Sunday, July 24, 2016


Now that the AFT is one big happy family with former dissidents from the Chicago Teachers Union, United Teachers of Los Angeles and many others including our own Norm Scott apparently all on the same page concerning how we have to emphasize social justice, we should start a campaign for social justice for a group of the most underpaid and overworked educators: early childhood teachers.

A report was released by The Center for the Study of of Child Care Employment showing that policies in all 50 states and Washington DC are inadequate.

Early educators are among the lowest-paid workers in the country. The median hourly wages for child care workers range from $8.72 in Mississippi to $12.24 in New York. Nationwide, the median wage is $9.77. Preschool teachers fare somewhat better: wages range from $10.54 in Idaho to $19.21 in Louisiana. In contrast, the median national wage for kindergarten teachers is $24.83.

Further down in their press release they state:

According to the National Academies of Science, says Index co-author Dr. Caitlin McLean, “those who teach and care for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers require equivalent levels of knowledge and skills as teachers of older children.” Yet, the Index shows that no states have qualification requirements in line with the National Academies of Science recommendations:

I concur with the National Academies of Science; I have witnessed how skillful these teachers are with my own two children, yet we as a society believe infant and toddler care is easy, unskilled work and compensate people accordingly. This has to change.

How are all of those Pre-K teachers in our universal Pre-K Community Based Organizations in NYC being treated? I very much doubt they are receiving the same wages and benefits as Pre-K teachers in the public schoools.

How about some marches and protests for early childhood educators who deserve so much more in return for what they do?.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


There is a piece from the Washington Post Answer Sheet by Valerie Strauss that cites an academic study showing the relationship between unionization and teacher dismissal and how breaking unions leads to lowering of the quality of teachers in a state.

One of the great myths of the times is that it is impossible to fire "bad" unionized teachers. Economist Eunice Han reached a surprising conclusion in her new research paper: " What I found is that the facts are the opposite of what people think: that highly unionized districts actually fire more bad teachers."

This is directly from the EduShyster interview with Professor Han that Strauss copied:

Han: It's pretty simple, really. By demanding higher salaries for teachers, unions give school districts a strong incentive to dismiss ineffective teachers before they get tenure. Highly unionized districts dismiss more bad teachers because it costs more to keep them.

Han also found that when governments bust unions they do not improve the quality of their teaching force.

EduShyster: In 2011, four states essentially eliminated collective bargaining for teachers, which gave you an unusual opportunity to test your argument in a real-life laboratory. What did you find?

Han: Indiana, Idaho, Tennessee and Wisconsin all changed their laws in 2010-2011, dramatically restricting the collective bargaining power of public-school teachers. After that, I was able to compare what happened in states where teachers' bargaining rights were limited to states where there was no change. If you believe the argument that teachers unions protect bad teachers, we should have seen teacher quality rise in those states after the laws changed. Instead, I  found that the opposite happened. The new laws restricting bargaining rights in those four states reduced teacher salaries by about 9 percent. That's a huge number. A 9 percent drop in teachers' salaries is unheard of. Lower salaries mean that districts have less incentive to sort out better teachers, lowering the dismissal rate of underperforming teachers, which is what you saw happen in those four states. Lower salaries also encouraged high-quality teachers to leave the teaching sector, which contributed to a decrease of teacher quality.

I am not so sure I concur with how Han determined who was a good or bad teacher but it is clear that if a state busts the union, it does not improve schools. It just lowers costs which is their goal.

Should we be jumping for joy that the myth that you can't fire bad unionized teachers has been shattered or should we be blaming our unions for only protecting teachers in theory and not in reality?

I would argue that here in New York City, the city I know best, there are  relatively few so called bad teachers who have a negative impact on the students they are supposed to educate. Often, when teachers are dismissed, or even rated poorly, it is for political (union activism) or other non-performance related reasons (examples: Their supervisor doesn't like them because the they won't change Individualized Education Plans or pass kids who don't deserve to.). Most are not dismissed for their lack of teaching ability.

Why doesn't some smart researcher do a study on the impact of inadequate supervisors in New York City schools? There of course are many excellent administrators in the New York City system who create positive teaching and learning environments but in my view "bad" administrators roam New York City schools with impunity as documented by the press and bloggers repeatedly. It has to have some kind of effect.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


A comment on our recent piece on the undemocratic electoral system the UFT uses to marginalize high school teachers deserves a reaction. Someone stated:

It sounds like you want my Union dues to pay to send you to a convention.

