Just when you thought city teachers couldn’t make themselves look any worse ...
Just when you thought an expired contract protecting facial peels and anti-wrinkle procedures at the expense of crayons and books was as bad as it gets ...
Just when you thought the Buffalo Teachers Federation mascot was Ebenezer Scrooge and the union has the same PR firm as Anthony Weiner ...
In other words, just when you thought you’d heard it all, here comes the BTF taking food from the mouths of babes.
The union has filed a grievance against the impoverished urban district because it’s giving students a free breakfast in the classroom before the start of classes each day.
The culprit? Apparently, it’s crumbs.
The union is beside itself that the kids don’t have perfect table manners and sometimes spill food and milk. Really.
Only in Buffalo would it come to this.
Only in Buffalo, one of the poorest big cities in America, where so many impoverished kids qualified for the free meals that the district started giving them to everyone just to make things easier and eliminate any stigma.
Only in Buffalo, a district in which teachers constantly whine about kids not being ready to learn.
Only in Buffalo, in the face of reams of research linking that ability to learn to proper nutrition. For instance, the World Bank warns that undernutrition among young children undermines “their ability to learn, communicate, think analytically, socialize effectively and adapt to new environments.”
Similarly, a 2007 review in Current Nutrition and Food Science points to significant evidence documenting “the link between eating breakfast and learning.” The authors say that missing breakfast “is associated with quantifiable negative consequences for academic, cognitive, health, and mental health functioning.”
That’s what’s at stake – over crumbs and spilled milk.
Of course, now that the food has hit the fan, the union emphasizes that it is not against classroom breakfasts at all.
“We’re not against the program. We’re against the implementation, how it’s done,” says BTF President Phil Rumore.
He says some teachers complain about ants and mice and that the grievance – based on health and safety and the loss of instructional time – was simply a way of getting the district’s attention. “This is one way to get them to come to the table and talk about it,” Rumore said. “It’s really a shame that it ever had to go to a grievance.”
Well, he’s right about that.
Of course, teachers could have just viewed this as a “teachable moment” to instruct their classroom diners about cleanliness and tidiness. Instead, they chose to file a complaint.
It’s hard to believe a few crumbs and spilled milk would be enough to jeopardize a nutrition program for hungry kids. But this is Buffalo, where no molehill is too small to inflate into a major problem.
Rumore says teachers want the issue dealt with on a school-by-school basis, whether by deploying more teacher’s aides and parent volunteers, or having custodians clean up spills right away. He insists an arbitrator would never scuttle the program and that teachers actually support it.
In other words, the union and the district are in arbitration fighting over something both sides claim they want.
In the middle are the kids, who could protest this insanity by going on a hunger strike – if they weren’t already hungry.