Monday, February 18, 2013

The Law is the Law--Except When Governor Cuomo Doesn't Like It

If you've been following the comments on this blog and others, a frequent justification for the collaboration-oriented policies of UFT leadership is, "It's the law." For example, we have to give up our week off. It's the law. Or, more importantly, we have to accept teachers being rated and fired based on junk science. It's the law.

When you read these things, you'd think that UFT leadership had no part in composing the law, and you'd be wrong. The UFT was part and parcel of the junk science mandate, and they rationalize it by saying it's only 20, 25, or 40% junk science (though critics put it as high as 100%), and that other states have an even higher percentage. Therefore, since our law mandates a lower percentage of junk science, it's a better law and we have won a great victory. Of course, the inevitable fired teachers will disagree, but I suppose the defense could cry, "Were it not for us, 20% more of you may have been fired."

Here's the thing, though--when you hear these voices discuss the law, you'd think they were discussing the Ten Commandments. I don't like to brag, but as a high school graduate, I'm fairly certain that laws are neither etched in stone nor written by God. This belief is reinforced when I read that Andy "I am the government" Cuomo has now decided to introduce legislation to have ex-charter teacher/ charter boss John King impose an evaluation system on NYC.

It turns out, despite the trenchant observations that laws are laws, they can be changed. And our Vichy-style collaboration with reformy Race to the Top mandates may be for naught after all. So what will we have gained? Will 400 teachers rather than 500 be fired? 4,000 rather than 5,000? Or will John King simply make up something even more reformy than the law allows?

Who knows?

Because in an era in which billionaires like Mike Bloomberg can pull out their wallets and reverse term-limits laws twice affirmed by what is presumed to be the highest authority in a democracy, the people, the law can mean very little indeed.
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