by James Eterno, Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School
UFT President Randi Weingarten and Francis Lewis High School Teacher Arthur Goldstein have written contrasting pieces in the last few days on mayoral control of the schools.
Weingarten's op-ed was in last Thursday's NY Post. MAYORAL CONTROL 2.0
Not surprisingly, Weingarten has already backed off of her moderate proposal to slightly alter the school governance structure .
The original proposal was in a Governance Task Force report issued by the UFT earlier in the year and would have denied the Mayor a majority of the appointments on the Board of education but still allowed him to pick the Chancellor and keep operational control of the schools.
Randi's new vision has only four minor modifications to the current dictatorial system we now live under. As we see it, not much would change for teachers, parents and students under Randi's new proposal. These are Randi's ideas:
1. Appointees on the PEP (Board of Education) would serve for fixed terms instead of at the pleasure of the Mayor.
2. The panel would be required to hold hearings on the school system's expense and capital budgets.
3. Policy proposals would be made in public in advance of panel meetings, complete with a list of pros and cons about the issues being voted on.
4. Meetings would be structured to allow for more public discussion and they would be broadcast and archived online.
That's all folks. Some new hearings and fixed terms for people that can easily be worked around when it comes to the day-to-day operations of the schools. Fundamentally, Randi is now supporting a continued mayoral dictatorship over us.
Her strategy in staking out the UFT's position with the state legislature on school governance is similar to her Contract negotiating strategy. Back in 2003 she asked for a few gains while the City and Chancellor demanded to obliterate our Contract. The city, by making unreasonable demands, totally changed the center of gravity to suit their needs so when the compromises took place in 2005, it came from their positions. See the major givebacks from 2005 for proof.
Contrast Randi's view on mayoral control to Arthur Goldstein, a teacher at Francis Lewis High School in Queens. Goldstein wrote a piece in Sunday's Daily News.
He tells the public that mayoral dictatorship has been a disaster for the schools. He describes teaching "in a crumbling trailer, with no technology and often no heat in winter."
That's the reality in most schools as far as we can tell. Goldstein ends his piece with this statement: "Four more years of this system guarantees the privatization and destruction of public education in New York City. That's a prospect we should all oppose."
We agree that four more years of the mayor running the schools should be opposed. What will it take to convince our Union's leadership and the State Legislature that we need to do more than tweak the current system?
All are welcome to look at the ICE Minority Report on school governance for some excellent ideas on how the school system could work with democracy and real checks and balances.
If the UFT followed our model, we would ask for what we think is an ideal system rather than a compromise proposal right from the start. Then, we could work from a totally different center of gravity and maybe actually make some gains.