Media Lapdogs: NYCDOE and the “Bad Teacher” Witch Hunt

October 18, 2013 — 4 Comments

There they go again.

The newspapers are filling their pages with stories about “bad teachers”. The mayor is on the airwaves complaining about the UFT and City Hall is suing the Union.

Sound familiar?

It’s all part of this mayoral administration’s continued push to transform the profession of teaching into an ‘at-will’ job, so that it can fire as many of us as it would like.

They would all like everyone to believe (including our new soon-to be mayor) that this system is just filled-to-the-brim with bad teachers who are harming kids and holding back our students from achieving true success.

As their hope goes, if they can just convince New Yorkers that this is actually true -if they could somehow get the voting public to focus and concentrate only on the 1.9% of city teachers who have faced termination hearings- then maybe, just maybe, they would be able to institute sweeping reforms that would affect all city teachers -including the other 98.1% who have not faced hearings- and end an important right for city teachers. That is the right to be fired through the impartial ruling of an independent hearing officer, rather than by the whims of an education department whose headquarters has been bereft of actual educators for well over a decade.

It’s the same tired old song playing all over again. They drag a few of our colleagues out on the pages of the newspapers and offer no facts (other than the facts which the administration wishes the newspapers to print) about their actual “infractions”. They hold these people up as an example of our “terrible” job protections and hope that the public begins disliking their teachers as much as they dislike their politicians.

If some semblance of public concern grows over this issue, they’ll march themselves up to Albany and ask the legislature to change the law that has, for many decades now, dictated how teachers are fired. The NYS Senate may well vote yes (because the Mayor has donated millions to the campaigns coffers of the Republicans who control that house) and they will all complain when the Assembly votes no.

We at MORE have heard this song before and we are aware that it’s just a little too “out of tune” to be truthful – we know just where the sour notes are coming from. We’d like you to consider a few facts as you read the salacious newspaper articles over the next few weeks and do what you can do to make sure that concerned people in your building are aware of them too:

  • This effort is being coordinated from one central location

    • This Daily News article boasts certain facts and figures (such as ’72’ teachers have been removed this year and ‘326’ teacher hearing cases were completed last year). These facts and figures, however, come out of two separate DOE offices which are located in two different boroughs and the information is not the type that is routinely released to the public. The DOE only releases this information when it chooses to, and to whom it chooses. If you are reading that 72 teachers have been removed from the classroom, it’s because Walcott wants you to read that.

    • We’ve always felt that there was a special place in Hell reserved for someone who leaks a teacher’s name to the press. This article from last week’s New York Post does just that. As you read those names, you should understand that under the law, allegations against a teacher are private. Information is not to be made public by the school board <(1(c)(i))>. The mere fact that you’re reading those names means that someone broke the law. And can you guess what entity holds the records of all those names and details so that they can be printed in the newspaper?

  • This is part of an ongoing effort to fire as many teachers as possible

    • This piece reveals that 150 city teachers had been referred for charges in the month of September alone.  Yet New York City is only one district out of 694 in New York State and  the other 693 districts combined (including five other large, urban school districts) only attempt to fire approximately 104 teachers per year. We want to say this again – 693 other school districts combined attempt to fire less teachers per year than New York City does in one month. Now we estimate there to be approximately 50,000 tenured teachers here in New York City, so those 150 teachers represents .3% of the tenured workforce. On the other hand, NYSUT asserts that there are 120,000 tenured teachers across the rest of New York State. This means that only  .086% of the rest of the teachers in New York will face similar charges. By those numbers, our one school district here in New York has already tried, in one month, to fire 3.48 times more teachers than the rest of the state’s  693 school districts combined for the entire year.  If New York City keeps that pace and tries to fire 150 per month over the next ten months of the school year, then they would have attempted to fire 1500 teachers total, which is 3 percent of the tenured workforce, or 34.88 times as many teachers than the rest of the state’s districts (combined).

    • There are only two possible explanations for this:

        • A) New York City teachers are that much worse than suburban and rural teachers

            or

        • B) Our employer is that much more aggressive in its attempts to fire us.

          • We’re sure you can guess which conclusion we’ve come to.

  • This is a manufactured crisis

    • Here are a few talking points we’ve observed that have come from the city (and the press) since this public discussion began last week.

      • “The UFT won’t let us hire new arbitrators”

        • The mayor is making a pretty big deal about the union not accepting proposals to hire new arbitrators. But there is a fact here that the press has not brought to light: the city and union had increased the amount of arbitrators just last year! If that number has since fallen to 19, it had done so over the course of just a few months (that’s a very rapid pace).

      • “There large is a backlog of hearings”

        • If anyone at your school asks you about the ‘backlog’ of teachers that the city can’t fire, kindly remind them that,  Francesco Portelos, after a lengthy period of time in the Rubber Room,  was charged on May 17 of this year and that his hearing began this September, just two work months later. Also remind them that the teacher who was caught bringing drugs into jury duty was charged, removed, terminated, appealed that termination and received a court decision in just eleven months. The pace of these cases don’t seem much like a backlog to us. In fact, they seem like a rather quick pace. Finally, suggest that sending 150 teacher to termination hearings in one month is, perhaps, a bit too much, given that it doesn’t happen anywhere else in the state.

