Tuesday, August 22, 2017

UFT PRESS RELEASE OMITS UFT ROLE IN CREATION OF ATR POOL

This morning there was a surprise in the inbox as Jeff Kaufman sent out the UFT Q & A Press Release on the Absent Teacher Reserves. The UFT denies their role in making the ATR mess.

Here is the offending paragraph in the August 21 UFT press release:

How did the ATR pool come to be?
The ATR pool — a reserve pool of teachers working as substitutes but without permanent assignments — was a personnel policy devised by the Bloomberg administration that was poorly designed and never effectively implemented, particularly after the pool expanded in the wake of school closings during the Bloomberg years. As the school-closing mania has receded, the size of the pool has diminished.

Talk about revisionist history. The UFT can conveniently leave out its own role in the creation of the ATR pool but the facts show otherwise. The UFT is as responsible as former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and then Chancellor Joel Klein for the establishment of the ATR pool. The UFT agreed to it and put it into the contract in 2005. That is a fact. The UFT has developed a case of 2005 contract amnesia. It's one of those psychological situations where the mind can block out traumatic events or maybe they just want the membership to forget about their part in this debacle.

A quick fact check shows that prior to the 2005 contract - the contract that did so much to ruin teaching in New York City - when schools closed members were given preferred placement in assignment to new schools and there was a wide range of transfer opportunities available for senior teachers as well as teachers in excess due to downsizing of programs. There were many escape valves for teachers and no need to languish in an ATR pool as a substitute teacher.

Back in July of this year, this blog reported in great detail what our pre-2005 contract transfer options were.

We described how both the seniority and School Based Option transfer plans worked:

Article 18A of the 1995-2000 contract and the 2000-2003 contract (that lasted until 2005) based transfers solely on the basis of seniority. A teacher picked up to six schools and was given the first one where he/she had the most seniority among applicants.

Article 18A9 said this:

In the case of teachers indicating the same choice of school, preference shall be given to the teacher with the greatest seniority.

Could you even conceive of that being in the contract in 2017?

Teachers could reject schools, not principals. The penalty for teachers rejecting a transfer was not being able to use the seniority plan the following year.

There were real restrictions that limited movement with the seniority system. Only five percent of the teachers were permitted to transfer out of a school using this plan. In addition, schools only listed half of their vacancies. The point was to give senior teachers an escape route from difficult settings, like if a crazy principal took over or a chance to be closer to home. Now, teachers are trapped for the most part and principals don't want veterans because of the added cost on their budgets which in those days was not a problem.

If the seniority transfer system was not to a teacher's liking, there was the SBO transfer and staffing plan added to the contract in 1995. Personnel Committees were set up to fill vacancies in schools. Schools had to opt in to this system by 75% of UFT staff (55% after 2002) voting for a School Based Option that the principal and chapter leader signed off on. Contract Article 18F defined the SBO personnel committees:

The personnel committees shall be comprised of school staff members, the UFT chapter leader, the head of the school, and parents selected by the school's parent association. Where appropriate, others should be invited to participate. The majoirty of the members of the personnel committees shall be teachers selected by the UFT chapter.

Personnel committees with a majority of teachers hired staff just twelve short years ago!


Then there is this gem later in Article 18F:

The personnel committee will select the most experienced qualified applicant of those candidates who apply for vacancies advertised under the transfer component of the SBO transfer and staffing plan. 

There were exceptions for less senior applicants with "extraordinary qualifications". The same personnel committee with a teacher majority hired new UFT staff in SBO schools as well.


If an applicant felt he/she was rejected wrongfully by the personnel committee, there was an expedited grievance procedure that went to an arbitrator. This process was fair by accounts I have heard.

Those were the options for changing schools before 2005. In addition, there were transfers to further integration and hardship transfers for travel which were basically automatic if a teacher had to travel more than 90 minutes by public transportation to get to work.

The point of our July post was to say we had many options to move to a different school but the Union, not Joel Klein or Mayor Bloomberg, gave them away in 2005.

This blog also explained the history of  how educators from closing schools were given the widest placement choices before the UFT 2005 contract. This is what we wrote in April 2014 in our proposal to end the ATR pool.

The best way to get the ATRs back in the classroom this fall would be to make hiring decisions for people from closing schools (and other ATRs) in a similar manner to the way it was done before the horrific 2005 contract.  Back then teachers were given placement choices within the widest range possible by the Board of Education if a school was closed or reorganized (old Contractual Article 18G).  Senior teachers were not seen as ogres who caused schools to shut down in those days.

A teacher was given a wish-list of six schools and then was sent to one of them. Since some principals are reluctant to take veteran teachers in the current educational climate because we may talk too much, there would have to be a deal reached to influence some of them to accept ATRs.

The DOE should give ATRs the six school wish-list but instead of sticking ATRs on principals and making them pay on the school budget, the DOE should pay for ATRs centrally for their entire salary for as long as necessary (maybe up to a decade) when an ATR is placed in a school. A principal would not be charged a dime from the school's budget.  There would be no extra charge for the city taxpayers either as it's just a matter of paying for people on a central budget-line as opposed to a school budget-line.  Any subsequent downsizing caused by budget cuts or declining enrollments would be neutralized by this real subsidy. ATR's could be used to lower class sizes and guidance caseloads, a not so novel idea.

Under this plan, no ATR who had an ounce of sense would apply for a school that had a vicious anti-teacher principal unless they didn't do homework on schools.  (Yes I know principal turnover is high but at least ATRs could start out at places where they want to be.)

Our proposal would eliminate the ATR pool in about a day.

For those who think the ATRs should be given a time limit to find a new job, we dealt with that issue on this blog in detail too in that 2014 posting. A time limit for ATRs has been settled at fact-finding arbitration and the city lost:

The UFT contract has gone to non-binding fact finding arbitration as per state law on four occasions including now.  One such arbitration panel proposed a settlement for the 2005 contract that the UFT for some inexplicable reason agreed was reasonable. 

The 2005 arbitrators gave the city much of what it wanted including a longer school day, a longer school year, the end of a UFT member's right to file a grievance on a disciplinary letter for file based on its fairness or accuracy, the return of teachers to involuntary cafeteria and hall duty, weaker due process, an end to seniority and school based option transfers, an end to preferred placement for UFT members if a school was closed, an end to guaranteed placement if someone was placed in excess and more givebacks. 

However after just about conceding the entire store to the city, the arbitrators specifically rejected the city's proposal to have a time limit for people placed in excess to find a new job or be terminated.  Here is the actual language from 2005:

"Fourth, the City/DOE has recommended that an excessed teacher who does not find a new position within 18 months of being excessed be terminated from the system.  We specifically reject this proposal." (page 45; 2005 Fact Finding Report, bold added by me)

Since the Chancellor at the time, Joel Klein, believed that principals should be the sole judges as to who works in their schools, preferred placement for people from closing schools, a part of the previous contract, was ended and instead people in excess had to spruce up their resumes and look for a job.  If they were not successful, they became Absent Teacher Reserves.

ATR status is an indignity that to my knowledge is exclusive to educators.  It is only UFT members and assistant principals among public employees in New York State that have to pound the pavement to find a new job after their place of work closes or is downsized.

When firehouses close, do the firefighters have to knock on other fire house doors to find a new position?

When there are corruption problems and the NYPD cleans out entire precincts, do the clean cops, who just happened to work where there were major issues, have to go to other captains with their resumes to find a job?

It is only the educators. 

In 2006 Joel Klein took a second bite at the firing the ATRs apple in contract negotiations.  This time Klein and the UFT agreed to a voluntary buyout proposal for ATRs but he never offered much of a buyout so it never happened. The 2014 and 2017 buyouts weren't very appealing either.)

