Saturday, March 28, 2015


Today's rally for public education outside Governor Cuomo's office is important. The office is at 633 3rd Avenue in Manhattan.  This blog is fully supportive.

The bigger the crowd, the better  our chances of moving the Legislature in our direction on education.  We need to stop the Governor's anti-public school agenda. The piece below with details on the demonstration is taken from the UFT Weekly Update for Chapter Leaders.

With budget negotiations in Albany going down to the wire (April 1 is the deadline), Saturday's (today's) rally has become more important than ever. We're looking forward to seeing you, your family and your colleagues for the rally outside Gov. Cuomo's Midtown office to demand that the governor fully fund our schools, limit high-stakes testing, support our struggling schools and fairly evaluate teachers. The governor’s office is at 633 3rd Avenue at 41st Street. Please enter 3rd Avenue on 36th Street and avoid walking down 3rd Avenue from 42nd Street. If you are arriving at Grand Central Terminal, UFT volunteers will be on hand to direct you down Lexington Avenue to 36th Street. If you'll be tweeting or posting to Instagram or Facebook from the rally, be sure to use the hashtag #ProtectOurSchools so that your posts get noticed. And feel free to tweet at the governor at @NYGovCuomo so his social media team hears us. Send your best rally photos at high resolution to

Thursday, March 26, 2015


The March Delegate Assembly meeting featured a resolution from the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) opposing high stakes testing for students and teachers as well as calling for the end of the Common Core tests.

Our correspondents report that Lauren Cohen (MORE- Chapter Leader PS 321) did a fine job in presenting the resolution to the Delegates.  The vote to add it to the agenda was close enough so that there was a call for a division of the house and a second count.  In the end, the leadership from Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus defeated it. They adjourned the meeting before voting on Unity's own watered down, lame testing resolution.

For a full report from the March DA, go to NYC Educator.

Lauren Cohen raises MORE anti-testing resolution at DA

 MORE Resolution Opposing Standardized Testing
WHEREAS, the volume of mandated standardized testing to which students are subjected in the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) has increased many times over in recent years, and

WHEREAS, the results of such tests cannot be used for diagnostics or remediation or other educational purposes, and

WHEREAS, such testing generates results that are used for high-stakes decision-making regarding both students, teachers, and schools

WHEREAS, such tests fail to measure the most important qualities schools should seek to develop in students, such as relationship-building, character, ethical development, critical thinking, persistence, imagination, insight, and collaboration, amongst others, and

WHEREAS, as a result, many students who develop these valued but unmeasured qualities, but who have extreme difficulty with standardized and other paper-and-pencil tests, experience these tests as stressful to the point of abuse, and

WHEREAS, the increasing focus on such testing causes severe distortions of schooling, inflicting trauma on many students and changing schools into test-prep factories

WHEREAS, the 2007 UFT task force on testing found that “The use of data from student test scores on standardized tests to evaluate teachers may appear simple,… but it is wrong” and The American Statistical Association  warned that “Value Added Measure scores themselves have large standard errors”

WHEREAS there is nationwide opposition to the developmentally inappropriate Common Core standards and, as education historian and professor Diane Ravitch said, “They are being imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time.”

RESOLVED, that the UFT declare its opposition to the use of state- or federal-mandated standardized tests for the purposes of making grade promotion, graduation, teacher evaluation, or other high-stakes decisions regarding students or teachers, and

RESOLVED, that UFT supports the right of parents and guardians to choose to opt-out their children from any or all state- or federally-mandated testing, and supports the right of teachers to discuss freely with parents and guardians their rights and responsibilities with respect to such testing, all without any negative consequences from NYC DOE, and

RESOLVED, that UFT will fully support and protect members and others who may suffer any negative consequences as a result of speaking about their views of such testing or about the rights and obligations of parents and guardians with respect to such testing

RESOLVED, that UFT will use its organizational capacity to inform members in every chapter about the right of parents/guardians to opt-out their children from state or federal mandated testing and will take an active role in producing and distributing opt-out literature using materials from,, and, including sample parent opt-out letters.

