Friday, December 29, 2006

Weingarten/Unity 2005 & 2007 Contracts Abandon Staff in Closing Schools!

Displaced Staff Must Pound the Pavement or Become Day-to-Day Substitutes

The Department of Education can no longer be allowed to mismanage and inadequately fund schools and then blame UFT members when students don't perform. Unfortunately, Randi Weingarten has gone along with their plan. When the closing of Lafayette HS in Brooklyn was announced, after promising the teachers support, Weingarten said: "It is no secret that there have been problems at Lafayette, so its closing is not surprising. We are working with the DOE to create a redesigned school - and potentially two new schools - that parents will want to send their children to and where educators will want to teach."

ICE is calling for a moratorium on closing/redesigning schools until there are independent studies done to assess the impact of closing schools on entire school communities throughout the city. We are also demanding that the UFT use part of its "Teachers Make a Difference" campaign to publicize the need for full funding for all schools, but particularly the need to push for extra funding for schools where students are lagging behind in order to: lower class sizes, provide modern up to date facilities as well as safe and stable environments as an alternative to closing schools and displacing students and staff, which results in severe overcrowding of neighboring schools.

In the 2005 giveback laden contract, Unity Caucus negotiators and their New Action (former opposition caucus) partners quietly gave away preferred placement rights for UFT members when schools are closed/redesigned or if personnel are in excess, eliminating Article 18G5 that gave members displaced because a school was closing or being phased out "the broadest possible placement choices available within the authority of the Board." The elimination of Article 18G5 in 2005 and in the 2006 contract extension was glossed over in the so-called "fact" sheets put out by the union leadership urging a YES vote. Educators, regardless of their experience or ratinsg, now have to pound the pavement when their schools are closed to find their own positions. If they do not do so, they become Absent Teacher Reserves (day-to-day substitutes in a district with full pay and benefits but no steady classroom assignment). UFT leaders actually had the gall to brand this as an "improvement" along with the Open Market Plan.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Is Randi Calling for Gubernatorial Control Next? When will she ever Learn?

The following is an excerpt of an article entitled "See Spitzer having a Bigger School Say" from The Chief Leader December 22, 2006…

Randi is on a panel with one of the State Regents and a CFE director.

Ms. Tisch {the regent} said that in light of Mr. Spitzer committing significant additional money to the schools, ''There is the possibility of giving [him] an awful lot of say in educational policy in the state."

Ms. Weingarten concurred, saying, 'If the Governor is going to take this kind of responsibility, there has to be some power [vested in his office] to affect that policy."

Her belief she told the audience in the New School's Theresa lang Community and Student Center, reflected political reality rather than a conclusion that mayoral control had been a positive step in the city school system. The UFT plans to set up its own task force to evaluate the impact of creating the Department of Education as a city agency, Ms. Weingarten said, explaining that some of her members vehemently oppose mayoral control because "they do not get to exercise the latitude that good Teachers should get to exercise."

'Relentless Test Prep'

In the past, Ms. Weingarten was sharply critical of Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein's school curricula, arguing that he had stripped teachers of the discretion that was both vital to creative instruction and a prerogative to which senior staff was entitled. In an interview after the forum, she said she had come to believe that the strictures under the Federal No Child Left Behind Law, rather than mayoral control, were primarily responsible for the onerous changes in the city system that included "relentless focus on test prep, re-designing schools."

Didn't Chicago have a corporate style Mayoral takeover of the schools with an emphasis on testing and redesigning schools before No Child Left Behind was passed?

  • ICE said that there might be a deal brewing on renewing mayoral control and now Randi is blaming No Child Left Behind instead of BloomKlein?
  • Do we need another politician (the Governor) taking more control over the public schools?

ICE thinks teachers, not politicians, need to be empowered and that is one of the big reasons why we need new UFT leadership.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

7,637 Reasons to Fight On

There is a real opposition to Unity Caucus in the schools. 7,637 UFT members voted against the two year extension of the worst Contract ever in spite of two years worth of the ruling Unity Caucus' leaders constantly telling us how great it is to: teach an extra small group instruction period four days a week, come back to work in August, patrol halls and lunchrooms, not be able to transfer based on seniority, not be able to grieve file letters and observation reports, have weakened tenure protections, risk being an Absent Teacher Reserve even after dedicating decades of our lives to New York City's students, etc…

The work that the Independent Community of Educators, Teachers for a Just Contract, NYC Educator and others did almost exclusively on the internet made a bit of an impact. It must be taken into account that those of us who oppose the Contract did not have the means to distribute literature urging a no vote to most schools but the ruling Unity Caucus spin machine sent a cadre of employees into virtually all of the schools to sell the Contract. ICE-TJC may not yet be able to reach everyone but we have moved forward.

