January 20, 2010

Finally.

Delegate Assemblies ain't what they used to be, that's for sure.

Today Mulgrew gave a President's Report that sounded like a playbook from ICE and GEM.

My only question is: What took him and his Unity caucus so long.

For Mulgrew to talk about how bad it is in some communities reeling from the "separate and unequal" charter schools shoving their way into our public schools, he had to have boned up pretty well on the Sept. 13 '09 post in the GEM blog:
The protest denounced the chaos precipitated by the HSA charter takeover of PS 123 classrooms, the disarray to their supplies and furnishings, the DOE’s dictatorial imposition of charter schools, privatization and the resulting “separate and unequal” conditions.
Or this one from even earlier, on June 15th:
“We need to support quality and democratic processes for all public schools. Charter schools, such as Equality Charter, split communities and sow inequality instead. They ‘cream the best students’ and evidence shows that charters service fewer percentages of the neediest of students such English Language Learners, Special Education and the poorest of the poor. We need to organize a citywide fight-back against the mayor’s undemocratic imposition of these charters that take away resources from public schools. Charters union-bust and undermine the necessary unity parents and teachers against government’s failure to properly provide for all public schools.”
That comment was made by GEM co-founder and long-time activist Angel Gonzalez. GEM put up its first post last April, and it's been pretty much one report after another over on that blog about all the demonstrations, rallies, protests and activism against the charter school movement.

Mulgrew's just discovering this now? What took him and his Unity caucus so long.


Back at today's meeting, he congratulated the teacher activists at PS 15 defending their school against a charter (PAVE) trying to extend its stay in the building. There's no question that these members and the parents should be commended for their fight, but it wasn't Mulgrew or his caucus spearheading that effort either. Ednotes put up a post and video on the PAVE encroachment last September. GEM (in this post) and a newly formed group in the area, Concerned Activists for Public Education (CAPE), took up the fight in the fall and haven't let up since.

In fact, Ednotes has been publishing a virtual almanac of the whole charter school invasion citywide, and it looks as if Mulgrew's been prepping for this moment on all that reportage. As he said at today's meeting: "That's the type of fight we want to be on top of all the time." And so they are — jumping right on board after all the groundwork has been laid by everybody else.


I worked a lot this past summer on the charter school takeovers in Harlem with members of ICE, GEM, CPE (Coalition for Public Education), CIF (the Center for Immigrant Families) and the office of Senator Bill Perkins. We've been to community board meetings, confronted DoE and charter school administrators, talked with politicians and the press, blogged a lot, and made some spectacular videos of most of the events.

Not many Unity/UFT members ever showed up at these events. If they did, they mostly hung around at the edges — interested enough to see what was going on, but not enough to actually roll up their sleeves.

And
I've written before about how UFT managers have co-opted some of the fundamental principles on which groups like ICE and GEM are founded. What was Weingarten's ACES program last May but a reworking of ICE's 2004 platform.

It seems they're doing it again, jumping onto a movement that activist groups have been building for a year. They published a picture of GEM's 10-ft banner in the NY Teacher, and they spout our words. "Fix our schools, don't shut them down" appeared in the Jan. 11, 2010 of their rag, but see the April 6th '09 post GEM put up on its blog nine months earlier focusing on the message to "keep schools open, fix our schools, don't close them."


Facing the assembly this afternoon, Mulgrew spread his arms wide and thanked the delegates for all their work "reframing the argument." The DoE, he said, can no longer close schools without rhyme, reason or accountability. We [presumably the union and the communities] demand clear criteria, and these arguments are now resonating with elected officials all over town.

The majority of delegates at that assembly did nothing to earn his praise. It was the work of our grassroots oppositional union groups that plowed this field so that Mulgrew and his Unity hacks could muck their way through it to our side.

I keep coming back to the same question. What took them so long.



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