Monday, October 31, 2016


There were three articles in the Daily News last week on possible union support for Mayor Bill de Blasio's reelection coming in 2017. In the initial pieces on Monday, Transportation Workers Union Local 100 leader John Samuelson led the charge against the mayor. Samuelson called the mayor "a situational progressive at best, and definitely not an ardent trade union supporter."

Samuelson's conclusion:

To my brothers and sisters in the labor movement, I say this: thoughtfully contemplate whether de Blasio really shares our trade union values before you give he mayor your stamp of approval. At Bill's core, it's all about Bill, not the trade unionist working families we represent.

In a related front page story, Samuelson is joined by Teamsters Local 237 (school safety agents union) head Gregory Floyd who accuses the mayor of backing his "deep pocketed supporters" over union interests. It is also no surprise that Patrolman's Benevolent Association head Patrick Lynch joined in because of de Blasio's inadequate labor contract imposed by arbitrators on the police.

The mayor certainly does have labor supporters who point to his rent freeze, mandatory paid leave policies and settled municipal labor contracts. Noticeably missing from last Monday's articles was UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

Never one to keep his mouth strategically closed, Mulgrew responded later and had his own feature article in Tuesday's News where of course he backed the mayor. Mulgrew's exact words on de Blasio:

He's done very well with us, and I think he's done a pretty good job with the city.

Mulgrew then goes on to insult our collective intelligence by saying it is up to the UFT Delegate Assembly, not him, to decide on an endorsement as if his Unity loyalty oath taking followers who dominate DA ever do anything the union leadership doesn't want.

The question I have for ICEBlog readers is this:

Does Mayor de Blasio deserve the UFT's unwavering support for reelection?

I would say the answer is no. The municipal pattern setting seven year contract we agreed to in 2014 contained 10% salary increases over seven years giving city workers the worst pattern raises since I became a teacher in the 1980s. Educators also have to wait to 2020 to be paid in full for work we did in 2009 while other city workers were paid back then. Meanwhile, the city is running huge budget surpluses.

In addition, there are healthcare givebacks and maybe just as significantly teaching and learning conditions in too many schools have not improved at all since de Blasio took office in 2014. Numerous schools have outrageously high class sizes; safety is non existent; kids are pushed along who have no business passing in order to get New York City's record graduation rate; excessive paperwork is out of control;  and classroom observations are too often a nightmare. Promoting these policies are too many abusive principals and assistant principals who are making UFT member lives hell on a daily basis. The UFT"s response is usually low key and behind the scenes.

Is Mulgrew right that the mayor has been good to us or has not that not much, if anything, improved since de Blasio became mayor in 2014?

Sunday, October 30, 2016


For anyone who missed it, below is the schedule for the Absent Teacher Reserve annual borough informational meetings. ATRs have no elected chapter representation in the UFT. We think this is extremely unfair and complained as high as the Department of Labor on the issue.

UFT personnel specialist Amy Arundell is usually the go-to person for the ATRs. She told a recent Executive Board meeting that the ATR informational meetings were delayed this year because the UFT was negotiating with the Department of Education concerning ATRs. We have absolutely no idea what specifically they were negotiating about.

It would be nice to know what was on the table in negotiations with the DOE.

Dear ___________,
The UFT will be holding informational meetings for UFT members in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool in the coming weeks. Whether you are new to the ATR pool or not, we want to make sure you have the opportunity to ask questions and get answers.
Informational meetings will take place in each of the UFT borough offices:
Brooklyn, 335 Adams St.
Tuesday, Nov. 1, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Bronx, 2500 Halsey St.
Thursday, Nov. 3, 4 to 6 p.m.
Manhattan, 52 Broadway
Monday, Nov. 14, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Queens, 97-77 Queens Blvd.
Tuesday, Nov. 15, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Staten Island, 4456 Amboy Rd.
Thursday, Nov. 17, 4 to 6 p.m.
You are welcome to attend the session that is most convenient for you. We hope to see you there.
Amy Arundell
UFT Director of Personnel

Saturday, October 29, 2016


There is a vacancy on the UFT Executive Board for non-teachers (functional chapters). One would think a rudimentary feature of a democracy would be to allow the functional members to pick who they want to serve. However, the UFT Constitution only allows the Executive Board to fill vacancies if there is an opening between UFT general elections.

Keeping this in mind, a non-Unity candidate (Unity is the ruling party of the UFT) has less than a zero percent chance of winning an interim election. Understanding this situation, we were still able to convince veteran activist Norm Scott to throw his hat in the ring for the open Executive Board seat.

MORE's Mike Schirtzer nominated Norm at the latest Executive Board meeting. Here is a summary of his nomination speech from NYC Educator:

Mike Schirtzer--MORE--nominates Norm Scott, taught 27 years, was CL, involved in public ed. and this union. Built coalitions, worked with secretaries, paras, parents, continues to work with robotics, at Rockaway Theatre with teachers, coined term ed. deform movement. Norm helped lead this movement that charters did not have best interests of our students at heart. Stood against testing, with opt-out movement. goes to AFT (convention) on own dime, goes to UFT DA, many ask him for help. Knows we are democratic union, welcomes dissent, and Norm offers it from time to time.

Norm is certainly as qualified as anyone to serve on the Board. He certainly has the experience and skills needed for the position.