Consider that back in 2001 before the traditional main UFT opposition group, New Action, decided to form an alliance with Unity (Randi Weingarten's political party), New Action received 11,523 total votes in that year's UFT Election. Traditionally the opposition would get around 2,000 retiree votes in UFT elections. After many years of working, New Action was usually getting around 10,000 active members to vote for them. In 2002 with New Action support, the first extended time Contract received 94% of the vote. Only 4,000+ members opposed that deal. The opposition was in tatters leading New Action to form their alliance with Unity.

In 2003, after New Action made a deal not to run against Randi Weingarten, ICE was formed for the 2004 election. TJC ran in a UFT election for the first time in 2004 also. ICE and TJC presidential candidates combined to receive a total of 5,374 votes in the 2004 election, including retirees. Now in 2006, there are 7,637 active people who voted no on a Contract. This group constitutes a growing working base opposed to the ruling Unity Caucus. Recall that retirees do not vote on Contracts. Therefore, we can conclude that after only a few years of existence as political organizations, ICE-TJC are growing and getting close to reaching the level where New Action was after working for many, many years.

Now is the time for ICE-TJC to diligently pursue other potential supporters. There were approximately 7,000 disgruntled members who voted in the 2005 Contract ratification but didn't bother to vote this time around. Why was the turnout lower this year? Some people have apparently given up in disgust and we need to give them a reason to vote for the opposition in the 2007 UFT election. Also, there were over 32,000 members who voted against the 2005 giveback laden Contract. It is our job now to reach each and every one of them and give them our alternative view on how this union should be run.

We believe this Contract was approved by an overwhelming margin not as a vote of confidence for Randi Weingarten and the Unity machine but as a sign of resignation that we can't do any better under Unity-New Action leadership.

Unity-New Action's main strategy is to wait for DC 37 to settle up with the city and go in and say, "Me too," and get the same deal based on pattern bargaining. Pattern bargaining means that when one city union settles on a contract to start a new round of collective bargaining with the city, then all other city unions subsequently receive the same pattern settlement. If DC 37 sets a lousy pattern, then Randi will again trade away more of what's left of our Contract to get us some money as she did in 2002 and 2005.

It's up to ICE-TJC in the next few months to get the message to everyone that we can organize to improve UFT member salaries as well as teaching and learning conditions without trading away our rights.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


    Several years ago, the leadership of the UFT made a blunder when a committee the Union formed to study how schools should be governed issued a report that said the UFT would favor the Mayor controlling a majority of the Board of Education. Eventually, that report led to the Union giving its ok to the 2002 law that allowed Bloomberg to take over the schools. We must not let history repeat itself. The law granting the Mayor full control of the schools sunsets in 2009. We must start the fight now so that the NY State Legislature does not renew it in its current form.

We cannot stay the course with this failed policy. Now is the time for the UFT leadership to admit that they made a mistake in endorsing full Mayoral control of the schools and we need to move forward and find a system where parents, teachers and others in the community have a real voice in decision-making in our public schools.

We cannot merely hope for the right mayor as each new mayor will invariably seek to remake the schools in their preferred image, and manipulate the system for their political and ideological advantage. ICE favors real shared decision making at the school level as an opening demand. In order to achieve this, we need first to get the Mayor out of school governance to the maximum extent that we are able to and get school personnel and the community back in.

To win back the schools, ICE raised a proposal on Monday evening at the UFT Executive Board when the leadership of the Union called for the creation of a multi-partisan UFT committee to examine how the schools should be governed in the future. ICE proposed the following amendment as a foundation for the committee:


RESOLVED, that it is the explicit policy of the United Federation of Teachers that the School Governance Law not be renewed or extended in 2009.


In other words, ICE CALLED FOR THE END OF MAYORAL CONTROL as a starting point for any discussion on how the schools are run in the future.

In response, Randi Weingarten accused of us of playing politics with the issue and the Unity dominated Executive Board voted overwhelmingly to form a committee that will examine all forms of school governance, including the possibility of renewing mayoral control of the schools. We respectfully disagree with the Unity Caucus. The Union needs to be bold by drawing a line in the sand and saying factory model (corporate style) top-down public schools do not work for students or educators. Now is the time to begin to take that initiative.

Do we need to have a committee even consider renewing a top-down school governance structure that the vast majority of UFT members know is an unmitigated disaster for education in New York (and other cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia where it has also been used)? Examine what Mayoral control has brought in NYC:


  • Micromanagement of lessons, lesson plans and other aspects of our day
  • Micromanagement of bulletin boards
  • Testing run amok
  • UFT Contracts where our members have lost numerous rights in exchange for raises that don't keep up with inflation
  • Mandatory "Professional" Development that has little if anything to do with what most of us actually face in the classroom
  • Millions of dollars in no bid contracts
  • Two restructurings of the of the bureaucracy: first into ten regions and now into empowerment zones
  • A Secretive, opaque form of management and policy-making that has proven itself impervious to oversight, checks and balances, and democratic dialogue that is necessary for a healthy school system


Now is the time for the UFT to take a strong stand against what Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his hand picked non education Chancellor Joel Klein have done to New York City's schools.