Tuesday, February 21, 2017

SULLIO'S KNOCKOUT OF ANDY PALLOTTA & STRONGER TOGETHER ENDORSEMENT

Over at the Pen is Mightier than the Person blog, Sullio has done a take-down of NYSUT Executive Vice President and now Presidential candidate Andy Pallotta that is too good to miss. He then endorses Mike Lillis and the Stronger Together officers for the top positions at NYSUT..

Here is some of Sullio's knockout of Pallotta.

Evidently, Pallotta is finally serious about reviving NYSUT, and thinks he's got what it takes to lead public education to the promised land. His eight-year record as a NYSUT officer, however, belies any serious hope that Pallotta can help pull schools back from the brink.

As NYSUT Executive Vice President, Pallotta's main charge has been to lobby legislators on behalf of working teachers, and at least earn a legitimate victory every once and a while.    

Since 2009, however, New York teachers have faced loss after loss, with Governor Andy Cuomo and the state legislator callously attacking teacher pensions and due process rights while spewing Common Core tests across the state. Thanks to Cuomo's Education Transformation Act, for example, trumped-up charges are now all it takes to fire tenured teachers and hand their schools off to voucher school villains. Meanwhile, s
uburban and rural districts are pinned-down by an insolvency-inducing tax cap, while urban schools are flush with rats instead of cash. 

But it's not like Pallotta hasn't tried. In fact, just last year he spent $109,600 (the maximum amount) of voluntary member donations (VOTE-COPE) on Republicans in the New York Senate, whose leader - John Flanagan - recently pledged allegiance to Betsy DeVos, President Trump's toxic secretary of education. It's safe to say that whatever campaign cash Flanagan and his flunkies received from NYSUT was spent on obliterating any compassion they had left for public education - the platform of American democracy.    

Speaking of President Trump, Pallotta is a former member of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), which recently took the absurd action of striking any references to Trump from a union resolution, opting to refer to Trump only as "the presidential election." Pallotta's pals in the UFT were apparently too afraid to offend public school teachers who voted for Trump, otherwise known as Those Who Should Know Better. 

And it's this kind of kowtowing that's placed teachers and their unions exactly where they are today - begging for scraps at the laps of people whose names they won't even whisper.

This is America, and our freedoms should include permission to criticize our leaders. Any educator who delays speaking truth to power is only running toward the inevitable cries of "Would've, could've, should've!" as their careers careen into flames.

Next, Sullio gives Mike Lillis and his Stronger Together's team a robust endorsement. 

A high School physics teacher and current President of the Lakeland Federation of Teachers (LFT), Mike Lillis has experience which Andy Pallotta severely lacks - running a classroom while running a union in the dark age of school deform. Lillis also has a good-old fashioned obsession with facts and data, which he has used to help unravel and reveal the fleecing of public education.

The attacks on schools can be boiled down to one number - 1630 - which equals the average score New York State expects students to achieve on the SAT. Only 34% of students who take the SAT, however, achieve this score, and your third-grader will not be one of them unless she scores a 3 on tests Cuomo himself once called "meaningless." Subpar students naturally means subpar teachers, whose subpar schools will soon be transformed into subpar websites.     


In a world of alternative facts, 1630 is an indisputable digit which represents all that is wrong with school deform.

Sadly, when Lillis brought this bogus benchmark before the New York State Education Department (NYSED) and Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, crickets filled the room. After all, everyone had always assumed that "college and career ready" meant whatever Bill Gates wanted it to mean, and did not originate from say, some arbitrary test score. NYSED promised to "get back to" Lillis with an explanation, and he's still waiting. Lillis did get the Commissioner to admit that the teacher evaluation system was "random", however, a both hilarious and horrifying admission from the state's top education official.

Joining Lillis on the ST slate of candidates are Bianca Tanis, who's running for Pallotta's old position, Megan DeLaRosa (1st Vice President), and Nate Hathaway (Secretary/Treasurer). Like Lillis, all of them are full-time teachers and unionists, and all of them care deeply about their profession, on personal and professional levels.

Fearsome Foursome (clockwise from top left): Lillis, Tanis, Hathaway, DeLaRosa

All of them are also leaders of the opt-out movement, an unprecedented act of civil disobedience which has pushed back against the privatization of public education. As a founder of New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), Bianca Tanis has traveled the state and appeared on national television to educate teachers and parents on the standardized threats their schools face. This dedication alone has given working teachers more hope than Andy Pallotta could ever hope to give.      


Even amid the lunacy of a Trump presidency, t
he existential threats faced by NYSUT and teachers in general cannot be minimized. This election should at least help expose those threats to a public flogging of logic and the altruism of educators. 

Lillis and ST recognize these threats, and want schools to persevere and prosper. They know, for instance, that the eager students sitting in their classrooms today are a lot less likely to become teachers tomorrow because of the losses of the past decade, losses which the likes of Pallotta have done little to stop.  


With all three branches of government ready to turn America into a Right to Work nation, it's finally time for NYSUT to get serious and give grassroots teachers a chance to lead. Besides, there's little to stop NYSUT from sliding off the cliff once dues becomes optional, and your leader will be the guy who brought you Tier VI and four-year tenure.


Mike Lillis and the ST slate will fight for fairness, for all teachers and students. They understand the importance of the Union movement and do not enjoy seeing it decimated by apathy and ignorance.

