Andy Pallotta, the man responsible for our many legislative failures in Albany, has now been tapped by Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus to run for NYSUT President. Let's closely examine his abysmal record as Executive Vice President where he has been directing how our political contributions in Albany are spent.
There have been two new teacher evaluation systems passed into law so teacher ratings are now based on student test scores on faulty exams and the totally subjective Danielson observations. In addition, it now takes new teachers at least four years to obtain tenure. In the past it was three years of probation. There is an inferior Tier 6 pension, where a career teacher who starts right out of college must work over forty years to obtain a full retirement allowance which is lower than the Tiers I through V pension. There has been a change in professional development rules that has made it more difficult for teachers in NYC to get PD. We also have the 2% tax cap that limits education spending in most school districts unless a super majority votes to override it. UFT/NYSUT's legislative record under Pallotta has been nothing short of disastrous. His major success the last three years was to get himself and other NYSUT officers extra pension credit like Unity officers and District Representatives have in the UFT.
Only in the twisted world of Unity Caucus can an officer totally fail to make any improvements for the rank and file and obtain a promotion.
In 2014, then NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi and the other NYSUT officers, except Pallotta, took a bold step to buck the UFT/Unity leadership to move NYSUT in a more adversarial direction against anti-public education, anti-worker Governor Andrew Cuomo. It cost Ianuzzi and his team their jobs as Pallotta backed by UFT President Mulgrew led the breakaway movement to unseat Iannuzzi's team.
Iannuzzi led the Stronger Together Caucus and ran to keep his job without UFT and other big city local support. The UFT/Unity machine backed Karen Magee who was elected NYSUT President with around 61% of the statewide vote. Her margin of victory was secured through unanimous UFT support as our union's Delegates to NYSUT do what Mulgrew tells them to do. Since 2014, NYSUT has continued in its free-fall under Magee and her team which of course includes Pallotta. In 2017 Magee has either been dumped by Unity or has had enough. Pallotta and Mulgrew no longer even want to put a fig-leaf to cover over the reality that the Unity/UFT leaders control NYSUT.
Stronger Together in 2017 is running against the state Unity Caucus again. ST announced their top four officer slate recently. Although I strongly disagree with ST not running anyone from New York City for any position, Mike Lillis as a candidate for President is clearly superior to any alternative backed by the UFT/Unity leadership. Lillis is the President of the Lakeland Federation of Teachers.
Not that my support means much even though more NYC high school teachers voted for opposition MORE/NEW ACTION than Unity in last year's UFT election so I should be the High School Vice President as that is the position I ran for. However, Unity has rigged the electoral system so I am not the High School VP and the majority of high school teachers who participated in last year's UFT election are totally disenfranchised in the NYSUT election.
No self respecting teacher should ever vote Unity. On Facebook in the comments to a ST post promoting their top slate, Lesa Aloan Wilbert explains the problems we have in the UFT, NYSUT and AFT in a few lines when referring to last year's NYSUT Representative Assembly. Every public school teacher in the USA should read this.
I'm not happy that ST didn't agree to support any of us UFT dissidents for NYSUT office, particularly since some of us joined ST when it formed back in 2014. Arthur Goldstein (Chapter Leader Francis Lewis High School in Queens) ran for Executive VP back then against Pallotta. It is true we did not meet the deadline ST set up for applying for officer positions for 2017 but we asked about the Board of Directors and were rebuffed there too based on the fact that ST wants reforms that would eliminate certain positions. I think their move can be construed as anti-NYC teacher. ST also threatened my friend Mike Schirtzer from MORE who sits on ST's Executive Committee representing NYC. ST needs to reopen a dialogue to mend fences with NYC opposition members for sure.
On the other hand, another Unity shill Andy Pallotta as NYSUT President does not help our cause. His failures do not merit a promotion. It is of primary importance that it be a pro-union group that punches a hole in the Unity machine. ST/Lillis are better than Mulgrew/Pallotta/Unity on teacher evaluations and many other issues impacting members.
ST wants to repeal most of the onerous parts of the Education Transformation Act of 2015 which set up the current teacher evaluation system. ST opposes it taking at least four years on probation for a teacher to be tenured. ST is against receivership where the state takes over so called failing schools and can easily get rid of the teachers and other staff. ST is also in favor of opting out of standardized tests while Mulgrew calls opt out dangerous. ST is no friend of Andrew Cuomo while Mulgrew and Pallotta give him a wink and a nod at best.
ST clearly has superior positions over Unity. That is more important than any personal disagreements we may have with ST leaders over how decisions on candidates were made or controversy over top-down vs. bottom-up unionism which is an important theoretical discussion to have but not that critical right now when the union movement itself is in so much peril.
I believe Mike Lillis/ST are a better choice at NYSUT than anyone who Unity Caucus runs. I'll be backing ST and offering them my assistance if they want it. Since the giant UFT contingent will all vote as they're told for Pallotta at the NYSUT Representative Assembly in April and other large locals are in the pocket of the UFT leadership, this will be a very difficult race for Lillis to win. It is extremely expensive for many of his potential supporters from small locals upstate to travel to NYC and stay at a high priced hotel just to have the right to vote in this election. The UFT membership pays the expenses for our bought and paid for Delegates to do as they're told by Mulgrew. Considering what they'are up against, I am under no illusions that ST will have it easy. Let's hope ST can unite a strong opposition to Unity/Pallotta.
*The views expressed here are my views only and have not been approved by the Independent Community of Educators (ICE), MORE, New Action or anyone else.