I often wonder why I worked to get a seat at the Delegate Assembly after being a Chapter Leader or Delegate for two decades but then being off after Jamaica High School was closed in 2014. I kind of got used to not being at meetings in the second half of the 2014-15 school year but UFT addict that I am, I ran for office and was elected Delegate even though I was an ATR-Provisional Teacher at Middle College in 2015. Since being back at the DA for over a year now, I notice not much changes; the majority Unity Caucus members still stifle almost all debate.
For the October DA, leaders of the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) came up with a sensible amendment to a resolution supporting the NAACP's call for a moratorium on opening new charter schools. Here is the original UFT resolution:
RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF THE NAACP'S CALL FOR A CHARTER SCHOOL MORATORIUM
WHEREAS, charter schools in New York City do not accept or keep comparable numbers of high-needs students as traditional public schools - whether special education students, homeless children or English language learners, according to Department of Education data; and
WHEREAS, while the New York City charters educate a mere 7 percent of the students, they account for 42 percent of the city's suspensions, according to The Atlantic/CityLab, effectively forcing out students who do not fit in; and
WHEREAS, the national board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on Oct. 15 took a strong public stand against the expansion of charter schools until charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools, public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system, charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate, and charter schools cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest-performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious; and
WHEREAS, the NAACP has taken this principled stand in the face of intense pressure from well-funded charter school advocates; and
WHEREAS, the Movement for Black Lives and other civil rights groups have also called for moratorium on charter schools; therefore be it
RESOLVED, that the UFT affirm and support the NAACP's position on the grounds that, until charter schools embrace the same challenges that public schools face, the NAACP is right to call for a moratorium on their expansion.
The word challenges was very disturbing to some in MORE who wanted to delete the resolved clause and replace it with this amendment:
RESOLVED, that the UFT affirm and support the NAACP's position on the grounds that charter schools create a two tiered, separate and unequal education system so the NAACP is right to call for a moratorium on their expansion.
They asked me to present the amendment and I agreed to do so.
Here is the rationale I worked on in support of the amendment.
I don't believe the word challenges fits in the resolved clause. It could be interpreted to imply that we consider our public school students to be difficult. Public school teachers who choose to work with special education children, English language learners or work in alternative/transfer schools do so because we passionately believe in what these kids can do. The last thing in the world we should ever do is say we want to send them to Eva Moskowitz.
The third whereas clause in our resolution talks about charters not being transparent and accountable, public funds being diverted to charter schools at the expense of public schools, charter schools expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and de facto segregation. This is much more than it being a matter of charter schools just meeting the same challenges that public schools have. Charter schools are not labs where schools could experiment free of district rules as they were originally intended to be but instead have become a major cause of the development in this country of a two tiered, separate and unequal education system. Those whereas clauses would be better supported with stronger language in the resolved clause.
I never had a chance to present and motivate the amendment because right after Anthony Harmon motivated the original resolution, retiree David Pecararo (who this post is dedicated to) rose to call for debate to be ended. President Michael Mulgrew then did ask for a speaker against and while I was at this point frantically waving my lonely card, he of course looked the other way and called on someone who said a few things and at that point debate was ended. I felt that same old DA frustration that I have endured for twenty-two years.
I saw David after the meeting and he said he called for an end of debate so quickly because it was adjournment time and he wanted to make sure the resolution was dealt with and not postponed until next month. I found that hard to swallow since in my two decades at the DA, I have never seen an item that was up for discussion dropped in the middle because it was 6:00 pm adjournment time. David stated that has happened and then he did apologize to me.
The actual fault rests with Mulgrew who called on a speaker for and then should have not called on David but should have looked for others who wanted to speak against. The President knows full well that Unity speakers do not speak against Unity resolutions except under very rare circumstances and I don't raise my card normally to glow about something the leadership has brought up (plenty of Unity supporters can do that). I was seated at the same angle from the chair as David (just further back) so if the President saw the two of us raising our cards, he should have called on me. I will concede Mulgrew has evolved a little over the years as he at least did ask for a speaker against after the motion to end debate was offered but it's pretty much the same old lack of debate.
That's it for my little rant about how the DA remains a very undemocratic body where the Unity majority abuses its power. I just hope something changes before I leave for good next time.