Saturday, March 22, 2008
I listened to Chancellor Klein yesterday on NPR. When Brian Lehrer asked him whose fault the budget cuts were, he pointed to the state, but would not say one cross word against his boss, Mayor Bloomberg. Apparently, the state has an obligation to follow the mandate of the CFE lawsuit, but when the city cuts budgets, it's just one of those minor inconveniences you have to put up with.
One problem with mayoral control is that there are no checks and balances. Of course Chancellor Klein can't speak against the mayor, because his job depends on total agreement and capitulation. They can proclaim "Children First" from now until doomsday, but the fact is this chancellor, whose job is ostensibly to represent these children, cannot do so if it displeases Mayor Mike.
He is, therefore, ultimately of little use to the 1.1 million kids who attend city schools.
Or perhaps he's simply forgotten that the CFE award was reduced by more that half as a result of Mayor Mike's refusal to agree to pay dime one toward it. The judge said the city could be forced to pay a reasonable perentage, Governor Pataki offered to fund 60% of it, and CFE, if I recall correctly, suggested the state ought to pay 75%. Mayor Bloomberg's rep told the New York Times they'd say, "No, thank you," to the funds if they had to pay anything whatsoever.
And the problem doesn't end at this level. What if your school, like mine, is at 250% capacity? Can the principal go to the press and say, "This is outrageous and unconscionable," without the very real possibility of becoming an ex-principal? It doesn't seem a viable possibility these days.
Who will stand up for kids? Well, what about the UFT leadership? You'd think they'd oppose this administration, which regularly vilifies educators, which violates the contract with impunity unless courts compel it to do otherwise, which follows every fresh concession by the union with a slap in the face to working teachers. You'd think they'd have had enough of mayoral control (even though they supported it to begin with).
Unfortunately, the policy of the UFT is to never, ever admit mistakes. And despite their many words in the past devoted to mayoral control, it appears they're already flying the white flag of surrender. This week, UFT bigshot Peter Goodman suggested on Edwize that anyone who wanted mayoral control to expire was "cynical."
"Cynical" denotes having no faith in human nature. It's hard to understand why favoring checks and balances over mayoral control is cynical. It's fairly easy, though, to think of words for those who fail to learn from past mistakes, and "cynical," I'm afraid, is not among them.
Expect no meaningful opposition to mayoral control from the UFT. It's clearly more important to have a quiet coronation for Ms. Weingarten, who's already stated her plans to concurrently reign over both the UFT and the AFT. After all, being president of the largest teacher union in the country is, apparently, just a part time job.