Monday, March 27, 2017

CAN OTHERS HELP EXPLAIN ROBERT'S RULES TO THE UFT PRESIDENT?

Last Wednesday at the DA, I told UFT President Michael Mulgrew he was out of order every month. I stand by that assertion and will use this space today to explain some rudimentary parliamentary procedure. . My aim is to have some assistance in upcoming meetings to compel the UFT President to adhere to a few simple rules to ensure that the voices of the rank and file we represent are heard at the DA.

I don't take lightly the fact that I clearly stated that the UFT President is out of order every month at the DA. The fact is he is in error often but very few ever call him on it. Here as some basics from Robert's Rules that are violated constantly at the DA.

President Mulgrew, when chairing debate at the UFT DA, does not comprehend or want to comprehend the meaning of the word debate. Mulgrew thinks he is doing the opposition to his Unity Caucus a favor by asking for one person to speak on the negative side of any issue. According to Robert's Rules, the negative side is entitled to half the speakers in a debate. That is correct; half of them.

What is a debate?

Webster's New Explorer College Dictionary says in its first definition of the word debate: "to discuss or examine a question by presenting and considering arguments from both sides." By definition, both sides need to be presented for a discussion on an issue to be called a debate. End of story.

When Mulgrew asks if there is a speaker against a motion as if he is doing something out of the goodness of his heart to call for a negative speaker, usually after several Unity Caucus reps to speak, he is wrong. Every other speaker on all debatable motions should be opposed to the motion if the opponents want to speak.

Has anyone ever seen Mulgrew adhere to this minimal democratic principle except when he is called on it?

Chapter 2, Section 3 of Robert's Rules is called "Obtaining and Assigning the Floor." On page 31, Robert's Rules explains in 3) how the floor is supposed to be assigned:

In cases where the chair knows that persons seeking the floor have opposite opinions on the question (and the member to be recognized, the chair should alternate, as far as possible, between those favoring and those opposing the measure. To accomplish this, the chair may say, for example, "Since the last speaker spoke in favor of the motion, who wishes to speak in opposition to the motion?" or "Since the last speaker opposed the motion, who wishes to speak in its favor?" 

The chair at the DA knows that all of the speakers from his Unity Caucus are on the same side as the Unity person who motivated any particular motion because everyone from Unity signs a paper saying they will support caucus positions in public and union forums.

Representatives from MORE, New Action, Solidarity or independents are normally the only ones who ever speak against Unity motions. Rotating between speakers for and against something is not complicated. It is a fundamental principle of a deliberative democracy that is violated every month at the UFT Delegate Assembly.

In the introduction to Robert's Rules on page xxxiv, it explains the origin of  this rule. It states,

Alternation between opposite points of view in assignment of the floor: 1592. It was made a Rule, That the Chairman shall ask the Parties that would speak, on which side they would speak... and the Party that speaketh against the last Speaker, is to be heard first.

Mulgrew is incapable of adhering to a concept that was accepted in England's Parliament in 1592!

We have mentioned these simple procedures before in this space. Apparently, Mulgrew is not a very fast learner.

Now for a new one: Last week Mulgrew stopped me for trying to raise an amendment when I had the floor as a speaker against a motion to support JHS 145. As it was presented at the DA (actually, it was already watered down at the Executive Board two nights earlier), the resolution needed some meat on its bones so I wanted to amend it to call for the UFT to initiate or join a lawsuit to save JHS 145. Mulgrew stopped me by saying I could only speak against. He was out of order again.

Let us proceed to Chapter XII of Robert's Rules, ASSIGNMENT OF THE FLOOR; DEBATE.

On page 386 on a part of Section 45, Rules Governing Debate, on Line 23 it says,

While debate is in progress, amendments or other secondary (subsidiary, privileged, or incidental) motions can be introduced and disposed of--and can be debated in the process, if they are debatable--as explained on pages 116-118. A member may both speak in debate and conclude by offering a secondary motion, which is a particular application of the principle that a member having been recognized for any legitimate purpose has the floor for all legitimate purposes.

Once again this isn't a complicated procedure. Once a member has the floor, he/she can raise an amendment.

Mulgrew was totally in error to shut me down last week. I had every right to propose and speak to an amendment on the resolution on JHS 145.

