Friday, July 13, 2007

Too Little, Too Late on Class Size...

....UFT uses borough hearings as "Do Nows" to let out a little gas as a way to control militancy.

While we all appreciate the eloquent comments from so many people like John Elfrank-Dana (see post below this one), the reactions of parent groups and the UFT is a case of too little too late.

David Quintana commented on this blog:
I never understood why Randi and most of the other coalition members believed the empty promises of the Tweedies and allowed Bloom/Klein to effectively disrupt and cancel our original rally...We had the Tweedies nervous and they were on the run...Parents got little or nothing in return...Lets be honest...Our side blinked...I know many CPAC members wanted the rally to go forward, even after the UFT bailed out...A parents rally is needed now more than ever...

Our April 20 post titled, "A Unique Opportunity had been missed," was a reaction to the bitter disappointment over the cancellation of what was expected to be a massive rally on May 9th that was killed by the deal between Mayor Bloomberg and a coalition of parents and teachers, but it is clear it was Randi Weingarten's dealings with Bloomberg that killed the rally.

Why? Because Weingarten has the same alliances as BloomKlein do: Eli Broad, the Clintons, Green Dot charters, etc. She can get away with rhetoric criticizing Bloomberg (and note how the UFT has focused on Klein, as if he is independent from Bloomberg), but any street action that actually would have results is too dangerous. The enthusiasm at the Feb. 28th rally at the church that was the precursor to the excitement among teachers and parents in planning the May 9th demonstration scared Weingarten as much as Bloomberg.

Ironic, since she had so much to do with building a good coalition of groups that for the first time was a credible threat to BloomKlein. I never believed she ever intended to hold the demo May 9th in the first place. Her role is not to lead any street movements but to make backroom deals that would prevent any possibility of militancy getting out of the hands of the leaders.

Think of it as a bottle of gas. The leadership keeps things under control by letting out a little at a time and then shutting it once some steam is let out. The current storm of testimony in front of the bogus borough panels set up by Tweed is a perfect example. Busy work and Do Nows for the activist people in the UFT, including the opposition. I can' tell you how many of my colleagues who are opposed to Unity raced down to speak. To what end?

Would you be surprised if you found out that these borough events were part of a plan hatched by Bloomberg and Weingarten as a way to let out that gas just enough to shut people up and distract them from calling for a demo?

When the deal in April was announced, I posted the following on the issue of class size to the influential NYC Education News listserve, which is dominated by activist parents in the NYC area:

"On class size, I don't care what they say or what committees they form. They do not believe that reducing class size will have the same impact spending money on professional development will. That is their mantra... They will say one thing and do another. To put any trust in Tweed given their record is a mistake."

Many other posts to the listserve made similar points. NYC High School Parent Council head David Bloomfield: Promises of consultation on class size, drop out prevention, and middle school reform seem little more than crumbs.

The leaflet put out by the Independent Community of Educators (ICE) at the April Delegate Assembly said on the class size reductions in the deal:
"Expect spinning the wheels. ICE’s position has always been that there will be no reductions in class size without contract negotiations."

The reactions of the UFT and parent advocacy groups - attend press conferences, write politicians, speak out at the borough meetings are all fine. But if all they do is let off steam then it is just a case of marking time - more of the same old, same old.

Forget all of this and start building for a rally at City Hall this fall. We have been told all along by Weingarten when we kept calling for the May 9th rally to be held (the UFT rescheduled it's Delegate Assembly on May 9th) and when the Manhattan HS chapter leaders' call for a rally was rejected by Weingarten and Unity Caucus at the DA (see video of the DA here) with the argument that we will hold a rally if the DOE goes back on its deal.

Holding that rally on May 9th would have been the best way to get class size reduction and many other items on the agendas of parents and teachers. But the age-old reliance on politicians and the leadership of Randi Weingarten has misdirected all too many people away from the understanding that street action works. No one seemed to learn the lesson that was made so strongly at the February 28 rally that frightened BloomKlein into sitting down at a table that was heavily tilted in their direction. But when the very person supposedly leading the movement is really in alignment with Bloomberg, the chances of putting something together that will actually have an impact is very unlikely.

Only when there is a movement of teachers independent of the yoke of Unity caucus and a corresponding movement of parent groups not under the dominance (and fear) of the UFT leadership, will there be a chance to have an impact.

Follow ups:
An article and leaflet handed out by ICE "What was gained and what was lost" and the "Top 10 reasons to oppose the reorganization".


  1. I have to agree. The only way to counter this administration is a united movement of teachers, parents, and education advocacy groups. I spoke at the Manhattan "hearing" last Wednesday. Every speaker was eloquent in their passion and knowledge of the harm being done by wasting millions of dollars by this administration. So what are we going to do about it?

    I must say that I am very frustrated that at long last NYC is going to start receiving "some" of the money that our children have been cheated out of for years. As I said at the hearing, it is too late for my children (all have graduated), but as a teacher, I must watch as hundreds of children do not get the help they need. Every day I go to work and see children that could benefit from much smaller class size, more intervention programs, and quality summer and after school programs, to name just a few.

