Teachers rally for  a better contract 1

Teachers and paraprofessionals from all over Queens met outside Borough Hall on Wednesday to rally for a fair contract.

The United Federation of Teachers rallied in all five boroughs Wednesday for a fair contract in the wake of the 2019-22 agreement’s expiration in September.

Queens UFT members met outside Borough Hall to demand new contract negotiations that compensate them for their tireless work to meet students’ needs, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Through the roughest times, we made sure kids were still learning, were still supported and felt safe. Who else did that?” PS 85 teacher Leah Lin said. “We haven’t been compensated for eight months now. It’s completely insulting.”

The prior contract increased teacher salaries by 2 percent in its first year, followed by a 0.5 percent increase in 2020 and 2021.

That placed the starting teacher salary at roughly $61,000, and the maximum teacher salary at $128,657.

“Three years ago, they told us when Covid shut everything down that we were building the plane while we were flying it,” District 75 teacher Rob Roszkowski said, donning a sign shaped like an airplane. “Right now, our plane is underfueled ... [UFT] doesn’t stand for under-fueled teachers.”

In a recent UFT poll, 87 percent of educators reported that administrative tasks interfere with students’ learning.

“We should have the freedom to do and say what we please with our time throughout the day,” Lin said. “We deserve to have the structure to teach what we want to our kids. We are so sick and tired of the DOE telling us what to test, what to assess ... enough is enough. Let us teach.”

Teacher and former paraprofessional Dina Hassan said that overtesting detracts from students’ love for learning and precludes teachers from implementing innovative pedagogical methods.

“We find ourselves in a time when tests have [overshadowed] the true purpose of education,” she said. “It places undue pressure on our young learners and fear of failure. Education should inspire and empower, not induce fear.”

The 2019-22 contract stated that chapter leaders and principals would work to reduce class sizes within the first 10 days of school. Overcrowding in schools is a prevalent issue throughout NYC, especially with the steady influx of migrant students.

UFT District 25 representative Lamar Hughes said that, in Monday’s City Hall meeting, Councilmember Julie Won (D-Sunnyside) “eviscerate[d] the DOE with questions that they had absolutely no answers to.” One such question was when the city will have new class sizes in place.

“Class sizes matter, and we want fair contracts now,” she said. “I will continue to ask them the hard questions that they’ve never had to answer before to make sure that you’re getting your fair share.”

Councilmembers Sandra Ung (D-Flushing) and James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) were in attendance, as well as representatives from the offices of Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Whitestone), Councilmember Tiffany Cabán (D-Astoria) and Assemblymember Steven Raga (D-Maspeth).

“Teachers face numerous challenges — overcrowded classrooms, limited resources and evolving educational requirements. ... it is imperative that we address them by advocating for a fair contract that honors and values the work we do,” Hassan said. “A fair contract is not just a matter of financial compensation. ... It entails providing teachers with necessary tools and resources to effectively engage and educate our diverse students.”