Special Education Teacher/UFT Delegate
PS 58, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
MORE is the bellwether, the authentic voice of working educators in NYC.
This is Our Moment!
We are on the right side of history, several steps ahead, waiting for politicians and union leadership to catch up.
Current events bear this out; after the excesses of corporate reform reached their apex in 12 years of Bloomberg, the pendulum has begun, slowly, to return to center. Parents, students, and teachers are mobilizing en mass, and Movement of Rank and File Educators is at the forefront of the resistance. It used to be a lonely place, but it has started to become crowded lately. Positions long held by MORE, like strenuous opposition to high stakes testing and the use of VAM growth scores to evaluate teachers, were until very recently considered by the power structure to be extreme. Now, they are core tenets of UNITY* doctrine, and have the potential to be heard with a more sympathetic ear under DeBlasio and Fariña.
Take, for example, UNITY’s attempt to co-opt MORE positions on high stakes testing and teacher evaluation. At the UFT Delegate Assembly in November, MORE attempted to use the signatures gathered across NYC from teachers, parents, and supporters of quality public education to introduce a resolution calling for a moratorium on using High Stakes Testing to evaluate teachers. UNITY staffers attempted to blend in with MORE members and supporters who were picketing, chanting, and leafleting in front of UFT headquarters. They tried to claim the issue as their own by handing out flyers of their own watered down resolution, then later passing it during the Assembly.
Recently, AFT President Randi Weingarten reversed her earlier vociferous and long-lasting support for using junk science based on student test scores and declared that VAM is a Sham. Since then, UFT President Michael Mulgrew has abruptly stopped talking about how lucky we are to have test scores used as an “objective” measure of our performance to protect us from abusive administrators. He no longer declares his love for the evaluation system now driving teachers and administrators out of the profession.
The ground is shifting beneath Mulgrew’s feet, and the cozy understandings he has come to with our enemies regarding High Stakes Testing and Common Core (to name just two of the big ones) in the name of expediency and maintaining “a place at the table” are coming back to haunt him. He has no choice but to appropriate MORE positions, and pretend they were his all along. He has even gone so far as to attempt to commandeer the MORE motto “Our Working Conditions Are Our Students’ Learning Conditions” for his own disingenuous use.
The UFT Delegate Assembly, to which every public school in NYC is supposed to send at least one person to represent their members, is generally about as democratic as the Soviet Politburo. There are lots of votes, but since the vast majority of people in the room belong to UNITY caucus, and have thus signed a loyalty oath, anything not introduced by the UNITY leadership tends to die without a second thought.
Recently, MORE introduced a resolution calling for Solidarity with the Portland Association of Teachers. Even to put it on the agenda for the day requires a ⅔ majority vote from the delegates, a task that is usually impossible for independent motions. This time, however, the call for an official statement of Solidarity got the ⅔ majority necessary to put it on the agenda. The UNITY leadership, seeing which way the wind was blowing, refused to crush the upwelling of grassroots support, and the resolution passed nearly unanimously.
Had the UFT leadership even been aware that a strike vote was imminent in Portland? We have no way of knowing. There was nothing on the agenda related to the tense situation in Oregon. What we DO know is that MORE was there first, and that we have pulled the slumbering giant of the UFT into at least symbolic solidarity with the stalwart teachers of PAT. It was a small victory, but for many of us there, it was a slim ray of light, a vanishingly rare occasion on which a resolution drafted by working teachers ACTUALLY makes its way through the creaky, corrupt, rusted apparatus of the UFT Delegate Assembly.
We have a long way to go, and so the difficulty of the struggle in which we are engaged should never be minimized, but it is worth celebrating when shafts of light penetrate the darkness. Now the NY State Education Department, under tremendous pressure from parents, students, and educators, is starting to do their own weak backpedaling on the Bloomberg/Gates/Rhee fever dream of Common Core, High Stakes Testing, data, and “accountability”. And the voters of NYC, despite UNITY’s cynical calculations, elected a mayor who, in keeping with his campaign promises, appointed a schools Chancellor who has expressed serious discontent with the status quo.
Teacher militancy in places like Chicago, Portland, Massachusetts, St. Paul, and Los Angeles inspires and comforts us by reminding us that we are not alone in this struggle. Here in New York City, at the Talk Back to Testing Forum in Manhattan, where teachers, parents, and students stood united as public school stakeholders, the positivity and enthusiasm was palpable. An energized crowd networked, brainstormed, agitated and held forth, and the morale of the stakeholders assembled was high; far higher than it could ever have been in Bloomberg’s authoritarian shadow.
The victories that we and our allies are winning are modest, but they are starting to accumulate. MORE is on the leading edge of a wave that has just begun to take back our nation’s public schools from the consultants, lawyers, billionaires and amateurs who have terrorised our students with data, “rigor”, and austerity for far too long.
MORE is not ahead of the curve because we have superior information or resources. We are Rank and File, volunteers engaged in the day-to-day struggles of education in the 21st century. We have no paid staff, no cushy second salaries, no political contributions to grease the wheels.
MORE and our allies across the city, state, and nation are ahead of the curve BECAUSE were are Rank and File. Most REAL educators have known enough to gag when told to say “ahhh” and accept Corporate Education Deform from the start. We have been trying to drag UNITY, NYCDOE, and NYSED, kicking and screaming, into the light for years now. Working teachers overwhelmingly support MORE positions, even if they’ve never heard of MORE. We used to be a voice crying out in the wilderness, but increasingly, we have a chorus joining in with us.
This is Our Moment!
All that is left is to seize it.
Possible Next Steps:
- Sign the petition for a fair contract for NYC workers
- Watch The Contract NYC Educators Deserve video
- Follow morecaucusnyc on Facebook, Twitter & Youtube
- RSVP to MORE’s March 8th General Meeting in Manhattan
- Join MORE
* UNITY is the leadership clique that has held unchecked power within the UFT and AFT (NYC and national teachers unions) for decades.