UFT Unity in Bed with Moms For Liberty? Class size, shmass size.
By Arthur Goldstein and Daniel Alicea
We were pretty surprised to see our friends at UFT Unity attacking early voting in schools. Evidently, children in Staten Island are not safe with people entering schools to vote. Children in Manhattan? Brooklyn? The Bronx? They’re okay for some reason. But there is a movement to halt early voting in three SI public schools, exclusively. The number of locations is down from 7 public schools in SI in 2019.
After all, voters can be dangerous. Once they start voting, they may never stop, and then you’ll have the wrong people in charge. That gosh darn voter participation will do that. Of course, those voters might be the wrong sort of people themselves. And who wants that sort of people near our children?
This movement comes from the same folks looking to exempt certain schools from that troublesome class size regulation. Evidently, if your school does well on tests and such, you ought to stick with those giant classes. Emotional and social needs of children? That’s just “woke” nonsense. Pass those high-stakes tests, because that’s all that matters.
The folks pushing these ideas are known as PLACE NYC, and they’ve won a bunch of school board elections. They have created a citywide CEC board coalition, and by all indications they are very much behind the Staten Island petition, or are major co-signers.
This is the kind of thing that happens when most people sleep rather than vote.
UFT Unity which supports the PLACE move to slow down SI early voting (or limit it if it’s “necessary”,) should know about that. They, too, win elections when very few bother to vote. They, too, benefit from elections that have little or no participation. Three out of four UFT members can’t be bothered to check a box and walk to a mailbox. UFT Unity doesn’t allow in-school voting, voting online, or anything else that might increase the vote count. They can’t even be bothered to send an email saying, “Hey Alicea and Goldstein, get your asses to the mailbox and vote.”
Maud Maron, who co-founded PLACE and was previously on the District 2 parent council, told THE CITY, “Land acknowledgements don’t teach anybody more math,” referring to lessons about Indigenous people who inhabited land before European colonialism.
Sure, let’s stop teaching our kids about people of color. Let’s pretend we’re all on The Andy Griffith Show, watching that wacky Don Knotts and all his white buddies. And let’s look at some of their other views:
Some education advocates have grown concerned about PLACE’s influence, pointing to the views of some of their members, including comparing critical race theory, an academic framework about systemic racism, to Nazi ideology, as reported by THE CITY. Several candidates endorsed by the group backed away from that support during the election season. (Source: Chalkbeat New York)
Well, at least several of them have backed away from that. That’s a step in the right direction. But when those book-banning Moms for Liberty, a certified hate group, comes to Queens, look who shares their values:
PLACE, while not affiliated with the Queens Moms for Liberty chapter, shares some similar values. Particularly in wanting to preserve and expand merit-based admissions policies to the city’s most coveted schools — a practice research suggests reinforces racial imbalances.
Some of their most prominent leaders and adjacent partners have shown a working relationship with Moms For Liberty, as well.
Great. Let’s stay among the most segregated districts in the country. Let’s keep schools for the elite based on test scores, and let’s encourage people to send their children for years of test prep. Why should children spend time playing with their friends anyway? How does that prepare them for lives of joyless competition, let alone drudgery? And for goodness sakes, let’s get on that book-banning bandwagon before we miss all the fun.
It’s nice to see UFT employees showing up at PEP and paying valuable lip service to class size regulations. Of course, not one of them raised a peep to have these regulations enshrined in the contract, the only instrument that has actually controlled class sizes, ever. We know the Contract for Excellence, or C4E, passed in 2007, and we know that it has not succeeded in reducing class sizes.
Many of us who have followed C4E fear that the new class size regulation may very well be ignored, just as C4E was and is. If UFT Unity bosses really wanted to enable change, they’d have had it written into the contract, as well.
UFT fought to enact the early voting law. Why on earth is UFT Unity supporting PLACE as it attempts to disrupt and sidestep it? Why is the UFT ruling class joining the mysterious, exclusive fight to accommodate only 3 school communities in Staten Island? Why, in fact, do we want any affiliation whatsoever with a group like PLACE?
PLACE NYC has gone out of its way to subvert the new class size law. They’ve spread misinformation that the mandate is unfunded/underfunded and have actively used their influence in the City’s Class Size Working Group, with misinformation, while seeking exemptions for those they seem to want to keep separate from most city kids – those in specialized high schools.
PLACE NYC’s leaders have made vitriolic attacks towards many parent groups that fight for equity in our schools. Many of these advocate groups are historical allies and partners of our union. As a matter of fact, many PLACE officials are distinctly ANTI-UNION. One leader derisively stated that teacher unions are “ .. toxic to children, families, good teachers, the teaching profession, representative government and our country.” They’re out there crafting dangerous and absurd conspiracy theories as to the role of our union in our City and nation.
It makes you wonder whether UFT Unity is anti-union as well. Given their newfound alliance with PLACE (not to mention their embrace of sub-inflationary compensation increases, or their frantic push to diminish health care for both in-service and retired UFT members) Unity opposition to union doesn’t seem remotely as far-fetched a notion as it ought to be.
Moreover, if there’s too much voter traffic in the few schools utilized, we might resolve it by expanding it to more, rather than fewer schools. And the fact is that lower class sizes would make it easier for us to find space in which to accommodate voters. Teachers are creative. We could help.
Of course, while the debate about whether public schools citywide are the best venue for early voting is one worthy of examination, NYC is a highly concentrated, pedestrian city with limited public spaces. Many working parents with ever-shifting schedules need that opportunity to exercise their right to vote after dropping off or picking up their kids at schools. Voting, for many, requires intentionality, planning and accommodation. Equity means we meet that need, and other solutions like increased security are options. Other places like Suffolk County also have some early voting at public schools.
Yet, when UFT Unity gets into bed with PLACE, we’re in strange territory indeed. Are we seeking alliances with people who seem to hate us and everything we stand for? Are we next going to support them in their barely veiled attempts to undermine public education? You have to stand for something. What UFT Unity stands for is looking murkier every moment.
Regardless, voting is fundamental. We associate restriction of voting with candidates selecting voters, rather than voters selecting candidates. Aligning with voter suppression in any way, shape or form is a bad look. It’s time we moved away from that, and made voting easier for all.
We can start with ourselves, perhaps. Isn’t it time UFT moved away from mailbox-only union elections? In 2023, can’t we do a whole lot better than that?
Arthur Goldstein, is former chapter leader at Francis Lewis HS and UFT executive board member. He’s a retired educator and union activist. His work appears in the NY Daily News, the NY Post, Huffington Post, and elsewhere. Follow Arthur’s Substack, Union Matters, and on Twitter @TeacherArthurG
Daniel Alicea, is an NYC educator, organizer and activist. He is a UFT chapter delegate. Follow Daniel at The Wire: Powered by Educators of NYC and on Twitter @DanielAlicea
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