Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Choice to Do Nothing

Blogger Sean Crowley asks why more Buffalo students don't opt out, and I have the same question about NYC students. For one thing, UFT leadership has not exactly supported opt-out. I've watched Michael Mulgrew make the same funding threats as our reformy friends in Albany and DC. Leadership pays lip service to parental choice, but doesn't promote it in any way, shape, or form.

Lately we've been getting victory messages from leadership, which is nothing new. UFT Unity smells victory everywhere. When we are judged by all components of Danielson, we win. When we are judged by fewer, we win. When we get a transfer plan that allows teachers to choose schools, we win. When we lose that plan and make displaced teachers wandering gypsies, we win. When we negotiate second-tier due process, when we get money eleven years after most of our union brothers and sisters, when we make a terrible evaluation system even worse, when our health benefits become more costly with no end in sight, we win again.

Personally, I think leadership is hard of smelling. One of the most recent victories it's smelled was that of Cuomo's moratorium on testing, which professional reporters interpret as an end to junk science ratings. Of course it's nothing of the sort, but rather a temporary delay in counting selected elementary tests. In any case, other junk science will take its place, as per state law. The other victory, of course, is a revision of the Common Core standards. Those of us who follow such things, like Professor Nicholas Tampio, strongly suspect it will result in superficial changes, a new name, and the same old close reading crap for our children and students.

As you see, I am not nearly as impressed by these changes as leadership. I think this is a snow job perpetrated by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is wholly owned by reformy privatizers who donate millions to his campaign. Cuomo has no moral center, and frankly, I have to wonder whether or not our leadership has one either. Of course they can claim credit for these inconsequential changes, and paint them as a victory, but I'm not fooled.

The fact is these changes were inspired by the opt-out movement, and believe me, they aren't fooled either. Jeanette Deutermann, Beth Dimino, and Jia Lee, among many others, are not giving up anytime soon. UFT leadership, having never been on board, has nothing to give up anyway. I suppose it's pretty easy for them to declare victory based on shallow gestures they had no part in, a lot easier than taking a stand for working teachers and the children they serve.

The title of this piece refers to a new and fraudulent movement the reformies are pushing, one mentioned in Sean's piece. There's new "opt-in" talk, designed to diminish the good work of advocates for students and reasonable education. Their argument is that 80% of our kids opted in to testing.

That argument is absurd. Sitting for the status quo is not a choice unless you know there is an alternative. I'd bet dimes to dollars that most families in NYC send their kids to school and have no idea they have a right to opt out of anything. It's different in communities on Long Island, pretty much the epicenter of opt-out, Long Island unionists and parents are keyed into this a whole lot more than those in NYC. That's a direct factor of the UFT leadership keeping its collective head purposely in the sand.

I hope they pull it out. I will send them positive vibes, but just in case that doesn't work out, I'm running against them with MORE/ New Action. Vote for us and it will be just that much harder for them to keep pretending we don't exist.
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