Saturday, February 28, 2015


I'm a little late to the party writing about the UFT K-8 charter school that will be shutting down in June.  NYC Educator and Ed Notes have already beat me to the punch by posting on this topic today. I can only add a little personal note to their stories since I remember the Executive Board meeting when we voted on the UFT starting a charter school. I was the sole dissenting voice that evening. 

The UFT charter school came up for a vote at the Executive Board during a time period between 2003 and 2004 when opposition caucus New Action was solidifying their alliance with the dominant Unity Caucus.  New Action's high school "opposition" representatives started going with the Unity party line on just about every topic.  The exceptions were my close friend to this day Ed Beller and me however on the subject of the UFT starting a charter school, Ed was with the leadership. Therefore, I was alone so UFT President Randi Weingarten was poised to ridicule me.

I recall vividly being called on after the usual Unity sycophants praised the charter school. I spoke out against the UFT running a charter school because we would have difficulty publically opposing the expansion of charter schools if the union was running one and money would be siphoned away from an already cash strapped public school system to charters.  Randi stopped me in mid-sentence that evening and argued that I was making an argument against private school vouchers and not charter schools but I stuck to my position. After our debate, I think I was the lone no vote. A UFT charter school was a no-win proposition.  If it succeeded, the press would see it as a victory for charter schools.  If it did not work out, it would be seen as union failure. That's what is occurring now.

Being opposed to all charter schools on principle, not just some we don't like, is a position I am quite honored to have stood up for as a lone wolf at the UFT Executive Board. 

Now that the UFT's K-8 charter school is closing, do you think Randi Weingarten will be getting in touch with me to say that maybe I had a point?  I don't think so either.

Friday, February 27, 2015


The Sergeants Benevolent Association led by President Ed Mullins has reached a tentative contract deal with the city that basically keeps in line with the pattern uniform supervisory unions set a while back.  It calls for increases of 11% over seven years.  This is 1% better than the UFT received to set a civilian pattern last year. 

The difference between the contracts for the SBA as compared to other supervisory uniform unions is in the length of the deal.  The SBA contract is for a full seven years instead of the six years and seven months that other uniform supervisors agreed to.  In exchange, the SBA will receive full retroactive pay for the entire first year. 

No waiting until 2020 for SBA members to get their full arrears unlike the UFT.

This blog said all along that part of the feud between the police unions and the mayor had to do with a lack of contracts. Ed Mullins was also incensed with UFT President Michael Mulgrew back in May for accepting a subpar pattern setting agreement that he knew would limit what he could do.

In his rush to settle a contract and set a pattern, Michael Mulgrew ended up selling everybody in municipal labor short as the city is swimming in huge surpluses mostly thanks to labor settling for tiny salary increases.

Patrick Lynch and the large Patrolmen's Benevolent Association are now basically out there alone along with the firefighters union. I can't see them doing any better under these circumstances

Thursday, February 26, 2015


A retiree source has been on the payroll portal and told me the retroactive money will be deposited into accounts on Friday, February 27, 2015. Sources updated us by telling us the money is already in accounts as of today (Thursday).

It is not surprising that the city/Department of Education held onto the money for as long as they could.  The fund to pay the retroactive payments for people who retired between November 1, 2009 and June 30, 2014 was supposed to be established "upon ratification" of the contract (June 3, 2014) but because of bungling by both the UFT and city, it was not settled until this month.

All I can say is congratulations to our retired friends!  You had to wait almost nine months to get money that has been owed to you since early June for work done as far back as 2009. Each and every retiree earned every dime that is coming your way by working in the schools.

ICEUFT blog salutes all of our retirees and wishes you many decades of healthy and happy lives.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Comptroller Scott Stringer has found an extra billion dollars over what Mayor Bill de Blasio projected in the city budget.  Are the Unity supporters still saying the cupboard was empty when we settled for 10% over 7 years and we will have our retroactive payments for 2009-2011 deferred so we won't be made whole for those years until 2020?  How much more money has to be found before Unity will admit that Michael Mulgrew did not get us the best deal possible?

Other unions also don't stay neutral when a politician goes after them. For example, the Chicago Teachers Union opposed Mayor Rahm Emanuel's reelection and their endorsed candidate, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, is now heading into a runoff with Rahm because the mayor did not get the necessary 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff.  Rahm spent millions of dollars and had President Barack Obama's endorsement. In spite of this, it was 45% to for Rahm and 34% for Chuy with other candidates getting the remainder. It still won't be easy to win but it is possible. 

