Friday, November 14, 2008

DA REPORT: UNION REFUSES TO OPPOSE KLEIN FOR OBAMA’S ED SECRETARY

By James Eterno, UFT Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School

In what can only be described as another example of proof of the wide gap between the UFT leadership and its membership, the UFT at the Wednesday, November 12, 2009 Delegate Assembly would not go on the record opposing Joel Klein for Federal Secretary of Education. They will only go so far as to encourage members to send our thoughts about the Chancellor to the Obama transition people and they will send results of surveys we did last spring.

The Unity leadership spoke out strongly in opposition to an ICE amendment to a resolution that would share information about Klein and encourage UFT members to contact the Obama staff about Klein. ICE’s Lisa North proposed that the UFT oppose any nominee such as “Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, Paul Vallas or any other potential Secretary of Education who supports corporate style, top-down, high stakes test crazed, teacher bashing accountability.” We wanted the UFT to go on the record and declare that twenty-five years of teacher bashing is enough. The UFT leadership declined to join us in saying enough is enough.

Instead, the normally sensible Secretary Michael Mendel gave a powerful speech against opposing Klein. He said that the teachers should be encouraged to make statements, not the UFT because then the battle lines are drawn. If I correctly understood this argument, he basically wants the rank and file to throw the snowballs while the UFT leadership stands back and watches. This way they can say, “It’s them not us Chancellor.” I have one question: Who does the UFT leadership represent?

The corporate style, top-down, test crazed blame the teachers and close down schools if the tests scores don’t go up fast enough accountability system has been a disaster for our schools and our members. That much is clear. Joel Klein is just one of a number of city school superintendents who have bought into the “It’s the teachers’ fault!” accountability. Randi Weingarten has talked repeatedly about how the Federal No Child Left Behind law is the real problem. Even after a favorable election where Randi spoke about how hard the UFT toiled to elect Obama and a Democratic Congress, our Union still will not take an official stand against the “blame the teachers” crowd that now run urban schools in many cities.

As for Klein himself, I have emailed back and forth with the Chancellor on several occasions about Jamaica High School issues. I have nothing against him personally. It’s the policies that try to quantify everything into data driven accountability that I find lacking as well as trying to apply the free market system to schools. It doesn’t work. We need to go in a different direction. If the leader of the UFT-AFT will not move us there, then we are in big trouble. The UFT’s decision to leave the rank and file out on our own to lead the battle against Klein while they stand back and watch from the sidelines might be indicative of where they stand.

After Mendel spoke, there was no suspense about the outcome of the vote. We knew we would lose in the Unity dominated DA, however Michael Fiorillo, the Chapter Leader from Newcomers High School, did suggest that when the UFT encourages teachers to tell the truth about the Klein administration while not directly opposing Klein, it is a distinction without a difference. I have to respectfully disagree with my friend from Newcomers.

For the membership, UFT leaders will say what we want to hear while behind the scenes they can wink and who knows what they are telling the Chancellor. Maybe they are saying they are just letting the teachers blow off some steam. Perhaps they want to be everything for everyone. The amendment to oppose Klein and company was defeated; the resolution to provide information to the Obama team on Klein carried.

ATR’s: Rally or Candlelight Vigil?

Controversy erupted at the DA over the November 24th rally at Tweed in support of Absent Teacher Reserves. The ATR supporters from the Ad Hoc Committee asked for clarification from President Weingarten if this was to be a raucous rally or a candlelight vigil. The latest word from UFT leaders is that this would be a vigil now but the DA in October called for a rally which Randi supported. Yesterday, Randi decided to mock the controversy and belittle the people who want a loud gathering. She said it gets dark early in November and candles would allow everyone to be seen.

ICE’s Julie Woodward took offense at being ridiculed by the President. Julie passionately voiced her feelings to the DA on behalf of the ATRs. At the end of all of this, I’m still not sure if there will be a rally or a vigil but I will encourage the members in my school and those who read this blog to attend either way.

