Thursday, October 13, 2016

What Freaks Out AFT?

Is AFT leadership really freaked out that Joel Klein would actively support Hillary Clinton? Well, yes, probably they are. The question is really why. After all, AFT President Randi Weingarten negotiated multiple contracts with him, notably the one in 2005 that created the ATR. While Randi was President, there was a UFT blog called Edwize that suggested the ATR was just a temporary thing and that all the teachers would eventually find jobs. What Randi and her crack negotiators failed to anticipate was that Klein would hire new teachers even as thousands of UFT members lingered in the ATR.

Of course, Mulgrew killed Edwize and there's no more public record of that. (Mulgrew's approach to social media is to urge members to get on Twitter and say this or that while avoiding it utterly himself.) But the 2005 contract was a celebration of reforminess, and there was nothing in it that was worse than the ATR agreement, a direct hit on the seniority privileges Klein so detested. Even now, Mulgrew has to get up in front of the DA and rationalize it, saying there are fewer ATR teachers this year than last.

While leadership has, to its credit, hung tough in not allowing ATR teachers to be fired for the offense of having no permanent position, it's also placed them between a rock and a hard place. By removing the option of UFT seniority transfers (Full disclosure--I took one, and I've very glad I did), it sorely reduces member ability to escape a self-serving or vindictive supervisor. By supporting so called fair student funding it makes principals less likely to select senior teachers. Of course, a whole lot of principals would think twice anyway before hiring pain in the ass teachers with experience who know their rights. By allowing principals an absolute veto, as the 2005 contract did, they made things even worse.

Joel Klein is as bad as anyone from AFT says. He closed schools, likely as not on false premises. He supports all things reformy, no matter what. He advocated for a "thin contract" for UFT that would have reduced us to at-will employees or worse. He supported Eva Moskowitz with no reservations, and was pretty much there at her beck and call. He regularly trashes tenure, increasing pay, and pretty much anything in support of working teachers. He has nothing but respect for business people, and seems to defer to their judgment in all things. Though he claims to place children first, he'd set them out into a world with no job protections, where they'd be at the mercy of his BFFs in places like Walmart.

There's really no defense for something or someone like a Joel Klein, not if you're an advocate for working people. Yet despite all the nonsense he spouts, the United Federation of Teachers, led by now-AFT President Randi Weingarten enabled a whole lot of it. The ATR was far from the only
"reform" we supported. We supported mayoral control under Klein and Bloomberg. When it came up again, we demanded a few changes, failed to get them, and supported it again. We supported teachers being rated via VAM junk science, and Michael Mulgrew even boasted of having a hand in writing the law that enabled it.

We supported charter schools, failing to envision what they would become. We even started a charter school, now evidently failing. Not only that, but we colocated it, becoming an active part of the cancer that undermines city schools. We can complain about Klein, but we were best buds with him and Bloomberg for a while, and it led us places it was demonstrably unwise to go.

Even after Klein left, we actively supported reforminess. No one who's seen it will ever forget UFT President Michael Mulgrew, in a rare display of some kind of passion, offering to punch us in the face and push our faces in the dirt for messing with his beloved Common Core. And even now, as he's ostensibly against it,  the UFT has not only failed to support the opt-out movement, but also indulged in outrageous criticism of not only those of us who do, but also the movement itself.

Yes, Joel Klein is unacceptable, and it's high time we noticed. But Arne Duncan was no better, and AFT ignored that, endorsing Barack Obama term two with no reservations whatsoever. Perhaps President Hillary will sensibly refrain from naming a fanatical ideologue like Klein.  But that isn't enough. We really need to stop appeasing the reformies by giving them this and that, and then feigning shock when they want more.

It's not enough for AFT leadership to freak out when Joel Klein's name is mentioned. We need to fight against not only him, but also all the baseless nonsense he represents. Thus far we've enabled quite a bit of it. That's not on Joel Klein, but rather on us.

We need to stop laying all the responsibility at Joel Klein's doorstep. It's our fault he managed to push his execrable agenda so far. We need to stop not only him, but also his insane ideas. That means "not Joel Klein" is too low a standard by far. We need federal officials who are not insane.

I will vote for Hillary because Donald Trump comes a long way from meeting that standard. But she's got a way to go before she earns my trust. Let's remind her that we supported her early, and let's demand she actually do something for it. Let's put her feet to the fire, and if she doesn't respond, let's ask leadership why the hell we supported her, particularly against Bernie Sanders.
blog comments powered by Disqus