Thursday, June 30, 2016


Teachers and our unions have tremendous power that we often don't use. One of the weapons we could utilize is to withhold our labor but in New York that isn't even considered because of the two days pay fine for each day out on strike penalties of the Taylor Law.

Another weapon of labor is to use our money properly. Public school teacher pension funds are worth plenty of money and we have a say in where our money is invested. We should not put our money with anyone who wants to obliterate public education and/or unions. I don't see why this concept is so difficult to grasp or support.

The Wall Street Journal has a piece that Diane Ravitch copied on this issue. Here are the first three paragraphs:

Daniel Loeb, Paul Singer and dozens of other hedge-fund managers have poured millions of dollars into promoting charter schools in New York City and into groups that want to revamp pension plans for government workers, including teachers.

The leader of the American Federation of Teacher;s, Randi Weingarten, sees some of the proposals, in particular the pension issue, as an attack on teachers. She also has influence over more than $1 trillion in public-teacher pension plans, many of which traditionally invest in hedge fund

It is a recipe for a battle for the ages.

Further down, Randi is quoted:

"Why would you put your money with someone who wants to destroy you?"

Battle for the ages might be too strong a phrase for this but I enjoyed reading an article where I was pretty much in agreement with the AFT President.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


New York State Allies for Public Education have written an open letter to UFT President Michael Mulgrew (see below). NYSAPE is a group of influential parent and educator activists. Their letter to Mulgrew is very critical of the bizarre Unity Caucus June Delegate Assembly leaflet that attacked MORE for its support for the opt out from testing movement. . They accuse Mulgrew of "standing and working against us at every turn."

It is rare for a group of pro-public education advocates to slam UFT leadership but that is what is happening here. Please read the letter for yourselves. It's powerful stuff.

June 28, 2016

Mr. Michael Mulgrew, President
United Federation of Teachers
52 Broadway
New York, New York 10004

Dear Mr. Mulgrew,

Over the past few years, members of the opt out movement have become adept at distinguishing our allies from those who work against us, often behind the scenes. In light of your recent newsletter (see below) for the UFT’s Unity Caucus, it has become apparent which of these two camps you are truly affiliated with.

It is no secret, Mr. Mulgrew, that as president of the NYC teacher’s union, the UFT (the largest local teacher’s union in the state), you wield a tremendous amount of power within NYSUT. With approximately 800 voting delegates and the resources needed to send all of its delegates to statewide elections, the UFT often holds the voting majority in NYSUT. Therefore, you have the power to sway NYSUT’s powerful lobbying dollars and efforts towards policy and law that will either benefit or harm our children. For that reason, the opt out movement has shifted its attention to you.

In the outrageous document referenced above, you claim that districts have "lost" grant money due to opt out, when in fact that money was not theirs to begin with. You cannot "lose" something you do not already have and are not guaranteed to be awarded. While failing to test 95% of all students may exclude a district from APPLYING for a small monetary grant (25,000-75,000 dollars), no money is TAKEN from a district. To date, no school in NYS has lost money as a result of opt out numbers. On the other hand, high stakes testing has cost school districts MILLIONS of dollars over the past four years while the State continues to shirk its obligation to fully fund our schools. In addition, under the new ESSA guidelines, this reward status and grant application process comes to an end and will no longer be a factor.

In addition to providing your members with false information, you have demonized the brave and outspoken NYC educators who have encouraged opt out. You have inexplicably labeled these educators as “reckless and feckless”. This begs the question, why would an experienced educator and union leader dismiss and insult a historic act of civil disobedience? Surely, you are aware that the opt out movement has yielded the only successful means of resisting harmful “test and punish” policies that hurt not only your members, but all educators and students around the state.

It is no secret that you have failed to support efforts to reject the increased focus on test scores in the new teacher evaluation plan (3012-d), or that you have publicly vowed to defend the common core standards (standards that even the Governor’s skewed CC task force found to be flawed) with violence, if necessary. In addition to your disparaging comments aimed at those who support the opt out movement, your actions as president of the UFT would appear to reveal whose side you are really on.

When teachers, students, and unions were being abused, demonized, and demoralized, a call to action rang out from grassroots parent and educator organizations. Many teachers and local unions heeded the call. Progressive caucuses within the UFT such as MORE and the statewide caucus Stronger Together immediately stepped up and worked alongside parents to fight for the best interests of our children. Where were you?

