Posts Tagged ‘United Federation of Teachers’

Is the New York Times a Subsidiary of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation?

December 3, 2013

Sez "Common Core is Good For You !"

Given their recurrent vicious if vacuous opinion pieces on the deceitfully named Common Core, I was under no illusions that the editors of The New York Times were in any way supporters of public education and public school teachers. Not by a long shot. Even still, I could not help but be appalled by the editor’s parroting of virtually every platform, no matter how discredited and despised, of the corporate reform agenda in the guise of advising Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio on how to handle the United Federation of Teachers in the wake of Mike Bloomberg’s disastrous twelve year reign.

If the editors were less weasel worded and more honest their advice to de Blasio could have been delivered in a single sentence: Wreck the school system if you have to, but continue the work of your predecessor in breaking the union to the point where it exists but is utterly powerless so we may have political cover when the school system is finally completely privatized.

Instead, they chose to suggest de Blasio implement failed policies and repeat ugly and false statements not merely as it they were true, but as if they were common knowledge. Consider the following line, on loan, apparently from the New York Post : “The union must also let go of the unspoken presumption that every teacher is entitled to a job for life.”
I’m not sure what an “unspoken presumption” is or how, if “unspoken,” the editors of the Times divined it, but I do know that I have been a member of the UFT for almost a decade and I’ve never heard or divined anything remotely resembling this sentiment. Quite the contrary, I, like thousands of my fellow teachers, have heard UFT President Mulgrew state openly and unambiguously that teaching is tough work and not everyone can do it.

Continuing to exhibit the astounding ignorance of its opinion writers, the editors go on to bemoan state laws protecting teacher seniority — laws common to all civil service jobs and passed as a modicum of protection against racism, nepotism, and cronyism — as if these were the handiwork of the union, designed specifically to protect lousy old teachers at the expense of “excellent” young ones.
Note: “Excellence”, like “flexibility”, are words that no piece of reform propaganda can do without.
The editors find a splendid model for de Blasio to work with in the “progressive systems like the one found in Washington D.C., which made big gains on federal assessment tests.” Incredibly, the editors seem wholly unaware of the scandals looming over that city ever since Michele Rhee flew out of town on her broom. The goal of the D.C. system, intones the Times “is to keep the most talented teachers.”
Generously, the editors leave to the reader’s imagination the goal of the NYC teacher’s union.

Apparently, in much the same way that for hedge funders “charters schools” are monuments of “civil rights, ’ for the editors of the New York Times, “progressive” is now synonymous with “corporate business model. ”
Like all education reformers the editors of the Times are deeply concerned with the well being of young teachers because “ younger teachers start out with relatively low salaries and are at risk of leaving the system for higher pay elsewhere.”
But not to worry. “ The scales should be rebalanced so that teachers who are judged highly effective under the new evaluation system can move up quickly in the pay scale.”
Wow! Combining a divisive and decomposing scheme like merit pay (that for decades has failed and failed and failed ) with an evaluation system that is as loathed as it is incomprehensible as a platform for “excellence” takes some kind of editorial cake! Even in the flatulent halls of education reform!

The editors then go on to steal a page from the egregious Campbell Brown, who has parlayed her status as a former ersatz journalist into a career as an ersatz parent activist with one issue: teacher sexual misconduct which, she claims, the UFT monstrously protects. This despite the fact that, contractually, any teacher found guilty of such charges must be fired. Brown, like Bloomberg, finds it outrageous that arbitrators find many who are accused of such despicable acts innocent and, like Mike Bloomberg, wants the chancellor to be the judge and jury in every case, due process be damned.

Apparently, and disgracefully, so do the Times. Except, unlike even Campbell Brown, they haven’t even the courage to spell it out.

Finally, knowing that every union busting agenda is incomplete without lines about the wonders of the “ city’s thriving charter schools “, which the Times erroneously states are “on average, out performing traditional school.” Of these miraculous institutions the editors write the following: “One of their advantages is that individual charter schools can set many of their own rules, scheduling longer school days and making more time for parent-teacher conferences. Traditional schools often follow a by-the-book approach that dictates the length of the day, frequency of meetings and so on.”

