Thursday, August 31, 2017

TEACHER ADVANCE RATINGS OUT SEPTEMBER 1

For the bulk of New York City teachers who are subjected to the Advance evaluation system, our final ratings for the 2016-17 school year will be posted on Friday, September 1.

For anyone who does not have an advanced degree in statistics but would still like to figure out how our numbers are calculated, Jeff Kaufman sent a link to the Department of Education's Advance Guide for Educators which is now down (great job DOE) so thanks to a reader for sending a link to a PDF from UFT of the Guide.

Good luck trying to decipher how we are rated. Anyone who fully understands how teacher ratings are figured out wins some kind of prize.

Have fun also with the Michael Mulgrew Matrix that premieres for real tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

CNN DISCOVERS THERE'S A NATIONAL TEACHER SHORTAGE

CNN did a somewhat lengthy piece on the nationwide K-12 teaching shortage. That is a positive development. They go through what is causing the shortage and mention lower salaries and the job being too demanding. Those are two causes of teachers leaving for sure but I think they omit one of the primary causes of the teaching shortage.

No doubt the lack of respect teachers receive, especially from the politicians, celebrities and billionaires who constantly bash us is taking its toll. It is no surprise to me or to anyone who reads this blog that teaching programs in colleges are under-enrolled.

From CNN:

Is there help on the way?

Probably not soon. The supply of aspiring teachers has been dwindling.
Nationwide, teacher education enrollments dropped 35% between 2009 and 2014, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the Learning Policy Institute

A survey at UCLA found that freshmen's interest in teaching as a career has steadily declined over the past decade.

Who wants to be be blamed for the failures of society as a career choice?

As per usual in the press these days, there is no teacher interviewed in this piece. Who does CNN interview to discuss a teacher shortage?

A couple of people from universities and a high school principal. Why bother to interview a teacher? The latest reporter who doesn't bother to quote a real live working teacher is CNN's Caitlin Ostroff. I guess we don't know anything about why teachers leave.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

BERNARD GASSAWAY "SUGGESTS" PLACING ATRS IN TOP SCHOOLS

The NY Post quoted former NYC Principal Bernard Gassaway in their editorial slamming Absent Teacher Reserves.

Here is the tweet:
If ATRs are truly qualified to teach, then place them at the highest performing schools where vacancies exist. No exceptions!
Those of us who have been ATRs or are ATRS are qualified to teach Dr. Gassaway. It looks like this tweet was sent out in a kind of a sarcastic way but let's take Dr. Gassaway at his word. His idea is a form of how the system worked before 2005. If someone came from a closing school, he/she picked six schools and the Board of Ed placed them in one of them. The world didn't end and the kids learned.
Why can't we do an experiment and at least try placing ATRs in the highest performing schools as Gassaway suggests? I can just about guarantee you the reputations of the schools,  the test scores on SAT's and Advanced Placement Exams, the Regents results and more won't suffer in the least.
Dr. Gassaway is the principal who once had an assistant principal tell a teacher I know that the person wasn't "a good fit" for a program Gassaway ran after this teacher taught successfully in the program the preceding year and began the new year in the same program at the same school. Why did the teacher have to go? The teacher was white. That is what the AP said was why Principal Gassaway didn't want this teacher.

I am still amazed that the UFT shut down the schools for months in 1968 to protect a group of teachers from being transferred involuntarily out of a district but in the next generation, the UFT basically allows principals to do whatever they want to our members and most teachers do not grieve for fear of being targeted if they uphold basic rights.
I am not attempting to fight the 1968 strike over again or make any  kind of statement other than that I condemn bigotry, including against ATRs. The point here is to say that without real checks on principal and superintendent power, we are in a system where cronyism - based on whatever the desires of a particular principal or superintendent are - rules. It is not healthy for the schools or society. However, if we put those ATRs - many who are teachers of color - in the top schools, nobody would get hurt Dr. Gassaway.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

CHIEF-LEADER TELLS US WHY THE CABLE STRIKE MATTERS TO ALL OF US

The Chief Leader is the New York City civil service newspaper. Their articles are usually behind a paywall but yesterday they sent out a lengthy piece on public employee unions supporting the 1,800 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 who are on strike against Charter-Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable). The workers have been out on strike since March and management seems to be blowing them off.