Our strategy in New York is best summed up by a commenter called Raving Apologist:

 Raving Apologist said...
"Don't blame me." "It's the best we could do." "We are at war...Now, Tweet!" "We will be sitting out the 2009 Mayoral endorsement process." "We will not be endorsing anyone for the Democratic gubernatorial primary." "We have to stick together as a union."

Thanks to Harris Lirtzman for sending out the latest budget news and the Chicago results.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


The PBS television show Road Trip Nation came to Middle College High School yesterday with their RV.  Some of the crew told stories of how they had their own trials and tribulations in school but they persevered.

They interviewed our old friend NY Times retired sportswriter George Vescey about his career.  The overall message of encouraging students to follow their passions was very positive.

Thanks to our friend and colleague Rachel for putting all of this together.

Monday, February 23, 2015


I vow that this will be my last posting for a while on the latest fiasco where active UFT members will have to defer raises so there can be enough money to pay full retroactive pay to members who retired between November 1, 2009 and June 30, 3014. 

The retirees are not at all to blame for this mess and I don't begrudge them their money nor should anyone else.  They earned every dime.

It was exciting to see the comment on the last post from the retiree who voted no on the contract as a last principled act of solidarity before retiring.  Two teachers at Jamaica High School proudly showed me their no votes on the contract even though they clearly would benefit from retiring if the contract passed.  I would have done exactly as they did by voting no on principle and then taking the up front money upon leaving if I was eligible.

In saying all of that, I do believe there is plenty of blame to be distributed for this settlement where active employees will have to delay raises in 2018 so retirees can be made whole now.

The most obvious culprit here is Michael Mulgrew and the UFT's inner negotiating team.  Clearly, it didn't take a genius to figure out that there was going to be a mass exodus from the system if people were going to get tens of thousands of dollars up front retroactive pay upon retirement but they had to leave by June 30, 2014.  The UFT needed to push for more money to pay the retirees or contractual language that would compel the city to come up with additional funding if more UFT members than anticipated wanted to retire.  In their haste to get a deal done, the UFT didn't think this through.

The second villain in this story is Mayor Bill de Blasio and his Office of Labor Relations led by Robert Linn.  After convincing the UFT to accept the worst pattern setting agreement of my career, the city could have taken some pity on the UFT and come up with $60 million extra to pay the retirees when more people than anticipated choose to leave.  The money is a drop in the bucket in the city budget.  Instead, they held rigidly to the pattern and forced active members to defer raises.

The final goat here is arbitrator Martin Scheinman.  He could have told the city that there is no need to rub the UFT's face in the mud after you got a pretty strong pro-city labor deal.  Needless to say, Scheinman, a de Blasio fundraiser, didn't do this and instead found a way to make active teachers shoulder the cost of the settlement through deferred raises.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


NYC Educator made the first attempt to calculate the cost of arbitrator Martin Sheinman's ruling that forces active UFT members to pay the cost by deferring raises so the city can have enough money to pay full retroactive money to people who retired between November 1, 2009 through June 30, 2014. We did our own breakdown for an individual teacher on maximum and here is what we came up with.

Maximum salary would have been $119,471 as of May 1, 2018, but 3% of that money will now be deferred for a month and a half until June 16, 2018 or three pay periods. Therefore, by taking $119,471 and dividing it by 24, we come up with $4977.96 per pay period. Now multiply this by 3% (.03 is the value of the deferred increase) and we get $149.34. Multiply that number by 3 since we are being deferred for three pay periods and the result is $448.02. That is part of every senior teacher's gift to retirees. But that is not it.

We still have to add in the one month extension to the contract. The value of this is harder to calculate. If Michael Mulgrew and his Unity Caucus negotiate and set a new pattern, the most likely value will be nothing for that first year. We will only lose after we start getting increases.

If people wake up and vote out Unity or another union establishes a new citywide pattern, let's assume a more historically relevant 3, then we must recalculate. If we were to get 3% on December 1, 2018 as opposed to November 1, 2018, the date a new contract would have started without arbitrator Sheinman' s intervention, we can start a new set of calculations.

Let's take $119,471 and multiply by 1.03 for a 3% raise. Maximum then comes to $123,055.13. Now multiply by.03 to figure out the value of the increase. The total is $3,691.65. Divide that by 24 pay periods to figure the cost per check which comes to $153.82. Multiply by two checks (a month delay caused by Scheinman) and the cost is $307.64.

