Shortly after a verdict in the Vergara v. California case was handed down, stripping the state’s teachers of their tenure protections, I received a flurry of text messages from colleagues asking me whether or not this could happen in New York State as well. My answer to them was YES. Yes, New York’s teachers can lose their tenure rights as well. In fact not only can it happen here, but it is likely to happen, barring a massive and militant mobilization of teachers across the Empire State.
The reason that it can happen here is because groups that are financially backed by billionaires typically get whatever they want in the United States when there is little or no resistance. While the movement in our state against the Common Core and high stakes testing has been impressive, it didn’t really gain any traction until parents got behind it. If New York teachers are going to beat back the coming attacks on tenure rights that not only protect our jobs, but allow us to advocate for our students, we are going to have to be willing to become activists. I don’t mean upping your VOTE-COPE contributions by a dollar or two per pay check or sending out a fax or a letter a handful of times per year to a representative. I mean a militant mobilization of our state’s teachers. A movement in which teachers unite, get informed, take to the streets and fight tooth and nail for the job protections that we have and for the schools that our students and communities deserve. We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines while our profession is ransacked by billionaire fat cats who seek to make a dollar on the backs of our students and make the profession of teaching synonymous with that of a Wal-Mart associate.
The PJSTA membership was more active than ever this past year. We thank you for that. But it’s not enough. Every member will need to increase their involvement next year. We will need to raise our voice to a collective roar. The last stand of teaching as we know it may very well be coming. As Chicago Teacher Union attorney Matt Farmer said in their battle against ed deformers, “We will see you in the streets. You will hear our voice in your sleep!” That should be the credo for New York’s teachers moving forward. Don’t sit back and wait for NYSUT, the AFT, or the NEA to save you. The time has come to take back your profession.
A great place to start your journey as an activist is with a little summer reading. You can pick up a copy of Labor Notes’ How to Jump-Start Your Union: Lessons from the Chicago Teachers. It details the transformation of the Chicago Teachers Union and how their rank-and-file was mobilized and given a voice in the fight against corporate reformers in Chicago. Next fall the PJSTA will be hosting a book party based on this book. Details will follow in the coming months.
Diane Ravitch has the winners (hedge fund managers) and losers (students and teachers) of the Vergara case here.
Arthur Goldstein does not want a seat at the reformer table.
Reality-Based Educator says it’s only a matter of time before corporate backed reformers go after tenure laws in New York.