Then, former Mayor Bloomberg knew he wouldn't get anywhere at the bargaining table, as the issue was resolved twice in contract negotiations, so he tried to go to Albany in 2011 to change civil service law since New York State law uses reverse seniority for layoffs and time limits for ATRs would violate the law.  At that time Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver refused to allow a bill to change reverse seniority layoffs for NYC teachers to come to the Assembly floor. It was dead on arrival.  That's three failed bites at the firing the excessed teachers apple for the city.

What has changed since then? If anything, the political tide has moved more in labor's favor with the election of a more union friendly mayor. 

In addition, it must be pointed out how even though UFT leaders might not be the greatest union officials on the planet, they are not stupid.  In Chicago and DC where teacher unions agreed to put a time limit on teachers to find a job after a school was closed or downsized, those union leaders ended up being defeated in subsequent elections.

The Murdoch publications (Wall Street Journal-NY Post), the Daily News, Chalkbeat, Campbell Brown, and all of the astro-turf organizations that hate public schools and unions can waste another ton of paper and lots of internet bandwidth saying how we need to fire teachers who can't get a principal to agree to hire them but can anyone see any circumstances where teachers would ever agree to such conditions?

Seniority rights are a basic union principle.  If the DOE wants to terminate a tenured teacher, they have to go through the legally mandated 3020A process, which still exists although it certainly is weaker under the new teacher evaluation law.

The only question that should be on the table now is how to get the ATRs back in the classroom.

As most readers of this blog know, I come from Jamaica High School: a closing school.  My anecdotal numbers on ATR hiring are mostly based on Jamaica and also come from friends from other closing schools.

I only know of about four or five teachers who were hired permanently from the ATR pool in the last couple of years.  Everyone else found a provisional position to cover a vacancy/replace someone who went on a leave or they were not hired. A few of the provisional hires were kept but many were not and are back in the ATR pool.  I know of no senior ATRS with over 20 years in the system, whose schools were closed, who have found a permanent job in another school. (This paragraph could be revised a little by 2017 but basically it still holds up.)

Principals were offered generous subsidies to accept ATRs permanently (they only had to pay half of a beginning teacher salary for eight years from their budgets) in a 2008 ATR Agreement between the DOE and UFT but it did not eliminate the ATR pool. I do not agree that if they change funding to go back to charging principals an average of all of a district's teachers that it will eliminate the ATR pool as some people are hoping. The 2008 subsidies didn't work because many principals do not want too many senior people in their schools, regardless of cost.

If a principal were to hire someone like me with twenty-eight years experience, I would take my rightful place on the school's seniority list and probably be one of the senior people in that school in the Social Studies Department.  If that school then was downsized due to decreased enrollments or there was a budget cut (always a possibility), the Principal would be stuck with me and have to place into excess a newer teacher.  I understand why principals would want to protect their junior people who will more than likely not be tenured and can be made to do whatever administration wants (for example pass every student) as opposed to someone like me who might have some problems with that.

Senior educators who can retire within a few years provide a good check on excessive administrator behavior and should be seen as valuable integrity people who can blow the whistle on wrongdoing without fear of reprisal.  I understand how we could be seen as dangerous to certain principals who want to play with statistics to make themselves look good. Schools will need substantial incentives to hire educators who could be seen as a threat to principal power over their fiefdoms  schools.

Just as Winston Churchill once said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others, seniority is the worst method to base hiring/layoff decisions except for all the others.  We have no meritocracy in the school system so basing hiring/firing solely on administrator judgment would not improve education.  On the contrary, it would make it worse as nobody would be able to speak out against terrible practices for fear of losing their paycheck. 

It would complete the bridge to the 19th Century that those who wish to privatize education want. Back then, hiring and firing was based on patronage in public service.  Anyone who thinks that a better system would emerge should read up on government jobs before the 1883 PendletonAct was passed to find out how politics intruding on hiring in the public sector is a bad idea.


It makes me so frustrated that this bogus ATR issue is not solved as of 2017 when ATRs could easily be placed back in schools of their own choosing in about a day or two. Instead of listening to us, the Board of Ed and Union have negotiated two new ATR Agreements and a few months ago the Board hired yet another high priced bureaucrat to reduce the ATR pool.

As for the UFT's role in creating the ATR disaster, there are six words they need to utter to us all:

We were wrong and we're sorry.

Saying those simple words would go a long way toward building some confidence back in the Union from people who were thrown into the ATR pool. However, the UFT would rather keep suffering from selective amnesia about their role in creating the ATR pool and hoping we will too.

This blog will not forget.

RENTS IN NYC WAY UP SINCE 2010

Do you want to know why it is inexcusable for a union to agree to a nine year contract? Check out the increase in rents in NYC. This is from an August 16th story from DNA Info.

MANHATTAN— Yes, New York City is way less affordable now than seven years ago.
Case in point: An apartment going for $2,000 a month for rent in 2010 would now get $2,657 a month, a report published Wednesday from real estate search engine StreetEasy reveals.

Compounding the city’s affordability crisis: rents in the city rose twice as fast as wages, according to the analysis, which compared the StreetEasy Rent Index with wage data from the city’s Department of Labor.

While median rents increased 3.9 percent a year since 2010, wages increased by 1.8 percent over the same period.

Inflation eats away at raises. This is why to set a pattern of 10% total over 7 years and one month for city workers, as the UFT did in 2014, was a terrible deal. Put in the higher copays for medical care and we are worse off in the end under President Michael Mulgrew, even with a relatively low inflation rate. Also, remember that the 4%+4% salary increases that other city unions received from 2008-2010 we are only getting paid back for piecemeal through 2020. Much of the money will be coming back to us long after our interminable nine year contract expires at the end of November 2018. As each New York City area economics news story comes out, it becomes ever more clear that the 2014 UFT contract was, is and always will be financially underwhelming for us. Add in the lack of any taking back any of the teaching condition givebacks of 2005 and we will return to school in not so great shape.

On the other hand for those who want to look at the bright side, on October 15 we can finally spend 12.5% of the money that we have been owed since 2009. Our interest free loan to the city will be paid back to all of us who survive in the system or retire in installments in October of 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. Also, have a good time spending that $250 in Teacher's Choice money this year. (remember to save receipts.)

Monday, August 21, 2017

TWU LOCAL 100 BLASTS DE BLASIO IN ADS

I sometimes compare Transit Workers Local 100 to the UFT because TWU Local 100 still operates as a labor union, for the most part, defending its members and holding the powerful accountable. The UFT, on the other hand, has become a weak appendage of the often discredited Democratic Party.

UFT usually tells members and chapters under attack to fight behind the scenes instead of out in public since the Union wouldn't want to embarrass the mayor or chancellor. As a result, we are so weak now as people in schools see their friends who've been harassed transfer instead of being able to stand up to powerful administrators.

TWU has put some money where their mouths are with a series of ads blasting the mayor. The piece below is taken right from their website. Notice the direct attack on the mayor.

Could the UFT start a similar campaign to try to get education funds sent to the classroom? You better believe we could.

The NYC-MTA Funding Dispute: Why is Local 100 in this Fight?
In the 1990s, the MTA agreed to take over the job of providing specialized transportation for New York City's disabled and senior citizens who have difficulty walking. It took on this burden at the request of NYC government. Since then, the demand for paratransit service, known as Access-A-Ride, has soared.

