Thursday, June 02, 2005

(Impromptu) New York City UFT Protest & March

Today the NY Times, in an article entitled "Student Scores Climb Strongly Across City" by David M. Herszenhorn, trumpets a rise in New York City reading and math tests, which is certain to give current Republican mayor Mike UFT ProtestBloomberg a boost in his upcoming reelection bid, since improving the City's public education has been one of his major platform points. The article actually even attributes the sharp rise among fifth graders' scores to Bloomberg's threat to force fifth graders to repeat the grade (i.e., tough love). Some of his opponents, like Democrats Manhattan Borough President and mayoral candidate C. Virginia Fields and City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, as well as educational specialists, have unsurprisingly and rightly asked that before anyone declares success, there needs to be more study and contextualization of the results. According the Times, there are questions about whether the tests were easier this year, and also about the excessive emphasis on preparation i testing in these subjects to the detriment of others. But what do New York City teachers think?

I'm not sure--I know a few, and intend to ask them--but I did participate briefly in a United Federation of Teachers protest march westward on 14th Street and then up 6th Avenue. The union, a local of the New York State United Teachers, is seeking a new and fair contract from the Schools Commissioner Joel Klein and the mayor, and have taken out subway ads and TV commercials to bolster their cause. They've gone without a contract for over two years. Although I haven't taught in a New York City public school since 1996, my heart lies with the teachers, who do a yeoman's job, often working long hours, dealing with an inflexible bureaucracy and unsympathetic administrators, and usually with minimal support and respect (cf. Ms. Soucouyant's blog and Mrs. Treasure's Feeding the Devil, for example). My participation was impromptu; I was coming out of 24/7 Gym after renewing for the summer when I noticed the vanguard of the marchers, placards and banners in hand, their chants filling the air like incense. A cordon of policepersons on foot and bikes bordered them on the roadway side of the pavement. I stood for a moment considering whether I wanted to go straight to the PATH or join them, and decided to walk with them in solidarity. Workers--and teachers of the world--unite! (I'm a faculty member at a private institution that doesn't have a teachers' union.) I walked part of the way up 6th Avenue with them, then turned around and doubled back to my underground shuttle to New Jersey.
UFT Protest
When I got home, I checked the online papers; no mention of the march whatsoever. I saw nothing on the local news either. And even on the New York State teachers Website and on the United Federation of Teachers Website, there's no information about the march. But I did witness and photograph (two blurry snapshots, with my cellphone, above and below) and join the marchers, so I know they weren't a phantasm. Even if the possibility of a new and decent contract for them remains one.


  1. hey john..thanks for posting this. I've been getting loads of emails from teachers i know in the city and the like, getting me up to speed about the UFT still not having a contract after 2 years. Yet,Bloomberg is happily siphoning money over to the owner of the Jets for a new stadium over near the west side highway..the hell? Have the Jets had a decent enough season to warrant that?
    Better yet, why isn't Bloomberg--who's such a fan of NCLB and the "improvement" of the NYC school system--doing so much to FURTHER damage the schools by not giving teachers basic needs LIKE A CONTRACT?

    Seriously, I see why so many teachers leave the city to teach in the suburbs and private schools and/or why SO MANY leave the profession after one year of service...

    This looks like it will be an ongoing battle that I MUST keep abreast of since I will be teaching in the big apple this fall....

  2. Wow. Things are bad all over. John, you are so briliant. Ever considered opening a charter school?


  3. Thanks for this. I had heard about the ridiculous working-without-contract issue, but now the march! Much news about the stadius these days. Anyway, I'm glad you documented the march here.

  4. You know I'm not a conspiracy (of silence?) person, but I've seen 2 separate groups of union pickets outside office buildings in downtown B-more in the past month -- with NO coverage of what they were about in the local print media or on the TV news I've watched....and now the same happened to you in NYC...hmmm...if a picket line isn't covered by the media, does it exist? And just as importantly, is it possible that there is more (union) unrest going on out there that we don't know about because it doesn't make the papers?

  5. First of all, thanks to everyone who replied. My apologies for the typos and sentence fragments, but I often hammer these things out and revise them on the fly, so I do apologize for the sloppiness (especially in a post about teaching!).

    Ryan, you're so right about that stadium, which isn't only for the Jets, but for an Olympic bid. Does New York REALLY need the Olympics? Why? Whose ego will this stroke? Can the City afford them? Shouldn't the money that'll be funneled into that boondoggle for the well-connected be used for public education and other public goods, which ultimately effect the City far more than a once-in-a-lifetime, unaffordable showcase?

    Treasure, first I added you to post (and have directed many people to your blogs whenever they start going on about public education this and that, blah blah blah). A few years ago when I was at East Side Community High School, I thought about starting a charter school. I'm very bad at bureaucracy, though, but I definitely support any attempts to improve public education, and I definitely think charter schools are one excellent response. But what about the children who AREN'T in charter schools? Where is our public will to ensure that those children--and the dedicated people like you who are teaching them--get the support they need? It's criminal what our society does to its children; actually, we have criminals ("high crimes and misdemeanors") running things, so that should be no surprise.

    Mendi, I think that West Side Stadium is going to be forced into reality. It's the general Republican method (which Joseph Goebbels refined into an art). Them keep saying the same thing over and over until you literally brainwash or bludgeon people into believing--or at least agreeing with--them, and it's this way with that stadium, which is one of the worst ideas they've come up with in a while. Haven't they learned anything--no. Build it, and we will pay. For years to come. That's the last thing they've actually fathomed.

    Reggie, I was listening to the Randi Rhodes show this evening, and she was talking about how the media refuse to cover marches and protests in this country, thereby allowing those in power to say, No one cares, no one is protesting, so get over it and stop whining. Yet we see protests in Lebanon or Ukraine or Uzbeki...oops, strike that one, Karimov the Butcher is one of W's good friends. Protests in places that are convenient to the current definitions of "freedom" and "liberty." Teachers wanting and needing a contract--hey, Bloomberg's got an election to win. Hey, did you hear the one about the dazzling new stadium on the West Side of Manhattan...?