At the January Delegate Assembly meeting, we heard from UFT President Mulgrew about tough all night negotiations between the UFT and Department of Education that finally culminated at 3:00 am in an agreement on a new teacher evaluation system. Unfortunately for Mulgrew, the deal was then killed by Mayor Bloomberg. Bloomberg apparently didn't like that the deal had a two year sunset clause and also provided for extra dates for expedited arbitration for teachers if the DOE didn't follow the procedures in the new system.
Mulgrew was so thrilled with what he negotiated he said it would ensure fairness and that the main job of a union is to advocate for members and this is what his team of 25 people had done through many late evenings. Among the highlights he said there was to be a reduction in paperwork since teachers are so bogged down now in paperwork that we can't do our jobs but this new system would stop the silliness. He then acknowledged that some people would be upset with the agreement but it was the mayor who came in after there was a deal with the DOE and said no because he wanted more. He wanted the deal attached to the contract forever and not just for two years. (Gotham Schools reported that 90% of evaluation agreements across the state are for one year. Mulgrew mentioned this later in his lengthy report.)
The President also talked about how the mayor only wants the system to be about firing teachers but he doesn't have to do that because of 3,500 new teachers hired this year, already 1,000 have left.
He then said that part of the deal was about our working conditions and we all would like it. There would be time set aside to implement the new system and there would be teacher voice in the form of a committee set up in each school on evaluations which would have equal veto power for administration as well as teachers. There would then be a central committee on assessments to review portfolios and what would be used for the growth models. (You see how well the committee set up by his last grand agreement is working with the ATRS being rotated from week to week. Does this committee even meet? What about that District Rep selection committee? We met once several years back.)
He then told us how our arbitration process is clogged up (we agree here as a member in my school has been waiting since 2006 for arbitration) and the U rating appeals process is terrible. He stated that there are 50 cases where there is nothing in the teacher's file but the U rating is still being upheld by the DOE. (We are supposed to trust these same people to implement this new evaluation policy?) He said that the UFT suggested an expedited arbitration with added dates for the new system. He then told us each side would get 20 minutes to present their case. (Personally, I think where there are strong chapters the committees and expedited arbitration could be helpful. My experience with the expedited reorganization arbitration process has been positive. We have used it many times at Jamaica and nobody has ever lost. However, Gotham is reporting that this expedited arbitration process could only be used for procedural issues. I doubt very much people would be able to challenge supervisory judgement.) Mulgrew then went over the history of the negotiations as he mentioned some of the barbs that were fired back and forth between him and the mayor. He said repeatedly that the mayor is now lying about who killed the negotiations. (Update--Looking at the evidence that is coming out, it is pretty clear Mulgrew is right about this.)
He then briefly discussed linking the evaluation system to the contract but didn't elaborate much on why they gave up this idea in order to reach today's non-agreement. He also made it clear that this would now be part of fact finding for the contract. He concluded his remarks by noting how these were tough negotiations because of the inexperience of many of the DOE people.
Leroy Barr then gave a brief Staff Directors Report where there was a moment of silence for a Chapter Leader, Elaine Montez who recently passed away. After this he told us Teacher Union Day was on January 27th and that January 31 is the deadline for high school pupils to apply for the Albert Shanker UFT Scholarship.
Before the question period began Mulgrew read a statement from Council of Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan who said they were working hand-in-hand with the UFT and they had a one year agreement with the DOE but the city wanted it to be indefinite.
Questions followed and they were mostly about the new evaluation process. One person said the UFT should resist the new system but Mulgrew disagreed saying teachers should be evaluated in part based on student learning growth. He said how much growth there is throughout the year is a major part of our job but we can own the growth under what we negotiated. A Delegate from Brooklyn Tech asked about suing the DOE for age discrimination. He made the point that things are bad for veterans and new teachers alike. Mulgrew responded that he doesn't know what else to do with the DOE so we sue them often enough and are usually successful.
Mulgrew then made a staunch defense of the growth model and said students with Individualized Education Plans would not not be treated in the growth model the same as students who are taking Advanced Placement classes. He said student growth was appropriate to evaluate our work and teachers should be able to say when they get a student in September that a year from now that student will be in a better place. (There was plenty of muttering in the audience about how easy this model would be to abuse by administration.)
The new motion period was next. Marjorie Stamberg made a resolution to support the bus drivers who are out on strike and to also hold a citywide rally of all of labor to help their cause. This was voted down as it needed a 2/3 vote to get on this month's agenda but received substantial, I would say majority, backing. Mulgrew did talk about the bus drivers at this point and said the mayor was union busting pure and simple with the strike. He said there is plenty of waste as the city lost a great deal of money by not filing for Medicaid reimbursements so it is clear this isn't about saving money.
Megan Behrent then moved that the UFT support the teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle who refused to administer a high stakes exam. This motion received the 2/3 vote necessary to be placed on the agenda but there was some opposition coming from the front of the room where the officers and biggest Unity (majority caucus) members sit. It was no surprise that Mulgrew ran out the clock so that this resolution would not have to be discussed.
Regular business was next. There was a resolution to support Downstate Medical Center workers that easily passed and then there was one supporting the efforts of Local 32BJ and Local 94IUOE to secure fair contracts that was amended by someone from MORE to include the bus drivers. Someone from the Unity section actually tried to table the amendment in support of the bus drivers and then tried to argue for his motion but was stopped as a motion to table is not debatable. The entire resolution supporting all of these unions then passed unanimously.
There were three more motions that followed. The first was to support Malala Yousafzai, a brave 14 year old girl who was shot in October and badly wounded in Pakistan for advocating for the rights of young girls to receive an education. The UFT resolved to support her, condemn the attack against her and endorse her cause. This passed unanimously.
There was then a resolution in support of Green Apple Bonds which will be used to fix PCBs in schools and save money. Comptroller John Liu is responsible for this program. This passed but not until someone asked what the interest rates would be on the bonds. Mulgrew didn't know.
There was a motion to extend for five minutes to finish the agenda. The final regular piece of business was a resolution to support the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington that was motivated passionately by retiree George Altomare. This carried but then Mulgrew said there was no time to handle the resolution to support the teachers who refused to administer the high stakes test in Seattle. That is a standard Unity trick when some of their people oppose something even though the body at large clearly wants it.
Gothamschools.org took all kinds of credit for figuring out that the mayor didn't want a deal. This blog said the following last week: "The UFT is willing to concede on almost everything but Bloomberg's people may make it so humiliating that President Mulgrew would not even get a fig-leaf out of this. On the other hand, the Union could demand real safeguards (a right to grieve any unfair evaluations) so the DOE would reject any agreement." We were almost completely right except it looks like it was the mayor and not the DOE that inserted the poison pills. The fig-leaf was the two year sunset clause and the expedited arbitration if procedures weren't followed. Trust me these were not great gains.
What happens next? I see the UFT going over the mayor's head to the state to try to get the system into law. What should people be doing? Call, email or talk to your union representatives, particularly Unity Chapter Leaders, and tell them you want no part of this and the real fight in Albany and Washington DC is to change the law so that no part of any teacher's rating is based on junk science.