Check out this interview from 2005 on WNYC radio:
He bemoans the lack of respect for teachers -- how hard they work, how little their opinions and professionalism matter to elected officials; and how their views are never heeded about how schools could be improved.
Indeed, in national surveys, over 90% of teachers regularly respond that the best way to raise the quality of education would be to reduce class size – over every other strategy proposed, including increased salaries, merit pay, professional development, or anything else.
And yet the powers-that-be always criticize this view as somehow merely reflecting self-interest, rather than in the best interest of the children as well. They never make the same attack on merit pay or increased teacher salaries, somehow -- just the one proposal that would directly improve classroom conditions and the ability of children to learn.
I remember a great speech McCourt gave at the UFT spring conference in 2006--- telling a packed audience at the Hilton a hilarious story about how he was once so overwhelmed with all the homework he had to correct that he threw all 175 student papers into a dumpster.
He also went on at some length about how elected officials and top administrators never listen to teachers, but unfortunately by that time, all of those who had been there, including Joel Klein, had left the room.
See also this interview from 2005:
McCourt: ... Teachers here are treated like second-class, third-class, fourth-class citizens. They're told to come in the back door. ....This is all a matter of class and status, and maybe snobbery. And the figures go along with this -- the lousy pay they get and the lack of respect.
And then when you do see something on television, a panel on education, you see someone from the board of education, you see a professor of education, or you see a bureaucrat, someone from a think tank, a politician, but never a teacher. Never. Imagine a panel on medicine without a doctor? The uproar there would be from the medical profession!
But all the politicians think they own education. Just the way the pope and the cardinals think they own the [Roman Catholic] Church. Which they do, of course. We don't get the keys. The politicians have the keys to the educational system, they control the purse strings, and they don't have a clue about what education is. I know they've been to school and all themselves, but what goes on in the classroom is another story.