Friday, March 07, 2014

Mr. Eterno and I Go to Melville

James Eterno and I went to a forum in Melville, Long Island the other night. James and I are both unionists, advocates and chapter leaders. As a chapter leader, James is kind of my role model. He knows the contract up and down and back and forth. If I have a question, he always has an answer. I don't always agree, but I always consider everything he says.

We are not used to being in places like the forum in Melville. We go to a lot of meetings together, but there's a brick wall that UFT leadership has built around us, and they don't very much want us to get out. You see, James and I oppose mayoral control. We opposed it when it began, and after it proved to be an unmitigated disaster, we opposed its renewal. I wrote in the Daily News against it. UFT leadership, for reasons that eluded me utterly, supported it both times. And every member of the Unity Caucus who signed a loyalty oath to support whatever leadership supports supported it too.

Education historian Diane Ravitch opposes mayoral control, and wrote about it extensively in The Death and Life of the Great American School System. She thinks it's a tool of the billionaire boys' club. So do I, and while I can't check with James right now, I assume he does too. Why should Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the Walmart family have to suffer through all that messy democracy when the likes of Michael Bloomberg can simply rubber stamp whatever they wish via some  fake board of education?

We also oppose Common Core, like Diane Ravitch does. Any system that fails 70% of our children is 100% failure, and I wrote that in the Daily News too. In fact, it appears to me this failure rate is deliberate, and that's reinforced by the idiotic remarks of Arne Duncan about white suburban moms. Though Bill Gates can spend millions and millions promoting this corporatist program, he's yet to persuade suburban moms of any color that their kids are stupid or their schools are failing. This is a setback, as they were able to close a whole lot of city schools and replace them with the likes of non-union Moskowitz academies.

Finally, we're both mystified as to why UFT leadership supports value-added measurement, which no less than AFT President Randi Weingarten calls a sham, and which we regard as junk science. And yes I wrote about that in the Daily News as well. UFT leadership boasted of how our system only used 20, 25, or 40% junk science measures, depending on who you ask and what time of day you pose the question. Of course, in NY, if you're rated ineffective in the junk science portion of your evaluation, you must be rated ineffective overall. This notwithstanding, it's clear to any informed observer that the optimal percentage of junk science that should be used to rate teachers is precisely zero.

Though James and I have differences with UFT leadership, and people who support counter-productive nonsense simply because they're told to do so, we're passionate union supporters. We believe union gives voice and power to working people, including ourselves, our students, and our daughters. We believe we do that more effectively by embracing grassroots voices, and by being ahead of the curve, and by embracing and supporting the groundswell of NY parents who realize and shout from the rooftops how destructive and counter-productive Common Core is.

It was inspiring for us to meet other unionists, like these folks, who were free to express themselves, and free to say what they thought. It was a pleasure to meet and be welcomed by unionists who were not subject to top-down dictates to support nonsensical programs that hurt working teachers, working people, and our children.

There's something happening in New York State, and we're proud to be part of it.
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