Here is a excerpt from the Chief piece on how we are all impacted:

Public-union labor leaders say the stakes are high. They maintain that how the strike plays out will have national ramifications, because it involves the nation’s fastest-growing cable company with a presence already in 41 states. Their concern is that if Charter Spectrum can break Local 3, in what has been traditionally one of the nation’s most pro-labor cities, labor’s hand will be diminished around the nation as it faces a growing anti-union, right-to-work movement. Today 28 states, including once-union-friendly bastions like Michigan, have enacted some form of right-to-work legislation.

I can't see the stakes being much higher than that for everyone. The union cannot afford to lose here.

What is labor doing?

A broad coalition of public-employee unions, concerned about the toll taken by the five-month strike against cable provider Charter Spectrum by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3, has stepped up to provide the beleaguered union with public and behind-the-scenes support.

The group is replenishing Local 3’s strike fund, participating in picket lines and lobbying elected officials as well as Charter Spectrum’s corporate leadership, all with the goal of getting the union’s 1,800 members back to work with a fair contract. The cable company is the owner of NY-1, the city’s dominant local cable-news provider.

Local 3 and the contributing unions declined to disclose the amount of the cash infusion for tactical reasons.
UFA Threatens Boycott
Uniformed Firefighters Association President Gerard Fitzgerald warned the cable giant that if the company failed to sign a fair deal with its striking workers, the UFA would appeal to its 8,500 members “to seek alternatives to your services for their cable and internet services.”

The admonition came in a letter written last month by Mr. Fitzgerald to Thomas Rutledge, Charter’s Chairman and CEO. “At a time when living expenses throughout the city have risen exponentially and unions have been continually targeted unfairly by employers, your company has continued to enjoy success and profits including an over-30-percent increase in the value of Charter’s stock in the last 12 months,” Mr. Fitzgerald wrote. “Given that the success of Charter cannot be independent of its employees, we urge you to do the right thing by the members of Local 3 and provide them with a fair contract.”

Uniformed Fire Officers Association President Jake Le­monda said his union was also coordinating with the CLC to up the amperage on the Local 3 campaign. “I never had to walk a picket line,” said Mr. Lemonda, whose union by law can’t strike. “But can you imagine going five months without a paycheck? We are very active on social media and part of the AFL-CIO. We are ready to assist them in any way we can.”

Further down in the Chief article, we hear from TWU Local 100 and New York City Central Labor Council leaders:

“There can be no distinction between the public- and private-union sectors, because this has to be one unified labor movement,” said John Samuelsen, president of both Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the union’s International. “I am in contact with the Central Labor Council about supporting Local 3 and there is always room for us to do more, and there will be more to come.”

Mr. Samuelsen said his union was able to play a major role in last year’s successful CWA-Verizon strike in large part because of the close proximity between Local 100’s office and Verizon’s main picket line at its Brooklyn headquarters. “The officers, rank and file, everybody was down there because the logistics were so great,” he recalled.

The AFL-CIO New York City Central Labor Council, which represents 1.3 million workers in 300 unions, confirmed it is the central point of contact for the mutual aid being directed to Local 3. “We are continuing to educate union members and elected officials on the outrageous position Charter/Spectrum has taken in attacking the traditional pension and benefit funds paid for by these dedicated workers,” CLC President Vinnie Alvarez, said in an email.

The strike still does not seem to be on the public radar. This blog's IBEW strike pieces don't get nearly the same number of hits compared to if we are writing about ATRs or teacher salaries or parking permits.

The Chief asked about the lack of public awareness:

Labor historian Jane Latour said the length of the Local 3 strike was troubling. “We are talking about IBEW Local 3, historically a powerhouse of the skilled trades,” she said. “It is a mystery as to why we have not yet seen the kind of push-back and fight back you need to support these workers. I have been out interviewing rank-and-file union members from both public and private sectors and I only found two who knew about Local 3’s strike.”

How about the UFT doing our part? Teachers are mentioned by the Chief but not our Union. The UFT Executive Board, at our urging, did pass a resolution to support the IBEW strike this summer.

Now how about some action?

