You just have to take a look around many schools to notice something painfully obvious: the number of senior black teachers and the numbers of younger white teachers.
A few weeks ago I was invited to speak at chapter meetings in a Harlem elementary school, a school that has been invaded by a charter school. I was somewhat surprised to see that of the 25+ staff members that attended the meetings only one was white and only a few were in their twenties. It could be that there is a different demographic that didn't attend the meetings but the overall staff seemed to be people of color.
In contrast, just about every teacher I saw at the charter school was white and young. But the teachers did have signs on their doors advertising the fancy colleges they went to. I didn't notice one CUNY college, a place where you might actually recruit teachers of color. Does Teach for America even consider them colleges? Racism? You judge.
I wrote about this a few weeks ago: The Racial School Divide in Harlem
So what has this to do with Last in First Out? It should be obvious - that there is a higher percentage of older teachers of color than there is of younger teachers and an end to LIFO will make the staff younger and whiter.Almost the entire staff of the public school is black or Latino/a and senior while almost the entire staff of the co-located charter is white and young. And this is Harlem where all the kids are the same color of the public school teachers. What has a greater impact on kids? Having a sign on your classroom that says your teacher went to Duke, or having a teacher who comes from your neighborhood and had similar experiences growing up?
Racist Hiring policies at Tweed?A POINT OF IRONYAt yesterday's ICE meeting one of my long time colleagues from the 70's reminded me that in the massive layoffs of the mid-70's LIFO was attacked as being racist because many Black teachers had been hired since community control came into effect in 1968/9 and were the younger teachers being laid off. Our group, which consisted of many progressive members who had gone in to work during the UFT 1968 strike because they considered it a racist attack on the community, went through a difficult decision making process but ultimately came down on the side of preserving LIFO because it was such a lynchpin of protection for all teachers, arguing that in the long run it would protect even these Black teachers. And so it has come to pass.
I want to point out that I had this very same discussion with a young 4th year Black teacher at the school 2 weeks ago. She supported LIFO but was concerned about layoffs. I pointed to the fact that LIFO gave her rights over all the teachers who came before her - what would stop her principal from choosing a first year teacher over her without LIFO? I also pointed out that if she were laid off under LIFO she retained rights of return in the same order she was laid off, something that would probably disappear if LIFO ended.
Look at the hiring policies since BloomKlein took over. I wrote about it a few times based on the work of Sean Ahern, a founder of ICE.
Racial Policies at Tweed: Disappearing Black Teachers
Joel Klein calls the achievement gap "The Shame of the Nation" as he races to black churches to sell his program of change in the NYC schools. But the real shame just may be the drastic drop in the number of black teacher hires in the BloomKlein years from 27.2% in 2001/02 to 14.1% in 2006/7 according to a report from the black educator blog.Sean worked with the UFT to put together a diversity resolution which addressed this issue and it was passed at a recent Delegate Assembly. Sean sent this email around yesterday.
From 1990 - 2002 it rose steadily from 16% - 27%.
Also the % of Hispanic teachers has dropped from a high of 18% in the mid-90's to 11% today, though the numbers are fairly consistent under BloomKlein and the drop began before they took over. At the height, Hispanic an African Americans mader up over 40% of new recruits and that has dropped to 25%. And the % of white teacher recruits has risen from 49% - 65%.
"It is an urgent tactical and strategic necessity that the defense of seniority be joined with the effort to stop and reverse the disappearing of Black and Latino educators."
Bloomberg wants to be able to lay off senior higher paid teachers in order to retain newly hired, untenured, lower paid teachers. In order to do this the NYS legislature would have to change existing law.
The senior teachers most at risk are more likely to be Black and Latino teachers. New teachers are more likely to be white as a consequence of Bloombergs hiring policies. Since 2002 there has been a yearly decline in the percentage of Black and Latino teachers being hired. In addition the senior teachers who are being most targeted for layoff are those in the absent teacher reserve (ATR). The Bloomberg policy of closing schools in the Black and Latino communities disproportionately affects Black and Latino teachers who are concentrated in these schools.
The link to the article by Jeff Kaufman http://iceuftblog.
blogspot.com/, former UFT Executive Board member and a leading rank and file spokesperson for ICE (Independent Coalition of Educators) one of the opposition caucuses in the UFT, provides useful background on the activities of a group set up and funded by the Gates Foundation which supports teacher layoffs without regard to seniority.
Missing from Brother Kaufman's otherwise excellent article is a racial profile of the teachers that are most at risk; the senior teachers, and the ones more likely to be retained in the event of an layoff; the newly hired teachers. We can't force a social consciousness onto Gates and his flunkies but we can speak for and practice justice in our own schools and union.
The layoff of senior teachers over newly hired teachers would accelerate the disappearing of Black and Latino educators from NYC public schools. It is an urgent tactical and strategic necessity that the defense of seniority be joined with the effort to stop and reverse the disappearing of Black and Latino educators.
The joining of these two issues cuts across caucus affiliation and is the touchstone of solidarity at this moment within the UFT . The extent to which union activists raise our own awareness and that of the membership and public at large will go far in determining the strength of our common defense of learning and working conditions in the coming months. Leaders and caucuses existing and in formation will be measured by their words and deeds on this touchstone of solidarity.Defend seniority rights in the event of layoffs!Defend learning and working conditions - Renew the Millionaires tax!Stop and Reverse the Disappearing of Black and Latino Educators!Implement the "Resolves" in the UFT Resolution on Diversity!
Resolution promoting diversity in the New York City teaching force