Dear New York State United Teachers:
I don’t care what gets “cut” in your local school budgets as Gov. David A. Paterson courageously attempts to bring fiscal responsibility to New York. In fact, if our governor takes a meat ax to your budgets, we should have a taxpayer-sponsored toga party.
You’ve had 15 years of record spending increases, and were well-aware this doomsday was coming. You failed to plan ahead. Failed miserably.
Your lesson plans constantly call for tolerance, harmony, respect and peace. I applaud you. Unfortunately, there’s one group of people you’ll never have a classroom Kumbaya sing-a-long with: taxpayers.
Year after year, you’ve received school aid at two, three and four times the rate of inflation. I’d cite the exact record numbers, but you don’t care about the facts. You’re supposed to be educators, and simple charts that show explosive spending increases don’t matter.
Sen. Hugh Farley and his colleagues in the state Legislature backed a Brinks truck up to all your schools. You’ve experienced the days of wine and roses for over a decade. Now it’s time for reality.
I am your reality check.
Your schools comprise a massive public sector work force. The ratio of staff-to-students you have at your disposal is off-the-charts compared to other states.
You have too many assistant principals, assistants to assistant principals, make-work teacher aides and patronage employees. You have too many double-dipping lawyers leeching off you. And you have too many formulas, special mandates and self-imposed rules that impede teaching.
Yet, you’re doing nothing to reform your employee structure and your regulations. Absolutely nothing.
Why do you think parents and guardians have been flocking to charter schools throughout the Capital Region? Because they understand your non-essential bureaucrats and your deep sea of red tape doesn’t educate our children.
Charter schools are your Apocalypse Now. They are New York’s only true grass roots movement, and you scorn their competitive existence.
In these trying financial times, you need to tell your superiors to get rid of any person or any mandate that hurts your ability to achieve excellence in the classroom. If you can’t do it on the local level, lobby the state Legislature. That’s how you’ll save money.
What you have never lobbied the state Legislature for is teacher tenure reform and merit pay. It is nearly impossible to remove incompetent and criminal teachers from the classroom because of you people. And the best teachers are purposely ignored financially.
“A union of professionals” is how you market yourselves. A professional takes pride in work, in striving to be the best. But you’re willing to accept a job-protection racket that celebrates mediocrity at the expense of high standards. What a fraud you’re perpetuating on the people of New York.
Before I forget, you need to stop lying. Yes, lying. Gov. Paterson is not “cutting” your budgets. He’s slowing down the spending increase you were scheduled to receive from 9 to 5 percent. As teachers, you should at least be able to perform the math.
If you can’t do the math, find a new line of work. We can do without your pedagogical services in the Empire State.
You also must stop lying about arts and athletics being “cut.” That’s your favorite fear strategy, and you’re already executing it shamelessly. You know the band will always play on and the football team will always take the field.
Let’s be honest about why you exist. You represent adults, not children. Your goal is to augment power, benefits and self-preservation. Children are mere props. You’ll talk about them being “our most precious resource” all day long, and continue to think about the size of your bank accounts as Priority No. 1.
Yes, this is harsh. And you’re probably mad as hell reading it. Good.
Because no one — and I mean no one — talks to you like this. You just got the truth handed to you. Deal with it.
Very truly yours,
Christopher Chichester, a graduate of New York’s public schools, is a former spokesman for Gov. George E. Pataki, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe and Congressman Lamar S. Smith. He lives in Albany. The Gazette encourages readers to submit material on local issues for the Sunday Opinion section.