Saturday, January 20, 2018


The American Federation of Teachers put out a press release announcing that the Union has filed an Amicus brief in the case of Janus vs AFSCME.

For those living in a cave (far too many public employees fit this category I fear) who have not been following developments, this is the case that looks to make union dues optional in the public sector. The argument from Mark Janus that agency fees for non-union members violate free speech rights of public employees who do not join a union because everything a union does with a government employer is political so forcing public sector workers to pay fair share fees is a violation of First Amendment free speech rights.

The argument from the defense is that since all employees benefit from the collective bargaining unions do, therefore everyone has to pay for collective bargaining. No free riders.

Here is what AFT President Randi Weingarten said in the AFT press release:

“The fight for prosperity and opportunity for all, embodied by the labor movement, is an anathema to the corporate backers of this case—the people funding it are the same people attacking civil rights, attacking voting rights and attacking public education.
“This case warps and weaponizes the First Amendment by enabling one person’s complaint—without any record or evidence—to undermine the interests of millions of workers across the country who benefit from collective bargaining. And it suggests that collective bargaining, which operates just like any other workplace consultation process, should draw far more constitutional scrutiny than its equivalents.
“The current law has preserved labor peace for four decades by balancing the interests of workers and employers and fostering partnerships to improve school districts and other public sector workplaces. We argue that engaging in collective bargaining is constitutionally no different than the state paying a consultant to advise it on employment relations issues. Further, the plaintiff’s argument is a dishonest rejection of established legal precedent, reaffirmed many times, and therefore must fail.
“I am confident that if the nine justices of the Supreme Court consider this case on the merits, not ideologically, they would agree.”
Unfortunately Randi, I think most of us would agree that five of those nine justices (John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Neal Gorsuch) will consider the case on ideological grounds and will bend the constitutional reasoning to fit their right wing point of view. I fully expect the unions to lose the case and what happens after that depends on how the decision is written and what the reaction is.
If you want to know why so few union members are shedding tears over the probable loss in this case, read this part of Randi's statement very closely, "The current law has preserved labor peace for four decades by balancing the interests of workers and employers and fostering partnerships to improve school districts and other public sector workplaces." She's kind of arguing something we all know: that we are company unions. Those partnerships she talks about are dominated by management. See NYC teachers for evidence.

Friday, January 19, 2018


Harris Lirtzman is a retired teacher who once worked for both the New York State Comptroller and the NYC Comptroller. He is our unofficial ICEblog budget expert. Last night he commented on our analysis of Arthur Goldstein's January Delegate Assembly report where UFT President Michael Mulgrew spent some time covering Governor Andrew Cuomo's budget proposal.

Mulgrew made our governor student of the month. One idea Cuomo has would replace or change the state income tax (no longer federally tax deductible) to a payroll tax. Another is to turn state taxes into charitable contributions (still federally tax deductible).

Harris commented here last night:

Harris L. said...
All Mulgrew's blithering about how NYS will be able to find a practicable way to replace the now-limited deductibility of income and property taxes by making state taxes "charitable contributions" or by replacing the income tax with Rube Goldberg-type changes to payroll taxes is just that, blithering.

Nobody knows what the governor's talking about. The few bread crumbs he's dropped randomly in press conferences make no sense to budget and tax people who do this stuff for a living.
Mulgrew can wish it were so but he ought not put around the idea that pressures on state and local budgets resulting from the damnable federal tax law can be easily waived away by some state-based shenanigans that the IRS would disallow anyway.

Harris supported his comment by sending me an article from the NY Times which shows how complicated Cuomo's tax proposal would be.

From the Times:
The report, released this week, laid out at least a half-dozen ways New York could rewrite its tax code, with no indication of which option legislators might pursue. There was a potpourri of progressive rates, wage credits and tax-withholding schemes, with officials cautioning that all the options would require further study. No bills have been drafted.

The possibilities included completely replacing the state income tax with an employer-side payroll tax; introducing a new progressive payroll tax in addition to the existing income tax, with tax credits to make up the difference; or designing a payroll tax only for wage earners above a certain income threshold — the taxpayers most likely to be hurt by the federal tax plan in the first place. Some versions would be mandatory. Others would be opt-in.

