Tuesday, March 31, 2015


It looks as though good governance was sacrificed to make sure Governor Andrew Cuomo was able to get his fifth on time budget in succession.  I have read everything I could find on Facebook or on the internet concerning the budget agreement and basically what people need to know is there will be a sales tax exemption on the purchase of luxury yachts and small airplanes while the minimum wage won't be increased. That kind of sums up Albany these days. 

On education and specifically teacher evaluations, after examining the spin from Cuomo, UFT President Michael Mulgrew. and the surprisingly not upbeat assessment from NYSUT President Karen Magee, I am not overly optimistic that the changes in teacher evaluation are gains.

If we take Mulgrew at his word, we won a great victory.  However, it is always wise to take anything Michael Mulgrew says with a huge grain of salt.  His track record in negotiations is not very good. 

Here are Mulgrew's claims concerning changes to teacher evaluation that are in the budget agreement:

Teacher Evaluation

What the governor demanded:
Make test scores account for 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation, with even more test prep taking the place of meaningful learning.

What the agreement contains:
Rather than give more weight to state test scores, the Legislature proposed a new more rational scoring system. There must be multiple measures of student learning — more than just standardized test scores. Local measures of student learning must still be bargained at the local level.

Does that sound so bad?

Now for the governor's side from City and State:

A top administration official explained that the teacher evaluation system will no longer work by percentages. Instead it will be broken into two separate categories: state test results and classroom observation. In the testing category, localities can choose to administer only the state assessment to students, or they can request a second test to be given as well. If they choose the latter, the state will then design a second set of assessments for the locality to use.

If a teacher, tenured or not, is evaluated on students' performance on the official state test and is then rated “ineffective” by that metric, he or she cannot be graded “effective” on their overall evaluation score. The highest rating that teacher could receive is “developing.”

If a locality decides to use the two tests for the teacher evaluation, then a teacher who receives an “ineffective” composite score on those tests will have to be graded “ineffective” overall.

The observation component will be carried out by a principal and a second, "independent" source. The locality then has the option of including a peer review by a teacher that is rated “highly effective.”

The long-controversial 3020a process, used to remove tenured teachers whose performance is deemed unacceptable, has also been reformed. Now, if a tenured teacher receives an “ineffective” score two years in a row, the district can begin proceedings to remove them and have them out of the school within 90 days. If a teacher receives an “ineffective” score three years in a row, the district must bring charges against them and that teacher can be out within 30 days.

According to this version of the budget deal, it appears 50% of a teacher's rating will be based on the tests as Cuomo wanted and some of it will be based on tests that have not been created and the State Ed Department does not want to develop. This description of the agreement sounds awful.

It was also revealed last evening that it looks as though there might be three observations for teachers although one will be done by someone from outside the school.  Add to this that an increase in school aid is once again tied to changing teacher evaluations, something the Legislature was supposed to oppose, and it looks even worse.

Who do we believe: Mulgrew or the governor's people?

For a third opinion, let's go to New York State United Teachers President Karen Magee.  This is from Capitol Confidential

The main issue has been Cuomo’s proposal to make teacher evaluations count for half of teacher ratings in grades 3-8. That has apparently fallen off the table in budget talks and the current plan sticking to a lower number, including, perhaps, the original 20 percent.

Nonetheless, Magee said she believes parents should keep their kids away from those tests.

During her radio show and in the press scrum, Magee said people should avoid the tests, which are given at the start and end of the school year and designed to assess how much students have learned under a given teacher.

“We are encouraging parents to opt out,” Magee said explaining that instructions for an opt-out are on their website.

She also said “we will be taking further steps to make parents aware of this.”

I must admit to being surprised that the NYSUT President did not claim a huge victory like our esteemed Mr. Mulgrew.  NYSUT wants to keep up the pressure on the governor and is now encouraging parents to opt out of the state exams. That does not seem consistent with UFT policy which just recognizes parents have a right to opt out.

Are Magee and Mulgrew playing good cop-bad cop?  Are the two leaders not on the same page? If anyone can make heads or tales of any of this, please help us out.

Monday, March 30, 2015


The devil will definitely be in the details concerning education in the New York State budget agreement reached by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the leaders of the State Legislature Sunday night.  At first glance, what has been leaked does not look very promising but yes it could have been worse.

According to press reports, tenure will take four years for teachers to achieve instead of the current three; the evaluation system will be changed with more control given to the State Education Department (this looks like the part that could very well be a total disaster) and there will be state receivership for some schools.  On the positive side, there is an increase in school aid and some of the worst of Cuomo's proposals have been modified.

For a sharp critique, go immediately to Perdido Street School.

It seems the particulars of the agreement are not out yet because they probably are still working out some of the language behind the scenes.

I have one prediction based on all of this: NYSUT and UFT leadership will claim victory no matter what emerges from Albany (see update from Mulgrew below).

Here are the details we have from New York State of Politics:

Meanwhile, Assembly Democrats balked at a number of the education reform measures Cuomo had pushed.

But as the details emerge of the agreement from a senior administration official, Cuomo does appear to have won the inclusion of some of the education proposals, albeit with changes.

The agreement includes a new teacher evaluation criteria that will include both state-based tests as well as principal and independent observation. School districts can opt for a second test for teacher evaluations developed by the state Department of Education, according to an administration official.
However, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Sunday night said the deal would vest more power in the Department of Education to set the evaluation criteria.

Fully fleshed out details on the evaluation criteria are expected to be included in budget bills.

Teacher evaluation criteria would be tied to tenure: Three out of four years a teacher must be given a rating of at least “effective” in order to receive tenure.

