Educators are under attack. This is not news. What has changed in the last 30 years is a decrease in the effectiveness of the UFT to counter the power of the DOE. There are many reasons for this decrease starting with a young, new workforce with many barriers to union activity and a lack of connection to unionism. Teachers today have no connection to the necessary strikes and job actions of yesterday that produced workable conditions in our schools. There is no solidarity, union or otherwise.

Second is the change of pedagogic philosophy from an education model to a corporate model. We recognize some of the elements:  top-down structure with no feedback or collaboration from teachers, data driven based on massive testing and without regard to proven educational practices (educate the whole child), establishing a subjective pay system based on merit and bonuses, and strongly anti-union.

The third major trend is the breakup of large schools, particularly the High Schools which were always the most fertile ground for union militancy. Working in a small school with less than thirty young, untenured staff, teachers no longer see the potential of their collective power. In addition, newer, non-tenured teachers are insecure and less likely to stand up for their rights even when they would like to. Newer teachers are easier for principals to victimize. Newer teachers are easier to push into doing extra work and more likely to agree to extra-contractual proposals. In schools where the proportion of newer teachers is particularly high, all of the teachers find their rights eroding.

Fourth is centralized authority without centralized responsibility:  the autonomy given to the principals and the laissez faire attitude of superintendents.  Tweed mistrains principals and encourages them to misuse authority, and then claims not to be in direct control. No one in authority seems concerned with the contract – it is often abused or ignored. While all of us work for the DOE, teachers are made to feel that this is not the case – that they now owe their allegiance to the principal (many trained in the DOE’s Leadership Academy) who hired them.

In addition the public is fed a constant stream of news stories depicting teachers as incompetent (ATR’s) or dangerous (“Rubber room”). Unfortunately, the national spotlight is focused mainly on teacher evaluation and creating more charter schools to escape the clutches of the “anti-reform” school unions.

The past several years have been a disaster for our members. Working conditions are perhaps the worst in the history of the UFT. Demands on teacher time and productivity have significantly increased to include excessive paperwork, tying data to planning, scripted lesson plans, setting individual student goals, and teaching for the test.

Add to this mix hundreds of abusive or incompetent administrators who are given absolute authority. Plus we have the constant creation of new small schools, the assault on experience and seniority, and the willful opposition to following our legal contract. This is a recipe for a school system that stifles teacher creativity, promotes a climate of fear and forces thousands of potentially good teachers to leave if they can.

6 Responses to “Position Paper December 2009”


  1. 1 Jack Israel December 5, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    This is a well-thought out and sadly very accurate assessment of the current situation with regard to the UFT and DOE. Unquestionably, the DOE under the stewardship of Mr. Bloomberg has launched an insidious assault upon teacher seniority, the very bedrock of union potency and solidarity. Without a well-orchestrated and immediately actionable response from the Unity/New Action Caucus, our union’s very existence as we know it is in severe peril. While position statements serve their purpose, only a strategy that includes swift and strong actions can stem this disturbing tide. The UFT’s recent transgressions which include: staying out of the election; not fighting against term limits and/or the current version of mayoral control only serve to highlight the unions’ lack of action and an acquiescence to Mayor Bloomberg’s wrong-headed ego driven assault on our profession.

    The public does not fully understand the actions and impact of the Bloomberg/Klein regime. Judging by the tabloid editorials and even the venerable NYT, the UFT is responsible for every conceivable ill facing our schools today even though the UFT doesn’t hire teachers, grant tenure, close schools, create ATRs, send members to rubber rooms, carry out the investigation of people in the rubber rooms or decide on curriculum.

    I have been impressed with the recent missives from our new leader Mr. Mulgrew. I understand that he has inherited a difficult situation. However, if he cannot convince our members, new and old that we are at a critical juncture in our union’s very existence I am afraid much can be lost, very quickly! Mr. Bloomberg has no idea about how to run the schools but his lawyers are quite adept at end-running laws and contracts. Conversely, I believe that the UFT is still a very powerful and politically influential union. WE must harness this power and make every effort to keep this destructive mayor in check. I wait with keen anticipation for Unity/New Action to come up with some type of action-based strategy! The time for words has long passed, I am ready to act! ASAP!!!!!!

    Jack Jay Israel
    UFT/AFT Delegate
    De Witt Clinton H.S.
    The Bronx, NY

    • 2 Jack Israel December 7, 2009 at 9:19 am

      Understood, It was not my intention imply that Unity and New Action were one caucus. It was more of call to action for both Unity and New Action. I am pleased to see the two working together on any level since it seems to imply a more progressive approach to our issues. Thanks for the support Jon.

      Jack

  2. 3 jd2718 December 6, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Jack,

    thanks for the comment. An action-based strategy is just what we need.

    You do deserve a fuller response than I can give now. Our caucus’ name, by the way, is New Action/UFT. You’ve scrambled it with the name of another caucus. Unity is the leadership’s caucus. While we’ve cross-endorsed several candidates in the last few elections, we are separate caucuses.


  1. 1 Position Paper December 2009 « New Action – UFT Trackback on December 2, 2009 at 10:59 pm
  2. 2 Educators are under attack « JD2718 Trackback on December 2, 2009 at 11:05 pm
  3. 3 Remainders: How Omar from “The Wire” got into Westinghouse | GothamSchools Trackback on December 3, 2009 at 8:18 pm

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