NYC Educator continues his report by describing Anne Goldman's nominating speech for Nancy Barth Miller, Unity's nominee who will surely win the election by a wide margin. Miller is qualified but in a democratic system there would now be an exchange of ideas between the two candidates and there would be a real election among all of the non-teachers in the UFT. However, since this is the UFT, the loyalty oath taking 95 Unity members on the Executive Board will obey caucus obligations and all vote for Miller so Norm's ceiling is 7 votes from the non-Unity members of the Executive Board from MORE and New Action.

Would it be that difficult to have interim elections to fill seats on the Executive Board or among the officers if they come open between general elections? Obviously, it would cost some money.

How about interim elections if an officer position is vacant between elections? It won't happen.

Allowing the Executive Board to fill seats is one way Unity Caucus keeps tight control of the Union. UFT presidents never run in a general UFT election as non-incumbents. UFT presidents traditionally resign in the middle of their terms; Unity's huge majority on the Executive Board elects a successor. The NY Teacher newspaper then worships the new leader as the brand-new messiah, and the President then runs for reelection as an incumbent, which is a huge advantage.

For the current election, we wish Norm all the best. May he sweep all 7 opposition votes.

Thursday, October 27, 2016


Class Size Matters and Public Advocate Letitia James backed up a retired teacher who sued in court in 2014 saying that School Leadership Teams should be open to the public. A judge ruled in their favor in 2015 but the City-Department of Education appealed and would not implement the decision. Now Carmen Farina and Mayor Bill de Blasio have lost twice as an Appellate Court ruled 4-0 SLT meetings need to be open to the public.

Ed Notes wants to know what Farina and de Blasio have to hide. The reality is they fear public exposure of how schools operate. Their main argument is that SLTs are advisory, not decision making, bodies.

The Council of Supervisors and Administrators joined this case on the city's side. It makes sense that the principal's union would side with the city here as Farina-deBlasio have continued the Joel Klein-Michael Bloomberg policy of giving administrators basically dictatorial powers over schools. The court affirmed on Tuesday that parents and teachers in all NYC public schools, and students as well in the high schools, have some authority in how schools are run.

This can be a real victory for teachers, students and parents if we start to use the SLT's to make policy instead of just acquiescing to what the principals want. Read the decision closely.

The four judge panel agreed with the judge originally hearing the case that SLT's "are part of the governance structure' of New York City's schools." He then went on to say that the DOE in 2007 tried to change Chancellor's Regulation A-655 on SLT's to give the principal final authority on Comprehensive Education Plans but the State Education Commissioner ruled this violated the law.

The UFT joined the 2007 appeal to the Commissioner on the side of the parents.  I was the Delegate who raised the motion that carried at the DA, at Leonie Haimson's (Class Size Matters) urging, to convince the UFT to join the parents. This set the precedent that SLT's were not advisory but had decision making power.

The UFT, in its recent "We don't publicly take on de Blasio-Farina-CSA" incarnation, did not join the parents in the 2014 lawsuit. However, the Union should now use its resources to teach parents and teachers on SLT's how to use their authority as part of the governance structure of schools.

As for the city-DOE, they can appeal again but their chances of prevailing cannot be that great now that five judges have ruled against them. We'll let Leonie have the last word:

"The law is crystal clear that School Leadership Teams are public bodies, with an important governmental role to play. Parents and the public have a crucial stake in SLT decisions, when it comes to class size, the use of technology, or any other school-based policies. Both the Supreme Court and now the Appellate Court have ruled that these meetings must be open to the community at large. Any attmpt by the DOE or principals to ignore this decision, subvert it or appeal it to a higher court would be unwise, would further delay the public interest and would waste precious taxpayer funds that are far better used in improving our schools," concluded Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Many of us have been following the situation with the tentative contract out in Chicago closely. Some out there feel it is the best possible contract they could achieve under adverse circumstances while others believe it falls far short of a decent contract and will lead to further deterioration of working conditions. As a UFT member who served for a decade on the UFT Executive Board and still serves on the Delegate Assembly, I find Chicago's House of Delegates' debate on their contract to be at least somewhat democratic.

In coverage from Substance we learn that while the debate lasted only 17 minutes, the number of speakers for the contract in the debate actually equaled the number of speakers who opposed the deal. Nobody had to call a point of order to demand evenhanded debate. In a moment that would be stunning in New York City, one of the leaders of the ruling Caucus of Rank and File Educators, Sarah Chambers, spoke out against the agreement.

The Unity trolls in New York who comment here say that Unity's loyalty oath style unionism, where if one wants to be in the caucus one must vote as the leadership instructs, is the way every union operates. The truth is it does not exist in Chicago. People are free to vote as their consciences and/or the members in their school guide them.

CTU Delegates even agreed to extend debate before someone pulled a Unity and abruptly made a motion to end it after what I would argue is an insufficient 17 minutes. However, this motion carried easily so a huge majority was satisfied. The House of Delegates then voted by about a two to one margin to recommend the deal and now it is being voted on in the schools by the membership at large.

Many in Chicago are not happy with their proposed contract. However, compared to New York, they still have at least some sense of how union democracy is supposed to operate.

