Monday, June 11, 2007

Green Dot, Randi - Jeff Kaufman Comments

There's been much ado about Green Dot charters and possible collaboration between the UFT and Green Dot. Today's NY Sun addresses the issue below as does a follow-up article in the LA Daily News which I posted at Norm's Notes.

Weingarten and UFT ideologue Leo Casey (who will find a way to justify just about any UFT policy) repreesnt the "new union" movement, which means to me they are not old-line trade union leaders. Instead they look to be partners with management. (There's a lot more to analyze on the implications - another time.)

What to make of the flirtations between Weingarten and possibly LA's teacher union head AJ Duffy will also take some analysis. Jeff Kaufman's quotes below represent a mainstream view of many unionists that the underbelly of the charter movement - remember, the brainchild of Albert Shanker - is really an attack on public education and on teacher unions. Like, let's build reform on the backs of young, committed, low-salaried teachers who burn out and get replaced - like who needs tenure if you don't last long enough to gain it.)

Many young teachers who want to make a difference often enter the system with an anti-union bias, partly as a result of the general anti-union attack going on in the mass media. Meeting union hacks in schools does not help.

Being far away from the scenes in Chicago and NY I may be wrong. With Chicago and Debbie Lynch, who I initially saw as a real contrast to Weingarten (despite emails from Weingarten - where in a weird convoluted argument she attacked me for being anti woman - and Leo Casey claiming I was wrong and saying "Debbie is one of us") I was part right in terms of Lynch's attempts to make the union more democratic (I base this on reports from George Schmidt.)

I was questioned by one correspondent based on yesterday's post "LA Dreamin" where I posted that comment. My response as to how I see a comparison between AJ Duffy and Weingarten was this:

"There is a different dynamic going on based on the politics of the leadership which has a more radical bent than the UFT plus the mayor's history of being a union activist.

"Maybe a lot more trust than one would have in Bloomberg plus I believe from other stuff way more of a commitment to building a more democratic union with an activist rank and file, the total opposite to what Randi wants to do. They also come from a place of running as part of a reform in the union and in the system - not like Unity which has been part of the system as collaborators (and still is I firmly believe) for 45 years.

"These people did win -- sort of like what if ICE/TJC should ever win. We would probably have to tread carefully too given what happened to Debbie Lynch.

"It is a minefield but I could be wrong but also have a better sense of trust as to where these guys are going and their willingness to admit mistakes and backtrack.

"I know where Randi is going and it's deal making all around and no move to democratize the union. When one person makes all the decisions like Weingarten does there is always a bad result. As bad a result as when BloomKlein make all the decisions. We need checks and balances all around and when the entire UFT Ex Bd is on the payroll..."

Those in NYC who like to look at the ability of reformist movements in the unions in LA and Chicago to win an election as some kind of hope are barking up the wrong tree as the Unity Caucus equivalents in those towns had nowhere near the power and money and machine as Unity does in NYC.

End of the UFT Is Talk, After a Parley in L.A.

BY ELIZABETH GREEN - Staff Reporter of the Sun

June 11, 2007

A possible deal with a Los Angeles charter school group has infuriated opponents of the teachers union president, Randi Weingarten, with one opposition leader decrying "the end of the union." The charter group, known as Green Dot, has been battling its local teachers union over how much to protect teachers.

Ms. Weingarten last month visited Los Angeles and held friendly meetings with each side — and left open the possibility of a partnership with the charter group. "We'd like to build a relationship," her special representative for high schools, Leo Casey, said.

Leaders of the New York City union's opposition caucus, the Independent Community of Educators, learned about the trip from a Los Angeles Times editorial, and lashed back in angry blog posts. Green Dot teachers are unionized, but not through the city union, and they lack protections such as traditional tenure or privileges for senior teachers. ICE leaders called Green Dot's contract anti-teacher.

Ms. Weingarten defended her visit with Green Dot's founder, Steve Barr, during a meeting of her union's executive committee, but she failed to satisfy some. "This is the end of the union," an ICE leader who sits on the executive committee, Jeff Kaufman, said. "She's going to leave in her wake now a real change in terms of what teachers unions are."

Mr. Kaufman's caucus won 10% of the vote in a recent UFT leadership election, but lost all its seats on the executive committee. Mr. Kaufman admitted the blow would dampen the caucus's power, but vowed to keep up pressure via blog posts.

Some education experts praised Ms. Weingarten's outreach as a rare display of leadership from a union head, contrasting it with her West Coast counterpart, A.J. Duffy, the president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

The union's battle with Green Dot escalated last month when teachers at an L.A. high school voted to abandon the public district and join Mr. Barr's group. United Teachers Los Angeles had fought previous expansion attempts by Green Dot, and a teacher wrote in the Los Angeles Times last week that the union also managed to squash teachers' push for change. (In an interview, Mr. Duffy denied that any bullying took place.)

Ms. Weingarten's visit, when she met with Messrs. Barr and Duffy, was an attempt at peacemaking, Mr. Casey said. But he said the trip also continued an ongoing conversation between Ms. Weingarten and Mr. Barr. It had been on Ms. Weingarten's schedule for two weeks — well before tensions escalated, a union spokesman said.

Ms. Weingarten said she wanted to visit the Green Dot schools, whose union status is unique among charter schools and which boast an 81% graduation rate, in order to see them for herself. After visiting two, she said she was impressed. "They are very teacher-centered," she said. "It's obvious, the teacher professionalism and collaboration that is the center of these schools."

Several sources said Green Dot's founder has been looking to expand his network into cities beyond Los Angeles. Ms. Weingarten would not say what her next step would be with Green Dot, and Mr. Barr declined to comment for this article. Mr. Casey said the relationship is part of a broader United Federation of Teachers plan to organize what he called the "progressive pole" of the charter school movement, citing groups in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Many union leaders strongly oppose charter schools, which are privately run but publicly funded. Ms. Weingarten has taken a softer stance, even opening two charter schools of her own.

"She gets that choice is coming to public education, so she's out in the front, instead of just waiting to get run over by it like some of her colleagues," Andrew Rotherham, the co-director of an education think tank, Education Sector, said.

During her trip, Ms. Weingarten also met with the philanthropist Eli Broad, who gave Green Dot $10.5 million last year.

Ed. Note: Broad also gave UFT Charters $1 million.

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