On the inverse, teachers that are deemed to be “ineffective” for two years in a row could be removed within 90 days. Teachers rated ineffective for three years in a row could be removed within 30 days.
School districts must implement the new evaluation criteria by November and doing so is linked to state education aid, the administration official said.

An administration official insisted on Sunday evening said the new evaluation criteria would need to be included in new contracts between teachers and districts, but would not be subject to collective bargaining with local units.

“It’s in the law,” the official said.

The budget includes a plan for school receivership. Schools deemed to be struggling or “failing” have a school district put forward a turn around plan to the state Department of Education, which could either approve the plan or have the school taken over by an independent monitor.

A city official briefed on the plan pointed some local control components for the city education chancellor.

The first batch of schools up for review would have to be deemed “failing” over the last 10 years, with the second batch deemed “failing” for the last three years.

The fight over education policy in the budget was one of the more pitched in recent years, as Cuomo tangled with the highly organized teachers unions both in the city and statewide.

Both the New York State United Teachers and the United Federation of Teachers accused Cuomo of strengthening charters at the expense of public education and as way of rewarding the deep-pocketed campaign contributors who also support charter networks.


Dear _______,

In a rebuke to the anti-public-school agenda of hedge-fund billionaires, the state Legislature tonight reached agreement on a new budget and a package of education proposals that will immediately increase aid to public schools, ensure that teacher evaluations do not hinge on state test scores and ensure local oversight of struggling schools.

Just two months ago, Gov. Cuomo proposed a series of education proposals that amounted to a declaration of war on public schools. His plan was to use the incredible leverage he holds in the state budget process to ram through his plan.

Tens of thousands of UFT members immediately sprang into action: They blasted his agenda on social media; invited him to visit their classrooms to see for himself the impact of overcrowded classes and lack of supplies; spoke out at community education forums; called, faxed and sent postcards to their state legislators; and held actions at their schools that engaged the entire school community. All the while, we insisted that Albany focus on the most important issue: fair and equitable funding.

And now all of our hard work is paying dividends. The governor's Draconian agenda has, in large part, been turned back. We want to thank the Assembly and the Senate for standing up for our schools and school communities.

Here is a rundown of what we accomplished:


What the governor demanded:
Withhold $1.1 billion in desperately needed school aid unless state lawmakers adopted his harmful proposals.

What the agreement contains:
$1.6 billion of new school aid is being distributed immediately to schools statewide with no strings attached.

Teacher evaluation

What the governor demanded:
Make test scores account for 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation, with even more test prep taking the place of meaningful learning.

What the agreement contains:
Rather than give more weight to state test scores, the Legislature proposed a new more rational scoring system. There must be multiple measures of student learning — more than just standardized test scores. Local measures of student learning must still be bargained at the local level.

Merit pay

What the governor demanded:
Corporate-style, individual merit pay of $20,000 a year for select teachers.

What the agreement contains:
No individual merit pay plan.

Struggling schools

What the governor demanded:
Turn over struggling schools to a state-appointed receiver that will have the power to scrap all collective-bargaining agreements in those schools.

What the agreement contains:
Local oversight has been maintained. The school chancellor, not the state, will appoint the receiver. Collective bargaining is preserved.

Charter schools

What the governor demanded:
Raise the charter cap, paving the way for an additional 250 charter schools to open in New York City.

What the agreement contains:
The charter cap will not be raised as part of the budget, but the issue will likely be taken up again in the months ahead.

Tenure and due process

What the governor demanded:
Extend probation from three to five years and eliminate due process altogether.

What the agreement contains:
Probation will be extended to four years for teachers hired after July 2015, and all due process rights remain in place.

We have shown the enormous power of school communities when they stand united in protecting our students and schools. Governor Cuomo's attempt to hold public education aid hostage to the radical agenda of his hedge-fund pals didn't work.

We should take pride in what we have accomplished, but our fight with this governor is not over. We oppose the raising of the charter cap until charter schools serve an appropriate percentage of the state’s neediest children, and we will be working with the Regents on the details of a fair evaluation process for teachers.


Michael Mulgrew

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Some disturbing numbers came out recently concerning Absent Teacher Reserves leaving the New York City school system.  While nobody has yet been terminated under the new weakened tenure process for ATRs that all of us feared in the  2014 contract (give the Department of Education some time) and many of the 290 ATRs who left the system retired, it is very troubling that ten ATRs "resigned" for missing two job interviews. Even if these teachers have tenure, they immediately were taken off of payroll without any due process hearing and now have to fight for their positions back. As a traveling ATR in the first three months of this school year, I could have easily been number eleven.

One of the most awful provisions of the 2014 contract says ATRs have voluntarily resigned if we miss two job interviews.  The actual language states: "An ATR that declines or fails to report to an interview, upon written notice of it, two or more times without good cause shall be treated as having voluntarily resigned his/her employment."  This blog was worried about the potential for abuse of this clause as early as May 6, 2014. Our fears have unfortunately been realized ten times this year.  The burden of proof to show good cause for missing interviews is on us and the Department of Education in my opinion is not going to look favorably on what any of us say.

I don't know any of the particular circumstances of nine of the ten teachers who "resigned" for missing interviews but I would bet a great deal of money that most, maybe all, had good cause for being absent.  The DOE fired them anyway.  Tenure doesn't mean anything thanks to our union giving it away for ATRs.

For me personally, this issue resonates as I could have been the eleventh victim of Michael Mulgrew and Carmen Farina's "contract on ATRs". 

I recall traveling to an interview at Bryant High School in September when the train stopped in the tunnel for a short while but eventually moved.  I blogged about this in September.  That could have been my first missed interview. 

