Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), is the second largest educational labor union in the United States, with approximately half the number of members as the National Education Association (NEA).
Charter Schools “Polite Cousins” Of Segregation?
AFT’s President, Randi Weingarten has made a number of controversial public statements since the beginning of the year, the most recent, reported by the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal, being that charter schools are essentially a new iteration of 1950s style segregation.
Weingarten said at an AFT conference last week that, “This privatization and disinvestment are only slightly more polite cousins of segregation,” Weingarten said. “We are in the same fight, against the same forces who are keeping the same children from getting the public education they need and deserve.”
Some who are familiar with Ms. Weingarten, her history and with AFT, find her reference to “keeping the same children from getting the public education they need and deserve,” more than slightly ironic given the fact they say, that she has, herself, when President of the United Federation of Teachers (an AFT affiliate), presided over the serial failures of unionized charter schools.
Weingarten’s Union Run Charter School Fails
Weingarten opened the first unionized charter school in Brooklyn in 2005. The idea was to demonstrate that unions could manage charter schools successfully – at least that was the cover story. Her critics are of the belief that the UFT charter school was set up to fail, as have three out of five that UFT ran in greater New York City. As Campbell Brown, writing in the New York Post points out:
Every benchmark the union sets publicly for charters, every moral pronouncement and legal action — regarding enrollment, co-location, support for traditional schools, transparency, retention — has been ignored by the union when running its own school. And every criticism of charters has been on-target — about the union’s own school.
Randi Weingarten’s recent bizarre comment referencing segregation, is by no means the first such inflammatory remark. She and AFT have a litany of them. She advanced the proposition that Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democrat presidential nomination was a put up job by the GOP to derail Hillary Clinton’s White House bid – calling it a “right wing plot”.
AFT, under her direction characterized the New York City Council Education Committee’s role in overseeing the schools to Senator Joe McCarthy’s “Red Scare” of the 1950s. There’s that terrible decade rearing its ugly head again.
The same year that Weingarten launched the ill fated union run charters, she and UFT decided that New York City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz had to be run out of office for the sin of holding hearings reviewing UFT’s absurdly burdensome 316 page contract.
The union poured copious amounts of money into the coffers of Ms. Moskowitz’ opponent, who was a chosen lap dog of the union. From then on, any politicians that would ordinarily be reform minded, kept a very low profile. What the union did to Moskowitz was referred in code as “getting Eva’d”, and no one wanted to get ‘Eva’d’ if they could avoid it.
Randi Weingarten’s Faux Reform Rhetoric
Weingarten’s assertions that she cares about children and their education, run smack into conflicting evidence showing that she, according to the non-profit advocacy organization, Center For Union Facts – has fought on the federal, state, and local level to weaken or outright block many reform efforts, including performance-based pay, to increasing teacher accountability, to increasing funding for charter schools.
When former Mayor Michael Bloomberg essayed to effect reforms dealing with sub-performing teachers and excessive union regulations, Weingarten went toe to toe with him, with all of the power of Democrat politicians backing her. The result was that Weingarten got virtually everything from the negotiations and Bloomberg got next to nothing, as described by Sol Stern in the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal:
Weingarten took the city to the cleaners in the negotiations over bonus pay. To get her to “concede” to the fat, pensionable bonuses, New York gave teachers a long-sought change in their already-munificent retirement plan: thousands achieved the right to retire with full pension benefits at 55 with a minimum of 25 years of service, putting even greater strain on the city’s future pension obligations.
Despite her public statement that, “If a teacher doesn’t belong in the classroom, my members want that teacher out… the fact is that even one incompetent teacher in our schools is one too many,” – Weingarten doesn’t believe any of it.
As will be clear in the next installment of this report – Ms. Weingarten, despite her empty rhetoric, allowed underperforming and abusive teachers to siphon off of the public treasury, while using the review system to punish teachers who did not rigidly follow the union political lines.
One of the frequently heard criticisms of advocates of school reform is that “they have never taught in a classroom.” Although that claim is a wild exaggeration – by that standard, Ms. Weingarten herself, has very little actual experience as a classroom teacher. The Village Voice reviewed city records, finding that:
she (Weingarten) taught 122 days as a per diem teacher from September 1991 through June 1994, roughly one in four days. She then did what she told the Voice was her only full-time term in the fall semester of 1994, followed by 33 days as a per diem teacher in the spring of 1995.
In the second of this continuing series, National Compass will outline how Randi Weingarten and the unions she’s headed, have used their influence to reward incompetent and abusive teachers and punish other teachers they considered expendable for politically related reasons.