Similarly, the MTA provides massive subsidies for student transportation in the city. It gives the city Department of Education valuable student MetroCards for school kids to ride buses and subway trains specifically to get to class and then back home. Essentially, the MTA acts as a complex yellow school bus apparatus on behalf of New York City.
These two programs are clearly outside the core mission of the MTA, yet the money to cover the cost comes right out of the MTA's Operating and Maintenance Budget. Providing these services to NYC residents is undeniably the responsibility of NYC government. But City Hall only reimburses the MTA for a small percentage of the costs to provide these necessary services to its residents. It is de Blasio's obligation, but transit riders and transit workers are getting stuck footing the bill. 
Not reimbursing the MTA for these services, which NYC asked to be provided, is the equivalent of hiring a contractor to perform work for you - and then refusing to pay for it.
There's a name to describe this. It's called theft of service. And right now, the de Blasio administration is stiffing the MTA for more than $530 million a year by refusing to pay up for services that NYC has requested.
That's more than $530 million that annually could be used to help pay for real solutions to the subway crisis, which would improve the riders' experience - and our work lives. 
TWU International President Samuelsen explains how de Blasio is pulling money out of the MTA Operating and Maintenance Budget in this CBS news story by Marcia Kramer: (just click on the image to get to the story).
IB Image

Sunday, August 20, 2017

WHO DO WE BACK TO PRIMARY CUOMO?

The left of the Democratic Party is not happy with Andrew Cuomo. The new "Bernie Sanders lite" version of our governor might be fooling some but not us. Zephyr Teachout's grassroots campaign against Cuomo netted 34% of the primary vote back in 2014 . It looks like some notable challengers are ready to primary the governor as he seeks a third term in 2018. Smart money says the governor will use 2018 to help launch a likely presidential run in 2020. That thought is just so repulsive.

Two of the potential 2018 primary challengers appear to be possible heavyweights who could make this contest truly competitive. If voters can throw out the governor and shut down his presidential bid before it starts, that would be two victories for teachers in one shot. Remember how Cuomo ran against us in 2010; backed charter schools and called public schools a monopoly he wants to bust. He pushed through the Legislature the Education Transformation Act of 2015 that truly hurts us and has denied public schools proper funding throughout his seven years as governor.

 Actress Cynthia Nixon has the name recognition, probably has some money and has sent her kids to the public schools that she supports. Her youngest is in Kindergarten. This is from Diane Ravitch's blog:

The story has circulated in the media that megastar Cynthia Nixon may run against Andrew Cuomo for governor. You may have seen her on television or on Broadway, but what you don’t know if that she is a public school parent in New York City and cares deeply about public education.

In this article, she explains that New York City public schools have been denied funding that was promised by the courts. She also explains that Andrew Cuomo is no friend of public education. He is a cheerleader for the charter industry, whose wealthy patrons have underwritten his past campaigns.

Nixon knows more about education that any other candidate who will be on the ballot in 2018 in New York state. 

Now if Nixon is not to your liking, Councilman Jumaane Williams from Brooklyn is also considering primarying Cuomo.

This is from the Daily News:

He (Williams) ripped Cuomo for the MTA mass transit crisis, accused him of “emboldening a Republican state Senate majority” by not doing enough to reunify fractured Senate Democrats, and knocked his support for charter schools and big-money hedge fund donors.

Charles Galbreath, senior Pastor of Clarendon Road Church in East Flatbush, said the minority community is looking for someone “who can step up and speak for our community.”

“I think he’s someone who has the ear of the people and a lot of people who are dissatisfied with what’s taking place in Albany currently,” Galbreath said of Williams.

The Daily News reports that there are two others possible Cuomo challengers. They are Mayor Stephanie Miner of Syracuse and former Hudson Valley State Senator Terry Gipson. Miner started out as a labor lawyer so that's a plus. We need to examine her record before saying more.

Hopefully, the left can come together and stick with one serious challenger to knock Cuomo off.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

ICEBLOG RATES YESTERDAY'S PRESS REPORTS ON ATRS

I am so sick and tired of the clearly biased press attacks on teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool. There are current articles in each of New York City's daily print publications and yet another in the anti-public school, pro-charter school Chalkbeat.org. We read all four of them so you don't have to. We'll link to them if you really are a glutton for punishment.

We rated the articles based on the information they provided and also how well they give the ATR's side. In other words, are they objective? The ICEBLOG believes, as British folk rocker Billy Bragg said many years ago in It Says Here, "There are two sides to every story."

Here are some statistics on the ATR pool we learn from Friday's press reports:
  • There were 822 teachers assigned to the pool as of the end of the school year in June. We do not know if provisional teachers who had an assignment for a term or all of last school year but were not hired permanently were part of that calculation.
  • 25% were in the ATR pool for at least five years.
  • The vast majority of the ATR teachers are there because of school closing or program downsizing.
  • More ATRs are rated ineffective or unsatisfactory compared to other teachers. 
  • ATRs are more experienced compared to the average teacher and ATRs are paid much more than than new teachers.
  • Almost half of ATRs come from high schools. 
The Times' Kate Taylor in her story quotes two principals, a DOE, a former administrator who now heads a artificial turf education organization, a retired principal, the head of another artificial turf education organization, UFT President Michael Mulgrew and finally an ATR gets a one sentence quote on the unfairness of the ratings of ATRs.

This pathetic piece of clearly biased reporting gets a grade of D on the ICEBLOG objective journalism barometer. I have taught introductory journalism courses for three terms so I know a little about trying to look for objectivity.

As for the Daily News, our old friend Ben Chapman highlights the spotty records of the ATRs in his totally one sided piece. He quotes the Department of Education administrator in charge of the ATRs, Randy Asher, and some artificial turf organization head. No teacher or UFT leader even gets a hint of  a quote from Ben. 

The Daily News gets an F- on the ICEBLOG objectivity scale. It is a totally biased piece quoting only school administration and a public school critic but not bothering to quote a teacher. I'll try to be fair and say Ben might have tried but the editor could have edited it out.

Now off to Chalkbeat.org, otherwise known as Charterschools.org because of their pro charter slant on all things education. Christina Veiga is the not so intrepid journalist here. Christina cites a whole load of data and quotes DOE's Randy Asher and the leader of an artificial turf pro-charter schools group.

She takes a dig at the ATRs by saying:

Almost half the educators who are currently in the pool were also there two years ago. A quarter were in the ATR five years ago. That doesn’t mean that teachers have remained in the ATR for that entire time. They could have been hired for a time, and returned to the pool.

Still, the figures could be fuel for those who argue educators in the ATR either aren’t seriously looking for permanent jobs — or that the educators in the pool are simply undesirable hires.

ATRs won't bark on command and pass students who don't deserve to pass because we are veterans. We must be bad teachers.

Veiga goes on by saying:

Teachers in the ATR have argued that their higher salaries are one reason principals avoid hiring them — a concern that principals voiced in a recent Chalkbeat report.

“This is part of the injustice of the ATR placement,” said Scott Conti, principal of New Design High School in Manhattan. “Schools might not want them and they will cost schools more in the future, taking away from other budget priorities.”

Under the policy announced Friday, the education department will subsidize the cost of ATRs who are permanently hired, paying 50 percent of their salaries next school year and 25 percent the following school year. 

If you want to know the certification areas of ATRs, we learn from Veiga:

The largest share of teachers in the ATR — 27 percent — are licensed to teach in early childhood or elementary school grades. Another 11 percent are licensed social studies teachers, 9 percent are math teachers and 8 percent are English teachers. 

Veiga does say something on behalf of the ATRs in terms of ratings when she writes:

Some teachers in the ATR say evaluations can be unfair since teachers are often placed in classrooms outside of the subjects they are equipped to teach and because they are bounced between classrooms.

It is not quite a quote from an ATR but it is as close as we are likely to get from Charterschools.org. In the end, there is a principal, a DOE administrator and an artificial turf organization leader that are quoted.

