Each of the proposed contract changes sells out new teachers.
First, and most obviously, the new two-tired healthcare system. Obviously, any two-tired system flies in the face of solidarity. It began with the pension, is now leaking into healthcare, what’s next? Differing salary schedules based on start date? It’s deplorable that we could do the same work for different benefits. Healthcare is a human right; we all deserve access to the same quality care.
Second, and also obvious. Raises lower than the rate of inflation are no raises at all. The cost of living in New York (rents have increased 3.9% annually). Givebacks now set us back for the rest of our career.
Third, less obvious and maybe more scary, the new ‘psychological fitness’ screening. Instead of supporting new teachers through their first few years, we’re going to weed-out those deemed ‘unfit’? I can’t imagine what it would be like to spend years in school training to be a teacher, take out tens of thousands in debt for this pursuit, and then be told I’m ‘psychology unfit’. As a trauma survivor who takes medication I find this particularly frightening. The trauma I experienced as a child is part of what inspired me to become a teacher, and helps me connect with and support my students with similar experiences. The idea that the experiences that led me to teaching could also be the barrier that keeps out future generations is frightening. As an educator of color, I know this criteria will continue the whitening of our teaching force. Not to mention that the details of this criteria are not yet released, will be created by educorporations, and are unlikely to be scientifically backed (Sound familiar? Reminds me of our value-added evaluation system).
And on evaluations- teachers rated developing and ineffective with have even more observations. Many teachers are rated developing in their first years (which is logical, since we are still developing our craft); instead of supporting these teachers to become better teachers we are going to just add to the heat of admin fire. That will push more people who have the potential to be great teachers out of the field- even if they’re paid a little more to teach in hard-to-staff schools in the Bronx.
On that note- did anyone ask teachers who are leaving hard-to-staff schools what would make them stay? Maybe pay is part of the answer, but I’d guess that mentoring, class size, and support services for struggling students would be high on the list. Where are those provisions in this new contract?
So this is the deal we’re selling to new teachers: Get your education degree, spend tens of thousands of dollars doing so, but if the system decides you’re psychologically unfit you won’t be able to get a teaching job. If you do make it over this ambiguous hurdle, you will have crappy health care for at least the first few years, so make sure you don’t get sick while working 50+ hours a week in a room full of children. If you’re not yet an effective teacher in your first years, instead of supporting you, they’re going to increase the intensity of the scrutiny from your direct supervisors. Oh, and plan keep searching for new roommates every year, because your pay won’t be keeping up with that of your peers.
So what would a contract that supports new teachers look like? Quality healthcare for all and wages competitive with our peers in other fields. Less admin scrutiny and more supportive, non-evaluative mentoring for established colleagues. A clear path to tenure. Debt forgiveness… the list goes on.
Don’t sell out new teachers. We are the future of the profession. We are the future of our union.