Spinning the Teacher Contract: How Manipulating the Media Controls Public Opinion, the “Message”, and, Elections.

A New York Daily News editorial panning the UFT teacher contract avers,

Bloomberg won a landmark reform that gave principals power to hire teachers as they saw fit, not according strictly to seniority. No longer were longtime teachers able to walk into a school and demand to bump someone who had been on the payroll for less time.

A canard.

Back in 2005 when the contract was negotiated the union tried to find one teacher who was bumped by a more senior teacher – without success. Sixty percent of schools had already opted for the School-Based Option Staffing Plan, the principal and a committee of teachers selected new teachers, seniority was not a factor, and, the new plan, called Open Market, allowed any teacher to transfer to any school, regardless of seniority, without the approval of the principal of the sending school. The hundred or so teachers who had received seniority transfers were replaced by thousands of teachers jumping to other schools, commonly from lower achieving schools to high achieving schools. The lowest achieving schools tend to have the least experienced teachers and serve as training grounds for teachers who are poached by higher achieving schools.

A terrible policy.

I’m sure the editorial page writer simply reviewed the stories from 2005, the spin from Chancellor Klein and Mayor Bloomberg.

Diane Ravitch bemoans that too many Americans, apparently including the Daily News editorial writers, get their “news” from Glenn Beck rather than legitimate news sources,

… we have lost many of our well-educated, cultured, well-informed thinkers. Often they have been replaced by shock jocks, ranting talk show hosts, and an entire cable channel devoted to trashing liberals, liberal social programs, and labor unions.

Influencing public opinion is an art and a science, whether you call it public relations, communications, spin, strategy or branding.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), the title of the centerpiece of Obama legislation contains two words, “Affordable” and “Care,” both intended garner pubic support; republicans have successfully branded the law as Obamacare, a pejorative term. Every republican speaks from the same script and poll after poll finds that a majority of American oppose the law,

According to a CNN/ORC International survey, 57% of adults nationwide oppose the measure, compared to 39% supporting it….

Forty-seven percent of respondents in the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey said they would most likely support a congressional candidate who advocated repealing the health care law, compared to 45% saying they would most likely back a candidate who called for keeping and fixing the measure.

Republicans are winning the battle for the hearts, minds and votes, of the American people over the Affordable Care Act issue; the bottom line is that more Americans tune in to the Glenn Becks than read Paul Krugman.

In October NYS Commissioner of Education John King began a PTA-sponsored listening tour around the state in Poughkeepsie. The meeting was a disaster – a boisterous audience shouting down the commissioner – all captured on U-tube – with over 50,000 hits over the following weeks.

Poughkeepsie was the wrong place to begin the tour, an all-white audience in a city with a troubled racial past, and the format – the commissioner speaking for over an hour – the wrong format; a Q & A with respected local leaders at which the commissioner would have shone.

Over the past few years I have asked audience after audience how they get their news, from print media, aka newspapers, or TV or online. For audiences under 40 online is far in the lead, hardly anyone under forty reads newspapers.

I asked a manager of a rap artist how he decides which cities to visit on tours – he buys data on downloads of the artist’s music by city.

Social media rules.

Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg wanted to pass legislation in Albany to eliminate seniority in excessing/layoff determinations, the public reason, to get rid of “bad” teachers, the real agenda to weaken the union. The seniority issue: “bad” senior teachers bumping “enthusiastic” young teachers, a strategy to win public support.

In the second half of the nineteenth century the political machines, Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall, elected candidates and party loyalty determined votes well into the twentieth century – you voted democrat or republican regardless of the candidate. Newspaper endorsements influenced voters, and ethnic politics was a constant.

Today with elected officials looked upon with disdain, voter turnouts at all-time lows, newspaper readership declining drastically, social media is relied upon as a source of reliable information, Marshall McLuhan is correct, “The medium is the message.”

“It’s on the Internet – it must be right.”

