Spending more than an hour in acrimonious debate the Executive Board approved, over ICE-TJC opposition, rules for the conduct of the coming election for union officers and others that clearly demonstrate that our Unity leadership knows no limit when it comes to their attempt to stifle the voice of the opposition.
Amy Arundel, chairperson of the Election Committee, reported that a unanimous Election Committee approved rules that would prevent opposition caucuses from using union membership mailing and email lists to distribute campaign literature, provide assurances to members placing campaign literature in mailboxes without fear that they will be prevented access to the mailboxes by principals or others acting on their behalf, and providing space on the UFT website which would publish the rules for the election.
The message was clear…opposition caucuses must be silenced at all costs.
While it is true that space is provided on a limited basis in the New York Teacher to the caucuses this space is clearly not what Congress intended when it provided in Federal Law that "a union must comply with all reasonable requests by a candidate for distribution of campaign literature at the candidate's expense."
The UFT has, for past several years, collected email addresses of our members and controls the only available list of home addresses of union members. The New York Teacher is dripping with stories and pictures of Unity candidates that are prejudicial to opposition campaigns. When only one statement from the opposition is published in the NY Teacher, it is obvious how unfair that is.
Resolution after resolution calling for Weingarten to comply with Federal law were defeated by the Unity dominated Executive Board. Our interpretation of Federal law, according to Special Assistant to the President Jeffrey Zahler was "wrong." This was echoed by Weingarten, who claimed many years of labor law practice to "prove" that Calhoun v. Harvey and its progeny as well as Section 401(c) of the Landrum-Griffin Act did not provide for opposition candidates to have access to these lists, whether or not Unity decided to use them.
This is the first time in our Union's history that approval of the Election Committee's rules was not unanimously approved," commented Weingarten after the vote split the body along caucus lines.
And for good reason…Don't try to silence the opposition and don't try to violate our right to distribute campaign literature.
In other Executive Board business, James Eterno, ICE's High School Rep, submitted a resolution calling for the UFT to get off the fence and call for a moratorium on the closing of schools before an independent evaluation can be concluded.
While hundreds of our members face excessing Weingarten showed how she can fiddle while Rome burns and substituted a watered down resolution which called for the DOE to "refrain" from closing schools.
Thanks, Randi. Way to stand up to BloomKlein who close schools for political reasons and to create large pools of excessed teachers. But what could we really expect, especially when you completed a sweetheart deal to continue the decimation of seniority, loss of grievance rights and other basic rights of our members? You showed your true colors when you "agreed" with the closing of Lafayette. The teachers and staff at Lafayette thank you as well.
The resolution follows:
January 2007 Resolution Calling for a Moratorium on Closing Schools
WHEREAS, the Department of Education (DOE) chronically mismanages schools, refuses to provide schools with adequate funding and then blames staff for failing results; and
WHEREAS, there is no valid evidence that proves the educational benefits of the DOE’s policy of closing schools, not admitting new students, displacing staff, and then reopening the same building as a different school or group of schools; and
WHEREAS, there is no clear standard for what constitutes a failing school yet the DOE in December announced the closing of five more schools; and
WHEREAS, the resulting period of uncertainty can have a deleterious impact on students in the effected schools as well as in neighboring schools that become severely overcrowded by accepting incoming students who would have gone to the schools being phased out; and
WHEREAS, new/redesigned schools do not have to accept special education and Limited English Proficiency students in their first two years of existence, thus creating fewer educational options for some of our students most in need, and concentrating disproportionate numbers of these students in other facilities, straining the resources of those schools too; and
WHEREAS, the 2005 UFT Contract eliminated Article 18G5, which gave staff in closing or phased out schools the “broadest possible placement choices available within the authority of the Board;” and
WHEREAS, the current Contract throws staff (experienced and new) from closing/phasing out schools en masse onto the “open market” where they must look for their own jobs or become Absent Teacher Reserves (day-to-day substitutes) thus discouraging UFT members from wanting to work in difficult schools; and
WHEREAS, many of the schools that replaced previously redesigned schools are now themselves failing and in danger of closing; therefore be it
RESOLVED, that the UFT call for an immediate moratorium on the closing down/ redesigning of schools by the Department of Education until independent studies are done to assess the effectiveness of the newly redesigned schools as well as the overall impact of closing/redesigning schools on students, staff and communities throughout the system; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the UFT use part of its “Teachers Make a Difference” campaign to publicize the need for full funding of all schools, with particular attention paid to calling for extra funding for troubled schools in order to: lower class sizes, provide modern up to date facilities as well as safe and stable environments as an alternative to closing schools, displacing students and staff resulting in overcrowding of neighboring schools.
It’s time for the UFT to use its resources to stop allowing the Department of Education to get away with holding teachers and students accountable for their mismanagement.
The DOE is successfully implementing the Grover Norquist “Starve the Beast” policy and it must be stopped. Norquist recommends tax cuts and more tax cuts so that government won’t be able to function and then his people complain that the government is doing a terrible job and needs to be cut some more.
The DOE chronically under-funds schools. The courts have declared that the city doesn’t even give adequate funding for a sound basic education. The DOE adds to the problem by chronically mismanaging schools and then blaming us when schools don’t get everyone to be proficient.
Instead of thanking the teachers and other UFT members for performing educational miracles with so many students in situations that are virtually impossible, our schools are deemed failing by some criteria that nobody knows about. The schools are then closed down, we are displaced and have to apply for our jobs back in our own schools. Kids who would have gone to the school closing are directed to other schools which become more overcrowded and then they are deemed as failing. The new schools don’t have to take special education students or ESL students for two years so they look like they are succeeding but the success and extra funding later dry up and certain new schools have already been deemed as failures. This has been going on for years. This cycle must cease as nobody has shown any concrete evidence that any of this works for students
The UFT’s position on all of this has been to wait. In 2003 the Manhattan High School Chapter leaders came up with a resolution calling for a moratorium on the breakup and redesign of large high schools. I cosponsored the introduction of that resolution in this body and it was tabled. The UFT put together a small schools task force that called for among other things a study to be done on the effectiveness of small schools but it didn’t call for the DOE to stop closing schools until we have the data.
In 2006 the Parents Citywide Council on High Schools called the Chancellor to substantially delay the implementation of small high schools in part because of the issue of special ed and ESL students not being accepted in new schools. I asked last year at this body if the UFT supported that resolution and I was sent a copy of the small schools task force and later the UFT sponsored a resolution reaffirming the value of large high schools but not calling for the DOE to stop closing schools.
Now we need to go further. When the DOE brings in an outside agency to review schools and they find Tilden High School is proficient and then soon thereafter it is announced that Tilden will be closing, there is something that doesn’t smell right. Small schools versus big schools is not the issue. The issue is what constitutes a failing school? It’s not only large high schools that are in danger. Schools that have already been redesigned are in trouble. Many of us are being threatened with being closed because we exercise our contractual rights. I have been told that I better tone it down or Klein will come in and shut us down.
What this resolution asks is for the DOE to stop shutting down schools until we can get some fair, independent studies done to assess the effectiveness of newly redesigned schools including examining the impact on neighboring schools. This resolution also asks for the UFT to publicize the need for fully funding all schools but particularly schools that are in trouble so we get what we need to succeed and stop the madness of closing schools, displacing students and staff and then overcrowding other schools where they then are deemed as failing. That cycle must end now.