My piece below is up at Diane Ravitch's blog right now. I'm not crazy about the formatting at
Diane's place so I want to share the original with you. Our delegates and I have
to vote on this proposal next Wednesday at the Delegate Assembly. Please feel
free to share your thoughts on this proposal with me.
It’s been almost six years since NYC teachers have received a raise. This was
particularly frustrating since most NYC employees received twin raises of 4% in
the 2008-2010 round of pattern bargaining. While they got more money with no
givebacks, our leadership helped craft the junk-science based NY APPR law. The
entire state got a junk-science based evaluation system. We were told the beauty
of it was that it could be negotiated, but when that didn’t work out leadership
allowed John King to write it for us.
Now there is an agreement, but UFT members will receive not only the retro money,
but also the salary raises almost a decade later than FDNY, NYPD, or DSNY. Being
a teacher, I don’t know a whole lot about money. Still, I’m fairly certain that
money has more value in 2010 than 2020, when we will finally be made whole. It’s
plainly disingenuous to argue we have parity with the other
There are other issues in this contract that are troubling. Paramount to me is that of
due process for ATR teachers. The UFT agreed in 2005 to create the Absent
Teacher Reserve. The UFT had supported mayoral control, which helped enable the
massive school closures favored by Bloomberg, and rather than insist teachers in
closing schools be placed in classrooms, it made them wandering subs, covering
for absent teachers. They now wander from school to school, week to week. They
are vilified and stereotyped in the media on a regular basis.
I’ve worked with and advocated for several ATR teachers. I can assure you, despite
the nonsense propagated by self-styled expert Campbell Brown, that those
teachers were guilty of nothing more than either being in the wrong school at
the right time, or being targeted for no good reason . Under our new system, any ATR teacher accused by two principals of ineffective behavior will receive an expedited one-day 3020a hearing, after which this person may be fired on the spot. I fail to see why ATR teachers should have fewer due process rights than I do.
The rules also expand the definition of sexual misconduct, which will make it easier
for the city to fire teachers for actions like inappropriate touching or
texting, officials said.
I can’t really say whether or not this rule is reasonable, since neither I nor
anyone who voted on this agreement has actually seen it. Generally, it would be
shocking that a 300-member contract committee could approve an agreement it
hadn’t seen. However since the overwhelming majority of that committee were
members of the elite, invitation-only UFT Unity Caucus, and had signed an oath
promising to support whatever leadership told them to, it would not be
surprising to me if they had nominated a cheese sandwich for President of the
We’re also looking at a program that strongly smells of merit pay, something that’s been tried and failed in the US for about a century. This is the UFT’s second flirtation with such a program, and like the last one, discarded as a failure, it is presented as not merit pay.
Another mysterious issue in the proposal is this:
Under the tentative deal, collaborative school communities will have new opportunities
to innovate outside the confines of the UFT contract and DOE regulations. A new
program known as Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence (PROSE)
will give educators in participating schools greater voice in decision-making
and a chance to experiment with new strategies.
This sounds very much like the original concept of charter schools, and we all know
where that has led us. I’m wary of anything with “excellence” in the title,
because it clearly implies those of us who do not participate somehow oppose
excellence. Also, there is a clear implication in such programs that our
Contract somehow hinders excellence, which I do not believe.
experience and observation suggests schools do better with strong principals and
strong chapter leaders being adversarial when necessary, but working together
when it benefits the school. I’ve also observed schools with little or no union
presence having programs imposed on them that are less than productive, and I
can certainly envision that happening here.
I’m further puzzled by several things UFT President Michael Mulgrew wrote us when he
announced the agreement.
The union won major changes, including a focus on eight instead of 22 Danielson
components and a better system for rating teachers in non-tested
I have heard directly from union sources that they'd insisted on focusing on all
of Danielson, and that making them focus on all aspects was a great victory.
Apparently making them focus on fewer factors is also
a victory. We shall see what happens with non-tested subjects.
A more substantive improvement might have been to let supervisors off the hook
from so many observations. If a competent supervisor observes a teacher doing a
good job, and receives no complaints about that teacher, the supervisor ought
not to have to revisit that teacher 3 to 5 additional times that year.
Supervisors ought to be focusing their attention on supporting teachers who
actually need their help.
We succeeded in eliminating time-consuming teaching artifacts.
Again, union sources have told me directly that the inclusion of artifacts was a great
union victory, empowering teachers. Apparently the exclusion is also a victory.
When the union does one thing, it's a great victory. When they do the opposite,
it's another great victory. I’m troubled by that.
Moving forward, fellow educators — rather than consultants or other third parties —
will serve as the "validators" brought in the next year to review the work of a
teacher rated ineffective.
In 3020a hearings, in which teachers can be fired, the burden of proof has
traditionally been on the DOE to establish teacher incompetence. The validators
would have had the option of placing the burden on teachers to establish they
were not incompetent, a very high hurdle. Now, though this practice has never
even been tested, with no evidence whatsoever, it is deemed to be improved. I
would not wish to ever sit in judgment of my colleagues as to whether or not the
city should have to establish their incompetence. I would question the motives
of any colleague who would.
I fail to see why my brother and sister UFT members deserve any less financial
consideration than those in other municipal unions. As for the other factors in
this contract, the devil is in the details. Thus far we haven’t seen them, but
history suggests a lack of foresight in insular UFT leadership, which has
supported allowing teachers to become ATRs, charter schools, co-locations, the
NYS APPR law, junk science teacher rating, Common Core, and mayoral control,
none of which have helped public school teachers, parents or
Finally, I’m not particularly proud that we’re set to impose a pattern for all other city
unions that will not allow them even to keep up with inflation for the next 7
years. If the best we can do is worsen conditions for our brother and sister
unionists, we’re not doing our jobs very well at all.