Socialist Alternative

Teachers in NYC Challenge Their Union Leadership

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As battles against school closures and other attacks on public education rage in a number of cities, notably Philadelphia and Chicago, an important election is taking place in the largest local teachers’ union in the country, the United Federation of Teachers in New York City.

A new opposition, the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) loosely modeled on CORE, the opposition that took over the Chicago Teachers Union three years ago, is challenging an entrenched bureaucracy.

Organized as the Unity Caucus, the present leadership has dominated the union since its inception 50 years ago. In recent years, the union leadership has stood by as teachers’ working conditions have steadily deteriorated. They have done little to fight the waves of school closings and charter school “co-locations” (charters being placed in the same building as public schools). The UFT’s contract expired three years ago and the leadership pins their hopes on a “labor-friendly” Democrat replacing Mayor Bloomberg who is leaving after three terms.

However, the most serious issue facing New York educators is the new evaluation system, which looks set to be implemented next school year, and would base a teachers’ yearly performance rating heavily on their students’ test scores. This would be a major victory for the corporate education “reformers” opening the door to firing hundreds or even thousands of teachers every year based on very dubious high stakes test data.

MORE opposes mayoral control of the schools, has called for a union-wide vote on the new evaluation system and a real mobilization of the membership alongside working class communities to fight school closures and charter co-locations. Socialist Alternative has two members on the MORE slate for the UFT executive, Tom Crean and Francesca Gomes.

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