Wednesday, May 23, 2018

IBO'S LATEST REPORT PROJECTING 1% RAISES FOR CITY EMPLOYEES; STRINGER REPORT HAS DOE ON WATCHLIST

As the fiscal year comes close to ending, the Independent Budget Office has issued a report and once again they are projecting city employees will get the 1% salary increases based on Mayor de Blasio's budget.

Here is what the IBO says in a section called Fiscal Pressure:
Another potential source of fiscal pressure is the need to renegotiate many of the labor contracts settled in the Mayor’s first term. Many of these contracts are expiring. The de Blasio Administration has set aside funds to cover 1 percent annual raises and stated that any additional benefits such as paid parental leave would require givebacks to offset the costs. If the Mayor moves away from this position as the contracts are settled it would be necessary to find millions of dollars not currently budgeted.

We are not expecting the Mayor to move away from the 1%. Only a militant labor movement could force his hand.

Meanwhile Comptroller Scott Stringer has issued a report on the DOE. DOE is on the Agency Watchlist. I'm not sure what that means but it sounds important.

From the Stringer report:
First announced in the Comptroller’s Preliminary Budget Presentation, the Agency Watch List spotlights City agencies – the Department of Correction (DOC), Department of Education (DOE), and homeless services – that raise the most budgetary concerns due to rapidly increased spending and meager measurable results. Reports, to be released quarterly, will review trends and recommend indicators that should be reported and monitored to evaluate the effectiveness of agency spending in achieving the Administration’s stated goals.

Now for some specifics from the Comptroller on DOE:
Since FY 2014, DOE central administration staffing has risen by nearly 21 percent. Through February 2018, the Department reports a total of 2,254 full-time positions in central administration, 387 more positions than at the end of FY 2014. The largest increases are in the Office of Strategic Coordination and Planning, the Division of Information and Instructional Technology, the Division of School Support and the Office of Special Education Initiatives, combining for 286 positions or nearly three-quarters of the overall increase.

In case you are wondering what, for example, the Division of School Support does, check this out. Gotta love bureaucracy. I wonder if the new Chancellor will reorganize the bureaucracy as that seems to be something they do regularly.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

WHERE HAS THE UFT BEEN ON SEXUAL HARASSMENT?

I'm a little late to this blog party as Leonie Haimson at the NYC Parents Blog and Chaz have already posted on Sue Edelman's excellent piece on how principals sexually harassing teachers is usually unpunished by the NYC Department of Education. The UFT has passed a resolution to say there should be fair investigations. OK, but the UFT has been very silent about actual cases of sexual harassment that have merit. The NYC schools didn't always have a culture that looked the other way at sexual harassment among principals.

Back in the late 1990's we had a principal at Jamaica High School who was accused by two teachers of sexual harassment. The allegations were investigated in a timely manner by the Board of Education's Office of Equal Opportunity and the allegations were found to have merit in June. By the following September, the principal was reassigned to a district office. When the DOE under Mayor Bloomberg in 2003 tried to put this principal in another school, the public outcry forced them to backtrack almost immediately.

The Bloomberg-Chancellor Joel Klein theory that principals can do no wrong as long as they can produce higher test scores has led to this corrupt culture where just about anything goes for principals.

This leads to an important question: Why didn't the UFT expose these principals who were sexually harassing members?

That is answered by Shaunte Penniston, a teacher who sued for sexual harassment and has prevailed.

From Sue Edelman's piece in the NY Post:
Penniston complained to the teachers union, which did nothing, she told The Post. "My claims fell on deaf ears. They were waiting for me to be assaulted before taking any action. I felt like a sitting duck."

Yes, this is one example. However, can anyone find a school where the union came charging in like the cavalry to reign in a principal who was harassing UFT members and then publicized it to encourage teachers that they can fight back? Need we say anything more about the uselessness of the United Federation of Teachers in this decade.

I keep saying that we need a union and we certainly do.

The question is this: Do we even have one now?

Back in the nineties, the UFT supported our efforts to reign in the principal who was sexually harassing teachers.

Monday, May 21, 2018

NYC PARENTS SUPPORT REPEAL OF EVALUATION LAW

We are getting help from the parents now on our petition to repeal the teacher evaluation law entirely.

Please read this blog post by parent activist Leonie Haimson at the NYC Parents Blog.

Here is a part of it:
A new bill, passed by the NYS Assembly and being considered by the NY Senate as S08301, would change the teacher evaluation system in the state for (at least) the fourth time since 2010.  Despite the claims of NYSUT, the state teacher union, a careful reading of the bill does not indicate that it would de-link teacher evaluations from student test scores.  

Instead, teacher evaluations would continue to be partially determined by student “growth scores,” which in turn would be based on “alternate assessments” as approved by the NYS Education Department or where desired locally, still based on the state exams.  Thus, the concerns expressed by the NY State School Boards  Association, the New York Council of School Superintendents and other education groups, that this bill, if passed, could mean even more testing for students, appears warranted, since the state exams will continue to be given anyway, as mandated by federal law. 


More discussion of the teacher evaluation issue, which NY State can’t seem to get right, is in an column written by Gary Stern of LoHud News,  in which he calls the system “a ghastly mistake that won't die.” Diane Ravitch argues that the currently teacher evaluation law, called APPR, should just be repealed, and the decision how to evaluate teachers should go back to the districts, as it was before the promise of Race to the Top funds lured the state to create a new system based in part on student test scores.  My view? If the law is not to be simply repealed, there should be hearings, public input and careful consideration as to what should replace this complex and unreliable mess of a system, rather than the current bill. 

