Thursday, October 18, 2007


We often say that teaching and learning conditions cannot possibly get any worse in the New York City Public Schools and we are constantly proven wrong by the Chancellor and the UFT leadership. UFT President Randi Weingarten went in with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein and made the lives of educators she is supposed to represent even more unbearable by agreeing to school-wide merit pay. The deal was announced at the first UFT Delegate Assembly meeting on Wednesday and approved by the delegates. While Randi has been urging us to write faxes to Washington opposing individual merit pay, she was negotiating a deal with Bloomberg that will give us school-wide merit pay for student achievement gains in up to 200 low performing schools this school year and 400 next year. This is supposed to be a pilot project with 55% of UFT staff in each pilot school having to vote to opt in the program and the Principal has to agree to be a part of it as well.

Also, if a school agrees to be in the merit pay program, then it could be a positive factor in determining whether the "Participant School" is to be phased out or given a year's moratorium on a possible phase-out. The DOE in consultation with the UFT will set the criteria for awarding funds to schools. The amount will be $3,000 per member in a school. How that money will be divided will be decided by a committee made up of the principal, an assistant principal and two UFT members who are elected. This group must reach a consensus on how to distribute the bonuses or the school will receive nothing.

Clause twelve of the Memorandum of Agreement states: "Among the topics each Participant School compensation committee may decide to consider, after receiving guidance from the DOE and UFT, are whether to make equal individual awards to all eligible UFT staff, equal awards to all those in the same title (teachers paras, secretaries, counselors, etc...), or whether to make differential awards." As we read this, there is nothing that would stop a compensation committee from awarding various members nothing or they could give teachers more than counselors, or any combination that the committee wants. If a simple majority of the UFT Chapter votes to accept what the committee comes up with, then that's the award. Therefore if a school has fifty UFT members and the school's compensation committee decides to give 26 of them $6,000 and everyone else gets nothing and the twenty six agree to this, then everyone else would get nothing. That of course is an extreme example but we know it is not out of the realm of the possible. In addition, a vindictive principal could block consensus to spite a staff and give them nothing. There is an appeal process but all administration would have to do is prove they were not acting in an arbitrary and capricious way.

Merit pay could prove to be very divisive. For example what if there is a teacher who has tougher grading standards, there will be major pressure on that teacher and all teachers to pass everyone. The potential for cheating on tests and marking or playing with attendance numbers will be enormous.
What is most insulting about the merit pay program is the assumption by Randi and the city that the only reason any of us will be motivated to do our best in the classroom is so we can get an extra $3,000.


The other big news from the DA was that the promised 55 years of age and 25 years working in the system retirement program should become a reality now that the city and the UFT have agreed to its final cost. The only step left is to get the Legislature and Governor to sign off which should not be a major hurdle since the city and UFT are now working together. When we looked very closely at the details of the letter that City Labor Commissioner James Hanley sent to Randi, it became obvious that this isn't a pension improvement for most UFT members but rather it is a new retirement tier, a De-facto Tier V for teachers yet to be hired.

For those currently in the system, there will be an "opt-in period" of six months to decide whether to participate. Weingarten told the DA that 36,000 members out of 100,000 active members would potentially be eligible. A member would have to make Additional Member Contributions of 1.85% for the rest of their career to be eligible to retire at age 55 with 25 years of service without the penalty that exists under current law.

For members not yet hired the situation is not at all positive. Anyone hired after this legislation is enacted would have to pay 4.85% of salary toward the pension for their first ten years of service and then new hires would have to pay 1.85% of their salary as contributions to the pension for the rest of their career. However, the new employees would not be eligible to retire with 25 years of service but instead they would have to be 55 and have finished 27 years of service.

Someone who starts teaching right out of college at age 22 is totally abused by the new system as they would have to pay pension contributions (4.85% for ten years and then 1.85% for the rest of their career) for 33 years before being eligible to retire without penalty. Right now the same college graduate who started in the system this year only has to make a 3% pension contribution for their first ten years of service. This is why we are calling this system a de-facto Tier V. It is another disincentive to teach in New York City for a young college graduate. ICE would also like to point out that once again we were right when we said the following on this blog last November when the Contract was proposed: "Let's remember that we have still not gotten the 25-55 year retirement that was supposed to have been won in our last contract. Will the 7% raise turn out to be much less?" For a teacher hired after the new law is passed, much of that 7% is gone for their entire career. Young teachers would be better off in yet another way working in a system in New York State outside of New York City or starting in the city, gaining experience and then going to a suburban district.