Whether it's ST, the UFT, or NYSUT, the Union must endure - it is the only barrier keeping us from the billionaire barbarians.

We must hold the line and move forward, together.  



I hope Sullio's piece has a hand in convincing people sitting on the fence that we were right to endorse Lillis here at the ICE-UFT blog.

Monday, February 20, 2017

VILLAGE VOICE ASKS IF AMERICA IS READY FOR A GENERAL STRIKE

There is a lead story in the current Village Voice contemplating a general strike in Donald Trump's America. We at ICE were ready for combined union action twelve years ago and raised the issue at the UFT Executive Board.

My friend Sam Lazarus (at the time Chapter Leader of Bryant High School) had an idea in 2005 that the UFT should unite forces with the Transit Workers Union Local 100 for a massive job action as both unions were fighting for contracts. I brought his idea up at the UFT Executive Board. I will never forget then UFT President Randi Weingarten's response saying that she has spoken to Roger. Roger was then TWU President Roger Toussaint. That's all she would say.

Soon thereafter the UFT agreed to the disastrous 2005 contract where we gave up nearly all of our seniority rights as well as many other concessions. The contract created the massive ATR crisis as the door was opened for then Mayor Bloomberg to close schools at will and not worry about having to place the teachers from those schools in different schools. Meanwhile the transit workers went on strike in December of 2005 and while they took a pounding at first by having to pay penalties from the Taylor Law -- two days pay for every day out on strike and the union lost automatic dues checkoff -- they have recovered and in the last two contracts they have clearly beaten the municipal unions salary increases at the bargaining table.

Randi wouldn't even call transit workers courageous as this partial transcript from a NY 1 interview from 2005 shows. I leave it to you to guess what she told Roger Toussaint in that conversation she told the Executive Board about.

TWU Local 100 is respected by the powers that be because they know they could strike. The UFT is considered a paper tiger because we are incapable of any kind of labor action.

In 2017, I cannot conceive of the heads of the mostly bureaucratic top-down unions in the United States even contemplating combined union job actions. Leadership seems to be content to have their membership shrink as long as the leadership keeps their high paying jobs and seats at the table with the Democratic Party. Labor resurgence will need to come from the bottom up.

Back to the Voice piece, 2016 MORE presidential candidate Jia Lee is quoted in it. Here is the part where Jia is featured.

Today, even though union leadership may not be eager for a general strike, some rank-and-file members see an opportunity for a broader movement.

"If we focus our attention on the person Trump, then our focus is too narrow. It's not like if we impeach Trump we get rid of systemic racism, institutional racism," said Jia Lee, a sixteen-year veteran public elementary school teacher at the Earth School in the East Village.

Lee recently ran an unsuccessful campaign against United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew as part of the Movement of Rank and File Educators, an opposition caucus within the union.

UFT members are prohibited from formally striking, and Lee is skeptical that big unions entrenched in the Democratic Party will get on board for a general strike, especially one organized hastily. But that might not be a problem, she said, since the real value of such a strike could be as a test run for would-be activists who have just begun attending marches and want to know what's next. Lee says the widespread dissent surrounding the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary is just one example of an awakening.

"It's parents, grandparents, students in college who grew up in the No Child Left Behind era, whose eyes are open. They're flooding their senators' offices to the point they've been pressured to vote no. It's pretty powerful," Lee said. Building on this momentum, a general strike could eventually be successful, even if it takes a few tries.

"People have decided they need to be really loud and in mass levels, a mass movement of people saying, 'We're not going to be a part of this if this is how you're going to play,' " said Lee

Since some of the UFT rank and file who comment here are more interested in not having to pay union dues to our bureaucratic union rather than organizing for a strike, I think it will take an enormous amount of actually educating working people about the potential of a massive job action for it to have a chance of actually succeeding. While I agree with Jia's central argument, the issue that will unite working people of all races is not institutional racism.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

MIKE LILLIS FOR NYSUT PRESIDENT*

New York State United Teachers is our state union. It has been pretty much controlled by the UFT since our union is by far the biggest local in NYSUT. In addition, there is enough patronage for other large locals to be bought off to ensure nothing changes at the state union level. This does no good for New York State teachers as the record the last few years shows.

Andy Pallotta, the man responsible for our many legislative failures in Albany, has now been tapped by Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus to run for NYSUT President. Let's closely examine his abysmal record as Executive Vice President where he has been directing how our political contributions in Albany are spent.

There have been two new teacher evaluation systems passed into law so teacher ratings are now based on student test scores on faulty exams and the totally subjective Danielson observations. In addition, it now takes new teachers at least four years to obtain tenure. In the past it was three years of probation. There is an inferior Tier 6 pension, where a career teacher who starts right out of college must work over forty years to obtain a full retirement allowance which is lower than the Tiers I through V pension. There has been a change in professional development rules that has made it more difficult for teachers in NYC to get PD. We also have the 2% tax cap that limits education spending in most school districts unless a super majority votes to override it. UFT/NYSUT's legislative record under Pallotta has been nothing short of disastrous. His major success the last three years was to get himself and other NYSUT officers extra pension credit like Unity officers and District Representatives have in the UFT.

Only in twisted world of Unity Caucus can an officer totally fail to make any improvements for the rank and file and obtain a promotion.

