Essentially, top public schools in Manhattan have raised funds from parents to provide teaching aids to over-full classes. The aids are not unionized, and make far less than unionized paraprofessionals. They also seem to have different responsibilities -- they help escort children to the nurse, tie shoes, hand out papers -- than paraprofessionals. The article describes these lower-paid assistants' roles as non-instructional.
The union filed a grievance and got the school system to agree to stop employing these people because they are not union members and because they have not undergone the system-level background checks (the principals were conducting their own hiring and background checks). Here is the quote from a union official: "'It’s hurting our union members, and to some extent it could be hurting kids because we don’t know how qualified they are,' said Ron Davis, a spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers."
Well this sentence pretty much sums it up. "It's hurting union members, and that's more important than kids or families." Clearly, the union doesn't care about preserving jobs, it cares about preserving union jobs. The union is all for the working man, as long as he pays into union coffers. (Also, "to some extent it could be hurting kids"? That's as damning as he can get? Someone needs to send this guy to debate class, because that's not going to convince anyone of anything.)
The parents are, not surprisingly, outraged:
- “The reason the teaching assistants are here is because they’ve been stuffing so many kids in these classes,” said Patrick J. Sullivan, co-president of the Parent-Teacher Association at the Lower Lab School (P.S. 77), where parents spend $250,000 a year on the teaching assistants. “Nobody wants to break any rules, but 28 is just too many kids for one teacher.”
- “How much do parents have to put up with?”
- “This is not like the movers and shakers of Wall Street; this is a middle-class school,” said Emily Heckman, whose 7-year-old son will be entering second grade. “We’re doing this because we’re stuck — we have kids coming out of the windows.”
I don't claim to be some kind of expert in the world of NY schools, and I can admit that I may be missing something. If anyone has some plausible explanation for why the schools should be prohibited from hiring these people, I'd love to hear it. Otherwise, it seems to me that the UFT just cost 290 people their jobs because they weren't getting a piece of the pie.