Friday, June 01, 2007

Opinions for Sale (Part 1)

Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein are about to embark on their third reorganization in three years. You won't read much about the clear implication that the first two have failed. That's because Mayor Bloomberg's PR, which began a rapid downward spiral when he left thousands of kids to freeze outside with no bus service, instantly halted its freefall when the UFT President Randi Weingarten decided to "postpone" a May 9th protest.

The reorganization Ms. Weingarten supports is one that still forces principals to consider the salaries of incoming teachers. While the UFT may grieve about salaries being placed on applications, it would be a pretty stupid principal who couldn't calculate salaries based on resumes alone. It was already rough enough for excessed veteran teachers to land jobs anywhere, and this will certainly make it worse.

Read what the UFT brass had to say about the current reorganization before they endorsed it.

They are taking the core mission of the Department of Education — the promotion of excellent teaching and learning which is at the center of any education worthy of that name — and are outsourcing it. Such a move is a tacit admission that those who make the decisions at Tweed are themselves incapable of providing educational leadership. They lack the most elemental understanding of how the world of instruction works, and so propose structural change upon structural change, with every one avoiding the substance of teaching and learning like it were the plague.

Now that doesn't sound all that promising. It's necessary to stand up for basic principles. Outsourcing their core mission? You can't get much lower than that. Clearly, these folks lack the remotest notion of what they're doing. In fact, the same article concludes nothing would do but the resignation of Chancellor Klein himself:

The way forward for New York City public schools is not putting up for sale the leadership of teaching and learning in New York City public schools. Rather, it is the replacement of a Chancellor of New York City public schools incapable of providing educational leadership with a Chancellor who can do precisely that.

But soon thereafter, the UFT leadership decided everything was okey-dokey; putting the leadership up for sale was fine. Outsourcing the core mission was no problem after all, Chancellor Klein didn't have to step down, and the massive protest against the much maligned reorganization was unilaterally halted by Randi Weingarten, with splinter groups instantly falling in line. Why? A few sweeteners that changed none of the above.

There is a clause about increased funding for ESL, which I like (though I seriously question whether those funds will ever find their way to my trailer). They're going to consult with parents, and with the UFT. They'll make consultations and abide by the toothless class-size regulation, the one with no benchmarks. Here's the paragraph that should most interest working teachers, though:

A “hold harmless” protection in the hiring of teaching staff. Schools can hire new teachers with the same experience and salary level as teachers who leave, at no extra cost.

Just as importantly, though, the school can opt not to hire new teachers with the same experience and salary level. The school could hire newbies at half the price, and use the rest for donuts. Or big-screen TVs. Or ping-pong balls, or a well-stocked bar in the administration office, or anything they wish.

You could say the UFT leaders were against it before they were for it.

What you couldn't say, though, is that this reorganization is remotely in the interest of working teachers, whom the UFT ostensibly represents. Will this change things for kids? Frankly, it's doubtful this will do any more than the last reorganization, or the one before that.

There are no shortcuts to good teachers, reasonable class sizes, and decent facilities. With all due respect to the judgment of Chancellor Klein's no-teaching-experience Leadership Academy grads, Reorganization the Third provides none of the above.
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