The second was when I was sent to one of the schools at Far Rockaway High School.  There are a limited number of roads that access the Rockaways so I left my house in eastern Queens that morning a little after 8:00 am to make sure I was not late.  It turned out there was a major construction project going on so traffic moved at a snail's pace for a long time (The Rockaways aren't covered in most traffic reports).  I remember calling my wife in ATR panic mode that day saying I was going to miss that interview.  By the grace of God, traffic finally moved and I made it just in time.

My third "near miss" interview happened when I was covering classes at Middle College High School and was sent to Hillcrest High School for an interview for a job where there was no opening. When I was in rotation, I checked DOE email every weekend to plan my interview schedule for the week.  On this particular Saturday, there were no interviews scheduled for the following week so I concentrated on classes I would be covering and getting to know students in a new school. 

The following Monday I was quite busy attempting to make a good impression at Middle College so I didn't check DOE email that day.  When I arrived at school on Tuesday morning, the alert person in charge of coverages at Middle College was able to tell me I had to run to Hillcrest for an interview.  Had she not checked or received notification, I would have missed that interview. 

I quickly went online and sure enough there was a DOE email that came in on Saturday regarding an interview at Hillcrest.  However, I recall checking email that Saturday and there were no scheduled interviews. Would these people back date an email and send it out later?  I won't go so far as to make that allegation but I wouldn't put it past the DOE.  I also won't blame them for subway delays or traffic in the Rockaways but the point is it is not that difficult to miss two interviews. Is that good cause for losing a job? No way.

Add together a couple of traffic/subway delays and some miscommunication and my twenty-eight years of teaching would have been over.  I would have been off payroll and filing a grievance to get my job back.  While the case would have slowly drifted though the interminable grievance process, I would have been unemployed. Tenure means nothing.

For those ten people who have "resigned", I too could be in your situation. The details of your experiences are probably similar to mine but you were just unlucky.  I would gladly come to your defense; the world needs to hear from us. This ATR system is truly a nightmare.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Today's rally for public education outside Governor Cuomo's office is important. The office is at 633 3rd Avenue in Manhattan.  This blog is fully supportive.

The bigger the crowd, the better  our chances of moving the Legislature in our direction on education.  We need to stop the Governor's anti-public school agenda. The piece below with details on the demonstration is taken from the UFT Weekly Update for Chapter Leaders.

With budget negotiations in Albany going down to the wire (April 1 is the deadline), Saturday's (today's) rally has become more important than ever. We're looking forward to seeing you, your family and your colleagues for the rally outside Gov. Cuomo's Midtown office to demand that the governor fully fund our schools, limit high-stakes testing, support our struggling schools and fairly evaluate teachers. The governor’s office is at 633 3rd Avenue at 41st Street. Please enter 3rd Avenue on 36th Street and avoid walking down 3rd Avenue from 42nd Street. If you are arriving at Grand Central Terminal, UFT volunteers will be on hand to direct you down Lexington Avenue to 36th Street. If you'll be tweeting or posting to Instagram or Facebook from the rally, be sure to use the hashtag #ProtectOurSchools so that your posts get noticed. And feel free to tweet at the governor at @NYGovCuomo so his social media team hears us. Send your best rally photos at high resolution to uftphotos@gmail.com.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


The March Delegate Assembly meeting featured a resolution from the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) opposing high stakes testing for students and teachers as well as calling for the end of the Common Core tests.

Our correspondents report that Lauren Cohen (MORE- Chapter Leader PS 321) did a fine job in presenting the resolution to the Delegates.  The vote to add it to the agenda was close enough so that there was a call for a division of the house and a second count.  In the end, the leadership from Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus defeated it. They adjourned the meeting before voting on Unity's own watered down, lame testing resolution.

For a full report from the March DA, go to NYC Educator.

Lauren Cohen raises MORE anti-testing resolution at DA

 MORE Resolution Opposing Standardized Testing
WHEREAS, the volume of mandated standardized testing to which students are subjected in the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) has increased many times over in recent years, and

WHEREAS, the results of such tests cannot be used for diagnostics or remediation or other educational purposes, and

WHEREAS, such testing generates results that are used for high-stakes decision-making regarding both students, teachers, and schools

WHEREAS, such tests fail to measure the most important qualities schools should seek to develop in students, such as relationship-building, character, ethical development, critical thinking, persistence, imagination, insight, and collaboration, amongst others, and

WHEREAS, as a result, many students who develop these valued but unmeasured qualities, but who have extreme difficulty with standardized and other paper-and-pencil tests, experience these tests as stressful to the point of abuse, and

WHEREAS, the increasing focus on such testing causes severe distortions of schooling, inflicting trauma on many students and changing schools into test-prep factories

WHEREAS, the 2007 UFT task force on testing found that “The use of data from student test scores on standardized tests to evaluate teachers may appear simple,… but it is wrong” and The American Statistical Association  warned that “Value Added Measure scores themselves have large standard errors”

WHEREAS there is nationwide opposition to the developmentally inappropriate Common Core standards and, as education historian and professor Diane Ravitch said, “They are being imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time.”

RESOLVED, that the UFT declare its opposition to the use of state- or federal-mandated standardized tests for the purposes of making grade promotion, graduation, teacher evaluation, or other high-stakes decisions regarding students or teachers, and

RESOLVED, that UFT supports the right of parents and guardians to choose to opt-out their children from any or all state- or federally-mandated testing, and supports the right of teachers to discuss freely with parents and guardians their rights and responsibilities with respect to such testing, all without any negative consequences from NYC DOE, and

RESOLVED, that UFT will fully support and protect members and others who may suffer any negative consequences as a result of speaking about their views of such testing or about the rights and obligations of parents and guardians with respect to such testing

RESOLVED, that UFT will use its organizational capacity to inform members in every chapter about the right of parents/guardians to opt-out their children from state or federal mandated testing and will take an active role in producing and distributing opt-out literature using materials from changethestakes.wordpress.com, coreteachers.org, and NYSAPE.org, including sample parent opt-out letters.

