Monday, May 27, 2013

UPDATED: Karen Lewis Responds to Attack on Schools With Political Mobilization; and the UFT is Endorsing Thompson?

UPDATED: Surprise, Surprise: Randy Mastro and Al D'Amato, top Thompson campaign contribution bundlers

At the 18:12 minute point in the Chicago Teachers Union video on researchers' work and teacher testimonials on a closing school --autopsy of an executed school, Karen Lewis, CTU president, moves onto the ball onto the sphere of political action: "CTU releases school closings study, ramps up political activities", April 16, 2013.
More recently, she noted that in the 2011 mayoral election by which Rahm Emanuel became elected to mayor's office, thereby enabling him to control the school board, Emanuel was elected with only 22 percent of the eligible voters ("CTU Kicks Off Effort To 'Change The Political Landscape," video, May 23).
“Brothers and sisters, mayoral control is a disaster,” said Karen Lewis, president of the CTU. “We must change the political landscape in Chicago.”
She then went on to say that the Union will start getting involved in politics, in registering voters and getting involved in political education including recruiting real grassroots candidates for elective office, in Chicago and in the Illinois state legislature in Springfield. The media have read in a more pointed fashion, with several headlines like this, "CTU hosts voter registration drive, aims to have Mayor Emanuel ousted in 2015 over school closings," and "The 2015 Mayoral Campaign Begins Tonight: CTU trains registrars in effort to unseat Mayor Rahm Emanuel."
Given the CORE-lead CTU of the last three years, we can anticipate that CTU political action will be on CTU terms, on teacher advocacy, that keeps in mind teachers' interests and stances.

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Lewis' and the CTU's stance will stand in contrast to the dominant faction of the United Federation of Teachers, which at the May 22 delegate assembly, had reps from various boroughs ringing the bells for former comptroller and School Board President Bill Thompson.
The choice is problematic on so many levels. He is partially himself to the education reformers' agenda, committing himself to continue parts of the Bloomberg legacy, such as charter school co-locations. And the central role of New York State Regent Merryl Tisch in his campaign is disturbing. Diane Ravitch has called Tisch the doyenne of high-stakes testing. Is it any wonder that so many Teachers College (Columbia University) students protested her award this month?
Note that the Gotham Schools site reported May 15 that Thompson with his education platform is seeking to not merely continue some Bloomberg initiatives, such as lengthening the school day, but expanding other ones:
Thompson would expand, not end, many of Bloomberg’s school policies.
He said he would replicate some of the small schools that Bloomberg has opened, continue the city’s nascent efforts to link high schools with industry partners, and revise — not abandon — the Department of Education’s method of evaluating schools.
The article continues:
But a number of items on Thompson’s platform would be extensions of Bloomberg’s policies. He said he would replicate schools such as Pathways in Technology High School and the Academy of Software Engineering that give New York City students direct paths to jobs.

Some of Thompson’s proposals could even run afoul of the union, depending on how they are implemented. He said he would “hold teachers accountable for what happens in their schools and classrooms” in part by using test scores, as is required under state law, and would launch a citywide initiative for longer school hours and school years. He said he would also work to pay “our most effective teachers” more to teach in high-need schools.

Thompson did not say how he would define effectiveness, taking a pass on a crucial issue that the next mayor will have to resolve. He also did not explain how he would pay for his costly proposals, other than by cutting “the excessive amounts of hundreds of millions of dollars” that the Department of Education has awarded in contracts to private vendors. (Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has so far been the only candidate to say he would raise taxes to support schools.)
Note that Thompson dodges the charter school issue:
And Thompson did not mention the divisive issue of charter schools at all, except to say that he would hold them to the same standards as district schools. (Because the schools are publicly funded but privately managed and authorized by state entities, the mayor has little sway over city charter schools’ operation.)
Endorsing Bill Thompson for mayor? No, our union should instead be educating its members on the differences between the candidates. The UFT should be warning against voting for Thompson.
(For on overview of the candidates, see Dana Rubinstein of Capital New York's "How different are the mayoral candidates from Bloomberg on education, actually?"
Anthony Weiner, former Queens Congressman and new entrant to the mayor's race, has staked himself to the right, asserting that city employees need to pay more of their health insurance costs. Christine Quinn, city council president, will drop out of tomorrow's education debate hosted by New Yorkers for Great Public Schools. Weiner will participate in the debate.
If Merryl Tisch's support for Thompson is not reason alone to give teachers pause enough for supporting Thompson (with money and as a top campaign advisor), there is the news that former Senator Alphonse D'Amato (Republican and stalwart ally of president Ronald Reagan) is financially supporting Thompson as well. This last point produced the ironic situation whereby front-runner Christine Quinn makes the reasonable critique in the race --ironic, as she is, with good reason, universally seen as the Bloomberg fourth-term candidate. As the New York Times reports:
“The last thing Democrats are looking for in a mayor of New York is someone who is ‘proud’ to have Al D’Amato’s support,” the e-mail said, citing a statement Mr. Thompson made to The New York Times.
Note the new New York Times interactive chart on campaign contributions to the mayoral candidates. Apparently, Randy Mastro (former Rudy Giuliani deputy mayor) and Al D'Amato are the number one and two campaign bundlers for the Thompson campaign. The site also links to a map with campaign contributions. The top fund-raiser in Manhattan, particularly in the ultra-wealthy Upper East Side district: Christine Quinn.
A Quinn campaign spokesperson continued the attack on Thompson, on points progressive teacher unionists should concur with:
On Wednesday, her campaign spokesman also belittled Mr. Thompson’s proposals on education, calling them “a mosaic of things that Christine C. Quinn has already proposed or done.”
It is important for the UFT to make a principled stand. With Weiner's entry into the race the anti-Quinn vote is further divided, potentially giving the Quinn a boost after her recent fall in the polls. Going with Thompson --simply to get a seat at the table with an insider power man-- is wrong-minded and incredibly short-sighted.

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