School Scope: The UFT Plan is No Plan – Except to Capitulate to Cuomo and Call it a Victory
By Norm Scott
Given Andrew Cuomo’s assault on public education, teachers and their unions, the leaders of the UFT, after playing footsie with Cuomo for tears went into panic mode, calling for emergency meetings with parents and an emergency Delegate Assembly this past week. This after calling for a social media blizzard from its members. Cuomo used his powers as governor to call in a massive air strike in the form of the blizzard of 2015 to disrupt the plans of the UFT to organize resistance. But long-time readers of this column and of my EdNotesOnline blog are aware that I’ve never given much credence to any plans on the part of the UFT to engage in a real fight back. But more on that later.
Then there’s the fall of the house of Sheldon, one of the 3-men in the room who run NY State. Well, Sheldon Silver is still in office, but growing increasingly toothless. They ought to build a prison just to house members of the NY State legislature. In fact, they ought to turn the state capital into condos and hold their sessions in a penal colony. There were two interpretations of the Silver, a noted ally of the UFT, arrest. The early betting from teacher bloggers was that Cuomo orchestrated it so he could run his education deform plot through without interference from Silver. But as the days passed people began to think US Attorney Preet Bharara was also targeting Cuomo ever since the Governor killed his own Moreland commission to investigate corruption. But when the Commission began to nose into Cuomo’s own corrupt territory he pulled the plug, which put Bharara on the warpath. The NY Post’s Fred Dicker, who hates Cuomo, wrote that Cuomo was "On Edge" And "Obsessed With Fear As Criminal Probe Into Albany Corruption Continues.” I thought Cuomo was mostly obsessed with fear over having to taste his celebrity chef girlfriend Sandra Lee’s cooking.
Given this scenario, teachers all over the state are praying for the boom to be dropped on Cuomo before he totally eviscerates tenure and gets his wish to have 50% of teacher evaluations to be based on the performance of their students on standardized tests, known as Value Added Measures (VAM), especially since the calculations of these ratings are based on voodoo math. VAM is a sham – but it allows Cuomo to cater to his charter school contributors looking to privatize and profit from undermining the public school system and the teacher union.
Which brings me back to the old UFT and its state (NYSUT) and national (AFT) affiliates. They have all been straddling the fence over the past decade as ed deform has gained enormous ground, unwilling to take a strong enough stand, waffling and agreeing to allowing teachers to be partially rated based on test scores. They bragged that they got only 20% of a teacher rating to based on tests. Cuomo wants 50%. The UFT will take 40% and call it a victory.
Then there’s tenure, currently set at three years, but repeatedly over ridden by principals who can force an untenured teacher to sign, under threat of immediate dismissal (also known as discontinuance, with a permanent black ball against their name), a year or more extensions, thus effectively making gaining tenure a potential 4,5 or 6-year deal. Cuomo has proposed formalizing tenure into a strict 5 year arrangement and with extensions forced on teachers by principals added on that, could make gaining tenure a 6-8 year ordeal. I can see the UFT, which has said little about teacher tenure being extended or their being discontinued, now agreeing to 4 years and saying – “see – it was pretty much 5 years anyway, so why expend political capital fighting it?” As usual, the UFT defense is the equivalent of the Maginot line in France in WWII designed to fight the battles of WWI – fighting old wars in a new age.
Norm blogs at ednotesonline.org
This should be published this Friday, Jan. 30 at www.rockawave.com though I was about an hour past deadline. If not it will be in the Feb. 6 edition.