I have known the facts for weeks now but nonetheless there remains in my brain some voice that keeps telling me, this can’t really be true, my union, the once mighty United Federation of Teachers did not really sign off on an agreement allowing the cynically selected corporate crusader, New York State Education Commissioner John King, final say over the new teacher evaluation plan for all of New York City. Surely my union would never entrust this precious fan of Educators 4 Excellence (and other billionaire funded union busting lowlife organizations,) who taught a total of three years (one in a public school) and was just last week seen pathetically cheering on the corporate CEO’s he lined up to shill for Bill Gate’s Common Core. (‘cause, really, who knows more about education than CEO’s? ) to have the final say on the most radical change in teacher’s professional lives in decades.
Surely, this was some kind of bad dream or evil hallucination or elaborate cosmic joke that I’d, in time, awaken from, snap out of or catch on to.
But no. Like their signing on to Race to the Top, easily the most corrosive and insidious attack on American public education in its history ( of which Bill Gate’s Common Core and Commissioner King’s evaluation plan are part and parcel) the UFT, indeed, did sign on to this slow motion train wreck. Worse, my union wants me and my union brothers and sisters to believe that this is a moment for celebration, a victory of some kind.
Reading UFT President Michael Mulgrew’s letter on the matter made me cringe. (See below.) Several times. Then it did something worse. It lit in me the sensation I have known in certain dark hours in my life when I comforted myself with the thought, “it cannot get worse than this” until, a short time later, it was worse than that.
I suspect many teachers from coast to coast have felt something akin to that sickly sensation over the last decade of ceaseless attacks. I am tired of it. And more than tired of it. The corporate disease has over taken all including the only forces capable of withstanding it, namely unions and political parties. The choices of working people, never rosy, are now starker than they have been in a century and there seems there is nothing but darkness in the tunnel. We either find some way, as yet unimagined, to rebel against our own immiseration and degradation or we wind up with lives that are scarcely worthy of the word.
Herein Mulgrew’s letter.
Late on Saturday, June 1, State Education Commissioner John King is expected to release an evaluation plan for K-12 teachers in New York City. It will be done through a binding arbitration process and take effect in September.
The mayor and the DOE will no doubt try to spin Commissioner King’s decision to their advantage. The UFT staff will be working through Sunday to get accurate information about the new system out to you by Monday morning in a form that is both clear and concise.
The process to create a new evaluation system has been long and contentious. The final decision came to rest with the commissioner because the city Department of Education proved incapable of negotiating in good faith with us.
The UFT and the DOE each submitted lengthy proposals to the State Education Department on May 8. Arbitration hearings are taking place in Albany today and tomorrow. Commissioner King will consider the proposals and decide on the final evaluation system on June 1.
We have the opportunity to use our collective-bargaining rights to modify aspects of the evaluation plan during future contract negotiations. Practically speaking, since we are in fact-finding now, if any changes were negotiated, they would not take effect until the 2014-15 school year.
Because the commissioner’s plan must be in accordance with the 2010 state law on teacher evaluation that this union supported and helped shape, we expect it to be fair, professional and focused on teacher development to the benefit of our students. The new evaluation system as set out in state law is designed first and foremost to help teachers improve their skills throughout their careers. Teachers who are struggling will get support tailored to their individual needs.
We have our work cut out for us in September, given this DOE’s terrible track record of translating policy to practice compounded with the fact that they will probably be gone come Jan. 1. We have started working on a professional development plan and we will use our rights to make sure that the new system is implemented fairly. It is a big help that we already have an appeals process for New York City teachers nailed down that will give our members stronger due process rights than they have ever had.
I hope this email clarifies where we are and what we can expect. Working together, we will make this transition. You can count on your union to continue to fight to get you the support you deserve. Thank you for all that you do for our city’s schoolchildren.
Sincerely, Michael Mulgrew