Monday, June 27, 2011

For Shame! UFT Victory Lap at Settlement Pilloried

--we sold out - not just ourselves and the communities we live in, but just as importantly, the families we serve. For shame! ---Loretta Prisco

If I were a parent of kids in the schools, I would be pissed. Parents and students supported the teachers, rallied with them, made phone calls, etc. There will be approximately 7,000 teachers less than a few years ago - and the student population has grown. Increased class size, less support for kids, many schools with closed libraries, not getting gym twice a week, and we call it a "victory"! For whom? The only way that we can get what we all need in this city is to raise revenue from those who can afford it. Wouldn't it be wonderful if teachers raised their voices in one loud unified "no" to this settlement?

Don't hold your breath as the mayor's tactics of threats and intimidation worked once again. Funny how if you say there is no money time and again - and your leaders go along - you begin to believe it. Is there a surplus? Does Tweed spend money on wasted projects like water? Should the UFT/AFT leadership take a stand on the way easy money appears when, oh, say you want a cool billion to go to bombing Libya. We know that a stand won't shake the money loose but the union is the only entity that could be out there making the case and trying to win people over to the revenue fight. Even though we started hearing "Wall St." words from the leadership, when push came to shove, the very concept of pointing out where the money is has disappeared from the lexicon.

I find it interesting that even some blogging friends have been looking at the deal between the UFT and Bloomberg through the narrow lens of the teacher. Loss of sabbaticals for a year? Many people think they were gone anyway. The ATRs as subs has created a but of concern. I agree - it is always worse than the UFT will present it at the DA on Tuesday, the last day of school, a day when people like to go out with their colleagues at school but now have to go to a meeting where they will really not have any decision making power.

We cannot separate the ATR issue from the closing school issue. The creation of ATRs was done jointly by the UFT and the DOE in the 2005 contract. That allowed them to accelerate the closing of schools. This agreement is part of the overall plan to force out ATRs after schools are closed by making the job as intolerable as possible. It opens the door to remove them from their school support network and as we know day to day subs - even experienced teachers - struggle. Suddenly subs teaching goodness knows what will be given the worst classes and written up as incompetents. Add that pressure to all the others and people will begin to flee - and the UFT leadership will do little to help and support them. Is this a way out for them without having to be charged with selling out ATRs?

But most important are these comments by retired teacher Loretta Prisco who still mentors new teachers about what this agreement does to the teaching/learning conditions. There is lots more to say - like does this mean that Christine Quinn - that Lilly livered anti- LIFO Bloomberg suckup will be the UFT choice for mayor as the UFT will argue mayoral control with her in charge would be better?

The threatened loss of 6,400 teaching jobs captured so many, kids or not, teachers or not, to this fight. We should have spoken in one, loud, unified voice ---- we had the pressure going, the Progressive Caucus of the City Council was pushing the Alternate Budget as proposed by the May 12th Coalition, we had the support of the community ---Loretta Prisco
Here is Loretta's full statement:

Looking at news reports, a teacher asked me to summarize what we really lost. After all, it didn't look like we lost much to save over 4,000 jobs. This was my response. We lost lots a golden opportunity - more than we will ever get back.

Specifically, no sabbaticals 2012-2013. You can count on this being the beginning of the end of sabbaticals. One rarely gets back what one gives up. We have NEVER gotten back anything given up. When I began in the system, at the very beginning of the union, every contract was a win-win. And every year, as our contract improved, so did teaching and learning conditions, because they are tightly woven together. Now not only do we give back when a contract is negotiated, we give back when we are not even negotiating and don't even have a contract!

Also, we must look larger at the fact that will not be filling those positions lost by attrition. Principals have been told to U rate and harass teachers, and I think purposefully. Let's look at motive. The Mayor is not concerned with maintaining good teachers. I don't think I have to convince you of that. All he and the Chancellors past and present under Mayoral Control, want are drones - young, will do as they are told, are cheap and will never collect a pension - and that they go steadily through a revolving door. Klein said years ago that he wanted to increase teaching by computers - cheaper and more controlled - with big contracts going to tech companies and those who sell programs. U ratings are designed to reduce the teaching force by pushing teachers out. We have lost over 6,000 positions in the last few years while our enrollment continues to grow. Translate that to increased class size. More on that later.

