DOEUFTDOEUFTDOEUFT isn’t some strange Dutch word or the name of a South African soccer player.

It’s a nonsense word that I think perfectly sums up the state of public school education in NYC:  an indecipherable log-jammed system.

Here’s the latest WTF moment from the annals of New York education:

The first day of school for the 2010 school year is set for Wednesday, Sept 8.  But because Labor Day is late this year (and how does that happen, anyway, that holidays just sort of float around the calendar? ) the school start date bumps up against Rosh Hashanah, which means that the schools will be closed Sept 9 & 10. 

That means that kids have exactly one day of school that week, smack in the middle of the week. How’s that for convenient?  Let’s not even think about the nightmare of arranging childcare that week or the difficulty of trying to help kids who are starting kindergarten. Let’s just think about the zoo-like quality of the classrooms, filled with kids who are still bouncy from summer and even bouncier at the prospect of a long weekend. Would you want to be the teacher in that room? I sure as hell wouldn’t.

Parent groups have petitioned Joel Klein to change the calendar, pleading with him to make this starting schedule slightly more sane and yesterday, we got  our response: a letter from our pal Joel, putting the blame for his inability to change the calendar squarely on…the teachers’ union, that always handy scapegoat. Klein’s letter reads, in part, “the UFT refused our proposal and therefore we are left with no choice but to keep the calendar unchanged.”

Does anyone else find it surprising that the Chancellor of Schools doesn’t have it in his power to change the school calendar? Given that he can close schools pretty much at the drop of a hat, you’d think something like moving the start date on the calendar would be a finger snap.

In response to Klein, UFT President Michael Mulgrew blamed the calendar problem on… Joel Klein (I know, you’re shocked, shocked that he’d do such a thing).  Mulgrew noted that the teacher contracts allow for different schools to choose different start dates, and suggested that different boroughs might start on different days, which Klein said would be “chaotic.”

I’m sure Mulgrew is indulging in some spin of his own, obviously; no one likes to be a scapegoat (and he laid out an interesting pattern of Kleinian blame: when things go wrong, it’s the fault of the teachers and principals, and when things go right, it’s because of Klein’s masterful handling of the system).  But the teachers I know think this starting calendar is ridiculous and all of them voted to change the date–and in fact, none of them know any teachers who voted to keep the calendar as it is. So then you have to wonder: who, exactly, voted to keep the calendar?

For any of us who have encountered the implacable force that is the DOE (thou shalt not get a variance; thou shalt not take anything other than scores into account for gifted-and-talented programs; thou shalt not get special services for your kid unless you sue the shit out of us first, and so on), Klein’s letter, which claims powerlessness in the face of the almighty union, strikes a patently false note.

But Klein blames the union and the union blames Klein, and round we go, swing your partner and do-si-do.  The only people not enjoying this blame dance, with its intervals of finger-pointing and chin-wagging, are the thousands of families who have to deal with this idiotic schedule. And of course, we will deal with it, just as we deal with all the other DOEUFT nonsense, but what a waste of time and energy when there’s such a simple solution available (no, not firing Joel Klein, although it’s a lovely thought).  Just move the start of school to Sept. 13.  Easy-peasy.

But in the world of UFTDOE, easy-peasy doesn’t work.

And they wonder why people move to the ‘burbs.