December 12 Delegate Assembly Report
by James Eterno UFT Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School
In over a decade as a Chapter Leader and Delegate and in ten years on the UFT Executive Board, I learned one indisputable fact: the UFT never loses no matter how bad conditions are in the schools or how many rights are given up in a Contract settlement. The UFT according to its leaders, has the same undefeated record as the Harlem Globetrotters or Perry Mason.
This unbeaten streak continued at the December 12, 2007 UFT Delegate Assembly. President Randi Weingarten reported that 14 schools were going to be closed. She admitted that 14 schools closing was 14 too many. However, instead of condemning Chancellor Joel Klein's decision to close any schools since the UFT has a policy that the Department of Education should refrain from closing schools until we can have a study done assessing the impact of school closings, Randi went in full spin mode implying that 14 schools closings is another UFT victory because Klein threatened 150 schools that received D or F report card grades but because of UFT pressure, only 14 were closed.
The UFT threatened a lawsuit because schools have to be closed using Federal and State guidelines. Therefore if we went to court, in the discovery process the UFT would've received information on the criteria on how schools are rated. With that "intense" Union pressure on him, Klein backed down and pulled a bunch of schools off of the list of schools to be closed. Randi wouldn't tell us which schools the UFT saved.
We need to talk about the status of the members in the over 100 schools that received F or D report card grades and were not closed Are UFT members in these schools going to be pushing to defend their union rights with the sword of a possible closing hanging over their heads? Why is the UFT not commissioning that study to assess the effectiveness of school closings on impacted schools and on neighboring schools? We didn't hear anything about this at the DA.
As for the members from the schools that are closing who will become Absent Teacher Reserves (full time teachers with full pay and benefits but no regular class), Randi said that the UFT is negotiating so that people who want to be placed will get a position.
In case you've been blinded by the spin here is the condensed version: 14 schools are being closed and over 100 others are being threatened with closing; the ranks of ATR's proliferate but it's a UFT win.
In other news from the DA, Randi reported that there may not be a special session of the State Legislature this month so 25-55 retirement plan might have to wait until early next year. She added that this isn't so bad either since if the bill passes later, then members have to pay less in contributions. She also told us that the war over whether to reduce class sizes has been won at the state level because of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity Lawsuit. The question now is whether the reduced class sizes will be an average of 20 for grades K-3 and 23 from grades 4-12 or will there be caps at these numbers in the next four years? She talked about the court cases on the letters for file as well (see the previous article for more on this issue).
Randi was away at a rally when the meeting started so she was not there when a number of resolutions were passed. These included the UFT examining the Unsatisfactory rating appeal process, actions to protest Klein's "gotcha squad" of lawyers who are going after tenured teachers; support for the environment; and support for transgender people.
Finally, a motion to have a UFT strike in sympathy for Local 32BJ was defeated.
All things considered, just another run of the mill great month for our Union. Hope all is well in your school too.