Tuesday, June 30, 2009


The last Delegate Assembly basically had just three items. The first was the new pension deal where we get two days added to our summer vacation in exchange for billions in givebacks. The second was endorsing politicians as well as a contingency endorsement and then there was UFT President Randi Weingarten’s farewell speech and election as President Emeritus.

The first hour of the final Delegate Assembly of the school year was spent hearing about the deal between the UFT and the city. In the agreement which we have previously written about in this space, the two weekdays before Labor Day will be returned to our summer vacation in exchange for lowering the interest rate on the fixed TDA from 8.25% to 7% and other givebacks that will cost us $2 billion according to the Mayor’s office.

Randi motivated the deal by saying that the two days before Labor Day were something that many members asked for and she continued by noting that state revenues are dropping fast and our pension funds lost between 30-40% in assets. She added that the current situation would end up like the seventies with things done to us but instead we kept control of our destiny by agreeing to a deal that preserved the age 55 retirement for most members and also having the city agree with us to lobby jointly for more funding for the schools. She didn’t mention the TDA interest rate being reduced from 8.25% to 7% until it came up in discussion and she also didn’t see fit to refer to the fact that we are paying for the other half of our two recovered days of vacation by using funds set aside our next Contract.

The discussion that followed her report, as usual, was dominated by seven Unity people praising the deal and only two speakers were allowed to voice dissent.

The first speaker against talked about how it was fundamentally wrong to set up a new pension tier for yet to be hired teachers. The other opposition voice, Peter Lamphere from Bronx HS of Science, said that this pension deal should be voted on by the entire membership, not merely the DA, as it is a fundamental change in our Contract . Randi replied that there wasn’t time but we would have a say on it as part of the next Contract ratification. The pension deal overwhelmingly was approved by the DA but if people knew the true cost to all of us, not just yet to be hired teachers, I wonder if they would be so enthusiastic.

Political endorsements followed and the best speaker here was Marilyn Beckford from Hillcrest High School who pointed out that by endorsing city council members who voted to extend term limits for themselves and the mayor, we were giving a tacit endorsement of the mayor.

Randi cut short this segment to invite the press in to announce her resignation as UFT president effective July 31, 2009. She then gave a farewell speech about her accomplishments that included much higher salaries for teachers and getting more resources to the schools. She also listed the Chancellor’s District, adding tens of thousands of new UFT members, the 300 person negotiating committee and more. (You can read about how a delegate elect took Randi to task at Ed Notes.) Then, Leo Casey pulled out a resolution to make her President Emeritus of the UFT. The Unity faithful stood and cheered and Randi left the chair to Secretary Michael Mendel. The resolution carried unanimously.

Mendel continued the endorsement segment and most of the DA voted for the endorsements. Finally, there was a contingency resolution to let the Executive Board endorse candidates over the summer when the DA would not be in session.

I noticed that the office of Mayor was on this list of positions that the Executive Board could approve without getting back to the Delegates. Michael quickly asked if anyone wanted to speak and I raised my card but apparently he didn’t see it and he closed discussion. I then raised a point of order as I have every right to speak and he recognized me. I noted that to leave a Mayoral endorsement to the Executive Board was insulting to the Delegates. He and future President Michael Mulgrew both assured me that they would not endorse a mayoral candidate without first bringing in the Delegate Assembly but they did not change the resolution to reflect what they said. The contingency endorsement resolution passed but I think I made the point.

Have a great summer everyone.

If mayoral control sunsets tonight, this blog will not be shedding any tears.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


In part 2 of the deal where we get two days added to summer in exchange for over two billion dollars in givebacks, the city has agreed to change the school calendar for next year so that the day we return to work, September 8, 2009, will be a day when the students will not be in attendance. However, Monday, June 28, 2010 will be an instructional half day, instead of the originally scheduled professional development day.

Part of the agreement between City Labor Commissioner James Hanley and Randi Weingarten states that our first day will be “first and foremost for preparation of the classroom and for the arrival of students.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Close analysis of the agreement between the city and the UFT creating a new pension tier shows that the city has once again taken the UFT to the cleaners. While this is nothing new, it is still depressing when it happens over and over again.

