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NYC Educators Defense Fund

November 15, 2013 — 1 Comment



NYC Educators Defense Fund Will Press UFT Leadership to Stand with Students and Teachers, Break Ties with Corporate ‘Privatizers and Profiteers’

 NYCEDF Founding Donation Provided by Harris Lirtzman, Former Teacher and Whistleblower Who Stood Up for Students with Disabilities

New York – The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), known as ‘the social justice caucus’ of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), announced today the formation of a new tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, the New York City Educators Defense Fund (NYCEDF), with the support of an initial contribution of $12,500 by a former public school teacher, Harris Lirtzman. NYCEDF will help MORE achieve its vision of a transformed and fully empowered UFT that “organizes and educates members to resist all efforts to deprive them of their rights and to stop the corporate education ‘reform’ agenda.”

By forming NYCEDF, MORE and its allies intend to increase grassroots support for a fair contract and to organize effective opposition to the new teacher evaluation system imposed on city teachers by State Education Commissioner John King and the high-stakes testing regime that has been so detrimental to the City’s public schools and students.

“The groundswell against the so-called ‘education reform’ agenda is rapidly gaining strength here in the City and across the country. Educators now understand what a truly democratic and revitalized teachers union, working arm in arm with parents and students, can do to protect public education in New York City,” Kit Wainer public school teacher and MORE member, said. “Our hope is that NYCEDF can be a catalyst for the sort of change that will make the UFT a real leader in the fight on behalf of city teachers and the public school system.”

Mr. Lirtzman was the New York State deputy comptroller for administration from 2003 to 2007 and became a NYC public school teacher at 54.  He taught mathematics to students with disabilities at a high school in the Soundview section of the Bronx from 2009 to 2012. Mr. Lirtzman became aware of serious violations of federal law and state regulation concerning students with disabilities in his school and warned his principal about them, with no response. After being stonewalled by the NYC Department of Education, he refused to be silenced and took his case to the State Education Department (NYSED) and the US Department of Education. NYSED sustained the most serious of his allegations and placed the school and its principal under state supervision for six months to ensure that a wide-ranging compliance plan was fully implemented.

Mr. Lirtzman, who has since retired, is now an ardent supporter and friend of MORE. His donation provides money to pay for the costs of setting up and operating NYCEDF and to support its ongoing advocacy and education efforts.

“I am proud to be a member of MORE.” Mr. Lirtzman said. “The city’s teachers have been unfairly attacked for the last few years by corporate voices of something called ‘education reform.’ What these people really want to do is destroy public education and the union that represents City teachers, who work under impossible conditions every day to educate our children. I hope that NYCEDF can become a powerful advocate on behalf of public education in NYC and force the UFT to become the strong and democratic union that it should be.”

Marissa Torres, teacher and founding member of MORE, expressed the gratitude and enthusiasm felt by members of her caucus at the formation of NYCEDF. “Harris Lirtzman put his job on the line to defend the most vulnerable and marginalized students in the system,” Torres said. “His fierce determination and commitment to justice add fuel to our fire and give people hope. Now, because of his generous gift to NYCEDF, we can take our movement to a new level. We are honored and grateful for his support.”

For information on the fund or how to donate please email [email protected]