Thursday, March 22, 2012

Time for the UFT to Lead, Not Follow

A piece in the Times examines how "popular" Michael Mulgrew is with the prospective democratic mayoral candidates. One even offered him a trip to Finland. It's easy to see why. The endorsement of the UFT would mean a great deal to any candidate looking for the support of teachers. Not only are we a significant voting block, but education is the topic of the day in the press. Despite all the bashing we've endured, most people still like their children's teachers, and trust us to have the best interests of children at heart. A mayoral candidate who could claim the support of teachers would receive a huge boost.

Sadly, the UFT has a piss poor record of endorsements. Most recently, we endorsed no one in the last election, despite the fact that Bill Thompson supported us and Mayor4Life was out to destroy us.

If the UFT runs true to form, they will wait until one of the candidates--Quinn, Liu, Thompson, or DiBlasio--gains a clear advantage and we will tag along. The UFT likes to back a winner. This time around, that strategy would be a huge mistake.

What we need to do is this--publicly declare our demands for the next election, and endorse the candidate who comes closest to meeting those demands. If the candidates want our support, let them earn it. I can think of a few items that would be on my list:

  • An end to mayoral control of the schools.
  • A promise that we would receive the same raise as other municipal unions got, retroactive to 2009, when our contract expired.
  • An end to the senseless closing of schools.
  • A pledge to place all ATRs before any new teachers are hired.
  • A vow to reduce class size and restore all the positions recently lost through attrition.
  • The implementation of a fair evaluation system that is not based on test scores.
  • An end to the vilification and public shaming of teachers.

I'm sure there are many others I've missed, but that's a good start. The UFT is the big dog in the upcoming election, but only if we stand up and insist on something in return for our support.

Mulgrew must lead, not follow. An early endorsement would catapult any of the candidates to instant front-runner status and set the education agenda for that glorious day when Mike Bloomberg finally vacates City Hall.