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NYC Teachers Want Fair Pay and Less Paperwork

MCFARLANE, HOST: New York City Public School teachers say they’re underpaid and that they have too much paperwork. Which takes away from teaching. So, this week their union is staging a series of demonstrations and today is day four. They’ve been working without a contract since last fall and they’re mounting the pressure of Mayor Eric Adams for a new contract.

But many unions are demanding raises whilst Adams urges millions of dollars in budget cuts affecting critical services like fire department, sanitation department and social work. Dr. Terraine Reeves teaches Communication Arts at Edward R. Murrow High School, Brooklyn. She’s also a member of the union. I asked her what’s at stake for teachers.

So Dr. Reeve, for those who haven’t been following the story. What are you two main demands?

DR. TERRAINE REEVES: So, two of the things that we want, we want the city to understand that a fair contract does not only mean giving educators and support staff the salaries they deserve, but ensuring that we're not asked to do things that are not impactful to our students. Okay, get rid of the nonsense paperwork, we don't need the nonsense paperwork. When we're in those classrooms with the students when we're providing them with the wraparound services and support that they truly need. We cannot do that if every time we turn around and try to educate them. We're being thrown papers to shuffle around and do nonsense, administrative tasks.

MCFARLANE: And so when do you get time to do these administrative tasks? Are you doing them at home? At School?

REEVES: There's no one who becomes a teacher just to fill out paperwork. So for the most part, a lot of us do our administrative stuff at home. So teachers teach five periods a day. And we have three periods beyond that, in many instances to do other stuff.

We have whole group tutoring, we have small group tutoring, cafeteria duty hallway duty. And then we have other paperwork that sometimes a doe might bring in, they'll send us we have to fill out this survey or we got to complete this form or these forms. So if there's anything else that we get like the surveys, we really don't have time during the day to do that, because we can't really do that while we're teaching the students in the classroom.

MCFARLANE: Your union says teachers like you deserve a better pay raise because or better pay because of the sacrifices made during the pandemic. Did you work during the pandemic and could you paint me a picture of what it was like?

REEVES: So during the pandemic, I can tell you, my day started my day, every day starts at about, I would say, 530, because sometimes I'm responding to emails from students. And my students knew even during the pandemic, that it didn't matter what time of night or what time of day, they could reach out and contact me. However, for those teachers who did not get those medical certifications to be at home, who did not have a medical condition that they were excused for, so they could be at home to teach. They had to be in the school building. Many of those teachers, a lot of them got COVID.

MCFARLANE: The union says your pay hasn’t been rising with inflation. How has that impacted you?

REEVES: I think It's impacted all of us. Because remember, for those of us who live in New York City, we're looking at rent increases, right. And then we're looking at the cost of buying food and every, every six months almost, you hear about the train fares and bus fares going up. And yes we do need be afford to live in New York City…

MCFARLANE: The whole city budget is under stress. Adams has proposed some pretty significant cuts across so many critical services like fire department, sanitation, libraries. What do you say government officials who say the money just isn’t there?

REEVES: Give up some of the salaries that you have given two unnecessary titles. Right. Why do we need a rat czar? When you have the sanitation department? You don't need a rat czar.

MCFARLANE: What will happen if your demands aren’t met?

REEVES: New York City's teachers, educators, support staff have been resilient, we've gone years without a contract, right? So we continue to do the work because that is the work we love. So not getting the demands that we want doesn't stop us. It just allows us the opportunity to continue to fight even more, because we're not just fighting for ourselves. We're fighting for our students as well.

MCFARLANE: Dr Reeves, Communication Arts Teacher, Thanks so much for chatting with us today.

REEVES: You’re welcome, anytime.


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