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More On The UFT-Green Dot Partnership

There has been a wave of discussion of the UFT-Green Dot partnership in the news media and in the educational blogosphere.

In the news media, check out the perspectives of the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. The silence from the New York City right-wing tabloids speaks volumes.

Some thoughtful takes on the partnership appeared across the educational blogosphere, from Eduwonk and Small Talk to JD2718 and PREAPrez [here and here]. In the category of silence speaking volumes, the Charter Blog of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools had no comment.

A few issues raised across the blogosphere and in this comments section will be addressed here.

1. New York State Charter law requires “employer neutrality” on the question of union representation. Only when there is a staff of the school in place, and they choose to be represented by an union, can negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement take place. At the risk of stating the obvious, the management of a joint Green Dot-UFT Charter School would be completely supportive of the right of the staff to organize and bargain collectively. [In a subsequent post, we will look in more detail at the contract in existing Green Dot schools as well as the UFT contract with Amber Charter School.]

2. There are a limited number of charters for New York City, and there are a number of stridently anti-union charter operators seeking to acquire them quickly. The deadline for submission of the applications for a charter was the close of business Friday, June 29, so the UFT and Green Dot needed to act now to obtain a charter. The UFT had an exhaustive internal discussion of the decision to sponsor our own two charter schools, which was adopted by the Delegate Assembly overwhelmingly, and have clear policy on the need to engage and organize charter schools. All that is new is that we have found a real partner on the charter side who shares our educational vision and core democratic and professional values.

3. Just as the UFT chose to locate its two charter schools in communities of the great need, East New York, the UFT-Green Dot school will also be located in another NYC community of great need, the South Bronx. [Green Dot high schools in Los Angeles have been located in the barrio, and they bring a lot of experience and success in the education of English Language Learners to the partnership.] New York Charter School law requires that all charter schools select their student body by a blind lottery from among the applicants, so the geographical location of the school, the level of the school — secondary in the case of the partnership — and the recruitment of students all play a very important role in determining the demographics of the student population. Green Dot schools in Los Angeles do not “cream” their students, and neither the UFT nor Green Dot would sponsor a NYC school which creamed.

4. The human scale of a school — with every student being known well by the staff of the school — is especially important in serving at risk students. Green Dot schools are very much in the original, deeply democratic tradition of the small schools movement before the influx of corporate philanthropy and the take over by corporate style school district leadership, and they bring that vision to this school.

5. Just as was the case in the UFT Charter Schools, Green Dot and the UFT are determined to be good neighbors. We will not go into a publicly owned building unless the school or other organization with whom we will share the building invite us to come in. We will also work to bring upgrades to the building that improve it for all who use it.

6. One of the important reasons for establishing a Green Dot-UFT school that will do all manner of things that should be done in NYC public schools, but are not done because of DOE policy and practice, is to demonstrate what could and should be done. For that matter, a Green Dot-UFT school will be a similar beacon with respect to anti-union charter schools that deny teachers voice. Why wouldn’t we want to have a school that shows the benefits of smaller class size, of giving teachers real voice in important educational decisions, of paying teachers more and of spending resources in the classroom, rather than on bureaucracy or contracts with corporate outsiders? [Green Dot schools in Los Angeles have had a policy of paying their teachers 10% more than the prevailing wage scale in the Los Angeles district public schools.]

7. The UFT Secondary Charter School stays open longer, with teachers working early and late sessions to cover the extra time. There is nothing wrong with a longer school day, so long as it provides additional meaningful instruction to students and it does not overwork and ‘burn out’ teachers and staff. We should not allow ourselves painted into a defensive corner, as the negative mirror image of the anti-teacher forces we oppose, simply saying ‘no’ when they say ‘yes.’ It is important that we think creatively and promote educational innovation.

8. A “professional work day” is what unionized college professors in CUNY and SUNY do. There are no fixed hours: one simply does what one needs to do to fulfill the obligations of the job — teaching classes, being available during regular office hours and participating in school meetings.

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22 Comments:

  • 1 MichaelB
    · Jun 30, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    How does their “just cause” provision differ from the current UFT contract. How long does it take for Green Dot teachers to gain this right?