RESOLVED, that UFT will fully support and, if necessary, defend members who are conscientious objectors to administering standardized assessments

RESOLVED, that UFT will demand an immediate halt to all Common Core based testing, curriculum and standards, until it has been properly field tested

And be it further RESOLVED, that the UFT will continue to mobilize members and parents to achieve these goals through actions such as rallies, forums, and school-based protests

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


In a recent post, we wondered if Carmen Farina might be worse than former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Chancellors Joel Klein and Dennis Walcott. (Sorry I forgot Cathie Black but at least she didn't hide that she was clueless.)  Ms. Farina keeps crossing the line when talking about teachers.  She is truly setting up a toxic teaching and learning environment with her inflammatory rhetoric.  The following is taken directly from a piece at Chalkbeat.org describing the Chancellor's visit to a renewal school:

And she (Farina) said the principal must weed out unmotivated or unsatisfactory teachers by documenting their performance problems and advising them to look for jobs elsewhere. After they stopped by the classroom of a teacher whom (principal Melitina) Hernandez said she had concerns about, Fariña told her to observe the teacher “many, many more times a day.”

After the tour, Fariña explained that principals can use such methods to convince teachers who are not a good fit for a school to leave.

Not everything has to be knocking people on the head,” she said. “But if that’s what it takes, we’re happy to do that as well.” (Bold added by ICE)

Are these the words of an educational leader who is supportive of teachers? I call administration observing a teacher many, many more times in a day intimidation and harassment. We tend not to be at our best if we have a gun pointed at our heads.  It certainly won't improve educational outcomes to harass teachers, particularly when factors way beyond our control impact on our performance.

Is there a scintilla of evidence showing that knocking us on the head increases student learning?

Where is our union's leadership to hit the Chancellor on the head? President Mulgrew seems too busy. To give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he hasn't seen the comments yet.

Whether or not the union responds, this blog will.

We condemn the Chancellor's anti-teacher rhetoric.  If she is happy to knock teachers on the head, it's time for us to knock her right back (figuratively that is).

Sunday, March 22, 2015


One of the agenda items at the UFT Executive Board meeting for Monday, March 23 is a resolution to adopt a guide and bylaws for Chapter Elections (see below).  Chapter Leader and Delegate elections are scheduled this spring for the United Federation of Teachers.

In putting out its election guide, the UFT has once again given the cold shoulder to Absent Teacher Reserves and Leave Replacement Teachers, a huge group that includes way over a thousand teachers who belong to no UFT Chapter.  As a Leave Replacement Teacher, I am one of these teachers without a permanent home. We are being disenfranchised in reality, if not on paper, as the new procedures will allow ATR's to vote and run for office in the school they are assigned to in the first week of May (see below).  This is patently absurd.  We might not even be in that school when it holds its Chapter Election in May or June. 

Last month I filed a complaint with the Federal Department of Labor that the UFT is violating federal labor law by not allowing us a reasonable opportunity to serve in the highest policy making body of the union: the Delegate Assembly.  Part of the DOL complaint says the following:

The Landrum Griffin federal regulations say this concerning eligibility to be candidates for union office:  "Every member in good standing is eligible to be a candidate and to hold office subject to reasonable qualifications in the union's constitution and bylaws that area uniformly imposed."  Why should being an ATR cause us to lose any chance of being elected to the UFT's highest policy making body: The Delegate Assembly?  Teachers who are filling in as Leave Replacements or those covering vacancies provisionally also belong to no Chapter and cannot run for Chapter Leader or Delegate.  This is unconscionable.

The union's response is to say that we can run for office in the school we are assigned to in the first week of May.  It would be as if a person took a business trip to Hawaii for a week, a month or a few months and was told she/he could vote in Hawaii's election and could run for Governor of Hawaii. 

It is so dumb to think that we could serve when most of us will not be in the schools we are at the first week in May come September.  Even if we were to be elected, as soon as we are no longer in a school, the UFT would be happy to take the leadership position away from any ATR who happened to win a vote.

I informed the union's leadership in an email sent last fall to Staff Director Leroy Barr, with copies to the UFT President, the President of New York State United Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers that the process used in the last Chapter Elections in 2012 was entirely illegal.  I stated in part:
Absent Teacher Reserves (ATRs) have no representation at the UFT Delegate Assembly and we have no elected Chapter Leader.  The official UFT Calendar refers to the Delegate Assembly as the highest policy making body in the United Federation of Teachers.  Since both Chapter Leaders and Delegates make up the Delegate Assembly, ATRs should be able to vote for who will represent us. Federal labor regulations say the following concerning policymaking authority within a union: "In addition, any person who has executive or policymaking authority or responsibility must be elected even though he may not occupy a position identified as an officer position under the union's constitution and bylaws." UFT Delegates and Chapter Leaders clearly have a policymaking role and therefore the law requires that they are elected.
The Landrum Griffin Law says in SEC. 101 (a)(1) concerning equal rights: " Every member of a labor organization shall have equal rights and privileges within such organization to nominate candidates, to vote in elections or referendums of the labor organization..."  Many ATRs are being denied these basic union rights under the present UFT Chapter Election structure. 

Leroy Barr responded to the email by setting up a meeting with me that he scheduled for after the November Delegate Assembly, not in his office, but in the giant hall where the DA is held.  I had to go downstairs from the visitor's section on the 19th floor to the second floor auditorium to talk with Barr, Assistant Secretary Emil Pietromonaco and Lawyer Adam Ross. (Thanks to John Antush for being my witness.)