Now add the $307.64 to $448.02 and we get an approximate final cost of $755.66.

There you have how much a teacher on maximum will be billed (estimated) to pay the retirees.

I don't expect to see too many thank you notes from retirees in the comments section.

Monday, February 16, 2015


The arbitrator who decided last week to lengthen our contract by a month and delay one of the raises may have another crack at rewriting the agreement. 

If the city and the union can't agree on the UFT's share of $3.4 billion in heath care savings, then guess who gets to decide on the savings?  You are right if you guessed it is the same arbitrator who just extended the contract.

With our union's track record, most are expecting to experience some kind of healthcare giveback in the not too distant future.

UPDATE: Let's not forget that the arbitrator the UFT agreed to for all of this work is Martin Scheinman.  Yes, the same Martin Scheinman who was a fund-raiser for mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio.  Didn't our leadership back Bill Thompson?  The Post's editorial board thought Sheinman's conflict of interest would help the unions.  How wrong they were.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


In a decision announced on a Friday before a holiday when nobody was watching, an arbitrator has ruled that UFT members who retired between November 1, 2009 and June 30, 2014 will get their retroactive cash payments immediately.

Because our union and the city couldn't figure out that so many people would choose to retire rather than continue working for the Department of Education, they were short $60 million in funding for paying the retirees.  To make up for that shortfall, active members will now pay a small price.

The contract has been extended for another month.  It will now end on November 30, 2018 instead of October 31.  In addition part of the 5% raise scheduled to take place on May 1, 2018 will be deferred for six weeks.  We were supposed to finally get the last 2% of the 2009-11 money added to our salaries on May 1, 2018 in addition to a new 3% increase.  Now the 2% will be added as scheduled but the 3% raise will be deferred until June 16, 2018.

Just another new indignity added to many for working teachers. You would think Mayor Bill de Blasio, who clearly beat the UFT in negotiations, could have thrown the union a bone on this one. By agreeing to accept an inferior pattern setting agreement, the UFT saved the city billions of dollars. 

To sum it all up, Michael Mulgrew, who already set the worst municipal pattern setting settlement that I can remember with 10% over 7 years, has allowed an arbitrator to make it a little worse at 10% over 7 years and a month.

Great negotiating guys.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Members have been emailing ICE regularly to ask when the lump sum back pay would be coming for people who retired between November 2009 and June 2014. One of our correspondents at yesterday's Delegate Assembly Mike Schirtzer, Delegate Leon Goldstein HS, emailed this from the DA.

Mulgrew: Arbitrator will make decision soon- news is imminent - we'll announce something very soon. 

That is all we know.

The other big issue was high stakes testing.  You know what ICE and MORE would do if we were in power.  We would starve the data beast and fight high stakes testing with everything we have.  For our friends on the left, we would stop selling the data rope for our own hanging.  Arthur Goldstein sent the following report on Mike Schirtzer's attempt to introduce the NYSAPE resolution to encourage people to opt out of the state exams.

Motions—Mike Schirtzer rises, raises motion for next month on behalf of MORE, to support I Refuse Movement. Circulates it. Mulgrew says it needs a simple majority to be placed on agenda.  

Mike says it has been passed by several locals, that testing regime is out of hand, and that we should oppose high stakes testing. Says test prep saps joy from teaching, helps neither us nor our students. Kills creativity, critical thinking so we can do non stop test prep. Says we must starve the beast, that MOSL is junk science. Says if we’re gonna go to war against Cuomo, let’s take high stakes testing away from him.

Point of information—states we cannot make resolutions for NYSUT, and that there is no NYC Board of Education. Mulgrew points out other reference to NYSUT, makes disapproving noises, says DA does not have ability to bind NYSUT’s hands. 

Sterling Roberson rises to speak against resolution, says we are against over-testing, but that we need tools to help drive instruction. Says parents need tests to ensure that they’re getting the “education they deserve.” Says we’ve supported this issue “from teachers of Chicago,” and in early grades. Says we’ve enforced it and reemphasized it over and over. States there is difference between opting out and refusing. Says it tells folks to tell their kids to refuse. Although there are pieces that are appealing to us, it goes too far. Urges this motion be defeated. 

