Jeff Bryant: A Hopeful New Narrative in Education
8 minutes ago
Answer Vending, a Westchester-based firm, was ordered in June 2008 by the State Department of Labor to ante up $116,000. This included penalties and back pay to 21 employees it was found to have shortchanged. Answer executives didn't respond to questions last week, but Labor Department spokeswoman Michelle Duffy said the fines are still outstanding: "They haven't paid."
What the workers did tell organizers was that they often had to work 50- and 60-hour weeks, without overtime, and that wages were often paid partly in cash. They received no benefits, they said.
"We're paying them 15 to 18 percent of the contract, and it's not even clear what they're doing," said Patrick Sullivan, a public school parent who is Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's representative to the panel and who voted against Octagon. "There was no assessment of their prior performance."
Education officials admitted last week that the formal contract authorization request that they submitted to the panel described the only unionized firm, Canteen Vending, as offering the highest guarantees for revenue to be paid to the schools. Canteen was rejected, the report stated, only because its "vending machine operation/monitoring systems are inferior to the competitors."
The department's spokesman said this was "a misprint." Wasn't this a pretty long and involved sentence for a misprint? "I have no idea what that's about," he said. And the statement that the losing bidder made the highest offer? That was a mistake, too.
Under the legislation, which garnered bipartisan support, teachers would be evaluated every year and students' academic progress would count for half the instructors' overall rating. Elementary- and high-school teachers would need three consecutive years of positive evaluations to earn tenure, which guarantees them an appeals process before they can be fired.
Educators rated "ineffective" two years in a row would be stripped of tenure protection and revert to probationary status. They could earn back job protection after three straight years of satisfactory evaluations.
"Private businesses ought to get to discriminate. And I won't won't ever go to a place that's racist and I will tell everybody else not to and I'll speak against them. But it should be their right to be racist."
"They only win when teachers and students lose."
How much say will teachers have in the new system?
Throughout the process, the role of collective bargaining is maintained, and, in many ways, strengthened. All of the elements comprising the composite score must be developed through state and local negotiations. The agreement states that the new teacher evaluation and improvement system would also be a “significant factor” in employment decisions such as a career ladder to positions such as lead teacher, mentor or coach that could lead to supplemental compensation, promotion into administrative positions, and tenure determination as well as in teacher professional development. But how the evaluations will figure into those decisions must be determined locally through collective bargaining. If no agreement can be reached, the old system will remain in place.
The unions — the New York State United Teachers and the United Federation of Teachers, the city’s union — did not gain any clear benefit from the deal, other than shielding themselves from criticism that they were hurting the state’s chances in Race to the Top.
"This country is committing national suicide. We just passed a health care bill to give coverage to millions of people, tens of millions of people and we don’t have doctors and we’re not allowing people who want to come here and be doctors to come here. This is just craziness. People are developing new drugs in India, rather than here. They’re going to win the next Nobel prize in China or in Europe, not here. If we want to have a future, we need to have more immigrants here and we should get control of our borders and we should decide who we want, what languages, what skills we need; people who work with their hands and people who work with their minds and we have to get real about the 12 million undocumented here. We’re not going to deport them. Give them permanent status. Don’t make them citizens unless they can qualify, but give them permanent status and let’s get on with this.”