In 2014, then NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi and the other NYSUT officers, except Pallotta, took a bold step to buck the UFT/Unity leadership to move NYSUT in a more adversarial direction against anti-public education, anti-worker Governor Andrew Cuomo. It cost Ianuzzi and his team their jobs as Pallotta backed by UFT President Mulgrew led the breakaway movement to unseat Iannuzzi's team.

Iannuzzi led the Stronger Together Caucus and ran to keep his job without UFT and other big city local support. The UFT/Unity machine backed Karen Magee who was elected NYSUT President with around 61% of the statewide vote. Her margin of victory was secured through unanimous UFT support as our union's Delegates to NYSUT do what Mulgrew tells them to do. Since 2014, NYSUT has continued in its free-fall under Magee and her team which of course includes Pallotta. In 2017 Magee has either been dumped by Unity or has had enough. Pallotta and Mulgrew no longer even want to put a fig-leaf to cover over the reality that the Unity/UFT leaders control NYSUT.

Stronger Together in 2017 is running against the state Unity Caucus again. ST announced their top four officer slate recently. Although I strongly disagree with ST not running anyone from New York City for any position, Mike Lillis as a candidate for President is clearly superior to any alternative backed by the UFT/Unity leadership. Lillis is the President of the Lakeland Federation of Teachers.

Not that my support means much even though more NYC high school teachers voted for opposition MORE/NEW ACTION than Unity in last year's UFT election so I should be the High School Vice President as that is the position I ran for. However, Unity has rigged the electoral system so I am not the High School VP and the majority of high school teachers who participated in last year's UFT election are totally disenfranchised in the NYSUT election.

No self respecting teacher should ever vote Unity. On Facebook in the comments to a ST post promoting their top slate, Lesa Aloan Wilbert explains the problems we have in the UFT, NYSUT and AFT in a few lines when referring to last year's NYSUT Representative Assembly. Every public school teacher in the USA should read this.

Lesa Aloan Wilbert My first RA was last year. I sat next to a lovely woman who agreed with pretty much every topic we discussed. When we stood for votes, she sat. When I asked her why she didn't vote with me, she said, "I'm not allowed to vote against the UFT." Corruption in our midst. Go Stronger Together Caucus!

I'm not happy that ST didn't agree to support any of us UFT dissidents for NYSUT office, particularly since some of us joined ST when it formed back in 2014. Arthur Goldstein (Chapter Leader Francis Lewis High School in Queens) ran for Executive VP back then against Pallotta. It is true we did not meet the deadline ST set up for applying for officer positions for 2017 but we asked about the Board of Directors and were rebuffed there too based on the fact that ST wants reforms that would eliminate certain positions. I think their move can be construed as anti-NYC teacher. ST also threatened my friend Mike Schirtzer from MORE who sits on ST's Executive Committee representing NYC. ST needs to reopen a dialogue to mend fences with NYC opposition members for sure.

On the other hand, another Unity shill Andy Pallotta as NYSUT President does not help our cause. His failures do not merit a promotion. It is of primary importance that it be a pro-union group that punches a hole in the Unity machine. ST/Lillis are better than Mulgrew/Pallotta/Unity on teacher evaluations and many other issues impacting members.

ST wants to repeal most of the onerous parts of the Education Transformation Act of 2015 which set up the current teacher evaluation system. ST opposes it taking at least four years on probation for a teacher to be tenured. ST is against receivership where the state takes over so called failing schools and can easily get rid of the teachers and other staff. ST is also in favor of opting out of standardized tests while Mulgrew calls opt out dangerous. ST is no friend of Andrew Cuomo while Mulgrew and Pallotta give him a wink and a nod at best.

ST clearly has superior positions over Unity. That is more important than any personal disagreements we may have with ST leaders over how decisions on candidates were made or controversy over top-down vs. bottom-up unionism which is an important theoretical discussion to have but not that critical right now when the union movement itself is in so much peril.

I believe Mike Lillis/ST are a better choice at NYSUT than anyone who Unity Caucus runs. I'll be backing ST and offering them my assistance if they want it. Since the giant UFT contingent will all vote as they're told for Pallotta at the NYSUT Representative Assembly in April and other large locals are in the pocket of the UFT leadership, this will be a very difficult race for Lillis to win. It is extremely expensive for many of his potential supporters from small locals upstate to travel to NYC and stay at a high priced hotel just to have the right to vote in this election. The UFT membership pays the expenses for our bought and paid for Delegates to do as they're told by Mulgrew. Considering what they'are up against, I am under no illusions that ST will have it easy. Let's hope ST can unite a strong opposition to Unity/Pallotta.



*The views expressed here are my views only and have not been approved by the Independent Community of Educators (ICE), MORE, New Action or anyone else.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

TWU RATIFIES CONTRACT 70-30

Transport Workers Union Local 100 ratified their contract by a vote of 10,540 in favor to 4,571 against. That is a 70% yes vote. In 2014 there was an 82% vote in favor of the last contract at TWU so there is a bit of an uptick in their dissent. TWU has done better than the rest of us for the most part since 2009 so the majority of their members voted in the affirmative.

TWU President John Samuelsen mentioned city and state government employees in his reaction to the vote which is taken from their website.

