Marjorie Stamberg has a report and some reactions from ICE/GEM Angel Gonzalez, along with a video of Charles Barron's speech. And the GEM leaflet pdf which I urge you to download and hand out in your school. (Or email me and I'll get you some. Or deliver it personally - for a free school lunch, Jamaican beef patty preferred.)
From our point of view, the UFT's attempt to address each closing on an individual basis is a losing strategy for all, even if they manage to win a small victory in one school. They are moving into desperation mode, with the attack of school closings and the bitter turn in contract talks. They are focusing on bringing people out to PEP meetings in the Bronx next week and Staten Island on January 26. I told them many years ago at Exec Bd meetings for instance - and even Randi personally - that the UFT should be embarrassed to have zero presence at these PEP meetings as I and a few others often ended up being the voice of the teachers. The UFT almost always had their Exec Bd meetings the same night, but they should have had people at each of these meetings. But then again, could they really effectively represent the voice of teachers when they support so much of the policies of the DOE?
On the issue of UFT more often supporting Tweed than teachers, I had some interesting conversations with some Tweed people at the Gotham Schools party last night. I complimented them on the brilliant and well-executed plan of full frontal assault on the public schools system and the union, making the point that the UFT was the only organization capable of throwing a road block in their plans, but instead supported and enabled them. Smiles could barely be suppressed.
Here is the GEM leaflet handed out at Maxwell and going out to closing schools.
"Stop Closings" GEM: Dec. 2009
Baron video from Maxwell Protest.
Here's a brief report on tonight's UFT demonstration outside Maxwell HS in East New York. It was held to protest the announced closing of the school. There were maybe 300 unionists, students and parents there by the time we all went in to the public forum after the rally.
The school closing massacre comes in the context of the mayor's Thanksgiving eve speech in Washington declaring war on the UFT, made with Obama's Education Secretary Arne Duncan sitting next to him. A week later, Bloomberg announced the closing of a slew of schools (now up to 22 as of today), including Jamaica HS, Columbus in the Bronx, Norman Thomas in Manhattan, Broad Channel in Queens. This is huge.
Politically, we are now at an important moment where teachers broadly understand Bloomberg has declared war on the union, and the minority population sees that the city will close down their schools, throwing thousands of kids into the streets, disrupting their education and throwing teachers out of the classrooms.. The sense of the need for joint struggle was palpable in the crowd tonight. Here all the issues of class and race come together.
Later at a public forum inside there was a very hot meeting where parents, teachers, and students, participated in ripping the Board of Ed spokesman to shreds. UFT president Mike Mulgrew spoke, but attributed the blame only to District 19, not to Bloomberg.
Many students and parents spoke powerfully of the school's proud record of educating students, helping them achieve careers in many fields, supporting them and challenging them along the way.
I personally spoke saying Bloomberg has a policy of educational colonialism--the schools he's closing mainly effect minorities. Ninety schools have been closed since mayoral control because he has an agenda of union busting and privatizing education.
It seems to have finally dawned on the [UFT] leadership, with this round of school closings, that if they don't fight to defend the schools now, the union will be devastated. But their whole modus operandi (m.o.) is how to avoid a showdown. Look how they dealt the ATRs, the issues of standardized testing, merit pay, etc. But they can't sidestep this one. What is needed is a real independent mobilization of labor, students, and parents.
The UFT bureaucracy at this point is focused on treating each closing school individually. But the situation has gone so far beyond where it can be fought school-by-school. Some of us took up the chant "Fight Back -- Citywide," which struck a chord with the crowd. We need to go to City Hall in mass protest, have informational meetings in schools across the city, start marching across the Brooklyn Bridge, join with other labor unions, such as the TWU. The situation also raises the issue of the need for a workers party -- you can't fight Bloomberg with Democrats.
There is a new CSEW-UFT flyer out on the situation (PDF attached). I will be advocating for this approach at the delegate assembly and other upcoming meetings.
Angel Gonzalez sent this email which is posted at the GEM blog:
Congrats to Seung, UFT chapter, & parents: phenomenal work at Maxwell !
- Stop the charter privatization schemes.
- Fightback Citywide.
¡No hay triunfo sin lucha; ni hay lucha sin sacrificio!