Chalkbeat gets about a D+ on the ICEBLOG objective journalism scale because while their bias is clear, they do provide a great deal of information, some of which we can use to argue for the ATRs point of view.

Finally, we go to the NY Post. There is actually a fairly balanced piece done by Selim Algar. He starts off with the usual criticism of the ATRs and then he finds another artificial turf organization leader to quote but identifies the organization as a "pro charter group." This person says it's too hard to fire teachers because of UFT power Yawn, yawn, yawn and not true. Funny how they don't have to back up a statement with data but teachers have to.

Algar then surprisingly gives a real life ATR a chance to make the case for the teachers.

But others counter that most ATR teachers were not out-and-out fired for misconduct and deserved another shot inside a classroom if eventually cleared.

“A principal can get rid of a teacher because of a personal vendetta that has nothing to do with their performance,” a current ATR teacher told The Post.

"A lot of us are older teachers who just cost too much, and we get let go because of it. They want to tar us all and it's just not the reality of the situation."

The last person the Post quotes is UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

I give the Post a grade of B on the ICEBLOG objective journalism scale. I would like to see our side up higher in the piece and the emphasis a little different but that is probably the editors more than the writer. 

Kate Taylor, Ben Chapman, Christina Veiga, and Selim Algar my name is James Eterno. Ben knows me. I taught for 28 years at Jamaica High School and I was placed in excess when the school was unfairly closed based on data that Arthur Goldstein and I showed was faulty and we were never refuted by the DOE. I was relegated to the ATR pool and made the best of a difficult three months in 2014 when I had to rotate to different schools. How did Epoch Times manage to find ATR Francesco Portelos and me but the education reporters from three major publications and a pro-charter school website cannot find a group of ATRs to speak to you on or off the record that you can cite in your articles? Hard to believe.

I will be happy to talk to any of you about my experiences and I represent a huge group of teachers. The majority of New York City Public High School teachers who voted, choose me to be their Vice President in the 2016 UFT election. I'm not in office only because UFT election rules allow people from elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, non teachers and UFT retirees to all vote for the High School Vice President. I'm fairly confident saying I represent more real people than any of the artificial turf organizations you quote so often. My email address is right on this blog.

I saw ATRs unfairly being given poor ratings as they passed through Jamaica High School in 2013-14 as they were covering classes for a day and were cited for not having enough engagement with the students they didn't even know. I witnessed almost all of the teachers from our so called "school being closed for poor performance" get rated ineffective or developing in 2014 and then we miraculously all became satisfactory or effective teachers the next year when we were in different schools. I can say for sure my confidence in my ability to teach was shaken when I was a rotating ATR and when I first became a provisional teacher.

I have seen ATRs come and go at Middle College High School, where I was a provisional teacher for over two years and finally was appointed permanently at no cost to the school in January. One time a friend and I worked to help an ATR develop an ideal lesson and then the ATR was trashed by the ATR supervisor who must have been having a bad day. The regular teacher taught a similar lesson days earlier and was praised by the administration in our successful school.

How can a supervisor with a conscience rate ATRs unsatisfactory when ATRs might not even know the subject they are teaching and they certainly don't know the kids who are sitting in front of them or the school that they are just passing through for a month? It's not too difficult for even a weak UFT to defend these ATRs.

Education journalism today is about getting quotes from so called experts who know nothing about the classroom and ignoring the views of teachers. NYC Educator says he knows Charterbeat talked to an ATR for an hour? No quote however. What's wrong with this picture? Oh right, teachers don't contribute big money to privatize education and bust unions. Money talks. I won't hold my breath waiting for a call or an email and then a long quote.

Oh and where is the UFT's own publication, the New York Teacher to defend the ATRs?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

EDUCATION NEXT POLL FINDS PLUMMETING PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS & PLURALITY AGAINST AGENCY FEES

There's good news and not so good news in an annual survey of Americans done by Education Next.

On the positive side of the poll, we see that support for charter schools has fallen from 51 percent approval in the 2016 survey down to 39 percent in 2017. That is a steep 12 percent fall for charters.




On the issue of teacher unions, it is a mixed bag with teachers supporting their unions by an overwhelming 64-22 percent margin but we are divided on whether or not we should be compelled to pay  union dues.

This is right from Education Next:

Teachers unions and agency fees
Members of the public are evenly divided in their thinking about the influence of teachers unions: 37% say they have “a generally positive effect on schools,” while 37% say they have “a generally negative effect.” Meanwhile, teachers overwhelmingly have favorable views of the unions that represent them, with 64% reporting that unions have a positive effect and just 22% reporting the opposite. Predictably, Democrats and Republicans diverge, with 50% of the former and just 23% of the latter saying that unions have a positive effect on schools.

Quite apart from public attitudes, a key to union success in many states is their ability to collect “agency fees” directly from teachers’ paychecks, whether or not the teachers belong to the union. Unions argue that such fees cover the costs of collective bargaining and therefore benefit all teachers, whether or not they are union members. Opponents of agency fees say they violate teachers’ free-speech rights by exacting money from them even if they don’t support a union presence. Agency fees are collected in 21 states, but the practice could be doomed by a U.S. Supreme Court that may be inclined to prohibit these payments. The court appeared to be on the verge of such a decision in 2016, but Justice Antonin Scalia’s death instead led to a 4–4 deadlock, leaving a pro-union lower-court decision intact. With new challenges to agency fees now making their way through the federal court system, and a new, conservative justice on the high court, the issue could be ripe for a definitive resolution.


What does the public think of agency fees? Forty-four percent of respondents oppose the practice of requiring teachers to pay fees to unions they choose not to join, while just 37% support the practice, much the same as a year ago. More surprising, perhaps, is the fact that teachers themselves are also more likely to oppose agency fees than to support them, by a narrow 47%–44% margin. Despite holding positive views of union influence, then, many teachers apparently think that they should be able to decide whether or not to contribute money to support union activities at the bargaining table.

Try and go figure that result. We want a union to protect us but we are split about paying for it. Strange results indeed. The unions across the country have a big education and organizing role to play before the Supreme Court rules most probably to take automatic dues checkoff  from public sector unions, thus starving them of funds.

My guess is that many of the people who comment on this blog are going to decline to pay their union dues if given the chance. You think we're weak now? You ain't seen nothing yet.

We need a union. Maybe not this one; but we have to have a union to represent us collectively. Running a union costs money.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

UFT FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT AGAINST CHARTER SCHOOL ABUSES BUT WHERE IS UFT PRESS STATEMENT CONDEMNING ABUSE OF PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS?

Like everyone else, I was not happy to read the hedge fund billionaire-Andrew Cuomo supporter and head of the Eva Moskowitz Success Academy Board compare the teacher unions to the KKK. However, I was pleased to see our Union respond forcefully.

This is from Gothamist:

 Cuomo/IDC donor Daniel Loeb, who was already in trouble after comparing state Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to a Klan member last week, has found another group of non-KKK members to compare to the Klu Klux Klan: teacher's unions.

Someone who has probably been unfriended by Loeb by now sent Dealbreaker a screenshot of a comment left by the Success Academy executive and hedge fun manager/Cuomo-IDC donor in which he dragged out what appears to be his favorite metaphor.

In the 2016 comment, Loeb wrote that teachers unions were "the biggest single force standing in the way of quality education and an organization that has done more to perpetuate poverty and discrimination against people of color than the KKK."

"Dan Loeb has a history of making disgusting and racist comments - usually to deflect attention from his own actions and that of his hedge fund pals to destabilize and privatize public schools and make a profit off of students," United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew told Gothamist in a statement.

Great comment President Mulgrew. I stand with you 100% on this one.

