May 17, 2008

ATRs and other expunged teachers: union-busting to the max

Eduwonkette's post yesterday on teacher salaries and ATRs is an excellent "preview," as she calls it, of what she's planning for our masochistic reading pleasure in the coming weeks. I wish we could program her to work automatically on every piece of internet claptrap produced by the Brave New World of corporate education. Something like a web crawler gadget that could debunk the stuff the minute it's put up.

But, I want to emphasize something that must be included in any discussion of the cost of ATRs and the union members waiting around in rubber rooms:

It's not only a case of big senior salaries.

Many, if not most of us learned only this week that once you've been sent to a rubber room, you'll be off the school's budget in 60 days. What had been a disincentive to put teachers out of commission over there (because a principal had to pay two salaries: that of the removed teacher as well as the one who hired to replace him) is now a new TOOL for eliminating unwanted staff — regardless of age, skill or talent.

To spell this out: a frivolous charge, an opinion on someone's competence or personality ("I just don't like them"), or a downright lie can get someone moved over there. And with the backlog they've got in handling these cases, it's a lot more than Out of Sight, Out of Mind. In 60 days from removal, it'll be Off My Budget as well.

So, it is not only a question of pushing senior teachers out of the system. The BoE has been systematically — and with the blessing of our duplicitous union because they have not made an immediate stink about this any place I know of — enhancing the capability of nudging all unwanted teachers out of the system.

Just wait til this catches on.

I've already written something about serving at the principal's pleasure, and Chaz wrote a terrific summary of the current contract fallout for ATRs and other trouble spots  over at his blog

This is something I wrote in a comment to Eduwonkette's post, but it's germane to this discussion:
There is an underlying point here that cannot be separated from the discussion: The principals could ALWAYS see or find out how long you've been in the system, which not always meant your salary, but how old you are, and how often and perhaps WHY you changed schools. They also had access to hidden networking in all districts which made it a very un-level playing field for an excessed teacher.

Senior teachers -- who are the most likely staff members to want to teach with a degree of autonomy recognized in the contract but overlooked by UFT and [BoE] alike, and who include many union activists (chapter leaders, etc.) who have gone up against a principal or even a superintendent when they abuse the contract — all of these people are "known" at the district level. I suspect there is even a real list of them.

Principals ask around when they hire people who are in the system long enough to have reputations. The newer teachers not only don't have reputations, they don't have tenure. They are the ultimate inanimate body for any principal: silent, fearful, and contract-ignorant.

As ch. leader a couple of times in my career, I successfully grieved overcrowding in one of my schools for two whole grades. At that same school, the superintendent's office itself tried to get me to change the UFT personnel on the C-30 committee —how do you like that one? Just after being excessed from there (I wonder why), I loudly protested at some off-site music PD that the city was actively replacing music positions with band-aid programs where freelance artists come to the school to teach kids once a week — this was being condoned as a good thing, and we music and dance teachers should just LOVE seeing our positions given away to outside contractors; as they escorted me out of that auditorium, the entire audience of teachers, hesitantly at first, but ever-increasing, broke into a loud applause.

In another school, the principal committed fraud over my signature as chapter leader. New Visions's answer to this: "I think you and he should not be in the same school." So much for fair play.

Teachers with years in the system — and I won't use the term "senior" anymore, because the average years in the system is coming way down as the transience level goes way up — have a lot more stacked against them than bigger salaries. [see here for more on that]

And it is VERY MUCH PART OF this same discussion about what to do with ATRs.
UFT management's been back-sliding on this issue. We need to force them to address exactly what the system loses when the BoE makes it easy to expunge teachers with a certain number of years in this game.

If we don't get to keep our senior voices and fighters, it'll be under Weingarten's watch that the union's been busted.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Important correction, Woodlass:

"If we don't get to keep our senior voices and fighters, it'll be under Weingarten's watch that the union's been busted."

From all the evidence -- e. g. greatly weaken contract, the daily, concerted & successful efforts throughout the city to dis-empower teachers, the UFT management's unwillingness to fight for anything anymore, Rubber Room Abuses, ATR Abuses -- one MUST conclude that the UFT is already a very broken union."

Kudos to John Powers for bringing energy, insight and enthusiastic activism back into the union!

May the gods protect him and keep him safe!!