Sadly, it seems apparent, Mr. Mulgrew, that you have been standing and working against us at every turn. Deals have been made, hands have been shaken, and forces have aligned to quell the increasing discontent of this growing tide of parents and educators fighting for the very survival of our schools and the well-being of our children. Opposition to our cause within NYSED, NYCDOE, USDOE as well as those who support illogical and damaging education policies have found an unlikely partner in you.

While your actions speak volumes, we urge you to prove us wrong and demonstrate that you are in fact, an ally of the opt out movement. Take a stand against a corrupt and harmful test-based accountability system, advocate for research and evidence-based education policies, and respect teachers, parents, and students who advocate the use of test refusal as a means of impacting policy and regulatory change.

We think it only fair to inform you that should the educators of New York City and New York State seek new leadership in their elected union officials, the parents of New York will stand in solidarity with those who seek to safeguard public education from harmful policies, regulations, and corrupt leadership.


New York State Allies for Public Education

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


This evening I have been examining the Supreme Court decision  in the case of McDonnell vs.United States. The case concerns government corruption. Basically it looks like the Court is saying pay to play politics are fine as long as there is no direct quid pro quo of money being turned over in exchange for a vote for a bill. Here is the story from WJRZ TV.

A key U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday could aid former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos as they appeal their federal corruption convictions.

The court unanimously ruled Monday morning in favor of former Virginia Gov. Bob MdDonnell, vacating his 2015 corruption conviction and sending his case back to a lower court. McDonnell had been convicted of extortion and fraud for accepting more than $175,000 in loans and gifts from a Virginia business executive.

The case centered on the meaning of "official act," with the Supreme Court ruling it's not enough to convict a government official if they only set up a meeting or organize an event for a gift giver and nothing more.

McDonnell's case was being watched closely by attorneys for Silver and Skelos, who were separately convicted of various bribery and fraud charges last year and automatically ejected from office. The case could have implications for both former New York politicians, whose bail-pending-appeal hearings were postponed until after the McDonnell decision came down.

"To qualify as an 'official act,' the public official must make a decision or take an action on that question or matter, or agree to do so," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the court's unanimous opinion. "Setting up a meeting, talking to another official, or organizing an event-without more-does not fit that definition of 'official act.'"

While U.S. attorney Preet Bharara is confident the Silver and Skelos convictions will hold up under this ruling, I'm not so sure.

Susan Lerner, executive director of good-government group Common Cause/NY is not enthusiastic about the decision either.

She said the Court "lives in a fantasy land that defies the common sense understanding of two New York juries."

"By confirming that a pay-to-play culture is an inherent part of day-to-day politics, the Supreme Court has opened the floodgates for special interest groups to influence politicians, at the expense of American democracy," Lerner said in a statement that I am taking from the WJRZ piece.

Politico chimed in also:

As it unanimously overturned former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s corruption convictions Monday, the Supreme Court may have given a green light to politicians and their allies to trade access for money, according to legal experts and disappointed advocates for government ethics laws.

The ruling, which struck down the conviction of the former Virginia governor on the grounds that ordinary political favors such as arranging meetings aren’t sufficient to justify a bribery conviction, was pored over Monday by lawyers for a series of embattled politicians ranging from Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill.)

"This dramatically narrows the ability of the Justice Department to prosecute corruption cases," said Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21. "There are all kinds of things public officials can do short of casting a vote or making a policy decision that are of enormous benefit to an individual and, in essence, become legalized bribery under this decision."

Maybe we are all reading too much into the decision and it won't be as bad as these critics are saying. Then again maybe the Supreme Court just made our system even worse than it already is.

Monday, June 27, 2016


I received my new identification card from EmblemHealth with the higher co-pays listed right at the bottom. Thank you UFT 2014 contract and Municipal Labor Committee.   We still owe the city an additional $1.3 billion in health savings next year so hold on tight to your wallets.

Meanwhile, we will be waiting until the middle of October in 2017 to get a little more of the money owed to us from what is basically an interest free loan we gave to the city for all of the work we did between 2009 and 2011. The majority of the loan will not be paid back until October 2018, October 2019 and October 2020.

The actual contract ends in 2018. The only thing we can be certain of is that when it expires the city will cry poverty and the UFT leadership will not have an adequate response.

Everyone should once again take a look back at some of the terms of the 2014 contract that aren't improving as they age.

Saturday, June 25, 2016


As my end of the term assignment, I have chosen to examine the new PDF version of the 2014 Contract. Two years after it was ratified, this agreement is finally printed on line. A hard copy has still not been mailed to each member as was always done in the past, even in the internet age. I guess that having a contract sent to every member is asking too much from our union as part of our $100+ that we give them in dues each month.