      • “The City cannot rid the system of bad teachers”

        • If anyone at your school says that only 38% or so of city teachers who face termination are actually fired, let them know the facts.

          • The overwhelming majority of teachers who even face termination charges either resign or retire.

          • Of the remaining teachers who do not retire or resign, the city either changes its mind at the last minute and withdraws the charges or (for 326 remaining teachers last year) they actually have the hearing.

      • “These are really bad teachers”

        • No one wants bad teachers in our schools, especially not us. But there are two sides to every story and a closer look at teachers that the department has deemed as “bad’ in the past has shed light that they were anything but bad. Some were simply teachers who committed a workplace infraction. Some had committed no infraction at all. We wonder what light may be shed if we perform a close examination of the teachers whose names were sprawled across the New York Post? If someone at your school asserts that these teachers were ‘bad’ ask them if they know the full story. Or even the full context of the infraction. Ask them why the newspapers didn’t mention that this was the first time the teacher had ever committed any offense at all. Then, ask them why the mayor and the papers refuse to discuss anything about teachers except the 1.9% (1,500 of 76,000 total) that it tries to fire. Ask, ‘why is that’? If you hear an answer that satisfies you, let us know. We’d like to hear it – because we haven’t heard one yet.

    • Manufactured crises have only one goal: To shock the public into supporting radical changes.

      • What DOE wants is to remove our right to have a fair hearing by a neutral arbitrator before being fired. Their method of shocking the public is to trick people into thinking that our schools are filled with teachers who are terrible people. They will take 1.9% of the entire teaching force and humiliate them with the hope that people believe every teacher in the school system is just like them.

  • This will continue for as long as teachers allow it

    • Our union leadership will not stand up and defend wrongly accused teachers in the press. You should expect them to be silent over this issue until time itself comes to an end. Moreover, the newspapers will never come to their senses with regard to presenting a full, round honest depiction of New York City’s attempt to “Get Kotter“. If you’re expecting this to stop by itself, you’ll be waiting around a long long time.

    • The process of stopping this attempt to end teacher tenure starts with you at your school. Hang this article on your school’s UFT bulletin board so real people can see real facts. Involve yourself in discussions with your (our) colleagues and make the point that this school district tries to fire more teachers than any other school district in the state -perhaps the nation. Let them know that this isn’t about a ‘bad teachers’. It’s about getting the public to think about ‘bad teachers’ -to the exclusion of (by their own metric, 98.1% of) the good ones.

Let them play their tired old song. Let us begin the task of informing our colleagues in the work rooms and lunch rooms of our school buildings about the political agenda that is at play here. Let’s inform the public about the city’s ongoing attempt to gut our city’s schools (despite having the strongest teaching force of any other school district in the nation). And let us be better informers than the Department of Education’s spin machine and the powerful mainstream media which it so skillfully controls. Let’s demonstrate that, when it comes to the ‘bad teacher’ narrative, might does NOT make right. In fact, its quite the other way around. And let’s do this by simply telling the truth – to as many people as possible.

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4 responses to Media Lapdogs: NYCDOE and the “Bad Teacher” Witch Hunt

  1. 

    For 20 years I have wondered this 1 thing….why do all students get passed on to the next grade even if they cannot read or write. Maybe the principals should be held to the fire for injustices to child education.

  2. 

    Maybe there can be valid lawsuits against those who leaked information. FOIL, class action, whatever. Need more facts. This is certainly a critical issue. is thre anything that prevents the accused from going public? How abouit counteractions against the accusers ?

  3. 

    After reading the Post article of course there is no excuse for mentioning names, unless an adjucated case is in the public record ? One does wonder about the other undetermined cases. For sure these were the most egregious they could find, and in fact, assuming all facts were as indicated, I would have been tougher on some of them. Some penalties seemed reasonable. But some actions go unreported or never reach the adjucation stage. Bullying and other nefarious acts by administrators are rarely cited.

  4. 

    FABULOUS PIECE..hiw more people don’t figure out the realisms behind the 3020-a process and the sham behind it-blows my mind. THE NYCDOE…is a corrupt…morally bankrupt entity. The facts in this piece are unreal. What is also unreal how all their punishments are subjective. You can “commit” some horrible bad teacher act on a Monday and be extorted for $ 5,000. I do it on a Tuesday, and get fired. An administrator can do the same thing and get a promotion. Only in the BORED OF EDUCATION. THATS RIGHT FOLKS….Children first. Let’s spend close to 50 million a year trying to get rid of these teachers who reporet wrongdoing, make inappropriate comments on Facebook, star in reality TV shows, or do some other minor stuff,

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