“I want to thank rank-and-file transit workers for their strong show of support in ratifying this agreement with the MTA.  They recognized that the contract provides wage increases and other economic enhancements that will keep transit workers ahead of inflation, and fully protects their health coverage and wins important medical benefit gains without the concessions that are enshrined in city and state public sector patterns. It secures an unprecedented "me too" wage guarantee with the LIRR unions, which have the right to strike and are governed by federal law and wage patterns set by the national freight and commuter railroad sectors.

"The contract does not lock us into a long-term commitment, which provides an important hedge against any unforeseen spike in inflation.  For the first time, this contract has secured an agreement from the MTA to hire and utilize in house forces to retrofit the older parts of the transit infrastructure to provide clean, comfortable and safe crew areas for our sisters in transit.

"Over the next several months, our union will be plotting the course for 2017 and 2018, knowing that the potential of a national right-to-work bill and other destructive anti-trade union laws are likely coming our way. In this age of national political uncertainty, we must unite or risk great harm. In the coming months, I will be making extraordinary efforts to unify Local 100 to face this oncoming battle."


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

NYC OWED $1.9 BILLION FROM STATE

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit was settled about ten years ago but the state used the Great Recession as an excuse not to pay the city the money it is owed for schools. The recession is in the rear-view mirror but the state still hasn't paid up in full.

It is now referred to as Foundation Aid.

To find out how much your school is owed, click here.

Not that if the DOE got all the money, it would end up in the classroom.

At Middle College the money would be spent in the classroom for sure. According to the CFE site, MCHS is owed $917,147.

Monday, February 13, 2017

TWU DISSIDENTS FIGHTING THEIR CONTRACT PROPOSAL

Not everyone is happy with the recent Transit Workers Local 100 tentative contract. A young Brooklyn Conductor is leading a spirited vote no campaign and he has joined forces with dissidents who were aligned with former TWU head Roger Toussaint who led the 2005 NYC transit strike. Readers might recall the tentative TWU agreement calls for two 2.5% raises over a 28 month period.

TWU's settlement for the last nine years blows away what the UFT did for,  it might be better to say, to city workers.

Some highlights from this Daily News piece on the TWU contract battle:

The transit union heralded its recent contract deal with the MTA as a rare victory for workers during dark times for the labor movement.

But that's not how Tramell Thompson, a 35-year-old conductor from Brooklyn who's been on the job for a scant three years, sees it.

"The contract was one of the worst contracts we've ever had," Thompson said of the deal Transport Workers Union Local 100 president John Samuelsen cut.

The Flatbush native may be new to the tracks and even newer to the union hall, but he's organizing an aggressive campaign for the group's rank-and-file members to vote down the contract. TWU members have until Wednesday to mail in their ballots.

Meanwhile, Thompson is building recognition among the TWU ranks for a movement he calls Progressive Action.

The conductor started Progressive Action last year as an internet radio show, blog and bustling private Facebook group that's attracted nearly 7,000 members.

"They respond better through internet interactions versus the old-fashioned tactics the union is using, (like) mass membership meetings," Thompson said.

He is acerbic and blunt when it comes to TWU leadership, critical of how it runs the organization and the benefits it gets for workers.

A flank of the TWU that supported former union president Roger Toussaint, who organized the 2005 transit strike, has allied with Progressive Action.

"We're like-minded," said Joe Campbell, a car inspector for 27 years with the MTA who twice ran unsuccessfully against Samuelsen and was a Toussaint ally. "He's bringing along a lot of the younger members."

Current TWU leadership is calling Thompson a scab because he said he would not strike if they are in office. TWU fights are so bitter but I think they show a truly thriving democratic union. It is very unlike the UFT in so many ways.

Thanks to Mike Schirtzer for sending the article out.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

DE BLASIO'S EDUCATION "ACCOMPLISHMENTS"

I was just a little agitated at last week's Delegate Assembly when Leroy Barr refused to recognize my point of order or allow me to appeal his ruling so I didn't exactly listen closely when Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the Delegates. In fact, while he was talking I decided it was time to leave.

Fellow Delegate Quinn Zannoni had this comment on our rundown of the totally undemocratic UFT de Blasio endorsement post. He summarized some of the Mayor's remarks:

At his DA speech, DeBlasio said he'd done a good job at education. He mentioned higher test scores, grad rates, better PD, and PROSE.

Test scores are being fiddled with, and consequently so are grad rates:

Better PD? It took them a painfully long time to announce what would count as PD hours, and they disqualified in-school staff meetings as countable hours.


Does anyone trust anything the Mayor says about his education record?

Remember, my perspective is from a more progressive position than some of the people who comment here.

I would not like to see a pro-charter Democrat or Republican elected but think rewarding what is arguably a very anti-teacher Mayor de Blasio with an early endorsement is questionable. He is responsible for hiring Chancellor Carmen Farina and letting her continue the war on teachers. Unwavering support for Democrats, no matter what they do, is not the answer.

Friday, February 10, 2017

FRIEDRICHS THE SEQUEL COMING FROM CALIFORNIA

This is from the LA Times and it isn't very promising for public sector unions. Thanks to Jeff Kaufman for sending it out.

A conservative group has joined with eight California educators in a lawsuit filed this week that seeks to eliminate the right of unions to collect mandatory “agency fees” from teachers — even if they are not full members.