Leonie then has Long Island parent activist Deborah Abramson-Brooks break down the flawed new bill in detail.

The parents also link to our petition. It has grown slowly but surely over the last six weeks. Keep it going folks. We are making a difference.

Does anyone have any ideas how we could spread the word even further?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

REALITY BASED EDUCATOR TWEETS ON POST JANUS UFT

I saw the Tweet below from Reality Based Educator:

Crickets about APPR from .@UFT. Janus is coming, company union heads. Membership is restless and sick of your sellouts. Don't think you can quell it forever with propaganda and patronage. 



I am not betting against Michael Mulgrew and Randi Weingarten's Unity machine to basically scare people into paying UFT dues after Janus but you never know. We will soon find out for sure.

As I have said before, we need a union and I am very pro-union. I would rather fix our union from within. That said, if the fed up UFT members bolt from the UFT in droves, I hope they have a plan to organize themselves into a new labor union. Otherwise, I believe we will have lost the fight and we will have little left.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

ICEUFT WILL NOT TELL ANYONE WHAT ORGANIZATIONS THEY CAN BELONG TO

At yesterday's ICEUFT meeting, a proposal was passed without much discussion (rare for ICEUFT) stating that ICEUFT takes a position that people who are part of ICEUFT are free to join and/or stay in any other organization of their choice.

To belong to the Independent Community of Educators (ICEUFT), one needs to be an advocate for UFT members and for the public schools. That is the litmus test.

As for a specific group, even as ICEUFT has suspended our support for the Movement of Rank and File Educators, we have no issue with any individual who wants to stay in both organizations.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

MULGREW ACKNOWLEDGES AT MAY DA THAT EVALUATION IS TOXIC

Arthur Goldstein's May Delegate Assembly Report is as usual required reading for anyone who is involved in any way with teaching in New York City. At the DA, UFT President Michael Mulgrew finally admitted that evaluations in NYC are "toxic". What a revelation?

Here are the Minutes from Arthur of part of Mulgrew's President's Report:
NYSUT RA was in Buffalo. Asks if they had a nice time. Seems to be growing solidarity across state. Everyone knows Janus. Bill passed that no one will mandate testing for evaluation. Governor supports. Assembly passed it. Comes down to Senate. NYSUT doing good job with this, wants nothing tied to it. About misuse of test scores. 

Consultation Committee with new chancellor. Says he’s very nice guy. You can be a really nice guy, but taking over that office is another issue. They want to know if we have to renegotiate. Law says we have a year. If moratorium (on using grade 3-8 tests in teacher ratings) lapses and we don’t have law, all teachers 50% standardized test scores. We have to take people out if they don’t vote for this. Whatever happens, it doesn’t matter. In NYC evaluation is toxic because it isn’t being used properly, and it’s getting worse. Members are observed day after they speak up about something, and admin who do that should be fired. Basis of law is about supporting work of people in classrooms. If professional admin perverts and twists it to lord over and beat people, they shouldn’t be allowed near children.

We don’t want to do anything about evaluation until we understand that this needs to stop. Some people are left alone, Some schools do this the right way, and every one of us wants to work in these schools, really talking about craft of education. Then, we have really bad people. Observation and evaluation should not be a benign activity. We should be in secure environment evaluation ourselves and letting others look at it.

Chancellor agreed if that’s what’s going on it’s no good. 


Our UFT President who two months ago said that the NYC evaluation system could "be a model statewide" now admits that it's "toxic" and that it is getting worse. Please don't comment that Mulgrew in February was talking about the choice of what growth model to use and not the observations. The whole system is flawed; the law the UFT and NYSUT are backing will only change what tests are used to evaluate us and won't do anything about Danielson observations. Mulgrew has finally figured out Danielson is not going well in NYC.

How many teachers have had to have their professional reputations and/or livelihoods ruined by Danielson observations before the President of their union finally admits that the observations are being used to get back at people who speak up?

This one sentence really struck me from Arthur's notes of Mulgrew's report: "Basis of law is about supporting work of people in classrooms. If professional admin perverts and twists it to lord over and beat people, they shouldn't be allowed near children."

Welcome to many NYC schools Mr. President! Where have you been the last five years?

I have some sad news for the President: The basis of the law is to fire teachers.

There are hundreds of administrators out there who are using the evaluation system to control teachers and don't give a hoot about improving or supporting instruction. They shouldn't be near children; Mulgrew is right. However one needs to ask:

What has the UFT done to reign them in?

The answer is next to nothing.

How about supporting repealing the evaluation law Mr. Mulgrew and starting from scratch? We have a petition asking for repeal (see right side of page or go here) that over 1,100 have signed and PS 8 has had a rally calling for the end of Danielson now!

Later in his report, Arthur once again cites something Mulgrew says that made me laugh so I didn't start screaming?

 Janus—All working hard. Don’t know what more we can do but will think of it. One to one conversations important. Door knocking has been great. Next piece membership teams. 

Don't know what more we can do?

How about acting like a real labor union leader for a change Mr. President and working for what the vast majority of your members want by getting rid of the evaluation system? That might convince some people to pay union dues to the UFT post Janus.

