Several years ago, the leadership of the UFT made a blunder when a committee the Union formed to study how schools should be governed issued a report that said the UFT would favor the Mayor controlling a majority of the Board of Education. Eventually, that report led to the Union giving its ok to the 2002 law that allowed Bloomberg to take over the schools. We must not let history repeat itself. The law granting the Mayor full control of the schools sunsets in 2009. We must start the fight now so that the NY State Legislature does not renew it in its current form.
We cannot stay the course with this failed policy. Now is the time for the UFT leadership to admit that they made a mistake in endorsing full Mayoral control of the schools and we need to move forward and find a system where parents, teachers and others in the community have a real voice in decision-making in our public schools.
We cannot merely hope for the right mayor as each new mayor will invariably seek to remake the schools in their preferred image, and manipulate the system for their political and ideological advantage. ICE favors real shared decision making at the school level as an opening demand. In order to achieve this, we need first to get the Mayor out of school governance to the maximum extent that we are able to and get school personnel and the community back in.
To win back the schools, ICE raised a proposal on Monday evening at the UFT Executive Board when the leadership of the Union called for the creation of a multi-partisan UFT committee to examine how the schools should be governed in the future. ICE proposed the following amendment as a foundation for the committee:
RESOLVED, that it is the explicit policy of the United Federation of Teachers that the School Governance Law not be renewed or extended in 2009.
In other words, ICE CALLED FOR THE END OF MAYORAL CONTROL as a starting point for any discussion on how the schools are run in the future.
In response, Randi Weingarten accused of us of playing politics with the issue and the Unity dominated Executive Board voted overwhelmingly to form a committee that will examine all forms of school governance, including the possibility of renewing mayoral control of the schools. We respectfully disagree with the Unity Caucus. The Union needs to be bold by drawing a line in the sand and saying factory model (corporate style) top-down public schools do not work for students or educators. Now is the time to begin to take that initiative.
Do we need to have a committee even consider renewing a top-down school governance structure that the vast majority of UFT members know is an unmitigated disaster for education in New York (and other cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia where it has also been used)? Examine what Mayoral control has brought in NYC:
- Micromanagement of lessons, lesson plans and other aspects of our day
- Micromanagement of bulletin boards
- Testing run amok
- UFT Contracts where our members have lost numerous rights in exchange for raises that don't keep up with inflation
- Mandatory "Professional" Development that has little if anything to do with what most of us actually face in the classroom
- Millions of dollars in no bid contracts
- Two restructurings of the of the bureaucracy: first into ten regions and now into empowerment zones
- A Secretive, opaque form of management and policy-making that has proven itself impervious to oversight, checks and balances, and democratic dialogue that is necessary for a healthy school system
Now is the time for the UFT to take a strong stand against what Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his hand picked non education Chancellor Joel Klein have done to New York City's schools.