Friday, November 20, 2009

To PERB or Not To PERB?

One of my favorite bloggers, Mr. Accountable Talk, is a tad cynical over the decision of UFT President Michael Mulgrew to seek authority to declare an impasse. After all, PERB has screwed us before, and more or less nailed us to the wall in 2005. So why should we go back?

Well, one of the ways PERB screwed us was by tying us to the pattern, insisting it be followed even though it was crap and teachers were woefully underpaid. In order to make teachers semi-woefully underpaid, we gave back every gain we'd made in my twenty years teaching and then some. And somehow, 60% of voting teachers approved this stinker, giving us side-benefits like the ATR brigade and the 37.5 minute class (the one that is not a class).

So here's the question--will PERB, in these trying economic times, stand by their decision to go with the pattern? Or will they say these times are tough, we can't do it, and basically screw us coming and going? Gotham Schools had some encouraging words:

If the mediation fails, then the fact-finding process would begin — something that the union isn’t exactly looking to avoid, as fact-finding commissions in years past have recommended wage increases and prevented the city from laying off teachers who are excessed and can’t find new positions.

But what is it purveyors of mutual funds are always saying--past gains are no guarantee of future performance. Gotham quotes Peter Goodman, who held some position (sorry, I don't know which) with the UFT:

“There’s no downside and it shows his members that he’s doing something.”

But doing something is not necessarily enough, if you ask me. It's of rather more importance to do something worthwhile. And Goodman, on his own site, just wrote a piece questioning whether the city could offer raises in a time of budget cuts. After having taken zeroes during the dot com boom, after having been told we're married to the pattern, and after having worked three jobs for most of my career, it's hard for me to muster sympathy for cries of poverty from the richest man in New York City.

If PERB has integrity, an impasse is a good move. If they don't, we're in for a tough lesson, to wit, that they screw us no matter what.

Does the UFT know what it's doing, or is this yet another doomed crapshoot?
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