Monday, February 28, 2011

TINOs: Teachers in Name Only?

The NY Post has a story yeterday that reported on the 1500 UFT members who are being paid not to teach as part of a negotiated union-release program: "In the city's funny math, you get only one teacher for the price of two. The Department of Education pays about 1,500 teachers for time they spend on union activities -- and pays other teachers to replace them in the classroom. It's a sweetheart deal that costs taxpayers an extra $9 million a year to pay fill-ins for instructors who are sprung -- at full pay -- to carry out responsibilities for the United Federation of Teachers."

In a time of fiscal austerity, some folks think that the practice should end: "With Mayor Bloomberg calling for thousands of teacher layoffs to balance the 2012 budget, critics say it's time to halt the extravagant benefit. "In these tight fiscal times, it defies common sense to pay two different people to do one job," said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, a government watchdog. "It's a waste of money."

Perhaps Dadey is right, but there's a couple of larger points that get lost in the midst of all the union focused bashing-and, ironically, it is made by E.J. McMahon, certainly no fan of labor. As he pointed out in the same edition of the Post, commenting on Wisconsin and Governor Cuomo's challenges to rein in labor costs: "It’s pointless to blame the unions themselves for this situation. After all, they are only acting the way unions are supposed to act — relentlessly pursuing the interests of their members, period. The real blame falls on the generations of elected officials who have abdicated their responsibility by creating and nurturing this system."

And the issue with the union released teachers fall on the nonfeasance of the current occupant of city hall. As the union spokesman told the Post: "UFT spokesman Dick Riley said such arrangements are common among city unions "and were instituted with the agreement of NYC government."  The mayor, probably out of town, was unavalable for a comment.

It is high time for both the Post and the NY Daily News to refocus their attention on where it belongs-the mismanagement of the educational edifice by the mayor and his dearly departed ed head, Joel Klein. (These papers share in the culpability since they promoted the mayor's faux achievements uncritically.) After all, Bloomberg and Klein are the ones who larded up the DOE payroll with 16,000 additional personnel-money fro nothing in our view. And they're the ones who promoted an out sized NYC educational achiement that is turining out to be made almost entirely out of whole cloth.

Now, what may be true is that the UFT colluded for too long with the mayor's phony test score bonus regime-but the blame needs to be redirected to the man in charge of the fiasco. And can we stop with all of this LIFO propopaganda? Seniority may be a flawed system for hiring and firing teachers but, much like democracy, it might also be better than all of the alternatives-at least under the current structure of public education. In NYC, are we going to replace seniority with a system controlled by Bloomberg and his lackeys? Talk about making a bad situation worse!

The reality here is that the mayor's nine year rule has been less than stellar in regards to the educational change that he told us should be the basis for determining whether he has been a success or a failure. When we add the incredible increase in funds and personnel into the mix, the evaluation falls from a D to an F. The teacher's union has played a role in all of this, but it hasn't been a starring one. That honor goes to Hizzoner.