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Friday, March 30, 2007

Diane Ravitch on Randi Weingarten's re-election

On March 29, Randi Weingarten was re-elected as president of the United Federation of Teachers by an astonishing landslide, capturing 87% of the teachers' votes.

There are many reasons for the size of her victory, but I would single out these in particular: The fact that the New York Post and the New York Daily News regularly tried to demonize Weingarten made her a hero to rank-and-file teachers. They knew she was taking a beating in the editorial columns because of her defense of the union. If the Post and News had hoped to strengthen her position as the spokesperson for teachers in the New York City public schools, then they could not have done a better job.

Credit must also go to Chancellor Joel Klein, who kept hammering away at the union long after Mayor Bloomberg signed a long-term contract with the UFT last fall. The more that Chancellor Klein and his spokespersons continued to talk about how they were going to diminish tenure or introduce merit pay or do other things unilaterally that would either be rejected by the union or required its cooperation, the more they turned Weingarten into a champion of teachers' rights.

It was ironic that the Department of Education put out a press release claiming that it was starting its campaign to limit the granting of tenure on the same day that Weingarten was winning her big victory. What the Department did, in fact, was just to send out an electronic notice to principals about which teachers were supposed to be certified as qualified for tenure--or not. This is hardly deserving of a press release. The administration has been in charge of tenure review and approval since the day it took charge in September 2002. Why has it taken nearly five years for them to figure this out? The announcement seems to be an inadvertent admission by the administration that it has been asleep at the wheel all these years, not paying attention to its fundamental responsibility for the awarding of tenure to qualified teachers.

Diane Ravitch

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Usually Diane’s analysis is right on but her analysis of Weingarten’s victory is totally misplaced. While it is true that she garnered a significant percentage of the vote the fact is that less than 1 in 5 active teachers actually voted.

The winner of the election, as a good friend noted, was apathy. The union gave up so much to the city in the last two contracts teachers and school staff feel totally powerless to fight the DOE and their newly created patronage system.

When teachers lost the right to have meaningful input in education in our schools our children also lost. We won’t win this back until our members feel there is some hope for some change and that the union is not just another partner is their de-professionalization.

Jeff Kaufman

H.S. Representative

UFT Executive Board

(part of the opposition, ICE-TJC, which lost all of our Executive Board seats in this election).