The ax against asinine education reforms is starting to swing in New York. Politicians are writing laws to unravel Common Core, and more and more local leaders are speaking out against the gap elimination adjustment and a crushing property tax cap. Changing laws is not easy, however, and those rallying against nonsensical reforms in New York and around the country have a task akin to an exorcism.
the front lines of this battle are Dick Iannuzzi, president of New York’s
largest teachers union (NYSUT), and his executive vice president, Andy
Pallotta. Paradoxically, both are
fighting the powers that be while fighting each other, as Pallotta has helped
form another group within NYSUT to challenge Iannuzzi’s presidency that calls
itself “Revive NYSUT.” Running for president on the Revive ticket is not
Pallotta but Karen Magee, president of the Harrison Association of Teachers.
Magee has remained silent since accepting the nomination while Pallotta wines and dines politicians on VOTE-COPE money, the union’s voluntary political
On the surface, Pallotta is only doing his job; NYSUT’s executive vice president
is expected to push legislation on behalf of the members. As the campaign
unfolds, however, many local leaders are starting to question just how effective Andy Pallotta has been as NYSUT’s chief legislative advocate. After
all, if Pallotta is expected to push favorable laws, why have New York’s
teachers been saddled with the tax cap, reduced pension tiers, Common Core, and
InBloom? Pallotta’s inaction against this legislation sings louder than Billy
Joel at Governor Cuomo’s birthday party.
Pallotta, the only NYSUT incumbent running unopposed, cut his teeth in the UFT,
NYSUT’s largest yet smallest local. For example, only 14% percent of working
teachers voted in the UFT’s last presidential election. This minority of active
members and retirees who reelected Michael Mulgrew also essentially controls over
a third of the votes for NYSUT president, and Mulgrew and the UFT have already endorsed the Revive slate. Should Revive come to power, Mulgrew’s UFT will be
first in line for handouts from Cuomo as long as Cuomo’s signature reforms of
the tax cap and APPR remained unmarred by Pallotta. An endorsement of Cuomo by
NYSUT (spurring a subsequent AFL-CIO endorsement) wouldn’t hurt, either.
Though rank and file teachers were among the first to see through the
pseudo-democrat Cuomo, Pallotta, Mulgrew, and the rest of Revive have not
sounded the alarm against him, opposing him in lukewarm spirit only. Many have
questioned where Revive’s loyalty lies, as the group seems more interested in ousting
Iannuzzi than Cuomo. Though elections are healthy for any organization—this
contest has already engaged more members in unionism—NYSUT cannot afford to be more
outspoken against itself than Cuomo. Ideally,
Revive should be strong enough to oppose Iannuzzi and help NYSUT find a viable candidate to run against Cuomo. This would undermine Revive’s tenuous platform,
however, and require Pallotta to finally step off the political cocktail circuit
and into the offices of legislators.
Last June, nearly 20,000 members of NYSUT
converged in Albany to demand action against laws passed under Pallotta’s
watch. The One Voice United rally was President Iannuzzi’s own attempt to awaken our
leaders in the capital. Though Mulgrew failed to awaken his own members for the rally (most of the UFT did not attend), One
Voice United aroused Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, whose money and
dark-rimmed glasses determine much of New York’s education policies. Concerned
that NYSUT was co-opting the reform narrative, Tisch and Education Commissioner
John King soon embarked on a series of community forums around the state to
clear up “misconceptions” about Common Core.
By anyone’s standards, the Common Core forums were a disaster for the Regents,
with passionate parents bringing everything but the torches and tomatoes. Tisch and King’s detached, myopic views
alienated people at each stop on the tour, and calls for King’s resignation before the forums suddenly seemed
premature. NYSUT’s “Speak Truth to Power”
campaign had reached the grassroots, with Albany leaders on the run. Meanwhile,
with no Pallotta-pushed repeal in sight, NYSUT’s legal department filed a
lawsuit against the undemocratic tax cap. NYSUT also recently withdrew its support for the Common Core, and moved to vote “no
confidence” in Commissioner King, who has screwed his feet even tighter to his stubborn
positions since the disastrous forums. Iannuzzi
began picking up where Palllotta never left off, joined by people and
politicians of all political persuasions.
As Iannuzzi’s long game played out, the Revive candidates huddled behind
the scenes, biding their time until their certain victory in April.
Revive should not become too complacent, however, as local presidents will have
something to say about Magee and the rest of Revive at this year’s Representative Assembly (RA). Iannuzzi, along with other
incumbents Maria Neira (Vice President), Kathleen Donahue (Vice President), and
Lee Cutler (Secretary Treasurer), have formed Stronger Together and are urging leaders
from all locals to attend this year’s
RA, regardless of their size. If NYSUT is truly a democractic organization, multitudinous voices from all corners of the
state will drown the din of Magee and the UFT this April in New York City.
New York’s teachers are calling for help all over, demanding action from their
union. Though slow to unfold, Dick Iannuzzi’s actions are now beginning to come
into view. Common Core has garnered unanimous disdain, and the public is
finally starting to side with teachers again. NYSUT must keep this momentum
moving, and solidarity needs affirmation now more than ever before. This election
should matter to NYSUT members, as their union is the only thing standing between
them and the twisted visions of plutocrats.