Monday, October 16, 2017

ATRs Are the Golden Key for Reformies

Thanks to the blogger at ATR Adventures for alerting me to pieces I miss. This one, from the NY Post, is important for several reasons. First of all, it's important that they even bothered to speak with a real teacher and former ATR in the form of James Eterno. That's a step up from a lot of the nonsense I've seen on the same topic in Chalkbeat.

It's also important that the article attributed this demonstration, like others of its ilk, to a reformy astroturf group. In this case, it's charter-loving StudentsFirstNY, and offshoot of Michelle Rhee's group. Rhee, of course, has moved on to a gig that deals with actual fertilizer rather than what passes as information with her BFFs.

The big question, of course, is why the reformies are so preoccupied with the ATR, or Absent Teacher Reserve. Why, if they want to push privately run charter schools, do they even care whether or not we put these people to work?

I'd argue the answer is pretty basic. We are all ATRs waiting to happen. It's just a matter of being in the wrong place at the right time. I worked at John Adams High School for about seven years. It was just a simple twist of fate that I'm not there anymore. When Adams became a Renewal school, or whatever they were calling it that year, all the teachers had to reapply for their jobs. I recall reading the majority didn't bother. That could easily have been me. Or you.

Even the NY Times is piling on ATR teachers. I expected better from them, but I've been wrong before. Of course newspapers have unions, and they'd probably like them to go away. Who wants to deal with contracts when you could just cut pay, benefits, and rights? Once you do that, you can treat people any damn way you please, and keep more money for yourself. And that's directly relevant to us.

Right now, NY charter schools can certify their own teachers any way they want. It's a month of training, 40 hours in the classroom, or something, and then they are teachers, sort of. Charters have a turnover problem. They treat people like crap and people seem not to like it. People say it isn't sustainable if you want to, oh, get married, have children, live a life or anything like that.

This is tough for charter school bosses. In fact, I know charter teachers who've moved to public schools, and they aren't going back, ever. Despite all the things I write, and all the nonsense we endure, our jobs are a walk in the park compared to charter schools. Can you imagine having to take a cell phone home to answer questions after work? Imagine having to take bus rides to Albany at Eva's beck and call. Imagine having no contract, no rights, and no voice.

People who run charter schools have not only imagined, but also realized all those things. They see them as a prototype for all of us. They're reinforcing it with their limited certification. What if the charter teachers can't move to public school gigs? People with charter certification will be stuck. It's unlikely there's time to work in a charter and take night classes. After all, you have that phone to answer, and you've probably only slept eight minutes, what with making home visits and doing who knows what else.

The ATR was an egregious error in the 2005 contract, quite possibly the worst mistake the UFT ever made. We made a strong showing against the awful contract, but it wasn't good enough. The ATR is kind of our Achilles Heel. Bloomberg used it against us, demanding a time limit for ATRs. Leadership, to its credit, hung tough. Of course, this resulted in an inferior contract for us and a pattern that was the worst I've ever seen.

This notwithstanding, giving up the ATRs would place targets on all our backs. Close this school, close that school, wait a few months, and then fire everyone. Where do fired teachers go? Many I know have gone to charter schools. It's ironic that the people out marching against ATRs are perfectly OK with that.

Here's why it's OK--degrading and debasing middle class jobs is a win for the hedge funders and gazillioanaires who fund groups like StudentsFirst. They'll shed crocodile tears about how it's all about the children, but it's all about the money. Janus isn't enough for them. They want it all, they want it now, they want more, and they don't give a golly gosh darn if you go begging, eat cat food, or both.

That's the master plan, in fact. Crap jobs for you, crap jobs for the children they claim to love, no union, and bring back the good old days of the nineteenth century. Child labor isn't far behind.
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