No, the majority of the high school teachers who cast a ballot voted to send seven executive board candidates and two vice presidential candidates including me to the convention. Those high school teachers have been disenfranchised. My wife Camille (a teacher-union activist) and I are quite content to spend summers with our young children. We aren't pining to attend conventions at member expense.

The teaching gods definitely shined brightly on our family as our kids were born in June and July so both Camille and I had time off to spend with them after they were born and now we enjoy vacations around the time of their birthdays. Our daughter Kara just turned seven earlier this week and our son Matt recently hit two.
Matthew fine tuning his foosball skills.

Kara celebrates her birthday with her friend Jada next to her and some relatives in the background.

I thank Arthur Goldstein, Norm Scott, Jonathan Halabi, Jia Lee, Lisa North, Gloria Brandman and anyone else who went to Minneapolis on their own dime as observers at the AFT convention. They spread the word about the disenfranchised UFT members .

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


There is some news coming out of the AFT convention and it isn't being made by Randi Weingarten or her devotees. It is from one of Norm Scott's reports over at EdNotes.

I think the world of Norm because he has been retired for years and does not have to stay involved in union politics but he does and he does it because he believes in the cause of unionism and public education.

With that said, Norm and I have had many disagreements through the years, mainly on the issue of social justice unionism. I have sat through many fruitless discussions in MORE and ICE maintaining over and over again that the UFT-AFT in many ways are decent as social justice unions. I have continuously argued that attacking the Mulgrew-Weingarten Unity leadership on the lousy contracts they agree to with worsening working conditions is a much better way to win over the demoralized teachers in the schools. Norm and I have had countless private discussions on this topic too. Today it seems Norm may have conceded some ground.

From Norm's Ed Notes:

Lots of good stuff around the race issue. Executive Director of Color of Change is speaking -- and there's a rally and march today at 4PM around the shooting here a few weeks ago.

Am I at a MORE meeting instead of the AFT convention?

As James Eterno always says - it is hard to out social justice Randi - at least on the surface. There are also a hell of a lot of black Unity delegates here who must roll their eyes when white people in MORE run against them as THE social justice caucus.

He is now introducing Patti Crispinio as leader of LGBT community OK - I can say stuff about Patti's history as a Unity --- I won't use the word today in the spirit of the day because I support Patti's efforts in this area. I'm feeling the Unity.

Patti makes a great speech -- and introduces Kimberley Colbert, a St. Paul teacher at the school attended by Philado Castile, whose family Hillary met with yesterday before her speech. Kimberley lays on some heavy stats on the toll on black lives. She tolls through the cities that have had mass shootings as funeral music plays and reps from those cities come to the mics and say the names of the city out loud.

Some real in depth talk of white privilege - heck, is Unity/Progressive Caucus matching MORE on race issues? I think that is great - let them also be the social justice caucus of the UFT and the AFT -- their problem is they don't do the other stuff they should be doing real well - like defending the contract.

I have a three word response to the line about Unity's problem being not defending the contract:


That is why we just won the high schools in the UFT election. Make no mistake about that.

Monday, July 18, 2016


For those of you who have absolutely nothing to do or are addicted to teacher union business, the AFT Convention is live streaming here.

I actually have to admit I am watching. (I fall under the addict category.) So far it is kind of boring with a video showing how teachers should be respected. The AFT must really have time to fill. I thought I was going to see UFT President Michael Mulgrew threaten to punch someone.

Maybe Norm or Arthur who are out there in Minneapolis can tell us when to tune in.

UPDATE: Hillary-fest video is being shown now.


Norm, Arthur and Jonathan with AFT Convention news. Really nothing surprising. We get mentioned by both Arthur and Norm.


Saturday, July 16, 2016


As the July 18 Minneapolis AFT Convention approaches, it is worthwhile to point out just how disenfranchised high school teachers in New York City are. In the recent UFT election candidates from the opposition MORE-NEW ACTION won a clear majority of those who voted in the High School Division. MORE-NAC candidates received around 200 votes more than the candidates from AFT President Randi Weingarten and UFT President Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus, but Unity has rigged the system so even when Unity loses, they win.

The Unity minority will send all of the UFT high school representatives to the Minneapolis convention. Even though a clear majority of high school teachers who cast a ballot favored the opposition MORE-NEW ACTION caucus that I ran with, we will have zero representation at this summer's AFT convention.

Why is this?