Mulgrew holds vote, takes point of personal privilege, says he understands passion around this issue. Says resolution is out of order because it asks us to make decision about NYSUT. Speaks of how parents want tests. Says we’re in a fight and have to be smart about it, that we ought not to take a boilerplate resolution that was put together in other places. Says we should be against high stakes. 

Point of information—Last resolved makes it clear that this resolution is only—Mulgrew interrupts speaker and says it’s already been voted on. Calls speaker out of order. 
My understanding from talking to Mike last night is the motion received significant support from independents.  The Unity faithful had to join together to defeat it.  We now are pretty sure that the war we are fighting against Governor Cuomo is kind of in name only.
You can read NYC Educator's full DA report here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Let's hope someone obtains the floor to introduce this resolution at today's DA.
Resolution to Support “The I Refuse Movement” to Oppose High Stakes Testing

WHEREAS, the purpose of education is to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives, not solely prepare that populace for college and career; and

WHEREAS, instructional and curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom professionals who understand the context and interests of their students; and

WHEREAS, the education of children should be grounded in developmentally appropriate practice; and

WHEREAS, high quality education requires adequate resources to provide a rich and varied course of instruction, individual and small group attention, and wrap-around services for students; and

WHEREAS, the state assessments are not transparent in that–teachers and parents are not allowed to view the tests and item analysis will likely not be made available; and

WHEREAS, the assessment practices that accompany Common Core State Standards – including the political manipulation of test scores – are used as justification to label and close schools, fail students, and evaluate educators; therefore be it

RESOLVED that NYSUT opposes standardized high stakes testing that is currently pushed by the Federal and State governments, because this testing is not being used to further instruction for children, to help children, or to support the educational needs of children; and be it further

RESOLVED, that NYSUT advocates for an engaged and socially relevant curriculum that is student-based and supported by research; and be it further

RESOLVED, that NYSUT will embark on internal discussions to educate and seek feedback from members regarding standardized high stakes testing and its impact on students; and be it further

RESOLVED, that NYSUT will lobby the NYS Board of Education to eliminate the use of high stakes testing; and be it further

RESOLVED, that NYSUT will ask that all of its members have their own children refuse to take the Grade 3-8 assessments: and be it further  

RESOLVED, that NYSUT will organize other members and affiliates to increase opposition to high stakes testing; and be it further

RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution will be sent to the NY State Board of Education, the Governor of NYS, and all members of the NYS legislative branch; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that after this resolution is passed by the UFT Delegate Assembly, an appropriate version will be submitted to the American Federation of Teachers for consideration at the AFT July 2015 Convention and to NYSUT for consideration at the 2015 RA.

Sunday, February 08, 2015


Members of the opposition parties (caucuses) within the UFT are often asked how we would be different if we ran the union. One of the major differences between ICE-MORE as opposed to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus concerns how we would negotiate a contract.

Having been on negotiating committees for two UFT contracts, I can say the committee does virtually no negotiating. Instead, UFT leadership tells the committee some of what is going on behind the scenes and then asks for the committee to rubber stamp leadership's positions.  Since UFT committees usually contain a large majority from the ruling Unity Caucus who have pledged to support whatever comes from the top, the committees exist mainly for show.

If an opposition group or coalition was ever to win power, we would try to institute a totally different way of negotiating contracts.  There is no general UFT election until 2016 (important Chapter Leader and Delegate Elections take place this spring) but let's just say we were in an alternate universe and the opposition could negotiate the extended time provision for next year.

Our work day is six hours and twenty minutes each day plus a total of 150 minutes of extended time each week (in addition there are faculty and grade conferences).  Multi session schools just put the extended time into the school days but single session schools do it differently.

The extended time portion of the contract agreed to by Mulgrew and the DOE last spring is a one year citywide pilot that needs to be renegotiated by June 15 or single session schools will revert to last year's time schedule.  Here is the actual contractual language from MOA Article 5--Workday:

Detailed below are the terms for a one (1) year pilot to occur during the 2014-2015 school year only.  Should the parties wish to continue this model they must agree in writing to do so by June 15, 2015 to do so.  If no such agreement is reached, the workday shall automatically revert to the provisions of Article 6 in the 2007-2009 teachers' collective bargaining agreement and corresponding articles in other agreements.

This language gives the UFT some actual leverage over the time schedule for the future. If we don't agree to continue this year's 80 minute professional development Mondays and 75 minute parent engagement and other professional work Tuesdays along with four open school evenings rather than two, then we automatically go back to 37.5 minutes of small group instruction four days per week and a six hour and twenty minute day on Friday along with only two open school evenings but faculty meetings and grade/department meetings would still take place for forty minutes after school twice a month.

