Thursday, June 28, 2007

Connecting the Green Dots

(Links to full articles posted on the Norm's Notes blog)

Why Weingarten's deal with Green Dot dovetails with the general attack on public education

Following up on her Screw ball toss at the Brooklyn Cyclones game, Randi Weingarten has taken the screwing metaphor to a new level in today's announced deal with Green Dot charters. It is not just teachers the deal screws, but with all other the news today about Charter schools, her actions aid and abet the screwing of public education.

First we have a link to the LA Times version of the story where LA teacher's union president AJ Duffy rejected a deal with Green Dot. But not Randi. Watch the Leo Casey and crew at Edwize justify this one. As the NY Times version says "but their contract would be simpler than the citywide contract." Let's see how simple: "Rather than dictating the number of hours and minutes teachers must spend at the schools, it would just call for a “professional workday,” they said. The contract could also eliminate tenure, but would set guidelines for when a teacher can be dismissed."

Heard of fuzzy math? Child play compared to fuzzy contracts. NYC Educator goes into much greater detail on the contract so let's focus on other aspects. I won't even go into the issue of union democracy, where if the UFT weren't run like the Roman Empire under Augustus, there would actually be a serious discussion taking place. But the mandate given Weingarten by the 78% of working teachers who did not vote will have a long-lasting impact. By the way, has anyone seen a word mentioned about class size in this contract?

“We have never been against increasing charters, but we were against the anti-union animus in some charter schools,” Ms. Weingarten said. The Times says, "Green Dot is heavily financed by the billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad."

If one looks at Broad's agenda in San Diego (and many other places) where Anthony Alvarado got to do his magic, which was almost totally replicated in NYC by Bloomberg and Klein, which Weingarten was supposedly so critical of - and you understand why I see her as such a duplicitous collaborator whose interests dovetail more with the BloomKleins, Broads, Gates, etc. When she criticizes them it is mere rhetoric. Always follow the mantra uncle Normie lays down: Watch what Weingarten does, not what she says.

Pay attention to the very relevant David Herzenhorn piece "Patrons' Sway Leads to Friction in Charter School," also running in today's Times.

This article points to the pitfalls of the benefactor model of charter schools. While the rich Reiches gave a lot of money to Beginnings With Children school, Pfizer (across the street) donated the building. But I bet most money still comes from the public sector. Should the Reiches have such total control? What about parent and teacher roles?

Herzenhorn writes:

"The clash has exposed fault lines of wealth and class that are perhaps inevitable as philanthropists, in New York and nationwide, increasingly invest in public education, providing new schools to children in poor neighborhoods while making communities dependent on their generosity.

"And for those lucky to have such benefactors, the situation raises core questions: Who ultimately controls charter schools, which are financed by taxpayers but often rely heavily on charitable donations? Do the schools, which operate outside the control of the local school district, answer to parents, or to their wealthy founders?

"At Beginning With Children, many parents and teachers say that the Reiches’ main interest is to burnish their reputation as advocates for charter schools, and that the school’s original purpose, of catering to each child’s individual needs, is now secondary to drilling for exams in an effort to elevate scores and the Reichs’ credibility.

"The Reichs said the problem was that the board was “constituency-based”...... Among those told to quit were five parent and faculty representatives."

Well, there you have it in a nutshell. We no want constituency-based input. Sound familiar?

I have a little background with the school, which is located in District 14 in Williamsburg and was once a public school but not under control of the district (a good thing). But it did function under the UFT contract. The chapter leader used to attend the district CL meetings.

I visited a couple of times and was impressed. They were adding a grade a year and had a very progressive model of education.

But the Reich's have the same agenda as so many other"benefactors" like Broad – to take public schools away from the public – and the school became a charter school. In order to further their political agenda the school moves away from the progressive model and towards test prep.

Note in the Herzenhorn piece how quietly we find out that the Courtney Sales Ross' charter school relocated at Tweed after they failed to force their way into the NEST school and has had 4 principals in a year. In the belly of the beast with all the Tweedles running around. We don't get any Tweed press releases telling us about that. Hey, I have an idea. Instead of running around the city telling everyone how to run schools, let Klein or Chris Cerf become the principal of the school and show how it should be done. Deck chairs on the Titanic, indeed.

If we connect the Green Dots to Weingarten's deal with Steve Barr, she is treading in dangerous territory with the future of public education. When a major union spokesperson basically accepts the philanthropic model (Broad gave the UFT $1 million,) it seriously weakens the case calling for full funding of public education and gives enormous power and sway to people with a narrow agenda that goes beyond the interests of the kids.

"If you really actually believe in kids and believe in their success, those of us in education, we really shouldn't be in the sandbox fighting with each other. We should be … trying to figure out how to work together," Weingarten said.

Does she really believe this stuff? People behind Green Dot have had so many negative effects (witness the DOE/Tweedles) and she wants to sit down in the sandbox with them? I'm sure that if she taught just a bit longer than 6 months she would have a slightly different perspective. Are they sitting down in the sandbox in Long Island schools or Scarsdale, where there are no charters but schools are fully funded, as NYC Educator has pointed out numerous times about the suburban school system his daughter attends?

That Weingarten will soon be spouting this stuff nationally as AFT President is a scary prospect indeed for the future of public education. Luckily, at this point, the NEA has taken a stronger stand and this issue may pop up in merger talks when Weingarten will hope to one day lead the entire national teacher movement into oblivion. Though AFT member AJ Duffy in LA took a politically correct stand when commenting on Weingarten's deal with Green Dot, the hope is that the LA Teachers Union will lead some kind of national resistance to Weingarten's turning the AFT into a shill for the attack on public schools by wealthy benefactors with narrow agendas.

As one of the first people in the UFT to advocate for Charters as a way for teachers to take over and run schools, I had conversations with Weingarten almost 10 years ago (Tom Pappas told me "You lost 50% of your support because you favor charters.") At one point in the conversation when I was pushing the idea from the point of view of teacher power, Weingarten made a rare, but revealing, slip, saying something like, "How can we trust these people" – meaning the teachers. Realizing what she said, she shut up and said no more. But it was a rare slip, my first inkling as to which side Weingarten is really on.

(Thanks to DB for the picture.)

1 comment:

  1. I don't think Randi tossed a screwball at the Cyclones game. It was probably the special UFT sinkerball she has used so effectively on her own membership.



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