I keep hearing that some teachers are afraid to vote no on the contract because they think that in the context of the anti-union and anti-teacher times we are living in, we cannot do any better. This type of defeatism has to be stopped if we ever are to regain our professional dignity.
Many of us have been beaten down so long by Bloomberg style teacher bashing that we are suffering from a fatalistic belief that conditions can only worsen. Some believe that if we don't accept what most agree is a subpar contract offer, then the powers that be will only be angrier at us and beat us down more. Accept Bloomberg friendly conditions or they will make them even worse.
I can't tell you how wrong these people are. Perk up ladies and gentlemen: Things are changing in our favor.
For proof I submit as evidence a meeting that took place between Governor Andrew Cuomo and representatives of Stronger Together on Thursday. Stronger Together is the group that is now the opposition caucus in our statewide union NYSUT but is the majority caucus outside of NYC.
Governor Cuomo is in trouble politically with parents and educators statewide in large part because of his horrible education policies so he agreed to meet with five Long Island teacher union leaders who oppose his radical anti-public school agenda. Long Island teachers and parents led a 2,500 person protest outside a Cuomo fundraising party on Long Island on April 29. They will be rallying again on May 22 at the NYS Democratic Convention in Melville. Cuomo is not happy about how his popularity has fallen recently.
Our friend Beth Dimino, the President of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, and the four other teacher union leaders told the governor on Thursday how awful his education policies are. Here is the key paragraph from the PJSTA website:
At the meeting the team raised concerns about high stakes testing, APPR’s, the tax cap, charter schools, Pearson, and RttT, among other things. Dimino told the governor that given his actions up to this point she could only assume that he didn’t know the truth about the harmful agenda he had been pushing. After the group gave him the perspective of real classroom teachers they suggested potential solutions to the disastrous situation his policies have created. Dimino then warned him that he now knew the truth and that there is no excuse for the continuation of such policies. She stated that there would be a price to pay if swift action is not taken to undo much of what has been done up to this point. Dimino explained to the Governor that there were two things he could do immediately to mitigate the devastating impact his agenda has had on NYS students, first decouple the testing from teacher evaluations and then decouple all of the unfunded mandates from the tax cap, either by funding those mandates or by making them exclusionary under the cap. (Bold added by me.)
Now is the time to kick the living daylights out of the teacher evaluation system. Let's end rating teachers based on student test scores, not embed it into our contract as UFT President Michael Mulgrew is asking us to do.
The political winds are at our back. We can move ahead to a better place or we can keep trying to appease the people whose ultimate goal is to destroy us. The Mulgrew contract's acceptance of Bloomberg style working conditions will likely take us another step closer to our demise. The reconfigured time, merit pay, forced unit plan writing, much weaker tenure protections, horrible evaluation system placed permanently in the contract, charter school like contracts in up to 200 schools, the mystery on health care, wage deferrals without interest and wage increases that do not keep up with inflation are not gains. There is a better way forward; our friends on Long Island and upstate are blazing the trail. Let's join them.