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Grasping the Edu-Obvious: The Meaning of the Moskowitz Defeat – Updated

The results from yesterday’s primary election are in, and although it is not yet clear whether Freddy Ferrer will make the 40% cutoff which would give him the Democratic nomination for Mayor outright, Scott Stringer has handily beaten Eva Moskowitz for Manhattan Borough President by a margin of nine percentage points. Given that term limits had created an extraordinarily crowded field of nine candidates, a situation which worked to Moskowitz’s advantage with her narrow political base in the wealthiest part of Manhattan, the verdict of the electorate was rather decisive. There can be little question that she would have lost a two person race by a much wider margin. Since Moskowitz made no secret of her intentions to use the Manhattan Borough Presidency as a springboard for a run on the Mayor’s position, this is a significant result.

The UFT and organized labor in NYC supported Stringer, who has an impressive education, labor, civil rights and government reform record as a State Assemblyperson. And it is no secret, of course, that teachers in New York City were very angry with Moskowitz, after she decided that the way to advance her political fortunes was to engage in demagogic attacks on public school teachers. One would think that Al D’Amato’s defeat by Chuck Schumer would have been an object lesson in the fact that New York voters do not reward politicians who think that there is pay dirt in launching broadsides against teachers and unions, but it appears that some in their ranks are slow learners.

Eduwonk has taken on the task of being Moskowitz’s apologist on the Internet, so you can read all of her ex post facto justifications for her poor showing there. [It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it, and Eduwonk seems constitutionally unable these days to exercise even minimal balance and perspective on matters involving teacher unions, so it seems like he is the man for the position.] We have seen some pretty lame excuses by defeated politicians in our time, but these have to go in the first rank. She is suggesting that the well-established New York practice of fusion parties cross-endorsing and supporting the major party candidate closest to their political views, which dates back to the 1930s, is somehow a violation of city campaign finance laws. The board overseeing these matters has responded that it is clearly permissible. As long as the fusion party’s campaign is not coordinated with the candidate’s primary election campaign, which clearly did not happen in this case, there is no violation of the law, a board spokesperson told the New York Times. These accusations were a sign of Moskowitz’s increasing desperation in the final weeks of a losing campaign, part of a pattern that included calling the Department of Education to complain that teachers were campaigning against her. She seems to have some issues with the First Amendment, as well as New York state election law.

Eduwonk’s case for Moskowitz “doing the right thing” on educational issues should win an award for creative writing in the fiction category in one of those blog competitions. The notion that the UFT would oppose Moskowitz, or any other elected official for that matter, on the basis of support for charter schools can not pass the laugh test. Not only is the UFT sponsoring two charter schools of its own, but it endorsed Governor George Pataki’s bid for re-election after he had singlehandedly pushed the legislation establishing charter schools through the state legislature and signed it into law. And there is a long list of other elected officials we have actively supported, including Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, who have been much more vigorous and intelligent advocates of charter schools than Moskowitz.

Eduwonk is quite forthright about the fact that Moskowitz did her best to sabotage efforts to reach agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement in New York City, even though teachers have now gone for two years without a raise. It would have been a “sell out,” he tells us in “edu-translation,” for Bloomberg to engage in a negotiating process which would result in a contract. Perhaps in a Milton Friedmanite world where collective bargaining and unions do not exist, but not in New York State where public employee law requires ‘good faith’ bargaining on the part of the city. And certainly not in a context where the union had made a whole series of path-breaking reform proposals, from a school-based contract for new small schools to salary differentials for working in low-performing, high needs schools to expedited disciplinary procedures.

In the very same paragraph which begins with his account of how Moskowitz set out to sabotage a contract settlement, Eduwonk concludes with the claim that the possibility of a contract settlement based on the fact-finders report which was made public today in the news media could not have happened “without [her] public clarion call.” There is an “edu-reasoning” here, a triumph of the ability to combine completely contradictory statements, that our prosaic powers of comprehension do not grasp. If Eduwonk were not so caught up in the twists and turns and the contradictions of the Moskowitz apology, he might grasp the obvious from his own comments: the UFT opposed Moskowitz because of her attacks on NYC teachers — her efforts to sabotage a contract settlement is simply one among many exhibits in a rather substantial record in that regard. That is one of the reasons why teachers have a union.


