Thursday, June 22, 2017

MAYORAL CONTROL MIGHT DIE A VERY TEMPORARY DEATH

The State Legislature left Albany last night "for good" for the year. Therefore, mayoral control of NYC schools is dead as of June 30 and we will go back to having some checks and balances in the school system on July 1, right? Well maybe not.

While this blog believes the end of mayoral control should be seen as a positive development because a Board of Education with one member appointed by each of the borough presidents and two appointed by the mayor might bring some desperately needed integrity back to the school system, we are still very skeptical that this will last.

More likely, mayoral dictatorship over the schools is kind of like Freddy Kreuger: dead but not really dead.
Freddy Krueger.JPG

From Wikipedia:
In 2003, Freddy battled fellow horror icon Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th film series in the theatrical release Freddy vs. Jason, a film which officially resurrected both characters from their respective deaths and subsequently sent them to Hell. The ending of the film is left ambiguous as to whether or not Freddy is actually dead; despite being decapitated, he winks at the viewers.

The State Legislature and Governor Cuomo are kind of winking at us this morning on mayoral control dying at the end of the month.

We have reported on some of the waste under mayoral control and how useless NYC's school governance system is. However, the politicians love it as Ed Notes pointed out on Monday. Ed Notes, aka Norm Scott, also spoke about the issue on the radio yesterday. Community school boards, with their power curtailed by the 1996 law the school system would revert to in July if the Legislature does nothing, are nothing to fear but I don't see them being reconstructed. Since the Assembly tied mayoral control to other local non-NYC issues, expect a mayoral control resurrection very soon in a special legislative session.

Read between the lines of this Albany Times Union piece which includes Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie's statement on the end of the legislative session. Sales taxes in more than 50 New York State counties will expire later in the year because they were tied to the mayoral control bill the Assembly passed. The State Senate wants more charter schools in exchange for a renewal of mayoral control. This is a game of chicken. I can't see counties being denied their money. The ICEUFT Blog makes these not so bold predictions:

Mayoral control will only expire temporarily, if at all, as it did in 2009. Lawmakers will return to Albany in the near future for a special session. Taxes will be passed for localities; mayoral control will be renewed; the Republicans will get a tiny face saver on charter schools and/or some minor tweaks in the mayoral control law.

As usual when it comes to the government and many union leadership issues, I hope I am wrong and that Freddy Krueger, I mean mayoral control of the schools, is dead for good come July 1.

P.S., Talking Points:
When some ignorant supporter of mayoral control points out the increase in the high school graduation rate under mayoral control, simply point out that creating diploma factory high schools in NYC where teachers are pressured to pass everyone is not cause for celebration. Then, direct them to this piece that shows the ultra low CUNY community college graduation rates to prove how unprepared many of our graduates are for college.

If they are still not convinced, send them to the ICEUFT Blog June 20, 2016 post that sums up the results of mayoral control in a paragraph:

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.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

HELP WANTED QUEENS HIGH SCHOOLS; EXPERIENCED TEACHERS NEED NOT APPLY

My friend and fellow blogger Chaz had a piece on Monday exposing Townsend Harris High School for putting an advertisement for a new teacher on Indeed.com. Clearly, Townsend Harris wants someone from outside the New York City public school system. Well, this is not unique.

Here is an advertisement for another Queens High School looking for two teachers from outside the system. This school doesn't even imply that they want someone from inside. They are direct.

This came on email.

"The High School for Something or Other" is seeking a 9th and 10th grade Social Studies teacher and a 9th and 10th grade ESL teacher for one year positions. Candidates should be new to the DOE, as these are one year positions. (bold added by me)

Interested applicants should be flexible, empathetic, collaborative and enthusiastic about teaching a project-based curriculum. The ideal candidates will be able to design curriculum that enables students with a broad range of abilities to succeed, learn, and sustain motivation.Bilingualism is a plus.

I won't expose the actual school to protect the innocent and not so innocent but you get the idea. Experienced teachers need not apply. Absent Teacher Reserves would seem like good candidates for these positions but instead they will hire new people and excess them after a year to add to the ATR pool. Is anyone minding the store?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

MAYOR RALLIES FOR SCHOOL CONTROL WHILE MULGREW ISSUES CRYPTIC STATEMENT

Mayor Bill de Blasio and other politicians yesterday held what amounted to a desperate rally with union supporters in defense of mayoral control of the New York City schools. De Blasio's main argument is that costs would rise if we go back to districts. He neglects to mention that central Department of Education administration spending has skyrocketed during his tenure as mayor with mayoral control. Some central savings could go a long way toward lowering costs. Just finding some lost money might help too.

