Thursday, November 8, 2007
The Stealth Contract
special to Education Notes, author wishes to remain anonymous
We need to challenge the union leadership’s maneuvering to prevent discussions of items that they say are already in the contract that the membership voted on. The inclusion of clauses in the contract that are seemingly innocuous and buried in neutral sounding verbiage must be criticized. Any time the union says that it is opening discussions on items, or exploring the possibility, etc., we know that something terrible is down the pike. It is a stealth maneuver that allows them to give up more behind our backs.
What’s happening now is that the Union Leadership is portraying the merit pay proposal as a victory for us. A victory over what? Over the fact that the ambiguous contract language meant that the outcome could have been worse? The worse possibility was certainly hidden from the membership during the contract vote. And, just because the worst case scenario (individual merit pay) hasn’t yet occurred, it doesn’t mean it won’t. As many people have pointed out, school merit pay opens the door to individual merit pay, especially since they are leaving the method of distributing bonuses up to a principal-dominated school committee.
But even if the bonuses were distributed evenly to all UFT members within a school, we must recognize that merit pay is a significant setback for union solidarity and a huge step in the continuous attack on teacher professionalism. In the newly defined verbiage of the federal government and the DOE, “professionalism” has been equated with adherence to their “research based” educational mandates, and their criteria of success, always tied to test scores, and always used to further their political and corporate careers. But from the point of view of teachers, professionalism includes the commitment to do what’s best for the children, the right to make decisions, and to expect the kind of support necessary to succeed. Like other professionals they should be able to make use of their own education, training, talent and experience. The DOE’s carrot (bonuses) and stick (closing of schools) strategies are not only insulting but are bad for public education.
That our Union Leadership has joined the DOE and mayor in furthering an agenda of high stakes testing and its punitive consequences for students and teachers alike is shameful. When they say that this is what the members voted for, they are just proving that their role is to fool us rather than represent our interests.