UFT positioning is akin to planes spreading tin foil to try to fool radar.
Philissa Cramer's excellent piece, Randi Weingarten under fire for mayoral control position, at Gotham Schools today exposes the fault lines between the UFT leadership, rank and file teachers and parent activists openly opposing mayoral control. While I liked the piece, I have differences in nuance when Philissa writes:
A group of parent activists and union members is expressing anger with teachers union leader Randi Weingarten, telling her that she has dropped the ball in fighting for checks to the mayor’s power over schools. The frustration began with a May 21 New York Post column, in which Weingarten indicated that she is open to allowing the mayor to continue appointing a majority of members to the citywide school board.
The frustration only began on May 21 for those who haven't been paying attention to Randi's positions on mayoral control for the past 7 years. Ed Notes has consistently predicted she would support it - we even went to UFT Exec Board meetings over these years and guaranteed they would support mayoral control with the most minor of tweaks that would have zero impact no matter how much flack they put up to confuse and obfuscate.
We opposed the very idea of a phony UFT task force dominated by Unity Caucus that would give cover to Randi's doing what she intended to do anyway over the past 7 years. (I have been a lone voice in ICE urging boycotting these farce task forces.)
Indeed, Ed Notes went from a semi-Weingarten supporter (from 1996-2001) to open opposition based on her taking that position (really in May 2001, not 2002 as she claims) and the opposition caucus ICE was founded in Oct. 2003 with a foundation of opposing Randi because we knew what the ramifications of mayoral control would be for parents, students and teachers.
I spoke to Philissa yesterday and made the point that Randi's flipping on the constitution of the PEP panel is just flack covering Randi's consistent support for mayoral control. More egregious, I told her, is her modifying the report of the UFT task force that spent a year addressing the issue that was voted upon at a delegate assembly. One of the few good things the report recommended was taking away the mayor's ability to appoint a majority of the PEP. That is where Randi has flipped. The task force was c0-headed by UFT VP Carmen Alvarez, who has been racing around the city representing the UFT on panel discussions and trying to give the impression the UFT supports checks and balances. Tsk, tsk, Carmen.
Philissa spoke to Michael Fiorillo and Lisa North, ICE reps who served on the task force who helped write the ICE minority report which Randi's Unity party refused to allow to be presented to the DA. Democracy inaction, as usual.
“I do feel betrayed,” said Michael Fiorillo, another chapter leader who sat on the union’s task force. “I just wish I could say I felt surprised.” He said Weingarten has veered away from members’ consensus on other topics in the past, and so he had early doubts that she would hold firm on the task force’s recommendations. (Fiorillo ultimately voted against the recommendations, saying they weren’t aggressive enough curbs on mayoral control.) “My guess would be the sense of betrayal would be stronger among people outside the union,” Fiorillo said, noting that union members were accustomed to watching Weingarten change her mind.
Weingarten doesn't exactly change her mind. What she does is throw up lots of tin foil like those planes trying to foil radar detection do in manipulating public perception of where the UFT stands. It is necessary to see through the flack and keep one's eye on where the real plane with the bomb is.
Why does the UFT leadership love mayoral control? Because it allows them to negotiate in back rooms with one person instead of opening up the process to democratic scrutiny. Totalitarians behave that way. When Obama was talking in Cairo today about bringing the light of democracy to places of darkness he might has well been talking about mayoral control and the UFT.
Graphic by David