Yesterday, the UFT Delegate Assembly would not allow an up or down vote on whether we should endorse state legislation to support one of two bills to end the mayor’s majority control over the Board of Education. The Board of Education is the legal name of what is now called the Panel for Educational Policy. The PEP is dominated by the eight mayoral appointees who do whatever the mayor wants. When it is necessary, they always outvote the five borough president’s representatives.
Instead of supporting legislation (Senate Bill 6915) which would change the makeup of the Board of Education so that the majority would be appointed by the Borough Presidents and City Council, the Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's political party) dominated Delegate Assembly referred this resolution, which I raised in April, to the UFT Executive Board. Unity had a chance to make a statement that they opposed mayoral control and refused to do it. As my friend Norm Scott says repeatedly, “Watch what UFT leaders do and not what they say.” Every UFT member should memorize those words and say them whenever one of the Unity party faithful tells us the UFT opposes mayoral control or high stakes testing or that Danielson is our friend.
After last month’s surprise DA affirmative vote to place a resolution on the DA agenda to support either the Senate bill or a similar Assembly bill that would immensely improve the way schools are governed, people told me to watch out that the other shoe would soon drop and the UFT wouldn’t support legislation to end mayoral dictatorship. I said let’s wait and see. Maybe there is a real change in the thinking of UFT leadership. I should have known better.
This is especially troubling because Senator Bill Perkins, who is a staunch defender of public education, was the senator who introduced the bill in
During the floor debate at Wednesday's DA, Unity people said that they examined the Senate
bill and they oppose it in part because there wasn’t any place for parent
representation on the new Board of Education.
(Are they serious? We can aim for a perfect school governance system down
the road but now we need to take power out of the mayor’s hands as best as we can.)
In moving the resolution to support the end of mayoral dictatorship over the schools, I referred to Mulgrew’s earlier report where he told us that by a 7 to 1 margin, a new poll shows the public wants to end mayoral control of the schools. I said that by the UFT endorsing either of the two bills introduced in the State Legislature, it was a way to start this discussion as the bills were similar and we need to come out boldly and forcefully as early as possible against mayoral dictatorship over the schools.
I added that the current school governance law sunsets in 2015. Why wait three years? We need to start pushing way before then and we made a mistake last time by doing committee work for years and then in 2009 accepting mayoral dictatorship version 2 which made no substantive changes to the 2002 law that put the mayor in charge. Since the public is clearly on our side, I told the DA that we need to take this fight right to the heart of the chamber that is blocking change: the New York State Senate. Majority Leader Dean Skellos is from Long Island so we should be having a rally in front of his office which is near the train station in
Rockville Centre. We can make it a big deal that we want our
bills voted on. I closed by saying my
way of negotiating is to ask for the world (the end of mayoral majority on the Board of Ed now) and
maybe we won’t get it today but we would have a much better chance of taking
the mayor’s power to close or co-locate schools away from him or getting other
legislation we want passed.
Another delegate supported me but then someone from the fifth floor room said she opposed the Perkins bill and then another followed. President Mulgrew then called on Middle School Vice President Richard Farkas, who moved that the resolution be referred to the Executive Board and now that they had their marching orders, the Unity faithful quickly thereafter ended debate and voted to refer the resolution to the Executive Board.
I was not surprised but a little disappointed as our union has no strategy other than to repeat what did not work in 2009. UFT official policy continues from 2001. That is when the UFT originally voted to support the mayor having majority control of the Board of Education. I have opposed this policy all along and voted no on it back in 2001 and again in 2009. Will they ever learn?
To all of my delegate friends who don’t come to the DA, all I can say is I could have certainly used your help Wednesday. The absence of so many non Unity delegates makes it easy for the UFT leadership to almost always get what they want from the DA.
THE REST OF THE DA
In the President’s Report, Michael Mulgrew told us there will be a special Delegate Assembly on congressional endorsements since the Democratic Primary has been moved up to June 26. The special DA will take place next Wednesday at 4:15. Mulgrew then boasted about the Spring Conference and how the new workshops, particularly the Danielson one, were successful. He said that Charlotte Danielson herself was there and appreciated it.
Mulgrew reported on mayoral control. He said it was a big issue. He said the UFT supports a bill that would compel the Community Education Councils (district school boards under the old system) to approve any new school co-location. He also stated that we support a bill that would put a moratorium on school closings. He continued by saying we could get these pieces of legislation by the Assembly but they would die in the Republican controlled State Senate. (Well then why not picket their leadership?)
He continued by pointing out that mayoral control sunsets in 2015 but that we are hoping to make changes before that time. He added that we have to be careful here but that we are hopeful of getting a workable State Senate next year. He said that parent groups and politicians are coming to us hoping to get our support on how the schools should be governed. (I don’t think we can afford to wait for the perfect bill and must demand real change now.) Mulgrew talked about the need for checks and balances. (I have a poster from 2009 in the UFT office at school that says the following: “MAYORAL CONTROL NEEDS CHECKS & BALANCES.” I say today to beware of UFT Presidents calling for checks and balances because we got none in the 2009 law.) Mulgrew closed by saying that it is too early to say what we will and won’t support.
