Friday, November 20, 2015

Revisting Bloomberg Closing School Policy and UFT/Unity Complicity as They Sends Hacks to Schools They Helped Close Down to Talk Friedrichs

by Jeff Kaufman

Far Rockaway, NY Nov. 19. 2015. 

A UFT Special Rep led a union meeting held with the teachers of QIRT in which he demonstrated that the UFT, in its present condition, has little regard for us.

He began the meeting with a bizarre explanation of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case currently pending in the United States Supreme Court in which non-union teachers have complained that they should not be forced to pay union dues. The case is significant and will, if the plaintiffs win, completely alter labor management relations in the public sector since teachers and others will probably not want to pay dues for unions they believe are not helping them win significant contract rights.

The UFT’s very existence is at stake but why would the Special Rep talk to us about this? Is there anything we could do about a case pending before the US Supreme Court?

This is a significant time to organize ourselves and select representatives who will actually think about our members and not their own pocket books. While there is no question that our Union must survive informing a Chapter about this case shows how ineffectual the Union leadership is.

The Special Rep continued to talk about the grievance procedure, lesson plans and unit plans; items which are clearly not issues for our Chapter.

● Where was the Union when they destroyed our grievance procedure and took away the right to grieve letters to the file?
● Where was the Union when Danielson was implemented?
● Where was the Union when testing was and still out of control?
● Where was the Union when the Union gave up any credible influence in the educational process?

The Union was and continues to be complicit. We need a Union that puts its members first; not for some misguided leaders.
Jeff Kaufman
We can add to Jeff's list - like where was the union when they started closing down large high schools in the earliest days of the Bloomberg admin? Let me focus on that issue here.

When the UFT/Unity send people to your school to talk about the Friedrich's case which may allow teachers to stop paying dues they are clearly concerned about the damage to the machine that may incur when people who have been poorly served by the union choose that option. Given UFT partnership with the deformers for decades, there is a lot of anger out there at the leadership.

How about starting with reforming the union constitution to allow the disenfranchised to have a voice? Like currently, the UFT Exec Board is 100% Unity Caucus endorsed and in the coming election about the best the opposition will do is to capture the 7 high schools seats out of 100. Do we think that only 7% of UFT members don't support Unity?

One of the union's major failures was their cooperation in the closing of large schools until it got so bad late in 2009 that they tried to respond with too little too late.

The issue of the closing of large high schools and breaking them into small schools was a topic of conversation when I had the pleasure of having lunch with Jeff Kaufman earlier this week - he is teaching at a school at Far Rockaway HS campus. For newbies, Jeff was a major opposition voice in ICE and the UFT and he and James Eterno led the charge when we had UFT High School Exec Board seats from 2004-2007.

There is no little irony that Jeff's school had a visit this week from one of Unity's all-time slugs, Washington Sanchez to talk about Friedrichs. Poor Washington - who I caught leaving derogatory anonymous comments on blogs - he may have to go back to the classroom one day.

But really, a union should be talking to people about Friedrichs and the danger it imposes. But an autocratic union that turns so many people off?

Jeff, a former cop and lawyer, was Randi's worst nightmare when he was on the board, challenging her when she talked legal -- really some of the funniest moments in UFT history. And also - Jeff was the most notorious person rubber roomed while he was on the Ex Bd when he was chapter leader at Riker's Island. And I know there are some people out there who think they invented the wheel but after we got Randi to give time to speakers before EB meetings began, Jeff began to bring his friends from the rubber room to these meetings to speak. Jeff and James (and others) also led the charge against the 2005 contract over the creation of ATRS in that contract by ending seniority rules.

And oh yes, we all also spoke up against the UFT going along with closing schools - they did not begin to wake up until Bloomberg took a massive shot at them by trying to close down 19 schools at one time around 2009. I know this comparison may be looked at askance but it is akin to the misjudgements made by our government as ISIS took hold.

It was good to catch up with Jeff and get an insider's perspective on how things are going at a former large school that was broken up.

Far Rock was closed down so small schools could open and the UFT and its toxic Queens office was pretty much a partner with the DOE by putting up no resistance. Ed Notes was on the case:  Ed Notes Online: Where's Waldo – er– the Union at Far Rock?, Dec 26, 2006 and I was invited by some outraged teachers at the union to come to a union meeting after school to talk to the staff and one of the teachers who invited me was eventually fired by the DOE. One of the charges against the teacher? He invited me to the meeting.

Far Rock and other "campuses" like my alma mata Thomas Jefferson have seen the schools that replaced them but don't attract the top students struggle as much as the bigger school did - but with much less resources to offer any of the kids.

Leonie Haimson has a report on her blog debunking a recent "study" that pointed to success for the Bloomberg school closings:  Yet another unconvincing report on the results of Bloomberg's school closure policies.
Nor does the report mention the issue of soaring discharge rates at the closing schools.  In fact, the word "discharge" is never used in either the report or the technical appendix.  In the report Jennifer Jennings and I wrote on the DOE's rising discharge rate between 2000 and 2007, we found this problem especially evident at the closing schools, with rates as high as 50% for the last two graduating classes at closing schools.
Usually one school out of the 4 manage to attract/capture the top performing kids and rises above the rest on these campuses - until some other school in the area competes and starts stealing the top kids and then that school begins to go down -- it is a dog eat dog world in education now. But I've had fun when some of the principals of the "good" school brag how they brought up the grad rate of their school and compare it to the old large high school. Shael was always doing that - when in fact the same percentage of kids who were succeeding at the old large high school - sometimes 25-30% -- were just now concentrated in one separate school.

Jeff filled me in on his new school at Far Rockaway HS Campus, QIRT (Queens HS for Information, Research and Technology - I have to pause for a laugh at these long school names). He likes the school and the principal, who himself is a Far Rock grad. But on the whole the campus is like most of the former large schools - all of the small ones competing for the best kids.

He has only been there 3 months and at the end of this year it will be worth getting his analysis of the state of the Far Rock campus schools years after they closed down the big enchilada.

1 comment:

  1. Last Thursday, a UFT Chapter Advocate (which is a new UFT position this school year supposedly to assist new Chapter Leaders) participated in our lunchtime chapter meeting. He stated that his role was to help CLs in the areas of Chapter Meetings, Consultations, SLTs, PD Committees. He also spoke briefly about the Friedrichs case although he didn’t explain the issue nor what the case was about. In summary, all he said was if we lose this case, we will lose our bargaining rights, our pensions, etc. And what we have to do to stop this from happening is to give money to COPE. That's all we have to do is give them money. Nothing about strong chapters and union power.


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