In other DA News, we heard a long report from Randi about Obama’s election, the Democratic Party majority in Congress, control of the New York State Senate, the horrific State and City budget situations, budget cuts for schools in the middle of the year, No Child Left Behind, civil rights, an economic stimulus package that would hopefully include money for state and local governments, the DC 37 settlement that keeps to the 4% and 4% pattern, and possible layoffs. (If the city were to declare a financial emergency, layoffs would have to come in reverse seniority order within license citywide.) She also did not even hint that Bloomberg is close to declaring a financial emergency where there could be layoffs.

There were questions about parking and rubber rooms. Staff Director Leroy Barr reported that things are much better in the Temporary Reassignment Centers than last year. Finally, the UFT will rally in support of UFT members at the Art Institute today and at the Merrick Charter School on November 20.

19 comments:

NYC Educator said...

Well, it's certainly true that Klein's most effective moves against working teachers, the 05 contract and reorg 3, were accomplished with the explicit blessing of Ms. Weingarten. In the highly unlikely event he ascends to Obama's cabinet, perhaps she could replace him.

Unitymustgo! said...

Question? How does NYC declare itself in a fiscal emergency? Does Bloomie just get to decide for himself? Or is there a formal process? What are the checks and balances in this situation? What is the criterion that determines that the city is in a financial emergency? If in the end the city does officially ever declare itself in trouble what happens with ATR’s? There are so many questions. We had a quick chapter meeting this morning and all I heard my chapter leader say is Randi says don’t worry about it yet? OK? But are they worrying about it? Shouldn’t we be planning what our actions and responses need to be if such a situation were to occur? I’ve got a great idea! Maybe we should all stick our heads out a window and scream “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Maybe our leaders can manage to pull their heads out of Bloomie and Klein’s butts for a minute and scream with us.

Unitymustgo!

Brooklyn Teacher said...

This idea, that we must fight bad things as individuals, seems to contradict the reason for a union in the first place. Unity hacks did the same at the Oct. DA when one hack was called on (no surprise there) to say we must fight the term limits extension as "individuals," not as a union. Now, I have heard Randi refrence the song "Solidarity forever," so I know she has some familiarity with the purpose of unions....

The failed policy of not "making waves" has come back to bite us time and time again. Randi cancelled the May 9 demo 2 years ago why? Because Bloomberg was being our friend? How? By messing with tenure? By changing the way schools are funded? Unity resolutions "commend" the governor as he slashes our budgets. The UFT backed Spitzer, who wanted to extend the school day and the school year. Unity backed Obama, who favors merit pay and charter schools.

Oy Vey! Unity has to go!

JW said...

James, not only will Weingarten not take a stand against the "blame the teachers" crowd, she'll play in the sandbox with them. Look at the first article in the General section on the UFT's own website:
"Most high schools show improvements in latest School Progress Reports". Where the rest of us scream at the profound idiocy of those manipulated, twisted reports, she says they're "an improvement over last year’s model" and actually takes some credit for it, saying it's "the result of the open dialogue between the UFT and the DOE on this issue." With this kind of positioning, folks, we ain't goin' anywhere except on a leash, smelling poop on the ground all the way.

As for the rally: This management sees the new activists within the ranks as the enemy. That's why they snipe at these people, and that's why Weingarten's explanation was verbal maneuvering without substance. She didn't care that he'd been insulting, petulant, and rude. The man is irritated at having to mount a rally he doesn't want to mount, and boy did it show.

Just so you know, I have stopped speaking specifically for ATRs and prefer to speak for all educators, any of whom can be pushed off their career course by the Klein juggernaut.

Anonymous said...

Union movement is in its last throes, its leadership is in the mode of self-preservation. UFT is unable to anything real for its members, all they can do is to play defense, is to cover up their incompetency so that the leadership group will retire with their double pensions. I will not be surprised to see UFT disappear in 10 years, or less.

Anonymous said...

What kind of a Union we have that does not represent the voice of the people. Teachers do not want Klein for the Secretary of Education. The UFT should send a letter to Obama about this issue.

Randy promised a RALLY to support the ATRs not a CANDLELIGHT. Nobody died to have a candle light.

Anonymous said...

As long as there are $47.27 there to be taken out of our paychecks, the UFT isn't going anywhere. As for them standing up for teachers, that ship sailed long ago.

Anonymous said...

It's funny how things are perceived differently.

The ICEsickle that felt ridiculed was silly.

