Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Who Needs Tenure? Who Needs Green Dot?

The new contract between New York's United Federation of Teachers and Green Dot, the California-based charter school operator, offers teachers no tenure or seniority-based layoffs, according to Gotham Schools. Green Dot NY teacher evaluations will be based 20% on student standardized test scores and 20% on other measures of student academic growth.

Dana Goldstein (lady wonk) sees this as a model for teacher contracts of the future, assuming that teachers are well-trained and allowed to participate in the administration of their schools. She sees Green Dot as a “healthy” environment that emphasizes collegiality and professionalism and that has little “administrative overreach.” Randi Weingarten told her that she could envision entire districts based on Green Dot-like contracts.

The problem is that even if it was true that Green Dot was a “healthy” work environment that truly valued collegiality and professionalism, there would necessarily still be an adversarial relationship between management and employees, as there necessarily is in all workplaces. As long as someone else is in charge of one’s income, working conditions and job security, the relationship is exploitative and adversarial by definition.

Forgetting (or denying) this is asking to be walked all over. Without tenure, seniority, or other job protections, teachers at Green Dot can be fired or disciplined for almost any reason, like at non-unionized charter schools, including organizing or taking job actions to defend their contract or fight for a better one.

The other problem is that Green Dot is not a “healthy” work environment that values its employees. It is a private, for-profit enterprise whose entire raison d’etre is to maximize profits. They do this by exploiting teachers, paying them as little and working them as hard as possible. They cannot afford to give teachers any real autonomy or authority and will inevitably try to impose policies that are detrimental to students’ and teachers’ wellbeing. Without tenure and seniority protections, teachers are far less likely to challenge such policies, no matter how “collegial” or “professional” the environment.

Let’s not forget that Green Dot was behind the intimidation campaign in Compton by the astro-turf Parent Revolution. Green Dot has been sucking millions of dollars from cash-strapped public schools in Los Angeles and elsewhere, with some of its schools performing so poorly they have gone under. They have surrounded some of their schools with private thugs who have pepper sprayed students.

In short, Green Dot is a dysfunctional and dangerous work environment, not a “healthy” environment to which teachers should aspire. And Weingarten and UFT are collaborationist sellouts—unhealthy for teachers.

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