2009-02-06 / Columnists

School Scope

The Video the UFT Doesn't Want You To See: The ATR Rally
Commentary By Norman Scott

On November 24, 2008, teachers without positions, known as ATRs, held a rally at Tweed. They had forced the UFT to endorse the rally but in the interim, the UFT signed an agreement with the DOE. The UFT leadership called for an information meeting at UFT HQ, a mile away at the very same time the rally was due to start. Mass confusion. I taped the UFT HQ while a pal did the rally. The back story is how desperate UFT leaders were to suppress the tape I made. At the Jan. 30th Delegate Assembly a gag rule was passed as an attempt prevent future embarrassment.

The two-part 20 minute video, titled A Tale of Two Rallies, or, A Tale of a Rally and A Wine and Cheese Party chronicles the simultaneous events at Tweed as a spirited band of rank and filers shout, "Hey, Ho, Joel Klein has got to go," while people were eating cheese and sipping wine at UFT HQ at 52 Broadway, a mile away.

Part one can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ac -Ul1m8-0.

In part two, UFT leaders, along with the few teachers who were left at the info session, march -er- meander - up Broadway to Tweed where the two forces meet. The UFT hierarchy is outnumbered and Randi Weingarten is heckled as she speaks. She "congratulates" the people who forced her into calling for the rally, saying there would not have

been an agreement with the DOE if not for the rally. Yet, less than an hour before she gave the people at the info meeting at 52 Broadway the reverse message: that in these bad economic times, things like rallies and militancy are not wise. No wonder they didn't want me to tape.

The UFT and Mayoral Control

The UFT has been on the wrong side of just about every progressive education issue. Their support for mayoral control of the school system is #1 on this list - with a bullet. One of the major planks in the corporate agenda for education is to put large urban school systems under dictatorial mayors who are free to shut out parent and teacher input while undermining the union at the school level. Don't get me wrong here. They don't want the union beyond the school building to go away since a union with a collaborative leadership like the UFT can function as an intermediary to sell their programs to the teachers and control any signs of resistance.

From the day Randi Weingarten announced her support for mayoral control in May 2001, I have stood against this policy, pointing to the negatives of the Chicago model that began in 1995. (In case you didn't know, Obama appointed the leader of this decrepit school system as his Education Secretary. So much for change.) Indeed, the group I helped found, the Independent Community of Educators (ICE), came together in 2003 partially based on people opposed to the UFT's go along, get along policies.

So, now we come to the possible sunset of the law this June, which would force us back to the what, today, looks like the good old days of local district boards. If a referendum were held, I bet 75 percent or more of the people who work in the schools would vote to end mayoral control. And from what I am hearing from disenfranchised parents, many of them are in the same boat.

The UFT leadership is in a bind. How to continue to support mayoral control in practice while giving the members the opposite impression. Thus, the creation of a governance committee, open to all, but packed with Unity Caucus people.

Meetings were held on all boroughs, but I have always felt the position on mayoral control the UFT will take is predetermined and all this is about finding the right language that will play well. Now there are ICE people on the committee but they couldn't tell us what was going on because of some kind of gag rule, and they were threatened with water boarding if they talked. Or being sent to GITMO.

Now the UFT report is out and though the mayor and others are screaming in horror at the restrictions on his power, a close look shows it's much ado about nothing. A particularly striking note from the NY Times article: "The teachers' union did not back a proposal made by the principals' union, which would require the chancellor to have a background in education and could not receive a waiver from the state's education commissioner, as both Chancellor Joel I. Klein and his predecessor had."

So, the CSA is calling for an educator as chancellor and the UFT is not. Enough said. ICE has put out a minority report that is posted on my blog.

Response to Bing Strassburg

Bing Strassburg sent a letter criticizing my last column where I talked about going to DC to boo Richard Nixon as his motorcade passed during the 1973 inauguration. Strassburg's former teacher apparently taught him it is better to say nothing than to boo. "Maybe a little less protesting and a little more attention and respect would suit you better," Strassburg writes as he laments the booing and chanting George Bush faced at the recent inauguration.

Does he mean the same Richard Nixon who, a short time after our protest, was forced out of office in disgrace over Watergate? The same guy who ran on a platform of peace in Vietnam in 1968 but continued a wasteful war that took thousands of American lives?

The same guy who carpet-bombed Cambodia into chaos? Booing Nixon was the least one could have done to someone who in another time and place would have been handed the same fate as Saddam Hussein. And if that would have happened I promise Mr. Strassburg I would have respectfully refrained from booing as the trap door opened.

As for Bush, a lot of people around the world and in this country feel he should be brought up on war crimes charges for manipulating us into the war in Iraq. A little less respect and a lot more protesting on the part of Mr. Strassburg and others may have saved thousands of American lives and prevented us from facing economic disaster.

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Thanks for the response, I laughed my bottom off. I am sure if Saddam was alive he would join me in a laugh. You do not mention the hundres of thousands of iraqis that were killed by saddam with WMD's. Strange that we KNOW they were gassed but still insist there were no WMD's. If you do not like the president or their party you vote them out. I HOPE that I could CHANGE your mind but I think that no matter what is done you will always see the negative. Don't come up with a whiney problem, come up with solutions. Thanks for thinking this was important enough to comment on.

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