The sad details show that we are giving the city back $2 billion over twenty years. My source for this is the Mayor's office. On top of this, add the health care savings that the Municipal Labor Committee just gave back that amounted to $550 million over the next few years. What do we win in exchange for billions in savings for the city? The two weekdays before Labor Day will be added to summer vacation.

These professional development days were useless and it's fine to get them added back to our summer break. The agreement also says we may return to work in September the same day that the kids come back which is ridiculous. By working it in this way, the city can correctly say we haven't shortened the school year. However, this potentially absurd situation is not the worst part of this deal.

The two added vacation days won't cost the city a dime as they are not giving us any additional money. However, in yet another indignity, we will be forced to pay for our two days off at a rate of 1.08% in additional funding according to the agreement. .5% will come from lowering the interest rate on the fixed TDA from 8.25% to 7% and raising the amount of years future teachers must work before they can retire with health benefits from ten to fifteen. The other .58%, according to the agreement, will "be addressed in the upcoming round of collective bargaining for the successor agreement to the current agreement which expires October 31, 2009." Translation, our raise will be lowered. What about the new pension tier savings? Won't that money be applied to pay for the added vacation days? The answer is no.

The new Tier V, where yet to be hired teachers will have to pay 4.85% in pension contributions for 27 years, is a free gift to the city from the UFT that we get nothing back for accepting.

When you are enjoying those extra days off on September 3 and 4, just call them the billion dollar days. That's roughly the amount that each day will end up costing us in the long run. For that kind of gift, couldn't we get back just a little bit more of our professional dignity?

Monday, June 22, 2009


We just heard about the new agreement that the city and UFT negotiated which calls for state legislation to start a new Tier V pension for people yet to be hired. It is interesting to note that on June 5th, only seventeen days ago, Randi Weingarten signed onto a press release which said in part: "The municipal unions of New York City (the MLC), including the UFT, and our state union NYSUT, are firmly opposed to a Tier V for our members." Randi couldn't even stand her ground for a month.

The press release goes on to say, "New York City's municipal unions have already taken steps to address the city's budgetary issues. Just this week, the MLC concluded an agreement with the mayor to save the City $200 million this year, $400 million over two years and an additional $150 million in the following years." In their letter to legislative leaders, MLC co-chairs Harry Nespoli and Weingarten said that the health benefit savings "provides substantially more savings than Tier V during this fiscal crisis."

That was then and this is now. Seventeen days later we have added to the health care givebacks by starting a new pension tier that two weeks back we opposed vehemently. It must be a good time to sell out teachers who have not yet been hired.

The details include teachers having to work five more years (ten total) to vest, a lower rate of return (7%) for all of us on the fixed TDA, 4.85% pension contributions for 27 years for new hires instead of 3% for ten years that most of us pay now, fifteen years on the job before someone can qualify for retiree health benefits. In exchange, we get two days back before Labor Day added to our summer vacation.

Those two useless professional development days, while important to get back, cost the city nothing basically. We have now made this unbearable job even more onerous for new people in exchange for next to nothing.

What Else Did She Give Away?

We have just heard that the Executive Board has approved a significant pension giveback in exchange for doing away with the early return before Labor Day. The pension giveback ensures that new hires will be placed in a new tier with significantly less benefits; reductions in TDA interest rates, mandatory lifetime contributions, reduced retiree health benefits and a significant reduction in vesting for retirement benefits.

What did we get for selling out our young? It appears we got back two days of non-instruction...generally used as two days of preparing for classes or nonsensical professional development. There are, however, hints of the settlement of our contract.

What has become abundantly clear over the last few days is that our fearless leader and super-negotiator has already agreed in principle to much of the financial provisions of our next contract in anticipation of her departure to Washington leaving the heir apparent to claim victory over a wonderful contract.

Was it that important that the upcoming two days be erased to give away all of these benefits to future colleagues? It is clear that had she waited until "negotiations" after contract expiration we would have had to start the 2009-10 year on September 3rd. Now we can start on September 8th with no time to set up our classrooms or prepare for classes on DOE time.

And remember we are scheduled to end next year on an non-instrutional Monday, June 28th!

Shame on you. Are our future colleagues that worthless that they can be sold for these two days?