RESOLVED, that UFT will fully support and, if necessary, defend members who are conscientious objectors to administering standardized assessments

RESOLVED, that UFT will demand an immediate halt to all Common Core based testing, curriculum and standards, until it has been properly field tested

And be it further RESOLVED, that the UFT will continue to mobilize members and parents to achieve these goals through actions such as rallies, forums, and school-based protests

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


In a recent post, we wondered if Carmen Farina might be worse than former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Chancellors Joel Klein and Dennis Walcott. (Sorry I forgot Cathie Black but at least she didn't hide that she was clueless.)  Ms. Farina keeps crossing the line when talking about teachers.  She is truly setting up a toxic teaching and learning environment with her inflammatory rhetoric.  The following is taken directly from a piece at describing the Chancellor's visit to a renewal school:

And she (Farina) said the principal must weed out unmotivated or unsatisfactory teachers by documenting their performance problems and advising them to look for jobs elsewhere. After they stopped by the classroom of a teacher whom (principal Melitina) Hernandez said she had concerns about, Fariña told her to observe the teacher “many, many more times a day.”

After the tour, Fariña explained that principals can use such methods to convince teachers who are not a good fit for a school to leave.

Not everything has to be knocking people on the head,” she said. “But if that’s what it takes, we’re happy to do that as well.” (Bold added by ICE)

Are these the words of an educational leader who is supportive of teachers? I call administration observing a teacher many, many more times in a day intimidation and harassment. We tend not to be at our best if we have a gun pointed at our heads.  It certainly won't improve educational outcomes to harass teachers, particularly when factors way beyond our control impact on our performance.

Is there a scintilla of evidence showing that knocking us on the head increases student learning?

Where is our union's leadership to hit the Chancellor on the head? President Mulgrew seems too busy. To give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he hasn't seen the comments yet.

Whether or not the union responds, this blog will.

We condemn the Chancellor's anti-teacher rhetoric.  If she is happy to knock teachers on the head, it's time for us to knock her right back (figuratively that is).

Sunday, March 22, 2015


One of the agenda items at the UFT Executive Board meeting for Monday, March 23 is a resolution to adopt a guide and bylaws for Chapter Elections (see below).  Chapter Leader and Delegate elections are scheduled this spring for the United Federation of Teachers.

In putting out its election guide, the UFT has once again given the cold shoulder to Absent Teacher Reserves and Leave Replacement Teachers, a huge group that includes way over a thousand teachers who belong to no UFT Chapter.  As a Leave Replacement Teacher, I am one of these teachers without a permanent home. We are being disenfranchised in reality, if not on paper, as the new procedures will allow ATR's to vote and run for office in the school they are assigned to in the first week of May (see below).  This is patently absurd.  We might not even be in that school when it holds its Chapter Election in May or June. 

Last month I filed a complaint with the Federal Department of Labor that the UFT is violating federal labor law by not allowing us a reasonable opportunity to serve in the highest policy making body of the union: the Delegate Assembly.  Part of the DOL complaint says the following:

The Landrum Griffin federal regulations say this concerning eligibility to be candidates for union office:  "Every member in good standing is eligible to be a candidate and to hold office subject to reasonable qualifications in the union's constitution and bylaws that area uniformly imposed."  Why should being an ATR cause us to lose any chance of being elected to the UFT's highest policy making body: The Delegate Assembly?  Teachers who are filling in as Leave Replacements or those covering vacancies provisionally also belong to no Chapter and cannot run for Chapter Leader or Delegate.  This is unconscionable.

The union's response is to say that we can run for office in the school we are assigned to in the first week of May.  It would be as if a person took a business trip to Hawaii for a week, a month or a few months and was told she/he could vote in Hawaii's election and could run for Governor of Hawaii. 

It is so dumb to think that we could serve when most of us will not be in the schools we are at the first week in May come September.  Even if we were to be elected, as soon as we are no longer in a school, the UFT would be happy to take the leadership position away from any ATR who happened to win a vote.

