UFT President Michael Mulgrew gave a really strong impression at the December Delegate Assembly that there is little chance that there will be an agreement on a new evaluation system before the January 17, 2013 deadline. However, if there is an agreement, the Unity majority decided that it will not go to the membership for a vote even though it is a contractual change.
Mulgrew began his report by telling the Delegates that 88% of UFT members responding to a survey felt they were not supported properly in their schools; half said that students with IEPs are not receiving proper services and there is a huge increase in UFT Special Education Complaints.
Mulgrew went on to talk about politics. He told Delegates that if a state's Democratic party cannot control at least one house of the legislature, then the unions in that state are in trouble and that is why Michigan passed a "Right to Work" law. He stated that politics matter and that is why we worked so diligently to get an increase in Democrats in the New York State Assembly so now there is a super-majority and all three caucuses in the dysfunctional New York State Senate are talking to the UFT. He carried on by saying that the so called "Right to Work" laws, where unions cannot automatically collect dues, are really a way to force unions to spend all of their time organizing and trying to collect dues. He said the AFT and AFL-CIO are working on the situation in Michigan. He then brought it back to New York by noting that same groups that worked to limit union power in Michigan are here providing funding for the same goals.
Mulgrew next talked about the mayor and the evaluation system. He said that Mayor Bloomberg, the Daily News, Fox and the Post were once again attacking us. He stated that Bloomberg never liked the state evaluation law because only 20% of a teacher's evaluation would be based on student test scores and the mayor didn't like that there was collective bargaining in the law. He asserted that the UFT had to go to Albany to get an agreement in 2012 on the appeals process and so we are the only district in the state that will have an appeals process that is part of the law. He then stated that when the law takes effect, it will be a stronger appeals process than what we have now (that is debatable for sure).
Mulgrew then announced that the mayor wants the new process for evaluations to hold teachers' feet to the fire and allow for transparency. He stated that the mayor is fully aware that language like this will lead to fights with the UFT but that the mayor as a lame duck has no hope for getting legislation passed in Albany. Mulgrew said he believes the mayor does not want an agreement on the evaluation system. To prove his point, Mulgrew declared that Bloomberg's education legacy is in the toilet so he will continue to blame us. What Bloomberg and the press most fear is that the UFT will help elect the next mayor.
Mulgrew closed this portion of his report by noting that the combination of our retirees and active members gives us a very strong ground game in elections so that a UFT endorsement really matters but delivering votes on the ground is even more important. He then pivoted back to the evaluation system by pointing out that the negotiations on the evaluation system are not going well and that we cannot trust the DOE to implement a new system even if there was an agreement. He told Delegates that Walcott's December 21 deadline was an imaginary deadline.
He then emphasized that there is a strong possibility that there would be no evaluation agreement and that the UFT must prepare for an onslaught against us from the mayor, the Post, the News and Fox. He thinks the mayor's goal is to have our approval rating go down so we will be weakened in the mayoral election as the mayor's best hope now is to pick his successor. He added that we will not agree to an evaluation system that doesn't help us help kids and that state growth scores are out and show only 7% of teachers are ineffective and that won't change much because of the formula used, even if test scores plummet
Mulgrew also declared that Joel Klein's plan to destroy the school system would come close to being achieved but it would not be successful. Danielson, five minute snapshots and all the other stuff they are doing to our members prove they don't have the ability to implement anything.
Mulgrew followed up by saying that the School Governance Committee would soon be meeting as would the Negotiating Committee and that we are moving ahead on the contract in Fact Finding. He then told us he would be in Staten Island with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as one school had 78% of students displaced from their homes. Mulgew went back to say that new Campaign Finance Board Charter Revision rules would make member to member communication more difficult and then he closed by saying the mayor's race was critical.
Leroy Barr gave the Staff Director's Report saying that disaster relief was still going on so members could donate at UFT.org. He gave the revised date for Teacher Union Day as January 27 noting that Michael Mendel would be honored.
The Question Period was next on the agenda. The first question was about the Teachers Retirement System and Emblem Health being temporarily moved from 55 Waters Street due to Sandy. Mulgrew responded that the Welfare Fund and TRS were functioning.
The next query concerned data points. Mulgrew said DOE says people in pilot evaluation schools are ecstatic but our members in surveys say otherwise. He added that people are not truthful in DOE surveys because they want to protect their schools from being closed. UFT surveys, on the other hand, show that virtually everyone is unhappy. Mulgrew thought the truth was somewhere in the middle He added that we have 12 months left of Bloomberg but the dysfunction is worsening. He said we are trying to fix things in the system but our members are demoralized. He concluded that we have to keep member hopes up through Bloomberg's last year.
