Monday, February 10, 2014

Fire Them All, Says Daily News

The Daily News gets one thing almost right in its otherwise deplorable editorial:

It is insane for the New York City public school system to keep 1,200 unwanted teachers on the payroll, at a cost of more than $100 million annually.

It's insane that they spend all that money without putting the teachers to work, that's for sure. And it would be very easy to give them jobs with the full blessing of city principals. I'll get to that later.

That's the first line, actually. From there, it's all downhill. Let's not blame this all on the Daily News. I'm fairly certain I've read the same thing in NY Times editorials, which leads me to ponder one thing---where the hell is that liberal bias they're always complaining about on Fox News?

It's been clear to me for many years that newspapers hate unions, and hate having to follow the rules they've contractually agreed upon. Why shouldn't people work all night and all day? Why can't we just give raises to people to whom we're related? Why the hell do they have to eat lunch? How can I eat lunch if I have to make time for others to do it?

Anyway, this is not all the fault of management. For example, I was at a school that was slated for closure, but I got out. I used a UFT transfer in 1992. My then boss had a Spanish teacher who frequently threw kids out of class. I never threw kids out of class. To make her life easier, she threatened me. Either I would teach all Spanish, or she would give me a program so late I couldn't make it to my second job.

I transferred. I had that option. It wasn't, in fact, that I was a bad teacher. I was facing punishment for the unforgivable offense of being good at one aspect of my job.
But, in one of the worst deals in my living memory, UFT gave up seniority transfers in 2005, allowing News editorial writers to conclude the only reason teachers weren't placed was their incompetence. It's surely completely unrelated that DOE now forces schools to pay salaries out of school budgets, and it's sheer coincidence that the overwhelming majority of ATR teachers are senior. Why bother protecting people who've worked all their lives when we can simply toss them out with the trash? That's precisely the future the Daily News is advocating for us and our children.
I've seen Michael Mulgrew at the DA announcing the new program was better, because there are more transfers. You see that? Sometimes Mulgrew thinks more is better, even while not thinking MORE is better. Nonetheless, shortly after I started this blog, I had an email dialogue with a teacher who was despondent at the prospect of being an ATR. She soon resigned, and Bloomberg won that one.

UFT leadership did not expect Joel Klein would continue to hire new teachers before ATR teachers were placed, nor did they anticipate how ATRs would be used as scapegoats and punching bags for our union-bashing press corps. In my view, the ATR brigade was the very worst aspect of the awful 2005 contract. Of course, making them move around week to week has made it even worse.

I was at the DA when the ATR vote took place. Several higher-ups in the UFT assured me that the DOE was inept, that they were disorganized, and that they'd never figure out how to send teachers place to place week to week. Jamaica Chapter Leader James Eterno told me they would certainly do it, and to vote no. As the other part of this agreement was that no teachers would be fired, I abstained. But Eterno was right, and it's highly doubtful that Bloomberg, after wasting months trying to kill LIFO, would have followed through and fired all those newbie teachers.

In any case, given we have the highest class sizes in history, it's insane to fire the ATR teachers. If indeed there are some who are as bad as the paper says, maybe they shouldn't be placed. But if Bill de Blasio really wants to do something, he can offer the services of these teachers to schools without having them pay from the school budget. Then we'd really know how much principals want these teachers.

Some of these teachers, I know, are carrying scarlet letters issued by Emperor Bloomberg. Their files pretty much instruct principals not to hire them. These letters, or marks, or whatever they are, ought to be removed, and principals ought to be able to interview these candidates unhampered by the prejudices of the now-abdicated Emperor.

I know two ATR teachers very well. Both of them deserve to work, and both should be placed. Just because the papers hate union is no reason to hurt working people. The News editorial is old news, old advice, and old ideas. I very much doubt such ideas will fly in Bill de Blasio's New York.

Real people voted for a real mayor, and we will see the sort of real changes we've been too scared to even contemplate for the last two interminable decades.
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