Furthermore, if we read further on page 386 it talks about concluding debate which also is done improperly at the DA on many occasions. There is no need to get a motion to close debate if no Delegate wants to speak. The DA wastes time on many "Motherhood and Apple Pie" resolutions that nobody in their right mind would oppose by having separate votes to close debate and then vote on the resolution. We don't have to vote to end debate when no one wishes to speak. Debate is by definition done at that point.

Of course, Leroy Barr was wrong last month not to even hear my point of order.

Why is the flagrant abuse of the rules allowed to continue? Simply because the non-Unity Delegates are mostly silent.

Fellow Delegates who are not in Unity Caucus: The few of us who fight for procedural rights require backup when we demand that the rules be adhered to.

Most sane people go to the DA and see that it is totally rigged by Mulgrew/Unity Caucus. They think it is hopeless and vote with their feet by leaving and never returning unless there is a contract. This is an understandable reaction to what is essentially a totalitarian system. The only way to stop it is for the opposition and neutral people to work together to see to it that our voices are heard.

I ran in a contested election for the Delegate position  in 2015 at Middle College High School so I could be a voice on behalf of the rank and file. I was trusted by members in a school where I was only there for a few months and was still an Absent Teacher Reserve. Having that voice continually silenced by a Unity regime that has no interest in fundamental fairness is an insult not just to me but to the members who elected me and every other non Unity Delegate.

Will anybody else join me in demanding basic fairness?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

END MAYORAL CONTROL OF SCHOOLS WHEN IT SUNSETS IN JUNE

Mayoral control of the New York City schools sunsets again at the end of June of 2017. As this past week's events at the Panel for Educational Policy that were documented by Ed Notes show again, the Department of Education, legally known as the Board of Education, is basically no different under Carmen Farina than it was under Joel Klein or Dennis Walcott.

Seven of the Mayor's eight appointees to the 13 member PEP voted to close five schools. The PEP completely ignored the public's loud cry to save JHS 145 in the Bronx. Parents are still pretty much ignored by  Farina and her PEP as this video taken by Ed Notes of a parent from CPE1 ceding his time to Farina who refuses to answer him to defend the principal of the school.


In addition, the sixteen year ongoing  war on teachers continues with the Bloomberg holdovers at the Office of Labor Relations. Farina empowering superintendents has done nothing to halt the war as far as I can tell.

The problem in large part is mayoral control. There is no accountability for the schools except for a mayoral election every four years where most voters I do not believe vote on the schools as their priority issue.

Schools are mostly a neighborhood concern but under mayoral control the neighborhoods have no say in how schools function. Farina went to great lengths to fight against a lawsuit that said School Leadership Teams should be open to the public in public schools! She lost but everyone knows where she stands.

The main de Blasio accomplishment on schools is increased high school graduation rates. This can easily be accounted for by credit recovery scams, known by kids as "easy pass" and tremendous pressure put on teachers in way too many high schools to pass virtually every student with a pulse.

Those of us who tried to save Jamaica High School knew full well in 2014, when the local politicians and the community rallied behind us, that Farina was as tone deaf to the public as her predecessors. Here is an excerpt from an ICEUFT blog piece from back in May of 2014 when we found out the Chancellor upheld the decision to close Jamaica.

In January of 2014 (Jamaica's last year), our fully functioning School Leadership Team wrote a highly detailed proposal on how Jamaica could still exist in September. Council-member Karen Koslowitz,
new Borough President Melinda Katz, Assembly-member David Weprin and others lobbied Chancellor Carmen Farina strongly on behalf of Jamaica being saved. The local Community Board unanimously passed a resolution in support. We had major momentum behind us.

It wasn't enough. The Chancellor closed the school and didn't even have the decency to inform us but let Melinda Katz tell one of our community supporters who told us.

What happened three years later on March 22, 2017 was no surprise to me. Only the names on the rubber stamps have changed on the PEP. We do not need the "right" mayor. We need to rid the system of mayoral control.

It is up for renewal in a few short months. Let's completely mobilize to put the public back in public education. We need elected school boards. If the State Legislature does absolutely nothing, then mayoral control sunsets at the end of June and the system reverts to the 1996 reform law with elected Community School Boards but the Chancellor having power to hire Superintendents. Let's not let them say we are returning to a corrupt system as there is plenty of corruption now.