I suggested we need a Functional Chapter for ATR's and they rejected the notion rather emphatically. Functional Chapters are for UFT members who are not part of the regular teaching staff but serve other functions in the school system.  That would certainly describe ATR's.  An example of teachers in this category would be teachers assigned to district offices and the new Peer Validators.  They are part of a Chapter called Teachers Assigned.

I also proposed a possible compromise where we could remain as part of our old Chapters, including keeping closed school Chapters alive, until we are permanently in a new school, retire, resign are terminated or die.  They said they would consider this and assured me they understand the issue and were working on it.  I sent a follow up email that was never answered. 

I waited for three months for a reply as I always hold out some tiny hope that our union's leaders will do the right thing but I should know better by now.  By February, I had waited long enough and filed the complaint with the Federal Department of Labor. 

The issue comes down to the question of whether or not the UFT has set up reasonable qualifications that are uniformly imposed.  I do not believe they are reasonable in any way shape or form.

A rule that says we can run but we really can't serve in office unless we are made permanent teachers in a school, which for many of us is highly unlikely due to salary considerations or status as a teacher who once was up on state law 3020A (disciplinary) charges but were not terminated, is so clearly a method to just look good on paper but disenfranchise ATRs in reality.

As a Leave Replacement Teacher, I am 100% certain that whether we prevail with the Department of Labor or not, ATRs have been abandoned by our union's leadership yet again. It follows the proliferation of ATRs after the horrific 2005 contract ended preferred placement when a school closed, the 2011 agreement when ATRs were forced to rotate to different schools weekly and the 2014 contract where ATRs were imbedded into the contract including having a clause stating that we have resigned if we miss two bogus interviews that we may have not even known about. Our tenure means nothing.

Mulgrew, Barr, etc... don't care about us at all and are trying a slick little maneuver to say they are in compliance with federal labor law on ATR voting and serving in Chapter positions. It won't be easy for the ATR's to win this but we can say a prayer (that's for you believers) the Department of Labor will see the UFT ploy for what it is.

ELECTION GUIDE AND BY-LAWSChapter Election Procedures
Election of chapter leader, other chapter officers and delegates to the Delegate Assembly shall be conducted by secret ballot under the supervision of an election committee.
The Election Committee may be designated by the chapter leader with the approval of the chapter, or may be elected by the chapter.  Candidates for chapter leader and DA delegate may not serve on the Election Committee.  If the chapter conducts an election, there must be clear notice of the process posted or discussed at a union meeting.
The duties of the Election Committee shall be:
 1.  To choose the chair of the Election Committee.
 2. To prepare a Notice of Election. This notice shall contain:
 a. A list of the positions to be filled.  In addition to the chapter leader, the notice shall state how many delegates are to be elected: one per 60 teacher members or major fraction thereof. The school printout provides the number of DA delegates. The chapter may include other chapter positions exclusive to the school.
 b. A procedure for nominations.
 c. An election calendar.
 d. A procedure for appeal.
 3. Preparing the ballots and the ballot box and determining eligible voters on the basis of UFT-  established rules.
 4.   Conducting the actual election.
 5.   Counting the ballots.
 6.   Certifying the election to the UFT Membership Department on the appropriate form.
 7.  Keeping the ballots and the ballot box in a safe place for at least one month, in case of a challenge to the results.
A copy of the Notice of Election with the Election Calendar must be distributed to each chapter member through the school mailboxes, including those in annexes and school sites, and shall be posted on the UFT bulletin board at least three (3) school days prior to the date of nominations in each site and annex.
The Election Calendar must include the following information:
·       Date of Nominations  This date must be at least 3 school days after the distribution of the Notice of Election.
·       Date of Election
The actual elections must take place on one day. This date must be at least 5 school days following the distribution of the Notice of Election.
·       Time and place of voting
This schedule must be suited to the school so as to give all UFT members an opportunity to vote.  The schedule must make provision for all school sites and annexes.
      An election calendar
Sample election calendar:  Thursday, May 7th:  Notice of election distributed; Thursday, May 14th: Nominations close at the end of the school day; Thursday, May 21st: voting.
Every school is entitled to elect a para-professional representative and the vote may take place at the same time as the chapter election. Only paraprofessionals may nominate, run and vote for paraprofessional representatives.
The UFT Constitution does not provide for co-chapter leaders. If a chapter chooses to have a co-chapter leader, it may only be on an informal basis. Only one name may be submitted as chapter leader of record.
The chair of the Election Committee must verify that all nominees accept their nominations.
Provision will be made for members who are not on the school’s table of organization but eligible to participate in the chapter’s election to nominate and be nominated.
Conducting the Election
The ballot box must be secure and monitored at all times by the Election Committee.
Provision will be made for members who are out on official school business—e.g., a class trip or conference—or who are not on the school’s table of organization, but eligible to participate to cast ballots before the close of balloting.
Members must vote in person; no absentee ballots may be cast.
Voting must take place by secret ballot on the date announced in the Election Calendar.
In cases where positions are not contested (only one candidate has been nominated for a particular role), those candidates can be confirmed without a formal vote.
Time and Place for Counting Ballots
The count shall take place on the day of voting, and provision must be made to include the vote
of all school sites and annexes with the school count.
A supervised ballot box must be provided at a specific location. A membership roster must be available, and is to be initialed by the voter at the time the ballot is cast. Each chapter leader will have a membership printout and a chapter certification form. The printouts should be checked immediately by the Election Committee for errors or omissions.
Members who were not on the school’s table of organization but were assigned to the school on the first Monday in May will be added to the roster.
An individual whose name is not on the printout, but who claims membership and can display evidence of UFT membership—such as a NYSUT membership card or check stub with proper dues code (“-U”)—should be allowed to vote.
The ballot, however, is subject to challenge and must be sequestered. 
Ballots shall be counted at the time and place announced in the Election Calendar. Candidates or their observers may be present at the count.  Election shall be determined by the highest number of votes.  Challenged ballots shall be set aside and, if their number could affect the outcome of the election.
The Election Committee shall place an announcement of the results on the UFT bulletin board immediately after the election.
All ballots and election materials shall be retained by the Election Committee for at least one month to allow for review of results.
As soon as results have been certified by the Election Committee, the Committee Chair must complete the Chapter Certification Data Form and send it to the UFT Membership Department, 52 Broadway, New York, NY 10004, 11th floor.
Procedures for appeals
Appeals of elections must be made in writing to the UFT borough representative, with written notice to the chapter within five (5) school days following the election. In the event that a challenge to the election is successful, the borough representative shall establish an expedited election procedure.
Any full-time member may nominate, run for a position and vote in a school’s election if he or she is on the school’s permanent table of organization or assigned to the school on the first Monday in May of an election year.
Only teachers are eligible to nominate, run for and vote for school DA delegate, provided that they have signed the union card at least 60 days prior to the election. 
Secretaries, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals and other functional chapter members are represented in the Delegate Assembly through their functional chapters and may stand for election as delegate from their functional chapters. 
District 75 and District 79 members nominate and are nominated for chapter leader in their District 75 or 79 school.  District 75 or 79 members and others who are permanently housed in the school building may vote in that chapter leader election.
Agency fee payers may not nominate, run or vote in chapter elections.
Schools with Multiple Sites: To facilitate communications and service, schools with multiple sites often have liaisons at these sites. These liaisons are not chapter leaders nor are they DA delegates unless they specifically run for those positions in the school’s election.
Persons on split assignment shall vote in their payroll school. Like others, these members must vote in person; no absentee ballots may be cast.  F-status substitutes (those with regularly scheduled part-time assignments) may vote in their school election.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