The argument made above, Eduwonk responds, is one that equates any criticism of the contract with “teacher bashing.” Given this posture, he says, “little can be done.” This is a mischaracterization of the argument, and a misrepresentation of the stance of the UFT. Far from objecting to any criticisms of the contract, we have criticisms of our own. Contracts are a product of compromises between labor and management, not all of which embody the best interests of teachers or of students, and it is a historical document, which must be updated to respond to new circumstances. That is why, in negotiations, we put forward proposals for changes. We maintain positive working relationships with and even support many elected officials and organizations who disagree with us about parts of the contract, or how it should be changed, because those relationships are based on mutual respect and on support for the principle of democratic voice and collective bargaining for teachers.


But there is a fundamental difference, which Eduwonk would ignore, between criticisms of particular contractual clauses and suggestions for change in different facets of the contract, on the one hand, and wholesale attacks on the very idea and the fundamental principles of democratic voice and collective bargaining for teachers, on the other hand. It is such wholesale attacks which are the trademark of Moskowitz and Klein.  To cite just one example: it is one thing to talk about reforming due process procedures, making them less bureaucratic, more expeditious and more effective, and quite another thing to talk about eliminating due process altogether.

And we have seen differences just that stark in New York City, with Moskowitz and Klein as partisans of the evisceration of democratic voice and collective bargaining for teachers. Randi Weingarten and the UFT proposed what is considered an extraordinarily progressive step in the rest of the nation, the development of school based contracts for schools with strong collaborative relationships between principals and their staffs, allowing them to negotiate their own school pacts for most areas covered by the contract. Klein responded, with Moskowitz’s full support, with an 8 page proposal to eliminate for all schools virtually every part of the contract, from limits on class size to requirements for the health and safety of the physical school environment to procedures for dealing with student misconduct. They would leave only two clauses of the collective bargaining agreement, non-discrimination by the employer and the use of seniority in layoff situations. How could it be any clearer that their target is the very existence of democratic voice and collective bargaining for teachers?

Contrary to what Eduwonk would like to conclude, there is much that could be done in New York City, if only there was the will on the part of the Kleins and Moskowitzes to do it. Given Randi’s and the UFT’s longstanding proposals for how to turn around low-performing, high poverty schools, including proposals for attracting experienced, accomplished teachers to those schools [all of which is laid out in detail here], a program which could become a model for the entire nation could be negotiated in New York City tomorrow. But some would rather use the issue as a bludgeon in a campaign to end all teacher voice in their school assignment then work with the UFT to address the actual problem.

Perhaps Eduwonk should start considering whether a defense of what Klein and Moskowitz have done makes him part of the problem, as opposed to part of the solution.



  • 1 institutional memory
    · Sep 14, 2005 at 2:06 pm

    Lo and behold, on the morning after the election, the arbitration panel announces its recommendation that teachers receive an 11.4% raise, half retroactive, the other half kicking in after the new year. Just think, if negotiations on the proposed 3-year deal take a few more months, we’ll be voting to ratify a contract that’s about to expire. We may well have the unique opportunity to retify this deal just in time to start the ’06-’07 school without a contract again. Ignore the man behind the curtain!

  • 2 NYC Educator
    · Sep 14, 2005 at 4:18 pm

    Personally, I hope the sewers of Rangoon back up in Ms. Moskowitz’ breakfast.

    Why am I not reading about the PERB recommendation here yet?

  • 3 NYC Educator
    · Sep 14, 2005 at 4:21 pm

    Oops..pardon me for my PERB question. I hadn’t read the article to the end.