On the city budget Mulgrew reported that there would be 1,000 to 2,000 more teachers next year as the City Council held tough in budget negotiations. He then said there are still major problems with the budget because the Day Care Providers who helped us fight layoffs last year now need our help as they are being threatened. He told us that 16,000 daycare slots were on the chopping block. He pointed out that the Mayor’s Early Learn program was really an attempt to privatize day care and we must oppose it. He closed the budget part of his report by saying we are trying to get back teachers’ choice funding.
Mulgrew then gave his monthly speech on how disastrous special education reform is going and how many parents believe this is the mayor’s last ditch effort to destroy the school system.
Mulgrew then reported on the court case with the Turnaround schools that were closed. He said that we would be back in court tomorrow because we have been doing the contractual article 18D hiring process for almost twenty years and now the DOE wants to make the committees work by majority vote instead of consensus. He said that he is not looking to stop the 18D process but he wants it to work according to the contract. He added that there would be no final decisions on hiring until after there is an arbitration. (I thought we were suing to stop the schools from closing. Can anyone help me on this?)
Next Mulgrew talked about a principal in the
Bronx who had been removed from the job and made an
assistant principal who now had new allegations against him. Mulgrew quoted Chancellor Dennis Walcott who
said: "Just because an allegation is made, it doesn’t mean the person is
guilty.” The UFT President then turned
back to the lawsuit on closing the turnaround schools to say that we are working with
the Council of Supervisors and Administrators on this case. He talked about planning committees in the
turnaround schools and stated that many schools didn’t have planning committees.
The President then told us about a silent march on Father’s Day (June 17) opposing the Police Department’s Stop and Frisk policy which targets the minority community unfairly. He then reported that using Monday and Tuesday June 25 and 26 for staff development was a DOE idea and not a UFT proposal and that we can do it if we like but we should inform the parents that this was not a UFT idea. UFT staffer Amy Arundel then reviewed the School Based Option process. Staff Director Leroy Barr went over some dates for events and then it was time for the question period.
The first question concerned absences. A delegate asked if more than ten absences in a year would automatically lead to charges against a teacher based on Education Law 3020A (process to discipline teachers). Mulgrew responded that it did not lead to automatic charges but that members should avoid being absent more than ten days at all costs.
A delegate asked about the principal interfering in UFT Chapter Elections. Mulgrew answered that if there is documentation, we would slap a Public Employees Relations Board case on that principal in a second as it is an improper practice.
Marjorie Stamberg asked the next question. She said that having Absent Teacher Reserves vote for chapter leader in a school they are passing through for a week and know nothing about was ridiculous. The Unity faithful accused her of making a speech and not asking a question but Marjorie then turned it into a question by asking how this process makes any sense. Mulgrew kind of answered it but mostly tried to avoid the issue she raised. He talked about how the DOE is violating the agreement from last year and that if they placed all of the ATRS in positions where members were on leave or long term absence, then all would be placed. Since DOE is not living up to their end of the agreement on this and not having an oversight committee meet as per last year's agreement, we are grieving and taking it to arbitration. Mulgrew then stated that allowing ATRS to vote in a school they are at is the best thing we could do for them. (I would not agree.)
Someone then asked about strengthening collaboration with CSA but Mulgrew said that this was hard when many CSA people are after our members but he pointed out that we would work with the CSA when possible. Someone asked about community schools in
and Mulgrew replied that we are piloting this with the City Council in NYC.
The new motion period was next and Megan Behrant introduced a motion for the UFT to support a rally for the Turnaround Schools at
Tweed ( 52
Chambers Street) on June 12 at 5:00 p.m. There is no debate allowed when there is a
motion for this month’s agenda and it needs a 2/3 vote to carry. The first vote looked like it received the 2/3 vote needed to
pass but Mulgrew said he wanted a second vote and then said it didn’t
carry. This caused anger as people saw
many in support of the rally. Mulgrew
then reprimanded people who were calling out asking for a count of the vote
saying that the rules don’t allow debate.
Someone raised a point of order to say that we were not calling for
debate but were calling for a count.
Mulgrew then asked for people to stand who supported the rally and by
this time the Unity faithful knew they better stay seated so Unity easily
turned down the rally.
David Pecararo from Beach Channel told a horror story about his own reassignment and asked that the UFT reaffirm its support for Chapter Leaders. Surprisingly, someone spoke against it saying it doesn’t need to be reaffirmed but the motion passed easily.
The regular motion period was next where there was a resolution to support an increase in the state minimum wage followed by a motion to support the silent march on June 17th to oppose stop and frisk. Then came the mayoral control debacle.
All in all, The DA was another waste of time but this one was at least interesting as it took quite a bit of maneuvering by the leadership to hold their people in line. I still wish everyone who complained about how the DAs are run would show up so we could change it.