Monday, October 24, 2016


Retired Unity Chapter Leader Gene Mann writes a weekly online newsletter called The Organizer. He gives some valuable information and provides some editorial comments usually in favor of the Unity Caucus (majority party in the UFT that Michael Mulgrew and Randi Weingarten belong to) party line. This week I was a little surprised to see Mr. Mann stray from party orthodoxy in explaining why we should all contribute to COPE (union political action). Mann made a very good case on why we have to work against state Senator John Flanagan, who leads the Republican caucus in the state Senate.

Here is what he wrote about Flanagan:

John Flanagan (R-East Northport) successfully got S.3501 passed on March 1, 2011, at a time when Bloomberg was poised to lay off 6,000+ of us. The bill eliminated all seniority protections, including callback after layoff. Essentially, if your principal chose you for excessing, you lost your job.

Our friends in the Assembly (think Sheldon Silver) kept that nightmare in the closet and Bloomberg called off the layoffs since he couldn't do them his way.*

Bravo Gene I couldn't agree with you more. Flanagan is bad news for us. Then why did NYSUT in 2016 contribute $109,600 in COPE funds to the Republican Senate Campaign Committee to help elect Republicans to the state Senate so Flanagan can keep his position as majority leader?

Why did Unity/UFT Political Director Paul Egan justify the expenditure at the Executive Board?

It makes no sense at all.

*It should be noted for the record that after the bill in Albany failed to end seniority layoffs for teachers in NYC, Mayor Michael Bloomberg still threatened layoffs and only backed down when the UFT agreed to weekly rotation for Absent Teacher Reserves and for the 2011-12 school year giving up sabbaticals.

Friday, October 21, 2016


I often wonder why I worked to get a seat at the Delegate Assembly after being a Chapter Leader or Delegate for two decades but then being off after Jamaica High School was closed in 2014. I kind of  got used to not being at meetings in the second half of the 2014-15 school year but UFT addict that I am, I ran for office and was elected Delegate even though I was an ATR-Provisional Teacher at Middle College in 2015. Since being back at the DA for over a year now, I notice not much changes; the majority Unity Caucus members still stifle almost all debate.

For the October DA, leaders of the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) came up with a sensible amendment to a resolution supporting the NAACP's call for a moratorium on opening new charter schools. Here is the original UFT resolution:


WHEREAS, charter schools in New York City do not accept or keep comparable numbers of high-needs students as traditional public schools - whether special education students, homeless children or English language learners, according to Department of Education data; and

WHEREAS, while the New York City charters educate a mere 7 percent of the students, they account for 42 percent of the city's suspensions, according to The Atlantic/CityLab, effectively forcing out students who do not fit in; and

WHEREAS, the national board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on Oct. 15 took a strong public stand against the expansion of charter schools until charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools, public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system, charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate, and charter schools cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest-performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious; and

WHEREAS, the NAACP has taken this principled stand in the face of intense pressure from well-funded charter school advocates; and

WHEREAS, the Movement for Black Lives and other civil rights groups have also called for moratorium on charter schools; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the UFT affirm and support the NAACP's position on the grounds that, until charter schools embrace the same challenges that public schools face, the NAACP is right to call for a moratorium on their expansion.

The word challenges was very disturbing to some in MORE who wanted to delete the resolved clause and replace it with this amendment:

RESOLVED, that the UFT affirm and support the NAACP's position on the grounds that charter schools create a two tiered, separate and unequal education system so the NAACP is right to call for a moratorium on their expansion.

They asked me to present the amendment and I agreed to do so.

Here is the rationale I worked on in support of the amendment.

I don't believe the word challenges fits in the resolved clause. It could be interpreted to imply that we consider our public school students to be difficult. Public school teachers who choose to work with special education children, English language learners or work in alternative/transfer schools do so because we passionately believe in what these kids can do. The last thing in the world we should ever do is say we want to send them to Eva Moskowitz.

The third whereas clause in our resolution talks about charters not being transparent and accountable, public funds being diverted to charter schools at the expense of public schools, charter schools expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and de facto segregation. This is much more than it being a matter of charter schools just meeting the same challenges that public schools have. Charter schools are not labs where schools could experiment free of district rules as they were originally intended to be  but instead have become a major cause of the development in this country of a two tiered, separate and unequal education system. Those whereas clauses would be better supported with stronger language in the resolved clause.

I never had a chance to present and motivate the amendment because right after Anthony Harmon motivated the original resolution, retiree David Pecararo (who this post is dedicated to) rose to call for debate to be ended. President Michael Mulgrew then did ask for a speaker against and while I was at this point frantically waving my lonely card, he of course looked the other way and called on someone who said a few things and at that point debate was ended. I felt that same old DA frustration that I have endured for twenty-two years.

I saw David after the meeting and he said he called for an end of debate so quickly because it was adjournment time and he wanted to make sure the resolution was dealt with and not postponed until next month. I found that hard to swallow since in my two decades at the DA, I have never seen an item that was up for discussion dropped in the middle because it was 6:00 pm adjournment time. David stated that has happened and then he did apologize to me.

The actual fault rests with Mulgrew who called on a speaker for and then should have not called on David but should have looked for others who wanted to speak against. The President knows full well that Unity speakers do not speak against Unity resolutions except under very rare circumstances and I don't raise my card normally to glow about something the leadership has brought up (plenty of Unity supporters can do that). I was seated at the same angle from the chair as David (just further back) so if the President saw the two of us raising our cards, he should have called on me. I will concede Mulgrew has evolved a little over the years as he at least did ask for a speaker against after the motion to end debate was offered but it's pretty much the same old lack of debate.

