I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Matter Of Priorities in Newark

When it comes to helping Newark's kids, Cami Anderson is getting right to the heart of the problem!
Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson’s formula for boosting student achievement in struggling schools is built on a simple concept — allowing principals to select their teaching staff regardless of seniority.
The union representing Newark teachers, however, believes the practice invites favoritism and puts older, more experienced teachers at a disadvantage. It plans to file a labor-relations complaint with the state if schools are not staffed based on seniority this fall.
"Teachers with the most years of experience must be offered jobs in their area of certification," said Newark Teachers Union President Joseph Del Grosso. "This is not negotiable."
Last year, roughly 80 tenured teachers without classrooms were offered jobs as assistants and specialists with no dock in pay. Retaining them cost the district $8 million. [emphasis mine]
Yes, that's right: this is all about 80 teachers. Out of nearly 4000 certificated staff. And we have no idea whether these teachers are "ineffective" or not; we just know that there wasn't a principal willing to give them a slot in another school (Does that really surprise anyone? Don't you think a principal is going to want to stay with teachers that she knows? The ones she probably hired?).

By the way: we have strong evidence that teacher experience is important.

If the union wins, there may actually be staffing changes in the middle of the school year; yeah that'll be great for the kids. Didn't Anderson stop and think about this for a minute? Or did she really believe that overturning seniority was just so incredibly important that it was worth it? That this issue is so damn serious it's worth the risk of disrupting the students' school year?

Superintendent Anderson, I would suggest to you that maybe Newark has some bigger fish to fry:

42% of Newark's kids are living below the poverty line*; 74% are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. But this is what we're worried about: teacher seniority. 

The refomyists always tell us that "poverty is an excuse not to reform!" But they have it exactly backwards: "reform" is the excuse they use to fail to deal with poverty. I'm not saying we shouldn't make sure we get rid of demonstrably bad teachers. But is the firing of 80 experienced educators that no one has shown are "bad" really the best we can do for Newark's families? 

Or do we maybe have our priorities more than a little messed up?

* That's $22,050 for a family of four, which is determined at the federal level. Free lunch qualification is $29,055 for a family of four; reduced-price lunch is $41,348. Imagine trying to raise a family of four on that kind of money in Metro New York, one of the most expensive places to live in the world.


tjmertz said...

"Reformyists." Love the coinage, gotta start using it.

Julia said...


You are absolutely right!

Corporate education deform is an effort NOT to deal with poverty because that would require redistributing from the haves to the have nots. Not surprising that much of the deformers support comes from those who are very wealthy and do not believe in such redistribution.

They understand that one way not to deal with poverty is to shift the conversation from how to address poverty to the concept of "failing schools." It's like arguing that bad cancer hospitals are the reason that more people die from cancer than from warts. How utterly crazy, yet this is the basis of the deformers logic.

The second related issue that does not get enough attention is the unbelievable racist and colonial mentality that believes low-income children of color should be treated differently than the deformers' own children. No small class sizes, arts rich curriculum and emphasis on creativity for the poor brown and black kids. They get mind numbing discipline and test drill and kill. After all, the deformers believe these children can only be prepared for jobs at fast food restaurants. Just follow orders!

Here are two great recent posts on this issue:



We all need to keep pointing out what is really at the root of corporate education deform and why it's so popular with corporate CEOs and hedge fund managers.