Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Hey, Mr. Mulgrew, Can You Pause the Gloating for a Moment to Consider This?

Dear Mr. Mulgrew,

I think we all knew the contract would pass, not because it was a good contract, but because something looks better than nothing to a demoralized, post-Bloomberg workforce.  It is a sad commentary that we have spent a decade dug into a pit, largely with the overt aid of corporate interests and, now, we are happy for even scraps.  If we dig down much further, Mr. Mulgrew, I'm pretty sure we'll find Mr. Shanker rolling over in his grave. 

I know I really haven't begun, yet, to play my part in this "war" to save public education and the democracy it supports.  I've primarily watched from the sidelines.  Things pretty much played out as I expected with the contract. But I also realize there are many unwritten chapters.  We're living in an epic, Mr. Mulgrew, and many of us will have bigger roles to play before its finish.   

I learned a lot.  The UFT didn't seem to care to ask me or the rank and file much of what we wanted to see in a new contract.  Unity, assuming it knew best, successfully shoved the contract past its contract committee, executive board and D.A., allowing no time for even the pretense of their careful consideration.  I stayed up late that Tuesday night, reading and re-reading the M.O.A.  I'm not sure I understood all of it, but I sure as heck tried.  I doubt many in the D.A. did the same.  I'm sure they read your e-mails though.  So, they knew when to raise their hands.

The Unity propaganda machine rolled well, better than MORE's.  I know of one para who read our CL's letter and told me she was voting for the contract because she didn't want to be #151.  If these are the best arguments for the contract, I feel sorry for the future of our union.  Unity sent its representatives to most schools, purportedly to explain the contract, but actually to sell it.  The contract proposal was originally touted as a big victory.  Then, when this clearly seemed highly questionable, you told us "the cupboard was bare."  We must believe that something is better than nothing.  How can one argue with this logic?

I study mainly the past, but I can tell you a few things of the future.  I can tell you that sometimes when I think on things that happened in the past, I can best understand them in the context of the present.   In the same vein, I believe that the events of today will best be understood in the context of tomorrow.  

Humor yourself and join me for a few seconds on a trip to 2020.  Warp speed!

By 2020, some of us will have left to teach in the suburbs.  Many of us may have left for greener pastures in other careers.  Some of us may become APs.  Some of us will be dismissed.  Some of us will be dead.  Gone is all that retro which, of course, was never a "God-given right."  

By 2020, many ATRs will be harassed, perhaps a very few for good reason, but most for factors entirely outside their control.  We will have a new mayor.  If we don't mobilize soon to support true Democrats, our schools may be closed due to Common Coritis.  We may all become ATRs.  We will fall into survival mode and remain media punching bags.  

By 2020, the merit-pay measure will prove to be an expensive failure.  In any good school, teachers already share ideas and no single teacher has a monopoly on excellence.  By 2020, we will have read a few stories of corrupt "master teachers" in the papers and we will have sat through countless hours of more less-than-edifying PD for which we can now blame our colleagues.  We will all laugh about the ruse.  Maybe our "master teacher" will take us all out and treat us to a few drinks after work to celebrate the absurdity of the entire idea.  We'll have some really good laughs!

By 2020, our current contract will have expired.  We will have now set a pattern of less than ideal pay raises, creating the kind of contract which has made our sister and brother unionists cringe.  When our current contract expires, we will still be awaiting large lump-sum retro payments.  The new mayor may very well point this out and use it as a bargaining chip in his or her favor.

By 2020, the idea of PROSE schools will have shown itself to be highly unpopular.  A few naive idealists may push for the option in place of closure and corporate takeover, but God help them.  I don't expect their noble plans will fare much better than the UFT Charter School (particularly, the middle school) which seems perpetually under threat of having its charter revoked from the state.  In order to achieve the kind of success which current measures of accountability call for, if anything less than a miracle occurs, the school will need to practice all the slimy policies of attrition adopted by the "best" charters.  

By 2020, God only knows what will have happened to our healthcare.  I don't even want to speculate here, but it is a grave concern for all of us.

By 2020, some of the Unity faithful will have worked their way up in the Union.  They will be earning more than their current union salaries which encourage them to look the other way when they're asked to vote up Unity contracts for which they've never actually seen anything in writing.  Kudos to them and their double pensions. 

Mr. Mulgrew, you gave us something--which was better than nothing and you steamrolled it along with your propaganda machine.   We both know the war against the educational deformers is raging as strongly as ever.  We're both on the same side.  And, I'd like to think we're on the same page, just the words are different.  And, I read every word I can.  I hope you do the same  despite the pressures and time constraints of your position.  

By 2020, I'll still blog some, but I'll also be doing a lot more.  By then, the book of this epic educational struggle will have advanced many chapters.  Heck, we're not even through the first book in the trilogy yet.  I could flip ahead some pages, but I don't wish to spoil it too much for you.  Picture the fury of even greater forces fighting the educational deformers!  Will they need to fight you, too, for true democracy within our Union?  

Please don't feel you need to reply here and now.  Just something to think about.  Thanks for your time.    
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