Similar litigation challenging the fees failed last year when the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4, leaving the current policy in place. If this latest litigation were to reach the court following the confirmation of an appointee by President Trump, teachers unions could lose a key source of funding.


Agency fees, which are employed by unions in 23 states including California, are meant to cover the cost of representing teachers in such things as salary and benefit negotiations. Teachers can opt out of the portion of membership dues for activities labeled as political, but they still are on the hook for about two-thirds of the total.

For Los Angeles teachers, full union dues are $988 per year.

We pay well over $1,000 in NYC.

With this and a national right to work law being introduced in Congress, one would think the UFT would show some urgency about defending our union but President Michael Mulgrew said basically we are exploring legal options to fight right to work. They should be talking about working with the membership to show them the value of a union.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

WHY I DO NOT SUPPORT UFT DE BLASIO ENDORSEMENT

Michael Mulgrew left the chair to praise Mayor Bill de Blasio from the floor at today's Delegate Assembly. Staff Director Leroy Barr took over the chair and butchered democratic procedures during the "debate" on a UFT Bill de Blasio endorsement. Leroy took such a huge hatchet to democratic rules that deomocracy could not be recognized after the DA.

Before Mulgrew left the chair, multiple speakers from his Unity Caucus spoke in favor of the UFT's support for the mayor. Mulgrew had bent the rules to allow anyone who was on the UFT's Mayoral Endorsement Committee to speak. One speaker was then called on to oppose the endorsement and then Mulgrew left the chair to speak in favor of supporting the mayor.

I really wanted to speak because there are legitimate questions that have to be answered before we give de Blasio our support but Barr called on Unity's Greg Lundhul (sorry if I spelled his name wrong). I immediately jumped to my feet to raise a point of order. Barr thought I was complaining because Mulgrew was coming back and looking to be taking over the chair after he debated which is improper but that was only one issue.

The main problem was that after calling on the President, temporary chair Barr had an obligation to call on a speaker against. Instead he called on a Unity person. Caucus obligations require that Unity members support leadership positions in union and public forums so I was totally right in calling for a point of order.

If readers would like chapter and verse, in Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised it says on page 31 in paragraph 3: "In cases where the chair knows that persons seeking the floor have opposite opinions on the question, the chair should let the floor alternate between those favoring and those opposing the measure."

Since I raised my objection immediately, I should have been recognized. Instead, Leroy gave a speech about how the UFT as a courtesy called on a speaker against but they don't have to. I wonder what his definition of debate is.

I immediately objected to the ruling of the chair but Leroy moved on to a vote as if I wasn't even there. According to Roberts Rules on page 256, appeals are taken from the chair and go to the assembly. I never had a chance as they didn't even give me a microphone throughout the entire process. I had to shout. What a disgrace.

Actually I should feel pretty good about the whole fiasco. The reason they were rushing through the non-debate was because the mayor himself was right outside in the hallway probably listening in as there are closed circuit televisions out in the hallway. Leroy Barr and Michael Mulgrew wouldn't permit me to talk against de Blasio while he was in the building. Democracy be damned.

The UFT shut me up. I feel like Elizabeth Warren after she was shut up by Mitch McConell in the US Senate last night. Leroy Barr was afraid to let the Delegates hear my rational argument against the endorsement of Bill de Blasio so he just ignored the rules. I could have gone and made an Earl Weaver-Billy Martin type scene at that point but instead I calmed down and sat back and just voted against the endorsement which not surprisingly overwhelmingly carried. The speech I would have given explaining my vote is below.

In the final analysis, if the UFT is right that our early endorsement will persuade the Mayor to improve teaching and learning conditions, then it might pay off. On the other hand if the Mayor continues to take us for granted because he already has our support, then this is just another dumb UFT political move. Furthermore, if de Blasio is indicted or his close aides are indicted and he is dragged down, we might look like fools and it might help someone from the right move in to clean up the corruption. Once again, as with many other UFT decisions, I hope to be proven wrong. However, the issues I wanted to raise should have been discussed and would have if the DA was a truly deliberative body.

UPDATE-As for the total disregard for democratic procedures, I have concluded after sleeping for a few hours that Leroy Barr's actions were worse than usual but nothing out of the ordinary for UFT leadership. Stifling dissent and throwing rules out the window are par for the course for them. In the end it probably would have been healthy for the mayor to hear what I had to say. Read my remarks and judge for yourself.

 Opposition to UFT Bill de Blasio Endorsement Remarks
February 8, 2017 DA

I rise in opposition to endorsing Mayor Bill de Blasio's reelection bid. The timing is very questionable.

There are two investigations on de Blasio's fundraising taking place right now. Do we really believe a federal prosecutor and a local district attorney are both going to spend all of this time and money looking at the mayor's fundraising and indict nobody close to the mayor or the mayor himself? 

The question I hear in the schools is if it is actually worse now compared to when Bloomberg was mayor. Yes we have a contract but the mayor gave us paltry raises and he had us make an interest free loan to the city that won't be paid back in full until 2020 while the city now has record budget surpluses and reserves. 

The contract terms are insulting enough but what really concerns me is how the mayor and his chancellor have kept the Bloomberg-Klein system at the DOE basically intact. NY1 reported last month that spending on bureaucrats is up a whopping 70% at DOE Central compared to when Bloomberg was in power. Spending is up considerably at the DOE on non personnel costs too. What is this money being spent on? Not the classroom. Most of Bloomberg's people kept their jobs at DOE and new blood has been added. Extra money is certainly not going into the classroom.