It is positive news that the UFT will endorse and work to help elect Jesus Chuy Garcia for Mayor of Chicago.  Garcia faces a runoff election against incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanual on April 7, 2015.  Both are Democrats.

This blog fully supports this endorsement.

Two questions, however, come to mind:

1-If the UFT and AFT can do this in Chicago, why were they unable to oppose Michael Bloomberg's bid for a third term for mayor in NYC in 2009 when he had to have the law changed to run?  Bloomberg had certainly done plenty of damage to us by 2009.

2-Why were the UFT-NYSUT-AFT unable to oppose Governor Andrew Cuomo bid for reelection last year when he faced a primary election challenge from Democrat Zephyr Teachout? Cuomo since he was elected in 2010 had obviously shown he was no friend of teachers or working people in general.

The resolution below is on the Executive Board agenda for Monday night:

WHEREAS, voters in Chicago will go to the polls on April 7, 2015 for a mayoral runoff election between the incumbent, Rahm Emanuel, and his challenger, Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia, known as Chuy; and
WHEREAS, the runoff was precipitated when incumbent Emanuel failed to win the required 50 percent of the vote in polling on Feb. 24,  despite his having a 12-to-1 fundraising advantage over his nearest competitor, Chuy Garcia; and
WHEREAS, Garcia is a strong supporter of public education, teachers and unions, and has won the backing of major unions including the Chicago Teachers Union, the American Federation of Teachers and the Service Employees International Union; and
WHEREAS, Garcia, a Mexican immigrant, is also an advocate for the rights of working people, immigrants and racial minorities; and
WHEREAS, Garcia is well-experienced, having served as a Chicago City Council member and the first Mexican-American member of the Illinois State Senate before winning election as a county commissioner; and
WHEREAS, Garcia’s candidacy draws a sharp contrast with that of Emanuel, whose disdain for public schools and public school educators helped lead to a prolonged teachers’ strike in 2013; and
WHEREAS, Emanuel’s lack of support for public education was further evidenced by his closing 50 neighborhood public schools in one fell swoop in 2013; and
WHEREAS, the closed schools were mostly in African American and Hispanic neighborhoods and were shuttered despite prolonged and passionate protests by parents, neighbors and the broader public to keep them open; and
WHEREAS, Emanuel’s arrogance and his policies that favor the affluent have earned him the moniker, Mayor 1 percent; therefore be it
RESOLVED, that the United Federation of Teachers stands with our sister union, the Chicago Teachers Union, and with the AFT in support of the candidacy of Jesus Garcia, and will work with them to help Garcia as mayor of Chicago.

Friday, March 20, 2015


It took nine months for recent UFT retirees to get back pay for in service work; it might take a much longer time to get correct monthly pension payments. This problem may impact future retirees too.

When the UFT leadership was selling their municipal pattern setting contract of 10% raises over 7 years last year (now extended to 7 years, 1 month), one of their selling points was that when people retired they would have their pension payments calculated as if they had already been receiving an additional two 4% retroactive raises from the 2009-2011 round of bargaining that other city unions obtained long ago.  Active UFT members are deferring that money now.

According to what we were told by the UFT, those who retired after November 1, 2009 should be entitled to a recalculation of their monthly benefit based on higher numbers. For those who retire between June 30, 2014 and May 1, 2018, pension payments should reflect a higher salary than what we will actually paid too because the 8% that was the last city pattern is going to be added to active member pay at a rate of 2% a year every May from 2015-18.

Even though we will be receiving the salary increases piecemeal, we were assured by leadership that if we were eligible to retire, our pensions would be based upon higher numbers.

This is important since for Tier IV members (most people retiring now are in Tier IV), the pension is normally based on the salary for the final three years of service (final average salary).  It makes a substantial difference in payments if the lower salary numbers we actually make are the ones used to calculate the monthly pension.