That's it for my little rant about how the DA remains a very undemocratic body where the Unity majority abuses its power. I just hope something changes before I leave for good next time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


The first Delegate Assembly of the 2016-17 school year is today. Once again these reports from the DA are from a smartphone so I apologize in advance for any errors.

President's Report
President Michael Mulgrew was talking about fighting charter schools when I arrived a bit late.

State and National
Working on standards to replace Common Core. We want ELL and special ed standards.

People angry in DC about John King putting out regulations that are against the law. We are waiting to see changes coming next year after election

State accountability from federal law is important. We want growth to be part of anything on evalutions.

Chicago and Buffalo teachers have tentative contracts. Must see it in context of municipal situation in each city.

In Chicago the pension is underfunded.

Buffalo in austerity as school system has shrunk.
Hard to negotiate when all agree city does not have money.

Mulgrew thanked Mindy Rosier for walking to Albany for education funding.

UFT legislative priorities in Albany for 2017 are to get more funding, stop a constitutional convention (it could be used to steal our pensions), not lift the charter cap and fixing the teacher evaluation system.

Andrew Cuomo has finally visited some NYC public schools to recognize some good teachers.

First UFT English Language Learner conference is booked solid.

NYC school system doing better than ever. We have caught up to state. Graduation rate higher than ever. We have classrooms in NYC with students who speak multiple languages. Conference to deal with this.

We have a book event in the Bronx. Organizer for breast cancer walk is Service Silva who addressed the Delegates.

CTLE hours. Many questions on PD hours and no answers from DOE.
Register with state during birth month.
DOE has nothing out.
UFT Teacher Center training can go toward hours. Teacher center is approved PD provider.
We need more from DOE.

Teacher Evaluation (APPR)
No agreement. UFT wants multiple measures of student Learning that is not standardized tests for growth.

650 and then 697 rated ineffective first two years of evaluation. Hoping it is lower this year.

We think we are close to an agreement on evaluations with DOE. NYC will lose $500 million in state aid if no agreement.

Matrix says if student learning is good and principal says you are bad you are good.

If principal says you are good and student learning is bad you are good.
It is a fair system.
Out of state many vacancies. Asking parents to sub.

Resolving issues. Bring them to district committees after you try to work it out at school. Chapter leader can file on behalf of school. Goes to central after district. Use process.

Classroom supplies company giving 25% off for supplies. Great vendor.

Staff Director
Leroy Barr reported chapter leaders and delegates who had 100% attendance are being recognized after the meeting.

Parent conferences and Teacher Union Day coming up. Thanksgiving winter clothing drive ongoing. Next DA is Nov 9, the day after the national election.

Question period
Dan Lupkin: 2014 UFT resolution to boycott Staples. How did we spend $170,000 at Staples last year?
Mulgrew Answer: We are getting out of contracts we can and he contacted CFO to make sure we are not spending at Staples. He will get back when there is more information.

Q What do we tell insurance salesman who want to talk at chapter meeting?

Q Paras not getting lunch. Must follow IEP kid. Is it proper?
A No

Q No SAVE rooms
A This is not proper. Call UFT safety department. It is a program to help struggling kids.

Q Functional chapters: How do we make them feel like more of a part of the chapter?
A Talk to them, get a functional rep on chapter committee.

Q Question on election. Trump and and Clinton bad. Is there a way to have discussion and debate on having a worker's party in the US?
A Diverse political views go from ultra left to ultra right within UFT. Put up a resolution on this. It is not up to president.

Q Too many emails?
A Paperwork covers electronic stuff too.

Q Principal has gone psychotic. She is not being collaborative. How do we get principals back on track?
A Use consultation committee. Talk to District Rep.

Q Update on maternity leave? Post new resolutions rather than hand them out?
A Moving in electronic direction.
Maternity: Sub costs less than teacher. Costing is moving in right direction. City calling it child acquisition. No mechanism yet. Trying to get it done.

Motion Period
Motion not to support Trump or Clinton and have a worker's party. It did not pass.

Motion for this month. New teacher induction. It is on back of Unity leaflet. It passed.

Special Orders of Business
Janella Hinds motivated a resolution to make it easier to start Career and Technical schools. It passed easily.

Resolution on integrating arts education into curriculum in every school. It passed.

Resolution to mark the anniversary of the 1960 strike. It passed. Leaders from 1960 received a standing ovation.

Resolution on UFT supporting NAACP call for moratorium on new charter schools.

Dave Pecararo from Unity called the question right after someone motivated it. Mulgrew did ask for a speaker against. I tried to amend the resolution but he called on someone else. Resolution passed. I will have more on this in a later posting.


The latest report by NYC Educator from the Executive Board leaves me more than a little bit baffled about what the UFT/NYSUT are doing to move forward a pro-teacher agenda in Albany.

Remember two years ago when defeating the Republicans in the New York State Senate was the most important campaign ever for the Union. The Democrats lost and then in 2015 newly reelected Governor Andrew Cuomo, along with the Republicans majority in the Senate and the feckless Democrats in the Assembly responded with the anti-union, anti-public school Education Transformation Act.

