Please come to this special MORE Caucus event on Sunday afternoon, February 28 12-3 pm at P.S. 58, 330 Smith Street, Brooklyn. ATR issues will be among the issues on the agenda. Other agenda issues include Family leave, Opt-out, a Member-driven union.
The MORE Caucus-UFT platform pledges to reintegrate ATRs into the schools, assigning ATRs into schools of their choice in the district. Co-location with charter schools and other new schools has driven the excessing crisis. Perhaps the biggest factor currently impacting principals’ reluctance to hire ATRs, is “Fair Student Funding.” Additionally, “leadership academy” principals want to hire “teaching fellows” that are absent of institutional memory.
The MORE platform pledges to end the UFT involvement in UFT charter schools except as representation of union members.The MORE platform calls for the union to be member-driven. It calls for union positions to be subject to election and recall. And it calls for dues increases to be voted on at the Delegate’s Assembly.
The Absent Teacher Reserve: An Injury to One is an Injury to All
By: Jia Lee
MORE Presidential Candidate
Imagine you’re standing alongside a rapid flowing river. You see someone being carried along mercilessly. You jump in, holding onto a rope and pull this person out. As soon as you emerge, you see another, so you jump in again. Each time you emerge, you turn to see more people. Perhaps, others join in solidarity. We become so enrapt in trying to save people, we never venture to find the root source of the problem.
The Current Situation
According to a recent Chalkbeat article, City Data Shows Number in Absent Teacher Reserve Remains Steady*, there are currently 1,083 teachers in the ATR pool, down from 1,102 in January 2015. The city reports 500 new teachers hired full time in 2014 and 2015, and since January of 2014, 450 teachers have exited the system. The article does not specify who was hired full time and who left the system. There is no breakdown. We know new teachers are being hired into the system while hearing horror stories by our mid-career colleagues in the ATR. The numbers don’t adequately tell the stories and experiences of the teachers who have been displaced, made certain through negotiations by union leadership.
Further, there is no mention of the unfair and arbitrary treatment of teachers in rotation or those placed into provisional placements. In a system that is under one of the most top down and oppressive conditions ever, being in the ATR has seeped negative connotations and stigma. Internalized oppression has manifested into traumatic disorders and affected the quality of life of so many of our colleagues. It’s unconscionable. Yet, our union leadership fails to understand that an injury to one is an injury to all.
Despite the provisions in the newest contract that is supposed to make it easier for members in the ATR pool to go on interviews, there is an unspoken and subversive feeling that something is not right. Has anyone outside of the ATR asked how teachers in this situation are evaluated? Most, so entrenched in their own survival, don’t realize that those in the ATR are under an observation and evaluation system that is not written anywhere in our contract. Ask anyone who is in this situation at your school.
The framing of the stories continue to be controlled by the same folks who have spent untold billions to privatize public education. We have yet to read or hear about schools as places where people form relationships to foster nurturing places for teaching and learning- that once dismantled, the human nature of that work is destroyed. Teachers are not interchangeable widgets. At the core of of a school is the community of people within it. Forcing teachers to go from school to school, as if they are interchangeable, ignores and worse, does not care to support the teachers, hence the students in the school. We must understand that all UFT members are subject to arbitrary school closures based on invalid metrics, so we must stand in solidarity with teachers who are placed in our schools and welcome them.
In the Chalkbeat article, there’s an acknowledgement that the number of teachers in the ATR have remained steady due to the stall in school closures that were so aggressive before DeBlasio took office. Even with the stall, there was an agreement made before the change of mayoral and chancellorship power. Only one side remains constant, and that is the Unity leadership who helped to create the ATR. It is frustrating beyond comprehension as to why, given the precarious conditions of moving and having to adapt from school to school, our union leadership shot down a resolution by a very well known teacher in the ATR, to have, in the least, its own chapter with elected representation. One would think that the union leadership has something to gain from preventing such empowerment. As a chapter leader of seven years who’s attended nearly every delegate assembly, I started to take note of all the times our current president proudly stated that they helped us avoid layoffs. However, what the leadership does not seem to remind folks of is how they conceded to school closures and the displacement of teachers, an egregious act that would put them in the same boat as ed deformers.
Returning to the analogy I started with, through collaborative research and work with others within and beyond MORE, we have made our way to the source of the attack on our profession, students and schools. Many already know that the UFT is the single largest teachers union local. We stand in the way of a greater objective by the corporate elite who are vying for control. Years ago, our leadership cowered to the false rhetoric being put out by the Koch brothers and Broads that the source of an “achievement gap” was the teachers. So, despite the mountains of evidence that standardized tests could not be used to evaluate schools and teachers, our leadership welcomed it. They welcomed mayoral control, the Common Core with its high stakes tests, Danielson rubrics, charters (the UFT started 2) and scripted curriculum, while doing nothing to combat the managerial and lean production model used by administrators coming out of the leadership academy.
The state then used a norm-referenced bell curve designed to ensure a bottom percentage of schools that could then be labeled as failing. Many of those schools were targeted for charter co-locations. As schools closed, teachers, students and entire communities were displaced. This played right into the false narrative by ed deformers. The leadership of our union fails to acknowledge that their strategies of “having a seat at the table” are dangerous and damaging. What they helped to create is a breakdown in membership-wide solidarity. Our first defense is us; it has not been and will not be the leadership.
The MORE caucus, is not, in and of itself, a top-down structure. We have bylaws that ensure term limits and democratic decision making. If you have ever attended a MORE general meeting, you know that we painstakingly work to make ensure that anyone who wants to speak on an issue, raise proposals and have an opinion that differs from others is heard. We work to have distributive leadership within our structure, creating, in practice, the kind of union we want to see.
Our MORE 2016 Platform** states:
- MORE seeks to dismantle the notion of an absent teacher reserve and provide for all teachers to find a school community that is the right fit.
- MORE believes in a strong ATR chapter with elected representatives