One of the worst sections of the 2014 UFT Contract was the part concerning Absent Teacher Reserves. This section has been added as Article 17B Rule 11A. This provision sets up two classes of ATRs: one that was excessed and the other that survived termination (3020a) hearings. Those in the second class who were fined $2,000 or more or was suspended for at least a month are not even guaranteed job interviews. Any ATR in either class who misses two interviews for whatever reason can be automatically terminated (deemed to have resigned) without any kind of tenure hearing even if they are tenured. In addition, there is a clause that allows management to fire ATRs placed in temporary provisional assignments in expedited one day 3020a hearings. Our last two posts have involved the misuse of this process.

The one positive aspect to this disastrous contractual provision is that it sunsets at the end of this school term. Here is the actual contractual language:

This Rule 11(A) with respect to the absent teacher reserve (referred to above as the “ATR Program”) shall run through the end of the 2015-16 school year. At the end of that term, the parties must agree to extend the ATR Program and absent agreement, the parties shall return to the terms and conditions for ATR assignment as set forth in Rule 11(B).

That means if the UFT does nothing, Rule 11A will no longer exist. It's gone forever. ATRs would revert to the 2011 agreement which is marginally better. Although it includes weekly rotation of ATRS from school-to-school, it does not include the rapid fire disciplinary process. It is embedded in the 2014 Contract as Rule 11B.

Are we reverting to 11B or will 11A be continued? I have no idea as there was nothing at the June Delegate Assembly about ATRs and there is not a word about ATRs in the final Chapter Leader Newsletter of the school year.

Shouldn't the union ask the ATRs how they feel about the 2014 agreement continuing?

Many people are impacted but why bother to ask ATRs whether they want to maintain the current rules or reveert to the 2011 agreement? UFT leadership leaves members in the dark.

Typical arrogance from the top.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


For anyone thinking what we wrote in our last posting concerning a rotating Absent Teacher Reserve being forced to go through a rapid fire 3020a hearing was based on just something I heard, here is a part of the NYSUT letter to the ATR concerning the 3020a process for ATR's

This proceeding is being scheduled pursuant to Article 17(B), Rule 11(A)(3) ("Rule l l(A)(3)") of the collective bargaining agreement between the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the Department regarding Education Law § 3020-a procedures for the Absent Teacher Reserve ("ATR") program.

Under Rule ll(A)(3), your § 3020-a proceeding will be extremely expedited, and the Department must prove to the Arbitrator that you have demonstrated a pattern of problematic behavior." Therefore, your hearing is likely to begin as soon as the next several weeks, and time is of the essence. For your convenience, I have enclosed a copy of Rule 11 and Article 21 of the collective bargaining agreement effective from 2009 to 2018. I specifically refer you to Rule 11 (A)(3) and Article 21G.

As stated above, this letter came from NYSUT, not the New York City Department of Education.

Let us again review UFT Contract Article 17B Rule 11A which states in part:

If, within a school year or consecutively across school years, an ATR has been removed from a temporary provisional assignment to a vacancy in his/her license area by two (2) different principals because of asserted problematic behavior, a neutral arbitrator from a panel of arbitrators jointly selected for this purpose (the panel presently consisting of Martin F. Scheinman, Howard Edelman and Mark Grossman) shall convene a §3020-a hearing as soon as possible. 

Based on the written documentation described above and such other documentary and/or witness evidence as the employer or the respondent may submit, the hearing officer shall determine whether the ATR has demonstrated a pattern of problematic behavior. For purposes of this program, problematic behavior means behavior that is inconsistent with the expectations established for professionals working in schools and a pattern of problematic behavior means two (2) or more instances in a vacancy in the ATR’s license area of problematic behavior within a school year or consecutively across school years. 

The teacher who received the letter from NYSUT is an Absent Teacher Reserve who was rotating from school to school. It went well the only time that this teacher was in a long term leave replacement position after being excessed. This teacher was not provisionally assigned to any kind of vacancy as ATRs are supposed to be before being subjected to an expedited 3020a process.

The contract in Article 18A says specifically what a vacancy is: "Vacancies are defined as positions to which no teacher has been appointed, except where a non-appointed teacher is filling in for an appointed teacher on leave." I don't think covering for a teacher who is absent constitutes a vacancy.

It seems the DOE is sending out emails to ATRs saying their next assignment is to cover a provisional vacancy even if it is just a rotation to cover classes in another school.

