Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I'm Shocked and Stunned

For over 30 years, New York City paid teachers the lowest wage in the area. They spanned the universe looking for teachers, Austria, Jamaica (not just Queens), Spain, Mars, scoured the ocean bottom for ex-pirates who could breathe, or give the appearance of breathing. They instituted 800 numbers and ran job fairs. They offered to pay the tuition of anyone who'd take a few courses and come on in.

When tenure time came around, they gave it to everyone. Whoopee! After all, if you didn't, you'd have to find someone else to do the job, and that person could be even worse than the one you already had. Shuffle 'em along, nothing to see here, move on. So what if the Spanish teacher can't speak Spanish. It's not his fault. He's licensed in phys. ed. Can't you see that whistle around his neck?

Up spake the mayor. The teachers stink. We need merit pay. We need vouchers. We need charters. We need teachers to work more days, teach more classes, teach classes that we can't call classes, we need to suspend them without pay based on unsubstantiated allegations.

The suburbs, which paid teachers well, didn't need any of those things.

Go figure.

For over 30 years, UFT leadership paid no attention to class size, 34 last I looked. A word here or there, a solemn shake of the head, a tsk, tsk. But not one solitary word in the union contract. Although the contract was the only thing keeping classes as low as they were, further reduction simply couldn't be done. How would they get raises (Never mind all those years they didn't get raises anyway)? Sometimes they were compensated with little contractual perks, but they tossed them all in the trash for less than cost of living in 2005.

Gee, now that we have none of those things left, wouldn't it have been better to go with class size? Oh well.

But wait. Here's this group, Class Size Matters, and they're getting mentioned in the press. Its leader is writing op-eds in the local papers. People like this class size thing. So they get on the bandwagon, but they don't oppose mayoral control, and they don't protest against reorganization schemes that hurt working teachers. After all, if they do things like that, they might not look moderate. Celebrities like Rod Paige might not write such nice things about them anymore.

Better to wait until they get a piece of legislation with more holes than Finlandia Swiss, and declare victory. By the time it's enacted, nobody will remember. Now, when class size is not actually reduced, they say "Heavens to Betsy, that's not nice at all."

The suburbs, which simply keep class sizes low, have no such drama going on.

Go figure.
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