During the term limits war that already seems oddly in the past, it made some sense that the teachers union decided not to oppose the extension too aggressively. By stating a preference for a referendum but not really fighting hard for one, the union saved up political capital for what will surely be a big budget fight.
But in another way, the union’s move was surprising. Many teachers, especially those who are active in the teachers union, do not like what Mayor Bloomberg has done to the public schools and do not want his schools chancellor, Joel Klein, in charge for another four years. So why wouldn’t opposing the term limits extension be a top priority?
We now get some insight into how UFT President Randi Weingarten convinced members not to take up the anti-Bloomberg push as a top priority, courtesy of the latest edition of the union’s internal newspaper, New York Teacher. Michael Hirsch, a New York Teacher reporter, was (unlike me) inside the delegate assembly meeting and got this key quote from Weingarten:
“We could all say to heck with all of them and let’s fight ’em all and go to the bulkheads,” she said. “But we must use our heads and not our hearts. Because the only way we’re going to get through this crisis is by using by our contract, using our political might, using our collective energy and action — and doing all that in as smart and as savvy a way as possible in accordance with our three core principles.”
For the record, Weingarten defines the union’s three core principles as (1) protecting funding for “core services”; (2) protecting the “economic security” of members, and (3) working with “the community and other allies.”