Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sock Puppetry

As if we didn't already know what the mayor thought about the protests being made over the proposed closing of some venerable high schools. Now, however, his callous disregard has been codified in the actions of a thoroughly useless educational review panel. The NY Times reports:

"In a contentious meeting that drew more than eight hours of public testimony, a city board voted early Wednesday morning to close 19 schools for poor performance, despite the protests from hundreds of observers who repeatedly drowned out the meeting with cheers, shouts and boos. More than 300 speakers addressed the board, the Panel for Educational Policy, beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene. By the time the panel began voting at 2:40 a.m. they had heard a litany of complaints from hundreds of parents, students, teachers and administrators and just a handful of speakers who said they supported closing the schools."

But, unfortunately, all of this turmoil was really a waste of time since the panel is purely there for, well, we're not sure what it's there for: "The panel has been widely criticized as a rubber-stamp to the Bloomberg administration and has largely held an obscure role in education policy. But under new laws governing the mayor’s control of the school system, the panel was required to make the final approval of closures of low performing schools, a centerpiece of the mayor and Chancellor Joel I. Klein’s effort to overhaul the school system."

Which underscores the extent to which the legislature really fell down on the job when it reauthorized the mayoral control edifice last spring. And, if our observation of the role of the UFT is correct-that it's support proved crucial in the state assembly-than it appears that the chickens may be coming home to roost. And our point may not have been well taken when we said: "Let's be very clear. Mayoral control was effected because it was passed in the Assembly in spite of fairly strong opposition from city assembly members. The assembly has been lavishly funded by the UFT-and the union's thumb on the scale of mayoral control would have been its death knell, So, what happened? Put simply, a deal was made between Bloomberg and the union-something that will be revealed, like the proverbial player to be named later, when the teachers' contract is announced."

Why not? Because the player to be named later here is not being elevated to the majors-and the UFT is finding out that he may have made the proverbial deal with the devil. As the Times notes elsewhere: "Breaking a long-established pattern in labor negotiations, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg plans to demand that city teachers agree to a significantly smaller raise in their next contract or face the prospect of 2,500 job cuts."

Ouch! It looks as if the UFT sold the cow for a bag of magic beans that are, on closer inspection, rather ordinary. And, if so, it means that a chance for truly democratizing the educational governance process-and holding Bloomberg/Klein more accountable-was lost for the foreseeable future.

Which is why the following deserves to get the final word: "During the long overnight session, there was anger and there was theater. Two parents broke out sock puppets for their presentation. “Hi everyone, I’m a concerned parent,” said Jane Hirschmann, founder of the antitesting group Time Out From Testing, as she held up one puppet. “Hi,” replied Lisa Donlan of the Lower East Side, holding up another sock. “I am a puppet from the Panel for Educational Policy, and I brought my rubber stamp.”