  • 2 Leo Casey
    · Jun 30, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    The “just cause” standard is essentially the same standard used for NYC public school teachers once they have achieved tenure — for a teacher to be disciplined or dismissed, the employer has the burden of showing “just cause.” “Just cause” is a term of art in labor relations. You can read descriptions of it here and here.

    Under the Green Dot contract, the “just cause” standard exists from the first day a teacher comes to work for them. Under our system of tenure, it kicks in only after the completion of probation — typically three years of satisfactory service.

  • 3 UFT, Green Dot, in deal to give Barr a NYC school « JD2718
    · Jun 30, 2007 at 10:48 pm

    [...] More On The UFT-Green Dot Partnership | Edwize – July 1, 2007 am31 5:08 [...]

  • 4 MichaelB
    · Jul 1, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    This sounds like a huge improvement over our current contract. Three years is a long time to be working essentially without grievance rights.

  • 5 Schoolgal
    · Jul 2, 2007 at 7:33 am

    Are you saying:

    These teachers will be paid more than the current UFT contract?

    That the UFT will help finance upgrades only to schools that allow Green Dot? Has the UFT ever assisted any other public school that does not have a UFT charter? They could use the help too.

    Professional Day, meaning you work until you feel your job is done for the day? Yet doesn’t Green Dot dock the pay of those who have to leave early due to an emergency? How is that “professional”?

    And that our next contract will include a longer school day and year under the guise of “educational innovation”? Most of the data proves students do well when there is a professional community and meaningful staff development. The longer school day or year is not the end result for student achievement.

    I look forward to the posting of the Green Dot/UFT contract. If teachers do have a real voice and lower class size, good for them. However, it’s ashame we had to lose our voices in the ’05 contract when we lost the SBO transfers, our right to grieve letters, excessing rights and not making lower class size a part of the contract. I’m glad the UFT now understands what they gave up.

  • 6 Persam1197
    · Jul 2, 2007 at 9:53 am

    I have to concur wholeheartedly with Schoolgal. There is so much our union needs to do right here and now within the DOE as we continue to lose ground with each contract.

  • 7 redhog
    · Jul 3, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    Green Dot has graduated 75 per cent of its students. Teachers collaborate on school policy and help establish the syllabus. There is a forceful and insistent push for parental responsibility, and only a single teacher has been fired over a period of many years. The turnover rate is less than here and there is a bold and unapologetic embrace of unionism. It is rational to deem these irrefutable facts to be virtues that ought to recommend, at the very least, an open-minded exploration on the part of even our most entrenched and intractable skeptics.

  • 8 Schoolgal
    · Jul 3, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    Redhog,

    I am not a skeptic. In fact I would like to see teacher input in our public school system rather than going to an outsider. Many of what charters offer work because of strong parental responsibility. I am sure they have a very good discipline code, unlike the DoE’s. But, alas, our contract givebacks make this impossible.

    Why is it that some schools are hard-to-staff. It’s because of lack of discipline and poor leadership. Yet our union does nothing to retain our best teachers. And if a school is reorganized, do they take strong teachers who are also vocal about contractual rights? No.

    I think many teachers on the blogs have said that charters have 3 important elements: Discipline, parental support and small class size. Unfortunately many charters do not have teacher input which Green Dot seems to have. Let’s get these important elements into our public schools through better contract negotiations and still protect seniority rights.

  • 9 Persam1197
    · Jul 3, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    “It is rational to deem these irrefutable facts to be virtues that ought to recommend, at the very least, an open-minded exploration on the part of even our most entrenched and intractable skeptics.”

    Redhog, it’s not that we’re “entrenched and entractable skeptics,” what concerns many of us is the way our union sets its priorities. Unless the DOE is going to transfer all of its schools to Red Dot, we have enough work to do right here. We are not in a good place with the DOE at this time; we have good teachers rotting away as ATR’s because of Bloomberg/Klein’s reorganization plan. We’ve lost seniority rights. Parents and teachers have no voice under this regime. The new reorganization plan set for September looms close and my own school is about to lose $200,000 in funding even though we are a Title I school because of Bloomberg’s “Fair Funding” plan. Many principals are nervous wrecks as monies are being reallocated as we speak.

    Green Dot may be the best thing since sliced bread (although your claim as to your vague “facts” being irrefutable is hardly Gospel), but I see this as a major distraction from the issues we need to be concerned with.

