By Norm Scott
Retired Chapter Leader P.S. 147
All polls among parents and teachers show that class size is the number one improvement people feel would have a real impact. It is an issue that unites parents and teachers on common ground. Many teachers have told me they wouldn’t be as upset at the way the new contract was structured financially if at least they got some improvement in such a basic working condition.
The last time the UFT contract improved class sizes was in 1967, my first year of teaching. It took me a few years to realize that even those numbers were somewhat bogus given the loopholes that allowed the DOE to push beyond the boundaries. There was little hope for improvement over the past 20 years of anti-teacher and anti-real reform mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, who expressed the typical ed deformer attitude that class size didn’t matter. And before them we were still recovering from the mid-70s fiscal crisis that so decimated the schools.
But now, with a so-called progressive mayor and new administration at Tweed, here was the chance to codify things in the new contract that would absolutely make it impossible to jam 30 kids in a kindergarten class and close down, at the very least, some of the loopholes. It didn’t happen. And worst of all, the UFT/Unity Caucus leadership didn’t even try to put the class size issue on the bargaining table. What was put in the contract was the fallacious “professional development” – the dreaded PD that many teachers must undergo. That is Chancellor Carmen Farina’s mantra – her history is one of not feeling smaller classes are as important as the PD. I guess she doesn’t realize that a teacher’s abilities, no matter how good or bad he/she is, can be affected by the number of children in the room. How unfortunate that our union leaders seem to agree with Farina.
Norm blogs continuously at ednotesonline.com