THE PCT PLEDGE IS THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE PLAINVIEW-OLD BETHPAGE
CONGRESS OF TEACHERS
Volume XXXVIII, No. 7 February 27, 2001
TEST, TEST and TEST
THE BUSH PLAN
By PCT President Morty Rosenfeld
The teacher union press and what remains of the left of center media in the United States have tended to focus their criticism of the Bush education plan on its voucher plank. Under the Bush plan, parents of students in schools that fail to improve after three years of increased federal aid would be given vouchers which could be used toward the payment of private or parochial school tuition.
To be sure, should this admittedly tiny voucher program pass, more than the proverbial camels nose will have entered the tent. Its a stupid proposal which should be defeated. Yet, in many ways the most threatening piece of the Bush education plan is its so-called accountability proposal whereby both children and their schools will be judged by the results of yearly testing in grades three through eight. It is suspiciously being ignored by most of the politicians including Democrats. Perhaps more ominously, while the President of the NEA, Bob Chase, has made the obligatory squawk about it, the AFTs Sandra Feldman has said nothing about the mindless testing called for in the Presidents plan - nothing that is except to state once again the AFTs position in support of accountability which in the current context can only mean the tests.
Can it be that the Texas testing fiasco is coming to our schools? Will we in POB start each day as they do in some schools in the great state of Texas singing little test-prep jingles to begin yet another day of mind-numbing and never-ending teaching to some test. Why not? Bush clearly wants this to happen, and neither of our national organizations is organizing to strenuously oppose and curb this insatiable appetite for testing. Should third through eighth grade testing become a reality, America will become yet a little bit less educated as we all worship at the totem of elevated standards.
GETS UNION BOOST
On the performance pay front, in my January 2, 2001 Pledge column, I cautioned readers to watch the negotiations between the teachers and mayor in New York City where the city is demanding that the union agree to some performance pay formula. I predicted that the union would give on this issue. That outcome is a step closer to happening with the news that the American Federation of Teachers Executive Board has approved a committee recommendation encouraging local unions to consider various performance pay schemes. Who was the chair of the committee that looked into performance pay? Randi Weingarten, President of the United Federation of Teachers, the largest local by far in the AFT.
PCT/PAC DRIVE LAUNCHED
At the February 13th meeting of the PCT Executive Board, the building reps voted to launch the 2001 PCT Political Action fund raising drive. PCT/PAC is a separate fund raised from member contributions to support the political action work of the PCT on issues relating to local and state elections.
The Executive Board adopted the following recommended contribution rates:
Teachers - $15
ESPs - $10
Public Library Staff - $10
Unlike many unions, the PCT uses none of its members dues dollars in political campaigns. Yet, political action is a vital part of our unions work. Political victories like the recent tier enhancement legislation and the permanent COLA law dont just happen. They take the work of union activists. They also take money.
Please see your SRC Rep today and write a generous check made out to: PCT/PAC.
At the first budget workshop held on Monday, February 26, 2001, the Superintendent presented his proposed budget of $77,654,000 or a 7.8% increase over this years budget.
The proposed budget provides for adequate staffing for the new 4th grade at Pasadena School as well as providing for an improvement in the average elementary class size, elementary science teaching and an additional social worker. The Superintendents budget offers essentially no relief for secondary class size. To paraphrase Dr. Brooks, this is a budget that doesnt significantly advance the districts program. It is a budget that essentially preserves what we have.
As of this writing, the officers of the PCT have had the proposed budget for less than twenty-four hours. Watch the Pledge for further information on budget development. The Board will address the budget again on Monday, March 19, 2001.
STATE SENATE FOCUSES ON TEACHER SHORTAGE
New York State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno has announced a Senate plan to address the looming teacher shortage. While estimates vary as to the number of teachers New York will need over the next ten years, no one disagrees that we will need thousands and thousands as half of the current teachers become eligible for retirement during the next decade.
Among the Senates proposals are up to three years additional pension credit for retirement eligible teachers who continue to teach, elimination of the $18,500 earnings cap for retired teachers and allowing out-of-state and private school teachers to buy pension credits for the time they have taught outside the state system. Also part of the Senate package is a waiver of the certification fee for first time applicants. Curiously attached to the plan is a proposal for a five year $3400 bonus for National Board certified teachers, although what this has to do with helping the teacher shortage is unclear.
LAST CALL FOR TEACHER
Representatives of the PCT will be meeting Deputy Superintendent Greenberg and his staff on March 7, 2001 to review the questions raised by teachers after the recent publication of a teacher seniority list.
Teachers who have questions about their placement on the list which they have not yet submitted should do so immediately. Remember half of the required form goes to the Personnel Office and the other half to the PCT Office.
NEA BOARD APPROVESAFT PARTNERSHIP
The Board of Directors of the National Education Association (NEA) has voted to approve the recently negotiated Partnership Agreement with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The vote was 135-36.
Approval of the Partnership Agreement is effectively a recommendation to the NEA Representative Assembly which will meet in July to make the final decision on the agreement. If the NEA Board is representative of the delegates to the Representative Assembly, the Boards vote would seem to indicate that the agreement will be approved. Yet, in recent times, the Assembly had not gone along with the Board.
Beyond question, powerful forces within the NEA are working hard over the days leading up to the Assembly to defeat the Partnership Agreement. Even though the agreement is light years way from anything that could possibly be called a merger, the anti-merger forces are determined to blow this latest attempt at cooperation apart. Look for the anti-merger crowd to attempt to quibble the Partnership Agreement to death at the Representative Assembly with amendment upon amendment.
TRACT MENTOR MODEL
PCT members have received an announcement from Nassau TRACT Teacher Center about a new "Mentor -Model." There appears to be some initial confusion about this announcement in that the PCTs representatives to the TRACT Policy Board who participated in the creation of this program understand it to be different than described in the flyer that went to the staff.
While the PCT awaits clarification, members interest in participating in a mentor training program should send the completed TRACT Application to the PCT Office.
OPTICAL PLAN FINE TUNED
PCT members are asked to watch their letter boxes for a new brochure from General Vision Services, the PCTs preferred optical provider. Having recently merged with Cohen Fashion Optical, there will be many more convenient locations at which members can receive their discounted eye care needs. Additionally, the PCT has negotiated a new price list for speciality lenses and other items which will further increase the value of this benefit. If you are not using your PCT optical benefit at General Vision Services, you are almost surely wasting money. Watch for the new brochure.
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