As my colleague Marc Epstein said, "de Blasio-Farina cemented Bloomberg-Klein into the DNA of the system." My wife Camille was at a recent arbitration where the UFT did great for her but there were three DOE attorneys on the other side. Two were training. The DOE's anti-teacher army at the Office of Labor Relations continues their work to destroy teachers. De Blasio has done very little, if anything, in three+ years to stop the war on teachers. For that, does he really deserve our early, unqualified support.

I don't favor endorsing a pro-charter Democrat or a Republican but when a mayor and his chancellor show they do not support our members and there is a corruption scandal surrounding that mayor, now might be the time to consider staying neutral. The mayor needs to do something concrete to earn our endorsement.

LIVE BLOGGING FROM FEBRUARY DA (kind of edited)

As usual, I apologize in advance for errors since doing this from a smartphone is kind of difficult.

I was late. When I came in the president was speaking.

President's Report
President Michael Mulgrew was talking about the public school proud campaign.

Betsy DeVos was the next topic discussed. Trying to protect state and city first. Everything is on the line. We will have a tough time in Albany. Republican funders don't want charter school transparency.

Assembly wants full CFE funding. Republican Senator John Flanagan, only NY official to support DeVos, has come out against constitutional convention.

Lobby day coming in March.

Contracts for Excellence (Foundation Aid)
Governor has a proposal. Some of it is good but much is not. NYC funding schools properly as per law. Mayor has done great job on funding.

Constitutional Convention
Commercials in favor are good. We have a new talking point. There will be a constitutional change without a convention: pension forfeiture amendment. If public officials are convicted of a crime, they will lose pension. Passed last year and will pass this year and will then go to voters. Don't need a convention for this. Much cheaper this way.

City
Mayor positive on education. DOE legal a little better. Office of Labor Relations, we are fighting three important grievances. One is on paperwork. Another concerns teachers forced to teach six classes (one during professional period). Grieving not just for one school. Must be vigilant on these issues. Cafeteria duty gone in 1995 with Circular 6. Concern because DOE is fighting to allow teaching a regular class and grading it during c6 period.

Proud at AFT. UFT showing people how to do public school proud campaign nationally.

People know DeVos unqualified. Must drive campaign. Must bring energy nationally.

Staff Director's Report
Leroy Barr gave some dates of upcoming events. Many events coming.

Next DA is March 22.

Questions
Question on endorsements. How to involve members?
Mulgrew Answer: Up to NYSUT statewide and AFT nationally. Locally we involve politically active people to make recommendations.

Q Rally opposing Betsy DeVos?
A Must wait to see what she does first.

Q What do we do when principals don't want to deal with us?
A It is a contractual obligation to deal with chapter leader.

Q Paras still doing lunch duties?
A Superintendents interpreted rules wrong. Let DR know.

Q National right to work law?
A We believe we will all be right to work at some point. Many legal and political people looking at this. AFL-CIO looking at ways to attack it but I believe it will happen. Elections matter.

Q Charter schools use space utilization to get into schools. Can we get more construction?
A Schools don't fall under OSHA regulations but mayor has upped seats in capital plan. Some districts gaining kids while others are not. Need to build in right places. Attacking charter schools coming in to co-locate by battling DeVos plan.

Q Need jingle on public school proud?
A Want to move with public school proud. No problem with jingle.

New Motion Period
Motion on immigration to proactively protect kids after chancellor's letter which was vague.

It failed but Mulgrew said he would get a report to exec bd. We have done 11 resolutions since 2003 on immigration.

Motion to oppose judge Gorsuch for US Supreme Court. Seat was stolen. Unity person motivated it

Unity's Carmen Alvarez spoke against saying it would not build unity. It failed.

Special Orders of Business
Endorse Bill Perkins for City Council. It passed.

Mel Aaronson endorsed Tom Brown for Teachers Retirement Board. It carried unanimously.

Resolution on undocumented students not being deported. It passed.

Resolution to support De Blasio for reelection.
Leroy Barr motivated it. Committee met and discussed endorsement. Endorse Democrat.  Some unions have already endorsed de Blasio. Want to be in at the start to have weight. De Blasio not perfect but 20 years prior were worse. Have a contract. Recommend people on committee speak.

There were a bunch of speakers in favor and one against. Mulgrew left chair to speak. Leroy Barr took the chair. I called for a point of order after he called on yet another Unity rep before he could call to end debate. Leroy denied it of course but I knew I was right. I appealed but it did not matter as he just moved on and didn't even bother to listen to the appeal.

The Delegates voted overwhelmingly to endorse de Blasio and then out he came to address the DA.

That's all for me today. I tried again guys.

Enjoy the snow day!






UFT EXEC BD UNANIMOUSLY ENDORSES DE BLASIO'S REELECTION

Arthur Goldstein's Executive Board report reveals that the UFT Executive Board unanimously voted to endorse Mayor Bill de Blasio's reelection bid. It is a bit surprising that according to the report, the vote was unanimous and there is nothing about any Executive Board member questioning early de Blasio support when the mayor or people close to him might soon be indicted. There are two investigations going on. The NY Times reported on the federal investigation yesterday.

