NEW YORK (Apr. 23)
A campaign to persuade the United Federation of Teachers to negotiate an agreement with the Board of Education to give teachers absenting themselves on religious holidays the right to do so without the present financial penalty has been started by the Association of Orthodox Jewish Teachers of the New York City Public Schools. The association is circulating among its members a petition, directed to UFT president Albert Shanker, which points out that observant teachers cannot use their accumulated absence reserve to offset time they take off for religious observance reasons. The result, according to the petition, “is a sizeable loss” of income each year deducted for such absences. The petition asserts that such an agreement in the next UFT contract, now being negotiated, would not require additional funds and would benefit a large group of UFT members.
The association reported, in its current newsletter, that officials of the Board of Education who attended the association’s recent annual dinner indicated that such an item “could be negotiated” through the UFT. The association also reported that when it attempted a similar effort several years ago, “we found many teachers interested and willing to sign then, including those that are non-observant and non-Jewish.”
The association declared that the UFT and the Board of Education permitted the use of the accumulated absence reserve for the day lost after a snowstorm last February and that several years ago teachers were credited with up to four days from the reserve for attendance during the city’s public transit strike. The Orthodox Jewish teachers also argued that absences on religious holidays “are more vital to us than absences due to minor illnesses or graduations” and that they were the only teachers penalized for absence on a Jewish holiday. “Any other teacher,” the association said, “may be absent on these days and fill out an absence refund form without any penalty” while observant Jewish teachers “are deprived of this privilege because of conscience.”