Playing Hardball: Why Politics Matters, and, Why Your Daughter’s Kindergarten Teacher Will Be Knocking on Doors Urging Voters to Support Candidates Who Support Public Schools.


Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.
Otto von Bismarck
The Secretary of the Treasury has an affair, the woman’s husband not only knows about the affair but encourages it so that he can hatch a blackmail scheme. A political opponent finds out about the affair and pays for a publisher to expose the affair in the press.
Elliot Spitzer? No, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.
Politics, in the 18th or the 21st century is a tough game, actions, as they should, have consequences.
In my union representative days my school district worked closely with parents and actively lobbied the electeds. Each year we hosted a legislative breakfast in January, shortly after the legislative session convened, and presented a list of funding priorities: on the top of the list, pre-kindergarten classes. All of our schools had state-funded pre-K classes while many other districts in the city had none. We understood politics.
A newly elected assemblyman at a meeting with teachers and parents mused that schools had enough money and didn’t see why we were asking for additional funding. I reported his comments in my monthly newsletter. He was besieged with phone calls and visits from parents and teachers and demanded that I retract my comments.
I told him when he made public statements supporting additional school funding I would duly report his comments.
The gentleman had an apotheosis, he “saw the light,” and the potential votes of parents and teachers, and become a loud and outspoken advocate of public schools and public school funding. We worked together for many years.
The NYS budget crisis, if not resolved, could lead to 8500 teacher layoffs in New York City. Coalitions of parents and teachers are bombarding Albany with letters, faxes, phone calls and visits. Almost all of the city legislators are on board, doing their damndest to find the elusive dollars and prevent a debacle.
Except Assemblyman Jonathan Bing.
As you know, without discussions with teachers, Bing introduced a bill to change the layoff rules, rather than seniority, Bing’s bill would empower the principals to layoff whomever they please.
In a Sunday press conference Bing acknowledged that the bill had little chance of passing.
On Tuesday a group of teachers picketed and began calling his office to express their outrage.
At the Wednesday teacher union Delegate Assembly union President Mulgrew announced that a review of public records showed the among the Bing’s largest contributors were unions. A letter was sent to the unions asking them to halt contributions until the assemblyman withdrew his bill.
In 2002 Bing defeated a long time incumbent Republican in a close contest. His prior employment,
Bing joined the law firm of Torys LLP in 1996 as an attorney in its labor and employment practice group, representing the interests of employers.
Old habits die hard.
The union has a district based candidate endorsement system. Political action committees, made up of teachers in each borough, reviews the voting records of incumbents and the promises of new candidates and recommends candidates to the June Delegate Assembly. In late August/early September the union mobilizes: volunteers to man phone banks, to distribute flyers in buildings, door to door canvassing, the nitty-gritty that is grassroots politics at the local level.  
Your daughter’s kindergarten teacher, that sweet, dedicated young lady who cares so much about your child is the same person who is knocking on doors in her building telling neighbors why it is so, so important to take a few minutes and vote for a candidate who supports pubic schools.
Actions have consequences. Assemblyman Bing attacked at the very heart of the union, the issue of layoff by seniority, but worse, far worse, he abandons the fight against layoffs. It looks like he has caved into to the Chancellor who wants to change the layoff rules  to weaken the union.
Forty years ago Saul Alinsky wrote “Rules for Radicals,” rules for grassroots organizing, rules that the teacher’s union have adapted to mobilize that kindergarten teacher. This should be an interesting election season.

5 responses to “Playing Hardball: Why Politics Matters, and, Why Your Daughter’s Kindergarten Teacher Will Be Knocking on Doors Urging Voters to Support Candidates Who Support Public Schools.

  1. Dolores Lozupone

    As teachers our calling is to fight ignorance. Let us continue this mission even if the student does not sit in our classrooms. Assemblyman Bing needs to be educated. To allow administrators in a school the ability to layoff teachers indiscriminately will lead to the destabilzation of the school system. Check out Washington, DC. Though many new teachers are excellent educators, new does not necessarily mean better. Luckily, the voters have the ability to ‘layoff’ legislators. Certainly, that is an option that teachers will implement this November.


  2. Forgetting all else here, doesn’t anyone realize that there is a significant cadre of principals with little or no teaching experience who, if Chancellor Klein has his way, would be able to summarily fire teachers with years of experience, people who have devoted themselves to the children of our city? But the continued unfettered power of the mayor over the schools results from the UFT caving on reauthorization of mayoral control, and then failing to endorse the better candidate in the race for mayor who, as things developed, could have won.


  3. Andrew,

    That exact issue was brought up at the delegate assembly. How can a principal with no or few years of teaching experience make that decision of who should be laid off? If Bing and Diaz, Sr. is sponsoring a bill to allow principals to make that decision, then the superintendents should also make the decision of laying off principals regardless of their seniority. Seniority rule should not only apply to teachers Quid pro quo!

    Trust me there are UFT members still reminding others that staying on the sideline is finally showing its ugly head!


  4. I meant to say:
    The elimination of seniority rule should not only apply to teachers.


  5. Pingback: Remainders: Duncan says “watered down” RttT apps won’t win | GothamSchools

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