I informed the union's leadership in an email sent last fall to Staff Director Leroy Barr, with copies to the UFT President, the President of New York State United Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers that the process used in the last Chapter Elections in 2012 was entirely illegal.  I stated in part:
Absent Teacher Reserves (ATRs) have no representation at the UFT Delegate Assembly and we have no elected Chapter Leader.  The official UFT Calendar refers to the Delegate Assembly as the highest policy making body in the United Federation of Teachers.  Since both Chapter Leaders and Delegates make up the Delegate Assembly, ATRs should be able to vote for who will represent us. Federal labor regulations say the following concerning policymaking authority within a union: "In addition, any person who has executive or policymaking authority or responsibility must be elected even though he may not occupy a position identified as an officer position under the union's constitution and bylaws." UFT Delegates and Chapter Leaders clearly have a policymaking role and therefore the law requires that they are elected.
The Landrum Griffin Law says in SEC. 101 (a)(1) concerning equal rights: " Every member of a labor organization shall have equal rights and privileges within such organization to nominate candidates, to vote in elections or referendums of the labor organization..."  Many ATRs are being denied these basic union rights under the present UFT Chapter Election structure. 

Leroy Barr responded to the email by setting up a meeting with me that he scheduled for after the November Delegate Assembly, not in his office, but in the giant hall where the DA is held.  I had to go downstairs from the visitor's section on the 19th floor to the second floor auditorium to talk with Barr, Assistant Secretary Emil Pietromonaco and Lawyer Adam Ross. (Thanks to John Antush for being my witness.)

I suggested we need a Functional Chapter for ATR's and they rejected the notion rather emphatically. Functional Chapters are for UFT members who are not part of the regular teaching staff but serve other functions in the school system.  That would certainly describe ATR's.  An example of teachers in this category would be teachers assigned to district offices and the new Peer Validators.  They are part of a Chapter called Teachers Assigned.

I also proposed a possible compromise where we could remain as part of our old Chapters, including keeping closed school Chapters alive, until we are permanently in a new school, retire, resign are terminated or die.  They said they would consider this and assured me they understand the issue and were working on it.  I sent a follow up email that was never answered. 

I waited for three months for a reply as I always hold out some tiny hope that our union's leaders will do the right thing but I should know better by now.  By February, I had waited long enough and filed the complaint with the Federal Department of Labor. 

The issue comes down to the question of whether or not the UFT has set up reasonable qualifications that are uniformly imposed.  I do not believe they are reasonable in any way shape or form.

A rule that says we can run but we really can't serve in office unless we are made permanent teachers in a school, which for many of us is highly unlikely due to salary considerations or status as a teacher who once was up on state law 3020A (disciplinary) charges but were not terminated, is so clearly a method to just look good on paper but disenfranchise ATRs in reality.

As a Leave Replacement Teacher, I am 100% certain that whether we prevail with the Department of Labor or not, ATRs have been abandoned by our union's leadership yet again. It follows the proliferation of ATRs after the horrific 2005 contract ended preferred placement when a school closed, the 2011 agreement when ATRs were forced to rotate to different schools weekly and the 2014 contract where ATRs were imbedded into the contract including having a clause stating that we have resigned if we miss two bogus interviews that we may have not even known about. Our tenure means nothing.

Mulgrew, Barr, etc... don't care about us at all and are trying a slick little maneuver to say they are in compliance with federal labor law on ATR voting and serving in Chapter positions. It won't be easy for the ATR's to win this but we can say a prayer (that's for you believers) the Department of Labor will see the UFT ploy for what it is.

