Ed Notes Extended

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Sept.16 , 2020 - Should We Worry About COVID-19 Teacher Strikes? - Mike Antonucci Analysis - Plus another delay

Just as I was about to publish this, the news came through of another week delay -- I'm listening to Brian Lehrer who feels that there is so much resistance from teachers they just weren't going to go in -- so deB is splitting off the pre-k and dist 75, Sept 21 - 3-k, pre-k, dist 75, Sept 20 K-5, K-8 schools, Oct 1 - middle and high schools.

Every single day de B and NYCDOE prove they are incompetent - they can't manage their way out of a paper bag. So it is not surprising and don't be  surprised at further delays. The UFT has been brutally attacked from within over its handling of the situation. I agree with a lot of the criticism but not all and I will delve into why in an upcoming post. The have been playing a waiting game so as not to antagonize  the public and knowing full well that deB will botch things - so now middle and high schools not going back until Oct. 1 -- and I have been pushing for a phased entry with younger kids who are closer to schools and many can walk making sense to go back first.

I put the info below together last night but it is still relevant. Antonucci's points about the impact of a strike are still relevant.

 Norm here - Sept. 16, 2020

I know, I know, I always  have to be a contrarian. But that is my job - to piss everyone off. Here's a question, if there are 1800 schools and we see demos and resistance at dozens so far over unsafe conditions, where are the rest of them? Are they considered safe by the staff or is there a lack of an organizing force? Or are they afraid? Just asking - I do see signs of more resistance but it needs to be a critical mass of hundreds, not dozens.

In cancel culture, posting anything from libertarian anti-union ed commentator Mike Antonucci could get me banned. Here Mike takes a deep dive on the implications of a COVID-19 teacher strike. While I often don't agree I appreciate the thoughtful analysis even when he gets some things wrong.

Here are some of his major points with some comments by me where appropriate.

Mike: what would a COVID-19 teacher strike look like? What effect would it have? How would it be resolved, and would it make any difference? I am not aware of any instances where teachers opposed remote-only work, so we can assume any strike would involve refusal to physically return to school. Most unions would easily obtain authorization for strikes or work stoppages, legal or otherwise. “We won’t return until it’s safe” is a legitimate and powerful stance....  http://www.eiaonline.com/intercepts/

While Mike references the left wing UTLA and Chicago teacher unions which both had easy ratifications of strike authorization, the center Dem UFT, having spent 45 years scaring people about a strike, would not have hd an easy time and indeed, many think they avoided even asking for strike authorization for fear of a close or even losing vote which would destroy even the hint of strike credulity. 

Mike: But what’s “safe”? If a strike is considered, then the district’s definition must be inadequate. Therefore, the union must have a different definition. The problem is that even if we had a vaccine, there would be no 100 percent safety. Everyone has a different risk tolerance. A substantial number of teachers won’t find the union’s definition of “safe” all that appealing, and we saw evidence of pushback by UFT members in New York City.
Right on -- there would be pushback no matter what the union did. If we got full time remote, there would be complaints about not being able to file grievances or about work rules - we already were seeing some of that back in the spring. So there is no win-win for the UFT leadership but if they now managed to get another delay in opening it would relieve some of the pressure. Mulgrew's attacks on the NYCDOE escalate as the pressure from below does.

Mike: In response, President Michael Mulgrew is complaining about the execution of the protocols he agreed to two weeks ago. Noting that 22 positive COVID-19 cases were found among the city’s education employees, Mulgrew said, “You would think that with the challenge we are facing, the city would’ve brought its ‘A’ game this week. But they didn’t.

Mulgrew's expecting them to bring their A game, after 6 months of incompetence from the city and DOE is embarrassing.  That very comment alone shows the UFT is bringing its P game - Pathetic.

Mike: Those 22 positives were out of 15,000 tests — a ratio that would lead to cheering in a lot of places across the country. No one should be criticized for extreme caution in a pandemic, but Mulgrew and the city are making decisions for hundreds of thousands of others. That’s where the safety argument breaks down. Safety is relative to the individual. Unions have been making an appeal to authority. Teachers will return when scientists, not politicians, say it’s safe. This also falls apart when scientists, in many places, say it is safe. Schools are reopening all across Europe without additional outbreaks. Some never closed. Finland reopened schools over the objections of its teachers union, with no ill effects. The research indicates that young children are much less likely to get the virus and pass it on.

Mike makes some good points here. There is a mixed bag in reopenings. Israel for instance which just locked down for the month. The  numbers are low in NYC as a whole but some neighborhoods are much higher than others. In a system this large it would have made sense to do a phased opening with higher infected areas staying remote - but we didn't hear this from either the UFT or DOE.

