Ending LIFO Another Form of Racism?

    Last Update: Friday, Feb. 26, 2011, 3pm

     Under BloomKlein the percentage of Black teacher new hires has dropped each year from 28% to 14% (as of 2008). 

    Ending LIFO will make the teaching staff whiter.

    What has a greater impact on kids? Having a sign on your classroom that says your teacher went to Duke, or having a teacher who comes from your neighborhood and had similar experiences growing up?

    You just have to take a look around many schools to notice something painfully obvious: the number of senior black teachers and the numbers of younger white teachers.

    A few weeks ago I was invited to speak at chapter meetings in a Harlem elementary school, a school that has been invaded by a charter school. I was somewhat surprised to see that of the 25+ staff members that attended the meetings only one was white and only a few were in their twenties. It could be that there is a different demographic that didn't attend the meetings but the overall staff seemed to be people of color.

    In contrast, just about every teacher I saw at the charter school was white and young. But the teachers did have signs on their doors advertising the fancy colleges they went to. I didn't notice one CUNY college, a place where you might actually recruit teachers of color. Does Teach for America even consider them colleges? Racism? You judge.

    I wrote about this a few weeks ago: The Racial School Divide in Harlem
    Almost the entire staff of the public school is black or Latino/a and senior while almost the entire staff of the co-located charter is white and young. And this is Harlem where all the kids are the same color of the public school teachers. What has a greater impact on kids? Having a sign on your classroom that says your teacher went to Duke, or having a teacher who comes from your neighborhood and had similar experiences growing up?
    So what has this to do with Last in First Out? It should be obvious - that there is a higher percentage of older teachers of color than there is of younger teachers and an end to LIFO will make the staff younger and whiter.
    At yesterday's ICE meeting one of my long time colleagues from the 70's reminded me that in the massive layoffs of the mid-70's LIFO was attacked as being racist because many Black teachers had been hired since community control came into effect in 1968/9 and were the younger teachers being laid off. Our group, which consisted of many progressive members who had gone in to work during the UFT 1968 strike because they considered it a racist attack on the community, went through a difficult decision making process but ultimately came down on the side of preserving LIFO because it was such a lynchpin of protection for all teachers, arguing that in the long run it would protect even these Black teachers. And so it has come to pass.

    I want to point out that I had this very same discussion with a young 4th year Black teacher at the school 2 weeks ago. She supported LIFO but was concerned about layoffs. I pointed to the fact that LIFO gave her rights over all the teachers who came before her - what would stop her principal from choosing a first year teacher over her without LIFO? I also pointed out that if she were laid off under LIFO she retained rights of return in the same order she was laid off, something that would probably disappear if LIFO ended.
    Racist Hiring policies at Tweed?
    Look at the hiring policies since BloomKlein took over. I wrote about it a few times based on the work of Sean Ahern, a founder of ICE.

     Racial Policies at Tweed: Disappearing Black Teachers
     Joel Klein calls the achievement gap "The Shame of the Nation" as he races to black churches to sell his program of change in the NYC schools. But the real shame just may be the drastic drop in the number of black teacher hires in the BloomKlein years from 27.2% in 2001/02 to 14.1% in 2006/7 according to a report from the black educator blog.

    From 1990 - 2002 it rose steadily from 16% - 27%.
    Also the % of Hispanic teachers has dropped from a high of 18% in the mid-90's to 11% today, though the numbers are fairly consistent under BloomKlein and the drop began before they took over. At the height, Hispanic an African Americans mader up over 40% of new recruits and that has dropped to 25%. And the % of white teacher recruits has risen from 49% - 65%.
     Sean worked with the UFT to put together a diversity resolution which addressed this issue and it was passed at a recent Delegate Assembly. Sean sent this email around yesterday.
    "It is an urgent tactical and strategic necessity that  the defense of seniority be joined with the effort to stop and reverse the disappearing of Black and Latino educators."

    Bloomberg wants to be able to lay off senior higher paid teachers in order to retain newly hired, untenured, lower paid teachers.  In order to do this the NYS legislature would have to change existing law.  

    The senior teachers most at risk are more likely to be Black and Latino teachers. New teachers are more likely to be white as a consequence of Bloombergs hiring policies. Since 2002 there has been a yearly decline in the percentage of Black and Latino teachers being hired.  In addition the senior teachers who are being most targeted for layoff are those in the absent teacher reserve (ATR).  The Bloomberg policy of closing schools in the Black and Latino communities disproportionately affects Black and Latino teachers who are concentrated in these schools.

    The link to the article by Jeff Kaufman http://iceuftblog.blogspot.com/, former UFT Executive Board member and a leading rank and file spokesperson for ICE (Independent Coalition of Educators) one of the opposition caucuses in the UFT, provides useful background on the activities of a group set up and funded by the Gates Foundation which supports teacher layoffs without regard to seniority.  

    Missing from Brother Kaufman's otherwise excellent article is a racial profile of the teachers that are most at risk;  the senior teachers, and the ones more likely to be retained in the event of an layoff;  the newly hired teachers.   We can't force a social consciousness onto Gates and his flunkies but we can speak for and practice justice in our own schools and union.