The next question was on excessive paperwork including the acuity tests. Mulgrew answered that we are in arbitration on things such as curriculum writing as well as teachers writing units of study. He stated we shouldn't be writing curriculum. He added that the DOE now has 250 accountability experts who need something to do.
The next query concerned the city budget and how much we stand to lose if there is no evaluation agreement in January. Mulgrew replied that we now have a $23.3. billion education budget and we stand to lose $240 million if there is no agreement. He followed up by declaring that it is not the money, it's a game to the mayor so we should look out for layoff notices as our enemies will go against us as if there were a strike if there is no evaluation agreement.
The new motion period followed. Political Director Paul Egan put forward a resolution supporting issuing of Green Apple Bonds to remove PCBs from schools within three years at a net savings of $339 million. It carried.
Kit Wainer then made a motion for today's agenda to bring a resolution to support a membership referendum on any new evaluation system. Kit noted that this was a huge change in the contract and alterations to the contract go to the membership for their approval. The resolution also called for a campaign to educate our members on the evaluation system. He persuaded Mulgrew to ask for a suspension of the rules so that there could be a speaker on each side, even though the resolution was for this month. The motion for a speaker carried so Kit was able to tell the Delegates that he agreed with President Mulgrew that our members were demoralized and see the UFT as just another institution that does things to its members and they are responding by tuning out the UFT. He pointed out that turnouts are very low in UFT elections and they are poor at citywide and district wide chapter leader meetings as well so we need to involve the members and not alienate them further. He closed by saying that 1,000 members and a group of whole chapters signed a petition to support a membership vote on the evaluation system.
Leroy Barr was called on to refute Kit's points. Leroy said that the membership elects Delegates and Chapter Leaders to represent members and the DA has a proud history of these duly elected representatives doing their job. He then added that the DA is the proper place for the evaluation issue to be discussed and voted on particularly since there was a school based 150 person committee meeting regularly on the evaluation system. He added that what the resolution comes down to is the power of the DA. He gave examples of 1964 when the DA voted for a one day boycott and 2009 when the DA voted on an agreement that gave us two days back in summer vacation. The huge Unity majority then sided with Barr.
I would like to comment here on this issue. In 2002, when Randi Weingarten first decided to put extended time in our contract that would be up to the discretion of management to use, the extended time provision was so bad it had to be renegotiated in the fall of that year and then in June of every year up through 2005 when Randi gave away the store in that horrible contract. Each time the extended time provision was renegotiated, it came to the full membership for a vote. You can look that up because I remember running the votes annually at Jamaica. Extended time is a revision of Article 6A and changes properly were sent to the membership for ratification.
The reason why the 2009 change on having the two days before Labor Day back in summer vacation did not come to the membership was because it was primarily pension savings, which are governed by state law more than the contract. Remember our interest rate on TDA Fixed funds went from 8.25% down to 7% for UFT members in that agreement. CSA and PSC members still get 8.25%.. I called those the billion dollar days because that's what those two days will end up costing us. However, the alterations of our work day were always voted on by the membership as a contract change. The law specifically ties the new evaluation system to our next collective bargaining agreement so there is no excuse for not having a membership referendum on evaluations.
Resolutions followed next. First was a resolution to support an organization called "New Yorkers for Great Public Schools." Then, there was support for Pakistani factory workers. This was followed by some real drama. Peter Lamphere motivated a resolution asking the UFT to support the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's Federal Civil Rights Complaint against the specialized high school admission process. This was a great chance for a Kumbaya moment as members of Unity, New Action and the new MORE Caucus all worked on this matter. However, Kumbaya did not happen as Peter mentioned the 1968 strike and the UFT's divisive racial role. He said the UFT still needed to mend fences on the race relations issue and that this would be a good way to do it. Unity stalwart Abe Levine rose passionately to declare the 1968 strike was about due process and stopping the forced transfer of teachers. (Where are you now Abe when so many of our members are forced to transfer to a new school each week?) Abe said the strike was not about race. Janella Hinds followed up with a substitute resolution that was approved by members in the impacted schools and Jonathan Halabi from New Action supported it. Then there was a vote and it passed. Two more resolutions followed on national issues to oppose Republican plans to cut our social programs. They easily passed.
That's all folks. I leave with two thoughts. Does everyone still believe the next sellout on evaluations is just around the corner? If it is, then Mulgrew is one heck of a con man. Unity not allowing us to vote on whatever they negotiate, is another setback.