I don't know if the investigations entered into the Executive Board's discussion. Arthur paraphrases Staff Director Leroy Barr's reasoning for the UFT's de Blasio support:

Things are not perfect, but remember what it used to be like. As bad as things seem, we know it’s not as bad as it used to be. We have a lot of work to do.

So the union's reasoning, if I am understanding their position correctly, is that it is awful in the schools but it used to be really awful. Awful beats really awful any day of the week.

Under de Blasio, we accepted the subpar 2014 contract with its paltry salary increases and we loaned the city money interest free that most other city workers received from 2008-2010. We won't get back our money in full until 2020. We have healthcare cost increases. Absent Teacher Reserves are still treated horribly as they roam the system as substitutes. Even worse in my opinion is that many schools are run by abusive administrators who have made the job a nightmare for UFT members. The gottcha squad of DOE lawyers remains from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's days.

My friend Marc Epstein put it this way:

 De Blasio and Farina cemented Bloomberg/Klein into the DNA of the system.  It’s too far gone, I’m afraid.

NYC teachers are generally not happy unless they are in a school where they are shielded from the DOE's unrelenting war on teachers.

Am I missing something? I do not favor supporting some pro-charter Republican or Democrat. Is "It could be worse" enough for us to support the mayor's reelection?

What's wrong with just staying neutral right now?

Monday, February 06, 2017

NOBODY HOME AT UFT

There was some business we had to take care of with the UFT this afternoon so a little before 5:00 PM. a call was made to the central UFT number, (212) 777-7500, from my house phone. After listening to the phone ring over and over for about fifteen minutes with no answer at all, I gave up.

 I can't believe nobody picked up the phone on a Monday afternoon at the Central UFT.

No operator, no chance to leave a message, nothing.

Have they given up the ship already?

Was this a unique experience for today or has this happened to anyone else?

Sunday, February 05, 2017

UNDERCOVER TEACHER IN ENGLAND SHOWS WHAT THE CLASSROOM IS REALLY LIKE

Thanks to someone from the ATR Chapter for sending out this video from Britain's Channel 4 from 2005 on real life classroom experiences of a teacher.

Seeing is believing and my guess is that so many who work in the NYC schools can identify with some of the Leeds and London classrooms that are shown in this documentary.




Posting video is too easy so I'll start to write more in the near future. For now, just understand that we in NYC are not alone.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

RIGHT TO WORK IS WRONG

This video is dedicated to the Republicans here who are hoping we become a right to work country.

A union, even the UFT, is better than no union.


Friday, February 03, 2017

SCOTT WALKER ADVISING TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ON UNION BUSTING

This article from the Daily News is all we need to see to know about President Donald Trump's plans for labor.

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday that he spoke with Vice President Pence about how the White House can implement on a federal level parts of the Republican governor's contentious policy that all-but eliminated collective bargaining for public sector unions in the state.

President Trump has talked about wanting to weaken collective bargaining protections for federal employees, most of whom can't currently bargain over wages or benefits, to make it easier to hire and fire government workers and base pay on merit rather than tenure. Those changes would require an act of Congress.

Walker severely restricted union power in Wisconsin and is now talking with the Trump administration about "how they may take bits and pieces of what we did" with the union law and civil service reform and "apply it at the national level."

Merit really means patronage.

People need to be aware of what is coming. It is not going to be pretty.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

JHS 145 APPEALS TO UFT FOR HELP TO STAY OPEN

What awful memories I've had the last couple of days after I was sent the speech Jim Donohue of JHS 145 made the other night at the UFT Executive Board trying to get UFT support to save his school. We put up a great fight at Jamaica High School when we were slated for closure. At Jamaica, we certainly were supported by the UFT.

However, since the UFT is now on board with most of what the administration at City Hall does, I doubt the UFT will provide much more than lip service and Eva Moskowitz will get the JHS 145 building.

Please UFT prove me wrong on this one and find a way to save this school.


Hello. My name is Jim Donohue. 


I’d like to start by thanking you for allowing me a few minutes to speak tonight, and I’d also like to thank Carol Harrison and Mary Atkinson from the Bronx chapter for their support in what has been a very difficult couple of weeks.


I’m an English teacher at JHS 145, where I’ve worked for the past 17 years. JHS 145 is a renewal school, and we were told (through a leak to the New York Times) that a proposal has been made to close the school at the end of the school year.
 

I want to share a quote with you because it precisely defines the situation my colleagues, my students, and our school community find ourselves in today. It reads as follows:


“For the past 12 years, New York City’s ‘answer’ for struggling schools was simple: warehouse our neediest students, starve the schools of support, and then close their schools if they didn’t miraculously turn around."


As you may have guessed, that was spoken by Mr. Michael Mulgrew back in 2014 in response to Mayor de Blasio’s announcement of the Renewal school plan. 


Mr. Mulgrew used the term “warehouse our neediest students.” Well, I’ve come to you tonight directly from the warehouse.  How else to describe a school whose students come NOT FROM ONE OR TWO zoned elementary schools in their district, but from 94 different schools located in EVERY BOROUGH of NYC? How else to describe a school with 140 students who arrived at its doors DIRECTLY from the Dominican Republic? How else to describe a school with 53 (20% of its population) shelter students, another 50 classified as Special Needs students, and another 20 with Interrupted Formal Education? We’ve done some research. NO OTHER MIDDLE SCHOOL IN THE BRONX has demographics to match this.
 