  • 10 MichaelB
    · Jul 4, 2007 at 10:23 am

    The issue here is union vs. non-union. Non-union charter schools represent a serious, long-term threat to the power of our union. Successful, unionized charter schools can protect us from the attacks of the union-bashers while preventing the loss of dues-paying members. This is why the UFT had no choice but to open its own school.

    For better or worse, more charter schools will open. The choice for us is whether or not we try to ensure that they’re unionized.

  • 11 jd2718
    · Jul 4, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    I understand that this post’s author frames the debate as union vs non-union charters. But there are other ways to frame the debate. For example, this looks to me like part of the push to rapidly remove large high schools from poorer neighborhoods of New York City. What is being left is not a mix of large and small schools, but only small schools. And here’s one more small school.

    The issue, what exactly it is, depends on who you ask.

    This is why the UFT had no choice but to open its own school.

    Huh?

    Of course the UFT had a choice. The UFT chose to engage rather than oppose charters. That is a choice. The UFT chose not to lobby against charters in general. That is a choice. And the UFT chose to open two charter schools. That is a choice.

    It is indecent to argue that we do what we do because we have no choice. Either stand by your convictions, present them, argue them, or step aside and let others continue to argue for you.

    Jonathan

  • 12 Schoolgal
    · Jul 5, 2007 at 7:33 am

    If “unionized” means a watered-down contract with many hard-earned givebacks,a longer school day and year, then our union has failed us.

  • 13 MichaelB
    · Jul 5, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Jonathan, the union is not part of a “push” to to get rid of large high schools. It’s playing defense. If the UFT had been able to stop charters from opening, it wouldn’t have needed to open its own schools, or cut deals with charter operators.

  • 14 jd2718
    · Jul 5, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    If the union were playing defense, this would be a different discussion. The union signed on to bring in New Visions and their cookie cutter mini-schools. This was an error. And in my borough?

    Closed
    Monroe
    South Bronx
    Morris
    Taft
    Theodore Roosevelt

    Closing
    Evander
    Walton
    Stevenson

    Downsized to little more than mini-schools (and concentrating special ed and ELLs in one school)
    Columbus
    Kennedy

    Downsized
    Lehman
    Truman

    Untouched
    Clinton

    There’s also Bronx Science, but it serves 90% kids from out of borough. And the 4 vocational schools didn’t get cut up.

    Were we playing defense as 12 of our 13 academic comprehensive high schools in the Bronx were closed or downsized? I didn’t really see much defense, aside from Columbus, where it a homegrown effort managed to keep a rump of a school.

    I don’t believe, by the way, that Leo agrees at all with

    “If the UFT had been able to stop charters from opening, it wouldn’t have needed to open its own schools, or cut deals with charter operators.”

    We can ask him.

    Jonathan

  • 15 Leo Casey
    · Jul 5, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    One could debate the merits of charter schools as a system of governance for public schools. I do think that there is a solid case for the establishment of public schools outside of the local district’s control — which is what charter schools are — as laboratories of educational innovation and experimentation. This is the original conception of a charter school put forward by Al Shanker, which we have been promoting through the UFT Charter Schools and through the partnership with Green Dot. It is true that the right wing has a very different idea of charter schools, and that they have gained a real foothold in the field — as a result of the fact that the left and teacher unions have mistakenly ceded the field to them, in my view. It is a failure of political and educational imagination, I would argue, to reduce the idea of charter schools to the right wing version of them.

    But I would say that even if one found this argument unconvincing, it is still clear to me that as a matter of practical politics charter schools are here to stay as part of the American educational landscape. In my view, political strategies based on the notion that they can be closed down are non-starters. It follows that the organization of charter schools is a strategic imperative for teacher unions: if we do not succeed in that work, we will lose American education, just as the UAW lost the auto industry when it failed to organize the non-union auto parts sector. It is my view that in order to organize charter schools, you need to have a positive engagement with them. What our two charter schools and our partnership with Green Dot makes clears is that the UFT is not opposed to charter schools — as anti-union charter school operators would want to claim — but to charter schools in which teachers have no voice.

  • 16 MichaelB
    · Jul 5, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    Jonathan, I think we need to separate the charter issue from the small schools issue. The union is playing defense against the threat from non-union charter schools for the reasons Leo mentions. It has nothing to do with school size.

