Rahm’s Tin Ear and the UFT’s Silent Lips

Mul-Berg marching at the Labor Day Parade……

……While Karen Lewis strikes……

…..And Rahm is like “I dunno”.

During lunch yesterday, I scrambled to the internet for the latest news about the Chicago teacher strike. One quote that came up in many different articles was this from Rahm Emanuel:

As some 29,000 teachers declared their first Chicago strike in 25 years, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the move “unnecessary” and “a strike by choice.”

“It’s avoidable,” Emanuel said, “and our kids do not deserve this.”

Sadly, I think Rahm totally believes what he says. Both he and Karen Lewis have said that the parties are pretty much in agreement on compensation. For people like Rahm, as well as the general public, that is the entire issue. Neither he nor many others can wrap their minds around why the Chicago teachers are striking.

If this strike was about compensation, the CTU would have been hiding behind the arbitrator who said CTU teachers should get a 39% raise. That is not what they are doing. Unfortunately, Rahm and many others have a tin ear to the very real and important things at stake in this strike, things that have nothing to do with teacher salary and everything to do with education.

This article goes a part of the way in explaining what those issues are:

In Chicago, last-minute contract talks broke down not over pay, but over the reform agenda, both sides said Sunday. The union would not agree to Emanuel’s proposal that teacher evaluations be based in large measure on student test scores.

Nor would the union accept his push to give principals more autonomy over hiring, weakening the seniority system that has long protected veteran teachers. Already, the demographics of the teaching profession in Chicago have notably shifted, as the private managers who run charter schools tend to favor rookie teachers who are younger and far less likely to be minorities, studies have shown.

This is the same type of evaluation system that our union here in NY foisted upon us with no controversy. As for seniority, our union in NY gave us the ATR crisis.

Money is not the issue in this strike. Hopefully, this is will be an opportunity for the CTU to educate the public in what has been happening to public schools over the past 20 years.

Rahm, for his part, does not speak this language. He is from the world of power politics and billionaires. If it is not about money and power, he is out of his element. This is why in every interview he has been giving, he looks like a deer in the headlights. He literally cannot understand all the fuss about evaluations based upon standardized exams and teachers being treated as professionals. This is why he feels as if this is a “strike of choice” and why some others have said that Karen Lewis called this strike because she has a personal axe to grind against Rahm.

Unfortunately, the union in NYC and other major school districts already sold out their teachers on the evaluation front. How do you think Mulgrew and the rest feel seeing Chicago teachers striking against the very things to which they not only agreed, but sold to us as the greatest thing to happen to teaching? Does this have something to do with their lack of action regarding the CTU? They have not encouraged teachers in NYC to help or show solidarity in any way.

As a matter of fact, while the CTU was preparing to strike, Mulgrew and Bloomberg were walking together at the Labor Day parade. Was this the way the UFT was telling Bloomberg, as well as the rest of the city, “don’t worry, we’re not like those troublemakers in Chicago.”?

There are many teachers in NYC who wish we were like those troublemakers in Chicago. We hope positive winds of change blow from the Midwest, but it will take a change in UFT leadership to make currency of that here.

8 responses to “Rahm’s Tin Ear and the UFT’s Silent Lips

  1. Michel Foucault,
    Teachers need some form of assessment on how they are teaching. Why keep teaching in a format that is not working only getting the same failing results. That is pure insanity. Then again Michel Foucault you wrote the book on the History of Madness and Insanity. The only format that Union teachers stick by is last hired and first out when there is a budget cut. Don’t cut teachers based on their performance. Only do it based on seniority is crazy thought. To bad the unions made it a reality.

    • When have teachers NOT been assessed on how they are teaching? I am assessed every year, several times a year and that goes for every teacher in this country. Where this myth comes from that teachers are stand-alone employees with nobody supervising them is beyond me, but it is only a myth.

      When people say what you are saying, they usually want to measure teachers by their students’ exams scores. Therein lies the insanity.

      The same failing results? What failing results do you speak of? Do you speak of graduation rates? National tests? What failing results, exactly, are you thinking of.

      Last in, first out is what most of the private sector does as well. I guess it is not good enough for teachers. Gotta get those veterans out of there to make way for the temps who will drop out after five years. Can’t have anyone collect those “limousine pensions” now, can we?

      • Teacher Assessment

        Your evaluation is probably assessed by your principal and your principal’s assessment is based on his/her views of your teaching. This principal will give you good marks because it then it gives the principal good marks. That is why an unbiased third party is needed to give the assessment.

        If you are referring to standardize test scores, these marks really don’t hold weight against teachers because teachers find excuses on why the students did not perform to state level. Example: the student walked into my room at a lower learning level. Or this student is on an IEP (Individual Education Plan) and will never be proficient. The parents never hold their end of the deal. All excuses created by the unions. Remember the Union is for the students.


        Yes, you listed all the different types of failures I broadly referred too. You must know them well.

        Bottom line is I have 5 years’ experience teaching in a public school system and as a member of a Union. I was RIF because I was the lowest man on the seniority totem pole. I and several other teachers got RIF simply because our name fell on the bottom of the seniority list. In fact; I and another teacher in my content area taught the same subject as a veteran teacher who has 25 plus years in. When data was gathered on our classes it showcased that 86% and 83% of our students passed the State standardize test. The veteran teacher only had 68% passing rate. Our class makeup was the same. Same number of students, varying learning levels, social economic status, and attendance rate. However, the younger teacher and I earned $40,000 compared to the veteran teacher earning $80,000. Me and the other younger teacher was RIF because the district needed to save money and if $80,000 dollars expenditure was needed to be cut it came from the two younger teachers who make $40,00 and who have a high rate of performance. Not the veteran teacher who makes $80,000 a year because he just bought a RV and his children were not at home anymore and it gave him a chance to travel during the summer.

