Michael left a few comments at Gotham Schools that are worth featuring.
1. As a public school parent, UFT Chapter Leader and member of the union’s Governance Committee - who must admit that he had every expectation that Randi would pull exactly this move - I must follow up on Ellen McHugh’s statement that, not only has Randi Weingarten never opposed mayoral control, but that we would not have mayoral control if not for Randi Weingarten.
The UFT always had veto power with the legislature over this issue, and it was Randi who gave the go-ahead for mayoral dictatorship of the schools in 2002. In fact, a colleague of mine who spoke with Sheldon Silver at the time tells me that Silver had alternative legislation written that, while giving substantial power to the mayor, would have provided for some checks and balances (which I seem to recall from my US history classes, is supposed to be the American Way). Weingarten rejected this, and we now found ourselves where we are today, betrayed yet again by a so-called union leader who prefers the company and compliments of the oligarchs who are intent on privatizing the schools, de-professionalizing the job of teaching, and preparing students for the the stress, tedium, overwork and surveillance-filled electronic and service/retail sweatshop that is the 21st century workplace.
For those who work or have children in the schools, Randi’s rationale that Bloomberg has brought “stability, cohesion and responsibility” to the schools is a particular insult to our intelligence and experience. After all the intentional fragmentation, chaotic (intentionally so) re-organizations, and refusal to accept any responsibility for ongoing crises within the schools, Randi’s distortions and/or refusal to see reality rubs salt in our wounds, to say nothing of making it harder to try and make public education work for all students.
As president of the AFT, now taking her show on the road by prepping the sell out of teachers in DC and Detroit, Weingarten’s disgraceful legacy metastasizes nationally.
Someone was horrified that the union might exercise veto power in the state legislature.
2. Not to be too harsh, but I think people are being ingenues if they think that the UFT does not have a powerful voice on education issues in the legislature, particularly in the Assembly prior to the 2008 election. And that’s how it should be, since the teachers are both the most stable constituency for public education, as well as - I know this goes against the current conventional wisdom/propaganda about schools - the strongest voice for students. I’m aware this statement will not go over well among many readers of this site, but consider the following:
- It is the UFT contract, and ONLY the UFT contract that places any limits on class size. Without the class size caps in the contract, Bloomberg and Klein would put 50 students in each class. After all, they never tire of saying that class size is irrelevant and that only “teacher quality” matters. Of course, charter supporters will say that they’re classes are smaller, without the “inefficiencies” of a union contract, but the reality is that charters are private entities masquerading as public schools, siphoning off public funds and receiving substantial private subsidies. Comparing charters - with their actively or passively creamed student populations, their low or nonexistent ELL and Special Ed populations, their freedom to remove students for whom the school “is not a good fit” - with zoned public schools is an exercise in naivete or dishonesty.
- The union contract, and ONLY the union contract allows people to make teaching a career, where many teachers often spend their entire professional lives serving the children of a particular community. This is an inestimable social benefit that is often overlooked. Again, charter schools are all about work force transience and turnover (an explicit policy goal of Klein’s, and one reason he’s pushing charters so aggressively), making teaching a temporary missionary/Peace Corps gig. If this offends you, I suggest you look at the turnover rate in charter schools: it’s an unacknowledged scandal, and gives the lie to their claims that they are “all about the children.”
The issue should not be one of people being shocked, positively shocked that the union has a powerful voice in Albany (after all, Finance, Insurance and Real Estate certainly does, and had been unsuccessfully pushing for mayoral control for quite some time) but how well the union uses that power in the service of teachers and students. And by supporting mayoral control, and yes, being the gatekeeper in permitting it to occur, the UFT under Randi Weingarten has failed its members, students and parents.
San Francisco Ed Examiner Caroline Grannan commented on charter schools at Gotham Schools in a running battle with anonymous charter school defender Kitchen Sink, known to distort charter school critics' views on more than one occasion. I posted Caroline's comment on Norms Notes for easier access.