The Next Teacher Strike

The last NYC teacher strike drove a wedge between teachers and the communities they serve. The next one will bridge the gap.

New York City teachers are due for a strike.

Leo Casey claims (check the comments section) that the union will fight for something other than standardized exams on the local level. He claims that there are other types of assessments the city can use.

Sure there are.

But what happens when Bloomberg and Commissioner King say that they will not hear of anything else except local exams? How far will the UFT be willing to go to prevent our schools from becoming testing factories?

As Diane Ravitch has said, can you imagine a school system that tests kids 3, 4 or 5 times every year not to help them learn anything, but for the sole purpose of holding their teachers “accountable”?

How far is the UFT willing to go to prevent this madness?

The UFT already lost the fight in court to prevent unreliable, less than garbage “value added” data from being released to the public.  Despite the fact that Bill Gates (!) and Dennis Walcott (!) have warned against the unreliability of these numbers, every major media outlet is set to release them tomorrow morning. Even Gotham Schools, despite getting pats on the back (including from themselves) for vowing not release the reports, will still publish them in some form.

This is the result of a ten-year campaign of teacher vilification from the media, politicians and business leaders who have blamed us for urban poverty and an “achievement gap”.

Enough is enough.

The last major teacher strike in 1968 drove a wedge between the city’s (predominantly Jewish) teachers and the predominately black school districts in Brooklyn.

The next major teacher strike will bridge that gap.

The common theme throughout all of these things is testing. It looms over the heads of students and teachers as a weapon used by people who know absolutely nothing about education to destroy public schools.

If teachers strike, the issue of testing must be the centerpiece. Everything else: the lack of funding for inner-city schools, the decline of teacher rights, the chartering wave, can all be tied (if tenuously) back to the central issue of testing.

Do the parents of New York City want their children to do nothing but take tests for 10 months of the year? Do they want the teachers of their students to be so repressed, so ill protected, that they cannot speak out against poor treatment and lack of services for their students?

Do the people who send their children to NYC schools, who are the same people being gentrified out of their homes, want to continue to leave the school system in the hands of the mayor responsible for their displacement? Do the inner city communities of New York City want to leave the school system in the hands of the same mayor who has given them nothing but “stop and frisk”?

Negotiating, compromising and lawsuits, which have been the preferred tactics of the UFT, have failed. They have done nothing but provide a rubber stamp for all of these atrocities perpetrated by the Bloomberg regime.

Yes, I know, without the union, things would have been worse. Yes, the union has cushioned the blow against many of these so-called reforms. Even if that is true, which I am not sure it is, that simply is not good enough anymore. Just like the Democratic Party, their “cushioning” ends in disaster for the people they are supposedly representing.

The only thing left is to opt out of this brutal regime. The only way to opt out is by using the only thing over which we have any control: our bodies.

They can make all the laws and evaluations they want. If people are not there to follow them, then it is all irrelevant.

The only thing left is a strike.

But it has to be more than a strike. It cannot just be one sector of workers or one group out for their own interests hitting the streets. This needs to be a movement. It needs to be teachers, administrators, parents and students. It needs to be an eruption of all of the people Bloomberg has tried to suppress. Veteran educators, oppressed minorities, children and the urban poor must hit back and hit back hard.

How fitting if we could get something like this off the ground when Bloomberg is on his way out? What better repudiation of his tenure, his legacy, his entire school-closing, stop-and-frisking, gentrifying, bike-lane drawing vision for New York than to have everyone victimized by this vision to take the streets and shut the city down?

We know the UFT will not support us. The first words out of their mouths will be “Taylor Law”, followed by all the usual hems and haws about why nothing of substance can be done to resist.

So it must be done by going around the UFT. It must be done by going around the entire Neoliberal apparatus in which the UFT has been complicit.

The only question is how? What strategies and what tactics should be used? How do we sustain this action in the face of court injunctions, jack-booted police and media ridicule that is sure to meet such action?

Those questions are still being debated.

But I am reminded of a quote by Nietzsche: “if one has his why, then he can put up with almost any how.”

6 responses to “The Next Teacher Strike

  1. We need a union with a backbone. I agree something has to happen as the UFT keeps selling us out, and the data doesnt say the full story. The Neoliberal apparatus has created chaos. Every student doesnt have the same needs, the same path or go at the same schedule. We need diversity in educational options and standardized tests is not part of that. Our students arent standard. They are varied. We need to have varied paths. This is a civil rights/discrimination issue that cannot be addressed by the UFT alone.

    Life of a student in testing quagmire: In high school you lose a week of instruction in January due to regents exams. You lose another week in June. ESL students lose instructional days for the LAB-R, and NYSESLAT and interim exams. All students are now required to take regents exams and the bar keeps rising. If you were born here or if you just arrived 5 months ago, based on your age you are assigned a cohort, and must take these exams. The results will be used to judge the school you are in, regardless of your level of preparation. This data is gobbled up into two different “evaluation” machines, that of NY state and NYC. When you predictably fail the test that you found humilating because you couldnt understand it, because the test was not in your language and you were not prepared, it reflects badly on your teacher and school. If you dont take the test it reflects badly on the school. The data didnt say you had no formal education beyond 3rd grade and are now in a new country, learning a new language. The data doesnt say you had no idea why you were given this 3 hour test, and why other students had it in their own language but you didnt because your language is “low incidence”. The data doesnt say that this frustrating experience makes getting married off at age 16 seem like a better option. The data doesnt say how the schools designed to handle non-“traditional” students are now suffering under the weight of the judgement the apparent “lack of progress” brings them, nor its affect on teacher turnover. The data doesnt say the full story.

  2. The last strike was in 1975 when they laid off 12,000? teachers. SHanker was forced into it by the outraged members — he later claimed it was the biggest mistake he made but the reality turned out the Unity leadership used that strike to bludgeon the members since then. The UFT gave up any fight and allowed the schools to take a hit they didn’t recover from for a generation of kids. But at least we had s seniority system in place that allowed almost all teachers to be called back in order.

  3. The Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law protects us by keeping the expired contract in place until a new one is negotiated. If we strike, the contract and all of its remaining protections go out the window. Massive layoffs, loss of rights, 60 to a class, and the loss of automatic dues collection are the tip of the iceberg.

    What we need to do is elect candidates who pledge to rescind mayoral control and toss out the test prep curriculum. To hell with RTTT and NCLB. Cutting the nearly $1 billion in DOE no-bid contracts and consultants would nore than cover what the loss would be.

  4. Pingback: @assailedteacher calls for a strike in NY « @ the chalk face

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