I also saw in the NY Teacher where the UFT is strongly against the instant certification for charter school teachers.

Good job UFT.

Finally, the UFT is out there in public defending the majority of the staff of a charter school who were terminated. This is from NY Teacher:

The UFT is seeking an injunction from the National Labor Relations Board against the Charter HS for Law and Social Justice in the Bronx after the school fired 11 of its 15 UFT-represented employees, including the entire UFT bargaining committee, in the middle of negotiations for a first contract.

“The administration’s actions are a lesson in hypocrisy,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “A school that claims to teach law and social justice summarily fires most of its teachers because they had the nerve to advocate for their kids and for their own rights as employees.”

Bravo President Mulgrew!

Now why can't the President say something out loud about his members in the public schools who are under attack from abusive principals?

How many public school teachers were discontinued this year unfairly? Some were not even rated Ineffective. Where is the Union President to say something?

Where are the NY Teacher articles defending beleaguered teachers in the public schools?

How about a big  NY Teacher piece to lift the morale of the Absent Teacher Reserves by countering the misinformation we read in the press?

Perhaps a major feature will be in our Union's newspaper exposing the lack of competitive bidding at the Department of Education instead of it being left to others to publicize?

Am I the only one who sees something wrong with our Union President's public silence regarding those of us in the public schools who most need his help?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

IS TRUMP IRONICALLY SLOWING EDUCATION PRIVATIZATION?

Donald Trump's election looked like a disaster for the public schools but we're through the majority of year one of the Trump administration, and public schools are still standing and the charter sector is on the run.

Democrats who want to privatize education can no longer hide behind President Barack Obama and former Education Secretary Arne Duncan when they want to defend awful policy to promote charters and de-fund public education. Now they're stuck with Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as their standard bearers.

Read this from Politico:

Democrats for Education Reform president Shavar Jeffries resigned from the Success Academy board of directors earlier this summer, POLITICO has learned, the latest sign of how Donald Trump’s presidency is dividing the national school choice movement.

Jeffries, one of the charter school sector's most prominent black leaders, has emerged as its most vocal critic of Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. That's put him on a collision course with Success CEO Eva Moskowitz, who has made a point of defending both the president and DeVos. 

Mind you, I am not regretting my vote against Trump as he is attempting to fill the federal judiciary with extreme right wing judges who are not going to be labor or public employee union friendly. I don't think it helps workers either when the Republicans control the federal bureaucracy.  Throw in the war mongering, incompetence and just plain insanity and these are not great days but on education reform, Trump and DeVos may be the best weapon to divide the anti-public school movement and slow it down.

Charters may no longer be cool. They are worried that the truth is catching up to them that they are not public schools trying to provide opportunities for minority children. They are union busters pure and simple looking to make a fortune from education money.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

UNION POWER 101 QUIZ

Instructions: Choose the best answer to the following question:

QUESTION: What gives a union its power?

ANSWER CHOICES

a) A strong union president who can talk the talk.

b) A rank and file that makes strong demands.

c) A union with a robust top-down bureaucracy that knows how to provide services such as dental/optical benefits and handle grievances for its members thus providing confidence in the union.

d) An organized rank and file willing to use any peaceful means available, including the threat of a strike and then striking if necessary (even if it's illegal) for as long it takes, to get better working conditions.

e) Choices (a), (b) and (c).

It seems that many of the people who comment on this blog think the answer is choice (e). If we just ask for it and have our president go in and use his/her negotiating skills, then we can have anything we want. Add to this that we can use the union as a kind of insurance company to take care of us so the rank and file doesn't need to do anything more than pay our union dues. That is the union we have; it's called the United Federation of Teachers. (Well, choice (a) is debatable but let's give President Mulgrew the benefit of the doubt and say he wants what's best for all of us. Ask yourself: Could the best union leader in the world do a thing if the rank and file is not willing to do anything?)

I want you to show me examples from history where a union that has components (a), (b), and (c) but doesn't have an engaged rank and file willing to collectively fight, but the union still wins contracts that make the rank and file truly proud.

Union power comes from us ladies and gentlemen. It's as simple as that. Union leaders can inspire the rank and file to action but in the end it's up to the membership.

Organizing 75,000 teachers and around 35,000 other UFT Board of Education employees to work for each other is not an easy task.The current UFT leadership from Unity Caucus can't or won't even try to organize us for real action. They are there to protect the institution of the union as a primary goal. It provides them with a pretty good living.

As long as the collective rank and file does nothing more than complain on the internet or in the teacher's rooms, then nothing of any substance, and I do mean nothing, will improve in the schools. Mayor Bloomberg challenged us in 2005 and won. We have yet to recover.

By being a divided and passive rank and file, we are, as Unity leadership tells us, lucky we have a job with decent pay and benefits. Even the best of leaders can only do so much.

The correct answer is choice (d).

Saturday, August 12, 2017

ICE BLOG ADDS SUPPORT FOR TEACHER RICHARD SEVERIN

I'm a little late to the party here as NYC Educator and Chaz both had excellent pieces on the firing of teacher Richard Severin. Here is a main part of the NY Post  story on Severin:

A former city teacher who objected to a “gender bender” day for students at a Brooklyn high school last year ended up without a job, The Post has learned.

Veteran social studies teacher Richard Severin opposed an April 2016 “spirit day” event at Urban Action Academy in Canarsie when students dressed up as the opposite sex, according to papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.

“This is a disgrace,” Severin allegedly said at the time. “This isn’t right.”

Students said Severin also cursed principal Steven Dorcely for condoning the activity while denying permission to take a class to Malcolm X’s grave site, court papers say.

But Severin believes the accusations were part of a plot by Dorcely to have him canned after he accused the principal of grade fixing in 2015. Several other teachers at the school lodged similar complaints last year, according to a Post exposé.

Chaz chose to use this story to show how Severin was charged for a few minor infractions in an initial 3020a dismissal hearing where the Department of Education got a fine. They held back on certain charges but instead saved them to charge him again to get a dismissal from the second arbitrator. Chaz says this is a new DOE strategy to charge us twice.

NYC Educator takes on the system in detail. He ties this to the bad teacher narrative pushed by the press to show that we need due process. NYC Educator also points out the flaws in the arbitration system.

Both are right.

The only point I can add to their excellent analysis is that it is high time we admit that the UFT/NYSUT look more and more like they are over-matched in arbitration and at 3020a hearings by the Board of Ed's high priced huge team of lawyers. It's about time we do something about this.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

SHOULD ALL TEACHERS HAVE TO PAY FOR PAID FAMILY LEAVE?

A petition has taken off at Change.org demanding that New York City teachers be granted paid maternity leave. The petition has gone viral so Chalkbeat has covered the story. Emily James is the teacher who started the petition that now has over 56,000 signatures and is adding more rapidly. That is quite impressive.

Here is the language straight from the petition:

New York City Department of Education currently offers their teachers who have just become mothers NO PAID maternity leave. These are women who devote their lives to helping raise other people's children.

After getting pregnant in 2012, I went to a maternity workshop to help understand my maternity benefits. It began as a room full of bubbly, pregnant women, and ended with many of us in tears.
  • Here is what we learned: In order to get paid for up to SIX WEEKS (you read that right-not months, weeks) we would have to use our own small number of saved sick days. If we had none, or few (which was the case for most of us, being around children all day long) we learned that we could borrow up to 20 days that we would eventually have to repay or rebuy.  
Most women never make it out of their negative balance. If you have more than one child, forget it! You have likely borrowed all you can for the first.  When I had my second daughter, even after two years of excellent attendance, I only was able to get paid for seven days after I gave birth.
This is completely common among teaching mothers.