        During my five years’ experience I have multiple horror stories about union teachers. This one sticks in my mind because it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

        Three years fast forward and I am in a Charter school and it has no financial trouble. Smaller class sizes and it takes the underperforming students that public schools kick out. Yes, we are gaining ground on student graduation rate.

      • It sucks you got laid off, but I can turn your anecdotal evidence on its head with one of my own.

        Not too long ago, we had a rookie teacher in our department who taught one group of juniors in American history. Me and the other American history teacher each taught two groups of juniors. This rookie was awful. I know because I worked with her. She came in late everyday, never gave homework and thought she knew everything about teaching. She never took anyone’s advice. She spent around 6 months studying Native Americans, even though the students had to take a standardized exam at the end of the year covering all of American history.

        At the end of the year, all of her students passed the exam. Me and other other teacher got our usual high 80s-mid 90s passing percentage, yet all of her students passed. Does this mean she was a better teacher? Anyone who saw us three would know she was the weak link and did not take the career seriously. Those kids passed the test despite her teaching. The truth is, we do not know why a students passes/fails a particular exam on a given day. There are all types of anecdotal evidence showing the same students can get wildly different marks on the same exam from year to year and day to day.

        So, just because your students did better on an exam makes you a better teacher than the guy you mentioned? I will grant that you probably are a better teacher, but is it the exam that makes it so? Furthermore, do you think teachers should be measured on grades their students get on an exam, which has been turning our schools into test prep factories? Would Socrates approve of this?

        And, to turn your other anecdote on its head, I get students every year who were kicked out of charter schools. This year I have another one, a senior who was kicked out because her English is not the best. Her wonderful charter could not be bothered to educate her. This is around the 12th student from a charter in my class in 3 years. They were all KICKED OUT, expelled, thrown away like trash. Sometimes it was for behavior and other times it was because the charter just could not be bothered to take the extra effort to teach the child. None of the kids that I got from a charter were ever a problem for me, nor did I ever contemplate not educating them because it was just too difficult. Public schools do not have the luxury of expelling students they deem to difficult to reach. We are bound by education law, something charters do not have to follow.

        The charters you speak of that take in learning disabled kids are rare. They are not the norm. The richies who run them do not want them. Geoffrey Canada kicked out an ENTIRE GRADE of students because he feared their state test scores were going to bring down the school. How humane. Can public schools do that? Nope.

        And I do not know what you mean by principals giving out good ratings because it makes them look good. I m a union leader and teachers on my staff are getting bad observations all the time, every year. I have never been in a school where some staff did not get bad ratings. It is the routine. It has always been that way. This entire garbage about teachers not being held accountable is a media myth, a scapegoating that bears no resemblance to reality.

        What kind “third party” do you want to see evaluate teachers? Are you seriously suggesting that principals and teachers are in bed together and it is like the fox watching the hen house? What should this third party be? You cannot even find educators to teach, let alone sit on panels, unless you want a bunch of non-educators to evaluate teachers.

      • I like the Michel Foucault picture you use.

  2. For the life of me I can’t understand one fact about the UFT: If they continue to sell out NYC teachers soon there will be NO NEED for a union at all and Mulgrew and the Unity crew will be out of a job. Tenure will become pretty much meaningless under the proposed NY State Evaluation deal which is on the way to NYC. Appeals of poor evaluations and trumped up charges will be only for friends of the Unity posse. Seniority transfers are history and the grievance procedure is a joke. Somebody please tell me why we will need a union in a year or so? The UFT is becoming a paper tiger and will soon become a health benefits/retirement management organization. Who will be willing to pay union dues for that? The sad thing is that I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined that the UFT would be selling out teachers left and right when I began my career many years ago. I used to have a ton of respect and pride in the UFT. However, they are now merely a shell of their former worthy self. I honestly hope they can once again grow a back bone and stand up to the ed-deform goons who are trying to destroy our livlihoods as teachers.

    • The sad thing is, they don’t care. As long as someone is paying dues, it is better for them for the youngsters and people with no dedication. Those that stay in long enough might question their leadership and hold them accountable. No matter what happens to us, they will be taken care of. It will happen in the union or in the private sector where the people whose backs they scratch will ensure them some sort of cushy gig.

      It kills me that our union rolled over and died over the same issues Chicago teachers are now striking. At the start of last year, hundreds of school aides were laid off without so much as a peep, and the CTU is fighting for more to be hire to provide students with necessary services.

      Will the UFT take the cue from Chicago? That is a big if.

  3. I do my best to educate the newer NYC teachers about how the UFT used to be a big deal but many of the newbies don’t really care. This is most likely due to the fact that teaching is now viewed by many younger teachers as a “gig” rather than a career. TFA and the ed deformers want it that way so nobody will ever stick around long enough to get vested for a pension. Those younger teachers who plan to stick around are actually quite keen as to what the UFT is up to and are watching the Chicago Teachers closely. I think once the economy gets better and we face another HUGE teacher shortage, folks will begin to demand more from the UFT as without decent working conditions even less folks are going to be willing to work in the tougher neighborhoods of NYC.

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