Michael Bloomberg had the perfect experience to be the Mayor of New York – he had mastered the art and science of communications – the creator of Bloomberg News – he totally understands the power of controlling the message – from the press release to the location of the event to who stands where on the stage – to the timing of the event – he controlled the outcome of the news – the populace had confidence in the mayor. His only stumble was education – he was outmaneuvered by the former carpenter and leader of the teacher union – who has a top-notch media communications team.

If John King held his first listening tour meeting at a venue with an integrated audience, if the questioners were highly regarded and highly recognizable public figures, if the format allowed for an exchange – if opponents or critics had an opportunity to be heard – the current sweeping criticism of the Common Core would have been muted.

The Daily News editorial also whines about changes in the school day,

Bloomberg added 37½ minutes to the teachers’ schedules for use, usually to help struggling students. De Blasio switched to using the time for “professional development” and “parental engagement.”

Bloomberg “negotiated” adding time to the school day in exchange for a substantial raise – a time for money swap. The Daily News ignores the impact of principal-teacher committees selecting school staffs. From my experience teachers felt responsible for the colleagues they selected – the process encouraged collaboration and a sense of ownership – if our kids don’t do well it’s because we, all of us, didn’t select the right teachers.

Since the change in the contract only principals select staffs – teacher attrition rates have remained high – the number of teachers who have tenure extended has soared – without any noticeable spike in student achievement.

Are principals picking the wrong teachers? Are principals failing to train newer teachers? Are school cultures increasingly toxic? All of the above?

From Google to Facebook to every high functioning major corporation collaboration among teams of employees are the model – perhaps the Department, and the Daily News, can learn a little from Sergey Brin.

Spin without substance ultimately runs out of energy and credibility, unfortunately the damage is done and kids only get one chance.

6 responses to “Spinning the Teacher Contract: How Manipulating the Media Controls Public Opinion, the “Message”, and, Elections.

  1. I’m going to vote no. I’m not scared of collectively bargaining again, especially when this proposed contract stinks.

    Article 3, sections H and I, are very scary. I want a detailed list of how those saving will be obtained. Health clinics? Fraud and misuse corrected? Mail in drugs? What would my share be if these savings cannot be found?

    The city is not broke. I cannot read that a billion is wasted on a 911 system that doesn’t work, or the city time fiasco, and for one second, believe that my raises and retro, and the raises and retro of other city agencies, would break the bank. There is NO valid reason that the day we sign, our salaries at the very least cannot go up a minimum of 10% for the years worked since 09. Any year with 0% is an insult. Retro can be payed out slowly…not a big deal. And ultimately, taxes can be raised to pay for city services like teachers.

    The UFT needs to poll its members. Changing the times worked does NOT work for teacher-parents or teachers with second jobs. As a teacher and parent, some of my “raise” now has to go to child care on Mondays and Tuesdays…not fair. I would guess that 70% of UFT members fall into the parent/second job categories.

    If you read this, please vote NO. Do not listen to the fear mongering about how this contract is the best we can do. Poll the members and get a feel for the important issues.


  2. Could the test results portion of the evaluation be addressed by a city contract, since it involves state law?

    Why not wait until Cuomo addresses (as he alleges) the effects of common core on evals during these last days of the political session for a more complete contract, and a clearer idea of who can really wait out and last to get retro and full raises?


  3. The 60-20-20 percents are state law and not neogtiable.

    If the parties did not resolve by the date of the Mayor’s Preliminary budget the retroactive would be in jeopardy … the Governor has only made vague comments and there are no bills pending in the legislature –


  4. Not without changing the law … the APPR results for all teachers in NYS (except NYC) for the 12-13 school year:: 51% highly effective, 40% effective, 8% developing and 1% ineffective, when we take into account the high “instability rate,” wide swings from year to year, no teachers who were ineffective in 6/13 may also be ineffective in 6/14. The SED has not released scores by school diatrict, although it is rumored higher poverty districts received lower scores. To be totally cynical a deeply flawed law that finds virtually no one ineffective in two consecutive years may not need fixing.


    • Sorry, a pack of morons playing dice with people’s lives is not a good thing, regardless of the outcomes so far.


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