New York State United Teachers is now rewarding the Republican Senate Campaign Committee with over $100,000 in 2016. UFT Political Director Paul Egan on Monday told the Executive Board that 35% of the NYSUT membership are Republicans so I guess they aren't the enemy any longer.

I would like to know what the Republican caucus in Albany has done to help public schools and specifically public school teachers in the last few years so that they deserve our financial support? I concede that the Democrats haven't done much for us either but giving money to  the Republican caucus led by Senator John Flanagan strikes me as not being the smartest political move in the world. I would support his opponent Peter Magistrale as the Port Jefferson Teachers Association is doing.

Nothing of any substance is changing at the city or state level and yet we are as complacent a union as I have ever seen. The question is why?

Monday, October 17, 2016


There is an absolute must read blog piece from Bianca Tanis questioning why NYSUT in 2016 has donated $109,600 to the New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee. That is up from a $0 contribution in 2014. These are our voluntary COPE funds that we give for political action.

Bianca cites a litany of anti-teacher-anti public education legislation the Republicans in the state Senate have endorsed that are awful including support for expansion of charter schools, keeping the horrible teacher evaluation system, denying public schools proper funding, an education tax credit for private schools and more. Granted, the Democrats haven't been much help to us either and there are Republicans who support public schools but the Republican caucus in the state Senate led by Senator Flanagan offers us basically nothing. Bianca concludes with this:

Is this the cost of a seat at the table? If so, $109,600 is a large chunk of change to sit at a table where we are being served up.

This blog agrees but still can't figure out what NYSUT political "genius" Andy Pallotta and company were up to here.


Saturday, October 15, 2016


One of the many provisions of the infamous Education Transformation Act of 2015 concerns teachers registering with the State Education Department. Here is what the UFT is saying in the weekly Chapter Leader Newsletter:

The new state certification requirements that took effect this year have prompted many questions. Here are the highlights in a nutshell: Permanently certified teachers, professionally certified teachers and Level III certified paraprofessionals are required to register with the State Education Department in the month of their birth. During the five-year period starting on July 1, 2016, professionally certified teachers and Level III certified paraprofessionals are also required to collect a total of 100 PD hours, now called Continuing Teacher and Leader Education (CTLE) hours, by a state-approved provider such as the UFT Teacher Center. Members now have to keep their own records. Encourage members to put documentation of workshops they have attended in a CTLE folder. For more details, read the New York Teacher story about the revised certification requirements and this review of the various types of teaching certificates

Below it says this:

Remind members about new certification requirements : The State Education Department has published two online step-by-step guides to help members navigate the changes on how the state manages certification and tracks professional development hours. Members can consult the TEACH account guide for help creating their accounts and then use the registration requirements guide to complete registration. Although these changes went into effect on July 1, members register during the month of their birth. For information about the new registration process, including who must register and when they should register, and how members will track professional development hours, also known as Continuing Teacher and Leader Education (CTLE) hours, you can read the information on the UFT website and review the chart designed by the UFT certification staff  for specific details on how these changes affect your members. To register, teachers and paraprofessionals should go to the login page for TEACH. Members without a TEACH account must create one before logging on to TEACH.  Please note: Teachers who hold Initial, Transitional A, Transitional B, Internship or Conditional Initial certificates and paraprofessionals who hold Level I or Level II Teaching Assistant certificates DO NOT need to register. Members with a professional or Level III teaching certificate issued after July 1, 2016 were registered automatically.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Word has pretty much spread around the city that UFT members are getting paid back nothing this October for the interest free loan we made to the city back in the 2014 contract.

Some people are still asking why we are not getting any money this year and have to wait until the middle of October of 2017 to receive the next 12.5% of what we are owed up to that point for work we did from 2009-2011 and should have been paid for back then. Other municipal union workers received 4%+ 4% increases in salary between 2008 and 2010. Educators had to wait until 2014 to get a contract but for some reason we agreed to defer the payments for thosee first two years.

The reason was the city untruthfully cried poverty and the UFT bought it so teachers and other UFT members made an interest free loan to the city. The city is paying us back in interest free installments in 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. In addition, only half of the 8% raise other unions received eight years ago has even been added to our semi-monthly paychecks as of now.

Meanwhile, the city has been doing quite well financially as the UFT set an abysmal pattern in 2014 for the current round of bargaining of 10% salary increases over 7 years that other city workers are stuck with. This is because of pattern bargaining which means when one municipal union settles on a raise with the city, then other unions have to follow that pattern in negotiating their contracts.

Throw in those health care cost savings which are still not done and the bottom line is we were given a lousy deal but three out of four teachers voted for it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Since the formation of the Caucus of Rank and File Educators in Chicago and their victory in the 2010 Chicago Teachers Union election, Chicago has been center-stage for teacher unions. CORE led the way by creating a more militant kind of teacher unionism that had been all but forgotten in most school districts around the country and certainly does not exist in New York City. The 2012 CTU strike led by CTU President Karen Lewis inspired many of us to believe that with member, parent-community support, public school teachers could regain our dignity.

CORE has been reelected twice in Chicago (in 2013 and without opposition this year) so many of us were watching with strong interest how their current contract battle would end. Many were expecting a long strike but instead there is a tentative agreement. The agreement is very controversial.

