Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Eternal Quest

I was talking to a group of people yesterday about the agreement Governor One Percent made to reshape the tax system and bring 1.9 billion in revenue to NY State. That is indeed a positive step. However, the expiring millionaires' tax will cost us five billion, so we're left with a net loss of three billion. Overly optimistic UFT sources suggest that this is a victory.  It is indeed better than losing the entire five.

However, some have suggested to me that this will deter the mayor in his annual spring quest to kill LIFO and fire people like me just because he feels like it. This is a highly unrealistic expectation for a mayor who will sit on a surplus, as he did last year, and declare we were in such crisis we needed to lay off teachers. Undeterred, this person suggested we simply had to wait out Bloomberg for two years and things would be fine.

Let's ignore the fact that four years ago, UFT sources suggested precisely the same thing--we would wait out Bloomberg for two years and things would be fine. Let's ignore the contract promised us as our last with Bloomberg, even though it's likely true. Waiting out the mayor is an experiment we've been tinkering with for almost three decades. When I started teaching, Ed Koch was mayor, and teachers said once we get rid of that old skinflint everything would be fine.

Then came David Dinkins. At some point, he granted us a 5% raise (although everyone's favorite chapter leader, James Eterno of Jamaica High School, informs me we somehow financed it ourselves). The media was outraged. Marcia Kramer, who had just jumped ship from the striking Daily News to TV, announced we'd gotten a "grab bag of goodies," prompting me, in my very first move of union activism, to write her a very nasty letter. 

But Dinkins, when roundly criticized by the press, failed to stand up for teachers or education, opting rather for a "Homina-homina" moment, a la Ralph Kramden. Dinkins, cowed by the press, turned his back on us. In my second act of union activism, I marched in the Labor Day parade with the UFT. They gave me a black t-shirt that said UFT in front, and "SHAME ON CITY HALL" on the back. (It's still stylish and suitable for all occasions, if you ask me.)

The UFT declined to endorse Dinkins, and Rudy Giuliani beat him by the same miniscule margin to which he'd lost to him four years earlier. Man, did I hate Giuliani. He said the most vile and stereotypical things about teachers. He was always wanting to blow up Board of Ed. buildings, and demanding ridiculous fascistic levels of control. Fortunately he was always suing everyone and going to court to demand the right to bring his mistress to the home he shared with his wife and young children, and was generally such a son of a bitch that he accomplished very little. He was largely regarded as a bum before 9/11 elevated him to sainthood.

Then came Bloomberg, with the same crackpot ideas. But early in his tenure, he did not appear to be the frothing at the mouth lunatic who recently declared we needed to reduce the teacher force by 50% and up class sizes to 70. He managed to get pretty much everything Saint Rudy had wanted, and he's been systematically destroying and privatizing the entire city school system. I've never seen anything worse than Bloomberg.

Personally, I'm not inclined to wait out this mayor. I'm inclined to be active now, to be active tomorrow, and to keep being active as long as we, our students, and our children will have to work for a living. It's simply ridiculous to sit, wait and hope for the best. We, teachers, New Yorkers, Americans, simply cannot afford such folly.
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