Parking and the NYC Dept of Education
When the parking stuff was coming to a boil I wasn’t blogging. But it’s still fresh, still worth commenting.
NYC teachers last year could apply for and receive little parking ‘placards,’ cards that sat in our windshield, allowing us to park in designated DoE parking spots. There were many more placards distributed than actual spaces.
This year Bloomberg attacked permits for loads of agencies, and rolled back designated spots. The City and the UFT reached an agreement whereby the number of spaces was untouched, but the number of permits was reduced to match the number of spaces. (other agencies actually lost spots)
Problem I: tens of thousands of teachers had placards, and will no longer. Why does it matter? If there were no spots, why whould anyone care? In some schools the spots were first come, first serve. In others, the extra placards would be sort of a ‘bonus’ if someone was sick, or out. In other cases the placard came into play when the teacher had to attend an afternoon meeting (or athletic event, or training) at another school. Arrive after 3, and the early birds were already on the way home, space now available.
I used my card about 5 times a year, in exactly those circumstances. Multiply that by 10,000 teachers. And my 5 times is probably a low number. A small benefit, cost the city nothing, and thousands of us had it, and lost it.
Problem II: the agreement let the chapter leader and the principal allocate the placards. We know better than that. Or we should. Many of our chapters are too weak to stand up against principals. We needed a citywide agreement that laid down an implementation plan, and perhaps allowed schools to modify it. I happened to be out this weekend with about ten teachers from a bunch of different boroughs, different grade levels, this weekend. Not one of them was in a school where the agreement was implemented. The closest I heard was principals taking cards for themselves, their APs, their F-status cronies, and then letting the chapter dole out the remainder.
So watch this picture: 7:30, teachers circling blocks, students lining up for a 7:45 class, teachers looking for spots, while empty spaces wait for a part-timer or an AP to fill at 9 AM. Beautiful.
Problem III: I sense far too little awareness of Problems I and II. Randi told the exec board two weeks ago that we won our maximum position. The UFT descriptions of the changes make it sound like a victory. Ten thousand teachers lost something, and I am not sure that downtown understands why we are upset. That’s a problem.
The part of the deal that gives chapters a say could be made much better by working on strengthening our chapters, strengthening our union from the bottom up. I don’t hear objections to doing this sort of work, but I see little action….
Finally, the placards themselves. They used to cost the city nothing, but they were an (albeit small) but symbolically important economic benefit to many of us. We should, though we won’t, reopen this. We should make sure that no school is completely shut out (so that there are at least cards for teachers or even admins when they need to attend meetings elsewhere, where public transport is not practical.
And that’s the last bit. I am a big fan of public transport. I use it, where it is practical. The tyrrany of the upper east side rich poking at middle class schlubs who need to drive is infuriating. Meeting in Manhattan? Of course I jump on the train. Meeting on the other side of the Bronx? What, are you kidding?