Under the 1996 law, The Board of Education would consist of representatives of the five Borough Presidents and two representatives from the Mayor.  The Chancellor would be accountable to the Board and not the Mayor. This retro-arrangement would be a major improvement in trying to get some accountability back at the Board of Ed while removing much of the mayoral politics from the system.

Public education advocates could create a better system, if given an opportunity, I'm sure. We need to have a public discussion on the school governance issue now.

Albany has given de Blasio one year extensions of mayoral control since 2015. No more extensions.

Let's put the pressure on to the Legislature to kill de Blasio control for good.

Below in full is a piece written here last June on this issue. It is as relevant today as it was back then.

IS THERE ANYTHING GOOD ABOUT MAYORAL CONTROL?
June 21, 2016

Since the Democrats in the state Assembly once again gave in on the issue of mayoral control of New York City schools by agreeing to a one year extension that also appears to leave charter schools free from many state rules, one has to ask why are Assembly Democrats so enamored with mayoral control? What has it done for this city?

If the Democrats would have shown some spine and called the Republican bluff on school governance, the system would have reverted to the 1996 law which took hiring out of the hands of local school boards to ease the corruption associated with the old system. That governance system gave the borough presidents a check on the mayor's power with a representative from each on the Board of Education while the mayor only had two BOE members. Mayors had to work with people. It was far from ideal but better than what we have now. 

Mayoral control started in 2002. The mayor has a majority of the votes on the Board of Education now called Panel for Educational Policy which is a rubber stamp body. The major justification for what is essentially mayoral dictatorship is that high school graduation rates have gone up since the mayor took over. This cannot be disputed however the method for increasing graduation rates has been to basically scare teachers in many schools into passing kids who don't deserve to pass while also creating easy credit recovery programs for students who fail classes. There is no evidence that I have seen to show that pupils are getting to college more prepared than they were back in 2002.

Is a suspect graduation rate worth all of the negatives that have come with mayoral control? What I see is higher class sizes, depleted school budgets, overemphasis on testing, the destruction of so many neighborhood schools, Absent Teacher Reserves shuffled throughout their boroughs, out of control patronage hiring, no bid contracts, a constantly reshuffled bureaucracy, lawyers, lawyers and more lawyers, scripted curriculum, one crazy teacher evaluation system after another and more.

Maybe I am just a jaded teacher. 

Has anyone seen any improvement in the schools under mayoral control?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

THE AMENDMENT ON JHS 145 MULGREW WOULD NOT ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE

Last night was an evening reminiscent of the Blomberg-Klein-Walcott era as Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina's Panel for Educational Policy voted to close five schools. MORE sources tell me the PEP vote was not unanimous. Here is part of the Daily News account of the evening:

Mayor de Blasio's Panel for Educational Policy voted Wednesday night to close five struggling public schools in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

The schools are part of de Blasio’s controversial Renewal Schools program, which is aimed at improving troubled schools, but they have failed to make the grade, Education Department officials said.

The schools are the Bronx Leadership Institute, the Bronx Monroe Academy for Visual Arts & Design, Bronx Junior High School 145, Brooklyn Middle School 584 and Brooklyn Essence School. New academic programs will take over the buildings vacated by the closing schools.

The public was not happy with the decision but it's public be damned just like in the Bloomberg days.



Junior High School 145 has put up a very noble fight to survive led by teacher Jim Donahue along with many other teachers and parents.



The UFT at the Delegate Assembly yesterday agreed to support JHS 145 but as usual President Michael Mulgrew stifled debate when I tried to raise an amendment. What was the amendment Mulgrew and David Pecararo from Unity would not allow me to make?

Original Resolution:

RESOLVED, that the UFT will continue to take a public stance against the closing of JHS 145.

My amendment:

and be it further RESOLVED, that the UFT will initiate or join in a lawsuit to save JHS 145.

Public Advocate Letitia James has already announced that the closing is illegal because it is a zoned school and the Community Education Council voted not to close it.

When President Mulgrew would not permit me to make my amendment, we engaged in our customary friendly dialogue with me telling him I wish he would learn how to run a debate like the Executive Board actually did Monday night (Mulgrew was not chairing) and Mulgrew responding that I was out of order and then me responding by telling him he is out of order every month. That was followed by Mulgrew wishing me a good day and me doing the same to him.

The beat goes on.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

LIVE BLOGGING FROM MARCH DA (Unedited)

March 22, 2017 is the day for the March edition of the Delegate Assembly. As usual, I apologize for any errors as I am doing this from my smartphone which is often not that smart.

