From “Fighting to Building a School System,” The UFT Enthusiastically Endorses de Blasio … with High Expectations.

Bill Thompson stepped to the microphone on election night, his opponent; Bill de Blasio was a couple of hundred votes north of the 40% which would obviate an October 1 runoff.

“We’re in this race until the last ballot is counted.”

On Wednesday it was clear, de Blasio had won in every constituency, from Afro-Americans to gays to women, in Queens, in Brooklyn, and the Democratic Party scions desperately wanted to avert a contentious and expensive October 1 clash.

On Monday morning, on the steps of City Hall, Thompson threw in the towel and minutes later the union e-announced a special Delegate meeting on Wednesday.

The 1,000 delegates crammed into the Shanker Auditorium in union headquarters were anxious to vote. Mulgrew laid out the scenario and opened the floor, after a motivating speech extolling de Blasio another delegate was recognized,

“This is a no-brainer, I move to close debate,” to ecstatic cheers.

After an almost unanimous vote de Blasio strode to the stage, a rousing pro public school. pro teacher, pro-union speech. While de Blasio never mentioned charter schools he did emphasize that the future of the city lay in high effective public schools, emphasizing public.

With a forty-point lead in the polls de Blasio should sail to victory.

He faces staggering issues.

For twenty years the Democratic Party establishment has been on the outside looking in. The Mayor appoints thousands to city positions. Bloomberg, for all his flaws, for the most part, hired managers free of party labels. Can de Blasio satisfy a Democratic Party hungry for old-fashioned patronage?

“Tax the rich” and the “Tale of Two Cities” was a highly effective campaign strategy, how does de Blasio convince investors to continue investing, real estate developers to continue developing, without alienating his base?

“Stop and Frisk,” again, an effective campaign issue, an issue of concern to police officers, how do you assure police officers, and the citizenry that ending “stop and frisk” will not increase violent crime?

The labor contracts of all city employees have expired, the teachers’ contract almost four years ago. How do you find the dollars to negotiate new labor contracts?

And, not the least, the school system: how do you repair a school system that has been at war with their employees and the wide range of advocates?

Is there a Jesus-Mohammad-Abrahamic figure that can sweep in and bind the wounds?

The UFT, the teacher union, has been in a fight mode for years, can they move from fight to partner?

The union membership, while strongly supportive of union leadership, is divided along generational lines (See Susan Moore Johnson article here). Participation in the April union election was at an all-time low. A “now that our guy won why can’t we go back to the way it was,” attitude is prevalent, and incorrect.

A new mayor and a new chancellor may not be so quick to close schools, the Progress Report metrics may change, the words out of Tweed and Gracie Mansion may be kinder, federal laws requiring testing and state laws requiring a teacher evaluation system remain in place.

At a Wednesday night meeting of union leadership Michael Mulgrew started his comments with, “We moving from fighting to building a school system.”

Can the same teachers move from attending demonstrations and rallies, from filing grievances to trashing the mayor and Tweed and principals to sitting with a group of teachers and work on an Understanding by Design curriculum mapping plan?

Winning means taking on responsibility.

The fighting may be over, the work has just begin.

7 responses to “From “Fighting to Building a School System,” The UFT Enthusiastically Endorses de Blasio … with High Expectations.

  1. Like district schools, charter schools are public schools. However, I imagine that won’t make a difference when it comes to de Blasio’s support.


  2. Charter schools are public in name only. While some are rooted in their neighborhoods as traditional public schools were, many admit from a very wide range of neighborhoods. It is well demonstrated that they do not have the same percentage of ELL and Special Education students as public schools and they are very willing to “counsel out” students who do not fit their model, something public schools cannot do.

    They were intended, when Al Shanker suggested them, to be laboratories for demonstrating whether new curricula or methods could work with a view towards scaling up the best ideas into the larger public system. This is not their mission today.

