Friday, August 10, 2018

NYSUT Endorses, Having Learned Nothing from Trump or Janus

NYSUT drew a line in the sand that any Senator who failed to endorse the bill de-linking testing and evaluation would be opposed. I supported that bill, but it did not go nearly far enough to alleviate the suffering and nonsense NYC teachers experience daily. It's disingenuous for Pallotta to act as though he fought evaluation in general. Though he happily threw Dick Iannuzzi under the bus for it, he didn't raise a peep when it started. Mulgrew supported it, and that was good enough for Andy Pallotta.

This brings us to the endorsements. UFT is the big dog in NYSUT, and I don't believe NYSUT does anything of significance without our approval. That said, I'm struck senseless by our opposition to education hero Robert Jackson. Jackson stood with us through CFE. CFE was a lawsuit under which we won lower class sizes. It's never been enforced, even though the city came up with a plan to do so that was approved by the state.

Jackson is running against Marisol Alcantara, who caucused with IDC. IDC is a group of Senators, elected as Democrats, who caucused with Republicans. Why, exactly, do we need that in NY?  IDC has been responsible for blocking a whole lot of progressive bills that passed the Assembly. One of them would have provided universal health care for New Yorkers. A lot of us were disappointed by the sharp spike in co-pays in the last contract. (In yet another concession, new city workers will need to enroll in HIP before getting a choice of plans. How exactly that will inspire them to join rather than shirk union post-Janus is a mystery to me.)

In any case, universal health care in NY would've brought down costs for everyone. How we support people who block that is a mystery to me. What's no mystery, unfortuantely, is reformy support for IDC members. Alcanatara, for example, lists an Eva Moskowitz PAC as one of her top donors. Another is NYSUT Vote-Cope. Why the hell are we giving a dime to someone who supports a great enemy of New York City's schoolchildren, parents and teachers? How on eath can we turn against Robert Jackson for someone like that?

NYSUT made a great point of saying they opposed Senators who supported charter expansion. How does support from Moskowitz not translate into supporting charter expansion? Eva Moskowitz eats charter expansion for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and we're supporting someone who takes her money. It's not a coincidence, NYSUT endorsers, that Alcantara called for a lifting of the charter cap. It's outrageous that we're putting resources behind someone like that. How do you think that will go over at the next COPE drive?

I like Tish James a lot, but I love Zephyr Teachout. She's fearless and stood up for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez well before it became fashionable. Whatever NYSUT says, I'll certainly be voting for Teachout in the primary. Teachout doesn't take PAC or corporate money, a good quality in an attorney general. I don't believe that's true of any of her opponents. New York will be a better place with Teachout in a powerful place.

I'd like our union to look ahead, but I'm not altogether sure we're doing that. I read about Julia Salazar supporting the American wave of teacher strikes, and I think we'd be well-represented by someone who believed in us. She supports reasonable class sizes, free tuition in CUNY and SUNY, and the universal health care we so need. Were a state as large as New York to enable this, we'd pressure the rest of the country to follow in our footsteps.

Something happened when Alexandria Ocasio Cortez unseated an established machine Democrat. There was a light in the darkness. It was just a little ray of light, but it shone on all the mistakes Democrats had made, particularly the ones that allowed Donald Trump to become President of the United States.

Donald Trump is President of the United States only because Hillary Clinton failed to get people to the polls. Hillary Clinton failed to support universal health care. She said it would never, ever happen. Hillary opposed free college, saying Trump's kids would take advantage. She flip-flopped all over the place on $15 an hour minimum wage. That's not to mention all the baggage she was carrying around from day one. The fact is, a lot of people who got off their butts to vote for Obama didn't do the same for Hillary.

We, UFT, NYSUT, and AFT, saw her as a sure bet. We got on her bandwagon very early, asking absolutely nothing in return. This was an egregious error, as we all now know. Not only was Hillary wrong on all the aforementioned issues, but she was also looking very much like someone who'd follow Obama's calamitous and short-sighted education policies. Did working teachers really need more junk science evaluation and test-till-you-drop programs? Judging from our endorsements both then and now, you'd think yes.

On several IDC Senators, NYSUT sits on the fence. Better than endorsing, but still not good enough. UFT High School Executive Board opposes them all, but has no vote or voice in NYSUT. Our requests, clearly, were ignored.

Janus has changed everything. I see that very clearly, and I've changed as a result. I think a little differently, I work a little differently, and I behave a little differently. It's not exactly a sea change for me, because as a chapter leader, I'm acutely aware my job is representing the interests of my members. There are things I'd like to do that I don't do, because I understand members would not support those things.

I see a need for leadership to be more responsive in that way. I am absolutely cognizant of how important union is, and how much we need it. I see this despite years of having criticized leadership decisions. What I really wonder, though, is what it will take for leadership to understand that the game has now changed, and that losing is not an option. These endorsements suggest, to me at least, that same old urge to be "reasonable" and not ask too much.

There are some things that are not too much to ask, and that leadership must move on.

1. Public education is who we are and what we do. We need to support it unequivocally. This has several implications. Public schools are controlled by the public, not by Eva Moskowitz and her hedge fund BFFs. Charter schools are not public schools and do not merit our support.

2. Class size matters, not only to me, not only to the children we serve, not only to all working teachers, but also to parents. This is reflected in city surveys time and again. Every teacher knows that the smaller the class size is, the more attention they can devote to students in need. If that's not enough, there is rigorous research to support the benefits of reasonable class sizes.

3. Health care needs to be universal. It's so fundamental that anything we can do in the classroom pales in relevance. Most Americans support universal health care and we need to support it too.

4. Americans deserve a living, not a miserable struggle to string together minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. We need a living wage for all working Americans. We are not teaching children to be Walmart associates, no matter how much money the Walmart family tosses around.

5. College needs to be affordable. We can't place our faith in preposterous tropes suggesting we're gonna meet Ivanka in English 101 at Queensborough Community College.

No politician who takes money to oppose any of that merits our support.

I think it was Jack Nicholson who said, "If you aren't learning, you're dead." This goes double for teachers, and it's high time for UFT and NYSUT leadership to get on board.
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