|Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons|
Buffalo Public Schools teachers voted overwhelmingly last week to reject evaluation reform at six of its low performing schools, according to Buffalo News.com. Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore said that if the state withheld funding for such “arbitrary and capricious” reasons they would hold the state accountable and sue.
Education “reformers” have been taking advantage of the severe budget cuts districts have suffered over the past three years to blackmail teachers’ unions into accepting “reforms” that undermine their job security, collective bargaining rights and working conditions. In this case, New York had offered BPS $5.6 million in additional funding if they ripped up contractual rights, something that could only happen with approval of the new evaluations by the BTF.
When the union refused, the superintendent tried to blame them for the district’s financial woes and insinuate that it did not care about children’s wellbeing:
"The state has given us clear guidelines as to what we have to do . . . to restore these much needed funds to our schools. . . all that is needed for approval of this document is Mr. Rumore's signature. . . I continue to appeal to him to do what is best for the children of the Buffalo Public Schools . . .”
Never mind that the union had nothing to do with the budget cuts or that the teachers would have to sign away their job security in order to get the funds. The new evaluation plan would base teachers’ evaluations partly on student test scores, a metric that has virtually no correlation to teachers’ skill or performance in the classroom. More significantly, the test scores are most strongly correlated with students’ socioeconomic backgrounds. Thus, under the new plan, teachers would be evaluated on the affluence of their students, rather than their merits as professionals. This is not only unfair and unreasonable for the teachers, but it could undermine the wellbeing of low income students by driving excellent teachers out of low income schools.