Endgame: Comity or Conflict? The Union Coalition Dukes It Out With Klein As the School Days Ebb.

Teachers live by their own calendar … September through June. The school year has an ebb and flow … the high expectations at the beginning of the school year: smiling faces, eager, worried new teachers, cynical old timers, that first staff meeting … until June: the results of the standardized tests, Regents, graduations, and, “free at last, free at last,” that last day …
This year the Teacher Union and the “Keep the Promises” coalition are fighting to restore budget cuts, and Randi Weingarten and Joel Klein are dueling over the “ATR Crisis,” in fact, comity has evolved into a rather nasty fight between the public school forces on one side and Klein, Tweed, some foundation types on the other.
Will the City Council restore some/all of the mayoral imposed budget cuts?
The Mayor/City Council pas de deux is an annual affair. The Mayor proposes a budget, this year with sharp, across the board cuts. The Council holds hearings, criticizes the cuts, and reaches a compromise with the Mayor. This year is more difficult.
Each council member has a couple of million of dollars in “soft money” to distribute to local organizations. Not surprisingly, some of the dollars go to organizations with close ties to the councilman, and, some of the dollars are hard to track. Did the dollars go to pay friends, relatives and supporters of the councilman, or, is this the Mayor’s effort to weaken the council?
Has Tweed/Klein “protected” schools from the cuts, or, have they pushed the cuts down to the schools? Has Tweed/Klein “tweaked” the formula to make cuts to the schools with the most vocal parents? Is the State funding formula responsible for driving funds to especially low poverty schools, or, is this a Klein ruse?
How will the cuts, if not reduced or rescinded impact schools? What programs will be cut/reduced? Will teachers be excessed? And, how will this impact the “ATR Crisis”?
Will the “ATR Crisis” force the Teacher Union to negotiate changes in their contract?
The Department has accelerated school closings. Prior chancellors began to close school about fifteen years ago, and, negotiated a process with the union. The replacement schools have to interview applicants from the closing, known as phase out schools, and, had to hire 50% of “qualified” applicants. Excess teacher in phase out schools would select five schools for “priority excess,” and, if a vacancy in license was identified that excess teacher was assigned to the vacancy.
The Klein administration implemented a major change. Teachers who were not hired by the interview process were treated as excess teachers. They would be placed in an Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool and assigned to schools and would serve as substitute teachers if a teacher was absent. If a teacher is not absent? No instructions … Some principals have assigned the ATR to regular teaching duties, in essence, having an “extra” teacher that they don’t pay for.
A not-for-profit, that is a vendor of the Department issued a report claiming that the ATR process was costing the Department $81 million dollars and supported the chancellor’s position: if an ATR could not find a position that they should be laid off.
The union responded vigorously with a “loud” back and forth, see UFT here and New Teacher Project here  and UFT Report here.
The contract does not end until November, 2009, and, it appears the next contract will be negotiated with the next mayor, and, one supposes, the next chancellor.
Wait a minute: does the Bloomberg want a third term? Is it possible to place a voter referendum on the November, 2008 ballot? Haven’t voters turned down removing term limits twice …
In three scant weeks teachers will be saying goodbye to their kids, telling them to read over the summer, stay out of trouble … and for two months … sleep a little later … speak with adults all day … explore the world beyond those four classroom walls …
The school wars will fade to back pages of the dailies as the players gird for the next round.

One response to “Endgame: Comity or Conflict? The Union Coalition Dukes It Out With Klein As the School Days Ebb.

  1. Peter:

    I know that you have retired but thanks to Randi it is August to June.


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