For all our union fights for, I'm asking Michael Mulgrew, our Union President: When will the fight begin for our teaching mothers? As an education system, we are well aware of the importance a parent's presence has on his/her child. Yet why don't we value that? Why do women who spend day in and day out educating, nurturing, and supporting other people's children, continue to suffer for having a family of their own? We are the teachers and the mothers of this city-- a city that prides itself on being one of the most progressive and socially conscious cities in the world- and we deserve to be fought for. 

Thanks for doing this Ms. James. Now for a few details on this issue.

Our so called progressive mayor, Bill de Blasio, will offer paid family leave to UFT members but only if every UFT member pays for it. The city won't cough up one extra dime for its teachers who are mothers in spite of the city's surplus and the UFT won't demand that the city pays for it.

The city granted certain non-union city employees (mostly managers) six weeks of paid leave (12 weeks when combined with existing leave) at the end of 2015. The catch is the employees have to pay for it themselves. This is from the Mayor's news page:

The new benefit comes at no new cost to New York City taxpayers: the personnel order repurposes an existing managerial raise of 0.47 percent scheduled for July 2017 and caps vacation time at 25 days for the 20,000 employees covered by this benefit.

To put it another way, all 20,000 employees are paying for the benefit for the new parents by forfeiting part of a raise and limiting their vacation time. The city wants unionized employees to pay for a paid childcare benefit too.

The UFT has been trying to negotiate a paid family leave benefit since early 2016. Why has leadership not succeeded?

The cost to all UFT members is outrageous.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew reported the following at the January 2016 Delegate Assembly:

Family Leave
Mayor looking to make it work. We will be negotiating with city on paid maternity leave. Some  who have older kids don't want to pay for this. We can be creative on paying for it.

As of this year, the negotiations continue. What is on the table?

A source told me the city wants to charge every UFT member five sick days per year to provide the paid family leave benefit. Right now teachers are entitled to ten sick days per year. If we get the new benefit, all of us would go down to five sick days per year if the source is accurate.

Do you want to go down to five sick days per year or concede a similar giveback so that we can get paid family leave?

The likely outcome of all of this is that paid family leave will end up in the next contract and it will be paid for by lowering the salary increase all UFT members receive because the city will not put in additional money for its unionized workforce. Why won't the city fork over some additional money for its hardworking employees who are parents? Union members en masse won't fight for it.

We will only get the paid family leave from the city in addition to a decent raise and better working conditions if we organize as a union and demand it from below. Maybe the petition will be a springboard to push a movement forward. We have to stop expecting things to come from the Mayor and UFT President.




P.S. If anyone wants to know how the UFT leadership really feels about new mothers, please read our account of the October 2015 Delegate Assembly. When UFT members are on unpaid childcare leave or other unpaid leaves,  they do not get the retroactive payments from the 2009-2011 contract that other city unions had added to their pay back then that we are waiting until 2020 to be paid back fully without interest. They have to wait to be back on payroll to get the back pay.

UFT members received one payment in October 2015 and will get another this October followed by payments in 2018, 2019 and 2020. The Movement of Rank and File Educators proposed that the UFT provide members on unpaid leaves interest free loans for the payments since people on unpaid leave just might need the money immediately since they are not being paid. The UFT leadership said no.

Below is our account of that 2015 Delegate Assembly debate.


MULGREW'S UNITY MAJORITY TELLS PARENTS AND SICK MEMBERS ON UNPAID LEAVES TO FEND FOR THEMSELVES

The Unity Caucus is Michael Mulgrew's faction of the UFT.  They are the majority political party in the union.  At the first Delegate Assembly of the 2015-16 school year Unity proved beyond the shadow of any doubt that making cheap political points is more important to them than helping UFT members in need when they voted down a resolution that would have provided loans for members on unpaid leave up to the amount of retroactive money someone is owed in 2015.

The main rival political group in the union is called MORE which stands for the Movement of Rank and File Educators (full disclosure: ICE supports MORE and I am a ICE-MORE member). MORE will run together in a coalition with another established opposition group called New Action Caucus to challenge Mulgrew-Unity in the 2016 general UFT election.

When MORE leader Jia Lee rose last night at the Delegate Assembly (the highest policy making body in the UFT) to raise a motion for the UFT to find a way to provide interest free loans to members in need who are on unpaid restoration of health, maternity or child care leaves, Unity decided they would rather score extremely cheap political points and voted against helping their own members in need.

There is a loophole in the 2014 contract that says someone has to be "continuously employed" to receive the retroactive money from 2009-2011 that other city workers received in those years that UFT members will receive piecemeal between now and 2020.  Our employer, the Department of Educations-City of New York, interprets continuously employed to mean on payroll.

Our friend John Elfrank, longtime Chapter Leader of Murry Bergtraum High School, is recovering from surgery and on unpaid leave.  He came to MORE and told us that it is unconscionable that because someone is on an unpaid leave that they should be told they have to wait for at least two years for the next payout date in 2017 to get retroactive money they worked for from 2009-11.  John is taking this up with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after being denied money from the Department of Education and denied support from the UFT.  He asked MORE's leadership if we would write something for the union to loan people on unpaid leave their retro.

MORE's Steering Committee said yes and asked me to write something up. I had help and inspiration from MORE's Mike Schirtzer, Julie Cavanagh, and Jia Lee along with Elfrank and we wrote the following resolution for the DA.

DA Resolution on Immediate Retroactive Money for UFT Members on Unpaid Leave for Maternity, Child Care and/or Restoration of Health
October 14, 2015

WHEREAS, the United Federation of Teachers has a long history of supporting members in need, and

WHEREAS, the 2014 contract did not cover members on unpaid leave for lump sum payments stemming from the 2009-2011 round (arrears) until they are back on payroll or retire, and

WHEREAS, the City of New York ended the 2015 fiscal year with a $5.9 billion surplus, and

WHEREAS, the first 12.5% of the arrears is scheduled to be paid on October 15, 2015, and

WHEREAS, many of our sisters and brothers on unpaid leaves who will not be receiving the arrears for at least two years are having financial hardships as they are not on payroll, be it therefore

RESOLVED, that the union will immediately petition the city to make no interest loans available to UFT members on unpaid leaves who are not receiving their arrears, and be it further

RESOLVED, that if the city refuses to make these loans available, that the UFT will provide immediate, interest free loans to any member on unpaid leave who applies for one up to the amount of arrears the member on unpaid leave is owed as of October 1, 2015, and be it further

RESOLVED, that if the city refuses to make these loans available and the union does not have the means to provide the loans, the Union will arrange with Amalgamated Bank or another labor friendly institution to make low interest loans available to UFT members on unpaid leave who are not receiving their arrears and the UFT, not the borrowers, will pay the interest.

People in MORE made some edits and we thought this would be something that would be passed as a humanitarian gesture for mothers or fathers on childcare leaves and members who are on restoration of health leaves. MORE leader Jia Lee, a mother herself, who is Chapter Leader from the Earth School, agreed to raise the resolution at the October DA.

At the DA meeting, President Michael Mulgrew filibustered for about an hour and a half talking about how wonderful our schools are and how great the union is to have gotten us the retro money (see previous post). He talked so much there was not time for much else. The DA did vote to extend the meeting for ten minutes to have a new motion period.

Jia rose to present the MORE motion for next month's agenda.  DA rules require that a majority approve for it to go on next month's agenda.  Delegate Mary Ahern raised an objection saying this rule violates Robert's Rules of Order.  That is a discussion for another post.

Then a member of the majority Unity Caucus rose to make a point of information asking if MORE was violating Robert's Rules because the resolution was printed on a MORE handout and advertised for MORE on the back of the paper. It also didn't have anything noting that it came from a union printer. The union's parliamentarian said these issues were not covered in Robert's Rules of Order so Jia was able to continue.

