Monday, August 29, 2011

The Verizon Battle Continues Tuesday at 11 am


11am, Tuesday, August 30th

Make Verizon Pay Back the Money it Made from a Fraud on our Schools and Settle a Fair Contract with its Workers

What: Education advocates, labor unions, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and other elected officials will join together to demand Verizon pay back its ill-gotten gains from our schools and settle a fair contract with its workers.

When/Where: 11am, Tuesday, August 30th in front of the Municipal Building.


On August 17th, the Mayor’s PEP approved a $120 million contract with Verizon. According to the Special Investigator for the Schools, Richard Condon, Verizon knew about and profited from an overbilling fraud scheme[1]. Verizon’s direct profits in the scheme were at least $800,000, according to the investigator, but the PEP approved the contract anyway.

The fight is not over: Verizon should pay back the money it made off of the scheme and make the schools whole through a restitution – and settle a fair contract with its workers. This issue also deserves more scrutiny from the NYC Council, which Councilman Cabrera has promised.

Verizon has contradicted itself on the schools contract, allegedly telling some members of the PEP and the media that it may pay back its proceeds from the scheme. Verizon also sent a letter to the PEP denying its role in the fraud and falsely claiming that the Schools Investigator’s report did not say that Verizon was aware of the fraud.

Verizon is demanding massive givebacks from its workers, including: freezing pensions for new and current workers; raising health care costs by thousands of dollars for current and retired workers; cutting benefits for workers injured on the job; and shipping more jobs overseas.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s representative, Patrick Sullivan, was one of four PEP votes against approval of the controversial contract. Borough President Stringer, CWA, education advocates and other elected officials (list in formation) will call on Verizon to pay back the money, make the schools whole, and settle a fair contract with its workers. Please join us!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Editorial in Queens Chronicle on Equal Education Access

There is a newspaper editor that understands education and the American ideal of equality of opportunity. Read the Queens Chronicle's editorial on the disgusting inequities in Queens schools that calls for fairness for all students. Here is an excerpt.

Failing, charter, specialized, zoned, achieving — whatever a public school is labeled as should not matter when it comes to making sure every student has equal access to resources and a chance to graduate with the skills needed to succeed in college, should they want to attend.
This is not happening in Queens, and Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott should be ashamed.

The editorial makes sense for sure.

Brian Jones and Diane Ravitch on Democracy Now

Watch and enjoy Democracy Now as Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez interview two people, Diane Ravitch and Brian Jones, who know the facts when it comes to education. We need a real war on poverty and not more standardized testing to improve education.

Also, the UFT was on the losing side in court on the release of the flawed teacher data reports.

We need to support every teacher if the union is not successful in the last appeal and these stupid reports are released.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

NYSUT Wins in Court on Teacher Evaluations

Some positive news for a change from Albany as a judge invalidated some new state education regulations on the teacher evaluation system. It looks like administrators will not be able to use one test to make up 40% of a teacher's evaluation.

Judge rules invalid some aspects of teacher-evaluation regulations

NYSUT claims victory i n court ruling

Ruling on teacher evaluations a win for education

NYSUT Media Relations - August 24, 2011
ALBANY, N.Y. August 24, 2011 — New York State United Teachers said today a state Supreme Court ruling on teacher-principal evaluations is a significant win for the state’s public education system.
“This decision upholds the role of practitioners and the value of collective bargaining,” said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. “We are pleased the judge has upheld the statute as NYSUT interprets it. Today’s ruling is good for students and for teachers.”
NYSUT, Iannuzzi said, remains committed to a fair, objective and transparent teacher-principal evaluation process that uses multiple measures — a process upheld by the courts.
Iannuzzi added the union is hopeful the state Education Department will be at the table in collaboration with NYSUT in order to proceed in the context under which the statute is written.
NYSUT, the state’s largest union, represents more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, Nationa l Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Back from Vacation

My family and I spent a couple of weeks in Jamaica WI so now I'm catching up on what is happening back home.