Here is a suggestion for right now: How about at the very least convincing the new nice guy Chancellor Carrranza to reduce the minimum number of annual observations to two like most of the districts in the rest of the state have? That would be rather easy to ask for now wouldn't it? If he is such a nice guy, maybe we could get those two observations per year in NYC. No need to change the law for that.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

PS 8 RALLIES SHOUTING "END DANIELSON NOW"

Here is a cause everyone here can get behind. 50 people from PS 8 this morning were out in front of their school calling for an end to Danielson observations. "End Danielson Now" and "Teachers have had enough," they chanted. "Paras have had enough" was another chant. We agree. This action is a wonderful start. Other schools need to pick up on this.

Now it is time for all of us to come forward to join the effort to repeal the evaluation law and tell the world we have had ENOUGH!

Here is an account of this morning's action at PS 8 written by our partner in crime to kill the evaluation system Roseanne McCosh.

 The teacher elected to be CL next year is holding the END Danielson sign.  (Roseanne is holding the ENOUGH sign)



This morning approximately 50 UFT members stood in front of our school building for 10 minutes as an exercise in solidarity.  We decided at our last union meeting to start with a gathering in front just to show unity as union members. We didn't want to scare anyone away by getting too militant too quickly. 

A couple of signs were made by one teacher and when everyone saw them they quickly got on board with “End Danielson” and teachers have had “Enough.”  Once we realized everyone liked the ideas behind the signs we got everyone to chant, "End Danielson Now" "Teachers have had enough"  "Paras have had enough" "What have we had?  ENOUGH!" etc… 

My CL made a point that even though I wasn’t rated under Danielson I was leading the chant.  I then called out the names of the other staff members who, like me, are not rated under Danielson but still chanted. Teachers applauded these staff members and thanked them for showing solidarity.

We ended by entering the building together in a moment of silence to mourn our profession.  Mourning our profession is why we wore black.We are going to try to do this again next week.

DIANE RAVITCH DEFENDS COMPREHENSIVE HIGH SCHOOLS

The NY Times has a piece on music programs being done away with as big high schools are turned into a number of small high schools. Diane Ravitch picked up on it and hammered it beautifully.

Thank you Diane for mentioning Jamaica High School in her post.

Here are some of the main parts:
Today(Monday), the New York Times observed (too late to matter, too late to save Jamaica High Schoool in Queens or Christpher Columbus in the Bronx) that the Bloomberg-Klein decision to close large high schools and replace them with small schools has effectively destroyed successful music programs. The compensation is supposed to be that the graduation rate is higher in the small schools. But as I reported in my book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education,” the small schools enroll different students from the large schools they replaced. The neediest students are shuffled off elsewhere. 

The Times gives an incomplete picture:
Between 2002 and 2013, New York City closed 69 high schools, most of them large schools with thousands of students, and in their place opened new, smaller schools. Academically, these new schools inarguably serve students better. In 2009, the year before the city began closing Columbus, the school had a graduation rate of 37 percent. In 2017, the five small schools that occupy its former campus had a cumulative graduation rate of 81 percent.

This sounds real good but it doesn't tell the whole story. Diane just takes the article's claims apart piece by piece:
The students with cognitive disabilities are not in the new small schools. The English language learners, the newcomers who speak no English, are gone.
Schools that once enrolled 4,000 students now house five schools, each with an enrollment of 500 or less. Do the math. When you disappear 1500 of 4,000 students, it does wonders for your graduation rate!
You can deduce this from the article, but it is never spelled out plainly. The small schools are not enrolling the same students as the so-called “failing high schools” of 4,000. The subhead of the article reads: “Downside of Replacing City’s Big Failing Schools.” I suggest that the big high schools were not “failing.” They were enrolling every student who arrived at their door, without regard to language or disability.

This is not success. This is a deliberate culling of students that involves collateral damage, not only the shuffling off of the neediest students, but the deliberate killing of the arts, advanced classes, sports, and the very concept of comprehensive high school, all to be able to boast about higher graduation rates for those who survived. A PR trick.
Add in the grade inflation and sometimes academic fraud in many new small schools and you kind of have the whole story about how the small school miracle is basically fiction.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

WILL CARRANZA CHANGE THE CULTURE AT DOE?

It has been over a month since Richard Carranza took over as the Chancellor of the New York City schools. When he finally pulled sexual harasser principal Howard Kwait from John Bowne High School, some saw it as a sign that maybe the days of autocratic principal rule are numbered, particularly when it comes to sexual harassment.

Those that are saying that Kwait should be terminated, instead of just reassigned, should understand that the city more than likely settled all of the claims by paying the victims but admitting no wrong. Ergo, how can you charge and terminate him when they defended Kwait all along? They could charge anybody but he would have a reasonable defense. I strongly agree with my colleague Chaz who has repeatedly asserted that any teacher in such a position would have been removed from the classroom and probably fired after the first incident. There is a double standard at the Department of Education for teachers compared to administrators but maybe that is changing.

Further evidence that Carranza may be a different kind of leader comes from the Minutes of UFT Michael Mulgrew's President's Report from the April Delegate Assembly.

This is directly from the Minutes:
Mulgrew has spoken to him (Carranza) every day. Mulgrew  told him if he went to a school every day of the school year he would only have visited 10% of the schools in NYC. All of a sudden everyone wants to convince the new chancellor that they don't believe in anything except respecting and supporting all the people that work in the schools and that they have great relationships with the union. The DOE's tone has changed since the selection of the new chancellor.

Before anyone gets happy, let's recall that Mulgrew made similar kinds of statements after Mayor Michael Bloomberg was gone and Carmen Farina and Mayor Bill de Blasio took over the schools/.