Mulgrew Report
President Michael Mulgrew when I arrived was talking about federal situation. If federal budget bill passes, New York State will be $5.9 billion short. Budget due in Albany by April 1. (Andy Pallotta is at DA and is acknowledged by Mulgrew.) Working with Congressional delegation from NY to influence Congress.

Using 45 (won't say Trump) budget to say we told you so. ESSA regulations gone. ESSA still law. Not changing law. New Title 1 money billion dollar voucher program. Title 2a (professional development, after school programs, etc...) gone. Meals on Wheels cut out of budget. Told Albany public education cuts coming. Republicans in Albany want pro charter bill. Federal government destabilizing public education. Albany pols must pick a side. DeVos most well known Education Secretary is rich and incompetent. Enemy is after safety net. Lobby day 800 are coming. Rescheduled from snowstorm. Different world as federal government wants to destroy public education.

Snow Days
Not a contractual provision to not show up on snow day for some people who are not teachers. Some still had to report. Union did not agree with this. Used two snow days this year. One more, end of school year will be extended. Calendar for next year has two snow days built in.

School Closures
PEP meeting tonight. Renewal schools: a third doing well, a third average an a third struggling. JHS 145: DOE says it's principal's choice on how to spend money. Not acceptable that nothing is being implemented.  Banana Kelly, on the other hand, has turned around. Collaboration with leadership and teachers. Fault goes up chain of command from principal, to Superintendent to Chancellor.

Immigration
Chancellor and Mayor spoke up. ICE said they won't enter NYC schools except for exigent circumstances.

Reaching out to colleagues in other states. 45 pushing tax credits and vouchers all over. People throwing their hands up.

City Budget
Working with City Council on a number of initiatives.

Other Professional Work
Exception can't be norm for Tuesdays. Complaintsmust come from schools.

Departmentalizing
Can't Departmentalize k-3. Grades 4-6 ELA and math is posted position. Preferences go out later. Need SBO for any other departmentalizing.

PD
DOE now approved professional development provider. DOE must submit paperwork in properly to SED to get approval. Monday PD not approved because SED wants to know how Monday PD fits in with CTLE standards. DOE must put together proper proper paperwork to state.

Staff Directors Report
Leroy Barr gave some dates and also said Delegates should go to PEP to support JHS 145.

Questions
What is Randy Asher doing with ATRs?
Mulgrew Answer: We won't sell out Atrs. It would make us at will employees.  We are open to proposals to place them.

Q What are we doing to work with other unions on constitutional convention?
A People broke promises and did not get pensions. That is why the provision to protect pensions is in state consitution. Working with state AFLCIO. Large 45 Trump) donor on LI wants convention.

Q Erosion of original AL  Shanker view of charters. How can we return to Shane's position?
A Al opposed charters after they were mutated into a way to destroy public schools. Vouchers were a reaction to desegregation. Choice is really no choice if trying to destroy public education.

Q Members getting letters that they are in deficit because of lump sum payments? Freaking out.
A Small number of people have issue. Talk to Tom Brown.

Q Paras and teachers do not have time to do after school PD
A We are helping DOE. It is 5 years to get to 100 hours.

New Motion Period
Paul Egan UFT political Director put a motion to help people stay in their homes.

Peter Lamphere tried to get  DA to adjourn to go to PEP.

Special Orders of Business
Endorse Scott Stringer for comptroller.
Passed easily.

Endorse Letitia James
Passed just as easily.

Resolution to honor UFT'S 57th birthday.
Passed unanimously. 57 year members stood up.

Resolution to keep grading of Regents in home schools. Let tests, not people move.

Janelle Hinds motivated it and then  Arthur Goldstein spoke in favor.

Georgia from Bryant spoke against because of pressure from principal's on grading.
It passed easily.

Resolution to support immigrant New Yorkers.  Marjorie S. tried to amend to make it stronger.Amendment failed and original resolution passed.

Resolution in support of juvenile justice reform easily passed.

Resolution in support of JHS 145.

I tried to make an amendment to call for the UFT to join or initiate a lawsuit on behalf of the school if the PEP closed it but was called out of order.

Resolution carried.

