Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Chalkbeat, Arithmetic, and the Pattern

Chalkbeat departed from its wall to wall coverage of Eva Moskowitz and Educators4Excellence the other day to take a peek at those of us who work in what they call "district schools," and what you and I call "public schools." You see, it's important for Chalkbeat to employ the reformy lingo, and try to work it into the mainstream, just as it's important for Fox News to write up the nonsense that comes from the lunatic fringe and hope mainstream media thinks it's real.

I promised arithmetic, though, and my math teacher friends are sitting on the edge of their seats wondering how I will screw it up. I don't promise not to, but I'm pretty sure I can't rival Chalkbeat:

Unlike the first contract under Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in 2014, the pay increases included in the new contract are marginal. In that contract, starting teacher pay jumped by almost 20 percent — nearly $10,000 — because city teachers had gone without an updated contract for five years.

Now that's interesting. Not only that, but it's also partially correct. Well, except for the part that makes the last contract look like it paid more than this one. You see, it's true that we had gone without an updated contract for five years. What Chalkbeat couldn't be bothered checking out was that the new contract was for nine years. 

I'm going by memory here, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but what we got was first, the double four percent raises that NYPD and FDNY got. In addition to that, we tacked on 10% for seven years. Now here's where the promised arithmetic comes in---We got 4, plus 4, plus 10. That adds up to 18. If you divide that by 9, that means we got 2 percent a year. 

Except the other thing Chalkbeat couldn't be bothered with was the fact that much of this was deferred. For example, this week most of us got a pretty nice check we probably earned 8 years ago. Now if you take the three raises, 2, plus 2.5, plus 3, and divide that by 43 months, well, that's not as easy as 18 divided by two so I'm not gonna bother. But actually, it's about the same, and we don't have to wait ten years for it, which almost certainly makes it worth more.

I have read a lot about how it doesn't keep up with inflation, and I cannot argue that point. I will argue another, though, one that Chalkbeat couldn't be bothered with, and that is New York City has done pattern bargaining for around forever. In this century at least, the only way we've beaten the pattern was via givebacks. We beat the pattern in 2005, for example. 

All we had to do in 2005 to beat the pattern was work extra hours, enable the ATR, give up the right to grieve letters to the file, and I don't recall just what else off the top of my head. What I do recall is that the 2005 contract made me quite aware of union and turned me slowly into an activist. And it's quite clear to me that we cannot afford givebacks. You'd better believe that the same people screaming about how the new agreement sucks would be out with torches and pitchforks if there were givebacks, even for money.

There are gains in this contract, but you won't hear about them from its critics. Some of the same people who screamed for two observations now don't seem to care about them at all, and I have to tell you that is disappointing. It's particularly disappointing because I worked pretty hard to try and get this. To me it's a win. A lot of members I see face to face tell me they are happy about it. I don't know what to say to internet voices who demanded this for years and are unhappy now that we've got it. 

In any case, you won't be reading any of this in Chalkbeat. Here's what you will read, in another Chalkbeat piece full of the same errors as the last one:

City teachers will now be able to opt out of supporting the United Federation of Teachers, a dynamic that crept into UFT members’ reactions to the contract deal.

Hey, I'll bet the Walmart Family and Bill Gates, both of whom contribute to Chalkbeat, adore their allusions to union-busting. I'll bet they love watching Chalkbeat made transparently false comparisons of this contract to the last one, and I'll bet they love seeing the same writer trash our union using the same misinformation in two articles one after the other.

I wrote to Chalkbeat, and asked why they didn't write about fewer observations, or enhanced due process for paraprofessionals. I got a letter back saying that they didn't know about the paras. It hadn't been released until Friday, so they didn't know. But I released that info on Thursday, right here.


That's a tweet from Ben Chapman, education reporter for the New York Daily News. He's linking to this blog on Thursday, when I released highlights from the contract, after the city did pretty much the same. Evidently no one at Chalkbeat reads this blog. Evidently they don't follow the New York Daily News education reporter on Twitter. You know, if I were an education reporter, I would read teacher blogs and follow Ben Chapman on Twitter. In fact, I'm not an education reporter and I do both.

I guess I just don't have what it takes to make it in the big time reformy Chalkbeat news biz. My arithmetic is too good. I don't like to brag, but I happen to be a high school graduate. My teachers told me that would pay off one day and look, they were right after all.
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