This is from our January 2014 DA Report, the first after Bloomberg left office:
 The President noted a change in the relationship between the UFT and the people at the DOE.  Many of them have been apologizing to us for what they said they had to do during the Bloomberg years.
Unfortunately, nothing of any substance changed under Farina/de Blasio. Most readers here believe working conditions have actually worsened since de Blasio took over.

These are the three questions that Mulgrew should expect answers to:


  • Can Carranza recognize the morally bankrupt system he has inherited in many schools?



  • Can the chancellor change the culture at Tweed and turn it around to make it just a little bit pro-teacher or at least neutral?



  • Can Carranza reign in the principals and superintendents who believe power and control are their main priorities which has led to multiple cases of grade inflation and outright fraud to artificially boost the passing and graduation rates?


Answering that last question in an ethical way might make the mayor look bad so I don't see major change at Tweed but there is nothing wrong with hoping this chancellor has some integrity and wants to do what is right.

A more likely explanation for what happened to Kwait is that since sexual harassment is a topical issue, reassigning John Bowne's principal was necessary for public relations purposes since the chancellor has his own past on this issue and the mayor has been tone deaf on sexual harassment at the DOE as well. They had to do something. Removing Kwait was really low hanging fruit.

The "My administrators right or wrong" culture will probably march on mostly unabated at the DOE and the UFT will not fight it with any vigor. I will be glad to admit I am wrong in that prediction but I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

HOWARD KWAIT FINALLY REMOVED FROM JOHN BOWNE FOR SEXUAL HARASSMENT BUT KEEPS DOE JOB AS DO OTHERS

By now we all know the story of Howard Kwait, the now former principal at John Bowne High School known for sexually harassing female employees and grade fixing. After paying out $830,000 in claims against Kwait, the Department of Education has finally seen fit to transfer him to the central office, but not terminate him. Hey, he is a member of the administrator club so he is invincible.

Read Kwait's entire history as chronicled by Sue Edelman at the NY Post here.

Reaction among colleagues has been powerful.

From Patrick Walsh:
This is absolutely mad and completely consistent with how the NYC DOE disciplines degenerate or criminal administrators. Not only did this clown repeatedly engage in sexual harassment, and attempt to force fellow administrators to change the grades of students, he has already cost NYC taxpayers $600,000 with more likely to be paid out in continuing lawsuits. Consequence? He is reassigned, given make-work away from human contact, and allowed to keep his $157,000 salary. If a teacher acted in such a way or anything even approaching such a manner he or she would have been repeatedly humiliated by the NY Post, become a poster child of "reformers" and been, rightfully, fired. Hopefully, this outrageous story will provide non-teachers an insight into the cesspool that is the DOE.

I can't say it any better than Patrick did.

One of my Jamaica High School colleagues also worked at Bowne.
He was my principal for over 3 miserable years. I was an ATR forced to go there and he didn’t want to hire me so he made me life a living hell for over 3 years. I can’t believe he held onto his job for so long torturing so many people. I’m glad that the new chancellor removed him, but he deserves nothing less than firing and having all teaching and admin licenses revoked.  

What is so troubling is we all are fully aware that Kwait is most probably just the tip of the iceberg. Does anyone think he is the only DOE administrator who is getting away with deplorable behavior?

In the Daily News piece on sexual harassment at the DOE, they briefly mention Carlos Borrero from the High School for Community Leadership. That is one of the four schools that replaced Jamaica High School. Now Borerro only cost the city $60,00 according to the Daily News (pocket change compared to Kwait) but where is the UFT to reign him in or Kwait for that matter?

While I was there, we filed multiple grievances against Borrero on safety issues and coaching positions as he was the head of athletics for the campus. I recall one particular safety grievance that a group of women from Jamaica filed. Borrero refused to meet with them. He hid in his office at the time of the scheduled hearing and would only meet with someone from the Queens UFT. We resolved the grievance but I was not at all surprised when this story of the lawsuit came out that he told kids if they did well, he would take them to a strip club. We stood up to his bullying but when Jamaica was gone in 2014, he had a much freer reign.

You see UFT when you let strong chapters like Jamaica's be destroyed, you often get weak chapters or virtually no chapters when they are replaced.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

YOU CAN NOW CALL UFT "CUSTOMER SERVICE"

Along with just about everyone else, this week my UFT membership card came in the mail with my new membership number and a letter from UFT President Michael Mulgrew. I feel the need to go to the dictionary today to define some key words for our union's leaders.

What is the primary job of a union?

This is from Webster:
an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members' interests in respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions 

That is fairly straightforward. We are members and not customers.

Well, not to the leadership of this union. From Mulgrew's letter we learn that if we have a question about attaining a discount we can email "or call UFT customer service at 212-598-9512."

Customer Service? Is he kidding?

What is a customer?
Let's go to Google:
Customer: a person or organization that buys goods or services from a store or business:
" was a regular customer at the Golden Lion"

I am a customer if I go to eat at McDonalds Mr. Mulgrew. When it comes to the union, we are all members of the UFT. We are union members, not customers.

Keep the discounts and defend our working conditions Mr. Mulgrew. If you supported our rights instead of setting up a customer service line, you would not have to worry about Janus.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

THE POST JANUS UFT LANDSCAPE

Many people are wondering what the post Janus UFT will look like. We speculated in March but as the decision gets closer I can say I am not sure what anything will look like after the case is decided.

