bill and mike

By: Summer Brennan

Fifty years ago, teachers in New York City’s public schools didn’t have the kind of support and respect they have today. Before the creation of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) in March 1960, the system’s structure and support were haphazard at best, and concepts such as class-size limits and career ladders were only pipe dreams. A patchwork of more than 100 different and often competing organizations were available for educators to join, but there was no one true voice and advocate for students and teachers.

That all changed, thanks to the grit and determination of a small group of visionaries who believed that educators and their students were being shortchanged and did something about it. Together, they created the UFT.

Protest City’s Decision to Close Day Care Centers

By: Summer Brennan
District Council 1707 leaders and their members, daycare workers, and concerned parents met on the steps of City Hall Wednesday, March 3, to protest the decision by the Administration for Children’s Services to close 16 city-funded day care centers. Of the centers set to close, eleven are in Brooklyn, three are in Queens, and two are in Manhattan.
“We will continue to fight,” said Councilwoman Annabel Parma. “We are passionate about making sure the day cares stay open. They allow families to work, and to stay in communities. “She said the centers were a “safe haven” for children, and must not be closed under any circumstances.

DC 1707 Executive Director Raglan George Jr. urged the City Council to keep the centers open for the children’s’ sake, as well as the parent’s. “Families need these centers to go to work. Closing them will put people out of work,” he said. “The next step will be to close the Head Start programs.”

As New York Moves to Test for PCB's, Healthy Schools Network Releases New National Report

Ms. Claire Barnett, Executive Director, The Healthy Schools Network

As New York City broke new ground in announcing a testing program to measure levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB's) in caulk found on school windows, the Healthy Schools Network released a new report on the state of toxins in schools, "Sick Schools 2009."  Claire Barnett, Healthy Schools' Executive Director, welcomed the PCB initiative but said that it doesn't go far enough.  "EPA regulates PCBs, and in that role is required to act," she told Labor Press. 

 "This week's announcement of a study agreed to by NYC and EPA will look only at caulk in schools as potential sources, not at other PCB sources, and not at caulk in other large buildings where it is also present.  So it is a first step.  Put this in context of the Manhattan Boro President's report on long standing building violations which do not take toxics into effect, and it is easy to see that we need to pay lots more attention to the indoor environments where children spend 90% of their time."  Unhealthy schools, Barnett says, are a public health and educational crisis.  More than 60% of all school children suffer poor health, more absenteeism and lower test scores due solely to the conditions of their schools.  Across the country, advocates have found, schools assault children and staff with polluted air, hazardous chemicals, and other threats that affect their health, learning, and productivity.  The crisis continues even though a growing body of published science shows the dire effects of unhealthy facilities and recommends ways to make them healthier.  Scattered states and districts are making progress, but that’s not enough.  Sick schools are a national emergency that demands a broad, national solution. 

Released by the National Coalition for Healthier Schools and coordinated by Healthy Schools Network, "Sick Schools 2009" assesses state by state school conditions and hones in on policies in 20 states and the District of Columbia.  No other source at the state or federal level contains this wealth of data on state capacity and children at risk —- not even the federal agencies.  Fewer than half the states have any capacity to address needs.  Alone among the federal agencies, EPA has developed the expertise and staffing to make school environments healthier.  It also is authorized to write federal guidelines on school environments for the states, as well as a newly appointed Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson committed to children’s environmental health. But Congress continues to stint on funding EPA’s voluntary programs, such as those to protect children and to improve school facilities.  Sick Schools makes an eloquent, irrefutable case for supporting EPA’s child health programs and addressing long-ignored environmental health issues at schools.

Read the report at:

Photo: Claire L. Barnett, MBA, Executive Director, Healthy Schools Network, Inc.

Make Sure All 5-Year-Olds in Our ACS Child Care Centers Get the Kindergarten Education and Child Care They Need

EducationThe Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) has ordered its day care centers to stop serving children that are turning five this year. Displacing these young children from the ACS centers has resulted in thousands of additional 5-year-olds being forced to attend already overcrowded public school with no assurance that they can get the child care they need for their out-of-school hours.

It is hard to understand why New York City is persisting in pushing its 3,300 5-year-olds into over-crowded public schools this year when doing so would force the Department of Education to increase the class size of its kindergartens, default on its State-funded requirement to reduce class size, spend thousands of dollars on bussing young children to schools out of their neighborhood, and create enormous hardship for their hard-working parents.

Many parents have had difficulty securing a kindergarten placement for their children.  In addition, well over half of those that have found a kindergarten space in an accessible public school find themselves still in a bind because there is no Year-Round Out-of- School-Time child care program serving that school. This was not an issue for those that attended a day care center since that program provides educational services from 8 AM to 6PM.


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