Local Teachers Part Of Citywide Protests
By Neil S. Friedman
Thousands of New York City teachers, including contingents at community elementary, intermediate and high schools, protested outside their respective schools on Monday to spotlight their demand for a new contract and a salary boost.
According to Canarsie High School paraprofessional Marsha Kleinburd, "more than 75 teachers" marched outside the local school for about 30 minutes, beginning at 7:30 a.m. before classes.
While the word "strike" has yet to be earnestly talked about, there’s no doubt the city’s 80,000 teachers are becoming impatient after having worked without a contract for the last 17 months and without a raise since 1999.
Mayor Bloomberg said Monday that teachers have a right "to express themselves before and after school," but added that "strikes are illegal and I don’t anticipate any strikes." The mayor also remarked that he is "optimistic" about reaching a rational settlement.
"Former Mayor Giuliani was not very positive regarding the city’s public schools," noted Canarsie High School’s United Federation of Teachers representative Paul Millstein, who teaches Mathmematics at the Rockaway Parkway secondary school. "We’re hoping Mayor Bloomberg will be more favorable in our negotiations."
Millstein added, "Part of the city’s (post-9/11) recovery should include a decent education."
The state’s Public Employment Relations Board last week recommended a 10 percent raise for teachers over a 27-month period, which is equivalent to other union employees. If teachers work an additional 20 minutes a day they could receive an additional 6 percent that would be contributed from state coffers. The proposal also called for starting teacher salaries to increase to $40,000 from the current $32,000 for recruits. It has been reported that New York City’s teachers currently have the shortest workday in the nation at six hours and 20 minutes.
Millstein, like most UFT members, wants parity with suburban teacher’s salaries, "Eight teachers left Canarsie High School at the end of the last school year for better paying jobs in the suburbs. We’re losing some of our best educators because we can’t pay them a fair wage."
South Shore High School principal Steven Berger told the Canarsie Courier Tuesday that scores of teachers demonstrated outside the Flatlands Avenue school, noting that the protest "was orderly and caused no disruptions during the school day."