Armageddon: Al Shanker Saved the City in 1975, Did Joel Klein Learn Any Lessons? Will Hubris Defeat Compassion?


Is the nation’s financial system on the edge of the abyss?
Can the private side absorb the failing banks and financial institutions?
Are the House Republicans and McCain the Herbert Hoovers of 2008?
As the stock market opened today President Bush makes a 30 second speech to the nation?
In New York City Mayor Bloomberg asks all city agencies to make an immediate 2.5% budget cut and to plan for a five percent cut next year.
In the summer of 1975 I was a member of the UFT negotiating committee. We met with the Board of Ed committee every few days, agreed on a few issues, disagreed on most … it was an “ordinary” negotiations, until the waning days of August. Rumors spread that the city was in dire fiscal straits … was it a negotiating ploy?
Days before the opening of school “layoff” letters went out to over 10,000 teachers … all elementary school teacher was less then 5.5 years were laid off.  French teachers with fifteen years were laid off … For the third time in seven years the teacher union went on strike.
After a five day strike the union hammered out a contract that eliminated cluster teachers and shortened the school day a few days a week in elementary and middle schools. The City was still on the edge of total collapse.
Herman Badillo called for a default … all contracts would be voided.
As the clock ticked toward default Al Shanker agreed to commit $150 million dollars of teacher pension money to buy city obligations … and bail out the city. Most teachers were opposed to the loan.
All the loans were repaid, with substantial interest … Al Shanker bailed out the City. Richard Kahlenberg chronicles the story in his excellent Shanker biography.
The New York City schools are at risk … if the economy continues to falter the fiscal impact on the City will be substantial … the impact on schools will be devastating
In spite of the impending drastic cuts the Chancellor continues with a policy … the refusal to place excess teachers into schools … the Absent Teacher Reserve Pool, now over 1,000 teachers … costs the Department many tens of millions of dollars.
The President of the Teacher Union, Randi Weingarten has made a proposal that will, in the short run, protect the classroom from cuts.
Klein’s entire tenure as Chancellor may depend on how he deals with the current crisis. Will he stand by his position … excess teachers who are not absorbed/rehired within a year will be placed on “unpaid leave,” effectively laying them off. …? Will he continue to defend his $85 million flawed ARIS computer scheme?  Will Mayor Bloomberg intervene?
These are perilous times … and history may remember Klein as a Chancellor who sank the school system.
Hubris is a harmful trait.

3 responses to “Armageddon: Al Shanker Saved the City in 1975, Did Joel Klein Learn Any Lessons? Will Hubris Defeat Compassion?

  1. Joel Klein and Mike Bloomberg don’t negotiate.


  2. Pingback: The Burden of Mayoral Control: A Defining Moment for Randi and Mike, Can They Save the Lives of a Generation of Kids? « Ed In The Apple

  3. Pingback: Albert Shanker and Michael Mulgrew: Tough Times Need Tough Leaders | Ed In The Apple

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