Here is what we do know. The Supreme Court will soon issue a ruling in the case of Janus vs AFSCME. Most of us are expecting a 5-4 decision to come down against the unions. It is always possible that Chief Justice John Roberts or maybe new justice Neil Gorsuch could side with the unions to keep labor stability by upholding the 49 year old Abood precedent that made it legal for unions to collect fair share or agency fees from non-members both in the public and private sector. We do not see that as very likely but one never knows. More likely, the public sector will soon become right to work throughout the country which will mean unions will have to convince their members to stay and pay union dues while not being able to deny fair representation to people who refuse to join the union and pay dues.

According to a NY Teacher piece, Michael Mulgrew stated that the right wing has raised $6 million to "mount a campaign to attack public sector unions in the state..." The UFT traces the funding in part back to the infamous Koch brothers who are two of the funders of the Freedom Foundation. This so called Freedom Foundation went after union membership in Washington, Oregon and California after an earlier Supreme Court ruling in Harris v Quinn allowed certain indirect government workers to opt out of fair share union fees. The Freedom Foundation went door-to-door and did a huge media blitz to get workers to leave their unions.The union out in Washington says less than 10% quit the union but the Freedom Foundation says it was over 55%. Can the UFT survive a similar public campaign to convince members to leave the union after Janus? As I stated above, I don't know but I wouldn't bet against our union.

Let us be open and above board here. Can we possibly defend the UFT? I am pro-union and have worked hard since the mid nineties to build a more militant UFT as have many other activists in ICEUFT, Teachers for a Just Contract, New Action, MORE and many who are not in any caucus. Electoral success has been elusive except in the high schools but we keep attempting to make our union world a little better.

The UFT leadership's defenders argue that our salaries and benefits are competitive and that Michael Mulgrew, Randi Weingarten and their followers in the Unity Caucus have navigated difficult political terrain to keep most of our rights intact. They say it would be much worse without a union or with a smaller one. They have some valid points.

The critics say our working conditions have deteriorated significantly since the infamous 2005 contract and other contracts signed with anti-teacher Mayor Michael Bloomberg that Weingarten still touts. How can someone be proud of a contract that created the Absent Teacher Reserve pool which allowed the city to close multiple schools and displace so many educators? Before 2005, members were placed in one of six schools of their choosing if a school was closed but now they become substitutes. How can a union leader boast about agreeing to deny teachers the right to grieve unfair/inaccurate letters in the file that has allowed many abusive administrators to run roughshod over teachers? How can she crow about acquiescing to putting teachers back on potty patrol and other givebacks that have made the job miserable for so many teachers?

Weingarten's successor Mulgrew in 2013 allowed anti-public school State Education Commissioner John King to decide on our evaluation system and King made it much worse than the traditional system. Even after the law changed to allow more flexibility, Mulgrew still agreed to a minimum of  four observations per year for most of us. Toiling in NYC schools is next to impossible unless someone is working for one of the enlightened administrators (they definitely still exist). In addition, the Tier VI pension plan since 2012 has made new teacher pensions inferior compared to veteran educators; healthcare copayments are up; our raises have been miniscule as Mulgrew agreed to a contract in 2014 where we only received a total of 10% increases over 7 years and 1 month and we are waiting until 2020 to be paid in full for work we did from 2009-2011 that other city workers received in those years. Also, don't forget that NYC Teachers' Retirement System members who are in the UFT had our interest rate on the fixed TDA reduced from 8.25% to 7% while administrators and CUNY teachers are still getting 8,25%.

Can anyone make the case that our salaries, benefits and working conditions in the schools are improving?

The UFT champions will say that the union is still there to defend us if we have grievances. Let's look at the grievance process. On most issues, a grievance or APPR (evaluation system) complaint can take forever to resolve as the Department of Education basically stalls on even obvious cases so the abuse continues for the UFT member who filed the complaint. It can take years for something to get to arbitration. I saw two cases last year where the union was obviously 100% right and it was clear but the DOE still took the cases to arbitration. The arbitrator chastised the DOE at the hearing and sided with the teacher so the DOE lost but they still won because they wasted everyone's time with cases where they had no chance so other teachers had to wait in line to have their cases heard. This is important because the arbitrators work a limited number of dates each year to hear cases and they are paid equally by both the DOE and UFT. Those complaints cited above are two union victories. The arbitrators have to make both sides happy to stay on the panel as both sides must approve their rehiring annually so the DOE has to win some. If the DOE forces the union to use up some of its unofficial quota of victories on open and shut cases, then the union will lose others that we should win. The system is less than ideal.

On a simple issue like letters to the file being written past the three month time limit from when an incident occurred (see Contract Article 21A1), I have heard of two schools in the last month where the DOE denied the grievances on untimely letters at the school level. Those who grieve are rarely getting redress at the Chancellor's level either. DOE strategy seems to be to just clog up the process. Class size arbitrations are a joke too that has been well documented for years. The way too high contractual class size limits are in reality suggestions. Some parents have sued to try to get the city to follow the law and reduce class sizes. Where is our union?

Our contract has been weakened and the grievance process is not exactly a speedy way to address most violations. Many members only use the union to take advantage of welfare fund benefits (dental, drugs glasses, hearing aids) but those benefits are paid for by the city and administered by the union so one might ask objectively why do we need to pay union dues?  We pay around $1,400 per year. For what?

This came from Bronx ATR:

Bronx ATR said...
I just got my golden ticket from the UFT and a letter explaining discounts galore and the announcement of visits from the UFT traveling troupe, 'The Door Knockers'. Nice, but meaningless. Why don't they announce they are working towards meaningful change for all teachers? If the answer is they aren't - then why aren't they? S/U evaluations is a no brainer; ending Fair Student Funding is common sense and helping discontinued teachers is the right thing to do. Send a letter out about that, Mike.