For a look at what is going on out there, read this piece from Substance Editor/retired teacher George Schmidt. George is kind of the Norm Scott of Chicago (or maybe Norm is New York's George). However, unlike Norm who has been a part of the opposition to Michael Mulgrew's majority Unity Caucus in NYC for decades, George was one of the founders of CORE who defeated their Unity style machine. It looks like George will be one of the leaders opposing the current tentative agreement.

For a more favorable look at the contract, go to of all places Socialist Worker. Even here, they are not glowing in their praise.

In the end, the city mostly caved on the so-called "pension pickup." Nothing will change for current CTU members or anyone still hired this year. Going forward, new hires will have to cover their pension contributions, as the city demanded of all teachers, but they will be compensated for the full amount with bigger paychecks.

Increases in base pay are meager, adding up to 4.5% in the final years of a four-year contract. But the union preserved the "steps and lanes" system that awards pay increases based on seniority and and educational experience. That's a further defeat for (Mayor Rahm) Emanuel, who has demanded that the union abandon steps and lanes since taking office in 2011.

This sort of reads like the material Unity puts out when they try to sell NYC teachers garbage. You know it kind of goes a little like this (warning satire alert):

Joel Klein wanted public terminations of 100 teachers a day who would be fired at high noon in front of their schools until all tenured teachers were eliminated but the Unity team stopped him. They are only firing 50 at a time and the terminations will only take place once a week. We can hold out until there is a new mayor. What a victory!

Someone sent ICE a copy of the Tentative Agreement from Chicago. The job security clause appears to be a little stronger than in 2012 but it looks as though layoffs are still a possibility. There are some gains on class sizes for the early grades. However, if I was a Chicago teacher, I would probably be screaming NO. As I am an outsider, best for me to leave it to the CTU Delegates and Members to make their decision.

This contract is important to activists around the country as Chicago had given so many of us hope for a new day for teacher unions. At the end of the day, maybe we all just become Unity Caucus, putting up futile resistance against overwhelming political forces aligned to destroy public education and teacher unions. Perhaps token defiance is all that is possible.

I'm still not convinced.

Monday, October 10, 2016


While looking for news on the potential for a Chicago Teachers' strike set to start Tuesday, October 11, 2016, I went over to Substance Chicago and there is a piece by editor George Schmidt describing what real unionism is all about. The article describes how to run a picket line properly and deal with scabs. George sums up with perfect advice that I hope the New York City UFT will take.

It's good that we are returning to the ethics of unions: An injury to one is an injury to all! -- NOT "contact the grievance department and maybe with a lot of approvals we might sort of do a grievance or a ULP maybe sometimes but may not whatever..."

If there is a last minute settlement out in Chicago, we will try to keep ICE readers posted. There are negotiations continuing today with the deadline looming at midnight. 

If they don't settle, based on what I'm reading from Chicago, it looks like the union will hold strong. I wish we some day soon will have the "all for one, one for all" union spirit here in NYC. We certainly had it at Jamaica High School for the most part.


There is a tentative agreement in Chicago. It still needs to be approved by the House of Delegates and members but the Chicago Tribune is reporting that there are gains for teachers. As usual, the details will tell the final story.

I don't think this blog has an ounce of influence on what goes on in Chicago but if they achieved an ironclad no layoff agreement and some real financial improvements, then it is a step in the right direction and the CTU's credible strike threat made a big difference.

Saturday, October 08, 2016


Michael Mulgrew at the September Chapter Leader meeting made a big deal about the UFT fighting against excessive paperwork and making sure teachers in core subjects have curriculum. How real and how winnable is this battle?

I do take the President at his word that they are trying to stop the excessive paperwork and see to it that everyone has curriculum. This post concentrates on curriculum.

Here is what Arthur Goldstein said in his minutes of the September meeting on this issue:

No. one issue for members, from poll, is paperwork. Was problem years ago, is no provision in contract, yet two years later it remains number one issue. There is a disconnect because things members are doing are things they are not supposed to do, as per contract. Much paperwork is tied to curriculum. Who thinks they get curriculum? Much laughter ensues. Should be a list of topics, with scope and sequence, with what students are expected to know, for semester or year: Why are teachers writing this? Why would a principal ask you to write something she is supposed to supply.

We get paperwork complaints in June because of bad rating fears. Important to file complaints more early. We have to change that culture. Mulgrew's issue is we have to figure who has a curriculum, who doesn't, and how we systematically collect it. DOE has a lot of curriculum offered to principals online. Why do they ask us for it?

If administration just tells teachers to go to the Engage NY website, does that constitute providing a curriculum?

What specifically does our Contract say?

Article 7R2 covers curriculum:

2. Curriculum The Board of Education (DOE) agrees to provide teachers with either a year-long or semester long Curriculum that is aligned with State Standards in all Core Subjects. Curriculum is defined as:

a) a list of content and topics; 
b) scope and sequence; and 
c) a list of what students are expected to know and be able to do after studying each topic. 

Core Subjects are defined as follows: Math (including, but not limited to, Algebra and Geometry), Social Studies, English Language Arts, Science (including, but not limited to, General Science, Biology, Earth Science, Chemistry and Physics), Foreign Languages and other subject areas named by the DOE and shared with the UFT. It is understood that the DOE’s obligation to provide curriculum shall extend to Core courses that may be electives. 