For a simple example, if someone is earning around $100,000, $101,000, $102,000 for the final three years, the final average salary is $101,000. Now if the retroactive money is included, then the last three years increases to approximately $108,000, $109,000 and $110,000. The final average salary goes up to $109,000.

If that person is 55, in 25-55, and has worked for 25 years, he/she is entitled to half of the final average salary. Half of $109,000 is $54,500 That is a little better than half of $101,000 which comes to $50,500. To be specific it is $4000 more per year. (This is an incomplete example as there is the ASF but it explains the basics.)

According to a source inside the UFT, pension calculations are being made based on the lower numbers.  This was confirmed when I asked two recent retirees. We were informed that the Teachers Retirement System will correct this at some point in the future.

This is more of our money we are letting the city hold for us.

Is it really that difficult to come up with a salary schedule on what we would have made had we received the retroactive salaries from 2009-2011 right up front and then basing pensions on those numbers?

Will arbitrator Martin Sheinman be brought in again to bail the city out because there will be a large sum of money owed to UFT retirees that the city says they can't afford?

*I certainly am no pension expert and would appreciate clarification if there is updated information and/or I am missing something here.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


From the Diane Ravitch blog we learn that the Rochester Teachers Association has passed an anti-high stakes testing resolution. Look at this resolved clause which is quite strong:

RESOLVED, that the Rochester Teachers Association declares its opposition to the use of state-or federal-mandated standardized tests for the purposes of making grade promotion, graduation, or other high-stakes decisions regarding students or teachers.

Or how about these clauses:

RESOLVED, that the RTA supports the rights of parents and guardians to choose to absent their children from any or all state-or federal-mandated testing, and supports the rights of teachers to discuss freely with parents and guardians their rights and responsibilities with respect to such testing, all without any negative consequences from RCSD, and

RESOLVED, that the RTA will, to the best of its ability, support and protect members and others who may suffer any negative consequences as a result of speaking about their views of such testing or about the rights and obligations of parents and guardians with respect to such testing,

This resolution was passed unanimously on Monday.

Compare it to the lame UFT resolution on testing the Executive Board passed earlier this month.  Our union in NYC favors high stakes testing.  This is clear.

Meanwhile, the public is on our side as latest Quinnipiac poll shows 55% back teacher unions compared to 28% for Governor Andrew Cuomo on who can best improve schools. That's two to one for our side. Cuomo's disapproval numbers on schools are up to a whopping 63%.  His overall approval rating is down to 50%.

Will this make a difference in negotiations over his unpopular education reforms?  The needle will be moved a little in our direction but stay with Perdido Street School for continuous coverage of politics in Albany.  Perdido shows Cuomo and new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie hugging yesterday after their new ethics reform deal. Perdido is prognosticating a deal on education with parts we will not like even with the people on our side.

I also expect teachers will lose something in negotiations on education reform but maybe not as much as we would have lost a couple of months back. 

However, if we had a real militant pushback, we might not be giving in on anything. 

Monday, March 16, 2015


An interesting article featuring New York Senator Chuck Schumer appeared this weekend in the Washington Post in which our senior senator endorsed the idea of revitalizing labor unions as a way to increase the fortunes of the middle class and the Democratic Party.

While Schumer is correct in stating that strengthening unions would be the best way forward for the working and middle classes, what have the Democrats done in recent years to help unions? Besides the National Labor Relations Board being a little more worker friendly under Democrat Barack Obama, as compared to Republican George W Bush, I can't think of anything, particularly when it comes to education.

The Republicans are openly hostile to unions and are trying to finish off organized labor while the Democrats say they are friends of working people but do little or nothing when in power to boost the union movement. Remember the Employee Free Choice Act that was supposed to help union organizing. The Post story points out how the Democrats couldn't pass this bill even when they had a filibuster proof majority in the US Senate and control of the House of Representatives. To say labor is taken for granted  by the Democratic Party would be an understatement. 

Since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that basically turned politics into more of a money raising endeavor than it already was, it is difficult to imagine Democrats doing anything but giving lip service to unions so as not to enrage their wealthy donors.  I say this as a long time Democrat.

As for how the weakness of labor impacts teacher unions, NYC Educator did a piece about a week ago wondering why UFT/NYSUT/AFT leaders make decisions that actually harm their members. Why is our union supporting rubbish such as teachers being rated based on student test scores on standardized exams (junk science), the untested Common Core and plenty of other nonsense that the rank and file overwhelmingly abhors?  Why did AFT President Randi Weingarten make phone calls for anti-public school candidate Kathy Hochul in a contested primary last year?  Why did Randi act as an apologist for our foe Governor Andrew Cuomo during the fall election campaign?

These questions are not that difficult to answer.

Our union is in many ways just an appendage, a weak one at that, of the Democratic Party.  As the party sinks further into the money raising pit, don't expect to see much positive change. Democrats are not capable as currently constituted of doing much for us.

At the city level, could you imagine independent, Republican(or whatever he was) Mayor Michael Bloomberg getting municipal unions to accept a pattern of 10% salary increases over 7 years with healthcare savings added in? The UFT ceased having an adversarial relationship with the city once Democrat Bill de Blasio was elected mayor. What has it gotten us? 10% over 7 years and a month and what I would call "Bloomberg lite" administration in the schools.

It was only after Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo has attempted a full assault on teacher rights and public schools that the union has offered any resistance at the state level. Our fight back I would not exactly call robust.

When it comes to solutions, we could promote a third party but that would risk splitting the non-Republican vote and would pretty much guarantee right wing rule. (See UK politics for an example on how a divided center-left has benefited conservatives in a similar type of electoral system.)