The mayor and Chancellor Carmen Farina were surrounded by union supporters at their rally. Noticibly absent was UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

Mulgrew did make the following statement as reported by NY 1:

"Mayoral control should not be a matter for debate and doesn't need the UFT to defend it. We applaud the State Assembly for standing up for the city and its schools against the Senate’s attempt to politicize this issue."

UFT does not show up at the rally. That's good. However, the UFT is the one organization that could kill mayoral control but refuses to come out against it.

I think most of us who work in the schools (not our union's leadership) are hoping that the Republicans and their allies in the Independent Democratic Conference hang tough on inisiting on more charter schools in exchange for continuing mayoral control which would lead the Democrats in the Assembly to not make a deal because to their credit they don't want more charters.

If mayoral control ends and there are some real checks and balances in school governance, the winners will be the students and teachers in New York City schools. If there was real oversight from the borough presidents, who would control 5 of the seven seats on the Board of Education if mayoral control dies, integrity has a chance of being restored in our schools. I'm pulling for a stalemate in Albany.

As for the community school districts, don't fear them. The 1996 law on school governance curtailed the power of the local school boards. It seems only this blog is reporting this fact.

If I was the president of the UFT, I would ask the Executive Board and Delegate Assembly to empower the Union to expose the real corruption in the schools and urge our friends in the Assembly to let mayoral control expire for good.

Monday, June 19, 2017

PROFESSOR MARK NAISON PREDICTS DEFEAT TOMORROW FOR DEMS AND IN 2018 (Updated with results)

Fordham University Professor Mark Naison is someone who makes people think.

Here is an excerpt from something he wrote recently in History News Network:
It's time to change course. The Great Recession should have shattered once and for all the idea that the measurement and motivation systems of American business are superior to those in the public sector. (E.g. do we want the same quality of teacher ratings as Moody's and Standard and Poor's applied to mortgage-based derivatives?) American business needs to clean up its own act, not applied its flawed methods to other fields. If we continue on the path we are on, we may well see the American Education system become as corrupt, and unstable as the Global Financial System.

As someone who works in the field of public education, I kind of think education already is quite corrupt, particularly in New York City.

Naison makes a prediction on his Facebook page that the Democrats will lose the special House of Representatives election in Georgia tomorrow and they will not take back the House of Representatives or the Senate in 2018.

The polls in the special Georgia House race show the it is a tossup.Sadly, however, Naison's prediction makes a great deal of sense. I do hope he is wrong but....

Read his reasoning on public education.
I predict the Democratic Party will lose the special election in Georgia tomorrow and will NOT retake the House or Senate in 2018. Why? Because their only message is "we hate Donald Trump" and "we are diverse and that makes us cool." It is a very sad situation but I don't see any change from the last election where Democratic candidates running for state office and for Congress did even worse than Hilary Clinton.

And here is the irony! In many of the battles I have been fighting during the last 8 years, especially the defense of public education, Democrats have been as big an obstacle as Republicans, and that includes liberal "heroes" like Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren, along with the Big 3 of teacher haters, Rahm Emmanuel, Andrew Cuomo and Dannel Malloy!

My major disagreement is Naison needs to add Corey Booker and make it a big 4 of teacher haters.

UPDATE WEDNESDAY:
It was no surprise that Republican Karen Handel won in Georgia. We'll see about 2018.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

NO DA QUORUM=NO PROBLEM FOR UFT LEADERS

Quorums are defined by Robert's Rules of Order as, "The minimum number of members who must be present at the meeting of a deliberative assembly for business to be validly transacted is the quorum of the assembly." The UFT quorum requirement is 20% of the Delegates of the Delegate Assembly must be present.

It says in Robert's Rules on page 348-349, "Before the presiding officer calls a meeting to order, it is his duty to determine, although he need not announce, that a quorum is present."

I thought the UFT President waited until a sufficient number of the certified Delegates cards that come to us in the mail were collected by staffers before they started the meetings. We found out recently that even this rudimentary parliamentary procedure is not adhered to by the UFT.

At the May DA, our friend Jeff Andrusin asked why the UFT didn't report the number of Delegates present at meetings. President Michael Mulgrew answered that we would start announcing the numbers in June. Then, our June DA Agenda and May DA Minutes came in the mail and Jeff Andrusin noticed that the number present at the May meeting was 547. It also says in the agenda that the number of Delegates is 3,454 and the required number for a quorum is 690 (20%).

We didn't come close to a quorum in May and as for June, my viewing of the room was that it was a smaller number of Delegates as compared to the May DA. Mulgrew even closed the extra room on the 19th floor down and called the Delegates up there to the 2nd floor main room since it was so empty. To sum all this up, unless my crowd estimating skills are way off, we have not had a quorum for the DA since at least April but the DA has conducted plenty of business without one.

Why does this matter?