ELECTION GUIDE AND BY-LAWSChapter Election Procedures
Election of chapter leader, other chapter officers and delegates to the Delegate Assembly shall be conducted by secret ballot under the supervision of an election committee.
The Election Committee may be designated by the chapter leader with the approval of the chapter, or may be elected by the chapter.  Candidates for chapter leader and DA delegate may not serve on the Election Committee.  If the chapter conducts an election, there must be clear notice of the process posted or discussed at a union meeting.
The duties of the Election Committee shall be:
 1.  To choose the chair of the Election Committee.
 2. To prepare a Notice of Election. This notice shall contain:
 a. A list of the positions to be filled.  In addition to the chapter leader, the notice shall state how many delegates are to be elected: one per 60 teacher members or major fraction thereof. The school printout provides the number of DA delegates. The chapter may include other chapter positions exclusive to the school.
 b. A procedure for nominations.
 c. An election calendar.
 d. A procedure for appeal.
 3. Preparing the ballots and the ballot box and determining eligible voters on the basis of UFT-  established rules.
 4.   Conducting the actual election.
 5.   Counting the ballots.
 6.   Certifying the election to the UFT Membership Department on the appropriate form.
 7.  Keeping the ballots and the ballot box in a safe place for at least one month, in case of a challenge to the results.
A copy of the Notice of Election with the Election Calendar must be distributed to each chapter member through the school mailboxes, including those in annexes and school sites, and shall be posted on the UFT bulletin board at least three (3) school days prior to the date of nominations in each site and annex.
The Election Calendar must include the following information:
·       Date of Nominations  This date must be at least 3 school days after the distribution of the Notice of Election.
·       Date of Election
The actual elections must take place on one day. This date must be at least 5 school days following the distribution of the Notice of Election.
·       Time and place of voting
This schedule must be suited to the school so as to give all UFT members an opportunity to vote.  The schedule must make provision for all school sites and annexes.
      An election calendar
Sample election calendar:  Thursday, May 7th:  Notice of election distributed; Thursday, May 14th: Nominations close at the end of the school day; Thursday, May 21st: voting.
Every school is entitled to elect a para-professional representative and the vote may take place at the same time as the chapter election. Only paraprofessionals may nominate, run and vote for paraprofessional representatives.
The UFT Constitution does not provide for co-chapter leaders. If a chapter chooses to have a co-chapter leader, it may only be on an informal basis. Only one name may be submitted as chapter leader of record.
The chair of the Election Committee must verify that all nominees accept their nominations.
Provision will be made for members who are not on the school’s table of organization but eligible to participate in the chapter’s election to nominate and be nominated.
Conducting the Election
The ballot box must be secure and monitored at all times by the Election Committee.
Provision will be made for members who are out on official school business—e.g., a class trip or conference—or who are not on the school’s table of organization, but eligible to participate to cast ballots before the close of balloting.
Members must vote in person; no absentee ballots may be cast.
Voting must take place by secret ballot on the date announced in the Election Calendar.
In cases where positions are not contested (only one candidate has been nominated for a particular role), those candidates can be confirmed without a formal vote.
Time and Place for Counting Ballots
The count shall take place on the day of voting, and provision must be made to include the vote
of all school sites and annexes with the school count.
A supervised ballot box must be provided at a specific location. A membership roster must be available, and is to be initialed by the voter at the time the ballot is cast. Each chapter leader will have a membership printout and a chapter certification form. The printouts should be checked immediately by the Election Committee for errors or omissions.
Members who were not on the school’s table of organization but were assigned to the school on the first Monday in May will be added to the roster.
An individual whose name is not on the printout, but who claims membership and can display evidence of UFT membership—such as a NYSUT membership card or check stub with proper dues code (“-U”)—should be allowed to vote.
The ballot, however, is subject to challenge and must be sequestered. 
Ballots shall be counted at the time and place announced in the Election Calendar. Candidates or their observers may be present at the count.  Election shall be determined by the highest number of votes.  Challenged ballots shall be set aside and, if their number could affect the outcome of the election.
The Election Committee shall place an announcement of the results on the UFT bulletin board immediately after the election.
All ballots and election materials shall be retained by the Election Committee for at least one month to allow for review of results.
As soon as results have been certified by the Election Committee, the Committee Chair must complete the Chapter Certification Data Form and send it to the UFT Membership Department, 52 Broadway, New York, NY 10004, 11th floor.
Procedures for appeals
Appeals of elections must be made in writing to the UFT borough representative, with written notice to the chapter within five (5) school days following the election. In the event that a challenge to the election is successful, the borough representative shall establish an expedited election procedure.
Any full-time member may nominate, run for a position and vote in a school’s election if he or she is on the school’s permanent table of organization or assigned to the school on the first Monday in May of an election year.
Only teachers are eligible to nominate, run for and vote for school DA delegate, provided that they have signed the union card at least 60 days prior to the election. 
Secretaries, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals and other functional chapter members are represented in the Delegate Assembly through their functional chapters and may stand for election as delegate from their functional chapters. 
District 75 and District 79 members nominate and are nominated for chapter leader in their District 75 or 79 school.  District 75 or 79 members and others who are permanently housed in the school building may vote in that chapter leader election.
Agency fee payers may not nominate, run or vote in chapter elections.
Schools with Multiple Sites: To facilitate communications and service, schools with multiple sites often have liaisons at these sites. These liaisons are not chapter leaders nor are they DA delegates unless they specifically run for those positions in the school’s election.
Persons on split assignment shall vote in their payroll school. Like others, these members must vote in person; no absentee ballots may be cast.  F-status substitutes (those with regularly scheduled part-time assignments) may vote in their school election.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


