December 10, 2009

It's heatin' up

As BloomKlein's slash-and-burn strategy of closing schools across the city's less privileged neighborhoods, there are more reports of protests.

This from Marjorie Stamberg about the demonstration at Maxwell yesterday. I'm almost with her in the last paragraph where she says we can't fight Bloomberg with Democrats.

Even if you're not in the same political camp as Stamberg, what she says is just about where we're at:
Here's a brief report on tonight's UFT demonstration outside Maxwell HS in East New York. It was held to protest the announced closing of the school. There were maybe 300 unionists, students and parents there by the time we all went in to the public forum after the rally.

The school closing massacre comes in the context of the mayor's Thanksgiving eve speech in Washington declaring war on the UFT, made with Obama's Education Secretary Arne Duncan sitting next to him. A week later, Bloomberg announced the closing of a slew of schools (now up to 22 as of today), including Jamaica HS, Columbus in the Bronx, Norman Thomas in Manhattan, Broad Channel in Queens. This is huge.

Politically, we are now at an important moment where teachers broadly understand Bloomberg has declared war on the union, and the minority population sees that the city will close down their schools, throwing thousands of kids into the streets, disrupting their education and throwing teachers out of the classrooms.. The sense of the need for joint struggle was palpable in the crowd tonight. Here all the issues of class and race come together.

Later at a public forum inside there was a very hot meeting where parents, teachers, and students, participated in ripping the Board of Ed spokesman to shreds. UFT president Mike Mulgrew spoke, but attributed the blame only to District 19, not to Bloomberg.

Many students and parents spoke powerfully of the school's proud record of educating students, helping them achieve careers in many fields, supporting them and challenging them along the way.

I personally spoke saying Bloomberg has a policy of educational colonialism — the schools he's closing mainly effect minorities. Ninety schools have been closed since mayoral control because he has an agenda of union busting and privatizing education.

It seems to have finally dawned on the leadership, with this round of school closings, that if they don't fight to defend the schools now, the union will be devastated. But their whole modus operandi (m.o.) is how to avoid a showdown. Look how they dealt the ATRs, the issues of standardized testing, merit pay, etc. But they can't sidestep this one. What is needed is a real independent mobilization of labor, students, and parents.

The UFT bureaucracy at this point is focused on treating each closing school individually. But the situation has gone so far beyond where it can be fought school-by-school. Some of us took up the chant "Fight Back — Citywide," which struck a chord with the crowd. We need to go to City Hall in mass protest, have informational meetings in schools across the city, start marching across the Brooklyn Bridge, join with other labor unions, such as the TWU. The situation also raises the issue of the need for a workers party — you can't fight Bloomberg with Democrats.
More on the rally at Ednotes. (That guy never stops.)

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