Tuesday, July 20, 2010

AFT Convention: UFT/CTU Deal Expose Fault Lines in School Closing Policy

There is no more volatile issue than that of closing schools. It leads to disruption of students, parents and teachers who are tossed onto the scrapheap– in NYC they are known as ATRs - absentee teacher reserves as even the most experienced teachers are used as subs.

The difference between the new Chicago Teachers Union leadership from CORE and the UFT/Unity Caucus almost came to a head at the recent AFT convention in Seattle, where the UFT initially supported a resolution that did not include much stronger language. Randi, fearing an embarrassing floor fight that might expose the fault lines in AFT/UFT policy on closing schools — they have refused to oppose them unequivocally — had Unity leaders approach the CTU and together they negotiated language the CTU would be willing to accept.

The 9 minute video below opens with Unity's Janella Hinds (one of the UFT point people in NYC on closing schools) making a strong statement on closing schools – which at first surprised me until I was filled in on what had gone on behind the scenes. She is followed by a strong statement from CORE's Jenninfer Johnson thanking Local 2 for "seeing the light" - my words.

Jen Johnson went where the UFT won't go – she flat out stated that the closing of schools is an attack on teacher tenure and seniority rights and talked about Chicago's ATR problem, where they can be fired after 10 months if they don't get a job. She said there was an attempt to cut into this time limit. (In NYC, ATRs cannot be fired at this time. It is hard to imagine even the UFT giving on this issue, especially after seeing the impact that issue has had in radicalizing Chicago teachers.)

Jen is followed by new CTU president Karen Lewis, who said, "I would like to thank Local 2 for understanding what it means to be on the front lines of a policy that is not only dangerous, it's deadly." You gotta love the underlying dig here at Unity. She talked about how closing schools undermine neighborhood stability and even lead to the deaths of students.

One of the reasons Lewis, who was teaching chemistry a few weeks ago, is now the CTU president is because the Unity style leadership in Chicago that preceded her went along with the closing schools, as has the Unity leadership in NYC. It wasn't until the slap in the face by the NYCDOE when they announced 19 school closings in Dec. 2009, that Unity, facing an upcoming union election, started to take action by organizing a rally in January and filing a lawsuit.

The UFT/Unity Caucus leadership has been making a big deal over their "victory" in lawsuit to keep schools open, especially at the AFT convention. I can't tell you how many people came over to talk about that "win" — even our pals in Chicago.

Of course, people on the ground here in NYC know better:

Bloomberg is sending so few students to those schools that, in effect, they won't be open anyway. And in a startling deal with the UFT, he's placing replacement schools in a bunch of them anyway. It's incomprehensible to me that they've agreed not to file another lawsuit and are essentially allowing him to walk all over the one they managed to win. But such is the transitory nature of victory when you have no follow-up strategy, I suppose.
Read full post at NYC Educator

There was disgust over a recent agreement between the UFT and DOE to insert new schools at Jamaica HS, one of the closing schools where ICE's James Eterno is the chapter leader (Eterno ran against Mulgrew for UFT president) while the incoming freshman class has been undermined by the DOE. Eterno wrote on the ICE blog:

We suffered a setback today when the DOE-UFT agreed to co-locate the two new schools in our building for September and the UFT agreed not to sue. It is hard to believe how we were stabbed in the back by the UFT. They didn't even have the decency to consult with us before they allowed the DOE to move new schools into our building.

Read James' full piece: Committee At Jamaica Vows to Fight on After UFT Gives us Away

Here is the video, also playing on the ed notes sidebar, GEM, and CPE.

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