It is positive news that the UFT will endorse and work to help elect Jesus Chuy Garcia for Mayor of Chicago.  Garcia faces a runoff election against incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanual on April 7, 2015.  Both are Democrats.

This blog fully supports this endorsement.

Two questions, however, come to mind:

1-If the UFT and AFT can do this in Chicago, why were they unable to oppose Michael Bloomberg's bid for a third term for mayor in NYC in 2009 when he had to have the law changed to run?  Bloomberg had certainly done plenty of damage to us by 2009.

2-Why were the UFT-NYSUT-AFT unable to oppose Governor Andrew Cuomo bid for reelection last year when he faced a primary election challenge from Democrat Zephyr Teachout? Cuomo since he was elected in 2010 had obviously shown he was no friend of teachers or working people in general.

The resolution below is on the Executive Board agenda for Monday night:

WHEREAS, voters in Chicago will go to the polls on April 7, 2015 for a mayoral runoff election between the incumbent, Rahm Emanuel, and his challenger, Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia, known as Chuy; and
WHEREAS, the runoff was precipitated when incumbent Emanuel failed to win the required 50 percent of the vote in polling on Feb. 24,  despite his having a 12-to-1 fundraising advantage over his nearest competitor, Chuy Garcia; and
WHEREAS, Garcia is a strong supporter of public education, teachers and unions, and has won the backing of major unions including the Chicago Teachers Union, the American Federation of Teachers and the Service Employees International Union; and
WHEREAS, Garcia, a Mexican immigrant, is also an advocate for the rights of working people, immigrants and racial minorities; and
WHEREAS, Garcia is well-experienced, having served as a Chicago City Council member and the first Mexican-American member of the Illinois State Senate before winning election as a county commissioner; and
WHEREAS, Garcia’s candidacy draws a sharp contrast with that of Emanuel, whose disdain for public schools and public school educators helped lead to a prolonged teachers’ strike in 2013; and
WHEREAS, Emanuel’s lack of support for public education was further evidenced by his closing 50 neighborhood public schools in one fell swoop in 2013; and
WHEREAS, the closed schools were mostly in African American and Hispanic neighborhoods and were shuttered despite prolonged and passionate protests by parents, neighbors and the broader public to keep them open; and
WHEREAS, Emanuel’s arrogance and his policies that favor the affluent have earned him the moniker, Mayor 1 percent; therefore be it
RESOLVED, that the United Federation of Teachers stands with our sister union, the Chicago Teachers Union, and with the AFT in support of the candidacy of Jesus Garcia, and will work with them to help Garcia as mayor of Chicago.

Friday, March 20, 2015


It took nine months for recent UFT retirees to get back pay for in service work; it might take a much longer time to get correct monthly pension payments. This problem may impact future retirees too.