Good questions Bronx ATR.

I agree that we are potentially much stronger if everyone stays in the UFT but will the leadership respond to us if we all decide to stay? I doubt it. They will most probably be as arrogant and tone deaf to the needs of the rank and file as before or maybe they are just completely impotent and can't do anything.

Whether 100% stay in the union or 50% leave, expect a lousy contract. There will be no push by the UFT to get a contract that restores teacher dignity by ending the test and punish along with Danielson evaluation system, or one that places teachers from closing schools where they want to be or an agreement that ends fair student funding so senior teachers are no longer punished for their higher salaries. I can't even fathom a contract that gets teachers raises that beat inflation. You get the picture. If teachers opt out in droves, it will just give the UFT another excuse for doing next to nothing when DC 37 or another union sets a wage pattern that based on precedent all other municipal unions will then also receive because of what is called pattern bargaining.

If the UFT gets over 90% of the membership to stay in the union under these conditions, I will tip my hat to them and admit that Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus loyalty oath based machine is one of the greatest political machines of all time. Unity offers little for $1,400 per year so if over 100,000 educated people say they will voluntarily pay, I would salute Unity. Those of us in opposition would deserve credit too for being able to beat this machine in elections at the high school level many times. I was on the Executive Board for a decade. Seven opposition members are on the Executive Board today. We have stood up to a finely tuned machine.

That machine cannot be underestimated when it comes to defending itself. I was in a school today where one of the workers thought that we might lose all of our benefits if Janus wins and we no longer have a union. This is a very intelligent individual. I wonder where the rumors are coming from. The Koch brothers may have met their match as Unity defends its empire.

Are there alternatives?

We have documented here many times how it is impossible to win a general UFT election because an opposition group cannot reach all of the members, particularly retirees who are situated all over the country, so there is no way to get to the voters enough to sufficiently answer the three questions of politics:
1-Do they know you?
2-Do they like you?
3-Do they trust you?

If everything is so desperate, then why don't we just encourage members to leave the UFT?

This one is very difficult for a pro union stalwart like me. Sadly, the UFT does not represent  many people adequately. I don't think too many days go by where I don't get at least one or two phone calls, texts and/or emails asking for union assistance. The UFT has clearly failed many of its members.

That being said, I would only consider supporting members opting out of the UFT if the people who leave join together to start a better, actual militant union. By militant, I don't necessarily mean striking as there are other ways to make a statement, defend ourselves and hurt the city. The UFT last had an exclusive bargaining election in 1962. The new state law protecting unions seems to give outsiders a chance to represent workers who opt out of their unions. I'm not there yet, and may never be as I would still rather see the UFT repaired from within, but maybe union competition has the potential to improve teacher working conditions.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

DIANE RAVITCH REPORTS ON EVALUATION MESS IN ALBANY

Diane Ravitch explains why we need a full scale repeal of the teacher evaluation laws that we have called for in our petition (go to link or see right side of this blog).

From Diane's blog:
Given the fact that the test-based evaluation system has not worked (97% of teachers are doing just fine, thank you), given the fact that a full-blown court challenge presented as a class action is likely to get the whole system declared invalid, and given the fact that there is a growing teacher shortage, given the fact that the American Statistical Association declared “value-added” evaluation” inappropriate for individual teachers, why not repeal test-based evaluation altogether?
Let school districts decide how to evaluate the teachers they hire. Let them decide whether to adopt peer review, principal observations, or some combinations thereof.
The current system is useless and pointless. It does not evaluate teachers fairly. It is expensive. It attaches high stakes to tests for teachers. It has no research to support it.

When in doubt, throw it out! 
While I fully agree with Diane's assertion that we need to throw out an evaluation system that "has no research to support it," I completely disagree with her assertion about teachers "doing just fine, thank you." We are hurting Diane.

Most of us hate the multiple Danielson observations as well as the assessments used to rate us. Some of us have been discontinued who were rated effective while tenured teachers have been charged with incompetence who were never rated ineffective. The system is a disaster.

As for what we should replace it with, our friend Carol Luchessi posted this on Facebook.

Carol Lucchesi James Eterno Please read up on PAR. Try a link in the New York Times, Montgomery County, Md., PAR, written by Michael Winerip. PAR is IMHO the most balanced approach to evaluations. The reason it wasn’t used around the country is because Montgomery County refused to use test scores, and therefore lost Federal funding under RTTT. Due process is still afforded to all teachers, and an outside administrator is also on the committee, with teachers and the principal, and I believe a parent rep, so that the school principal can’t overtake the committee. I really would like to see this system used nationwide. Like to know why Lily and Randi don’t advocate for it. Then again haven’t heard a peep out of them over the brutal treatment of striking teachers in Puerto Rico! 

Here is more information on PAR.

This sounds positive but in reality I don't think PAR or any other evaluation system has much chance of working in NYC today because in too many schools there are toxic cultures. For far too many principals and assistant principals it is a matter of controlling teachers. These administrators play gotcha with the teachers. That has to end. Danielson makes it easy to force teachers to teach in fear. The culture will not change as long as there is constant pressure to increase promotion and graduation rates. All it has led to is widespread grade inflation and credit recovery scams.

