Obviously, this is about more than placing a few hundred teachers out of a system of 80,000 to teach classes that don't have a regular teacher over a month into the school year. Ed deform leaders know that if they finish off our seniority rights, it's basically over for the unionized teaching workforce (see Chicago teachers for some evidence).
Ending seniority rights altogether is the holy grail of union busting that Joel Klein pushed for and is still the treasured goal of the zealots who want to destroy our profession.
Don't take my word for it. Read it from the horse's mouth. Chalkbeat did a summary of Steven Brill's 2011 book called Class Warfare. Former Chancellor Joel Klein says all you need to know on why the ATR issue is a major issue for the union busters and it is something they will fight on for every inch of ground.
- On labor issues, Bloomberg sometimes undercut Joel Klein. Klein’s team thought they could get the UFT to sign off on a change in the teacher termination process. But Bloomberg, who was nearing reelection, told them not to push their luck. “The mayor blinked,” the DOE’s one-time labor chief, Dan Weisberg, told Brill. “The mayor just gave up.” Weisberg said he “clashed almost daily” with City Hall over back-channel contract negotiations in 2005.
- Similarly, Brill reports that in 2006, Bloomberg told Klein and Weisberg to “stand down” on pushing a time limit for teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve. As Klein left office last year, he was still calling for that policy.
Weisberg is still pushing to fire ATR's in 2017.
Chalkbeat's synopsis of Brill's book continues:
- Bloomberg was weighing a third term even a year into his second, and his education policies reflected that. The 2007 teachers contract included little in the way of substantive policy, an oddity at a time when Klein was setting an aggressive tone at Tweed. In fact, the only major change, a schoolwide bonus program, was spiked this year. “The plan,” Klein told Brill, “was to make some progress in the 2005 contract — which we did, though not enough — and then go in for the kill in 2007. Mike deciding to run for a third term completely killed that.”
Bloomberg went for "the kill" after he was safely reelected to his third term in 2009 and did not relent while he was the mayor. It's why we had no contract from 2009-2014 and why we are still waiting until 2020 to get paid back in full the money the city paid its other workers between 2008 and 2010.
The UFT has never moved the center of gravity even a milometer back toward teacher rights since 2005. The 2014 contract's biggest gain was to form a new committee on excessive paperwork, something that was already in the existing contract. We have not made a substantive work place gain since Circular 6 was added in to the contract in 1996 to get us temporarily out of potty patrol. 2005 put us back in the potty.
Now Carmen Farina is going to place a few hundred ATRs without principal approval and the backlash from the union busters has been nonstop. Since principals only have to keep beyond the school year force placed ATRs who are rated effective or highly effective, I can't say this is a move in our direction.
I wish our union's leaders were capable and able to proudly show how experience matters. Instead, our President released a rather timid statement defending the ATRs and left it to parent activist Leonie Haimson and the teacher bloggers to take up the cause.
Expect the unrelenting press attack on the ATRs to continue in full, particularly when the UFT contract comes up for negotiation in 2018. Giving ATRs a time limit to find a new job or be fired, when everyone knows principals are mostly not going to hire senior teachers, is an end run around the tenure and seniority laws. Since schools are still closed and downsizing happens all the time, turning excessing into a layoff is objective number one for the union busters.
The abuse of the ATRs is one of the primary reasons why we need to strengthen the tenure law and contractual seniority protections, not weaken them further. Are you listening UFT leaders?
Make no mistake about it, school reform is synonymous with union busting. It just has a fancier title.