David Weprin receives the backing of NYS United Teachers and UFT

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New York State United Teachers, the group representing more than 600,000 teachers, and its United Federation of Teachers affiliate threw their support behind state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) last week, citing his support for public schools as a lawmaker in the city and Albany.

“The schools in this district are good, and I know people feel we’re getting flooded with students because of that,” said Dermot Smyth, the Queens political action coordinator for the UFT. “I’m confident David will continue to fight for our schools and make sure other schools get the resources they need so our schools are not flooded.”

Weprin, who was elected to represent the 24th Assembly District in a special election in February, is facing a challenge in the Democratic primary from Glen Oaks Village President Bob Friedrich, who is also running on the Conservative line. The incumbent previously served as the chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee.

Assembly District 24 covers Bellerose, Bayside, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Holliswood, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village.

“I can tell you a lot of my supporters are teachers,” Friedrich said. “I think we need to fight for what’s right for teachers, but I never expected to get the union endorsement. I didn’t try because my campaign is all about independence and not being tied to any group, politician or union.”

A group of UFT representatives joined Weprin at his campaign headquarters on Union Turnpike in Bellerose Friday to announce the endorsement, which Weprin said thrilled him.

“This is probably the one union endorsement I’m most proud of because our children are our most important commodity and our teachers really make a difference,” said Weprin, who noted he has a “very good working relationship” with New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi and UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

Mary Vaccaro, the UFT representative from School District 26, and Joe Kessler, the UFT representative from District 25, praised Weprin and said they looked forward to working with him on decreasing class sizes in their districts. The two districts are the highest performing in the city.

“We know class size will be an issue this year,” Vaccaro said. “We’re happy David has worked on this while in the city and in the state.”

Kessler echoed Vaccaro’s support.

“We’re thrilled to have endorsed David,” Kessler said.

Both Friedrich and Weprin have emphasized the need for smaller classes in a borough notorious for its overcrowding.

“Overcrowding is an issue, and one of the big issues not being addressed by any elected official is the high school selection process,” Friedrich said. “It creates enormous stress among parents. Children should be able to go to schools in the district where they live in an area they’re familiar with.”

Weprin’s mother, Sylvia Weprin, also attended Friday’s event. She was a public school teacher for about 30 years, and most of that was spent in the borough.

“The teacher’s union is an important and powerful thing,” she said.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 6:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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