It is further understood by both parties that there are instances where teachers may want to participate in the development of curriculum. Such instances include, but are not limited to, the creation of new themed schools or programs within a school, or where a teacher or group of teachers wishes to create or help create a set of lessons around a particular theme or subject, where approved by the principal. 

Nothing in this agreement is intended to prohibit voluntary collaboration or work by teachers and other school staff on curriculum. However, if there is a specific request by the DOE or a school administrator for a teacher or teachers to write curriculum, then the teacher(s) must be given sufficient time during the work day to do so, in accordance with provisions of the collective bargaining agreement or given sufficient time after school, in accordance with the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement pertaining to Per Session.

This provision seems to give the administrators some work in developing curriculum. But what constitutes an adequate curriculum? As is par for the course, the UFT allows language to be inserted in the contract that lets the DOE off the hook. Here is the last paragraph of Article 7R2:

The failure to provide curriculum as defined above shall be subject to the grievance and arbitration procedures set forth in Article Twenty-Two of the collective bargaining agreement. However, such grievances shall be strictly limited to whether a curriculum, as defined above, was provided. The sufficiency and quality of the curriculum provided shall not be grievable.

If administrations provides something from a foreign country or another state or just copies the state rubbish and says it is the curriculum, what can we do about it?

Go out and fight for that curriculum folks. However, when you get a pile of garbage that is called curriculum or are directed to some website for it, I hope if teachers try to grieve that the UFT backs them up. This contractual language unfortunately does not give me too much hope that we will all be receiving adequate curriculum at any time in the near or distant future

Thursday, October 06, 2016


Absent Teacher Reserves have been put on sale again by the Department of Education. If a school hires an ATR permanently, the ATR will be free for this year, half off for next and 25% off for 2018-19. Principals were given an incentive to hire ATRs in 2008 but the DOE stopped offering incentives in 2010. 

Actually, teachers are paid from the same pool of city money so making some cheaper than others to schools for hiring purposes is kind of ridiculous.

Hope some people get hired this time around with the subsidies..

This is from the Principal's Weekly.

Financial Incentive for Schools to Hire ATRs                                                                                      
All schools

Effective October 5, schools in districts 1-32 that hire Centrally-funded excessed teachers on a regular, permanent (not provisional) basis during the 2016–17 school year, will be eligible for an allocation to subsidize the cost of the teacher to the school. For each of the first three years that the teacher remains at the school, the school will receive the following allocations, reflected in the TO in Galaxy:

§  In Year 1 (FY 17), schools will receive funding for 100% of the cost of the teacher;
§  In Year 2 (FY 18), the funding will cover 50% of the cost of the teacher;
§  In Year 3 (FY 19), the funding will cover 25% of the cost of the teacher; and
§  In Year 4, the school is responsible for the full cost of the teacher.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016


Mike Schirtzer from MORE writes about his first two meetings as a member of the UFT Executive Boarad representing the high schools. MORE-New Action won the high school seats in the 2016 UFT election. It is the first time since 2007 that non-Unity endorsed voices are being heard.

By Mike Schirtzer

My initial reactions after having participated in my first two meetings as an elected high school representative to the UFT Executive Board as a member of the MORE Caucus. 

UFT Members have not been informed on what was going on at  Executive Board meetings other than cursory minutes. We are trying to change that by posting detailed minutes and analysis on our blog, linking to it in our weekly updates and having a section of our newsletter dedicated to it. 

Issues that impact the day to day working conditions of UFT members and learning conditions for our students are not the focus of the agenda from Unity Caucus. The 7 of us from MORE/NA are all classroom teachers and will fight for these issues. MORE/NA is willing to engage in meetings with leadership to address abusive administrators, DOE meeting with chapter leaders on class-size, forcing Unity to discuss ATRs, paid parental leave and school funding are steps in the right direction. This is a 3 year term and we must do everything we can to best represent the working educators of the UFT. 

I approach my upcoming 3-year term with the attitude that we are not there to embarrass the leadership, but to challenge and find ways we can work together with the Unity Caucus' UFT officers to address issues of concern to the membership. But if we have to embarrass them to force them to act we will.

One thing we promise is that we will report honestly and openly so we provide the membership with insights on what has generally been a black box of mystery.

Setting the scene
There are 101 members of the UFT EB including the 12 officers. Other than the elected 7 high school MORE/New Action reps, the other 89 are all in Unity Caucus and who adhere to all decisions made by the leadership and vote as a block.

Many members of the UFT Executive Board – if not the majority – are not classroom teachers. There is a large group of retirees and many district reps and other UFT officials. Certainly few are in the classroom full-time. Thus they are not part of the daily routine that goes on in schools they supposedly represent. The 7 of us from MORE/NA are all classroom teachers and come face to face with the issues of concern to UFT members in our schools.

• There is a pre-meeting 10-minute opportunity for the general UFT membership to speak. At the first meeting 4 members of MORE shared the time to speak about working under abusive principals and the general lack of push-back from the union. There was no reaction from the Unity Caucus members.

• UFT Secretary Howard Schoor opens the meeting by reviewing the previous meeting minutes and approving them. Afterwards there’s a question period, followed by Mulgrew’s president report, followed by reports from the districts and then the business part of the meeting which includes discussing proposed resolutions. The official UFT resolutions have been passed by the 12-member AdCom which meets every Friday.

