Saturday, January 30, 2016

NYSUT Asks Teachers to Fire Themselves

Is self-immolation back in style?

Rather than urging members to reject high-stakes tests, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) is pining for teachers to create the tests, even though the state fully controls how the results will be used. After all, Governor Andrew Cuomo's latest teacher evaluation law (APPR) gives Albany—not local school boards—the last word on how well students must perform for teachers to be rated "effective" and not subject to harassment and dismissal. Even if they were as flawless as diamonds, nothing is stopping the state from using the tests to saw into schools everywhere, as bogus benchmarks and HEDI bands will soon hum the tune of "failing" schools.

NYSUT's call for teachers to write high-stakes tests instead of shred them is an assault on reason. Though at last year's Representative Assembly (RA) the Union unanimously passed a resolution that members' children not take the tests, NYSUT has since done zero to spread this message. It seems a resolution passed by thousands of teachers to protect their own children doesn't deserve a billboard or a commercial during the NFL playoffs, for example. 

The Union did, however, spend $2.4 million on a commercial that had nothing to do with junk science and everything to do with fiction. According to the 30-second ad (which yes, aired during the NFL playoffs), "progress" has been made to protect schools—even though Cuomo's ludicrous law remains unchanged. And NYSUT has no plans to challenge this law anytime soon, as it is conspicuously absent from both the ad and the Union's 2016 legislative agenda.  

Perhaps NYSUT finds great dignity in teachers hastening their own demise, akin to Kamikaze pilots or Buddhist monks. Yet if NYSUT is ready to sacrifice members on the altar of privatization, its tool of choice should be a resolution meant to save schools and not shut them.

For given this choice, most teachers would rather go down shielding children from abusive tests instead of embracing new and equally abusive ones.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Mulgrew Declares Victory, Promptly Surrenders

What do over 200 politicians do in an election year?

That's right—hide out in their offices.

At least the head of New York's largest teachers union seems to think so.

At a recent meeting, United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew shamelessly discouraged members from lobbying the state legislature this year. The reason? All 213 lawmakers are up for reelection but don't want to talk about it. 

According to Mulgrew, our fearful leaders have embarked on the tried and timid tactic of avoiding the voters, especially school teachers. At the risk of saying something stupid, they won't say anything at all. So don't even think about asking your heavy-hearted assemblyman to say, repeal Governor Andrew Cuomo's asinine teacher evaluation law (APPR), a law which has cemented chaos and dysfunction in schools around the state. Got a problem with high-stakes tests? You're on your own. Mulgrew will be home shaving his head.        

Mulgrew thinks everything is swell anyway, so there's no need to complain. As he recently declared in the Daily News, "The days of test and punish are over", and the recommendations released by the Cuomo Core task force were a "huge victory" for schools—even though zero has changed. Communities and careers can still be obliterated by tests scores. Moreover, recent federal legislation rolls out the red carpet for privately-run charter schools and any and all efforts to replace teachers with computers—the stuff of Andy Cuomo's dreams

It seems Mulgrew's strategy is to heap praise and union donations on the same lawmakers who stuck a shiv in the ribs of educators everywhere last April with the passage of Cuomo's bullshit budget. These same lawmakers are now up for reelection and Mulgrew kindly asks that you leave them alone; your paychecks and pensions are in good hands, after all.

With Mulgrew himself up for reelection this year, he too wants to avoid the voters, at least the ones who don't live in Florida. Oddly, significantly more retirees voted in the last UFT election than working teachers, but that's just how Mulgrew likes it. The last thing Mulgrew wants is a more politically active membership, for that brings more questions than commendations. He might actually have to explain why, for instance, he condones the use of tests to punish schools. Or why the commissioner of education called APPR "random." Or why Mulgrew's members will soon have less job security than a drunken babysitter.

A victory for Mulgrew signals defeat for everyone else. Everyone, that is, except for Cuomo and the legislature.

Placating politicians at the expense of middle class workers is a perversion of democracy. We deserve who we vote for, however, especially if we don't vote at all