Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tough Days for Teachers

Open up any paper and look at the madness that's infected our nation. In Chicago, the government has reneged on an agreement to give teachers a 4% pay increase. Instead, they want to raise their number of hours worked, give them 2% the first year of a five-year contract, and have them hope for the best for the next four years. Now, the CTU has overwhelmingly authorized a strike.

That doesn't mean there will be a strike, of course. If Chicago wants to work out something reasonable, it can be averted. Here in NYC, we've been without a raise for four years. All non-educators got raises in excess of 8% for the 2008-2010 round of pattern bargaining, without givebacks. So now, we are headed to fact-finding at PERB, which brought us, among other things, the 2005 contract.

What creative solutions will PERB recommend? Since other unions got a raise giving up nothing, is that suitable for us? It should be, actually, since we had to offer massive givebacks to supersede the pattern in the past. Also, PERB has declared the pattern pretty much sacrosanct. The question is, does that apply when the pattern is attractive, or only when it's total crap? It appears we're about to find out.

A new contract will likely include a new evaluation system, bringing us innovative junk science ratings for teachers, the likes of which have gotten our colleagues plastered on the pages of the NY Post as the worst in NY. Legislation in Albany seeks to restrict access, so that parents will have to go to principals' offices to find out precisely what junk science has to say about teachers. Doubtless principals have nothing better to do than spend hours offering invalid nonsensical information to parents who demand it.

The thing is, what's to keep a parent from calling up the NY Post and saying, "Mr. Educator has the worst rating in the history of time and space and you therefore need to camp out on his doorstep and humiliate him in front of his neighbors?" Nothing. What's to keep parents from telling one another that junk science says this teacher is good, that one is bad, and en masse demanding transfers? Nothing. Is it beneficial to kids to send their teachers to the verge of paranoia, for virtually no reason whatsoever?

And bad as this is, it's worse elsewhere. Read Diane Ravitch's blog and it looks like, nationwide, teachers are public enemy number one. This is because they've become used to due process before being fired, which is now under attack. When the economy is in the crapper, as it is now, our job becomes highly desirable. Never mind that most of our careers we've made way less money than our similarly qualified friends and family in other fields.

The economy can turn, and if teachers continue to be treated poorly, things will revert to where they were in the 80s--municipalities begging for teachers, initiating intergalactic searches, taking absolutely anyone they can find, and then blaming us if their choices prove not to be the best. That's the one constant here. We are always at fault for everything. I've been listening to Mayor4Life for a decade now and that's the only part of his policy in which I've absolute confidence.

In fact, the only time I feel really good about this job is when I listen to the kids, from whom I get a message utterly at odds with what I read in the paper and see in the media. That's what keeps me getting up every day eager to go to work. And make no mistake, the only people in this city and country who really place public school children first are their parents and teachers, those of us who actually work with and for children every day of our lives.
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