THIS Is Our Moment!

February 24, 2014 — 4 Comments

Dan Lupkin
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:

  1. Sign the petition for a fair contract for NYC workers
  2. Watch The Contract NYC Educators Deserve video
  3. Follow morecaucusnyc on Facebook, Twitter & Youtube
  4. RSVP to MORE’s March 8th General Meeting in Manhattan
  5. Join MORE

* UNITY is the leadership clique that has held unchecked power within the UFT and AFT (NYC and national teachers unions) for decades.

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4 responses to THIS Is Our Moment!

  1. 
    real time educator February 25, 2014 at 5:50 am

    It is disappointing to say the least that our brothers need to glorify a vision of a militant coup which simply is not there!
    We all have ideas that resemble each each other’s views, but to say that
    MORE is ” winning” anything, is delusional. This is not a war but a made up fallacy in the minds of some power hungry people that want to create a military type vision of take over for the union. Real leadership comes from action. UNITY comes from people that agree with each other. there are simply MORE of Unity people than there are of any other in this union. if MORE IS SO BRILLIANT , THEN CREATE YOU’RE OWN ACTIONS AND STOP RIDING ON THE COATTAILS OF OUR LEADERSHIP WHICH BTW, MAKES THINGS HAPPEN. YOU NEED APPROVAL. THAT DOES NOT MAKE RANK AND FILE EDUCATORS BUT RANK AND FILE LUNACY!

  2. 

    Doubt they are “core” tenets of UNITY. Not sure anything really is.

  3. 

    to real time educator,

    It is sad that MORE has to toot their own horn at the expense of UNITY if we’re supposedly all on the same side. But the UFT has been far, far behind in fighting for teachers. Why did the UFT accept the inaccurate, morale-busting RTTT teacher evals while Chicago fought back?

    I now have 20% of my evaluation based on ELA test scores, even though I don’t teach English. What bizarro planet are we on that this came to pass – MOST teachers do not teach Math or ELA, yet we are ‘accountable’ for test scores in these “core” subjects? Am I supposed to be teaching English during my lunch breaks so I don’t get fired?

    What about the fact that these tests are not even accurate for Math and ELA teachers? Why are teachers like me being punished for choosing to work in schools with predictably low test scores? This is the opposite of the successful models in Finland, where low performing schools get better, not worse.

    The only reason I even heard about MORE is because they were standing up against the testing and evaluation nonsense. Internal union politics sounds like the last thing I ever want to concern myself with, I just want to teach. But as I discovered the ugly politics of it, I saw that the biggest teacher union in the nation gave up with a whimper.

    After the expansion of testing, the new evaluation regime and the horribly premature rush into the Common Core, I got concerned, because my career is now being threatened. And I found out that UFT was not fighting. When I went to a MORE meeting, I heard exactly what I thought we need to be doing – getting active, engaging parents and pushing back.

    As stated in the above article, MORE did create their own actions, and finally got a resolution passed through the democratic process. So if you are trying to defend UNITY, you need to explain why RTTT policies were okay before but are not now, and why they are not listening to the people, especially given the parent outrage, the bipartisan legislation being proposed, the teacher revolt, the principal revolt, the superintendant revolt and the recent flare ups between Cuomo and the Board of Regents.

    I don’t see MORE as trying to get power for the fun of it, I see MORE trying to reverse bad policies. I see UNITY changing their tune, leading from behind, caught with their pants down because they didn’t fight RTTT long ago.

    Also “you’re” is not a possessive and your last sentence is anti-grammatical.

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