Many of us felt that John Powers was wasting time and being petty in arguing rhetoric. Bottomline John, candles or not, everyone should show up for ATRs on 11-24.

Anonymous said...

Unity man go back to the Unity site please.

Anonymous said...

Things are perceived very differently when Randi signs the checks.

Anonymous said...

still nothing on uft.org about the rally...no news flash...no action alert...

no fliers...

no posters...


the best is...the da resolution that is posted online doesn't include the amendment (rally).

pretty sad

Anonymous said...

Are you surprised by the lack of publicity for the rally over at UFT.org?

Anonymous said...

Klein is to blame for the entire meltdown of the system. Sure more students are graduating from High School,the grades are being changed by the principals. In my old school only 80 students out of 200 seniors a week before the graduation date were eligible to graduatee.
The principal went back and changed the grades of these students and in some cases went back 2 to 3 years and changed their grades. In most cases these were not the nice kids of the school but the criminals who caused all the problems.
I spoke to a union rep about this by the name of Charley Turner and his reponse was "the union deals only with the teachers". Well if you don't pass everyone the principal will do away with your department which is what happened in my school. So it does effect the teachers.
This is another example of Unity having its head in the sand. John F. Kennedy wrote a book "While England Slept" so we now have a new book while Randi and Unity were Asleep at The Wheel"

Anonymous said...

The last person makes many good points about how the system is doing social promotion.

However, Unity is not asleep; they are wide awake. They know what is going on but they choose to play along. This DA summary just reinforces that.

Anonymous said...

Oppose JOEL KLEIN FOR EDUCATION SECRETARY in the Obama Cabinet . . . .
This issue has created a real stir in the blog world, as teachers and parent groups try to prevent it from getting off the ground. It even made the�Times�last week, and rightly so. �Klein and other big-city chancellors like Rhee in Washington and Duncan in Chicago are running full frontal attacks on public education.�Teachers Unite has sent around three links to petitions, saying "Please sign on to whichever reflects your�views."
http://www.stopjoelklein.org
http://www.teacheractivistgroups.org
http://www.petitiononline.com/campd227/petition.html

Anonymous said...

In the face of all that we are experiencing as teachers, parents, students, I am struck by the fact that the general public seems to be anesthesized
to what is happening with our city government. Indeed, it would appear that little by little, we are allowing our freedoms to be chipped away by this billionaire Mayor and his minions.

The Mayor claims that he is giving the public a choice in the upcoming election of 2009. Effectively, he's cleared the field for himself, subverting the law, using the City Council members to clear the way for another four years for himself.

Save for what I read on here and on teacher blogs, the future of American public education seems bleak indeed, if the general public buys into the idea that people such as Bloomberg and Klein have the solutions to "fix" the system. Where are the protests, except from the teachers? Why has education in the city been allowed to come under "Mayoral" control? As Mr. Ahern has pointed out, we are surrounded by "truth"- but, WHOSE "truth"? Does an effective propaganda machine replace reality?

Six years with the DOE has convinced me that our NYC public school system is anything BUT a place for students to become "educated". The system, at least in the schools I've worked in, appear to do anything BUT.... rather, they are just warehouses to keep people off the streets and out of sight. Woe to us all when these students "graduate" without skills or knowledge in the general society. The billionaire politicians will not feel the effects, but those of us in the trenches of society will.

Quite frankly, I am very, very, afraid......

Anonymous said...

Why won't the UFT use its weight as the 800 pound gorilla to fight for the rights and dignity of the rank in file? Sadly, this is just proof that the UFT is just a paper tiger.

Anonymous said...

A spineless paper tiger.

Anonymous said...

A small-scale social movement to stop Joel Klein from becoming our Secretary of Education is just the start - Under his leadership and legal maneuvering, he stymied many good teachers suspending Constitutional rights and abrogating 1st, 5th, 6th and 14th amendments on numerous occasions - Klein's move to DC would ring horrors for the nation spreading NYC punitive measures across the nation - People may fear becoming teachers and possibly being removed for false or unproven allegations as his HIT team have proven again and again destroying hopes and dreams of many good teachers wrongfully declared evil-doers simply because they were on the wrong side of administrators - Civil rights will take a back seat to Klein's machine