Saturday, September 20, 2008

ICE Discusses Democratic Control of the School System

ICE has talked about school governance at several meetings. We listened to many ideas about how the school system should be governed since the law authorizing Mayoral control of the schools sunsets in June 2009. If the State Legislature and Governor do not renew the law, then the old Board of Education (7 members: 2 appointed by the Mayor and 1 appointed by each of the Borough Presidents) returns.

After seven years of Mayoral dictatorship, many educators would gladly go back to the old system but that does not appear to be likely as the Bloomberg dominated media seem to want the current top-down dictatorship at any cost.

Teachers I talk to can not stand another day under the current system. Betsy Gotbaum's commission seems to want Mayoral control with some checks on it. That is a small step forward. We will see what the UFT proposes.

In ICE discussions, we came up with an idea that none of the people studying school governance seems to be considering: Democracy.

What is wrong with the people electing the central school board and the Chancellor being accountable to these elected representatives? Local boards can be elected too. Why is democratic governance not even being discussed? In the suburban school districts throughout the State and in most of the country where very few people are complaining that public education is failing, school boards are usually elected by the voters. We understand that schools throughout the rest of the state, outside of the five big cities, are financed mostly through property taxes but we can talk about funding a little later.

What we cannot understand is why democracy is such a radical concept when it comes to New York City schools.

Let's put democracy on the table.


ed notes online said...

Ypu guys nailed it. "Democracy" is not an abstract concept. Public oversight has been put down by the Bloombergs, Kleins, Rhees if this world as an annoying inteference in getting things done. But it is proven daily that what gets done is destructive to the education process.

Dicatorship has existed in Chicago for 13 years under the same mayor and 2 superindents and not enough people are paying attention to the failures of that system and the 6 years in NYC that will prove to be the same.

So we don't ask for democracy as an abstract concept - the "it's messy but we have to pay the price for democracy" idea which is denigrated - "oh, the poor children."

In fact it works better than the alternatives. The system from 1968 until Bloomberg had many flaws - in some places it worked and others it didn't (mostly those places were where there was little parental involvement). But the lesson we learned from the failures was that the local politicians should not be allowed to use schools for patronnage. That could have been fixed. No attempt was made to do so.

The ICOPE plan works from bottom up and yet few people are even discussing it.

As for the UFT, it is playing it coy knowing full well how unpopular mayoral control is with the members. So they have had these meetings all over the city and say they will listen to the members. So their "report" cannot openly support mayoral control and Weingarten has used this time to say "wait for the report. "

What bull. At a crucial time when the voice and influence of the UFT should be used for an all out assault on mayoral control, the UFT is silent. No matter how critical the report is on mayoral control, the UFT will do nothing to back it up.

Why? Because they have always backed mayoral control and were the enablers - imagine if they had tried to get it killed or at least with some oversight 7 years ago? The landscape of the schools would look very different today.

The UFT has never been comfortable with power to parents and I can understand the reservations. But they have alseo never been comfortable with power to teachers at the school level - only power for the Unity leadership.

Centra;ized control allows them to parallel the DOE with their own structure - a top down system without proper oversight.

The UFT needs democracy as much as the school system, if not more.


Anonymous said...

I agree with everything that has been written.

I would, however, add the following:

The role of the UFT suits in eliminating any semblance of democracy is seldom understood, I believe.

While the DOE stands in employer status to the teachers and might therefore be seen to be inimical to its employees, the UFT takes teachers' money while it deliberately does as much injury, mortal and otherwise, to its members as is possible in our current legal system.

In my only 8 years as a NYC DOE teacher, I have never once known any group of teachers to recognize their enemy, who simultaneously robs them of too much of their meager earnings and exhorts their accomplice in crime (DOE)to torment the teachers.

The rot and and the killing disease are tremendously greater where the UFT is involved than I have ever read or heard about. Sniping at Weingarten and some of the more visible reps might sometimes be satisfying.

The kind of intense, focused analysis of the UFT's daily role in injuring, torturing and sometimes literally killing teachers and other UFT personnel has been missing.

Therefore, the type of resistance against, and alternatives to, the utterly inimical United Federation of Teachers, is non-existent.

They need to be decertified, broken, eliminated. And then replaced by some decent people.

Currently, we have 2 broad categories of people involved in the DOE and the UFT:

1. Those who truly think that it is their mission in life to help people, teach and guide children, and get paid, comparatively, very little for their efforts. These folk believe that it is their mission and they truly WANT to give their own meager funds and expend their own already overtaxed energy to be of service to children.

These are the willingly EXPLOITED.

2. Those who've little genuine connection to their own humanity, who are ego-driven, fear-driven to try to achieve positions to control the actions, feelings, thoughts, words of other people. And make money doing so. And deprive others of money by doing so. And by purchasing and displayiing material goods they've bought with that money (hence, the much despised "suits" and accessories such as jewelry, shoes, cars, electronic 'communication' devices and the like).

These are the willing EXPLOITERS and they go all the way from UFT "suits" and principals to bloomberg and others of his ilk.

If any of these misguided people became more conscious and became aware of their unbreakable integral connections to one another on glorious levels, they'd cut the crap and treat one another with great care, delicacy, tenderness, nurturance.

How likely is that to happen in this lifetime?

Not so anonymously this time,


NYC Educator said...

The UFT did indeed support and enable mayoral control. Still, I don't really understand why they continue to support it, unless they're just waiting for more kudos from the likes of Rod Paige.

Anonymous said...

Please contact your local City Council member and Speaker and tell them your opposition to Bloomberg's ignoring term limits. This is more than just an education issue. If you are a city resident, you know that this mayor has dismissed the outer boroughs and parents as well and that should be included in your letter.