More than anything, the report illustrated how difficult it may be to turn academic theory into real policy, serving as a cautionary guide to other states contemplating similar options. And it underscored the political challenges that lie ahead for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, as he seeks to sell a new payroll tax that could slightly reduce workers' wages, even though the net payout, after taxes, would remain the same.

To sum it all up, a grand tax rewrite to get around the federal tax changes is not likely to pass in Albany.  Still our governor, who is probably eying the White House for 2020, is Mulgrew's student of the month. 

Hey, states rights are cool nowadays. You never know but I haven't forgotten Cuomo's anti-teacher, anti-public school, anti-labor record.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Family matters kept me away from the January Delegate Assembly. Fortunately, Arthur Goldstein was there and filed a report.

You can read it here.

I will quote one specific line from President Michael Mulgrew's report:

UFT is largest most powerful union in USA.

Does the word delusional come to mind or are you glowing with union pride in hearing our President boast about our size and strength?

Here is what Arthur said Mulgrew reported about the NY State budget:

State—Governor rolled out budget. Good things about public ed. Got large applause when he said NY State would protect union and workers. Proud NY State spends more on ed. than other states. Says we have educated him, are highly effective.

Budget proposal—two year process—have to meet minimums from last year—1.5% increase in education. Came in with 3% increase instead. He’s signaling he doesn’t know if he can get much further. Also, health care 3%. Important for students and communities we serve. We will not get involved in fights with health care workers, will have mutual support.

More important is idea of restructuring taxes in NY State. We will get a huge budget cut next year. Governor has taken lead and said in this. Federal tax plan specifically goes after 12 states, donor states, including us. We pay for services, 48 billion more than we get back. Being used in states that got tax break.

Now we are punished for not supporting candidates who passed that tax bill. Will cost NY 14 billion additional next year. Governor trying to give us deductions back. Will probably be used to give governor and corporations tax breaks.

NY State will create tax credit for charitable funds. 10K limit for state, local taxes, and mortgagee. Other piece is payroll tax, still deductible. We may lower income tax and increase payroll tax to use as a deduction.

Feds will call It outrageous. NY is acting like a corporation. Sad we’ve gotten to the point we even have to look at this, but if not, we will be hurt—individually, and our schools will hurt too.. We will work with governor to not allow fed scheme to hurt us.

Governor now gets student of the month, star on refrigerator, we must keep him there.

Cuomo student of the month? Ouch.

Staff Director Leroy Barr later in the meeting spoke against a MORE resolution calling for the UFT to support Black Lives Matter week in February. Leroy opposed it because he claimed it was a splinter issue. (I think he meant to say splitter because it would split the membership.) Leroy as reported by Arthur then said, "Many years ago, Vietnam War was splinter issue. UFT said, we’re not going to politically engage in that.Would take us away from main issues. Membership must be aware of attacks coming in next three months. We need to stay focused to stay largest and most powerful union."

Here we go again with the "most powerful union" line. If we are the most powerful union, why do so many of us feel we are treated like crap by the DOE and city? We can't even get two observations per year like just about every other school district in the state has. We can't get ATR's permanent jobs. Powerful?

DA voted down support for the Black Lives Matter week. (Some of our right wing people who comment are going to be happy about that. Will you give the UFT credit?)

I will try to attend the February DA meeting but don't feel I missed much in January. 


David Bloomield is a CUNY Education Professor. The NY Post asked him to do an op-ed on who the next NYC schools chancellor should be. Bloomfield writes a rational piece and proposes some real candidates who are not against teachers to be the chancellor.

It is the Post so a few of the teacher bashers like John King are raised just like they were in the almost completely anti-teacher candidates put forward by a NY Times editorial. However, Bloomfield in the Post puts forward qualified candidates, for example Josh Starr, who certainly are not known for blaming teachers for the problems in education.

If Bill de Blasio were bold and really wanted to show off his progressive credentials, he would take on the charters and stand up for public education as a signature issue. It might make a few donors unhappy but he would win politically. I don't see that happening but you never know.

