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David Bloomfield begins a Hechinger Report article with, “I knew Al Shanker, Mr. Mulgrew, and you’re no Al Shanker.” David may be wrong, really wrong.
In 1975 Shanker negotiated a deeply unpopular contract and a few months later lent the city millions of dollars to avert a default. In retrospect he saved the city and the union; a default would have abrogated all collective bargaining agreements. Mulgrew negotiated a contract with full, compounded retroactive pay going back to 2009, and crafted paying out the billions over years going forward (see salary schedule above). The city could have simply said the dollars are gone. Additionally the contract addresses other issues at the top of teachers’ agendas: easing the requirements of the teacher evaluation law, dissolving over time the ATR pool and a mundane but important teacher issue: reducing the paperwork burden.
The PROSE schools, basically a “thin contract zone” are a cutting edge reaction to charter schools. The major charter school argument is that both union and management rules impede innovative practices. The new innovation zone will give schools wide discretion, with the approval of 65% of the staff and the chancellor/union leader.
Shanker was the only national leader to support the 1983 “A Nation At Risk,” Report. In the late eighties Shanker supported the concept of charter schools. He was far from the hard-nosed union leader defending contract provisions at all costs.
Mulgrew has taken a substantial risk; the up to two hundred thin contract PROSE schools could change the direction of teacher contract nationally, or, stumble badly.
In the world of social media the ratification process allows teachers and non-teachers to “put in their two cents” on UFT Facebook and on Twitter accounts (over 8,000 on the Facebook group). The world of social media, unfortunately, does not lend itself to informed debate, and, the discussion over the proposed contract was replete with brief snarky, nasty comments and crude back and forths between members.
Too many teachers seem oblivious to the erosion of traditional union contract provisions around the nation.
Teacher unions are in trouble and urbanized urban public schools are in more trouble The post Katrina Recovery Charter School District in New Orleans has replaced public schools, the public school system in Detroit in tatters with court-supported reductions in public employee pensions, the public school system in Philadelphia may not exist in a year or two, Chicago teachers, in spite of a vigorous, forceful union leader continues to be trashed by a mayor in the Bloomberg mold, and in Los Angeles tenure and seniority in jeopardy.
Cities are in trouble – California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, in a lecture at the New School University, paints a bleak picture of cities across the nation,
… the fate of the nation’s cities stands at a crossroads. While cities like New York appear to be doing better than ever, a rising tide of poverty and inequality threatens to undermine their progress. Meanwhile, a large group of second-tier cities, from Detroit and St. Louis to Stockton and San Bernardino, are besieged as never before. How will the mushrooming national debt and looming federal austerity regime affect these trends? Will austerity exacerbate the division between successful and struggling cities?
New York City is one of the few cities that has been growing with a continuing influx of both immigrants from abroad and from around the nation. While the city faces a growing income inequality and higher income New Yorkers are enriching the city’s coffers. with increasing calls to “tax the rich.”
There are uncertainties down the road: will the growing financial sector continue? Will tax revenues continue to increase? Can the city both meet the mayor’s aggressive new policies and fund them? Will the national economy continue to recover?
With a narrow window the union president negotiated a contract that locked in a rich contract with a range of initiatives demanded by union members and embarked on a path of creating a zone of schools with a pared-down union contract.
Teacher unions around the country can reject contract offers tied to increasing student test scores and look to the New York City model.
I think Al Shanker would be jumping up and applauding Michael Mulgrew.