    Regarding the breakups (I went through one myself), I agree that the union could have fought them and didn’t. But that’s not the same as pushing for them.

    Whether or not the union accepted these closings I do think it was unconscionable that they negotiated away excessing rights for the affected teachers, especially without warning those who could have transfered while they still had the right to do so.

  • 17 Schoolgal
    · Jul 6, 2007 at 9:37 am

    Michael,

    If you check the ’05 archives you will find that the excessing issue, our greatest protection–seniority–was my biggest concern. Of course having professionals that have Master’s degree patrol bathrooms and halls was also demeaning. I am sorry to say I have been proven right. With the reorganization model, do you think Leo will post findings that prove senior teachers are being hired under the Open Market?

    However, the writing is on the wall from this union that an extended school day and year,with no tenure will soon be coming. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Saturdays were added on the agenda. Teachers deserve a 2-day weekend.

    Notice how “Professional Day” has never really been explained. The analogy of a college professor’s day is still unclear. Given that, how many future teachers and those already in the system will stay when they can do better elsewhere.

    Defense? For years the biggest complaint about unions was the protection of “bad” teachers. Yet the union did nothing to find a way to work on that issue. And this union did not issue one statement when Klein referred to ATR’s as incompetent.
    What about the excellent teachers who do not want to work in a reorganized school? Under this new system they will have no other choice or risk becoming an ATR.

    Has the Green Dot/UFT contract been posted yet? If not, why not? I would love to see in Green Dot will now allow a teacher who has an emergency to leave early w/o being docked. Professionals usually don’t get docked, factory workers do.

    And I still contend that a watered-down contract is not the definition of “unionized”.

  • 18 SOC ST TEACHER
    · Jul 6, 2007 at 10:41 am

    Has the Green Dot/UFT contract been posted yet? If not, why not?

    If you had actually read the original posting you are commenting on, you would have found out that [1] there is no contract now and [2] why there is no contract now.

    But that might get in the way of making wild assertions about extended school days and years…

    Why let the facts get in the way?

  • 19 Schoolgal
    · Jul 6, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    When I attended NUHS, my SS teacher, let’s call him Frank, taught us how to look at all possibilities.

    I was “right on” on the excessing situation.

    Of course if attacking me personally makes you happy, be my guest.

  • 20 SOC ST TEACHER
    · Jul 6, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    I am unaware of the taxonomy of “personal attack” that includes pointing out someone is commenting on something which she clearly didn’t even read.

  • 21 Schoolgal
    · Jul 6, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    I was not talking about Green Dot per
    se and you know it. Newark’s union is looking into charters with Saturday hours. They are also claiming the same “defense” strategy. This seems to be the writing on the wall.

    I was there when Randi told us ‘No more additional time!” And then she agreed to the additional time.

    Funny you chose to ignore my comments on ATRs, bathroom patrol and the demise of seniority rights.
    Even posts on Edwize first blasting the Open Market then praising it, and much the same with DoE policies has readers like me trying to keep up with these flip flops.

    So answer these questions:
    Will NYC teachers follow the same contract Green Dot has now?????

    Why didn’t Randi fight to make sure our contract provided for professional input instead of taking away our one major point of input–staff hiring?

    Even the May rally was stopped–for what?? A 2-year deal that principals are not abiding by in their hiring practices. Why hire an experienced teacher who will be a burden on the payroll for years to come?

    You bet I have a lot of questions and concerns. And unfortunately, I have been right on so many points. If I could forsee them, then so should a labor lawyer.

  • 22 jd2718
    · Jul 7, 2007 at 10:22 am

    Michael,

    I agree that the Charter issue and the Small School issue are not the same. However, I see them as related. Some people in NY have given up on the existing schools altogether, and these two, charters (which are small) and small schools (which, without oversight, get some of the regulation relief that charters are assumed to have), are being used as alternatives.

    And in general, as separate as the two issues may be, we find many of the same groups of people taking opposing stances on both of them. It doesn’t have to be like that. Small schools and charter schools don’t have to be tightly linked. But in NYC they are.

    It’s not easy to find a small school advocate who isn’t pushing charter schools, or a charter school advocate who’s not pushing small. Which makes the distinction, at least in NY, today, seem a little artificial.

    Jonathan