More likely, we can expect more of the same of Bloomberg lite, featuring closing schools, testing, testing and more testing, continued pressure on teachers to pass students who do not deserve to in order to make statistics look good and lawyers everywhere to attack us.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Mike Schirtzer is a UFT Executive Board member from the opposition to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus and a Delegate. He also is a teacher at Leon Goldstein High School in Brooklyn. Mike is one of the few people who could really revive the UFT.

On Facebook Mike concludes Martin Luther King does not belong to either the right or the left. Asking to be judged by the content of your character as opposed to the color of your skin seems kind of out of place for both sides nowadays.

Mike's post is below.

Reverend Dr. King does not belong to the right or the left. 

The right can not support a racist and bigot, implement policies that favor one group over another, allow poor people to starve, and expand income inequality and then claim to honor King; how dare they. 

As for the left, he was a man of God and religion, that which you (the left) openly detest, he brought people together, he kept his eye on the prize, he connected class and race, he saw voting and politics as valuable, knew winning was important, and he called out the nations and its leaders for their racism on a daily basis; you have no right to claim him either.

Monday, January 15, 2018


The mainstream media, with a few exceptions, is generally very biased against teachers. This goes for the left, the right and the center. Anyone looking to see a firsthand anti-teacher, anti-public school editorial, just read yesterday's NY Times piece suggesting a rogues' gallery of blame the teachers, pro charter school candidates for Chancellor to replace retiring Carmen Farina. It reads as though the Times editorial board just asked the worst Chancellor ever, Joel Klein, who he would choose for Chancellor.

The Times suggests anti-teacher administrators from former Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky to the infamous John White, to the awful John King and not much better in between to take over the NYC schools. This is supposed to be the"liberal" N.Y. Times.

I would like to ask some real progressives who they would pick. I keep hearing about a national search for Chancellor but since the teacher bashers have had their way for so long, is there a pro-teacher person out there who would take the job?

We certainly could do worse than a Rudy Crew 2.0 but he might prefer CUNY Chancellor.

Or, perhaps, someone like Joe Rella from Port Jefferson Station would be an excellent pro-teacher Chancellor.

Any suggestions?

Sunday, January 14, 2018


Today (Sunday, January 14) is the last day to spend Teacher's Choice money. The accountability forms are due to your school by Friday (January 19). I have copied the UFT part of the Chapter Leaders Update on Teacher's Choice below. I also have a question for our readers:

What do you spend most of your Teacher's Choice money on?

I know of teachers who spend plenty of money buying many boxes of tissues for their students. I spend on ink cartridges which dry up very quickly these days. But what I've noticed in looking at receipts is that I spend too much of my Teacher's Choice on dry erase markers.

The ones the school provides tend to dry out almost instantly and the ones I buy seldom last more than a couple of days before they start to dry and the kids start to complain that they can't see what I write. (Yes, I usually remember to keep the caps on when not writing.) I don't think I write too much. I certainly write less at Middle College with its better technology than I did at Jamaica High School.

I haven't used chalk for years but I'm sure it used to last longer than the markers. Then again, there is no mess with the markers.

Happy Teacher's Choice last minute spending. Don't forget to do the accountability forms. Enjoy the long weekend.

This is from the UFT January 12, 2018 Chapter Leader Update:

Submit Teacher’s Choice receipts by Jan. 19 — or forfeit your allotment

All members who received Teacher’s Choice funds must submit their purchase receipts and the Teacher’s Choice Accountability Form detailing these purchases to their payroll secretary by next Friday, Jan. 19. Members who received Teacher’s Choice funds and do not file an accountability form with the required receipts by the deadline will be obligated to pay back the money to the Department of Education. Educators in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool should submit their receipts to the administration of the school to which they are assigned on Jan. 19. The deadline for spending Teacher’s Choice funds is Sunday, Jan. 14. For more detailed information about the Teacher’s Choice program, go to the Teacher’s Choice section of the UFT website.

Saturday, January 13, 2018


In case you thought the opt out from testing movement was slowing down, this came to me from ST Caucus.