Tuesday, August 19, 2014

NYSUT Opts for Ignorance

This year, NYSUT once again declined to endorse Andrew Cuomo, and now the AFL-CIO, for the moment at least, is doing the same. All over the Twittersphere NYSUT patronage employees are trumpeting their great victory. From where I sit, a bold move would have been endorsing Zephyr Teachout and taking a principled stand against Cuomo's crippling anti-public education policies.

As Perdido Street School pointed out yesterday, a truly bold move would have been getting behind Teachout's bid to get on the Working Families ticket. In fact, UFT, which controls NYSUT, was discussing pulling support from WFP over the spectre of actually nominating a pro-teacher candidate. Threatening the status quo of pols who hate us and everything we stand for was unacceptable to our leadership. As always, leadership could not be bothered consulting with those of us who actually work in classrooms and trailers.

Yesterday, Beth Dimino, President of the Port Jefferson Station Teacher Association, rose to speak in favor of a Teachout endorsement. Sergeant at arms told the chair, who refused to recognize her. Obviously, the decision had already been made, and there was no point whatsoever in allowing the other side even to speak.

Revive NYSUT compared Cuomo to Scott Walker in its campaign literature, but won't even go so far as to endorse his opponent. This reminds me the great victory UFT enjoyed when it declined to endorse Bloomberg's opponent term 3. Some of you may recall going 6 years without a raise and finally getting a contract that was not only inferior to that of other municipal unions, but also seriously compromised due process for ATRs.

Revive NYSUT's primary selling point, of course, was that it was against Common Core. Karen Magee became President with 34% of the vote coming from the UFT machine. At the AFT convention, Magee suggested without Common Core, the entire country could become be the Wild West, with cowboys testing whatever they wanted. The notion that there are no standards without CCSS is not only preposterous, but downright insulting to those of us who've done our jobs for years before it even existed.

Perhaps the most revealing Common Core talking point, though, came from NYSUT spokesperson Carl Korn. Though the Newsday article that printed this quote has been revised, I have the original text:

“The vast majority of test questions released appear to be educationally and age-appropriate. Unfortunately, we can’t tell if that is true of all test questions, because only 50 percent have been released. We reiterate our call for release of 100 percent of questions.”

NYSUT is happy with what it saw in tests that failed 65% of our children. Are you? Are the parents of the children you teach?

I'm chapter leader of a very large school, and I'm accustomed to hearing complaints. For the most part, I get complaints about programs, observations, carelessness, and various things that trouble people working in schools. Lately, though, I get an inordinate percentage of complaints from young parents. Why is my third grader reading about genocide? Why does my daughter no longer love to read? Why is my little boy spending three hours a day on homework? Even administrators with whom I'm often at odds ask me these questions.

And here's the thing--we, UFT and NYSUT, are behind the curve, on the wrong side yet again. I don't know exactly what supernatural senses union leaders have that bring them regularly to the wrong side of pivotal issues, but they're uncannily accurate. Cuomo isn't gonna help us. Teachout would stand by us, but we won't stand by her.

Our natural allies in the fight against corporate reform are public school parents, and rather than stand with them, we cower away and place our heads in the sand. We tremor in the faces of Bloomberg and Cuomo, accept a third-rate contract from a labor-friendly mayor, fail to oppose the man who set up a system in which those who say no to children have more say than those who say yes. At the same time, we threaten violence on anyone who dares question the corporate reform that labels our precious children as failures.

We are behind the times and behind the curve. It's time for us to pull our collective head out of the sand and get our eye on the prize, which entails helping children rather than failing them.
blog comments powered by Disqus