Having ATRs work as per diem subs? First of all, all the ATRs that I have met, have been doing the work of per diems by covering classes. So I am very suspicious of this. It is not saving money, so why was it negotiated as a financial issue. This has not been spelled out and I am concerned that this will be making it tougher for those who have done nothing wrong, except dedicated their teaching lives in underperforming schools.

Now let's look at what this has done to the communities we serve.

To save teaching jobs, (to keep class size down) parents joined forces with us - wrote letters, rallied, demonstrated, went up to Albany, and signed petitions. It was encouraging to hear parents say such nice things about teachers over the last few months. For too long we have been kept at each others throats. What did we do? How did we say thanks to our allies? Saved our own jobs ( no doubt important and I am not minimizing that) but we did not continue the battle to fill all positions so that class size would be maintained. We folded our tent and went away, leaving our allies out there alone. I am embarrassed by that.

But the reality was that we were never going to lose those positions, and Mulgrew knew that. The Mayor's motivation was political, not financial. He used the threats to defeat LIFO, but didn't get it. So Mulgrew and the Mayor "negotiated" a giveback. They come up winning. Our kids come up losing. We went to a party about 10 days ago and met an old friend who works for city government. He was clear - there will be no cuts and the announcement will come on Friday - and it did.

Now let's look at the really big picture - truthfully the city does have reduced funds - and it will get worse. The answer is the dilemma is to raise revenue, NOT CUT SERVICES. And Mulgrew knows that. He talks about the millionaire tax - and "we will work on it". Not good enough. We must get funds - now. For the super rich, with all of their loopholes and much of their wealth from capital gains, a millionaire's tax will undoubtedly help the city big time, and will mean that most of the wealthy will be paying under $10,000. They will not leave the city, as the Mayor keeps insisting that they will because in reality, it will cost them so little. But it is not just the millionaire's, but the banks and corporations that are profiting handsomely, no sinfully. Mulgrew doesn't even mention it.

So what will happen in our schools and communities?
  • Senior services have been reduced drastically over the last few years. Funding for elder abuse has been cut.
  • Meals provided for the homebound are down to one meal a day in 4 boroughs - try surviving on that.
  • Culturals (providing so many wonderful enrichments to our kids) have been cut ( the Noble Collection alone that provides wonderful programs has been cut 85%).
  • Our streets will be dirtier.
  • Library hours cut.
  • Literacy programs will be cut for the parents of the kids we teach.
  • Our roads and bridges will continue to be in constant disrepair.
  • Services for immigrant families curtailed.
  • It looks like other city workers - probably parents of kids we teach - will lose their jobs. We know how unemployment effects families. And continues to put a stress on the city's financial resources. Council member Recchia from Brooklyn recommended that we cut the number of agents that collect money from the parking meters (how much do you think they make?) - and not a word about those who stealing from this city with tax loopholes, no-bid contracts, etc.
  • AIDS funding and other city services will be compromised.
The list goes on and on. Enumerating the list is to depressing for Sunday morning. The threatened loss of 6,400 teaching jobs captured so many, kids or not, teachers or not, to this fight. We should have spoken in one, loud, unified voice. Just to say, we had the pressure going, the Progressive Caucus of the City Council was pushing the Alter Budget as proposed by the May 12th Coalition, we had the support of the community, and we sold out - not just ourselves and the communities we live in, but just as importantly, the families we serve. For shame!

Loretta Prisco


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Anonymous said...

4,000. That is the only number that counts.

4,000 of our Sisters and Brothers still have jobs.

Moriah Untamed said...

Anon 7:46,


How about having a contract that can't be changed unless the union members vote on the change?

The members are the union, not the leadership. The UFT did not agree to these changes; the elected representatives did.

What is more important than 4000 jobs? Lots of things: Popular momentum; the hearts and minds of our families and communities; solidarity among public sector unions; a united front against corporate corruption; a vision of where we are going as a union beyond this coming school year.

Unity, Solidarity, Democracy. Do 4000 jobs REALLY count more? I don't think so, but then my opinion doesn't really count, does it?

ed notes online said...

Right on Mariah!

"4,000. That is the only number that counts."Another pathetically short-sighted comment from Unity Caucus union officialdom. You mean that artifically created number by your pal the mayor (remember the days when you were selling that Klein was the bad guy and Bloomberg the good?)

Sure, let the 80,000 - oops- it's closer to 70,000 now - deal with closing schools, invading charters, being faced with becoming an ATR, and most importantly high class sizes and deteriorating teaching/learning conditions - all because you played the role of France and threw down your cards with a winning hand.