(I am not taking a position here on which way is better.  I currently work in a PROSE school that has 50 minute extended time sessions on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and six hour-twenty minute Mondays as well as Fridays. Some of our extended time is spent with the kids while the rest is for PD and parent engagement.)

The UFT should be seeking feedback throughout this pilot year on the extended time provision from the membership, School Leadership Teams, Chapter Leaders and Parent Teachers Associations.  At some point the union should be polling each school community to see how the current extended time schedule is working out in schools and asking what members want for next year.  Smart money says there are probably as many opinions on extended time as there are schools. 

We should attempt to build some kind of consensus on how we want to proceed.  The leadership could then go into negotiations in a position to either obtain maximum flexibility on how to use the time or to advocate for a specific position if a huge majority of schools want it.

Instead, what will probably happen is after the state budget is decided by April 1 (expect the union to declare victory no matter what is given away in Albany), the UFT will then remember that they have to renegotiate the extended time provision. 

President Mulgrew will mention it at a Delegate Assembly and then prompt his followers that maybe the extended time provision needs some minor tweaking (maybe a couple of more acceptable School Based Options).  He will then go and negotiate with minimal input from anyone.  An agreement will be reached and it will be rubber stamped at the June DA by the loyalty oath signing Unity faithful. Even though it is a contractual provision, there might not even be a vote by the membership. 

Then in September, UFT members will return to school.  Some will be happy but many others will start complaining about the extended time provision.

There is a better way to negotiate but pressure has to come from the rank and file.  It is up to us to mobilize to try and fight Cuomo's plan to destroy us as our main priority.  However, we also need to remember that we should have a say in the nuts and bolts, day-to-day aspects of our own working lives, including how to use the extended time provision. I suggest everyone start conversations about how we want the extended time to look next year and bring these discussions to their Chapter Leaders, School Leadership Teams and parents. 

Ultimately, it is in our hands.

Thursday, February 05, 2015


In a recent NY Times article and in testimony before Albany lawmakers, Chancellor Carmen Farina stated that she is no fan of Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposal that 50% of teacher ratings should be based on student scores on one state test.  She also objected to Cuomo's plan for teachers to be observed by evaluators from outside of their schools. 

According to the Times, Farina explained how "teachers needed to be observed over time, watched for things like whether they engaged with parents or gave special attention to students who needed extra help, and that 'flybys' could not replace that."  But what about Absent Teacher Reserves Madam Chancellor? 

ATRs are observed in "flybys" all the time by roving Department of education supervisors. A traveling ATR pointed out to me how our Chancellor should be consistent when it comes to observations. 

Everyone knows these "flyby" observations are useless as the teacher usually doesn't know the students or the parents.  Sometimes the "flybys" take place with ATRs teaching subjects they are not licensed or certified to teach and with lessons that are planned by teachers who are absent.

Even in a standard observation, a teacher does not control all of the variables which makes it stressful. In these ATR "flybys" the anxiety is increased greatly because the teacher in many instances could not possibly have much control over the class as students often have no respect for substitutes which can make classroom management a nightmare. An ATR has no leverage over student grades and it might not be easy to get in touch with parents or even have access to deans or school safety if there are problems.  

The Chancellor should practice what she preaches and end "flybys" for ATRs by roving supervisors.

PS--ATRs need to challenge these ridiculous "flyby" evaluations as Chaz explains.  Contact the chapter leader in the school you are assigned to or us at if you need help.

The ATR Alliance will be meeting on February 12 at 5:30 pm at 512 Clinton Avenue (the Freedom School) in Brooklyn. Please join us.

Sunday, February 01, 2015


If Eva Moskowitz can basically close her schools for an all day civics lesson (rally) up in Albany on March 4, why can't the supposedly progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio and all of the other so called pro-public school district leaders push for the same civics lesson for our kids and their parents on that day? 

A group of my students from Jamaica High School went with the NAACP to Albany to meet state lawmakers on an approved public school trip during the school day back in 2011.

How about a huge counterdemonstration-civics lesson for public education in Albany on March 4?

Instead, we have UFT members apparently jockeying for limited seats on lobby day buses headed for Albany the same day that Eva's masses will descend upon the seat of state government.  It looks like we are being outmaneuvered by the charter people again.