by James Eterno Jamaica High School Chapter Leader
UFT President Randi Weingarten told us Tuesday at a Citywide Chapter Leader meeting at the Brooklyn Marriot Hotel that there was a smooth opening to the school year. She added that it was the smoothest opening she had seen in years. She went on to say that there were only 4,000 class size grievances filed compared to 6,000 to 17,000 in years past. Randi also stated that the open market transfer plan has led to 3,400 people transferring and members at all seniority levels were taking advantage of the open market in greater numbers than under the old seniority plan.
Randi continued by saying that there were two problem areas that the UFT was focusing on: Absent Teacher Reserves and people in Rubber Rooms. She noted that there were about 500 Absent Teacher Reserves who were funded centrally and that the UFT was seeking a Board of Education moratorium on hiring until all of the ATR's who want a position are placed. She added that people from closed or redesigned schools should have preferences for available jobs. She also noted that members can't be laid off unless there is a city fiscal crisis. For people with unsatisfactory ratings, Randi said that justice delayed is justice denied and that she is pushing Joel Klein, who she noted cannot fire tenured teachers, to move forward cases that by law will be heard by independent arbitrators even though she understood that some of our members are so traumatized that they don't want their cases to be pushed. She said she put a three person team together to work with people in the rubber rooms.
Randi also told the Chapter Leaders Teachers' Choice allocation has been increased. Finally, she reported on some good news and bad news. The bad news was that reauthorization of No Child Left Behind might include a mandate for individual merit pay based on student test scores so she wanted all of the Chapter Leaders to sign letters to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and their local Congressperson objecting. She also said that 55 years old and 25 years in the system retirement plan proposed as part of the last Contract is still being negotiated with the City but talks may have been slowed down because of the United Auto Workers strike. Other topics touched upon were helping a school library in New Orleans, the organizing drive for the home day care workers and an update on grievances.
Since the UFT leadership gave a relatively upbeat assessment on the start of the school year, it leads to a few questions that we would enjoy hearing answers to from our readers:
Is the opening of this school year as smooth as Randi portrayed?
Is 2,000 fewer oversized classes a cause for celebration or disgust considering how the city's school's budget has increased over the last few years? Is the money really going to the classroom if there are still 4,000 oversize classes?
Is the open market transfer plan a true improvement over the old seniority and SBO plans?
It seems that whenever the UFT leadership compares the situation today with the process that existed before the punitive 2005 Contract, they only compare seniority transfers with open market transfers. This is an apples to oranges comparison. Before the 2005 Contract, approximately half of the schools were using the SBO Transfer and Staffing plan where hiring committees (not Principals alone) selected staff while the seniority plan was limited by its nature since only half of each school's vacancies had to be posted. In addition, in the new system people who are excessed who find a job on the open market are counted as transferring. The point is if we add all of the seniority transfers, SBO transfers, people who were excessed and then placed in a different school, members who used the integration transfer plan, hardship transfers as well as administrative transfers under the old system, then we would have a little more of an apples to apples comparison of the new and old plans. The UFT spin is obviously tilted toward the open market plan which we maintain has turned school staffing into a patronage mill for principals.
Why not push every UFT member to sign a letter to Pelosi and their local congressperson opposing the current reauthorization of No Child Left Behind? Couldn't this be a great organizing tool in the schools?
Please comment as we want to know what members who follow this blog think about the state of the schools today.