PUBLIC ADVOCATE LETITIA JAMES SUPPORTS JHS 145 WHILE KIPP SUES UFT

Tonight the Panel for Educational Policy (de Blasio-Farina's rubber stamps) will be voting on whether to close JHS 145 and let Eva Moskowitz take over their space to expand her Success Academy charter school empire. The resistance to the closing of 145 has been strong and is getting more robust. They have been led by Jim Donahue, a teacher from the school. JHS 145 has some important allies including Public Advocate Letitia James who says it is the Department of Education and not the schools that should be held accountable.

Read at Ed Notes how the 145 supporters are using the zoning law to stop the closure. This one looks like it is heading for court.

It is also great to see how the MORE reps on the UFT Executive Board pushed for a stronger UFT stand against the hostile takeover JHS 145 space by Eva (see the resolution and UFT-Unity response below). MORE didn't totally succeed as Unity watered down the resolution of support but our folks made their points very well. Executive Board Chair Howie Schoor actually followed the rules in alternating between speakers for and against in debate on the issue. See how easy it is President Mulgrew.

Meanwhile, in a totally unrelated story, KIPP is suing the UFT at a conversion charter school. A conversion school is one that previously belonged to the DOE but was converted to a charter. Conversion charter schools are supposed to stay as union schools.

Here is some background and part of the argument that KIPP is using as reported in Chalkbeat:

KIPP Academy is a “conversion” charter school, an unusual arrangement in which a traditional public school morphs into a charter. The UFT argues that under state law its conversion status means its staff is covered by the contract that governs traditional public schools.

KIPP’s lawsuit, on the other hand, argues that its teachers never voted for union representation, and before now “other than collecting union dues from KIPP teachers and staff, the UFT never carried out any representative functions in relation to them.”

Collecting dues and not carrying out any representative functions? My guess is many of the readers of this blog would conclude that this argument applies to teachers in the public schools too. For the record I would not agree.


The MORE resolution and Unity response on JHS 145:

Whereas Junior High School 145 is a school serving a low-income, immigrant community in the Bronx with 20% of the students living in homeless shelters or temporary housing; 21% have learning disabilities, 18% have gone extended periods of their lives without any education at all and over 40% English Language Learners, but has only one full-time ELL teacher,


Whereas JHS 145 was designated a renewal school by NYC DOE two and a half years ago, but has yet to receive all the services its students were promised under that program,
Whereas JHS 145 has been forced to give up their classrooms, computer labs and other resources to a Success Academy charter school,
Whereas Success Academy charter school has already advertised additional seats for the 2017/18 school year in JHS 145,
Whereas there has been no stability in school leadership, with three principals in recent years, including one that plead guilty to attempted grand larceny and paid $21,080.83 in restitution and a $5,000 fine.
 Be it resolved that UFT take a public stance against the closing of JHS 145 by organizing and mobilizing with the chapter, parents, and community for a march and rally at DOE headquarters to pressure Chancellor Farina into halting the closure.
Be it further resolved that the UFT will adjourn the March 22nd Delegate Assembly at 5:30pm and encourage all delegates to attend the Panel For Education Policy in order to voice our opposition to the closing of JHS 145.

UFT Staff Director and leader of Unity caucus Leroy Barr spoke in favor of the resolution, but amended the two resolveds. The version that passed includes all the "whereas", but only has one resolved:

Be it resolved that the UFT will continue to take a public stance against the closing of JHS 145.
Barr assured MORE/NA that he will urge delegates at the DA to attend the PEP during his report and there will UFT officers at the PEP.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

UNITY CAUCUS WILL NOT DEBATE STRONGER TOGETHER*

Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew-Andy Pallotta's political party) hates open debate. They stifle it at the UFT Delegate Assembly on a monthly basis and they abhor it at the state level too. There is a statewide election for New York State United Teachers officers coming in April. The Unity tradition of no open dialogue will continue throughout the campaign.

Presidential candidates in the UFT in New York City from Unity have not debated since 2001.At NYSUT, after their disastrous showing in a 2014 open forum (Unity was called Revive NYSUT in 2014), Unity won't be debating their opponents from Stronger Together before the 2017 NYSUT election.

Unity is sending out information coming up with all kinds of excuses why they are ducking being in the same room at the same time with the opposition from Stronger Together. ST has responded. First, in italics are segments of a Unity email to Long Island Presidents and Delegates followed in bold by the Stronger Together responses.