She talked about John Elfrank's illness and mothers in her school who could all use the money that they already worked for.  She noted the city's $5.9 billion surplus and how the resolution was crafted in a way so these would be loans. (The loans would be secured as the member's future retro could be collateral.)  She cited Mulgrew who previously said that medical distress should not mean financial distress.

This resolution is a no-brainer if ever there was one.  If the city says no, then the union would loan the money to members on unpaid leave who need it.  If the UFT doesn't have the funds, they would secure them from a labor friendly bank and pay the interest.

Unfortunately, the Unity majority would have none of this.  The Queens UFT maternity liaison rose to speak against the resolution.  She gave a cold-hearted speech that was booed once saying she tells mothers who are going on childcare leave they must consider their situation when taking such a leave.  They are making a choice but they will be made whole on retroactive money from a magical chest that will open again in two years.  (She didn't bother to talk about those on medical leave.)  She concluded by saying she didn't want the union to be involved in making loans.

For political reasons, the Unity majority, who all sign an oath saying they will support caucus positions in public and union forums, voted down the resolution easily.  There is sufficient patronage in all expense paid trips to conventions, after-school and full time union jobs that virtually all go to Unity members to keep them in line. They weren't going to go against their in house maternity expert.

There were many new Delegates who attended yesterday's meeting who will probably never return. Some came to Jia afterwards and told her they couldn't believe the union would turn down loaning money to members in need.  I wasn't at all surprised because caucus loyalty trumps good policy in the UFT all the time.  The union could not let an opposition leader get credit for sponsoring something this important.

Those Delegates probably will never come back but they should.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

UFT SUPPORTS CHARTER-SPECTRUM IBEW STRIKERS

A little over a week ago this blog posted how the UFT should join in solidarity with 1,800 striking technicians from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) who have been on strike against Charter-Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable) since March.

Happy to report that our friends on the High School Executive Board got to Leroy Barr after we wrote a resolution and the UFT rewrote it into a decent show of support for the IBEW strikers.

Resolution to show solidarity with IBEW Local 3 workers

Whereas, 1800 members of Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have been on strike against Charter Communications/Spectrum since March 28, 2017; and

Whereas, these qualified employees have been working under an expired contract for the past two years; and

Whereas, many UFT members live in areas where Charter/Spectrum is their cable provider; and

Whereas Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has sued Charter/Spectrum over the false claims that Spectrum workers helped expose; and

Whereas, non-union workers are now performing installations, repairs and other on-site services in union households, be it therefore

Resolved, that the UFT supports IBEW Local 3 members in their quest for a fair contract with Charter/Spectrum, and be it further

Resolved, that the UFT will make a donation to IBEW Local 3’s strike fund; and be it further

Resolved, that the UFT will inform its members about the strike so members know non-union contractors are entering residences to do the important work that should be performed by striking union technicians.

This resolution passed the Executive Board! 

I saw something on UFT Twitter about the strike but how about a mass text and email to all UFT members telling our members about the strike and warning about the scabs?

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

OPEN MARKET CLOSED

Yesterday was the last day to transfer without being released by a principal. The Open Market is closed after August 7.

I heard from some people who successfully transferred using the system. Most who I know were not new or 20 year veterans but were somewhere in the middle.

I guess some people with 25 or more years in the system were able to transfer using the open market but I haven't heard from any 25+ year veteran getting a transfer.

For the record, I updated my resume, attached a solid cover letter to support it and sent it out. I am still waiting for an interview.

My resume includes:
  • Numerous awards
  • College Advisor experience (I helped get kids from a closing school into Columbia University and we were featured in the NY Times)
  • Advanced Placement experience teaching students in a closing school who received 4's and 5's on AP exams
  • All kinds of successful Regents prep 
  • Mentor for oral defenses in an alternative assessment, mostly non Regents Consortium school

Oh yeah, I just finished my 31st year of teaching and I write this blog. I won't hold my breath waiting to be hired in a new position, even though the commute to Middle College is long and I have small children at home so an assignment closer to my house might just be good for the family. Unfortunately, my 31 years of experience and truthful pen kind of limit my options.

By the way, has anyone read anything here even remotely negative about Middle College or Jamaica High School? I speak very fondly of the two schools I have worked at. I must add to the resume that I am a team player.  Maybe that will improve my chances. Then again, maybe not.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

TOUGH DAYS FOR UNIONS CONTINUE

Not much good news on the labor beat to report from this past week.

Nissan workers in Mississippi voted against joining the United Automobile Workers.

From the NY Times:

In a test of labor’s ability to expand its reach in the South, workers at a Nissan plant in Mississippi have overwhelmingly rejected a bid to unionize.

Out of roughly 3,500 employees at the Canton-based plant who voted Thursday and Friday, more than 60 percent opposed the union. It was an emphatic coda to a yearslong organizing effort underwritten by the United Automobile Workers, which has been repeatedly frustrated in its efforts to organize major auto plants in the region.

Not promising news.

Another discouraging story came to my email from Michael Fiorillo via Splinter on the management of "liberal" Slate online magazine resisting unionization efforts from its employees.

Slate has been a solidly liberal voice online for the past two decades. So when its staff decided to form a union earlier this year, they didn’t expect a drawn-out labor fight. Yet Slate management has put up stiff resistance to the effort for months, using rhetoric that anyone familiar with attempts to weaken organized labor will recognize.

The site’s management declined to voluntarily recognize a union in March, after more than 90 percent of editorial staff signed cards signaling their intent to join the Writers Guild of America-East. Higher-ups, including the site’s editor-in-chief and the company’s chairman, have since tried to dissuade them from unionizing at all, according to internal emails obtained by Splinter.

Current and former employees, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution, said it’s left Slate organizers grappling with how aggressively they should force the issue in a newsroom known for technocratic liberalism. The question has become even more complicated as the publication has fashioned itself as a standard-bearer of the anti-Donald Trump resistance. 

Talk about big league hypocrisy over at Slate.

On the local scene, B&H Photo warehouse workers formed a union so management responded by moving the warehouse. This is from veteran activist Tom Siracuse.

Boycott B&H Photo
More than 300 warehouse workers employed by B&H Photo voted in 2015 to form a union to protect their rights on the job. Now, in the midst of negotiations for a first contract, management is shutting down the Brooklyn warehouses and relocating 75 miles away to NJ, effectively breaking the union.

NYC-DSA has been picketing the B&H store at 34th Street and 9th Ave. twice a week — every Friday and Sunday — to support our fellow workers, and we'll keep up the fight until it's won. Join us!

For more info, visit boycottbnh.com.

What is B&H Photo Video? headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, B&H Photo Video is the largest non-chain distributor of media production equipment in the U.S.

These are not only difficult days for teachers. Union busting is a real problem in this country and I believe teachers are impacted as labor's losing ways are not waning. We are part of the big picture.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

THE REAL AIM OF THE RENEWED ATTACK ON ATRS IS TO BUST UNION

Some people are having a difficult time understanding why the education privatization gang that wants to kill the teacher unions is going nuts because Mayor Bill de Blasio's Chancellor Carmen Farina will place some Absent Teacher Reserves in schools in regular positions starting in October. The anti-public school press is writing non-stop articles and opinion pieces condemning the ATRs and one artificial turf group staged a kind of weird protest.

Obviously, this is about more than placing a few hundred teachers out of a system of 80,000 to teach classes that don't have a regular teacher over a month into the school year. Ed deform leaders know that if they finish off our seniority rights, it's basically over for the unionized teaching workforce (see Chicago teachers for some evidence).