Friday, June 19, 2009

One Last Chance to Have a Voice on Mayoral Control

The Assembly has passed a less than adequate school governance bill that essentially keeps the Mayor in charge of the schools. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says he is open to negotiations on some aspects of mayoral control since his bill still has not cleared the deadlocked state Senate. This could be our opening to have one final opportunity to kill the six year abomination that is mayoral control. Below is a letter we could use to email to senators to demonstrate that teachers are not happy with the current system. Feel free to edit.

Here is a link to the state senators.

Say NO to Mayoral Dictatorship of the Schools

Mayoral control has been a disaster for working NYC teachers. Most of our schools are overcrowded beyond capacity; class sizes are rising and made their biggest leap in ten years, despite a state mandate to lower them. Scores of schools have been closed, renamed, walled up, and converted into academies or charter schools.

A 2008 UFT survey revealed that 85% of NYC public school teachers believe that Chancellor Klein and the DOE have failed to provide them with resources and support they needed to succeed. Similarly 85% said that the chancellor’s emphasis on testing had failed to improve education in their schools.

The overemphasis of test scores has led to our schools becoming test prep factories, instead of places where real teaching and learning predominates. The test scores themselves are increasingly meaningless – the result, in many cases, of excessive preparation, rote learning, and even cheating.

Mayor Bloomberg has reneged on his promise to rid the city of its ubiquitous trailers by 2012, depriving acceptable facilities to yet another generation of children. Instead of honestly admitting pervasive school overcrowding, the mayor pretends it does not exist – cutting the budget for new school construction by 60%.

Hundreds of teachers sit in the absent teacher reserve, hoping that this reorganization, unlike the last one or the one before that, might finally give them a chance to go back to work. Hundreds more teachers sit in the rubber room, accused of some unnamed crime but never brought to trial.

Perhaps none of this is surprising – given the fact that there are only two educators out of the top twenty executives at
Tweed. They simply do not understand what teachers – and their students – need to succeed.

We are convinced that the current system of dictatorial one-man control has deprived us of adequate teaching conditions, and NYC children of the equitable conditions they need to learn.

Our legislators should take note and replace this governance system with a better one, in which no one person, however rich and powerful, can decide on his own how more than one million children should be educated, especially one who has never sent his own children to a public school.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


As ICE. and very likely most UFT members, are opposed to the continuation of Mayoral dictatorship over our schools, now is our last chance to do something about it. The law giving the mayor control over NYC schools expires June 30 and must be renewed by the Legislature.

While most believe the fix is in to renew the current system with some minor tweaks, ICER Sean Ahearn sent the following letter to the ICE list. Is anyone interested in leafleting? Everyone should be calling and/or emailing their assembly person or state senator expressing their opposition to mayoral control.

Sheldon Silver's 64 Assembly District on the lower east side encompasses most of District 1 and parts of District 2. Is there anyone interested in some leafleting or setting up of tables in his district urging folks to pressure him to change his support for Mayoral Control? There are a number of teachers who live here myself included. Though most were historically supportive of the Shanker faction, some senior and newer teachers may be straying from the usual party line given the closings and constant reorganizations under mayoral control. There is also a history of community activism around education going back to the 1960's that continues.


Sean Ahern

Diane Ravitch Calls for Killing Bush Era No Child Left Behind

Here's a very good piece from the Huffington Post by Professor Diane Ravitch on ending the Bush era No Child Left Behind Law. On education, we have learned that George W Bush and Barack Obama have basically identical positions.


If you haven't yet done so, take a listen to Norm Scott on the radio. He was on WBAI on a program called Education at the Crossroads from June 11. http://archive.wbai.org/

Norm and two other teacher activists discuss teaching today, the Rubber Rooms, the UFT, abusive administration, democratic administration, Mayoral Control and more. It's an enoyable and informative program.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

City Unions Reach Tentative Deal to Stop Layoffs for Three Months; Once Again Members Have No Say

City labor leaders announced today that they were willing to have their members receive less medical benefits in order to prevent Mayor Mike’s threatened layoffs for three months. While the reductions appear to be permanent the layoff threat is not and will undoubtedly resurface after the “three month” agreement.

ICE has repeatedly asked why members are not consulted about their health benefits and since these benefits are part of the compensation package members rely upon why we are excluded from a vote.

We are certain that our members would not want any city employees laid off but where will it end? Is there any other way we could avoid layoffs without reducing medical benefits?