Thursday, December 7, 2006

Education Notes - December, 2006

The print edition was distributed at the UFT Delegate Assembly on Dec. 6, 2006. A pdf is available for distribution to your schools by sending an email to

Where We Lie Down

Formerly titled “Where We Stand” (circa 1990) and “Where We Sit (circa 2000)
People opposed to the Unity Caucus machine have been branded as complainers and malcontents with no positive ideas. I find that funny since in the over 10 years education Notes has been around, we have put out numerous proposals, most either rejected outright or talked to death. With the end of the year coming, I though I would reprise just a few. Read more about where we lie down on the ednotesonline blog. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Fight Abusive Principals, Defend Members in the Schools Vigorously and Most Importantly, PROTECT CHAPTER LEADERS
Look at the results rather than the bullshit. What are the conditions in your school of your chapter? Is being chapter leader a fun job? Are people scared shitless?

I won’t go into all the details of our 10 year fight to take care of the core business of the UFT. When my principal threatened to dismantle my computer program as retaliation for my activities as chapter leader in the mid-90’s I brought resolutions to the DA calling for protection for chapter leaders. (This was in the days when Klein was more worried about Microsoft than lesson plans.) The Unity packed DA overwhelmingly said NO.

Here is an interchange I had with a blogger who urged ratification of the contract:
“We should ratify this deal. But we should be clear about what we are ratifying. The agreement is mediocre. We don’t lose anything major, nor do we gain much. The money almost keeps up with inflation. We don’t win back anything we lost in the last, awful contract. And there are a couple of provisions that make me nervous. Then why ratify? We are not strong enough, our union is not strong enough at this juncture to have done substantially better. We can use the time to strengthen ourselves. We must.”

I responded:
Why has the UFT leadership, which has been in control forever, had no ability to keep the union from being so weak? Given that fact, and assuming they will continue to be in power, what makes you think they have somehow come up with the magic formula to do what they have not been willing or able to do up to now? Is there a magic bullet? Or must we go back to the basic organizing that built the union in the early days?

If the answer is the latter, I claim that the current leadership is so satisfied and entrenched and sitting out of harm’s way that they have no reason to be hungry enough to do that gut level work. If they were ever threatened by a serious opposition [see note on the “responsible’ opposition below], something we are very far from seeing, that might do the trick. Which is why I claim that trying to build such a viable movement in the UFT will have the biggest impact on accomplishing what you want to see. In that light I can say that a NO vote would be such a sign as opposed to accepting that we are just too weak to fight. That attitude is so counter to strengthening the union. Can you imagine the conditions the organizers of the UFT faced when a relative few walked out on strike for the first time? That is the kind of toughness and spirit that is needed.

A perfect example took place at the UFT Exec Bd. meeting on Monday, Dec. 4. A teacher from Norman Thomas HS pleaded for relief from an abusive AP who had made so many people’s lives miserable. Randi said, “Do you want me to come,” which caused guffaws from those of us in the back who had watched the UFT allow this crap to go on. Chapter Leader and TJC member Nick Licari interrupted (calls of out of order came from the Unity faithful) that the UFT Manhattan Borough office had the case for a year and did nothing. Boro Rep Jerry Goldman defended their actions by saying they did not have enough information to file a grievance and the people at Norman Tomas could have appealed but didn’t. What a joke! Here is an AP running rampant over scads of teachers for a year and Randi wants to go there after the body is practically in the ground.

Randi promised 80 teachers at Lafayette HS sufffering under the famous Jolanta Rohloff an article in the NY Teacher. So far? Nada! Columns in the Wave and in Ed. Notes exposing Rohloff in the “Galleries Lafayette” articles prompted an email from Rohloff complaining about my articles. (NOTE: Some Unity Caucus Lafayette reps have said that Weingarten has really helped, but they are Unity, so take this with a grain of salt.)

At Sheepshead Bay HS the Leadership Academy principal is running rampant giving people U-ratings, yet District Rep. Charlie Turner smugly shows up only to tell people how great the new contract and yell at them for not standing up to her.

Turner and Goldman are indicative of how the union works. Blame the victims while these guys are safely ensconsed at UFT HQ (and getting all the raises the members get from the new contract without any of the risks.)

Randi Weingarten has been too busy worrying that John Stossel made her look bad to take care of core business. That demo at ABC should have been held at Norman Thomas, Lafayette and Sheepshead Bay high schools.

Charlie Turner, the Brooklyn HS District Rep and prototypical Unity goon, who has always refused to accept anything I hand out, came over and asked me to step outside to "talk." I refused. "Don't use my name without talking to me first," he threatened, calling me a scumbag. I called him a useless piece of shit. UPS can be the new catchall name for Unity goons.

Mayoral Control: UFT Will Stay the Course
Literally minutes after Randi Weingarten uttered the words she was in favor of this abomination in 2001, we opposed it. Our position has always been to set up a system that gives the most say to teachers in their schools. The leadership’s goal is a system where they have the most influence. These are NOT the same thing. Mayoral control where they control the mayor is their goal. But mayors do change.

Here’s the skinny. Randi supports it and will always support it no matter how many task forces she forms or what they come out with as a recommendation. Her problem is to make it look like she has reservations or is opposed. But that should be easy. Say one thing and do another.

Watch the UFT either be neutral, which amounts to support since it’s the only body capable of marshalling enough support to kill it. Judge actions by the final result: Mayoral control will still be intact with a few cosmetic changes in 2010. Bet the ranch. Check out the ICE leaflet on this issue and support the ICE resolution. Weingarten claims that ICE want to stop the members from discussing the issue. The members have spoken. Not sure? Just ask the people in your school.

Cut Class size through contract negotiations
UFT leaders always frame this issue in terms of class size reductions will come out of the salary package and come up with gimmicks. This argument is specious. Do health benefits come out of the salary package? Copy machines? Books, desks, supplies, etc.? Would the leadership argue kids should stand so we could get more money? How about toilet paper? BYOR - Bring Your own Roll and earn 50 cents more a week. It was good that at some point the union DID negotiate class size limits or there would be 80 in class. Check the success rate of the UFT policy on class size: the highest in the state, if not the nation.

New Action and Unity Seal the Deal
If you missed our piece last month (check the blog) on the arrangement being made between Unity and New Action to run a joint slate with cross-endorsed candidates in the UFT elections this spring, the deal has been sealed. New Action will get a bunch of at-large seats, guaranteeing their election, and 3 out of the 6 high school candidacies to challenge the ICE/TJC slate, which will now have a battle to maintain independent voices on the Exec. BD. The goal of Unity/New Action it to create the illusion of a “responsible” opposition, which translates into supporting Unity on every issue. Again, watch what they do, not what they say. Does anyone think that the old guard of unity Caucus that disliked New Action leadersfor numerous reasons are happy? The word “sycophants” about New Action leaders often gets whispered by Unity faithful. Stronger words have been used by the old New Action constituency which had fought Unity for so long.