“My fellow [Newark Teachers Union] members: we are in a war; we are a labor union. We will act like a labor union at war; and since we did not start this war, we will not apologize to anyone for our actions.”That’s NTU President John Abeigon, front and center on the union’s website, proclaiming NTU's pugilistic position as the city school system continues to roil over long-sought transformation efforts. The impact of NTU's militancy on district improvement plans is the one piece that is missing from Joe Nocera’s otherwise fine review of Dale Russakoff’s book,“The Prize,” in today's New York Times.
There is another way to approach reform, a way that includes collaboration with the teachers, instead of bullying them or insulting them. A way that involves the community rather than imposing top-down decisions. A way that allows for cross-pollination between charters and traditional public schools so that the best teaching practices become commonplace in both kinds of schools.Okay. With the exception of Christie, no one wants to bully or insult teachers. But it’s a long way from declarations of war to “cross-pollination” and “collaboration."
Whitmire: You point out that janitorial services at Avon [a district school] cost $1,200 per student. Why would those janitors agree to give up those contracts? Civil service laws and seniority rules left the central office awash in clerks that weren’t needed. All this in Newark, where private sector jobs are scarce. Why would they give up those jobs?
Russakoff: I think parents want to have schools that are equipped to do for their kids what SPARK [a KIPP school] is doing. Everyone will say, oh my God that would involve going after the unions. That would involve going at civil service. Of course it would. But until that happens nothing is going to really change.
Whitmire: I apologize for my skepticism, but I don’t see teachers or janitors or the central office easily giving up any benefits and jobs.I also apologize for my skepticism. With Dick Cheney currently occupying the iron throne and declaring war, I'm not sure how things change either, especially as parents of Newark children increasingly choose charter schools over traditional district schools. Meanwhile, NTU flails about and angrily nurses its own dimunition.
Labels: AFT, Cerf, Newark