June 5, 2009
We’ve reported that people are upset with Randi Weingarten for her school governance position. But we haven’t reported the various reasons they’re suggesting for why the teachers union president is not joining mayoral control’s fiercest critics in their push for major changes to the law.
Arthur Goldstein, a teacher who was recently elected to be the union chapter leader for his Queens school, speculated that President Obama’s preference for mayoral control could have influenced Weingarten. “It could indeed be that Randi sees this is the way this is going and Randi is deciding to go with the flow,” he said. He added, “But it is actually her job to move the flow in our direction,” referring to the teachers Weingarten represents.
Other people I spoke to said the evolution of Weingarten’s position on whether the mayor should control the majority of seats on the city school board could reflect a political calculation intended to improve the union’s position for this fall, when it must negotiate a new contract. The contract variable is unique to the United Federation of Teachers among all groups who have made recommendations about how to improve school governance.
“Nobody else has changed since their initial proposals,” said Lisa Donlan, a parent activist from Manhattan. “But nobody else is in a contract negotiation position.”
Saying that she could live with Mayor Bloomberg’s preferred school board composition might have allowed Weingarten to win something for her members in the new contract, said Lisa North, a union chapter leader from a Brooklyn school.
“I’m hoping she negotiated something for it,” North said. “But it’s really too important of an issue to be negotiated away.”
Another theory is that Weingarten never believed in stripping the mayor of his power to appoint a majority of school board members, and that she only said she did because her members voted in favor of it. After all, said union activist Norm Scott, Weingarten supported mayoral control in 2002, when Mayor Bloomberg first sought to gain it. Earlier this spring, Weingarten sounded like she was in favor of strong curbs on the mayor’s power, but that was just posturing, Scott said.
“Randi will support them all the way,” Scott said about Bloomberg and Klein. “This was just part of the sham, part of the game.”