Have any other ATRs received this kind of email? This looks like bad faith to me at its worst.

If the Union is going along, then there is a lawsuit waiting to happen in my humble opinion.

I really am not sure who to be angry at here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Now that the UFT Contract has been placed on line, the section on Absent Teacher Reserves has been added to Article 17 B Rule 11 in a new Section A.

It seems the Department of Education and possibly the Union are interpreting the clause on ATR discipline to mean that an ATR in rotation can be subject to a rapid fire one day dismissal hearing based on problematic behavior even if the ATR was never assigned to a temporary provisional vacancy in their license area. Here is the language right from the contract:

 If, within a school year or consecutively across school years, an ATR has been removed from a temporary provisional assignment to a vacancy in his/her license area by two (2) different principals because of asserted problematic behavior, a neutral arbitrator from a panel of arbitrators jointly selected for this purpose (the panel presently consisting of Martin F. Scheinman, Howard Edelman and Mark Grossman) shall convene a §3020-a hearing as soon as possible. 

Based on the written documentation described above and such other documentary and/or witness evidence as the employer or the respondent may submit, the hearing officer shall determine whether the ATR has demonstrated a pattern of problematic behavior. For purposes of this program, problematic behavior means behavior that is inconsistent with the expectations established for professionals working in schools and a pattern of problematic behavior means two (2) or more instances in a vacancy in the ATR’s license area of problematic behavior within a school year or consecutively across school years. Hearings under this provision shall not exceed one full day absent a showing of good cause and the hearing officer shall issue a written decision within fifteen (15) days of the hearing date.

Since when is being on rotation being "in a vacancy in the ATR's license area...?"

If the DOE and NYSUT lawyers are rewriting the rules to go after ATRs, we must do what we can to stop it. This is an outrage. ATRs who are on rotation should get a full 3020a hearing. This provision is supposed to be for someone filling a temporary provisional vacancy within their license area.


Dear James,
During the past few days, extreme violence has been used against teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico who were protesting governmental education "reforms." This has resulted in the deaths of at least eight people. The Network for Public Education joins with those condemning this violence and calls for a dialogue to resolve the underlying issues. We support the statement issued by the Civil Society of Oaxaca demanding that the government do the following:
  • End the wrongful and disproportionate use of force and repression against the teachers who make use of their legitimate right to free expression and free protest.
  • Establish a round table for dialogue with the teachers of Oaxaca.
  • Provide medical attention for all persons injured as a result of the violent acts of the State.
  • Stop the criminalization of the teachers by cancelling arrest warrants against members of the teachers' union of Oaxaca. Immediately release all teachers who have been arrested in an arbitrary and illegal way.
  • Punish all persons responsible for arbitrary detentions, torture and other violations of Human Rights against members of the teachers' union of Oaxaca.
Please personalize the statement above and send it to:
US Ambassador to Mexico, Roberta S. Jacobson
Paseo de la Reforma 305
Colonia Cuauhtemoc
06500 Mexico, D.F.

Or call or fax Ms. Jacobsen at:
Phone: ( 01-55 ) 5080-2000
Fax: ( 01-55 ) 5080-2005

In addition to the above, contact the Mexican Consulate at:
1250 23rd St. NW - Washington DC, 20037
Tel: (202) 736-1000 * Fax: (202) 234-4498
Thanks for all that you do. Share this link:
Carol Burris
Executive Director
The Network for Public Education


For those interested in the effects of pattern bargaining on unions in this city, take a look at the settlement the Professional Staff Congress just negotiated with the City University of New York. It is basically the Michael Mulgrew 10% over 7 years raises that the UFT set the precedent for back in 2014. The PSC represents the CUNY teachers and although not a municipal union, they are still government employees.

PSC members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike before a tentative contract was agreed to but I don't think too many people took the threat seriously. To be fair, they did get a three year job security clause for adjuncts as a gain.

There is dissent at PSC. This piece is from CUNY Struggle.

So yes, I am calling for something more radical than what the union leadership is offering. I reject the idea that it’s crazy or unrealistic. What to me is unrealistic is the idea that by accepting a brutally concessionary contract such as this one we are opposing austerity in any meaningful way, which is what the PSC leadership rightfully exhorts us to do but, for reasons I do not understand, will not summon the imagination to address.

As this blog stated last week, the workers we should be studying that we can learn from are the Verizon unions who staged a successful strike this spring. Labor can still win when we are united and not afraid to take real action.