The Gotham teacher aides who'll be jobless come September are not victims of the financial crisis. Instead, the cause of their unemployment is the source of their salaries. Parents at a number of affluent public schools have contributed $200,000 to 300,000 a year to pay directly for the additional adult help. They love being able to lower student-teacher ratios and are more than willing to cover the cost out of their own pockets. But the United Federation of Teachers is not so pleased, filing several complaints to the NYC Department of Education because, under its contract, all school employees must be DOE employees, and, more importantly, union members. City officials have finally cowed to their demands. A UFT spokesman spoke plainly when he explained that the freelance parent-paid aides were bad for business: "It's hurting our union members, and to some extent it could be hurting kids..." We're glad the UFT is admitting to its priorities--union first, then kids as an afterthought--but the implications are awful. Under the new policy, schools will be forced to hire more expensive unionized paraprofessionals, many of whom are neither as experienced as the current aides, nor even required to have a four year degree. And since the city has instituted a hiring freeze, the parent-paid aides can't even reapply to DOE for a unionized version of their jobs. Here's one silver lining: this action is sure to radicalize the affluent (and influential) parents who must bid farewell to their beloved aides because of the intransigence of the union. And radicalized parents can go a long way.
"Parent-Paid Aides Ordered Out of City Schools," by Winnie Hu, New York Times, July 20, 2009