By claiming that charters can make “ more time for parent-teacher conferences, “ the Times sells the charters way, way short. Charters seem to be able to do just about anything they want. Charter schools can and do force parents to sign contracts with them, obliging the parents to do all kinds of things or find their charge out in the street, a trick not legally available to a “traditional school.” And who can forget Eva Moskowitz leading hundreds of children and teachers on an anti de Blasio protest over the Brooklyn Bridge in school hours on the public dime. Indeed, if a public school tried any of such stunts – the contracts, the expulsions, the publicly funded political action during instructional time — the principal would unquestionably be fired and possibly arrested and featured for days on the cover of the Post.

I find it impossible to believe, cocooned that they are, that the editors of the times are not aware of these facts. And reprehensible that they pretend not to be.

Like the Time’s “ unspoken presumption that every teacher is entitled to a job for life,” the Times “ by-the-book approach that dictates the length of the day, frequency of meetings and so on, “ of public schools is something I have only heard of and heard of only from corporate reform union busters. I have never ever remotely experienced such a thing as a teacher.


So there you have it. Every word of an editorial from the most powerful and influential newspaper in America that could have been issued from the public relations department of the ubiquitous Gates Foundation or the Broad Foundation or Students First or any number of the ever multiplying billionaire based “reform” groups who care so deeply about America’s children and speak so contemptuously and ignorantly about America’s teachers.

Every word.

And here we are.

Fair Contracts For All Rally

June 12, 2013
Teacher  and Unionist Fred Arcoleo

Teacher and Unionist Fred Arcoleo

Despite the fact that Mayor Mike Bloomberg has allowed the contracts for all 152 city unions locals to expire, despite the coming mayoral race, despite the beautiful weather, the Fair Contracts For All Rally in City Hall Park was, to put it mildly, underwhelming.

United Federation of Teachers, its members still reeling from a recently released toxic evaluation plan, had by far the largest and most animated turn out.

The poor turn out by other city workers does not bode well for anyone except those who wish to eviscerate unions altogether.



The UFT and the DOE: Reflections On A Deal Gone Bust

January 17, 2013

When the email proclaiming no deal between the DOE and the UFT arrived at 2:00 in the afternoon or so I could scarcely believe my eyes.  I suspect that there were many teachers who felt the same  way.     For days I was expecting to arrive at tonight’s Delegate Assembly   to protest what many (myself included) had believed to be a long ago done deal, one inexplicably validating the pseudo science of Value Added Metrics, (VAM) and one rammed into reality without the consensus of the dues paying rank and file whose careers and lives would sure to be hugely affected by it.  My suspicions were made much greater after reading the repugnant post of one Peter Goodman, a retired teacher in no way affected by the evaluation plan, who nonetheless attempted to paint those who opposed the plan as nothing less than Tea Partiers whose small minds failed to realize that the UFT had to please not only the rank and file but Mike Bloomberg, the sleazebags of DFER, and even Michelle Rhee.

Goodman, it was said, was merely a mouthpiece for UFT leadership,

Good God, I thought, is this the true thinking of the UFT?  Needing to please the very forces that have made no secret of their desire to eradicate the very idea of union from human consciousness?  Can it really be this bad ?

With thoughts like this in mind the email at 2:00 came as a jolt —  a jolt that also came with a long over due and unfamiliar feeling of pride in the UFT.  Here they stood up to the venal little bastard in City Hall after all.   Yippie!  Michael Mulgrew even went so far as to publicly call Bloomberg a liar —  six times, he said.

About time, I thought.

When I arrived at UFT headquarters   I encountered something I never  imagined  possible:  a line to get in to the DA that snaked two blocks up Broadway.  Seemed like every chapter leader and delegate in the city had arrived  — but to do what?  There was a strange and almost giddy feel in the air when Mulgrew at last arrived (to great applause) to speak about what happened.

There was, apparently, a deal said Mulgrew,  but Bloomberg being Bloomberg imploded it at the 11th hour.   Mulgrew clearly lamented Bloomberg’s maneuver and spent a lot of time explaining what he felt was good about the plan.  The foolishness of the initial buying into Race To the Top and the presence  of the aforementioned error ridden Value Added Metrics (now apparently called “growth”) were never mentioned.

Little by little the air went out of the balloon.

I was happy to see the thing torpedoed but I have no illusions about the lousiness of the state of things as they are.  Wind up with a psycho principal (a reality I am all too familiar with even if I do not live with it now) and you can kiss your career goodbye and there is nothing the union can do about it.    Such is the reality after a decade of capitulations to those who live to destroy you.

