By Jude Soto
In New York City, the United of Federation of Teachers (UFT) has another fight on its hands. On January 10, a judge denied the United Federation of Teachers request to block the release of Teacher Data Reports under the Freedom of Information Act. The union’s response has been expected, appeal the ruling and keep the legal challenge going. This is a short sighted strategy however, and if the union really wants to prevent the reputation of teachers from being sullied it must change its tactics and adopt of more teacher-centered and less lawyer-centered approach.
First, the union should end all legal challenges to the release of the reports. As the lawsuit drags on, many New Yorkers are beginning to see the actions as work of a core group of out of touch misanthropes that are attempting to use America’s notoriously Byzantine courts as a way to short change America’s children. The fact is, in all likelihood the union will lose the appeal, and the reports will be released anyway.
Second, with money saved from ending all legal challenges, a publicity campaign must be undertaken. A strategic and carefully crafted media blitz would raise awareness of the fact that parents and teachers have much in common, in terms of hopes for their children. For example, parents and teachers both desire smaller class size, increased funding for schools, more resources inside of the classroom and less money wasted on outside contractors.
Finally, the union itself must make a greater move to mobilize its members. Instead of simply sending us a drab magazine once a year, the union must make an effort to keep teachers abreast of ways to make themselves, and the common goals they share with parents, heard to others. Teachers should be encouraged to write letters to congressmen, mail comments to newspapers, or comment on blogs. I am a regular contributor for LatinoPoliticsBlog.com, but my union had nothing to do with me writing these articles. All my union has done for mobilization has been to send me a graying newspaper once a week with the latest school our leader has visited.
Simple steps centering on the needs of parents and teachers must be taken in order to prevent our union from being seen as a reactive group of fools opposed to any sort of progress. By ending a legal challenge that is doomed to failure, a more assertive union can aggressively challenge the natural advantage – money and the bully pulpit – enjoyed by the anti-teacher Mayor Bloomberg and public schools chancellor Cathie Black.
Jude Soto has been a teacher in a low-income public high school in New York City since 2004. A native New Yorker, Soto has an M.A. in history fromBrooklyn College. Outside of the academic world, his pursuits include traveling, weightlifting, and long distance running.