March 17, 2017
To Long Island Local Presidents and Delegates:
Over the last few weeks, our campaign attempted to work out a format which would be most conducive to having genuine, respectful dialogue with local leaders about NYSUT’s future. We hoped that collaboration between the LIPC and both campaigns would result in a format that worked for all parties.  We thank Jim Kinnear on his efforts to make this happen.  We wanted to meet with Long Island delegates, evidenced by the many discussions with Jim over the course of several weeks and our agreeing to move away from the originally proposed date to one more convenient for our opponents. 

RESPONSE: The only other date discussed was March 16th.  The conflict was not a rescheduled date in deference to the ST slate, but rather, there was a similar forum scheduled by the Directors of ED 15/16 in Westchester.   In a statement read at the Westchester event (that they refused to attend), the UNITY candidates announced a different event for ED 15/16 to be hosted by the UNITY slate at a future date in Mahopac.  Now they are unwilling to attend a forum on Long Island scheduled for March 21.  It is not only disconcerting that the UNITY Caucus candidates seem unwilling to participate in events hosted by neutral organizations (the ED regions) in a democratically agreed upon framework (a framework that both EDs specifically asked for) but that their absence is falsely placed at the feet of ST Leadership. From the start of the campaign, ST Caucus candidates have desired open, honest debate with Andy, Jolene, Philippe, Marty, and Paul. We have been blocked at every attempt. Please see timeline at end of this response for more details on the candidate forum invitations.

We thought we had arrived at a proposal that could be agreed on by all sides, but were ultimately disappointed to learn that the LIPC steering committee, in a split vote, overruled Jim and was not supportive of the reasonable parameters we proposed. 

RESPONSE: The LI forum format was the same as the one UNITY refused in ED 15/16, yet it is the format most would expect.  Delegates and Presidents would like to hear from both slates at the same time.  We are in the same union and face the same problems.  Regions have no obligation to conduct a forum in a manner that either slate demands.  The ST Caucus slate has accepted every invitation extended to us, regardless of format.  It must be noted that it seems disingenuous to stand for transparency, diversity, and action when UNITY candidates suggested an hour and a half for their candidates, then a separate hour and a half for our candidates, with no opportunity for delegates, presidents, AND MEMBERS to ask questions of both slates simultaneously.

As our slate took shape, we pledged to run a clean, issue-based campaign free from personal attacks and derogatory speech about other locals with whom we disagree. The idea was simple - to have an election that didn't further divide this union at a time when it is critically important to be united.

RESPONSE: This has been a clean campaign, free from personal attack.  It is simply not a dirty campaign to speak truth to power and to discuss the significant losses our members have faced during the last nine years.  Union leadership requires a thick skin.  The ST Caucus will never place personal sensitivities over the needs and demands of members to be able to ask tough questions and receive transparent responses.


This continues for some time over more issues but I want to succinctly tell you why Unity won't be debating in the same room as ST.

Unity knows their presidential candidate Andy Pallotta will lose a debate badly to ST's candidate Mike Lillis.

Just read our report of the 2014 forum held on Long Island. Our friend Arthur Goldstein, running against Pallotta for Executive Vice President, just threw Pallotta's horrible legislative record in his face which led to Stronger Together easily winning over the crowd. Here is some of our coverage from 2014 when I was in the room as a guest.

New York State United Teachers is all of the local non supervisory educator related unions (and some non educator unions) in New York State combined into one statewide union. On April 5, NYSUT will have its first contested election in its history. The election will take place at the NYSUT Representative Assembly.  Only Delegates can vote; the rank and file will be shut out.

To help Delegates make their decision, The Long Island President's Council hosted a forum last night for candidates for the five NYSUT officer positions. If last night's crowd reaction was a poll, President Richard Iannuzzi and his Stronger Together slate should breeze to reelection. Andrew Pallotta, who split from Iannuzzi recently to help form Revive NYSUT, was put on his heels most of the night trying to deflect very tough questions and some attacks on his legislative record.  His colleagues, including presidential candidate Karen Magee, looked tentative at times.

Conversely, the four candidates from Stronger Together, led by Iannuzzi, came armed with facts and figures to confidently defend their records and provide a vision for the next three years.

