A Stroll Through the Moratorium Mausoleum

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten caused an uproar when she called for a moratorium on sanctions tied to Common Core. I don’t have an opinion on that one way or the other, but I do know the AFT and Weingarten really, really like moratoria.

My dictionary defines moratorium as a “suspension of activity or an authorized period of delay or waiting.” A delay, rather than an outright halt, is what leads some to believe that Weingarten is exercising a triangulation strategy rather than taking up a sincere position. AFT’s history suggests that whatever the purpose, the effectiveness of the moratorium is mixed, at best.

Just prior to the Common Core moratorium, Weingarten was in Philadelphia, where she was arrested for a protest of the School Reform Commission. She and the other activists involved were calling for a one-year moratorium on school closings. That seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Last year AFT trumpeted its support for a nationwide moratorium on out-of-school suspensions. The statistics from California suggest that’s going to be a tough row to hoe.

Going further back to 2008, when Weingarten was president of the United Federation of Teachers, she urged a moratorium on new teacher hiring until all of those in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) were placed. This gained some traction, as in May 2009 the city instituted a hiring freeze but allowed principals to take on ATR teachers.

In 2003, Weingarten offered a moratorium on sabbaticals as a bargaining chip to avoid layoffs of paraprofessionals. In 2002, AFT famously issued a report on charter schools, concluding there should be a moratorium on further charter school expansion “until more convincing evidence of their effectiveness and viability is presented.” Since that time, the number of charter schools has grown from 2,000 to more than 5,700.

Moving back into ancient history, in 1998 AFT called for a moratorium on emergency credentials for teachers, and in 1994 the union wanted a moratorium on full inclusion of special education and disabled students in mainstream classrooms.

Perhaps this time will be different, but if history is any guide, the moratorium will not turn into a mass movement.