I cannot comprehend why the UFT would come to an agreement with the Department of Education on the time schedule for next school year on June 1, the day after the city denied UFTers an Early Retirement Incentive. It is puzzling that Michael Mulgrew would be making nice-nice with Chancellor Meisha Porter right after the city-DOE disrespected us by not permitting our members the chance to retire early after the State Legislature and the Governor passed the ERI into law.
One does not need an advanced degree to figure out that the DOE was in a bind when it came to the time schedule. Since extended time was agreed to by the UFT in 2002, how to use that extended time has been a constant headache for the DOE. Back in 2002, the UFT and DOE agreed to put 100 minutes of extended time per week into two fifty-minute blocks, one for professional development and the other for extra help for the students in single-session schools. For secondary schools, this was a manageable joke because on the day kids were supposed to stay for help, most went home and teachers laughed but for elementary schools where kids actually stayed, it was a nightmare. They needed two dismissal schedules and two bus schedules one day a week. It didn't work.
The DOE quickly asked UFT President Randi Weingarten to renegotiate this contractual provision. Renegotiate it we did in 2002, 2003, 2004 and then again in 2005. We had a member referendum to approve each contractual change. Chancellor Joel Klein had enough and when ten extra daily minutes were added to the Contract in the infamous 2005 Agreement, Klein and Weingarten agreed to a new extra help provision for four days a week with 37.5 minutes of small group instruction in single session schools. Many did not like it but it lasted through 2014. Klein didn't care about two bus schedules and two dismissal times while Weingarten was at her concessionary worst in 2005.
Enter Bill de Blasio and his Chancellor Carmen Farina to negotiate the long-delayed UFT 2014 Contract with UFT President Mulgrew. The time schedule clause was changed again in the 2014 Contract to eliminate the extra help time for students. It was replaced by marathon Mondays and Tuesdays that included 80 minutes of professional development on Monday after school and 75 minutes of parent engagement and other professional work for Tuesdays. Farina and Mulgrew also added four parent-teacher evenings instead of two. This clause with one dismissal time for the elementary school students was renewed annually by the DOE and UFT for the next five years but was not continued this year because of the pandemic. By not having an agreement yet for 2021-2022, the DOE was going to have to figure out again how to do two student dismissal times four times a week. They weren't happy. The UFT reported last week that there was no agreement on the time schedule for 2021-2022 so the system would have to revert to the 2005 schedule with its logistical issues.
The employer did not want to go back to the difficult schedule while the UFT seemed to be okay with it according to what we saw on Facebook. The reaction in the comments here was mixed but it was fairly clear that the UFT probably had some leverage in negotiations. What did the UFT do with that leverage? They got two pre-approved School Based Options to allow for 6 hour and 50 minute daily schedules for schools where the Principal, Chapter Leader, and at least 55% of the UFT staff agreed while the default remained marathon Mondays and Tuesdays.
What should the UFT have done?
My understanding of how a negotiation process works is that both sides want something and then each side gives a bit so there is an agreement. The UFT wanted an early retirement incentive from the city while the DOE did not want to go back to the schedule with two dismissal times. If I was in Michael Mulgrew's position, I would have called the mayor or whichever deputy mayor is in charge of dealing with the UFT directly and said quite simply, "If you don't approve the ERI which my members deserve and will save you money, then you can sit and figure out how to do the 2005 time schedule again because we aren't agreeing to anything on the time schedule!"
If it came down to a public relations war, the UFT would easily win because we would have been on the side of teachers spending more time with students.
Instead, de Blasio refused to sign off on the ERI on May 31 and the very next day Mulgrew and Porter were signing off on an agreement on a time schedule that makes DOE's life easier. There were not even a few days of outrage from the UFT against the mayor for denying us the ERI.
The only way to improve on any of this is to vote out Mulgrew and Unity Caucus in chapter elections this June and in the general UFT election next spring.