Iannuzzi and the other three officeholders were joined by none other than Arthur Goldstein, Chapter Leader from Francis Lewis High School, aka NYC Educator.  Arthur had a very impressive debate debut as he put his opponent Pallotta, the incumbent officer who defected from Iannuzzi, on the defensive most of the evening by merely emphasizing the awful laws that have been passed in New York the last few years under his watch.  The Executive Vice President is in charge of NYSUT's political operation and has a big say over which candidates get voluntary COPE money from us. 

Arthur and Karen Magee were the only two candidates who played much offense.  Arthur went after Pallotta's failure as the Executive Vice President.  Pallotta was compelled to answer for the inferior new pension Tier VI, the 2% property tax cap and the horrible Annual Personnel Performance Review (APPR) system.  Pallotta was also questioned about Revive's possible support for Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The highlight of the evening was when a question was asked about whether or not we should endorse Cuomo's reelection.  Arthur answered with a definitive no and launched into an attack on the governor's anti-union, anti-public education, pro-charter school record.

Pallotta, on the other hand, responded to the question by saying that it is not up to him to endorse candidates.  He explained that the Union has a process involving many people and he would let the process play out.  This answer did not please the crowd who loudly accused Pallotta of trying to duck the question.  This prompted Pallotta to respond by noting he would not personally be endorsing Cuomo.

Pallotta's record has not improved over the last three years. In fact it worsened with the Educational Transformation Act of 2015. He can only win the election because of the Unity loyalty oath that Unity-UFT compels its members to sign that will ensure UFT Delegate votes for Pallotta. If they do not, I doubt they will ever go to another convention at member expense. Since the UFT is the largest local in the state by far, Pallotta starts the election with a huge advantage.

If, however, we want to improve the union, a first giant step would be to remove Unity Caucus from power at any level.

*Full disclosure: I have endorsed Mike Lillis and the ST slate. This piece is my view only. ICE, MORE and New Action have not made any endorsements in this election.

Monday, March 20, 2017

MOSL DECISIONS DUE APRIL 7

For the Measures of Student Learning portion of our rating, school based decisions are due April 7. This is important as the student test results on one exam and/or some other assessment, will make up a major part of our rating this year.

This is from the UFT Chapter Leader Weekly Newsletter.


  • Time to make teacher-level MOSL decisions: School-based MOSL committees have until Friday, April 7 to make their teacher-level decisions. The DOE distributed its Teacher-Level MOSL Selection Guide to principals in the Principals’ Weekly. The MOSL selection process began in February when school-based MOSL committees completed the grade/subject-level selections concerning what assessment, target population (individual/group) and method of measurement (growth models/goal-setting) will be applied for every grade and subject in the school. Now those decisions need to be applied to individual teachers, many of whom teach more than one grade and/or subject. When that happens, the school must decide what the right measures are for those teachers. The DOE’s guide will enable committees to answer that question and will also give guidance on special cases such as ESL teachers and other unique issues. The UFT has worked hard with the DOE to ensure that where teachers teach more than one grade and subject, it may be possible to include an additional assessment. Ultimately, the school-based MOSL committee will make that decision, and if the principal does not accept the committee's recommendation, the school will use the default.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

AUSTERITY CONTINUES FOR TEACHERS ON LONG ISLAND AND MOST OF NYS AS ECONOMY GROWS

Earlier this month, we compared salaries and working conditions of New York City with teachers from Yonkers and saw that Yonkers teachers are doing significantly better financially compared to their colleagues in the five boroughs.

Today we compare New York City teacher salaries with Long Island teachers and we note that all is not rosy outside of the city. After almost a decade of forced austerity following a recession that has long since passed, our friends In Nassau and Suffolk Counties are no longer kicking our butts when it comes to salary. Their maximums generally are still better than ours but New York City is catching up, not because we are rising much but because their increases have been nonexistent or anemic for years.

Here are some examples. The source is the contracts which can be found at See Through New York.

Great Neck: Starting Salary: $57,539-Maximum: $141,359 with a lower salary schedule for new hires.
Bellerose-Floral Park: Starting 2017-18: $55,227-Maximum with 25 years + PHD: $128,128
Farmingdale: Starting Salary: $52,510-Maximum: $130,025 with 22 years and a Masters + 75 credits.

Now these salaries are nothing to sneeze at and all three max out ahead of New York City where the maximum salary after 22 years and a Masters +30 in the middle of June of 2018 will be $119,472.