    The layoff of senior teachers over newly hired teachers would accelerate the disappearing of Black and Latino educators from NYC public schools.  It is an urgent tactical and strategic necessity that  the defense of seniority be joined with  the effort to stop and reverse the disappearing of Black and Latino educators

    The joining of these two issues cuts across caucus affiliation and is the touchstone of solidarity at this moment within the UFT .  The extent to which union activists  raise our own awareness and that of the membership and public at large will go far in determining the strength of our common defense of learning and working conditions in the coming months.  Leaders and caucuses existing and in formation will be measured by their words and deeds on this touchstone of solidarity.
    Defend seniority rights in the event of layoffs!
    Defend learning and working conditions - Renew the Millionaires tax!
    Stop and Reverse the Disappearing of Black and Latino Educators!
    Implement the "Resolves" in the UFT Resolution on Diversity!

    Sean Ahern

    Resolution promoting diversity in the New York City teaching force

    January 19, 2011
    WHEREAS, it has been a long standing policy of the UFT to support the existence of a diverse teaching force, both in the interest of equity and because education research has consistently proven that African-American and Latino students who have had teachers of color as positive role models achieve greater educational progress; and
    WHEREAS, a study of the UFT Committee on Civil and Human Rights found that in relation to the numbers of African-American and Latino students in New York City public schools, African-American and Latino educators are dramatically underrepresented;
    WHEREAS, the Committee found that while the hiring of new African-American and Latino educators had steadily increased into the early 2000s, there has been a troubling reversal of this trend under the tenure of Chancellor Joel Klein with the effect of exacerbating, rather than abating, the dramatic underrepresentation of African-American and Latino educators; be it therefore
    RESOLVED, that the UFT demand that the New York City Department of Education rededicate itself to a policy of actively recruiting and hiring teachers of diverse backgrounds in order to reverse the downward trend of the last eight years in the percentages of African-American and Latino classroom teachers and to diminish the considerable gap between the numbers of African-American and Latino students and the numbers of teachers of color; and be it further
    RESOLVED, that the UFT use all its resources to compel the Department of Education to take affirmative action to increase the numbers of teachers of color in its contracts with third party entities engaged in teacher recruitment on its behalf; and be it further
    RESOLVED, that the UFT use all of its resources to compel the Department of Education and the third party entities engaged in teacher recruitment on its behalf to target recruitment at public universities such as the State University of New York and the City University of New York; and be it further
    RESOLVED, that the UFT lobby the Federal, State and City governments to develop and expand scholarships and other incentives to encourage and support college students in entering the educational profession; and be it further
    RESOLVED, that in conjunction with the NYC Department of Education, the UFT encourage the development and expansion of future teacher programs in the NYC public high schools, and highlight education as a viable career path by encouraging its development through the use of financial supports; and be it further
    RESOLVED, that the UFT use all of its resources to compel the Department of Education to provide expand its support for existing programs which produce large numbers of experienced and qualified African-American and Latino teachers – the career ladder program for para-professionals and the Success Via Apprenticeship program for aspiring Career-Technical teachers; and  be it further
    RESOLVED, that the UFT continue to combat the negative depiction of teaching and the teaching profession which can only result in turning away prospective teachers from our profession, and be it further
    RESOLVED, that the UFT through its own efforts and in conjunction with the Department of Education persuade the Teach for America program to expand its pool of potential teachers to include more teachers of diverse backgrounds and advocate that both Teach for America and the NYC Teaching Fellows actively recruit more African-American and Latino teachers.

    ADD ON
    Attack on Public Employees Deals a Sharp Blow to Blacks

    By Steven Pitts

    Even though the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, the subsequent jobless recovery continues to inflict great pain on working families. This is especially true in the black community, where the unemployment rate of 15.7 percent in January was higher than at the end of the recession (14.9 percent). Conservatives ignore this misery and call for fiscal austerity. And as events in Wisconsin and across the country are showing, the demand for austerity is a subterfuge for a frontal assault on public employees and their freedom to bargain for a middle class life.
    This attack casts a particularly sharp blow to the black community. Before the recession, 18 percent of black men and 23.3 percent of black women were public employees, making this sector the leading employer of black men and the second leading employer of black women. In contrast, 14.2 percent of white men, 19.8 percent of white women, 7.5 percent of Latinos and 14.9 percent of Latinas were public employees. It is important to note that these are national figures. In urban areas with large black populations, the role of the public sector in providing good jobs and creating a middle class for the black community is undoubtedly greater.
    As we fight for a genuine economic recovery, we must not forget that the economy did not serve workers well before the Great Recession. There was rising income inequality and flat wage growth. This was especially evident in the black community, where unemployment levels routinely doubled that of whites and 42.7 percent of fulltime black workers earned less than $30,000, compared with 27.3 percent for white workers.
    The persistent reality of racial inequities regardless of the state of the economy reminds us that in our quest for a just society, economic justice and racial justice are intertwined. The union movement cannot limit its battles to fights for family-sustaining wages and a voice at work. The fight for dignity at work includes a fight against all forms of racism in the labor market.
    Advocates for racial justice cannot limit their economic demands to calls for job creation and anti-discrimination enforcement in the workplace. Without the collective power that unions can exert in the labor markets and at the ballot box, employers will drive wages to the lowest possible levels and subject workers to arbitrary whims. They also will discriminate against people of color and sow divisiveness among workers.
    Fifty years ago, when Martin Luther King Jr. spoke before the AFL-CIO convention, he said the interests of blacks and labor were identical as they both faced a twin-headed monster spewing forth anti-labor and anti-black epithets. We justly praise those remarks.
    King’s favorite unions were those that saw their mission as fighting the twin evils of racial and economic exploitation in the community, the workplace and the union. We would do well to follow their examples, not just during Black History Month, but all year long.
    Steven Pitts is a labor policy specialist at the University of California, Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education.

    Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: http://normsnotes2.blogspot.com/. And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

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