This past weekend, at the NYSUT RA, the entire executive team (except for the executive VP) was voted out, and a slate of novice leaders was voted in. I’m not sure what that means, and I’m not at all sure that it’s a good thing.
I’m not the first fan of the old leadership team. They got paid a lot of money, and I don’t think they were particularly effective in blunting the onslaught that has taken place in NYS public education during the past ten years or so. During their tenure, we got an APPR that sucks, we Raced to the The Top, we were gifted with a tax cap that is slowly killing public education in the state, we watched an expansion of charter schools, and we got to be on the receiving end of an increased demonization of the job that I happen to love more than any other. All the while my NYSUT dues steadily increased, along with the leadership’s salaries and benefits. I imagine that the line would be something like “just imagine how much worse it would be if we weren’t here.”, but I don’t think I really buy that. All of this is to say that I’m not primed to defend them.
So, I’m open to change. But I know enough to know that change for the sole sake of change isn’t a good thing. There is more than enough about the new team that gets my hackles up. Let’s go down the list:
UFT: One could make a convincing case that ever since NYSUT was created, it has been largely in the pocket of NYC’s United Federation of Teachers. I’m not going to weigh in on how valid that type of thinking is, but I will note that I don’t know that the aims and goals of the UFT leadership are all that aligned with the aims and goals of the rest of New York State’s teacher corps. Why should they be? UFT represents the largest district in the state, one with a raft of unique situations and specific problems, that are not replicated in the rest of the state. UFT’s Unity caucus is also a place that requires loyalty oaths, and that boos any member that deigns to question it’s one true path. Not my scene at all. To that end, I don’t know that I trust an executive team wholly endorsed by UFT leadership to best represent the interests of non-UFT constituents (note: I’m not saying that I’ve written them off yet, all I’m saying is that my suspicions have been aroused).
Vague positions: I’ve scoured the “Revive NYSUT” website, and while it claims to offer stark contrasts between the new team and the old team, I don’t see too much of note. The site is phrased in terms of what the plan is, as if it’s all brand new thinking, but I don’t really see how it differs from what the plan has been. I’m not all that interested in meeting the new boss if she’s the same as the old one. Also, I don’t see anything about taking a pay freeze, or bringing a halt to the steady rise in NYSUT dues.
Woeful technological illiteracy: The twitter feed of the incoming president is less functional than the twitter feed of the NYS Commissioner of Education. That is unforgivable. How can any educator who wants me to listen to them not be engaging with me in social media space at this point? If you can’t be bothered to get your voice into the social sphere, why should I think that you have any new ideas about how to lead this union? At the very least, this is not a model of a 21st century Union President.
These are my three major concerns going forward, listed in the order of importance to me, a young(ish) union leader who represents the future of this organization. I will be happy to say that my concerns are unfounded at such time as they are shown to be. Until then, I’m going to be keeping a close eye on what the new team does, and see just how different they are from the team they have fought so hard to replace.
Post-script: If you read this and want to hop on to tell me to keep my mouth shut in support of “solidarity”, save yourself the effort, and show a little more respect for the work of those who have gone before us to build this union. Solidarity is earned through actions, not elections. It is many things, but it is not a club with which anyone can beat down open inquiry and honest dissent.