Instead, we need to be more organized and much more militant. That should be our first priority but we can't stick our heads in the sand and ignore elections. Chicago Teachers are setting the example by strongly opposing Democratic anti-union Mayor Rahm Emanual's bid for reelection.  They might not win but they have earned respect for sure by forcing a runoff.

I also believe we can learn from the Republican masses and start to challenge many incumbents in primaries like they do. When politicians don't support us, it is time to vote them out in primaries. This is how we should have handled Cuomo last year.  This blog endorsed Zephyr Teachout's uphill challenge to the governor.  With full union support, she may have won. (Opposing Cuomo in the 2018 primary with another establishment Democrat is not exactly what we are calling for.)

Since our union bosses are a major part of the Democratic establishment, do not expect them to lead a movement to put real progressives on the ballot.  We'll need to do it ourselves at the grassroots level.

For those who want to go further and advocate for some kind of revolution, I can't forecast many circumstances where the vast majority of NYC teachers, including me, or workers in general would be on board for one. However, if we were to have any success energizing a militant labor movement with a well developed political arm that could not be taken for granted by any politician or political party, it would be truly revolutionary.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


There was a great deal of news occurring this week so I decided to combine the stories into one post and give a quick report and editorial comment on each. Thanks to Jeff Kaufman for keeping us updated by sending out the weekly newsletter for chapter leaders.

Topic 1: Tenure
From the UFT Weekly Chapter Leader Update:

UFT to appeal preliminary ruling in motion to dismiss tenure lawsuit

UFT president Michael Mulgrew said the union will appeal a state judge's March 12 ruling that allows the plaintiffs' lawsuits challenging teacher due-process rights and seniority to proceed.  The suits were filed last year by a New York City parent organization and a state group headed by former TV personality Campbell Brown.  The decision did not address the merits of the case; the judge simply ruled that the lawsuit could go forward.  The UFT has intervened as a defendant in the lawsuits, along with its state affiliate, the New York State United Teachers.

Commentary: This is round one of what will more than likely be a long term struggle.  By the time this suit is finally ruled on by a judge, appealed to the Appellate Division and ultimately decided by the NYS Court of Appeals, most of us will probably be already long since retired, terminated, resigned or in the afterlife.  I think the UFT and NYSUT have handled this suit properly.

Topic 2: Assembly Budget

Again we go to the UFT Weekly Chapter Leader Update:

All our work with the state Assembly is paying off.

Members of the Assembly are holding firm so far against the governor. The one-house budget resolution submitted on Monday by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie did not contain the governor’s education proposals and calls for significantly more school aid. The Assembly resolution’s proposed $1.8 billion increase in statewide education funding would be mostly channeled to foundation aid, which is targeted to the districts with the highest-need students, including New York City. Not surprisingly, the one-house resolution submitted this week by the Republican-controlled state Senate mirrored the governor’s education agenda. In addition, it called for allowing up to 30 percent of teachers in charter schools to be uncertified and providing building aid for charter schools. We, again, thank all of you who traveled to Albany on March 4 for Lobby Day and have been calling, faxing and sending postcards to the governor and state lawmakers. Over the next two weeks, let’s keep the pressure on. Here are all the ways that our school communities can lobby the governor and our state lawmakers. For more detailed information, read the Chalkbeat article on the Assembly resolution and the Auburn Citizen article on the Senate resolution.

Commentary:  The Assembly is taking a position for more school aid and against Governor Andrew Cuomo's so called reforms but the Senate is agreeing with the Governor.  That is two out of three opposed to us.  Most people feel that a deal is being worked out behind the scenes where Cuomo will get some of what he wants but not nearly all of it.  By April 1, expect to see something worked out where teachers will lose something (30-40% of teacher evaluations might be based on the results of a single student test score on an unreliable/invalid test, the charter school cap will be increased or choose a different poison) but the UFT will claim victory because there will be a substantial increase in school aid.  If anyone thinks that major parts of the boost in school funding will filter down to the classroom, they will probably be proven wrong.

Topic 3: Actions

One last time to the UFT Weekly Chapter Leader Update

Thank you for an amazing week of school-based actions

Thanks to all of you, school communities across the city came together this week to express their outrage with Gov. Cuomo's anti-teacher, anti-student education agenda. Whether by marching, wearing a specific color, filming a video or passing out leaflets to parents, chapter leaders spearheaded the week of action.  The protests peaked on March 12, when, parents, their children and educators at 500 or more schools joined hands to form a human chain around their buildings before or after classes as if to protect them from the governor's proposals.  This past week, you and your members sent a clear message that it is educators and parents - not the governor or corporate interests - who know #AllKidsNeed.

Commentary-Keep up the fine work everyone. This blog also supports Public Advocate Letitia James' rally Sunday at City Hall Park at 1:30 pm and we endorse the rally outside Governor Cuomo's Midtown office at 633 Third Avenue (at E 41st Street) on Saturday, March 28 at noon. Perhaps the pressure can move the needle in Albany a bit in our favor.

Topic 4 Absent Teacher Reserve Arbitrary Rotations

You won't see this is in any UFT publications.

ATR's are being rotated to different schools after being in their current schools for just two weeks. The ATRs had received emails the last two weeks stating that they would be in their current schools through April 3 (the start of spring break).  Why the change now?

I am reasonably certain that those who were in difficult schools are thankful to be rotated out earlier than expected but many others who had planned their lives around being settled in a school until April 3 are not happy.  I know of a colleague who had scheduled an observation with a supervisor for this coming Wednesday.  She was working with a class and a teacher so that she could be prepared but now the ATR has been rotated and is back in a state of uncertainty.

Is there any rhyme or reason to the ATR rotation system?  It is a textbook example of arbitrary administration. 

As usual with the ATRs, we ask the same question: Where is our union?