UFT Leadership digs in against Opt Out
At last night’s (4/13/15) UFT Executive Board, President Mulgrew and another officer tested their newly aggressive stance against the opt out movement.
When Andrew Cuomo finished ramming his new budget deal through the NY State Assembly and Senate, Mike Mulgrew wrote to UFT members (3/29/15):
Our hard work has paid dividends
In a rebuke to the anti-public-school agenda of hedge-fund billionaires, the state Legislature tonight reached agreement on a new budget and a package of education proposals that will immediately increase aid to public schools, ensure that teacher evaluations do not hinge on state test scores and ensure local oversight of struggling schools.
Just two months ago, Gov. Cuomo proposed a series of education proposals that amounted to a declaration of war on public schools. His plan was to use the incredible leverage he holds in the state budget process to ram through his plan.
And now all of our hard work is paying dividends. The governor’s Draconian agenda has, in large part, been turned back. We want to thank the Assembly and the Senate for standing up for our schools and school communities.
The membership was not buying. There was anger about almost every aspect of the deal. And then there was the testing. There is a growing “opt out” movement across the state. While largely concentrated in suburbs, a number of anti-testing organizations have been making inroads in New York City. Several city schools already have high opt out rates, and there will be more.
NYSUT president Magee issued a statement encouraging opt out. There must have been a ton of e-mails and calls to UFT headquarters. On April 1, just three days later,
What the state budget contains
Three months ago, Gov. Cuomo declared war on teachers and public education, resurrecting the battle we fought for 12 years with our previous mayor. Both have the same Wall Street allies determined to privatize education and eliminate teachers unions.
Given the immense power that the governor wields in the budget process, we knew we had our work cut out for us. We did not negotiate this budget agreement, but we supported Assembly Democrats in pushing back as many of his bad ideas as possible.
We took hits in this first battle but so did he, thanks to the extraordinary movement of public school parents, educators and community members that has emerged over the past few months.
The tone had certainly shifted. But would they move on testing and opt out?
At last night’s Executive Board Regina Gori (New Action), Chapter Leader of the Brooklyn New School (with a 90% opt out rate) asked how the union was planning to help teachers of conscience who did not administer state tests. The response was sharp.
- Refusing a direct instruction from your supervisor is insubordinate
- If we test less than 95% of our students, we could lose Title 1, Title 2, and Title 3 funding, which would cost jobs.
- Our allies in the Civil Rights Movement want annual testing. It has helped us learn where the system has problems.
When he arrived fifteen minutes later, Mulgrew used the second and third points in a long and slightly repetitive talk. (Those same points were raised by Al Sharpton in a NY Post interview a few days ago). Mulgrew additionally raised the specter of ten thousand lay-offs.
He went on to explain how the federal law could be rewritten to drop that 95%. He explained that we were different from other parts of the state.
The strategy he laid out had a few parts: engage with the Regents, negotiate a new evaluation immediately, wait for some federal change.
With the Regents, there will be a series of public hearings in NYC, and we should engage with them without shouting. I think he had in mind Merryl Tisch, who wrote most of Cuomo’s proposals, but who we are now looking to negotiate with. Unity leadership was quite defensive about Tisch through the winter and spring, even as it was clear that she was working at Cuomo’s side. I couldn’t figure out what they like about her. When we had three dozen schools on the block a few years ago, she did personally intervene to save Grady. Grady was Mulgrew’s old school.