    What will every school have money for next year? Inquiry Teams Teachers will be paid per session to analyze test data and tell teachers how better to teach to the test. So this will be how some of the "time on task" CFE money will be spent.

    As education advocates we have spent years working through the system. Now we must organize and "hope" that the State Education Department turns down the DOE proposal on how they will use the CFE money. One more "hoop" to jump through.

    For years I have called on the UFT to join with parent groups to hold a huge parent/teacher demonstration to DEMAND the CFE money and whatever resources our children have been denied . How many more petitions, hearings, lobbying, phone calling, press conferences, small rallies, etc will we do?

    It is time for a LARGE city-wide demonstration. Children's lives are being wasted. Lisa North

  2. Posted by mathman180 on the nyceducationnews listserve:

    Having read through the last week's worth of postings on this
    newsgroup site, I would like to suggest a few actions for September:

    1. Instead of relying and constantly struggling to decipher DOE class
    size data, let's collect our own. Parents and/or parent leaders should
    go to their children's schools and demand the data from each
    classroom. In the high schools, find out how many sections of Math A
    and B, Living Environment, Chemistry, Physics, Global Studies,
    English, and American History are being taught and get the teachers'
    roll book counts from each and every one of those classes. These are
    the only statistics that matter -- forget about averages, Special Ed
    teachers in inclusion classes, etc. Let's at least collect some real
    data for some real classes in the core subjects -- it's what I'm
    planning to do in my son's high school next fall.

    2. Find out how much your school stands to lose under FSF (the
    so-called hold harmless amount for 2007/2008) and ask your school's
    Principal what he or she will cut to meet that reduced budget.

    3. Ask parents and students in your children's schools whether they
    would make use of the DOE's cell phone kiosks. I've already asked my
    son, and he just laughed and said no one he could think of would leave
    their cell phone in a coin-operated mailbox outside the school
    building. Just standing there putting it in or taking it out was an
    advertisement to be robbed down the block.

    4. We must begin demanding that all DOE data must be made available to
    an independent oversight agency that will take responsibility for
    statistical and other progress reporting on the DOE's programs. To
    allow Mayoral control without independent oversight makes the public
    education system nothing more than a self-serving political tool and
    publicity machine -- that's not what the citizens of NYC bargained for
    by accepting Mayoral control. The only difference between
    Bloomberg/Klein on education data and Bush/Cheney on Iraq data is that
    no one dies when the first pair lies.

    5. Absolutely, positively bring back the City Hall rally postponed
    last May. Do it on a school day and bring the kids. The only thing
    that makes Michael Bloomberg squirm is bad national publicity, and
    what could be more effective than thousands of angry parents and their

  3. Don't Mourn, Organize

    The only way a rally will occur is if there is a group of people to organize it. The last time some parents called for the May 9th rally to be held anyway but since the UFT was the main organizing force. When it pulled out there was no organizing agent left. I should point out that there were teachers who also wanted the rally to be held and were ready to go in support of the parents. The Manhattan high school chapter leaders in a 19-1 vote sponsored a resolution that was presented at the May 9th Delegate Assembly calling for a rally and though losing because Unity Caucus, the ruling power in the UFT, opposed it, it still garnered about 30% of the votes of the delegates.

    But teachers have rallied before without great effect. The potential power of the parent groups is what was feared. Thus, whatever role teachers might play in such a rally (and there would be little supprot from the UFT hierarchy unless conditions heat up to such an extend that they would jump on the bandwagon) would be in a support role to parents.

    A comment on the NYC Educator blog from xkaydet65:
    "Of course the rally would have helped. Bloomie actually is thinking of doing a Perot. He wants it. A rally by the UFT only would not have hurt him. Indeed it could have given his social liberalism some Red state cover. But a rally dominated by parents could never be effectively explained to a national electorate. That is why it was soooo important that it be canceled. His Dep mayor incharge of the 2008 election was floating those trial ballooons and a healthy dose of parents, Black, Asian, Hispanic, and white around City Hall was a nightmare.

    Now as to why Randi folded we can only speculate. We, as members got nothing, only the appearance of something. Until a senior teacher actually tries to transfer. This is one of those mysteries that we'll never know."

    This is right on about the impact of a demo led by parents though I don't agree that Randi folded. There is an anti-Weingarten crew out there that somehow thinks she is incompetent, or just plain bamboozled by BloomKlein. I have a different analysis of the way the UFT functions and consider her extremely competent at addressing her interests, which do not always coincide with those of the rank and file UFT members. But that's a story for another time.

    The problem parents face is that there is no central organizing force, though the nyceducationnews listserve has functioned in some ways as that force. Parents' reliance on the UFT leadership will end up in a dead end. But if somehow parents do manage to get together, there will be a group of teachers to support their actions.

    One place for people to at least talk to each other would be at Monday's PEP meeting.


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