    In fact, when Klein dictated curricula and methods to NYC teachers (the workshop model, group work, mini lectures not to exceed 10 minutes in length, etc.) he was requiring (and punishing teachers who did not agree) exactly the opposite of the curriculum in place in many of the more successful charter schools (direct instruction, individual drill and practice).

    Today charter schools are a vehicle for moving from truly public systems for all students, to a bifurcated system where some students can get a private school style education at public expense while others remain in their neighborhood schools. The charters with their additional private funds get new paint jobs, computers, and other amenities. Public schools do not. Another chapter in the tale of two cities; another inequality in a city where the top 1% have almost half the wealth.

    Finally, in classic mystery mode, we need to follow the money. Charter school operators are trying to make money for their CEOs. some of whom earn more than the City Schools Chancellor even though they run a network of schools that are only 1% as large. They divert money from teacher salaries to pay administrative overhead, often to private vendors with relationships to members of their boards.

    Charter schools are most of all an attempt to divide and conquer teacher unions.



  3. The Union has been in fight mode? Not to those of us who work inside a school everyday. The Union has been in roll-over-and-play-dead mode. Is anyone going to try to curb the unrestricted power of principals? As a teacher I can tell you — it’s not good for kids to have this top down approach to running a school. Schools should be collaborative places where all the adults work together to help the children. I started teaching 17 years ago. I came from a high school where the principal was a teacher. In fact, she taught a class each semester. I felt safe about asking the principal to come in to see my worst class because I knew she was an ally. I knew I could count on her to help me become a better teacher. The kids ultimately benefitted from that relationship. Now, principals see their roles as critics and not critical friends. Many have never been teachers. In small schools with a principal and assistant principal, principals don’t teach a single class, yet they are experts on everything that should happen in a classroom. The next mayor should talk to actual teachers in a classroom. The last 10 years have been hell. I’m counting the days until I retire, not because I don’t enjoy teaching – because I don’t enjoy being micromanaged. I don’t enjoy having my professional experience and educational background completed discounted. So spare me the sermons about going from fighting to collaboration. If you want us to collaborate then the Union must create an atmosphere where collaboration can happen and where teachers will not be punished for contributing their ideas. If not, at least give me back my dues.


  4. “Schools should be collaborative places where all the adults work together to help the children.”

    Of course, that’s true, but the very fact that a teacher would say this gives the lie to “children first” the sound-bite that Klein (and Bloomberg) used to describe their educational deforms. They put administrative control and union busting first in all their educational plans and, through their principal’s academy, tried to put in place a cadre of administrators with little teaching experience who were taught that their voice is the only one that counted.

    The Union that I grew up in and was proud to serve was willing to fight for the things that children needed, smaller classes, teacher voice and professional and safe working conditions. Those fights generally took place in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Both management and the union accepted that each was acting in the best interest of teachers and students. Klein, Bloomberg and,,sadly, Walcott and his deputies acted from the presumption that the union or anyone who did not agree with them was not interested in improving the system.

    What we can hope is that the next administration will want genuine collaboration and will be willing to work with the union to minimize the fighting and to retrain the administrators so as to create genuine opportunities for teacher voice in all schools.


  5. Marc

    I couldn’t have responded better myself and Eric’s pretense that charter schools are public schools are laughable but did you expect anything different from a Joel Klein stooge?

    I would add how the charter schools are taking money from the public schools since it comes from one pot at Tweed and this year’s budget shows a vast increase in charter school financing at the expense of the public schools in the city.


  6. I am sorry if I am rehashing what was said before but I must comment on this topic. Charter schools are not equal to public schools. They get to pick their students. Public schools take in all students. Public schools are being closed so that charter schools can open in their place. Charter schools also receive public money but can operate for profit. I don’t get this. The charter school madness must stop now.


  7. Yes, charter schools are public schools and the Network system is a great idea that should be carried into the next administration. Let’s all hope Bill DeBlasio doesn’t ask Eric Nadelstern for advice.


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