How about a text to all of our members telling them about the strike and warning us about unqualified scabs doing jobs of union technicians in our homes? I wouldn't let the Charter-Spectrum salesman into my house because of the strike. I am sure many of our members are Charter-Spectrum customers or potential customers.

Labor can have a real impact here but rank and file members need to be aware of what is occurring and be urged to take action.

Friday, August 25, 2017

CHALKBEAT DOES UNBIASED ATR PROFILES

We education bloggers often feel the frustration of writing about what is really going on in the schools but not hearing the side of the teachers given any consideration by the mainstream media. We have to be given some of the credit for today's objective Chalkbeat article by Christina Veiga that featured not one or two but three Absent Teacher Reserves who come off really positively.

EdNotes, NYC Educator, Chaz and ICE have been highly critical of the one sided pieces that have been done by the press viciously attacking the ATRs without really hearing much from real life ATRs. Chalkbeat at least told the ATR side in detail in today's piece although they did have the usual anti-ATR stuff in there so we certainly could not call this a puff piece.

Since our post came out last weekend rating the press reports on ATRs, both Selim Algar from the Post and Chalkbeat's Christina Veiga emailed me. Selim and I have a dialogue going and Chalkbeat today wrote their article on the three ATRs. We salute Kathy Perez (a friend from MORE for a long time), Deborah Williams, and Leonard Robinson for going on the record. I know that Ms.Veiga talked to at least one other ATR because I put her in touch with my colleague Bob Klugman, a 31 year veteran math teacher who previously worked for NASA.

Here is some of what Kathy said from the article:

“When I go to work now, I don’t have a name. My name is ‘ATR,’” she said. “They talk about you like you’re furniture. I’ve heard conversations where I’m sitting there and they say, ‘Well, I’ve got the ATR here.’

“It’s like, ‘I’ve been in your building for a month. You can use my name.’” 

We will keep doing our work of telling the truth about New York City schools and hopefully the media will do their job of doing some further objective education reporting.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

LIVE BLOGGING FROM AFT TELEPHONE TOWN HALL

I have no idea why but I am considered an AFT activist. The AFT just called me and a few thousand other activists, out of our 1.6 million member national union, for a telephone town hall tonight.

AFT President Randi Weingarten started by talking about our reaction to the events in Charlottesville and how teachers and other AFT members are on the front line in defending our country against racism and anti-semitism. Also, Randi later in the hour will be updating us on new union contracts and how we are dealing with the Janus Supreme Court case. New people from the Association of Teachers of Puerto Rico and another AFT local in Washington will be on the call later.

AFT working with NAACP and other civil rights groups after Charlottesville and have gone to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and state attorney generals to seek to prosecute domestic terrorism. Getting resources on Share my Lesson to focus on bullying, teaching tolerance and making sure people are supported. White supremacists will target college campuses and we will help organize counter demonstrations. Go to AFT All in.org for more on participating in a counter-demonstration.

Next up was Mark Herring, the Virginia Attorney General. He complimented teachers and then talked about the events in Charlottesville and combating hate crimes. Herring thinks teachers will be on the front line of  fighting the forces of hate and intolerance.

Next was Maureen Costello from the Southern Poverty Law Center on teaching tolerance. She said we need to find allies so we know people have support and we are backed up.

The head of the Boston Teachers Union, Jessica Tang, was the next speaker who also commented on being against white supremacy and will rally against racism, prejudice and bigotry. We were involved in counter protests against hate. We had 40,000 people out there.

Randi came back and talked about training to promote tolerance and hold public officials accountable. You are against racism, bigotry and anti-semitism or you're not.  Ten minutes of questions and comments from people on the call will follow and then we will hear about Janus.

Question about college campuses and reacting after Charlottesville?
Randi Answer: We need to encourage people to stand up and speak up. Union will speak out against vile racism. Much work on college campuses.

Question about retirees, many in Florida. How do we mobilize retirees against hate rhetoric?
Answer: Pass AFT resolution that has many activities in it. Mobilize retirees and speak where people can get together and be part of the group in public.

Question about a tolerance curriculum.
Answer: AFT puts things on Share my Lesson. Get an alternative to hate. Huge appetite from in service members to engage in these fights.