Both the De-facto Tier V and the merit pay scheme were overwhelmingly approved by the delegates but there was an enthusiastic opposition. Hopefully, word will get out in the schools about how future teachers will be hurt by the UFT pension scheme and we now have merit pay which we have opposed for years.


In other Delegate Assembly news the delegates rejected a proposal by Peter Lamphere from Teachers for a Just Contract that called for the UFT to lead an AFT fight that would culminate in a rally in Washington opposing of all things, merit pay. The delegates also rejected two ICE amendments to a resolution asking for a moratorium on hiring new educators until all Absent Teacher Reserves (UFT members in excess) are placed. ICE believes that the resolution has little or no chance of being accepted by the Chancellor because there are no union actions that would support it. Randi at the September 25 Chapter leaders meeting said that it would be difficult to get the Chancellor to agree to the moratorium on hiring until ATR's are placed. We believe it will be impossible if the Union does not back the resolution with a full scale mobilization of UFT resources.

Jeff Kaufman motivated the amendments by telling Randi that she was in effect telling the ATR's "to go to hell," because she will not put the full weight and force of the Union behind the resolution to help them. ICE also believes that one of the biggest causes of the ATR problem is the closing of schools where again the Union needed to mobilize its members to get a moratorium on closing schools until we can have studies done assessing the effectiveness of closing schools on the educational process. Randi said we lost that battle in a court case years ago. The UFT won't even consider a real fight to keep its chapters together. When it comes to working for its members, this union once again proved it knows only one word:


When will the people who work in the schools say, "Enough already?"


Anonymous said...

There are three things NYC teachers can count on in life: death, taxes and getting screwed over by Randi!

ed notes online said...

Add the fact thet New Action's Mike Shulman spoke against the ICE amendments in supporting the Unity/New Action motion - just PR tomake the ATR's think something is being done and for New Action to make the phony claim that when ICE/TJC were on th Exec bd they did nothing and "look what we're doing." What New Action is doing is stabbing people in the back.

NYC Educator said...

When will the people who work in the schools say, "Enough already?"

Judging from the more than 75% of teachers who couldn't be bothered to vote in union elections, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Anonymous said...

Great post.

The things that Leo leaves out.

Randi sold out senior teachers and will do nothing to support them.

I still don't understand why the Rubber Room people cannot go to court since they are being held w/o cause. People arrested get more rights.

Anonymous said...

"Options include giving all staff the same amount or varying amounts
based on their role in the school's improvement, but every UFT staff
member is presumed to receive some bonus."

So who is going to decide which staff members get more merit pay than
others? Will it be the chapter leader who is buddies with the
principal? Will it be the Principal who rewards her network of spies?

Anonymous said...

It's the principal an AP and two teachers. The rest of the staff has to agree by a majority vote and if there is no majority, a person can appeal to an oversight committee.

Anonymous said...

Are you surprised that Leo Casey didn't tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

You can meet Leo himself at his first High School Committee meeting next Tuesday, October 23, at 4:15 p.m. at 50 Broadway. Why would any high school member miss this chance to meet Leo?

Anonymous said...

Because he's a lying sack of crap, perhaps.

Anonymous said...

Could you possibly be one of Leo's relatives the person above?

Anonymous said...

The merit pay plan is one of the dumbest most unworkable things I have ever seen. Who comes up with these ideas?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like we are all going to get screwed.

Anonymous said...

BloomKleinWein come up with these amazing ideas.

Anonymous said...

This is quite a horrible day for the students, parents, and teachers of NYC. I really feel that the UFT "sold" us out. What for? Now we can retire at 55 after 25 years of service (27 for new hires). Randi of course sold it to the members yesterday at our Delegate Assembly meeting as a great victory. She told us that now we can collaborate as a whole school. This was suppose to be a good thing. The problem is that the only thing teachers will be collaborating about will be how to raise test scores. To me the union of educators just agreed that you can improve education by getting better test scores. Instead of standing up and fighting, my union just agreed with the NCLB premise, that the way to improve education, is for students to get better test scores.
Oh yes, it will be voluntary, schools will vote whether or not they want to participate. Who will turn down the chance to make another $3,000 dollars? Many teachers did not like the merit pay scheme, but we were told it was a package deal. We were not allowed to vote on the 55/25 and the merit pay separately.