Robert's Rules explains it on page 21:
The requirement of a quorum is a protection against totally unrepresentative action in the name of the body by an unduly small number of persons."

That is the Unity Caucus: a small, invitation only group of mostly bought and paid for UFT members who control what happens to all of us.

What about business conducted in the absence of a quorum?  Robert's Rules says on page 348: "The prohibition against transacting business in the absence of a quorum cannot be waived even by unaimous consent, and a notice cannot be validly given.

The DA's actions for May and probably for June should be null and void. However, since this is the UFT, where rules mean virtually nothing, expect the quorum rules to be completely ignored.

Who do we complain to? Mulgrew?  The AFT? NYSUT? The Department of Labor? State Public Employees Relations Board (PERB)?

All dead ends as far as I can tell.

Jeff already informed me that he emailed Mulgrew and Assistant Secretary-Staff Director Leroy Barr about the lack of a quorum and he is still waiting for their response. He will probably wait a long time.

Friday, June 16, 2017

WHY WOULD ANYONE BE AFRAID TO LET MAYORAL CONTROL EXPIRE?

I read this piece from City and State on the controversy up in Albany where the Republicans are threatening to allow mayoral control of  NYC schools to sunset at the end of the month if they don't get into the mayoral control law expansions of charter schools.

I have said this before and I will say it again:

Go ahead make my day; let mayoral control die!

There is nothing to fear if we go back to community districts. As we have reported, the 1996 law took hiring power away from the school boards. That is the law we would revert to if mayoral control dies in two weeks.

Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan sounds almost hysterical in City and State, criticizing the Republicans in the State Senate for putting pro-charter school legislation in any bill extending mayoral control.

“The consequences of not doing mayoral control for the city children would be very negative, so I don’t understand why Sen. Flanagan and Republicans are asking what they’re asking.” – Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan

Relax Assemblywoman Nolan. It's not the end of the world as we know it and we will be just fine under the 1996 school governance law.

No need to say there will be very negative consequences. There will be very few and they will be mostly positive if the 2009 mayoral control law expires. The mayor would have to work with the borough presidents to enact education policy on an independent Board of Education. The mayor would have two votes on the Board and the borough presidents would have one each so his honor would need the support of representatives of two of the borough presidents to have a working majority. That would be a healthy check on mayoral power. 

UFT President Michael Mulgrew also needs to stop worrying about pro-charter people running in school board elections next May. Please have someone read him the 1996 law. The school boards will have very little power if mayoral control expires.

Here is an excerpt from a Gotham Gazette piece from 2002 explaining how weak the boards would be if they existed again.

CLIPPING THEIR WINGS

In the last election, which was held last year, voters may have stayed away from polls because the community boards have so little power. Under the prodding of then-Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew, the New York State Legislature in 1996 redefined the responsibilities of local school boards, taking away much of their power, including the authority to name a the district superintendent.

Today, school boards no longer manage day-to-day affairs within the district or hire or promote school district employees, including principals. Instead, the local school boards set educational policy, mostly just by helping to select a superintendent for the school district. Even here they don't have the final say; the chancellor does.

The 1996 law removed much of the rationale for the boards' existence, according to Public Advocate Mark Green, who declared in a speech delivered in April that school boards should be eliminated. "The local school boards were a great idea -- in theory -- but rarely worked in practice," Green stated. "Some became patronage mills, doling out jobs and contracts to friends. Most, now stripped of their powers, are today excess weight in a bureaucracy that needs to be simplified and flattened. It's time for them to go."

The Gazette article then goes on to defend the School Boards since they give parents some say in education.

People worried that the mayor would not fund education if he didn't control the Board of Education also need to relax. There is a NYS law called the Stavisky Goodman law that passed over Governor Hugh Carey's veto in 1976 that said the city must fund elementary and secondary education at least with the same proportion of city funds as the last three fiscal years.

This is from Case Text.com:

1
The committee's chairman, Assemblyman Leonard P. Stavisky, introduced a bill which, as adopted by the Assembly on January 21, 1976, amended section 2576 of the Education Law to require that annually there be appropriated for public elementary and secondary education in the City of New York "an amount equal to the average proportion of the total expense budget of such city, as amended, appropriated for the purposes of the city school district of such city in the three fiscal years of such city immediately preceding the [current] year". 


I don't see where this law, which was upheld by the New York State Court of Appeals, has been repealed so I believe it is still on the books. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Mayor Michael Bloomberg or no other mayor deserves a dictatorship over the schools. It doesn't work and just leads to numbers faking to make the mayor look good. 

Can someone in authority study a little history?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

LIVE BLOGGING FROM JUNE DA (somewhat edited)

Once again I apologize in advance for any errors as I am writing this from my cellphone.

