For those expecting some push back from our union on the deplorable teaching and learning conditions in our schools (high class sizes, unsafe schools, pressure on teachers to pass undeserving kids, high stakes testing, etc...), don't hold your breath. The UFT leadership has said very little about the many scandals being uncovered in the schools and the ICEUFT blog predicts this year's spin from the top will include non-stop happy talk in order to protect their favored mayor and chancellor. Only criticism of Albany will emanate from Unity Caucus, the Michael Mulgrew led, invitation only group that runs the union. Expect the city to again be praised by union leadership.
One can usually take the pulse of where our union is at by reading material from a couple of retired Unity members. One of them is Gene Mann. Gene is a decent guy who retired as a teacher-chapter leader a few years back and took a position with the union organizing schools in Queens. Gene publishes a weekly online newsletter called The Organizer that often provides useful information.
In this week's edition, Gene writes a piece entitled "Budgets, Good; Excessing, Minimal" in which he cites evidence from several Queens High Schools, some of which are renewal schools, to make the point that school budgets have actually increased in six of seven selected schools. However, he continues by noting that four of the seven schools have either lost positions or had positions frozen which pretty much negates his argument about a budget increase. Who cares if there are more dollars listed on a school budget if those dollars don't pay for more positions?
We stand by our July 31 piece in which we reported on the city officially ending the last fiscal year with a $5.9 billion surplus while freezing school budgets. We quoted directly from the DOE school budget pages:
"The transition from the 2014-2015 school year to the 2015-2016 school year ensures that schools are allocated the same base-lined funds they received in the prior year with adjustments only for changes in the number and needs of students, and for changes to the citywide average salary."
We then explained in simple language the meaning:
Translation: School budgets are frozen and, as I read this, budgets might even be cut if the average salary goes up because schools will have a higher cost per employee but the finding is the same as last year.
How is this possible when the city is swimming in black ink and the state is supposed to be providing an increase in school aid?
A little more money for changes in the number of students enrolled in a school and maybe a few bucks thrown in for good measure and a member of our union's ruling Unity Caucus is calling the school budgets "good".
The ICEUFT blog respectfully disagrees with Gene Mann and says that the city is cheating the schools as usual. There is a nearly $6 billion city surplus and an increase in state aid to the schools which should lead to a significant boost to school budgets with many new positions for teachers, counselors, etc... The UFT should be crying foul.
Instead, what we learn from Gene is to expect the major premise for the school year from the UFT leadership to be that it's great to be working in a New York City public school.