROOM.

NO.

WE DO NOT.

SO, THAT HAS TO BE THOUGHT THROUGH AND ORDERED AND IN PLACE, AS WELL AS ADDITIONAL PERSONNEL IN TERMS OF CUSTODIAL STAFF TO GET THAT WORK DONE BECAUSE THATS AN IMMENSE AMOUNT OF WORK EACH AND EVERY NIGHT.

THIS IS A WHOLE NEW THING FOR US.

EVERY MAJOR AREA THERE ARE PEOPLE THAT HAS TO BE CONTINUALLY WIPED DOWN.

SO, IT REALLY GETS QUITE COMPLICATED.

AND WHAT DO YOU DO IF SOMEONE, WHO IS GOING TO SCHOOL, ALL THE SUDDEN HAS A POSITIVE TEST, THEN WHAT DO YOU DO -- ARE WE TOING THE CONTRACT TRACING?

YES.

THAT MEANS WE HAVE TO QUICKLY GET EVERYONE QUARANTINED.

SO, IN ORDER FOR US TO OPEN ON TIME IN SEPTEMBER, WE HAVE TO START WORKING ON THIS.

THANKFULLY, WE'RE NOT WAITING FOR ELECTED OFFICIALS.

WE'VE REACHED OUT TO THE PRINCIPALS UNION, ADMINISTRATOR'S UNION.

THEY'VE BEEN PHENOMENAL.

WE'RE WORKING WITH THE FOOD SERVICE WORKERS AND THE DEPARTMENT OF ED.

AND WE SAID LOOK, WE'RE HAVING THESE COMPANIES -- CONVERSATIONS.

SO, WE'D LIKE YOU TO BE PART OF IT.

WE'RE GETTING FRUSTRATED THAT THEY THINK THEY CAN WAITED FOR JULY.

DOES THERE NEED TO BE AN EDUCATION OF POLICY MAKERS THAT HAVE CLASSROOMS, WORK AND WHAT THIS NEW POTENTIALIZED HYBRID MODEL, PERSON AND DIGITAL MIGHT LOOK LIKE?

WELL, EVERYBODY'S FORMING A COMMITTEE AT THIS MOMENT.

AS TEACHERS, WE'VE GOTTEN -- WE USED TO GET ANGRY ABOUT IT.

EVERYBODY FORM AS COMMITTEE.

AND THE ONLY PEOPLE THEY DON'T TALK TO ARE THE PEOPLE THAT DO THE WORK.

IT'S THE ONLY INDUSTRY WHERE YOU SEE SUCH ARROGANCE BY OTHERS OUTSIDE AND THINKING THEY KNOW WHAT'S BEST.

THIS IS WHAT I'LL SAY.

WE'VE USED DIGITAL LEARNING TOOLS BEFORE FOR YEARS IN NEW YORK CITY.

WE NEVER HAD TO SHUT DOWN THE SCHOOL SYSTEM.

NOBODY WHO'S DONE REMOTE LEARNING.

THIS IS NOT A COLLEGE COURSE, AN ONLINE COLLEGE COURSE.

THAT WILL NOT WORK.

CHILDREN WILL NOT LEARN.

SO, THE PEOPLE FROM THE OUTSIDE, THAT'S HOW THEY THINK ABOUT THIS IS WHAT EDUCATION IS IN THE DIGICAL WORLD.

AND WE LAUGH.

RIGHT NOW IN NEW YORK CITY, YOU HAVE 130,000 SCHOOL-BASED EMPLOYEES WHO FIGURED OUT HOW TO TAKE THE LARGESH SCHOOL SYSTEM AND TURN IT INTO A REMOTE SYSTEM.

WE HAVE AN ATTENDANCE RATE OVER 85% EVERY DAY AND YET YOU'RE NOT GOING TO TALK ABOUT THAT.

SO, WE'RE GOING TO DO OUR WORK BECAUSE OUR RESPONSIBILITY IS FOR THE CHILDREN, NOT TO ANYONE'S POLITICAL ACCOUNTABILITY.

I'M SPEAKING WITH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED FEDERATION OF TEACHERS.

TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT GOVERNOR KOMO'S ANNOUNCEMENT THE GATE FOUNDATION WOULD BE BROUGHT IN.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT?

THE GATES FOUNDATION, I THINK IT'S PHENOMENAL.

THEIR EDUCATIONAL TRACK RECORD HAS NOT BEEN GOOD AT ALL.

I KNOW THEY'RE TRYING TO SHIFT MORE TOWARDS TEACHERS.

BUT HOW DO WE PLAN ON OPENING SCHOOL YEAR?

USUALLY WE'RE OPENING THE REGULAR SCHOOL YEAR.

AND NOW, NOT ONLY DO WE HAVE TO TEACH IN A HYBRID MANNER, BUT WE HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING TO KEEP THE SCHOOLS CLEAN AND CHILDREN SAFE.

THIS IS HOW COMPLICATED THAT IS AND YET, THEY HAVEN'T EVEN SPOKEN TO US ABOUT HOW THEY'RE GOING TO DO THAT.

SO, WHEN WE MAKE ANNOUNCEMENTS OF THE GATES FOUNDATION, IT'S LIKE, OKAY, GREAT.

WHATEVER.

THERE'S NOT A K-12 EDUCATOR ON ALMOST ALL YOUR COMMITTEES.