  • 4 get_me_a_contract
    · Sep 14, 2005 at 4:35 pm

    I am starting to think that this blog is bogus. I am glad that Eva Moskowitz lost, but I would think that the top item in this blog would be about the PERB recommendations…and not just some passing reference.

    I am also annoyed that you link to dailykos.com

    That is a very left-wing blog and many members don’t agree with what is said there. I think that the UFT blog should stick to matters at hand–education, our contract and our union and other issues…

    Global issues (and even Walmart) belong somewhere else.

    It’s like the UFT wants to sidetrack what is really going on in the schools and what the teachers really feel….

    I mean at least in my region, everything is about these dumb bulletin boards….everyone (including myself) wants to quit….morale is lower than I have ever seen it.

    I don’t personaly wish harm to Eva Moskowitz….I just want to get a good contract and to have more say in the school I work in and have less micromanagement.

  • 5 institutional memory
    · Sep 14, 2005 at 5:07 pm

    In my comment (above), I invented a new word … “retify.” The more clever among us knew that I meant to type “ratify.” Unless you prefer “retify.” What-AAA-ver. Maybe the man behind the curtain can type better than I can.

  • 6 Leo Casey
    · Sep 14, 2005 at 5:22 pm

    The fact finding report is available through the UFT web site, http://www.uft.org, not the blog.

  • 7 get_me_a_contract
    · Sep 14, 2005 at 7:48 pm

    No, it’s not…this is what is posted on the UFT website: (and might I add that I am noticing a disconnect between Randi and company with those of us in the classroom). How do I post to this blog? Is it only for UFT elites? I mean we can leave comments, but how does one go about posting? Also, I think that this is the proper forum for discussing and dissecting the fact finding report (or at least a link to it)….much more so than discussing Walmart. Anyway, this is what is on the UFT website:

    Sep 14, 2005 2:05 PM

    The report of the Independent Fact-Finding Panel was released yesterday and in her response to inquiries from the daily press, UFT President Randi Weingarten said:

    “The recommendations from the independent fact-finding panel have the potential to form a basis for a negotiated contract settlement. It is a document that has its pluses and minuses; it provides the reforms the chancellor wanted while giving educators, who have been without a contract for nearly 2½ years, an 11.4% raise over three years.

    “At the same time, the findings maintain the contract’s core values, including preservation of due process rights and a recognition that, if done properly, small group instruction and professional development would benefit students.

    “We will be reviewing this report with our delegates and chapter leaders over the next few days, and we would hope the mayor and chancellor will give it the same serious consideration.�

    The full Fact-Finding Report and a summary fact sheet will be posted here later today after the citywide chapter leader meeting this afternoo

  • 8 Edwize Admin
    · Sep 14, 2005 at 8:06 pm

    The fact finding report is fully published on the UFT website, and there is a link from the blog to the full report as well as a description of the report.

  • 9 NYC Educator
    · Sep 14, 2005 at 10:24 pm

    It is not an 11% raise. It’s a 5% raise, accompanied by 6% more time, less whatever givebacks Bloomberg weasels out of us. If you go from working 10 to 11 hours a week at Burger King, you get a 10% increase.

    Time for money is not a raise. A raise in when you give people more money to cover the increased cost of living, like gasoline for example.

    A raise is what Bloomberg gave NY landlords recently, all of whom are apparently more direly in need than NYC teachers.

  • 10 NYC Educator
    · Sep 15, 2005 at 4:23 pm

    I stand corrected. It’s 2.5% more time.

    I still hate it, though.