It was certainly a very bad idea to "settle" with the city last spring and call off the demonstration. Parents, students, and teachers loss our bargaining power. Now what do we have? The UFT?

Anonymous said...

Is Peter Lamphere the mono tone speaking hack in the bowtie?

He was funny!

Anonymous said...

I don't know if anyone else noticed but I heard Randi use the word
collaboration an awful lot last evening. Could this be a jibe toward
the opposition or a Freudian slip. I heard her say collaboration
almost a dozen times.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if anyone else noticed but I heard Randi use the word
collaboration an awful lot last evening. Could this be a jibe toward
the opposition or a Freudian slip. I heard her say collaboration
almost a dozen times.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Benjamin left the Delegate Assembly early this evening. I left before motions were even voted upon.

I am pleased that 25/55 has been approved (pending NYS legislative and executive approval).

I am NOT pleased with the ridiculous agreement that cash incentives (merit pay) be offered to "high needs" schools. Yes, I know the arguments - merit pay will become a reality in some form given the current reauthorization act.

But really, as a "union" that states that it objects to NCLB, all we have done is dangle a carrot in front of the faces of teachers with the bizarre hope that it will increase student scores, decrease school closings, and attract teachers to schools in danger of persistent failure.

Uhhmmm. No.

Teachers are done teaching to the test. The effort, stress, and strain of these ludicrous assessments has taxed the best and brightest teachers and students. And the emotional toll that it has taken on students with disabilities and English language learners is unconscionable. Good lord, how will these schools' faculties behave when these monetary incentives are offered?

I think the ultimate insult came from a "delegate" claiming that those of "us" at the assembly who were opposed to the measure were "short sighted." I let out a "BOO!" I'm not that kind of person at public gatherings to be vocal in an unprofessional manner, but NCLB is a train wreck. And the inability of the educational unions to force meaningful change to NCLB is wholly unforgivable.

Please. Are we a "Union of Professionals?" Or just money-hungry thugs implicitly furthering the damaging effects of unnecessary and excessive testing.

My school closed due to poor performance. No amount of "here's a reward, you're a good doogie" money would have altered its course of persistent failure. It would, however, throw the school's faculty into a monotonous and daily routine of test prep to children. That's NOT teaching.

Moreover, teachers that DO work in difficult schools, yet manage to keep scores high, will never be the beneficiaries of such a reward. Nonsense!

Rant over. Either re-haul NCLB in a manner that is acceptable to education "professionals" (Yes! And with the money to fund it), or stand in opposition to it.

Okay, rant over. Really.

Anonymous said...

Since we are now for merit pay does that mean we will endorse Obama since Hillary is against it?

Anonymous said...

We want this bonus in my school. Does anyone know how the schools will be selected?

Anonymous said...

You want this BONUS in your school? You are not going to get it. Because it will be divided between the principal, APS and their best friends. It is a shame that Merit Pay was passed just by Randy and her clan. We did not had the chance to vote for it. Is this DEMOCRACY?
Going to the ATRS, and the rubber room problem -- I am sick of the inaction of the UFT. 47 senior teachers were excessed "kicked out" from my school a year ago and where was Randy and the UFT? FEATHERING THEIR OWN NEST?? Are we going to be ATRS 4 EVER??

Anonymous said...

Please clarify. I thought the bonus was only for UFT members, not for principals and ap's. ???

Anonymous said...

Principals and AP's get their own bonus in the CSA contract. The new bonus is in the UFT Contract and it will be $3,000 per member in a school divided up by a compensation committee made up of the principal, an assistant principal and two teachers. They can divide up the money however they want to providing a majority of the UFT staff agrees.

Anonymous said...

I remember final grades being changed by principals and gym teachers to keep
the athletes on the team. Think of all the finagling with test scores with this
kind of motivation (merit pay).

Anonymous said...

The inability of the school committee to reach an agreement results in the funds being returned to the DOE -- so since the bonus is not for the administration, they can hold it hostage until the committee sides with them. Can you imagine the staff having to choose between getting NOTHING or agreeing to whatever distribution the administration wishes.

Anonymous said...

A comment on ICE mail followed by a response from our friend in Chicago:

The reason Joe Torre quit the Yankees was that they insulted him with merit pay. The implication being that more money could make him try harder, or do more, than he already was, and had always done. The man quit 5 million dollars. and managing The New York Yankees because of this insult.

