Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Death to "Legal"

Susan Edelman in the Post writes about how Carranza's claim that nothing can be cut in the DOE budget is a lie. We are talking, of course, about things outside the classroom. I, for one, consider myself lucky when I even have a classroom, as opposed to a trailer, a closet, or a half room.

The city's plan looks bleak indeed:

The city has proposed $827 million in DOE cuts, including slashing school budgets by $285 million. This would reduce arts programs, counselors and social workers in needy districts, and college-prep for high schoolers. The DOE would also put off new classes for 3-year-olds, installation of air conditioners, and rat extermination.

So it's okay that our kids lack guidance or support as they sit around in sweltering, rat-infested hellholes. The important thing, evidently, is to maintain the bureaucrats in Tweed. After all, who but they can perform important services like sending teachers back for three days of training in Covid infested buildings? Who else will insist we need intensive training in remote learning by administrators who have never done such a thing in their entire lives?

Before Mayor de Blasio made the cruel, discriminatory  and boneheaded decision to keep schools open after closing Broadway, his worst educational failure was failing to clean out the colossal cesspool that Bloomberg left intact at Tweed. It was really heartbreaking that this supposedly progressive mayor would leave in place a bunch of bureaucrats whose sole purpose in life was to push the ideological fanaticism of anti-public education Michael Bloomberg.

The Bloomberg agency that bothers chapter leaders the most is "legal." When principals violate contracts, rules, chancellor's regulations, or common decency, it's the job of legal to tell them that's fine, don't worry about it. After all, the only recourse chapter leaders and member have is often the grievance process, which is cumbersome, time-consuming, and potentially ineffective. (We thankfully have some new processes that sidestep this one.) The first step, of course, is to go the principal, the person who made the bad decision. At this step, the principal calls legal, who invariably says the principal is right.

So the principal doesn't need to read the contract, and in many cases legal hasn't either. For example, a principal has 90 days to place a letter in file. Once, I brought a grievance for a member about an untimely letter. At step two, the DOE said, "the event was not an occurrence." I had occasion to show the chancellor this decision and he had no comment on it. An arbitrator later affirmed that the incident was not an occurrence, so the member lost.

It's funny that you can become a school leader, pretend you don't understand clear contractual language, and have an entire department dedicated to supporting such nonsense. But there you have it. Their job is to lie, obfuscate, rationalize, and deprive UFT members of their agreed-upon rights. While Mike Bloomberg felt that keeping teachers fearful and helpless was the best way to run a school system, I'm here to tell you that teachers who are fearful are less likely to advocate for their students, themselves, or indeed anyone.

If you're capable enough to rise to principal, it behooves you to read and understand the contract you're bound by. If you're not capable enough to read the UFT contract, you ought to go back to high school and take English classes. If you need an entire department to rationalize either your willful ignorance or lack of literacy, something is wrong.

There is absolutely no good reason to have an entire department like legal. The lawyers in that office ought to all be fired, or reassigned to jobs that contribute to society. If they hadn't proven themselves so utterly inept by repeated misinterpretation of a clear contract, I'd suggest they become teachers.

Meanwhile, why is the city paying an entire department to hamper those of us who are actually out here doing the work?
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