Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mulgrew--Think Big this Time

Mayor4Life (M4L) Bloomberg thinks big and long term. He was always several steps ahead of the late lamented Randi Weingarten, and remains about a furlong ahead of Mike Mulgrew and the U-Crew. That's why, when assessing the mayor's latest assault on teachers, you have to think long term like the mayor. He's a big picture guy. UFT leadership has a short term view--from election to election.

Why does the mayor want to tie teacher tenure to test scores? Two reasons immediately spring to mind. One, he wants to qualify for the Race to the Top funds (always follow the money). Second, he wants to claim that this will improve teacher quality. On thinking about both of these, however, I don't think either is Bloomberg's long term agenda.

Let's look at the idea that tying test scores to tenure will improve teacher quality. It has a visceral appeal that voters will like--Why should new teachers get protection unless they can prove their worth? Lots of people, including myself and Miss Eyre in this blog post today, think granting tenure should be a more rigorous process. But why test scores? Even though state law prohibits it, does anyone really think that principals don't look at that data already? Sure, they can't explicitly fire new teachers for low scores, but in reality, they can fire untenured teachers for any reason or no reason at all for a period of three years. So why the sudden need to change the law?

Now, let's look at the Race to the Top (RttT) funds. Sure, Bloomberg wants them, but remember that he is a big picture guy. A one time infusion of RttT fund would be welcome to Bloomy, but it isn't enough for a guy like M4L. At most, those funds would stave off some of the cuts he has already planned for the schools. So what does he really want?

I think if you put RttT and new teacher tenure together, you get the answer. Once M4L gets the state to OK tying test scores to tenure decisions, how long will it be before he demands that the legislature approve the use of test scores for all teachers? I'd bet my pension it would be on the table for the next contract, assuming we ever settle this one soon. If Bloomberg gets that concession, he'd have license to fire almost any teacher he wants by giving highly paid teachers the worst classes with the least support.

Imagine the mayor with the power to fire senior teachers based on bogus test scores! He could get rid of those pesky high salaries, and basically ensure that almost no one would ever get in the 27 years needed to retire. That would save the city and state billions of dollars annually. All this makes the RttT funds look like chump change.

In my view, M4L wants to parlay a seemingly small change in tenure for new teachers into an evisceration of tenure for all teachers as a means of dismantling both seniority pay and the retirement system as we know it. That's the kind of big thinking SOB the mayor is.

The question is, can Mulgrew and the U-Crew stand up to it? I don't have a lot of faith. They are not big thinkers. They are contract to contract thinkers who only care about whether they can claim victory and so get re-elected to their high paid, high powered, double pensioned positions. So they do think big--but only for themselves.


Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right. Before you know it, Bloomy will rightfully demand post tenure reviews on tenured teachers. A principal will have completely control of firing and hiring processes. Every teacher will turn into a short term contractor. Good bye to high salaries, and good bye to a decent pension.

Philip Nobile said...

Correct on Bloomberg's vision and UFT's myopia, but the beam in your eye is test tampering. Don't forget
who grades the exams that determine
our fates. In a pinch, how many principals and teachers will sign their own career death warrants by honest by-the-rubrics grading? The higher the stakes,the greater the cheating. It's human nature. And neither the DOE nor the UFT has the courage to confront the dirty big secret of the NYC school system.

Anonymous said...

Can you bring this to Mulgrew's attention somehow before he enters into negotiations with Bloomie & Klein? Couldn't hurt to plant the seed!