Monday, July 09, 2007

Mr. Barr's Silk Purse

When UFT President Randi Weingarten's internet mouthpiece accused me of "making up facts" because I reported Green Dot schools didn't grant tenure (they don't and they proudly declare it), I was simply reporting what the LA Times said. It says much about the priorities of the UFT aristocracy that, in its zeal to boost the fortunes of a charter school operator wielding millions of dollars, it has no qualms about blatantly libeling real working UFT teachers.

I protested vigorously over at the "non-political" Edwize blog (the one on which you're not allowed even to mention Unity, the party that's controlled the UFT for half a century). But I may as well have taken a page from their new buddy Steve Barr, the charter entrepreneur who controls Green Dot. Here's what Mr. Barr told the LA Weekly about A.J. Duffy, President of the United Teachers of Los Angeles, who contended Mr. Barr might be selective about Green Dot students:

“It’s bullshit,” says Barr. “It’s like me saying, ‘Duffy’s a pig fucker.’ Have I seen him fuck a pig? Do I have photos? No. So I can’t say it. He should check these things out before he says them.”

What do you suppose would happen if a teacher addressed the media like that? I can see the NY Post headline now:

Potty Mouth Pedagogue Blabs About Bestiality

Personally, I can't say Mr. Barr's metaphor is precisely the sort I want my child or students to emulate. As it happens, though, I have checked this out before I said it, and these do indeed appear to be his words (Mr. Barr's sex life, however, does not interest me nearly as much as Mr. Duffy's appears to interest Mr. Barr).

Now over on Edwize, Mr. Barr can do no wrong. They've posted selected paragraphs from the Green Dot contract, and they look fantastic. Teachers can participate, they can make decisions, they can be on committees, they can do all sorts of great things. And unlike last time, when they simply said how wonderful it was, they've actually linked to the contract. Of course, since both Eduwonk and I had already done so, they had little to lose.

When Green Dot boasts that there is no tenure and no seniority preference in their schools, I take them at their word (The official UFT line is teachers are better off without it). Here are some of Steve Barr's ruminations on tenure and seniority:

“Where are these shitty teachers going to go? Where are these lifetime benefits going to go? What will happen to all of these groups protecting their interests and their jobs and their construction contracts? The political puzzle of this is really fascinating. But I have no doubt that within five years, you’re going to see our impact. And it’s going to be huge.” appears he's pretty much made up his mind without having made our acquaintance. Personally, I hate when people do that. But his impact will be huge, particularly with the enthusiastic support of the 40-million per year UFT patronage mill (Note Mr. Barr is silent about that).

Here's a piece of the Green Dot contract Edwize neglected to print:

31.4 If a layoff takes place the following criteria will be used:

Legal requirements and qualifications

Satisfactory evaluation

Expertise and relevant experience

In the absence of substantial distinguishing differences in the above criteria, length of service at the site shall be determining factor.

Perhaps it simply escaped their attention. For an effective union, though, seniority needs to be a factor. I'm not comfortable with a twenty-year vet being shuttled out without a compelling cause. Newbies who see this as positive are simply not thinking long-term. Evaluations can be written by anyone, need not be accurate or factual, and tenure exists precisely to protect right-wing teachers (for example) from being fired just because I, the supervisor, happened to vote differently than they did.

Perhaps, in this city, teachers who didn't sign Unity loyalty oaths (and they really have them) could be targeted for layoffs. That would certainly be helpful to the six-figure double-pension gang that writes Edwize. Does anyone honestly believe its writers, who never, ever vary from the party line, could speak their minds freely and keep their jobs? In the sixties, Unity tossed people out for opposing the Vietnam War.

Once again, I don't believe Green Dot's "just cause" provisions are remotely as effective as tenure. But more importantly, when you can be targeted for layoff, whether or not you have seniority, it's no wonder that Green Dot has few concerns about what just cause may be, and little or no need to resort to just cause hearings.

As Ms. Weingarten's internet voice, Leo Casey, would say, "The question is mute." Over at Green Dot, no matter how long you've been around, they can always get rid of you just cause they feel like it.
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