I’m glad I was wrong about the UFT standing up to Bloomberg and his allies.  I’m glad to see it happen at the very moment the bus drivers have gone on strike and further expose this man Bloomberg for the union busting pathological monster that he is.  I was glad to see the smiles on the faces of my long-suffering colleagues.  But I have no illusions that what transpired in the past 24 hours is anything but a brief respite in a war of life or death.  I would like to think it could signal a new beginning but I can’t quite believe that.

I would love to be wrong about that as well.

Occupy Wall Street Is Alive and Well at Zucotti Park

November 20, 2011

I arrived at Zuccoti Park this evening just as the bells of the majestic Trinity Church were ringing seven times.  It was immediately evident and extremely heartening to see, once again, that Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s grotesque and brutal attempt to break the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street movement has failed as utterly as have his equally grotesque and brutal attempt to  “reform” the public school system.

There were groups there I’d never seen present before, particularly the 9/11 Truth people.

There was the beginning of a new library to replace the ample one that Bloomberg had ordered  to be trashed.

There were the members of the unions that Bloomberg has tried to undermine or destroy.  There was the announcement that the United Federation of Teachers  were  hosting an intergenerational dialogue about defending the  social contract this Monday morning  at UFT headquarters.   There were the old and the young, the black and the white, the every religion and non religion under the moon, all united to say again and again and again until it  is finally heard and made manifest: we are sick to death of  the brutal, degrading  rule by the Bloomberg’s of this world: America must change: America must live up to its promise:  America must, at last,  save itself  from the reign of  the insane.

The park was filled with the beaten but unbroken and it was beautiful to behold.

Bloomberg’s Choice: This Is Not About Education

May 11, 2011

New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg is obsessed.   He is obsessed with his legacy. He is obsessed with abolishing the New York State seniority laws.  He is obsessed with the destruction of the United Federation of Teachers.  He is obsessed with the privatization of the New York City Public School system.

Like his fellow education reformers Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton family, Jeb Bush, and any number of hedge fund millionaires, Bloomberg is obsessed with imposing his will and his values on every square inch of the continental United States.  This is  to be done  via an utter transformation of the American public school system.

Like the rest of these people, Bloomberg is obsessed, not with education — a subject about which he knows nothing and cares even less — but with using education to transform the American ethos into something of a mirror reflection of himself;  obsessed with using education as a means to insure the absolute triumph and domination of the corporate state for decades if not centuries to come.

These obsessions are all intertwined. Recklessly, ruthlessly, dangerously intertwined.

Last Friday, at the conclusion of Teacher Appreciation Week, Mike Bloomberg showed New Yorkers just how recklessly intertwined his obsessions are when he announced that, due to the fiscal crisis, New York would need to lay off some 6000 teachers.  1,500 would go by attrition, 4, 500 by pink slip.  By virtually every estimation excepting that of Bloomberg himself and the Department of Education which he has ruled with an iron hand for almost a decade, a loss of such magnitude would be catastrophic for New York’s students as well as a personal disaster for each and every one of the unemployed former teachers.

Well, hard cheese old chap. Should  have thought of that before you were born.

Also, by virtually every estimation other than Bloomberg’s, the layoffs are simply not necessary.  Alas, says Bloomberg, the city simply does not have the 377 million dollars it needs to keep the 6000 teachers.  And for that, says he,  blame the state and the federal government.

Note:  even as he went to the trouble of secretly finding a stooge to introduce a bill abolishing seniority  — a certain Long Island Assemblyman named Flanagan who, though outside of the Mayor’s city is well within the Mayor’s control – Bloomberg has  steadfastly refused to help in the effort to retain the so called Millionaire’s tax. And  this despite the greatest movement of wealth upwards in American history.

Retaining the tax would have provided  the money needed to solve the problem of potential layoffs.

But Bloomberg does not want to solve the problem of potential layoffs.    He wants to use the problem to destroy the teacher’s union.

The UFT states unequivocally that there is a multi billion dollar surplus in the city’s education coffers.  The DOE’s Dennis Walcott, rather less unequivocally, denies it.   What is beyond dispute, however, is the fact that, in the midst of the greatest job loss since the disastrous teacher layoffs of the 1970’s which damaged the school system for decades, Mike Bloomberg has allocated $550 million for next year alone for technology upgrades and computers.

Such an allocation is, even by Bloomberg’s icy standards, a remarkably callous and insulting choice.  It is akin to his decision to hire Cathy Black and his failure to fire Iris Bilge to name two of a thousand such Bloombergian decisions in his reign as dictator of educational policy.    Such a choice says to teachers: This is what I think of you: a computer is more valuable.