Mr. Mulgrew used the term “starve the school of resources”.  Well, I come to you from a place of terrible starvation. How else to describe a situation in which 140 out of 298 students are English Language Learners but had NO ESL teacher for the entire 2014/2015 school year, and only 1 this year. How else to describe a situation in which 60% of a school’s population are English Language Learners, but have NO Bilingual math teacher, NO bilingual science teacher, NO bilingual English teacher and No Bilingual Social Studies teacher? How else to describe the following absurdity: One year into the renewal program, a program that promised ADDITIONAL RESOURCES to schools like ours, the DOE allowed the Success Academy to take 18 of our classrooms, which scattered our staff and students across 3 floors of a building occupied by 4 different schools, and forced us to dismantle our computer lab in order to convert it into classroom space?
 

 Mr. Mulgrew mentioned the closing of schools, which brings me to my true purpose tonight. After attempting to systematically starve JHS 145 to death, the DOE now calls for the school to be closed.   And I say “ATTEMPTING TO STARVE TO DEATH” because we are far from dead. Despite DOE claims that our students “FAIL” the state ELA and MATH assessments, we have data that shows otherwise. 

Our students come to us reading at levels between Kindergarten and 4th grade. Do they miraculously (another term used by Mr. Mulgrew) achieve grade level scores on these tests at 145? No, they do not.

What they do is move, consistently, from Kindergarten levels to 2nd grade, from 2nd to 3rd or 4th, from 3rd to 5th or 6th and so on.


Despite years of neglect, our students have won the Thurgood Marshall Junior Mock Trial Competition 8 times, more than any other school in the citywide tournament.
 

Our students have won the BronxWRITeS Poetry Slam more than any other school in the city, recently sharing the stage with Mayor De Blasio and Ambassador Caroline Kennedy in an exhibition at Goldman Sachs.


 The DOE’s 2014-2015 School Quality Snapshot tells us that “86% of this school’s former 8th graders earned enough high-school credit in 9th grade to be on track for graduation,” a number that is nearly identical to the citywide average of 87% and better than the district average of 81%.
 

Our kids are some of the most vulnerable in the city, living in the poorest congressional district in the country, but they are smart and capable and worthy of respect. They are not failures.


Finally,  I want to use a term  that Mr. Mulgrew didn’t use. That term is DIRTY POOL. Because a full 3 weeks before the DOE’s closure proposal even becomes official, and 2 months before the PEP vote takes place, and despite the DOE’s claim that the closing has NOTHING to do with the charter school, Success Academy’s website has begun advertising for applicants to its new middle school, opening in 2017, at JHS 145. In recent weeks, Success Academy staff members have been measuring our classrooms, apparently 100% confident that the PEP will rubberstamp our demise in March.


Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m here to ask you for 4 things:

We ask that the UFT publicly demand that the proposal for the closing of JHS 145 be pulled from the PEP agenda.

We ask that the UFT utilize its resources in the form of media, social media, twitter, etc. speak out against this proposal. 

We ask the UFT to help us move the PEP from Manhattan to the school so that the community can attend, and if that proves impossible, to supply a bus for community members to travel to the PEP.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we ask that Mr. Mulgrew come to our school to witness or participate in the student march to the District Office that we are scheduling for next week.
 
Thank you.
 

Please Contact 
Jim Donohue   917-318-8762 donohuenyc@gmail.com
Craig Moss    914-319-1227 poet145@gmail.com
Deidre Walker 347-869-4810 deidremw@gmail.com  

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

PBA NEW CONTRACT ADHERES TO UNIFORM PATTERN

The NYC Patrolman's Benevolent Association has finally agreed to a tentative contract.

According to my reading of the details, the cops have not, repeat not, done anything to beat pattern bargaining where one municipal union settles on a salary increase and others receive basically the same financial terms. The city going back to the Koch years has often given the uniform unions 1% over the civilian unions, such as the UFT. This deal with the PBA adheres to the uniform pattern.

The PBA beat the UFT civilian pattern but so did all the other uniform unions. That is not unusual.

The PBA did get an extra 2.25% increase for cops in exchange for an agreement for officers to be equipped with body cameras. However, this is going to be paid for by lowering, yes lowering, salaries for new officers.

This is from the Daily News account of the tentative agreement:

To pay for the extra 2.25% hike that would be given to all PBA members as of this March, the city would cut starting salaries for new hires - saving itself roughly $30,000 per cop over five years.

The reduced salary for NYPD rookies would be $42,500 - down from the $42,819 new hires earn now.

After a year and a half, officers would earn $45,000. They would get another $1,000 at 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 years - reaching $51,000 after 4 1/2 years.

Once they pass the five-year mark, pay jumps to $85,292.


PBA also agreed to health savings, the same as other city unions.

For those who will comment that the police will not have to wait until 2020 to get their retroactive money paid in full whereas UFT members will have to wait, that is true. The cops received that money in raises between 2008-2010. In terms of retro, they did better than the UFT as did most other city unions.

If this contract meets the needs of the city Police Officers, they should vote for it. However, if anyone tells you that PBA President Patrick Lynch broke the pattern, just point to the lower starting salaries for cops and say the PBA is subject to pattern bargaining just like the rest of us.