Thanks for this. We were discussing the same thing tonight at dinner. The
story in yesterday's New York Times about Torre is very good.

It looks like Norine Gutekanst will be trying to write up New York's merit
pay monster for Substance, but we'd sure like some letters to the editor too.
I've got a story about the Chicago mini-merit-pay plan coming out this week in
the October Substance. We're going to cover the New York monster in the
November issue.

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance

Anonymous said...

The teachers who went ga-ga for the extra $750 will opt into this program. I don't think people recognize the culture of most schools. There are factions of teachers who will never support union causes because their principals give them whatever they want. It's a boat that will never be rocked.

Every school has their share of "incompetents" yet what happens when tests scores are good either because of too much test prep, very easy tests, or (gasp!) cheating. Will the committee of 4 still reward that teacher.

Also there is another blogger who goes on and on about her school getting an A and thinks that merit pay may be workable. Does this blogger understand that all schools are not judged equally. Instead other schools are judged by other schools that are similar to them. Schools with great reputations have not achieved an A because of the differences in criteria. So good schools can get hurt by the criteria.

Second, next year a student will have to exceed the score from the year before, even if it was a 4, in order for the school to get points on the report card.

Lastly, anyone on that committee would have to have some ego because they are sitting in judgement of others and the role they play in a student's learning and well-being. Should the gym, music and art teachers be excluded over teachers who teach other subjects other than math or literacy?

Anonymous said...

Excuse me. It seems that you guys don't know about school wide bonus nor about Joe Torre. Joe Torre turned down the deal because he didn't want to take a PAY CUT. If the Yankees failed to win whatever they were supposed to win his salary would be at lease 1.5 million dollars less than the average salary he has been making the past few years. School wide bonus is money on top of our raises and salary increases. Got it? I can't believe you guys are making a martyr out of Joe Torre!! By the way, the money can ONLY GO TO UFT MEMBERS. Period. As far as the principal trying to hold the money hostage ... let them try it. Let them try to go and explain to his/her staff that they won't be taking extra money home because he/she wanted to do whatever he/she wanted to do with it. You guys are silly. This is a great deal. A great deal. Step aside please!

Anonymous said...

It would be a great deal if all teachers shared the bonus equally.
In fact a greater deal would be a raise.

And taking almost 5% out of a new teacher's salary for 10 years? I thought the UFT didn't eat their young!

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous two above this post:

Torre didn't want a pay cut. But didn't WE take a pay cut by approving this?

Anonymous said...

We certainly got our rights cut by the 2005 contract that approved this latest sham.

Anonymous said...

The meerit pay program will collapse of its own weight.

Anonymous said...

Anybody else think that ICE deserves demerit pay?


Anonymous said...

Socialism for Schools?
October 19, 2007

Anyone who harbors the notion that Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein have just won a victory over the teachers' union by gaining approval of a merit pay scheme had best look more closely. The plan announced on Tuesday was indeed a "slam dunk," but not by the mayor and chancellor. It is the president of the United Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, who leaves the bargaining table victorious. It may be a "historic" deal with national implications, but it is one that increases the power of the union.

At the center of most merit pay plans is the idea that individual performance should be rewarded. That is not part of this initiative. Rather it skews power to the group, each school becoming a sort of kibbutz, collectively governed, dividing the fruits of labor by committee. Even participation in the plan will be determined by a vote of the union members, 55% of whom will have to go along.

Mark that it's "union members" rather than teachers. While teachers represent the largest component of U.F.T. membership in the schools, the U.F.T. also represents school secretaries and paraprofessionals. They will also share in the bonuses. The funding will be divided among the entire pool of U.F.T. members.

This will only increase U.F.T. influence. No doubt employees now represented by other unions will seek their piece of the pie. If they can't get it through their own union, affiliating with the U.F.T. might become attractive. Should the school security officer or the parent coordinator or the school aides who keep order in the lunchroom be included as factors in the communal success of a school? As of now, the secretaries are in and the school safety officers are out.

