Is the Assault on Seniority an Assault on Teachers of Color? Will School Closings Lead to College or Incarceration?

 
 Less than 2 percent of the nation’s teachers are black males.

 …Duncan said the nation’s teacher workforce does not reflect the diversity of its student when only one in 50 teachers is a black male. “This is a national problem,” he said, “and one in which most schools of education have not shown leadership or foresight.”

from Education Week

  
The mayor addressed parishioners at the Christian Cultural Center, a mega-church in Brooklyn with a large middle class Afro-American congregation. He assaulted seniority.
  
Sitting in the audience were many teachers, senior teachers, with seniority, as well as other union members. His comments, I am told, were greeted with a polite silence.
  
The closing of 91 schools has pushed  a disproportionate number of Afro-American teachers into the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool, the pool of over a thousand teachers that the mayor wants to dismiss. The Bloomberg-Klein school closing/school creation process has replaced senior Afro-American teachers with young white teachers, half of whom are gone within a few years.
  
It is not surprising that when the union went to court last year to prevent the closing of 19 schools the partner in the lawsuit was the NAACP.
  
The Bloomberg-Klein-Black mindset is totally blind to the issues of race and class. Lisa Delpit, in Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom  points to the questions of race and power,
  
Delpit has identified a “culture of power” that operates in schools and supports dominant U.S. society. In classrooms where White and middle-class teachers regard minority and low-income students as “other people’s children,” Delpit argues that these teachers repeatedly fail to reveal the rules of the culture of power to students since they are “frequently least aware of — or least willing to acknowledge”  the cultural power they hold.
   
Bree Picower, in her research, “The Unexamined Whiteness of Teaching: How White Teachers Maintain and Enact Dominant Racial Ideologies,” explores the pre-conceptions of white teachers and how they approach children of color.
  
There is a sad irony that at the beginning of Black History Month the Department is entirely tone deaf to the issue highlighted by Secretary Duncan.
  
Not only is the Department hiring fewer teachers of color, especially male teachers of color, they are attempting to fire the teachers of color unceremoniously driven into the ATR pool.

 

  The mayor wonders why his popularity has nose dived.
 
 
 

  
Have you tried to drive in Brooklyn, or Queens or the Bronx?  For the real working families in the city the snows of 10-11 still clog streets, bury cars and create snow swamps at corners.
 
If the mayor can’t even clean up the snow, can he be trusted to run the schools?
 
For the mayor the budget crisis is an opportunity to bully.
 
Mike wants to end seniority.
 
 Laying off senior teachers, teachers more likely to support the union and who earn at the top of the scale, would reduce the number of layoffs, weaken the union, and keep “Bloomberg hires” in place. (ignoring that half of new teachers leave within five years)
 
In times of budget woes mayors first threaten huge numbers of layoffs and offer to limit layoffs in exchange for union give backs.
 
Where there is a relationship, a collaborative relationship, negotiations are possible. In eleven Long Island school districts, with more to come, teachers agreed to forgo contractual salary increases in exchange for limited no layoff agreements.
 
In New York City, the mayor-union relationship is increasingly confrontational.
 
With 1060 days left in his tenure (the mayor is fond of quoting the days left, sort of like a prisoner “ex-ing” out days on a calendar!) his legacy, creating a high functioning urban school system, is faltering. The latest standardized test scores exploded the myth of progress.
 
Tuesday night and Thursday night hundreds upon hundreds of community members, charter school parents bused in with scripts, teachers, parents and students in closing schools and community members will harangue the chancellor and the members of the Central Board, the PEP, until the wee hours of the morning.
 
No one expects any school to survive, the decisions will be final, unless legal challenges succeed.
 
What is lost is the impact of the school closings on teachers, parents, kids and communities.
 
I was walking down a street with an Black teacher in a community of color. He was greeted by former students, asked, “What are you doing? Do you have a job? Are you in school?”  He was involved in their lives.
 
It was a rare occurrence, a Black man, counseling, advocating for, encouraging  Black male students, in a country in which the career path for males of color is more likely to be incarceration than college.

 

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4 responses to “Is the Assault on Seniority an Assault on Teachers of Color? Will School Closings Lead to College or Incarceration?

  1. James S. Vlasto

    Thanks to Ed in the Apple for continuing to publish material like this on his blog.

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  2. The Mayor is tone deaf in so many ways. What he is doing to and with the schools is a shame. He is not helping, he is destroying and the impact will be felt for years. Yes, Ed in the Apple, keep it up.

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  3. I agree that the dismissal of senior teachers in advance of the newly hired would have a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino teachers. The same may be said of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve . This disparate racial impact is due to the DOE hiring policies over the past decade and the closing of schools in Black and Latino communities.
    The NYC DOE under the thinly veiled Bloomberg dictatorship has put in place a hiring policy for teachers that may be fairly described as a defacto affirmative action hiring plan for “whites” over Black and Latino applicants.
    Since 2001 the percentage of new Black and Latino teachers hired by the DOE has declined by 42%.
    The NYC DOE has largely contracted out hiring of teachers to Teach for America and the Teaching Fellows programs but these labor subcontractors are no more responsible for setting the hiring pattern than the PEP is for determining which schools are closed.
    It is not just the education grad schools that are to blame here and it is disengenous for Duncan to place the onus on them when his and Bloomberg’s flunkies in TFA and TF are assigned as gatekeepers to employment.
    Additional attention should be focused on the NYS teacher certification exams which were used in 2002 to lay off thousands of teachers, disproportionately teachers of color. There is not a single study to suggest that the NYS certification exam has promoted student achievement or teacher retention yet it served remarkably well as a pretext to drive out thousands of NYC teachers, many of whom had served for over a decade in hard to staff schools and were well regarded by administrators, parents, students and peers.

    The corporate agenda in NYC is profoundly white supremacist when the hiring and firing policies and the impact on students and communities of color are examined.
    The UFT “Resolution on Diversity”, passed overwhelmingly by the January 2011 Delegate Assembly contains a number of strongly worded resolves which need a push from the rank and file if they are to be implemented. Ask your delegate for a copy. Bring it up in your chapter meeting, your school’s SLT and let’s Stop and Reverse the Disappearing of Black and Latino Educators! It is a first step on the road to solidarity and a credible defense of our learning and working conditions. An Injury to One is an Injury to All!

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  4. In the heat of things, it can be hard to step outside of the situation and see that although the lives of many teachers have been altered, and there are many educational personnel that are unsure of their next step, the big picture is an overall increase in standard for the education of our future generations. I do not believe that this is as a result of hatred in any direction, but I do believe that senior teachers should be given their due respect, and should be lower down on the layoff list.

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