When the UFT leadership was selling their municipal pattern setting contract of 10% raises over 7 years last year (now extended to 7 years, 1 month), one of their selling points was that when people retired they would have their pension payments calculated as if they had already been receiving an additional two 4% retroactive raises from the 2009-2011 round of bargaining that other city unions obtained long ago.  Active UFT members are deferring that money now.

According to what we were told by the UFT, those who retired after November 1, 2009 should be entitled to a recalculation of their monthly benefit based on higher numbers. For those who retire between June 30, 2014 and May 1, 2018, pension payments should reflect a higher salary than what we will actually paid too because the 8% that was the last city pattern is going to be added to active member pay at a rate of 2% a year every May from 2015-18.

Even though we will be receiving the salary increases piecemeal, we were assured by leadership that if we were eligible to retire, our pensions would be based upon higher numbers.

This is important since for Tier IV members (most people retiring now are in Tier IV), the pension is normally based on the salary for the final three years of service (final average salary).  It makes a substantial difference in payments if the lower salary numbers we actually make are the ones used to calculate the monthly pension.

For a simple example, if someone is earning around $100,000, $101,000, $102,000 for the final three years, the final average salary is $101,000. Now if the retroactive money is included, then the last three years increases to approximately $108,000, $109,000 and $110,000. The final average salary goes up to $109,000.

If that person is 55, in 25-55, and has worked for 25 years, he/she is entitled to half of the final average salary. Half of $109,000 is $54,500 That is a little better than half of $101,000 which comes to $50,500. To be specific it is $4000 more per year. (This is an incomplete example as there is the ASF but it explains the basics.)

According to a source inside the UFT, pension calculations are being made based on the lower numbers.  This was confirmed when I asked two recent retirees. We were informed that the Teachers Retirement System will correct this at some point in the future.

This is more of our money we are letting the city hold for us.

Is it really that difficult to come up with a salary schedule on what we would have made had we received the retroactive salaries from 2009-2011 right up front and then basing pensions on those numbers?

Will arbitrator Martin Sheinman be brought in again to bail the city out because there will be a large sum of money owed to UFT retirees that the city says they can't afford?

*I certainly am no pension expert and would appreciate clarification if there is updated information and/or I am missing something here.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


From the Diane Ravitch blog we learn that the Rochester Teachers Association has passed an anti-high stakes testing resolution. Look at this resolved clause which is quite strong:

RESOLVED, that the Rochester Teachers Association declares its opposition to the use of state-or federal-mandated standardized tests for the purposes of making grade promotion, graduation, or other high-stakes decisions regarding students or teachers.

Or how about these clauses:

RESOLVED, that the RTA supports the rights of parents and guardians to choose to absent their children from any or all state-or federal-mandated testing, and supports the rights of teachers to discuss freely with parents and guardians their rights and responsibilities with respect to such testing, all without any negative consequences from RCSD, and

RESOLVED, that the RTA will, to the best of its ability, support and protect members and others who may suffer any negative consequences as a result of speaking about their views of such testing or about the rights and obligations of parents and guardians with respect to such testing,

This resolution was passed unanimously on Monday.

Compare it to the lame UFT resolution on testing the Executive Board passed earlier this month.  Our union in NYC favors high stakes testing.  This is clear.

Meanwhile, the public is on our side as latest Quinnipiac poll shows 55% back teacher unions compared to 28% for Governor Andrew Cuomo on who can best improve schools. That's two to one for our side. Cuomo's disapproval numbers on schools are up to a whopping 63%.  His overall approval rating is down to 50%.

Will this make a difference in negotiations over his unpopular education reforms?  The needle will be moved a little in our direction but stay with Perdido Street School for continuous coverage of politics in Albany.  Perdido shows Cuomo and new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie hugging yesterday after their new ethics reform deal. Perdido is prognosticating a deal on education with parts we will not like even with the people on our side.

I also expect teachers will lose something in negotiations on education reform but maybe not as much as we would have lost a couple of months back. 

However, if we had a real militant pushback, we might not be giving in on anything.