A Victory for Teachers

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For teachers in the city public school system, a long night just might be over. The principals had been directed to remove some teachers as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to close 24 schools and reopen them with new names. Only half the teachers could expect to be rehired.

The plan ignored the views of the communities where these schools have existed. There was no reason to believe the plan would achieve its goal of improving graduation rates and test scores.

Seven schools in Queens were targeted for closing, including August Martin High School in Jamaica, Richmond Hill HS and John Adams HS in Ozone Park. These schools face the challenge of teaching first-generation immigrants and students from low-income families.

Two weeks ago, arbitrator Scott Buchheit ruled that the mayor’s plan violated stipulations in the United Federation of Teachers’ contract. The mayor was told teachers have rights.

The city Department of Education had attempted to get around the teachers’ contract by arguing that the schools would be “new schools.” The arbitrator and the union didn’t buy that rationale and neither did we.

The plan did not respect the dedicated professionals who teach our children.

Responding to the arbitrator’s decision, the city issued the following statement: “Today’s decision is an injustice to our children that — if allowed to stand — will hurt thousands of students and compromise their futures. The ruling puts the career interests of adults ahead of the educational needs of children.”

The assumption is that only the mayor cares about the children.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew wrote, “The arbitrator’s decision is focused on the question of whether or not the city’s actions violated our contracts. The larger issue, though, is that the centerpiece of the DOE’s school improvement strategy — closing struggling schools — does not work.”

The city has wasted millions of dollars on this scheme, money that would have been better spent on addressing the problems these schools face.

The city has gone to court to challenge the arbitrator’s decision, but it should show integrity and accept the ruling.

Updated 6:20 pm, July 11, 2012
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