If we want to get anywhere in the current contract negotiations, we have to look for what's really wrong and try to address it. While getting us days off for swine flu and requiring counseling memos before LIFs are nice ideas, they will do nothing to address the fundamental problem facing teachers today--the insane "Fair Student Funding" fiasco.
There's nothing fair at all about FSF. Under it, schools get a set amount of money per student and have to pay for everything and everyone out of that pot of money. It's one of those things that sound good in theory--poor schools would get as much money as schools in richer districts. There's nothing inherently wrong in that, and it sounds so democratic, and so...sooo.....so darn fair!
And yet, it's anything but. The reason richer districts often got more money than poorer districts is that teacher salaries used to be paid for by the city, not individual schools. Since senior teachers often wanted to go to those schools, they got more money to pay for those teachers. The amount of money spent on other student needs was essentially the same. So instead of doing things that would make teachers want to stay in poorer neighborhoods, like fixing the schools and reducing crime, the city decided to try doing it on the cheap by putting salaries in the hands of principals. They, in turn, responded by hiring only newbie teachers who they could hire for far less than experienced educators.
Oddly, you would think that principals would be at the forefront to end FSF. After all, if their claim to want to hire the best teachers is true, they would certainly want the option of hiring the best veteran teachers without taking a punch in the pocketbook. Still, I have never heard an admin complain about FSF. They simply go out and hire cheaper teachers.
That leaves the UFT to try to do something. God help us. I'll tell you right now, no matter what the negotiators come up with regarding the ATR, rubber room, and open market issues, nothing will change as long as FSF remains in place.