• UFT President Michael Mulgrew doesn’t show until his report and leaves soon after. The Executive Board is supposed to be the one highest bodies of our union, yet the president of our union sees fit leave after his brief report. The questions that Executive Board members ask and the open mic period for rank and file members does not seem to be of any concern for him.
Note: As per past Executive Board representatives from ICE/TJC : (MORE's predecessors) when Randi Weingarten was president she chaired the meeting and stayed the entire time.

• The only report of substance is from UFT Legislative Director Paul Egan who is a great speaker. Agree with him/Unity caucus or not, he brings a thorough report on the presidential election, endorsements, and justification of those endorsements. I only wish school based issues were taken on with as much vigor as Paul tackles politics. Most other reports from the districts, often by district reps, are about organizing for charities or UFT sponsored celebrations, not about the issues going on in the districts.

Thoughts on the 2 meetings I attended so far
• During the question period only the 7 members of MORE/NA have asked questions on the following topics: Abusive Administrators, ATRs, School Funding, Paid Parental Leave, and Class-size are issues, none of which were addressed in the reports by Unity Caucus members.

• At the first meeting, four rank and file speakers and one retiree, all associated with MORE, spoke about their terrible experiences in schools due to abusive administrators. We brought a resolution to Executive Board calling for removal of abusive administrators. I raised it and then MORE/NA Executive Board member Marcus McArthur further motivated by sharing his own experience with a bad principal who openly attacked the chapter leader. It was tabled by Unity Caucus’ leader and Assistant Secretary Leroy Barr, but he agreed to meet with us to work on next steps for addressing this matter. We need to insure that UFT members have the organized defense they need. This meeting should be within the next 2 weeks, updates will follow.

• Class-size: MORE/NA High School Executive board member Arthur Goldstein reported there over-packed classes all over Francis Lewis High School where he is the chapter leader. He also stated there are similar conditions all over Queens high school. UFT leadership agreed to set up a meeting with Arthur, Queens high school chapter leaders, and personnel from DOE to address this issue. Updates to follow.

• ATRs- Former Canarsie High School chapter leader and MORE/NA Ex Bd member Kuljit (KJ) S. Ahluwalia had a first-hand experience of closing school policy and excessing when Canarsie High School was closed down. He has spoken at both meetings about the plight of ATRS. He as asked for data on the teachers currently still in the ATR pool (age, race, license) and what is being done to alleviate the problem. UFT Secretary Howie Shoor, President Mulgrew, and Amy Arundell all gave answers to KJ, not specifics, but generalities such as “ATRs are at the lowest since I been here”, Mulgrew and Arundell reiterated that sentiment.

• Funding- Jonathan Halabi, the only member from MORE/NA that was elected to the previous term, brought up a New Action initiated resolution that passed the Ex Bd a couple of years back calling for UFT to pressure DOE to end the practice of “charging” principals more for experienced teachers. This means that schools that have veteran staff are punished by having less funding for after school programs, less guidance counselors and packed classes. The principal must use those funds to “pay” the staff. 

I spoke to this as well, by explaining that this is the situation in my school and it has a negative impact on our chapter. Mulgrew and Schoor both said they would keep pressure on DOE and bring it up at their next consultation meeting with Chancellor Farina. They did say that this is not a contractual bargaining matter, but Mulgrew admitted NYC is one of the few, if not the only school districts in the US that still uses this system. Most school districts assign staff based on number of students, ex. 1 teacher for every 25 students, 1 guidance counselor for every 200 students, etc. I sent my principal’s full budget to Secretary Schoor and we are awaiting his response.

• Paid Family Leave- Ashraya Gupta MORE/NA UFT Ex Bd member brought up that Mulgrew has previously talked about UFT members getting paid parental leave. She spoke of our union being mostly women, many of whom are primary-caregivers and how it is unfair that we do not have this basic human right of paid parental leave yet. She asked what is our union’s position and progress on this matter. Schoor said the city’s non-unionized staff who receive this benefit had to give back money and days off, “the city will give us nothing for free”. Schoor did not articulate what our position is, yet the Delegate Assembly expressed we do not want any give backs.

The next EB meeting will be Monday Oct. 17, two days before the Delegate Assembly. Feel free to join us. If you wish to speak at the pre-meeting 10 minute time call Howard Schoor's office at the UFT 212-777-7500. Let us know if you are coming.

Arthur Goldstein has published minutes on his blog following each session which we have replicated on the MORE site. Arthur, me, and MORE/NA members will continue to report on these meetings and other contacts with the leadership.

Reports of the meetings can be found on MORE's site.

Monday, October 03, 2016


For the second time in four years, the teacher in Chicago are being forced to walk off the job by Chicago Public Schools and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

An overwhelming 95% of Chicago Teachers Union members who voted said yes to authorizing a strike. The date set by an almost unanimous House of Delegates is October 11. Members of the CTU are being told to expect a long strike this time around.

Here is the CTU Thunderclap called Fair Contract Now.

It looks like the political climate for the CTU might actually be better this time around as compared to when they last went on strike in 2012. We support them in their struggle.

CTU Leaders- Source: Substance Chicago