The traditional S/U system causes the least amount of damage for the most teachers as it mandates a minimum of only one formal observation for the year for tenured teachers on maximum. Going back to that will allow many teachers to stop watching their backs each day about when the next Danielson driveby is coming. In addition, the burden of proof was on administration in all tenured teacher dismissal hearings under the traditional system. It is preferable to what we have now with Danielson and the invalid tests along with teachers bearing the burden of proof in dismissal hearings if they have two ineffective ratings in a row. We have already documented how  more people are being charged in termination hearings under the new system as compared to when the anti-teacher Michael Bloomberg was mayor but we still had the S/U evaluations so please don't tell me how the test scores save teacher ratings. If your kids do well on exams, that could always be raised as a defense.

Our petition to repeal the evaluation laws has gathered some steam. Let's keep it going. Teacher evaluation is on the table up in Albany. Contact your legislator and tell him or her that you want the evaluation law completely repealed.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

ASSEMBLY BILL ON TEACHER EVALUATIONS COULD LEAD TO EVEN MORE TESTING

The Board of Regents discussed the recently passed Assembly bill that would replace the state exams with new assessments for teacher evaluations. (You can read the text of the bill here; the same bill is now in the Senate.)

This is from Newsday:

ALBANY — A drive to repeal New York’s legal requirement basing teacher job ratings largely on students’ state tests scores ignited debate Monday over the question of whether repeal could mean “double testing” for students.
Links between student testing and teachers’ job evaluations are an explosive issue on Long Island, where tens of thousands of students in grades 3-8 boycotted English and math tests in recent weeks.

At Monday’s meeting of the state Board of Regents, Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and her staff reiterated a point they have advanced over the past week — that bipartisan repeal legislation recently approved by the Democratic-controlled state Assembly could have the unintended result of generating more tests.

Further down in the artice:
Alex Trikalinos, executive director of the state’s Office of Educator Quality & Professional Development, said at the meeting that, under the repeal bill, school districts could find themselves in a situation where “students would essentially be double tested.” 

And even further down in the article:
The repeal bill would make school districts’ use of state assessments in evaluating teachers and principals optional rather than mandatory, and would allow districts to use alternative exams of their own choosing, provided such tests were approved by the commissioner.
Districts would be required to negotiate the choice of tests with unions representing teachers and principals.

Elia and her aides noted that federal law requires state tests to be administered to students annually, regardless of whether assessments are also used in rating job performance of school employees. Should a large share of the state’s 600-plus school districts choose to use alternative exams, the commissioner and her department would face a massive task in screening such tests. 

NYSUT disputes this but if there has to be an assessment involved in rating teachers, then someone has to make up the assessment and someone has to grade it. The potential for abuse in NYC on new assessments is huge. This bill will not help students as it is just taking more time away from teaching so we can create even more assessments that the state would have to approve.

This blog has been clear that the bill is inadequate.

We need a total repeal of the teacher evaluation laws and a return to Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory evaluations where student test results on any assessments have nothing to do with educator ratings and the Danielson Framework is eliminated for observations.

Please join us in spreading our petition which has slowly but surely gained over 1,000 signatures. If teachers and others know what we are asking for, we will get support.

Keep pushing folks.




Monday, May 07, 2018

STRINGER CRITICIZES DE BLASIO BUDGET & DOE SPENDING ON ADMINISTRATORS

City Comptroller Scott Stringer made some interesting points criticising Mayor Bill de Blasio's budget on Sunday on the radio that were recorded by the NY Post. Here is part of what Stringer said on the city budget according to the Post:

“This budget is way, way high,” Comptroller Scott Stringer said on 970 AM radio’s “The Cats Roundtable.”
“We added $4 billion in spending this year, and that’s something I’m very concerned about,” Stringer said. “We can’t just spend wildly.”
“Right now, we need to take action while the economy is strong,” he told host John Catsimatidis. “We should be setting aside revenues and controlling our spending.

“But instead, future budget gaps are projected to grow by $1 billion a year. At the end of the day, part of the budget negotiation has to be about getting us to a higher savings level, not just a higher spending level.”
Later on Stringer takes on spending in the school system:

Stringer particularly took aim at questionable spending decisions at the Department of Education.
“The Department of Education is a spending boondoggle,” he said. “They spend 24 percent of the money on administrators instead of teachers instead of resources for the classrooms.”
The DOE is budgeted backwards as just about everyone knows. The classroom gets what is leftover after the fat cat administrators take care of themselves and their friends centrally and in the schools.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

KYMBERLEY WALCOTT PSA FOR JAMAICA HS

Watch this Public Service Announcement video please. The star is Kymberley Walcott, a Jamaica High School graduate and one of the best people I have ever worked with.

The video on the impact of closing schools on kids is quite moving. It was done by The Network for Public Education.

Here is Kym's post:

Stop closing our schools!

As a person who attended a high school that was denigrated and then shut down by the government, It was an honor to be given a mic by the Network of Public Education to publicly defend my alma mater, my teachers who wanted nothing but for each of their students to succeed, and the right for all to have a just and equal public education experience.

Jamaica High School no longer physically exists, but the experiences I along with so many other students had in that institution are irrevocable and should not be forgotten.

Please help me in sharing this message! https://networkforpubliceducation.org/2018/05/10398/

Special thanks to Shoot4Education for producing this video and making this all possible!

Friday, May 04, 2018

HAVE NO FEAR, UFT FIGHTING BACK WITH AN APP

There might be a full campaign on the right to completely destroy unions in this country. Those forces aligned against us may get a huge boost in the next month when the US Supreme Court in the Janus case will most likely decide union dues are optional in the public sector.