Question about people conspiring being held accountable
Answer: AFT wrote a letter to all 50 attorney generals. We have a 30 minute documentary. One person charged because of what he said that day.

Part II 
We are a week out from Labor Day. Randi says last election was about shaking up the system. Workers part of a rigged system where wealth is concentrated. Donald Trump hijacked our message but he is ruling for the elite. Defunding public education is a goal. Janus vs AFSCME being done by right wing to starve unions. Even if you get services, saying you have a right not to pay a fair share is the goal of the right wingers so they can starve unions of funds. AFT wants to send Labor Day message about what unions are about and who we fight for. When forming strong unions, workers can support themselves and their families by getting increased wages and benefits and better working conditions like lowering class sizes in schools. We are confronting the rigged system Randi says.

Two locals in Vancouver, Washington and the head of the Puerto Rico Teachers Union that both just joined the AFT spoke next. Vancouver has a contract and Puerto Rico teachers are proud to be in the AFT.

Randi said Puerto Rico facing fiscal crisis and helping their newest local fight against budget cuts and for dignity. Ida is a leader who Randi thanks. 40,000 new AFT members.

Fight back in Janus is to show how right wing is saying people have the freedom not to join a union. Jeff from Peoria, Illinois working on engaging members. He got to speak about organizing and having power through our numbers. Peoria Peoples's Project  leader explained how union's grew and became strong. Jeff saw the power of door knocking and wants to expand the project nationwide. We are building power to fight injustice.

Fred Schneider got to speak next. In NY, we had letters to the editor that gave two sides to an issue. We need to get the white radicals in a debate. They are not so numerous. Call out the Anarchists too. Fred supports the union but we have to have a dialogue with everyone.

Randi does not agree with violence to fight the white supremacists. Randi is for peaceful non violence a la Martin Luther King. Randi says on regular issues we need to hear from all sides. On racism, we have to be unequivocal on where we stand.

Question about what we are doing about racist groups like NAACP? Why are we only worried about white supremacist groups?
Randi answered that the NAACP is not the same as a hate group. They are promoting equality. Randi says the mission of the NAACP is to create equality not to hate. (I totally agree with her on that.)

Randi closed by saying AFT is committed to fair wages, decent retirement pensions, pluralism and democracy and to the fight against hate and bigotry and for tolerance and respect.


That's about it folks. I actually listened to the whole thing. This is our fight back at the AFT level. Are you ready?

P.S. I hope I didn't give away any state secrets by reporting on the town hall.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

DEMOCRATIC MAYORAL DEBATE TONIGHT (WEDNESDAY) ON NY 1 AT 7:00PM

NY 1 has the Democratic mayoral debate on this evening at 7:00 P.M. between Bill de Blasio and Sal Albanese.

Considering that there is a strike of 1,800 technicians against NY 1's parent company, Charter Communications, and this is the Democratic Party debate, shouldn't they find another sponsor?

I don't have NY1 and wouldn't consider it while the strike is on so I will be looking for another outlet to watch but shouldn't the unions raise a stink about who is sponsoring this debate?



This is from the NYC CableTruth blog:



COME AND JOIN LOCAL 3 IBEW MEMBERS AND THEIR FAMILIES ON STRIKE AGAINST CHARTER/SPECTRUM FOR A WALK OVER THE GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE IN SUPPORT OF THEIR FIGHT FOR A FAIR CONTRACT AND  AGAINST CORPORATE GREED!!!  LETS SHOW AMERICA THAT CORPORATIONS ARE NOT GOING TO SUPPRESS OUR VOICES !!! 


FRIDAY AUGUST 25TH, 2017 AT 3PM
GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE 
MEETING LOCATIONS ARE AS FOLLOWS:

-NYC SIDE-
179TH ST & PINEHURST (NORTH SIDE OF THE STREET)
(NORTH WALKWAY OF THE GWB IS LOCATED ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE STREET)

-NEW JERSEY SIDE-
HUDSON TERRACE AND BRIDGE PLAZA SOUTH / BRIDE REYNOLDS BOULEVARD
(NORTHWALK OF THE GWB IS LOCATED ON BLOCK NORTH OF THE STAGING AREA)

COME ONE, COME ALL !!!!

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.