I KNOW THE LAST COMMITTEE THEY FORMED AT THE STATE LEVEL.

THEY PUT A COUPLE TEACHERS ON IT, WHICH IS FINE.

IT'S GREAT.

AND WE'VE ALWAYS BEEN ON OUR OWN BECAUSE WE'RE THE ONES WHO KEEP TEACHING MOVING.

WHEN WE WENT TO REMOTE, WE DIDN'T HAVE FEDERAL ASSISTANCE, STATE ASSISTANCE.

WE DIDN'T HAVE ASSISTANCE FROM THE CITY OF NEW YORK.

THIS IS WHAT TEACHERS DO.

AND WE DO IT ON OUR OWN.

WE WORK WITH EACH OTHER.

WE UNDERSTAND THE CHALLENGES AND UNDERSTAND THEY WILL BE FIGURED OUT BY SOMEBODY IN OUR COLLECTIVE COMMUNITY.

IS IT SEEMS TO ME IF YOU NEED ADDITIONAL SAFETY PRECAUTIONS, POSSIBLY MORE PLACES TO WASH YOUR HANDS, PLACES LIKE THAT.

THIS ALL LOOKS VERY EXPENSIVE.

I KNOW WAITING ON FEDERAL FUNDING.

HOW DO YOU THINK THIS IS GOING TO PLAY OUT?

IT'S NOT GOING TO WORK WITHOUT FEDERAL FUNDING.

BUT EVERYBODY'S FRUSTRATION.

AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS PLAYING POLITICS WITH THE WHOLE IDEA OF THIS.

LITERALLY SAYING IT'S A BLUE STATE ISSUE, NOT OURS.

EVERY STATE'S BUDGET HAS BEEN DECIMATED.

AND THEY CAN SAY WHATEVER THEY WANT PUBLICLY.

THE FACT IS EVERY STATE'S BUDGET HAS BEEN DEVASTATED.

SO, THANKFULLY FOR US, WE STARTED A PETITION IN NEW YORK CITY AND STARTED THE FIRST PETITION OF HOW DO WE FEEL SAFE?

AND WE HAVE TO HAVE THE FUNDING TO DO WHAT YOU'RE ASKING US TO DO.

THERE IS NO WAY ALL OF THE STUFF WE DISCUSSED ABOUT WHAT WE'RE TRYING TO DO TO KEEP THINGS SAFE FOR CHILDREN, THERE IS NO WAY WE WITH PAY FOR THAT OUT OF OUR BUDGETS THAT HAVE BEEN SLASHED.

IT'S JUST NOT GOING TO WORK.

SO, WHEN ALL THESE ELECTED OFFICIALS ARE OUT HERE TALKING ABOUT HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO GET THE SCHOOL SYSTEM UP AND RUNNING AGAIN THEY HAVE TO PUT UP OR SHUT UP.

PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS BECAUSE THERE'S NO WAY WE'RE GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO EVERYTHING YOU'RE ASKING TO DO.

HAVE THIS GREAT SCHOOL YEAR, YET WE'RE CUTTING THEIR BUDGETS 15%. AND WHEN THEY ADD ON ALL THESE ADDITIONAL COSTS BUT THEY'RE GOING TO FIGURE IT OUT.

WE ALWAYS FIGURE IT OUT BUT DON'T ASK US TO DO SOMETHING, AND THEN TIE OUR HANDS BEHIND OUR BACK.

WE EMBRACE THIS CHALLENGE.

THE TEACHERS OF NEW YORK CITY ARE SO PROUD OF WHAT THEY'VE BEEN ABLE TO DO IN THIS REMOTE SCENARIO.

AND THEY LOVE THE ROLE THAT WE'VE BEEN PLAYING FOR SO MANY OF OUR FAMILIES.

BUT ALSO FOR THE COMMUNITIES TO BE THERE TO SUPPORT OUR HEALTH CARE WORKERS AND OUR FRONTLINE FOLKS AND FIRST RESPONDERS.

BUT ENOUGH IS ENOUGH WITH THE ELECTED OFFICIALS WHEN ALL THEY DO IS TALK.

AND THEY DON'T WANT TO DEAL WITH REALITY AND PLAY POLITICS.

YOU WANT A GREAT SCHOOL YEAR, WE WANT A GREAT SCHOOL YEAR.

CAN'T SLASH OUR BUDGETS, CAN'T MAKE US AND ON TOP OF IT, PAY FOR ALL THESE ADDITIONAL EXPENSES.

YOU BAILED OUT ALL THESE BANKING INDUSTRIES.

BUT YOU'VE NEVER BAILED OUT THE CHILDREN OF THE UNITED STATES.

AND IT'S TIME YOU DO SO.

AND IT'S NOT A LOOSE AID ISSUE.

ER FOR IT'S PARENTS AND TEACHERS IN BLUE STATES, RED STATES, WHATEVER STATE YOU WANT ARE ALL ON THE SAME PAGE.

YOU NEED TO PUT A FEDERAL PACKAGE THROUGH AND MAKE SURE THERE'S SPECIFIC MONEY EARMARKED FOR THE SCHOOLS.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

I'M STICKING WITH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED FEDERATION OF TEACHERS.

MICHAEL, THANKS FOR YOUR TIME.

YOU HAVE A GREAT DAY.

YOU TOO.

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