By Marcus B. McArthur, UFT Executive Board, City As School HS
On March 22nd at the Panel for Education Policy Meeting (PEP), the DOE Chancellor and other appointed cronies, sat doe-eyed as teachers, alumni, parents, and community members spoke out against Central Park East 1’s wrecking-ball principal and the unjust closing of J.H.S. 145. A neighborhood zoned school in the Bronx, J.H.S. 145 occupies the same building as a Success Academy charter school, the test-prep suspension factory run by Eva Moskowitz, leading Wall Street’s charge to colonize our schools. J.H.S. 145 was designated a “renewal school” in need of resources and institutional support to meet the needs of the children served by their community. They were promised resources. They were promised three years to right the ship. The resources never came. The DOE cut their turn around time by a year.
One more betrayal and counting…
The Chancellor offered little beyond the absurd declaration that these decisions were made “with the best interests of the kids at heart.” Translation: Eva and her hedge fund backers want more space and rather than paying rent for a political rival, we prefer to throw under the bus an under resourced school serving a politically expendable community. I have news for our elected officials.
Expendability will no longer be tolerated!
At the UFT Executive Board meeting two days before the PEP, MORE and New Action urged the UFT leadership to shorten the March 22nd Delegate Assembly to rally delegates and chapter leaders at the PEP against these betrayals of our public school system. I argued that we live in extraordinary times that require extraordinary responses. Normal protocols and rules of political engagement no longer apply. Our “elected officials” do not respond to our congenial ‘seat at the table’ politics, where our mayor accepts our endorsement with one hand, while his Chancellor stabs us in the back with the other. Take note that our leadership voted down our call to action.
Make no mistake about it, every neighborhood public school, serving every working-class racial, ethnic, and religious community that populates our city, is threatened by the proliferation of segregated, Wall Street backed, union busting charters. Furthermore, the enduring culture of dictatorial leadership fostered by the Bloomberg era DOE, has bred a new generation of catastrophic principals that are destroying democratic school communities across the city. Fifty-seven years ago, after enduring years of egregious injustice in the workplace, our union drew a red line and said no more. This is our generation’s opportunity to do precisely that.
The democratic pageantry of PEP meetings, where we implore unelected bureaucrats to represent the will of the people, must be recognized for the colossal sham that they embody. The bureaucrats attend simply to maintain appearances—the guise of democracy in the midst of an oligarchy. Their body language and unresponsiveness communicates their disdain louder than the few words they may muster the energy to utter. PEP meetings exemplify the farce of mayoral control where the voice of parents, teachers, and students can be ignored unchecked. With each school closure, co-location, and rogue administrator run amok, our union leadership’s support of mayoral control becomes more absurd by the day.
In 1857 in front of an audience of American Abolition Society members and allies, Frederick Douglass offered a prescient message that we, union members and teachers, should heed:
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress…Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing on the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning.”
Have our political elites yet breached the threshold of injustice and wrong to which we quietly submit?
Have we yet recognized that those who profess to represent our interests, but attempt to pacify us, want rain without thunder and lightning?
Have we yet devised a set of cogent demands that will trigger genuine resistance?
The time for revolt is now.