UFT elects its 750 AFT convention delegates on an at large basis. The giant UFT with over 189,000 members is divided into four divisions: elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, functional (non-teaching including retirees who vote in huge numbers). Since UFT members vote at large for who will will represent us at conventions and who will be the divisional vice presidents, even though a majority of the high school teachers who voted in the election don't want Unity, the Unity advantages in the other divisions mean Unity will send all of the delegates to the convention, even from the high schools where Unity finished second.

Since I work in a New York City high school, I couldn't possibly get to Florida to campaign to the many UFT retirees living there. I did go to many high schools as a candidate for Vice President for Academic High Schools and won a majority of the high school votes. What does that mean? High school teachers lose based on the unfairness of the UFT electoral system.

To show the extent of the disenfranchisement of high school teachers in New York City, I thought it would be interesting to see how big a union the New York City high school teachers would be if we were a separate union local. I did a quick investigation and New York City high school teachers on our own would be a very large AFT local indeed. In fact, we would be significantly larger than the entire Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. I believe Philadelphia is the fourth largest AFT K-12 teacher union local, behind only New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.*

Preliminary numbers from the American Arbitration Association showed that 19,539 ballots were sent out to high school members houses in the recent UFT election. Updated numbers increased that total to 19,861.

How does this compare to Philadelphia? The answer comes right from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers website:

The PFT represents more than 16,000 dedicated women and men working in Philadelphia public schools today.

19,861 UFT high school teachers in New York City as opposed to around 16,000 total for the entire Philly local.

MORE-NEW ACTION's majority among high school teachers who voted gets us a mere 7 UFT Executive Board seats on a 102 member Executive Board but no representation at the AFT convention, no high school vice presidency and no representation at the statewide NYSUT convention. New York City High school teachers are truly marginalized by this system.

It would be great if people from outside of New York City understood how undemocratic the UFT truly is and if they would start to pressure for real change to the system since those UFT delegates from Unity are bound by caucus membership obligations to vote as the leadership instructs them to. Those 750 bound delegates are the tail wagging the AFT dog.

*Houston is the fourth largest city in the U.S.A. (Philadelphia is number 5) but I had no luck trying to find the size of the Houston Federation of Teachers. There are 65,000 AFT members in all of Texas but it is hard to say how many of those Texas AFT members come from Houston. Texas doesn't have collective bargaining for teachers but if anyone has the Houston information, please send it to us and we will be glad to add it in.

Friday, July 15, 2016


This post is a direct reaction to NYC Educator who yesterday wrote a piece that was fairly critical of PROSE schools. Here is his opening paragraph:

Politico just did a feature on the PROSE schools. After reading it I have no idea why they are an improvement over the SBO feature of the standard contract, which allows schools to change class time, rearrange schedules, and basically do whatever they need to achieve their unique goals. I also see no advantage whatsoever in allowing the program not to sunset at year's end. What it it turns out to be a disaster?

NYC Educator then cites Carmen Farina pointing out an extreme example of a PROSE school that allows 40 students in a class. NYC then correctly points out that the contract, in contradiction to media perception, does not favor teachers very much.

I am in no way an expert on PROSE schools. I can't even remember that it stands for Progressive Redesigned Opportunity Schools of Excellence. The title is ridiculous and the program is in some ways a public relations ploy to show that the UFT is flexible concerning the contract. However, as someone who has worked in a PROSE school the last two years, I can say that the program can be used to enhance what was already a truly progressive school.

Middle College High School at LaGuardia Community College had a very collaborative working relationship between administration and teachers long before it was a PROSE school but as a PROSE school, MCHS has been able to go even further in that direction.

The school has altered somewhat the absolutely awful teacher evaluation system. There are teachers who are doing other things besides having the dumb Danielson 1,2,3,4 checklists being filled out for their Measures of Teaching Practice portion of their rating. Next year, the school intends to expand on this. I doubt this would be possible as a simple School Based Option.

Teachers in Middle College are Department Chairpersons. I can say, hopefully without offending any of the assistant principals I worked for at Jamaica, that the last two years I have sat in on some of the most engaging department meetings in my long career. Having a teacher run them has freed people to open up and truly speak freely. I am not saying that we didn't speak openly at Jamaica; it is just different when a teacher is leading the discussion. The assistant principal is only there occasionally at MCHS and the tone doesn't really change when he comes in.

In addition, MCHS approved a very progressive governance system that truly empowers the staff. I don't think this would be easy to do under the School Leadership Team structure in non-PROSE schools.

There has to be a 65% affirmative vote for PROSE. When MCHS takes a secret ballot vote on PROSE initiatives, the results are usually unanimous.

My experience is just one anecdotal but if there is a truly inspirational principal and a staff that buys in, PROSE can work.