However, there is no need to worry ladies and gentlemen.

The UFT is fighting back!

Are we calling out the Mayor for just being an extension of the previous mayor on education?

Well no even though this is really the fifth Bloomberg term in the schools so being anti-teacher is still the culture at the Department of Education.That's ok with the UFT.

Are we going to mobilize for a contract we can really be proud of that restores teacher dignity?

Hell no, contract negotiations are done in secret. No matter how awful the contract is, we will sell it as the greatest victory ever.

Are we fighting to get rid of the teacher evaluation law?

No, we are trying to tweak it so our system in NYC becomes the model for the entire state. Everyone loves what Charlotte Danielson has done for our profession. Let's have more observations.

What are we doing then to fight back?

We launched an APP. Member discounts are right at the top. The UFT will even advertise CTLE hours so teachers can give the union even more money to get needed professional development hours mandated in the Education Transformation Act of 2015 that we did not oppose.

This APP is so cool it is featured on the cover of the New York Teacher.


The UFT might not have your back but the union certainly has one wonderful APP. Enjoy it as it is for members only.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

ASSEMBLY BILL CARRIES THAT DOES NOTHING TO STOP WEAPONIZED DANIELSON

The State Assembly passed the bill to change the teacher and principal evaluation system to take out the state exams and leave it up to local districts to work out with unions how to do the Measure of Student Learning (MOSL) portion of our annual ratings.

Do you trust Michael Mulgrew and the descendants of Michael Bloomberg-Joel Klein at the DOE who are still in control at the NYC DOE to do this right?

There is nothing in the bill to slow down the Danielson attacks where teachers in NYC are constantly watching their backs in fear of drive by observations from often unscrupulous administrators. There is also nothing in here to stop administrators who are ethically challenged (we have too many of those in NYC) from manipulating the grading on local assessments.

Close to 1,000 people here think a better solution would be to scrap the entire evaluation system and return to a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory rating system. Let's start over on evaluations and take the student scores on any assessments and Danielson back to the scrapheap of terrible education ideas where they belong.

Some of us have been in contact with legislators about this inadequate bill. I would like to get a piece of ICEUFT literature in the schools so that we can spread the word even further about our petition before this bill goes to the Senate.

Let's not give up the fight. We really need your help.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

CUOMO SAYS NYC SURPLUS IS $8 BILLION

Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced that the NYC surplus is now $8 billion. The City denied the figure.

This is from City and State:
At one point during Cuomo’s speech at an Association for a Better New York breakfast, his slideshow read “NYC must pay its legal obligation,” with graphics asserting that New York City has an $8 billion budget surplus while the state has a $4 billion budget deficit.

How did Cuomo come up with the $8 billion number?

Asked to clarify the governor’s $8 billion figure, state budget division spokesman Morris Peters said it includes the $2.6 billion surplus for fiscal year 2018, a $4.25 billion surplus in the Retiree Health Benefit Trust Fund, $1 billion in general reserves in this year’s budget, and $250 million in the Capital Stabilization Reserve.
Peters pointed to a 2017 report from the New York City comptroller’s office that adds these same sources together to describe the city’s “budget cushion.”
“It doesn’t matter how many pockets they put it in, they’re still sitting on $8 billion,” Peters said. “We should all be so broke.”
The city in their April FY 2019 Executive Budget buried on slide 36 this little gem:
FY 2018 Prepayment of FY 2019 Expenses ($2.6B to $3.7B).
I'm no CPA but to me prepayment looks like a fancy way of saying it is a surplus rolled over into next year's budget. That makes the surplus a cool $1.1 billion higher for this year than Cuomo said. Some of that money could have been used for reasonable raises for city workers. Since municipal labor contracts are due, the city will soon be crying extreme poverty. That is one thing we can bank on. I just thought they would do it sooner.
Mayor de Blasio wants NYC to be known as the "fairest big city in America." He certainly does not include the city workforce when he makes that claim. 10% salary increases over 7 years is what he gave city workers for his first round of labor settlements. UFT members are waiting until 2020 to get money we worked for from 2009-2011. He can afford to easily give us all the money now. The $1/2 billion cost would not put a dent in the budget.
The city has all of this money in its coffers as the city economy is doing better than ever, yet the Mayor offers city workers nothing

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

ICE SUSPENDS SUPPORT FOR MORE

We raised the following resolution at Friday's ICE meeting about suspending ICEUFT support for MORE.

Whereas, a group within the Steering Committee in the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) has suspended two Steering Committee members who are associated with the Independent Community of Educators (ICEUFT) without any due process or authority to suspend people; and

Whereas, due process is a fundamental human right and a basic principle of democracy that cannot be compromised; and
Whereas, the Independent Community of Educators (ICEUFT) on principle will not have anything to do with an organization that denies its members basic democratic rights; be it therefore
Resolved, that the Independent Community of Educators (ICEUFT) suspends all support for the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) until further notice; and be it further
Resolved, that the Independent Community of Educators (ICEUFT) will continue its work to advocate for the members of the United Federation of Teachers and for public education.

The resolution carried on Friday with only three dissenting votes in ICEUFT.

On Saturday at the MORE meeting, a majority of those in attendance upheld a one month suspension from its Steering Committee of two members who are also associated with ICEUFT without any due process. Their position is unacceptable to ICEUFT.

If there are issues where we can work together with MORE, we most certainly will but now is a time for ICEUFT to move ahead, as we stated in our resolution, to continue advocating for UFT members and for public education.