President's Report
UFT President Michael Mulgrew started by thanking chapter leaders as over 1100 did survey on professional development. We're not supported on ESL and special ed.  Most schools have PD committees. 2/3 have meaningful PD. Only 12% blame superintendents for mandating PD. Loudest is not always majority. Still frustrated with DOE.

National
Can't accept hate as rationale for violence. Expecting Senate to pass new bill on Healthcare before July 4 break. Guy occupying white house likes senate bill. Working on senators in certain states.

DeVos (we want her to talk in public) says again it is up to states to recognize civil rights.  She does not understand federal civil rights.

Janus case fast tracking to US Supreme Court. Could have decision early next year making US a right to work country.

State
Mayoral control of NYC schoolsis expires in June in Albany. Mulgrew won't trade anything for mayoral control including having more charter schools.

Don't want to go back to 40 school boards. Want some form of mayoral control. Self government issues in Albany. Assembly usually gives local governments local control issues. Mulgrew says it is load of crap to tie school governance to expanding charter schools. NYC only local government that has to pay for local issues. Speaker of Assembly won't pass anything on local controls anywhere in NYS until NYC'S local issues are settled. Big fight in Albany over mayoral control. It will get ugly. 40 school board elections next May if nothing passes.

Down from 3 days to 2 days of testing next year for math and ELA state tests. Board of Regents looking for better standards on ELL'S and special ed.

CTLE: DOE approved vendor. UFT having more training this summer. One more day to enroll in catastrophic insurance. 8,000 UFT members signed up.

ATR Severance Package
Negotiating for a year and a half. Mulgrew mentioned a number 962 and then 1100 in atr pool. Should see significant changes in a reduced ATR pool. Severance not pensionable but still get retro if an ATR retires.

Protest against superintendent
Skirmishes  with administators but school system is going in the right direction. Won public battles against principals. Picket superintendents.  Want supportive, respectful environment.  Superintendents must do jobs to create respectful schools. Have data on grievances and discontinuances. Brooklyn superintendent has bad record. Superintendent wants to talk to borough rep. Meeting went horrible.

UFT brought it up to Farina. Liz, Borough rep, had meeting with superintendent and chancellor and we got everything.  2 schools have advisory committees. Tenure decisions often based on whether or not superintendents like principals. Since we got what we asked for, no picket tomorrow.

City
We did very well with the City Council. Our priorities were funded. Teacher's Choice up. It might be over $200 per teacher. We have to see how many teachers there are next year to figure out the exact number per teacher.

Overall we had good year after November 8 election. 93% paperwork complaints resolved in our favor. 80% APPR complaints successful. Highest graduation rate ever. Next year we have to battle constitutional convention and Janus. Thanks us for work for this year.

Staff Director's Report
Leroy Barr gave some dates including tomorrow being the deadline to apply for catastrophic health insurance.

Question: Four teachers excessed in my school. Why not lower class sizes to keep jobs? Principal said too many higher priced teachers
Mulgrew Answer: Class size is on the table. We will check on budget at that school. Teachers embracing mobility. Need a different setup for mobility. City population changing. Deal with people moving to various neighborhoods. Subject for contract negotiations.

Q Summativeconferences. Some have not gotten proper amount of observations.
A Document it. Matrix is our friend. Must use contractual tools available.  Get info to right people (DRs).

Q If we lose Janus, what happens?
A It depends on decision. Does everyone have to join union? Or, are only agency fee payers out? Very troubling.

Q Staff members getting developing and are unhappy. What are we doing?
A Problem in district 3. Some teachers put in impossible situations. Many different grade levels in one ESL class.

New motions

I raised a MORE resolution on the DA voting on ATR agreement. Believe it or not, it did not pass.
That's me with the mic and  Arthur Goldstein sitting to my left writing his minutes of the meeting.


Special Orders of Business
Political endosements. City council endorsements. Paul Egan motivated them.
Jonathan Halabi spoke against endorsing Fernando Cabrera for City Council in the Bronx. Said he does not share our values. Cabrera is a homophobe. He is not with us.

Marjorie Stamberg said we have to vote on class. Must have a working class party.

UFT HS rep said Cabrera not a homophobe. Was an 18 year guidance counselor. Endorsements carried

Contingency endorsement passed.

Resolution to show solidarity with Puerto Rico teachers union.

Peter Lamphere tried to amend it to include Federation of Maestro de Puerto Rico. He wants them included.

Leroy Barr spoke against supporting FMPR. AFT brought this to us. Union came to us through AFT. FMPR cannot bargain on behalf of teachers. Resolution violates our process. AMPR is the official union. FMPR disaffiliated with AFT.

Amendment failed. Original resolution passed.

Mulgrew wished us a great summer.