Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bill Thompson Is Unacceptable for Working Teachers

It's more than a little depressing to read that AFT President Randi Weingarten has seen fit to endorse Bill Thompson for NYC Mayor. First of all, she's got enormous sway over the UFT. It's possible that UFT could go its own way, but I wouldn't bank on it. More to the point, we've got history with Thompson, and it's not good at all.

It's certainly true that UFT worked closely with Thompson before billionaire Bloomberg decided to buy that third term. In fact, I recall his saying things that could just as easily have come out of Weingarten's mouth. But Thompson must surely have been disappointed when, after all that happy camping, the UFT declined to endorse a candidate against Emperor Mike.

I recall being at a chapter leader training where I complained about that. A UFT rep told me that we could only sway the electorate about five points, and that Bloomberg was so far ahead this would have been futile. At another training session, after Bloomberg won by five points, a more senior UFT rep announced to a room full of chapter leaders that we could only have swayed the electorate about three points, and that this would have been futile. He added, however, that had Hitler been running, the UFT would have taken a principled stand against him.

This was a little bit shocking to me. I did not feel any compunction to wait for Hitler to run before taking a principled stand. It was obvious to me then, and even more obvious now, that Reformy Mike's cherished goal is to break our union and privatize education. In fact, my principled stand has an even lower standard. Mayoral control is, as Mulgrew says, mayoral dictatorship. That in itself merits our principled opposition. Teachers being judged on junk science VAM merits principled opposition. It's supremely disappointing that UFT has supported both.

My buddy Reality-based Educator has mentioned that, with Common Core and junk science issuing us an untested and unscientific double whammy, the system may collapse under the weight of its own disorganization and chaos. While I hope he's right, I'm not persuaded. Bill Gates hasn't spent all those millions just to be proven a failure yet again, and the tabloid editorials will love this stuff no matter how badly it turns out.

Back to principled opposition, once the UFT left Thompson standing in the rain all by himself, he proved himself a fair-weather friend indeed. I don't speak for Weingarten, but I haven't forgotten that Thompson publicly supported Bloomberg's decision to unilaterally deny teachers the 8% raise virtually all other city employees got between 2008-2010.

Like all of my UFT colleagues, I haven't had a raise in almost five years. That's just fine with Bill Thompson. While he may be paying lip service to us now that he needs our help, he's shown us precisely how shallow his convictions are. That's unacceptable.

Since I started teaching in 1984, we've been waiting out the mayor. This strategy has proven a huge loser. It's time we back someone who will really support us, and stop wasting our time with empty suits who sway with the wind. Remember, even if Bloomberg doesn't buy a fourth term, his money will be pushing that wind, and we certainly don't need a candidate as flexible and uncommitted as Bill Thompson.
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