Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Is "Public School Proud" Enough?

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say probably not. It's a reheated version of "Union Loud and Proud," and what we got from the forward thinking that spawned that was President Donald Trump. A hallmark of the union strategy to support public education was the early endorsement of Hillary Clinton, and I don't need to remind readers of this blog how that turned out.

Pride in our schools is not a bad thing, of course. Lots of parents love their public schools. Exhibit number one is Central Park East 1. I've never seen such dedication from a community. They love their school, and they want their kids in that school. They are Public School Proud, and have been so a lot longer than this campaign has been around. Yet it took a year for UFT to get serious, and that only happened when leadership came face to face with it at the Executive Board. (Leadership has not yet thanked us for helping that to happen.)

In fact, leadership has refused to even allow a vote on a resolution to get rid of the abusive principal or put the UFT teachers back in place. Howard Schoor stood in front of the Delegate Assembly, said he supported everything in the resolution, but maintained we couldn't allow a vote on it because it would preclude negotiation. Yet I hear there's been precious little negotiation, and now there will be a lawsuit and a court order. (It's funny, but one of the very leaders blocking the resolution told me to my face, regarding a matter I brought up about a discontinued teacher I know, that a lawsuit precludes negotiating.)

One thing I've repeatedly told the Executive Board is that we should be the advocates for students, and that the various astroturf groups ostensibly for students, and children and "excellence" actually represent none of the above. What would it look like if the United Federation of Teachers went all out and public to support the sort of innovative education taking place at CPE 1? What would it look like if we told New York what happens at the school where Barack Obama sent his kids and then demanded it for our kids? What would it look like if we showed people that what the upper crust wants for their children is nothing like the test-prep-to-death model favored in the Moskowitz Academies?

Instead we've got a slogan, a bus, and a bunch of people standing around the bus and smiling. We can call the bus, maybe, stand around it and smile, and get our picture in New York Teacher. I'm sorry, but we can and should do better. The great minds who thought that up are the very same ones who have us facing voluntary dues. I don't know what I'll do about those who don't pay when that happens, and it now appears inevitable.

Working people are stronger when we stand together. I have huge issues with leadership, but I'll pay. People in leadership estimate that 30% won't. I'm not at all sure about that. What is going to motivate people, three out of four of whom can't even be bothered to vote in union elections? And how are leaders who can't get more than 25% of membership out to vote going to motivate the community at large, particularly when they give a highly motivated and activist CPE 1 community the same song and dance they give us?

These are real problems, and there are real solutions. To date, though, I'm not seeing any hint of a change in direction from leadership. It's time to reach out seriously. I've seen ads for Public School Proud on reformy Chalkbeat NY, but that's not precisely our target audience. There are few things I'd like better than to be proven wrong here. But the evidence is not really piling up against me just yet.
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