Mike: New York City’s plan is like most districts’ in that it includes in-person instruction, remote-only instruction and a hybrid of the two. If a strike takes place, what happens next? In-person instruction shuts down, and I presume remote-only shuts down as well. Everyone works or no one does.

Then what? Does the union form socially distant picket lines outside schools? Do teachers, fearful of returning to work because of the virus, ride public transportation and congregate to show up at picket lines and protests?

That’s the easy part. How do you form a virtual picket line? Will the union monitor remote-only teachers to ensure they are upholding the strike? What if they discover teachers crossing the virtual line? Do they Zoom bomb a class of third-graders?

 Below he talks about the non-pedagogical DOE workers who can't work remote. With budget cuts looming would full remote lead to mass layoffs?

Mike: And don’t forget that teachers can work online, but bus drivers, custodians and a vast army of school support personnel — all of whom are union members — cannot. For them, it’s work or no work. There is no remote-only option. Let’s assume a successful strike with solid employee support. What happens to the kids? They’ll be out of school and receiving no instruction. But evidence from the spring semester tells us that for many students, remote-only instruction was no instruction. Some had no computers. Some had no internet access. Some had both but simply never showed up for online classes.

Finally, what of the impact of full remote on the future of public ed? I hear teachers saying "we won't die for your economy." Well, it's not only "their" - the corporatists,' economy. Real people, many lower paid who can't work remote are getting hurt. 

Mike: The whole point of a strike is to withhold labor to pressure an employer to give in to demands or negotiate a fair settlement. But you can’t withhold what you haven’t been providing. Faced with a teacher strike, parents will have only two choices: seek schooling elsewhere or give up on schooling at all. The effect of either decision on public education would be harmful. The effect on teachers won’t be much better. Fed-up parents, particularly those whose own livelihoods depend on their kids going to school during the day, won’t be sympathetic to the teachers’ plight.

Here I don't agree - I see more parents fed up with the DOE and de Blasio, not the teachers. Mike doesn't take into account the absolute level of incompetence. The people really fed up are teachers with both the DOE and the UFT leadership.

Mike: Suppose the district gives in and the union gets what it wants. Two weeks later, a cohort of teachers tests positive. Are schools now unsafe? Is another walkout warranted? Or will the union work with the district to keep schools open? Will teachers go along?

Labor relations between public school districts and teachers unions are predicated on volumes of rules and regulations, collective bargaining agreements and memoranda of understanding. Disputes over the interpretations of these documents have their own sets of rules. This is not a system that easily adapts to momentous decisions made with inadequate information in fluid environments.

Blunt-force instruments like strikes won’t result in a victory for one side or the other. Protocols and procedures can mitigate the risks but not eliminate them. Ultimately, individual teachers and parents will have to decide for themselves whether school is safe. They will have to make that decision either now or soon, regardless of the choices of districts and unions.

I asked teachers who want full remote when they think it might be safe. What numbers do you need? I couldn't get a clear answer. I heard January and I said "in the middle of winter and flu season?" Even if there's a vaccine it would take months. You might as well forget the entire school year, which if you scratched those who are most opposed to going into buildings, they might admit. It seems if you are going back this year, the warmer weather is the best option rather than later in the year. 

Mike's points are worth thinking about. Generally I am not totally on board with full time remote for every place. I think we need to be more nuanced. What if a school is safe? or is that impossible? If it is impossible then why call for schools to be safe - it's a contradiction. Fundamentally -- the entire idea of putting people in one space is unsafe - so then what? In essence this is a call for schools to be remote for the entire year because there will be no valid vaccine until then and we will keeps seeing cases especially with winter coming.

But I've been sitting in my house for 6 months, so what do I know other than my block which has a school on the corner has been mighty quiet and there's lots of parking.


Analysis: From Virtual Picket Lines to Remote-Only Walkouts, What Would a COVID-19 Teacher Strike Look Like? Would It Make Any Difference?

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  1. no layoffs as nyc needs teachers otherwise cuomo will send down teachers from albany bucket full of teachers..and the atr pool should be drained as well ending the bloomberg fantasy

    1. What do you mean ATR pool should be "drained as well", why not placed in vacancies?

    2. I think that's what the comment meant - drain ATR pool into vacancies.

  2. good post. Alaska homeschool- FOCUS Home school provides an elementary and secondary instructional model to students in Alaska, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Fort Wainwright, JBER, Wasilla, Palmer


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