The "compensation committee," which will decide how the bonus will be divvied, will be comprise two union members elected by the union membership, the principal, and another designee selected by the principal. A standoff (and this will happen), will result in the loss of the bonus to the school. Employees and management will now hold equal sway in apportioning the bonus, a concept approaching socialistic ideals. There was more to the agreement announced Wednesday than just merit pay. The union press release gave top billing to the revisions in the pension system. Merit pay may be topic one for the editorial writers, but it is the pension concessions that are being discussed in teacher lounges across Gotham today. The new pension plan — if, as is likely, is ratified by the legislature and governor — will allow many thousands of teachers to retire now, and every teacher, current and future, to make an early, well compensated, exit from the system later. The administration likes this because it will encourage higher paid teachers to leave, their places taken by much cheaper, but less experienced new teachers.

I'm not comfortable with this as a strategy over the long term, although it is boon for current teachers, including a member of my own family. While pension buy-outs are a time-honored strategy to lower costs, such buy-outs are also a strategy that may contribute to the poor results we have seen in the schools. Perhaps a professional and experienced teaching staff is the commodity for change that we should most value.

I am told that the final calculation of pensions will include the new performance bonuses, as they have in the past for supervisors. This is a big win for the union. It also presents a unique opportunity for a cagey compensation committee to "game" the system by awarding larger bonuses to teachers nearing retirement.

Which leads me to the need for vigilance. Consider the case of P.S. 33 in the Bronx, the scene of the 2005 press conference at which the mayor and Chancellor Klein announced the "historic" gains in reading scores. P.S. 33 was chosen because it posted a nearly 50 percentage point gain in the fourth grade reading test that year.

These results helped take education off the table as a campaign issue, smoothing the way for the mayor's reelection. They also resulted in a $15,000 performance bonus for P.S 33's principal, Elba Lopez. For Ms. Lopez, this is a gift that keeps on giving. She promptly retired and her bonus was included in the calculation for her pension, adding an estimated annual $12,000, free of city and state income taxes, for the rest of her life.

In the ensuing two years, however, the big gain in test scores has totally evaporated. This spurred an investigation by the Department of Education that is ongoing, and the report is eagerly awaited. So as we prepare to raise the testing stakes even higher, it is time to harness technology to help insure that the public and the children are getting what we pay for. A Utah company called Caveon Test Security has developed what they call "data forensics computer analysis" of test scores, and has won contracts in 11 states. Subjecting answer sheets to their analysis would be helpful in detecting fraud, injecting a bit of private sector oversight to New York's new collective farm approach to merit pay.

Anonymous said...

The right wing loves the idea. That makes it good?

Anonymous said...

Haven't "merit pay" plans snagged on the details before now? Anyone have some
clip files and reports?

I remember a few years back stories of a couple of California schools
returning their "merit pay" (based on the state achievement tests there) because,
they noted, it was inherently unfair to schools and teachers that faced more
challenging kids.

Anonymous said...

SCENE 3: A bathroom in the Waldorf during Teacher Union Day. All of the ICEsickles are sitting in adjacent stalls...

Petey "Bowtie" Lamphere - "Waaaahhhhh, it's not fair, we should be getting the awards."

Jeff "Andy" Kaufman - "It makes me sad to see you cry Petey. Someday soon you will surely win the Cogen Award. By the way, could you pass the toilet paper, it's been nearly a month and I finally took a dump."

Un-Norm-al - "I don't like the toilet paper here, I like the soft fluffy stuff. I bet you Randi gave us this rough stuff on purpose."

"Salad" the Barber - "You know guys, me and the boys can go in there and make sure we all get awards. We'll make them Unity Hacks an offer they can't refuse. Aren't I cool?"

James "E. Turtle" - "I should get an award. I give one on one pension consultations to all of the teachers in my school. Funny thing is, I don't know what a pension really is."

Kip Winger - "Woodhag, why are you using the men's room? I can't go with you in here."

Woodhag - "I'm just one of the ICE guys, we spit on boundaries."

Petey "Bowtie" Lamphere - "I admire you for that. You should have won an award. I'll make you one tonight using popsickle sticks and macaroni."

Un-Norm-al - "This rough stuff is really causing my 'roids to flare. It hurts. We should make a movie about this, it's a conspiracy"

Jeff "Andy" Kaufman - "Can we go to the pub yet? I don't think the people here appreciate my tuxedo t-shirt."

James "E. Turtle" - "Seriously guys, what's a pension?"

Coming soon, Part 4, continuing the bumbling antics of those loveable laughable ICEsickles!

Anonymous said...

Do we pay union dues so a Unity guy can write this garbage?