If you want a quick lesson in why it’s so hard to get a lot of pols to do the right thing on education policy, New York is a good place to look.
Eva Moskowitz, chair of the city council’s education committee was running for Manhattan Borough president. Moskowitz has been a favorite target of the UFT since she first ran for council. In her first race they endorsed a former Gulliani fundraiser who had sworn off vouchers in order to get the endorsement over life-long Democrat and educator Moskowitz because she supported charter schools…
Things never really got better. Most recently, Moskowitz held hearings on the various collective bargaining contracts that govern large swaths of operations in the city’s schools. This is generally considered an off-limits issue despite the enormous impact these arrangements have on the day-to-day operations of schools and the general consensus that there are some problems that need to be addressed. Says the UFT’s house organ:
Weingarten was referring to Moskowitz, who alone of all the candidates is said to take a hostile view of city unions, including the UFT. Weingarten charged the outgoing East Side councilwoman “showed poor judgment” in sponsoring and conducting four days of hearings solely on how union contracts affect schools, where her intent was to excoriate union workers, disparage teachers and publicly denounce the UFT for its positions on protecting teachers’ rights and winning a new, fair contract.
“She’s played a pivotal role in derailing the first set of negotiations with the mayor,” Weingarten said. “She’s one reason we still don’t have a contract. We can’t forget that.”
EduTranslation: When Bloomberg was getting nervous she went public and prevented a sell-out.
(See also this biting dissent).
“Showed poor judgment”, however, is a phrase that needs no translation it’s a barely disguised threat to other pols…Dirty campaigning at the finish line helped do in Moskowitz (see this, this, and this) in her bid for Manhattan Borough President — she was facing term limits on the city council in her next term. Smart money in New York sees the hand of the UFT in the new attacks on her as a friend of sweatshops (never mind that she twice voted against the anti-sweatshop measure she was accused of supporting).
Yet the irony is that as the NYT reports this morning, the ice is thawing on the contract anyway (although this ICE is not happy about it). Hard to imagine that things would have reached this point, at least this quickly, without the public clarion call from Moskowitz (worth noting the UFT is now also opening charter schools…). Unfortunately, she lost in the primary yesterday but, still, reform here does seem an almost irresistible force. The UFT can continue to play political whack-a-mole with independent minded Democratic politicians but that game is term limited, too, in New York and elsewhere.
The question is, how many promising Democratic politicians will the teachers’ unions derail in the process?
Update: NY Sun says Moskowitz should have supported vouchers, policy aside, it seems unclear how this would have helped given the political dynamics? Leo Casey also responds here rewriting the history of her first race and the substance of the recent election complaints (though knowledgeable folks in NYC say this stuff is pretty standard practice). Regardless, this line says it all:
…the UFT opposed Moskowitz because of her attacks on NYC teachers — her efforts to sabotage a contract settlement is simply one among many exhibits in a rather substantial record in that regard. That is one of the reasons why teachers have a union.
When criticizing the contract is considered akin to attacking teachers, little can get done. It’s not teacher bashing to point out that various seniority and excess provisions simply are not good for poor kids (never mind issues like differentiated pay etc…).
Update II: Several readers write with more examples of Moskowitz’s attacks on teachers. For those who can bear it, here are a few of the horrible examples: She sought to raise salaries, improve working conditions, waive the $120 fee new teachers pay for background checks, and she held hearings on why teachers leave teaching highlighting the lack of support they often receive in the system….my God…she’s a monster!!!