I live on the city side of Floral Park so I chose Floral Park-Bellerose and Great Neck as they are two of the closest Long Island districts to where I reside. Farmingdale is another district where I  know people who work there.

Their salary increases in their most recent contracts are minuscule. The main cause of the almost non existent raises over the last decade is not the Great Recession which ended eight years ago. New York City's economy has never been better as we have documented more than once. The regional economy is growing also as this graph on regional job growth from the Federal Reserve shows.

The economy is humming but we are still in austerity. Why?

It is somewhat complicated but the short answer lies mostly in the tax cap imposed in Albany. This chart from a 2016 piece in the Democrat and Chronicle shows the cap.
2012
2.0 percent
2013
2.0 percent
2014
1.46 percent
2015
1.62 percent
2016
0.12 percent

The property-tax cap for schools each year is 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. As inflation has dropped, so too has the tax cap.

From the article:

It’s not (usually) 2 percent
Since 2012, the tax cap has limited every local government that can tax you to growing its levy 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. That last part is the key.

The cap number has steadily fallen over the years, to a record low of 0.12 percent for schools in the coming budget year.

If a government wants to levy more taxes than the cap allows, it can try. For towns, cities and villages, that’s simply a matter of the board that runs the show voting for an override. So with a five-member board, that’s a simple majority of three members.

For schools, it’s more complicated. If a school district wants to bust the levy, it has to get voter approval. And not just half-plus-one approval, but a supermajority of 60 percent or more.

And schools find it difficult to get the 60 percent: Just 36 of the roughly 700 districts are seeking an override May 17.

Seriously, ignore most of the numbers
Each year, New York publishes the “tax cap number,” but it’s a benchmark. Ignore it. Just like the 2 percent tax cap isn’t (usually) 2 percent, this year’s 0.12 percent tax cap for school districts isn’t (usually) 0.12 percent.

The yearly cap number is one part of an eight-step, math-intensive process that leads each school district to a unique levy cap.

So yes, every school district and municipality has its own tax cap number. This is referred to as a district’s “maximum allowable levy,” and is one of two numbers you should watch.

That maximum allowable levy almost never matches the yearly tax cap number because it includes a list of subtractions and exemptions and carryovers and other budgetary items.

The other number you should pay attention to is your school district’s proposed tax levy.

Compare that number to the district’s maximum allowable levy to see if your district plans to meet or exceed its tax cap. Districts are required to report both figures.

For the upcoming year, for example, districts’ tax levies are expected to increase on average 0.7 percent.

For 2017, I found this article from Newsday:

All of Long Island’s 124 public school districts intend to stay within their property-tax caps for the 2017-18 school year, the first time that would happen since cap limits took effect in 2012-13, according to preliminary figures released by the state comptroller’s office.

Although districts planned no attempts to override caps, they expect to boost tax levies by 1.84 percent...

OK so inflation is making a comeback.

While people generally are not thrilled about higher taxes, a limit that takes a 60% super-majority to override in good times and in bad does not help our situation as public school advocates. NYSUT has not been successful in getting the the cap overturned and it took years to end the stifling Gap Elimination Adjustment that also reduced school budgets long after the recession was over. Who is the NYSUT person in charge of working with the Legislature and Governor?

That would be Andy Pallotta, the Executive Vice President throughout this period, who is now looking to be President of NYSUT.

I cannot see how anyone who isn't bound by a loyalty oath (UFT Delegates) would even consider voting for Pallotta but he is an overwhelming favorite to win and continue NYSUT's free-fall because of that huge UFT bloc of voters that obeys Michael Mulgrew's orders in exchange for union jobs and free trips to conventions. They will all vote Unity-Pallotta. Some others outside of the UFT will more than likely be bought off in some way by an organization that is essentially broke and they too will vote Unity-Pallotta.

I support Mike Lillis and Stronger Together as our best hope to clean up the NYSUT mess.

For those who say the UFT is not impacted by the tax cap because NYC schools are funded differently compared to the rest of the state, I would argue this view is mistaken. If teacher salaries and school budgets are depressed throughout the state, it is much more difficult, if not impossible, to make the argument that our funding should be increased substantially in NYC. The recent Yonkers teacher contract hopefully started an upswing. Having a union that organized for a real fight wouldn't hurt either.

ENDNOTE: As with everything I write about the NYSUT election, these are my views and mine only and do not represent ICE, MORE or anyone but myself.