  • 11 Gotham Gazette - The Wonkster » Blog Archive » Teaching Moskowitz
    · Sep 16, 2005 at 8:29 am

    […] Eva Moskowitz’s — and Scott Stringer’s victory — in the race for Manhattan borough president should be a lesson for New York politicians, writes Leo Casey in edwize, a teachers union blog. Casey reminds readers that teachers and other unions backed Stringer, while Moskowitz “decided that the way to advance her political fortunes was to engage in demagogic attacks on public school teachers.” She should have known better, he says: “New York voters do not reward politicians who think that there is pay dirt in launching broadsides against teachers and unions.” […]

  • 12 Edwize » EDUWONK: “Don’t Mess With My Mythsâ€?
    · Sep 16, 2005 at 6:12 pm

    […] Filed under: General — Leo Casey @ 6:12 pm Stung by our criticism of Eva Moskowitz and of his earlier post on the subject of her defeat in the race for Manhattan Borough President, Eduwonk has begun a small campaign here and here for her canonization as a political saint. Martyred for her noble work in education reform by the New York electorate and the UFT, Eduwonk’s Moskowitz engaged in untold numbers of self-sacrificing acts on behalf of schools, teachers and students. And if you doubt it, there are references, by various unnamed and unidentified sources, on the pureness of her heart and the miraculous effects of her works.   We don’t begrudge anyone his political myths, not even someone from Washington’s inside-the-beltway pundit crowd like Eduwonk. And we do understand that Eduwonk has invested much time and effort in developing this particular myth, as these old songs of praise demonstrate [see here and here], so we feel his pain. But as New Yorkers who have dealt with the day-to-day reality of Moskowitz’s political grandstanding and non-stop photo opportunity the last eight years, you will have to excuse us if we don’t join in an amen chorus to Eduwonk’s campaign.   Like most myth-makers, Eduwonk is long on glittering generalities and short on nitty-gritty specifics and details. He likes to talk about how courageous Moskowitz was in exposing the problems in the contract, but avoids discussion of the particulars of her hearings and her materials on the contract, because that would mean confronting the basic errors and egregious misrepresentations in them. Anxious to make the headlines with images of lazy, feather-bedding teachers, Moskowitz announced that the contract had New York City public school teachers working only 3.75 hours a day – a claim which completely ignored the school day of the majority of NYC teachers, who are in the elementary grades, and which counted as work-time for secondary school teachers only the precise number of minutes they were engaged in direct, whole class instruction. It was as if one measured the work week of a minister by the hour long services over which he presides every Sunday, or the work of a newscaster by the twenty something minutes he reads the news on the set each night. Given the exhausting and grueling days that New York City teachers work, the essential work of teaching that goes on outside of the classroom, and the extraordinary amount of that work teachers take home to do in the evenings and over the weekend, there could not have been a more insulting and more telling moment in that entire sorry episode. And yes, my friend Eduwonk, that is “teacher bashing.”   Or take what is Eduwonk’s favorite Moskowitz soundbite – the claim that it is the ‘seniority transfer’ clause in the UFT contract which lies behind the shortage of experienced, properly licensed teachers in low-performing, high poverty schools. Eduwonk repeats it at regular intervals without the slightest elaboration or the most minimal attempt to engage the evidence on the subject, until the reader begins to feel like he is watching Allen Ginsburg chant ‘ohm, ohm, ohm…’ at a 1960s’ love-in. No matter that half of the schools in New York City are not even participants in the ‘seniority transfer’ plan, but use a different school-based system; no matter that a grand total of 47 teachers in a system with over 70,000 [approximately .06% of the total teaching force] went from a low-performing to a high-performing school last year; no matter that the critical situation in the low-performing schools and in New York City involves the turnover of new teachers [with 1 in every 2 leaving the DOE by the fifth year, and much higher numbers in low-performing schools], and not transfers: the problem is ‘seniority.’ Nor does it apparently mean anything that the UFT has been attempting to engage the DOE in meaningful negotiations on how to create a system of incentives which would attract significant numbers of experienced and accomplished teachers to low-performing schools, without the slightest response. Don’t look for Eduwonk to engage this analysis; that might disrupt the soundbite. It is must be the UFT contract that is to blame.   So there you have it: Levi-Strauss meets Eduwonk. But raw or cooked, Eduwonk, we’re not buying any of it. We were there, and we know the ‘real deal.’   […]