Thursday, December 11, 2014

UFT Leadership Pays Valuable Lip Service to Class Size

The United Federation of Teachers leadership has come up with a brilliant plan. Let's tax the absentee landlords to come up with money to fund class size reductions. All we need is the support of Governor 1% and the newly elected GOP majority.

The fact that they vehemently oppose all those things should be no problem whatsoever. So what if Andy Cuomo takes a "principled stand" against taxing millionaires and has the audacity to compare it to his father's opposition to the death penalty? Anyway, once we overcome that minor obstacle,  in a number of years, maybe we'll have lower class sizes.

It may seem like a great idea to do this via legislation, but all legislation will mean is there will be money, maybe. That hasn't always worked as planned in our state. There was supposed to be money via the CFE lawsuit, but it was delayed for years and we're still waiting on money. I suppose UFT leadership looks fairly caring when they make a big public demand for smaller class sizes. I certainly support them, as do most people who actually care about the education of our children.

But the fact is the only instrument that controls class size is the UFT Contract. Recently, UFT has failed to show any particular fervor over enforcing existing limits. That is really disturbing, and makes me doubt the sincerity of this very public call. In fact, even disregarding the sloppy enforcement of current class size limits, the fact is that UFT has done absolutely nothing to improve class size since I started teaching in 1984. That's quite a record.

UFT will endorse mayoral control, even after it's demonstrated to be an abject disaster, but won't raise a peep about reducing contractual class size. UFT will support charter schools, start and colocate its own charter schools, endorsing the barbaric process of displacing public schools, but won't lift a finger to reduce class size. UFT will fall for merit pay schemes, drastic reduction of seniority rights, degredation of tenure, two-tier due process, dumping staff of entire schools, but won't fight even a relatively not insane mayor for class size.

For the thirty years I've been teaching, UFT has done nothing to reduce class size. Nada. Zip. Diddly squat. Now they wish to appear to care. Don't be fooled.

Decades of evidence suggest UFT leadership doesn't give a fiddler's fart about how many kids are in your classroom. Don't even think about how many kids are in your school, or how many schools are in your building. Last spring when Andy and Eva undermined the democratically elected Mayor of NYC to force him to pay for Moskowitz Academies, UFT leadership said little and did nothing. A very highly placed NYSUT source told me Mulgrew supported this move. While I can't prove that, it's crystal clear he did nothing to oppose it.

It's a nice sound byte for UFT leadership. But if they really cared about class sizes, it would be part of contract negotiations, which has not been the case in decades. 
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