MaryEllen Elia Launches Attack on Buffalo Teachers

Via the Buffalo News…

In one of her most significant actions as state education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia has granted Buffalo Superintendent Kriner Cash unprecedented power to make changes at the district’s most struggling schools, bypassing the teachers union contract.

Those changes could include a longer school day and year, required teacher training and more control over staffing – all things Cash says are essential to improve student performance.

“Students at these persistently struggling schools need help right now,” Elia wrote in a statement. “The receivership law gives the superintendent enhanced authority in order to maintain local control while facilitating rapid improvement in student outcomes. This receivership collective bargaining agreement will, among other things, enable Dr. Cash to more effectively utilize and deploy effective teachers and make changes to programs and teaching assignments – all of which will ensure that students in these struggling schools are provided with  Teachers can be  increased educational opportunities.”

This is very clear evidence for where corporate ed reformers are seeking to drive their agenda.  Use rigged standardized test scores to declare schools to be “struggling,” those schools are placed in receivership.  The state then steps in and bypasses the teachers’ contract.  Teachers can be replaced on a whim, their working conditions arbitrarily changed even though there is no evidence such changes improve student learning.

I am hoping the events in Buffalo are the impetus for mass organizing by NYSUT or, at the very least, STCaucus.  Without the rank and file organizing at the general membership level New York’s teachers will continue to be unprepared to take the collective action necessary to defeat an agenda such as the one we face now.  A commenter on the Perdido Street School Blog’s post on this story had this accurate comment regarding potential statewide action (emphasis is mine)…

A ten day strike in 2006 nearly destroyed the Transit Workers Union in NYC–dues checkoff pulled for two years (yes, I know, Friedrichs might take care of that for us on its own), members fined two days pay for each day on strike (though this was mitigated by the judge) and Roger Toussaint in jail for three days (yes, we all might like to see Mighty Mike in an orange jumpsuit). Huge public backlash against the Transit Workers.

I’m retired so have no position about a strike, personally. But there needs to be a great deal of prep work done with rank-and-file if anyone expects that a strike resolution would pass in any local. Calling for a strike may be useful talk resulting in positive action–or not–but it’s not a matter to be thrown out there as casual conversation without a deep understand for the consequences.

We have members who don’t vote in union elections. We have an executive board controlled by the Unity Politboro. We have a public that might not be inclined to support a teachers strike and public support, or at least acquiescence, is important if we were to violate the Taylor Law.

All I’m asking is that folks talk about a “strike” intelligently, knowing just how difficult it would be to organize, explain to members, maintain and what the probable consequences would be.

Only then, pick up the pickets signs and walk out the door….

Click here to read the PJSTA’s resolution in opposition to receivership that the executive board passed last month.

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