Ending seniority rights altogether is the holy grail of union busting that Joel Klein pushed for and is still the treasured goal of the zealots who want to destroy our profession.

Don't take my word for it. Read it from the horse's mouth. Chalkbeat did a summary of Steven Brill's 2011 book called Class Warfare.  Former Chancellor Joel Klein says all you need to know on why the ATR issue is a major issue for the union busters and it is something they will fight on for every inch of ground.

  • On labor issues, Bloomberg sometimes undercut Joel Klein. Klein’s team thought they could get the UFT to sign off on a change in the teacher termination process. But Bloomberg, who was nearing reelection, told them not to push their luck. “The mayor blinked,” the DOE’s one-time labor chief, Dan Weisberg, told Brill. “The mayor just gave up.” Weisberg said he “clashed almost daily” with City Hall over back-channel contract negotiations in 2005.
  • Similarly, Brill reports that in 2006, Bloomberg told Klein and Weisberg to “stand down” on pushing a time limit for teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve. As Klein left office last year, he was still calling for that policy.

Weisberg is still pushing to fire ATR's in 2017.

Chalkbeat's synopsis of Brill's book continues:
  • Bloomberg was weighing a third term even a year into his second, and his education policies reflected that. The 2007 teachers contract included little in the way of substantive policy, an oddity at a time when Klein was setting an aggressive tone at Tweed. In fact, the only major change, a schoolwide bonus program, was spiked this year. “The plan,” Klein told Brill, “was to make some progress in the 2005 contract — which we did, though not enough — and then go in for the kill in 2007. Mike deciding to run for a third term completely killed that.”
Note how Joel Klein brags about making some progress in 2005. That is the god awful contract that Randi Weingarten should never have agreed to that 40% of the NYC teachers rejected. Weingarten and Klein created the ATR mess and did so much more to undermine the rights of teachers in that settlement.

Bloomberg went for "the kill" after he was safely reelected to his third term in 2009 and did not relent while he was the mayor. It's why we had no contract from 2009-2014 and why we are still waiting until 2020 to get paid back in full the money the city paid its other workers between 2008 and 2010.

The UFT has never moved the center of gravity even a milometer back toward teacher rights since 2005. The 2014 contract's biggest gain was to form a new committee on excessive paperwork, something that was already in the existing contract. We have not made a substantive work place gain since Circular 6 was added in to the contract in 1996 to get us temporarily out of potty patrol. 2005 put us back in the potty.

Now Carmen Farina is going to place a few hundred ATRs without principal approval and the backlash from the union busters has been nonstop. Since principals only have to keep beyond the school year force placed ATRs who are rated effective or highly effective, I can't say this is a move in our direction.

I wish our union's leaders were capable and able to proudly show how experience matters. Instead, our President released a rather timid statement defending the ATRs and left it to parent activist Leonie Haimson and the teacher bloggers to take up the cause.

Expect the unrelenting press attack on the ATRs to continue in full, particularly when the UFT contract comes up for negotiation in 2018. Giving ATRs a time limit to find a new job or be fired, when everyone knows principals are mostly not going to hire senior teachers, is an end run around the tenure and seniority laws. Since schools are still closed and downsizing happens all the time, turning excessing into a layoff is objective number one for the union busters.

The abuse of the ATRs is one of the primary reasons why we need to strengthen the tenure law and contractual seniority protections, not weaken them further. Are you listening UFT leaders?

Make no mistake about it, school reform is synonymous with union busting. It just has a fancier title.

Friday, August 04, 2017

TEACHERS ARE UNIONIZED CIVIL SERVANTS LIKE OTHER GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES

I was reading the other night some of the history of school reform and I came up on a conversation journalist Steve Brill had with UFT President Michael Mulgrew in a NY Times piece on school reform in the worst days of the Barack Obama administration for teachers back in 2010. This little part is telling:

Next to Mulgrew was his press aide, Richard Riley. “Suppose you decide that Riley is lazy or incompetent,” I asked Mulgrew. “Should you be able to fire him?”

“He’s not a teacher,” Mulgrew responded. “And I need to be able to pick my own person for a job like that.” Then he grinned, adding: “I know where you’re going, but you don’t understand. Teachers are just different.” 

I would think that someone who runs the largest union local in the country would not try to justify being able to fire people who work for him arbitrarily and then say "Teachers are just different." Brill made Mulgrew look like a hypocrite. Yes, the teaching job is different as we are qualified with professional degrees, certifications and licenses but no we're not that distinct compared to other civil servants President Mulgrew.

Teachers are government and union employees and we deserve due process and seniority protections just like other civil servants in New York have and few people realistically object to. The hiring and firing rules were put into place to stop the nepotism, cronyism, political patronage and other abuses that took place in government service during the 19th century.

The fact that the UFT gave up most of our seniority rights in 2005 resulting in the greatly expanded the Absent Teacher Reserve pool is a great stain on its history. The Union not being able to frame the appointment and seniority issues better for the public after twelve years shows how weak the UFT is.

Teachers today in New York City (and most likely in many other places) are subject to patronage hiring and in many cases arbitrary firing, but we still get criticized as if we are a bunch of lazy, incompetent people looking to get over on the system. Give us parking permits and the city better step up parking enforcement says the media. Talk about placing qualified Absent Teacher Reserve teachers in classrooms and the privatization groups and their friends in the press have a field day. We are still easily put down. The reality is teachers are hard working people trying to make a difference in the lives of students but are up against impossible odds.

Our experience should be respected and not dismissed. Here is some scholarly research you probably will never see featured in the Daily News, NY Post, Chalkbeat or most anywhere else in the mainstream press:

Under all three of the models studied, the researchers found teachers' ability to improve student achievement persisted well beyond the three- to five-year mark. While the teachers did make the most progress during their first few years in the classroom, teachers improved their ability to boost student test scores on average by 40 percent between their 10th and their 30th year on the job, the study shows.

Clearly experience, or dare I say seniority, matters.

Fair student funding has to be exposed as the anti-seniority tool it is in New York City schools. Parent activist Leonie Haimson took on the issue yesterday. Leonie also showed the link between more experienced teachers leading to better student results back in 2011.

We need to get back to basics which means demanding a fair civil service system at the Department of Education for hiring, transfers and promotions. Time to implement and enforce competitive exam based hiring and promotions based on how well one does on the exam like just about everyone else in government does. While our job requires specialty skills that are unique to teaching, in many ways we are much more like other government workers than we are different. There needs to be a check on principal authority over school hiring including transfers just as other government agencies have for their managers.

The UFT's slogan is that we are "a union of professionals." In reality, we are not treated as professionals so we better start again defending ourselves as civil servants. Teachers must organize to show once again we are a real force to be reckoned with.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

DE BLASIO POLL NUMBERS WAY DOWN

Mayor Bill de Blasio is down to a 50% job approval rating and 49% favorability in the latest Quinnipiac poll. His disapproval rate stands at 42%. By contrast, as recently as May the Mayor stood at 60% positive and only 34% negative.

The part of the poll that stood out for me is that de Blasio is underwater when it comes to running the schools.

From the summary of the poll:

        - Voters disapprove 45 - 39 percent of his handling of the public schools.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina has a 35% approval rating. Give it some time and the Chancellor and Mayor may rate about as low as former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein once did. In spite of these numbers, the Legislature in Albany did not have the guts to end mayoral control of NYC schools.

Overall, de Blasio is not in much reelection danger as he easily beats his Republican rival for the November election in a head-to-head race. However, one has to ask if potential Democratic rivals such as Letitia James or Scott Stringer are sorry they chose not to challenge de Blasio?

I have no access to computer this morning so I hope the link to the poll works.