In a post I wrote last September, I said I thought it had morphed into some kind of arm of the DoE, with all its Tweed friendly, Tweed collaborative, Tweed duped, and Much Ado About Nothing articles.
I don’t know whether to laugh at some of the things in there or cry.
For example, it’s really funny where Weingarten is talking about getting the cuts reduced and she says “Let’s take a moment to appreciate what we've accomplished so far.” In the very next sentence she says what really “saved the day” was the federal stimulus package. By her own admission, she accomplished little or nothing. It was Washington that came through with some cash.
I love it when she suggests that if adding some non-mayoral appointees to the central board “fails to make it into law” — as surely it will — there would be other ways to curtail Bloomberg’s "dominance." I’m taking this as a joke, and I’m pretty sure she is, too. I mean, she has to say something if she’s going to defend her indefensible position on continuing mayoral control.
What does Weingarten suggest to rein in this mayor? Three things. Give the board members fixed terms — that’s so they can say “Yes, sir! Of course, sir!” for a finite number of months before a new group of flunkies is rotated in. Increase the number of DoE actions that require board approval — as if Joel Klein ever wanted, thought he needed, or asked for approval for the nefarious, sometimes illegal schemes he’s gotten away with. And end “the chancellor’s voting status and automatic chairmanship of the board” — like fish Klein would give that one up. Isn’t she a card?
I also love it when she crows over the test scores:
Almost any way you look at the data, there was good news in the June 1 release of the 2009 statewide math test scores.Puh-lease. Don’t tell us about test scores being better this year without getting an impartial evaluator to determine whether the newer tests were dumbed down last time round. Absent that teeny-weeny bit of information, what does anyone gain by calling the higher scores “good news” except to score a political point dealing with BloomKlein or give a very transparent tap on the back to math teachers, who might really have had nothing to do with this year’s “improvement” at all.
By the way, you have to wade through to the last paragraph to see the demurral: “Overall, gains in scale scores were much more modest than gains in proficiency.” I guess that’s why Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and State Ed Commissioner Richard Mills “recommended looking at the finer detail of scale scores (students are graded on a scale of 400 to the upper 700s) rather than the simplified level scores (in which students are graded on Levels 1 to 4, and small gains can bump into the next level) for a truer picture.” Not to mention that there are times when Weingarten finds it convenient to downplay test scores, like when she's selling her new ACES network.
I’m not laughing anymore and start flicking through the thing a lot faster, until a “Schedule of Program and Operating Expenses” for the year ending last July 31 catches my eye on page 32.
Payroll last year (and probably every year) was the biggest expense. Between the Borough office and Central, the union spent a cool $29,971,086 on staff salaries, plus an additional $12,648,653 for additional benefits and taxes. Total: $42,619,739.
Way down the list, after the Conventions, Workshops & conferences, Meeting expenses, Travel, Lodging, Negotiations, Legal fees, Consulting fees, Elections & referenda, Chapter Leaders’ stipends, and DoE released time cost, there’s this:
ARBITRATION: $171, 078.Is that the figure they're saying they spent for a whole year's worth of arbitrations? In this climate of administrator thuggery? The only redress a member has with Step Is and IIs being so reliably unsuccessful is arbitration, and the union paid so little for it? That's weird. If that number included AAA fees for surveys and elections, it would make what they spent on our Step IIIs even less.
With so much union-bashing these days, it’s definitely not funny that Arbitration came to only 0.4% of the UFT staff payroll. That's just not enough money spent on defending members. What’s also not funny is that the amount laid out for Gifts and condolences — $47,396 — is a quarter (27.7%) of the Arbitration amount. What are they buying everyone, mink coats?
There's no clarification of these terms and categories in the chart, so it's obvious no one's really interested in helping us understand what their expenditures really are. For all I know, the amounts listed in Legal fees ($2,712,223) and Consulting fees ($1,131,153) could actually include the costs of defending members. I doubt it, though. I'm told it's the DoE that pays the arbitration costs for 3020-a cases, not the union, and I’ve asked a couple of people what the difference between “Total Expenses” and “Non-Chargeable Expenses” might be, but they don’t know either.
As I said, I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry when I read this stuff.
All I can hear in the background is the kerching!, kerching! of our dues money dropping into murky union coffers, and as the Queen of England says: We are not amused.