The essence of democracy is in that polling booth, when you depress the levers and swing that handle, the mechanical clunk as your preferences are recorded and candidates are elected.
The NY Post, the NY Daily News and the conservative pundits and talking heads may rail against the “power of the unions,” what they are railing against is the power of democracy.
On the eve of the fist round of the primary election Green was nudging the required 40% and Liu seemed a long shot to make the runoff. The Working Families Party, unions, and, especially the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), rolled out the troops.
Teachers, paraprofessionals, the newly organized home care workers, the many retired members are loyal, and understand the vital importance of elections.
If Al or Sandy or Randi, and now Mike, endorse a candidate, you vote for them, you get your spouse and your kids to vote for them, you follow the age old labor axiom, “Support your friends and punish your enemies.”
The 150 Assemblyman, the 61 State Senators and the 51 City Councilman took note, the teachers union can get out the vote, UFT members live in every electoral district in the City, from the high rises in Manhattan (three teachers sharing an apartment), to East New York, to Jamaica to the Bronx.
How will the election results impact the current DOE-UFT contract negotiations, and beyond?
In the short run, will the Mayor resolve the outstanding thorny issues: the ATR pool and the rubber room mess?
The intersection of politics and policy: significantly reducing the number of teachers in the rubber rooms is not difficult, the vast majority end up back in their school, they are sitting because they were arrested for a non-school connected accusation that will be dismissed or adjourned contemplating dismissal after months and months in the rubber room. Another group were accused of a “single incident,” perhaps getting into an argument with their principal or an accusation of striking a child. Again, after many, many months the charges will be dropped or perhaps pay a fine and return to their school. If the rubber rooms shrink from 600 to 200 why was it so large to begin with? Is it a political loss for the Chancellor and the Mayor?
If an agreement is reached that eliminates the ATR pool by the end of the school year, again, why did it exist to begin with? That clash of politics and policy.
In the last few years the Mayor has tended to side with the Chancellor, policy won out over politics, however that has begun to erode. The “save harmless” provision in the Fair Student Funding formula is increasingly looking permanent and changes were made to make hiring senior teachers out of the ATR pool more attractive, as well as threatening to recoup unspent school budget funds on October 31.
Third terms, of Koch and Pataki have been dreary, and, the city is facing a number of years of fiscal obstacles. Secretary of the Treasury Geithner may aver that the recession is over, it will not be over in the big cities for years to come. Remember this is year one of Stimulus dollars, a billion non-recurring dollars that are funding schools this year and next year and evaporate in fiscal 2011-12.
The Mayor wants to march into a very challenging third term with the teachers union, the most powerful political force in the city on his side. If the Department continues to dawdle over the full implementation of the amended school governance law, namely the return of the fully empowered superintendent, there is no question that upon return in January the State legislature will “fix” any ambiguities in the law.
Elections have consequences and in this round it was the UFT that showed it’s clout, democracy can be a “bitch.”