At the same time, of course,  the allocation puts the lie to Bloomberg’s claims of having to lay people off.

No matter how you look at it, it  demonstrates that the layoffs, like the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq, are a matter of choice.

It is also, like the decision to invade Iraq, nothing short of an act of war.

The object of the war is the total destruction of the UFT and the consequent privatization of the school system. Bloomberg knows that if New York City schools fall, all other cities will fall afterward.  Bloomberg’s method is circuitous.  The idea is to  abolish state seniority laws and  allow the slow and ugly weakening and unraveling of collective bargaining rights and the union protections that would inevitably come in its wake.

Indeed, even as Bloomberg has worked to weaken and undermine the UFT at every turn since he was granted dictatorial power over the school system almost a decade ago, the removal of seniority laws — under the guise of “putting kids first” by keeping “the best teachers” in the class room,   – would, in short order, plant the seeds and harvest all of the poisonous   fruits of corporate business culture in schools across New York.

As rights and protections became weakened, dwindled or vanished altogether and teachers became “at will” employees, fear would become the normative psychological state  of the school building.   Perpetual and divisive competition between colleagues, informing, and shameless ass kissing would all become commonplace.  Moral autonomy would shrink into nothingness. The strong and original would be fired or driven out or beaten down.  Students would receive an even more anemic and insulting verison of corporate education than they do now,  and that is really saying something.  Bubble tests would proliferate even more mindlessly than they currently do.

In short, the abolition of  seniority  would, in time, produce an education reformer’s  paradise.  Bloomberg knows this – which is why he has been fighting so ruthlessly and insidiously to abolish the seniority law.  It is why he is, in essence, perfectly willing to throw 6000 teachers to the dogs of a brutal economy just to get his way.

As always, the press is only too happy to parrot the Bloomberg/ reformer line, distort the truth and wholly omit why the seniority laws were created to begin with. Seniority laws, imperfect as all man made laws are, were created as a response to   cronyism, racism, sexism, and, until very, very recently — indeed, until the sad advent of education reform — were commonly considered the only way to insure some modicum of fairness and some measure of job security in times of economic crisis and layoffs.

Suddenly, in the words of Fox News, seniority laws are “controversial.”

In the coming weeks Bloomberg and his billionaire friend will do everything they can to persuade legislators in Albany to abolish seniority.  We can expect no end of teary-eyed stories of young dedicated teachers tragically separated from their charges by the savage union thugs and their lackeys in the state.  Indeed, they have already begun.  Observe today’s  front page of the NY Times.

It is essential to understand that none of this, indeed none of education reform is  or has ever been, in any meaningful sense of the words,  about “education” or “reform.”   It is about transformation of values. It is about the final stages of creating a country  in which all public institutions will cease to exist for all will be privatized.    It is about the elimination of not only unions but the  very impulses and principles on which they are created:  the yearning for economic justice, fair play, compassion, fraternity,   and solidarity, all of  which are in direct opposition to the ethos of the increasingly a-human corporate state.

It is about institutionalizing the Hobbesian “war of one man against all men” and positing this bestial nihilistic high tech savagery as virtuous and divinely ordered.   It is about a right-wing revolution by stealth.   It is about the absolute triumph of the corporate state and the absolute removal of all opposition to it.     It is about driving a stake through the heart of unionism in America.

It is about servitude.

You do not appoint  people like Joel Klein or Cathy Black or Dennis Walcott Chancellors of Education of the largest school system in the USA if you have any interest in improving education.  You do not demand dictatorial  control over a system   of which you have no knowledge, no experience, and no interest if  you are interested in education.  You do not shut out parents from  any meaningful discussion of their own children’s education if you have any interest in education.   You do not impose business plans and call them education plans if you are interested in education.  You do not shut out the voices of real educators if you are interested in education.  You do not create Leadership Academies designed  to  spit out instant principals trained to act like CEOS if you are interested in education. You do not give public school buildings to charter schools empires if you are interested in public education. You do not heed the cynical advice of cynical billionaires who believe it their right to make public policy and experiment on other people’s  children if you are interested in education. You do not reduce students to bubble test taking guinea pigs  if you are interested in education.  You do not hound, harass, humiliate  and micro-manage teachers if you are interested in education.  You do not purchase technology at the expense of teachers if you are interested in education.  Above all you do not lay off thousands of teachers if you are interested in education. You do not set new teachers against experienced teachers if you are interested in education.

You do these things if you are obsessed with power over others.  Education is merely the means.