My take on the Verizon strike is that it still has the potential to be a very significant accomplishment. While management was out for substantial givebacks in areas such as health benefits, they have not been successful. The company was following the Scott Walker Wisconsin tactic of union busting and it did not work. Yes, the workers returned to work without a contract but the old contract will carry on indefinitely until a new agreement is reached. This private sector union through its militancy won the status quo doctrine that public employees in New York have under the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor law. Please sign the solidarity statement as this story is far from over.

Meanwhile back at the schools, the ATR situation is worse than ever as June's agreement is implemented. You can read all about it in this Times article. I personally know so many good people who are stuck in ATR limbo, which is third class citizenship for teachers. I hope the ATRS continue to highlight their plight to the UFT leadership and demand that something is done to stop the week-to-week movement of these people who have done nothing wrong but because their schools or programs have closed or shrunk or budgets were cut, they are looking for a job. DOE slapped the UFT and the ATRs by allowing principals to hire new teachers and leave ATRs in the ATR pool. As for layoffs of non UFT school personnel, they are totally unnecessary but occurring currently.

Teacher and activist Michael Fiorillo has an excellent suggestion on the Common Core Standards: "I propose that heretofore everyone refer to these as the Microsoft-Pearson standards, as it is the companies (in the guise of their 'non-profit' foundations) that are creating them." I like the idea. The billionaire boys club, as Diane Ravitch refers to them, really has no business making public education policy.

My former colleague Brett Rosenthal has written a piece for the Washington Post Valerie Strauss blog comparing his current suburban school with his previous school: Jamaica High School. It is interesting reading. I told one of my friends yesterday that we have spilled oceans of ink describing the inequities at Jamaica High School but the mayor and chancellors refuse to listen. We truly need to put the public back in public education.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


Almost on a whim, my wife Camille and I decided we would pack up a bag and head down with our two year old daughter Kara to DC for the Save our Schools rally and march on Saturday July 30. We are very happy that we made the trip. Some news reports have even been ok.

Thousands of people were willing to make the trip from all over the country to stand together in the DC summer heat and humidity to stand up for public education. What a great feeling there was in that heavy air.

As many people have already said, it was a pleasure to see teachers, parents, students and activists united in support of our embattled public schools. It was a personal thrill for me to finally put faces to names such as George Schmidt, publisher of Substance in Chicago. Meeting School Gal for the first time was also a pleasure. Also, it's always fun to hang around with the New York GEM crowd and of course parent activists such as Leonie Haimson and Khem Irby.

We met educators who are willing to stand up for themselves from places like Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Illinois, the state of Washington, Washington DC, Louisiana and other areas. I recall Randi Weingarten telling the UFT Executive Board just a few short years ago how there was not much happening around the country. She couldn't say that now.

It was also exciting to see the leaders of Save Our Schools turn down an invitation to the White House during the four days of activities. In addition, we know we have support from celebrities like Matt Damon and Jon Stewart. Now that we have left DC we can't allow the momentum of the SOS march to stop.

People have asked what's next and even though we couldn't stay to plan for the future, there are ideas worth pursuing. Since the number of public educators is in the millions and most of us are completely at our wits end because of high stakes testing, No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, we might want to start contemplating using the economic power that we have to our advantage.

I believe we need to hurt the people who want to destroy public education (Koch brothers, Waltons, Gates, etc...) in the only place that they care about: their wallets. Collectively, this national movement of educators, students and parents can do it.

After reading NYC Educator last week, I listened to urbane folk singer Billy Bragg's appearance on Democracy Now. Bragg recently wrote a song called Never buy the Sun about Rupert Murdoch's troubles caused by the newspaper phone hacking scandal in England. The only heroes he found in the Murdoch affair are the people of Liverpool who have been boycotting the Sun (daily edition of the weekly News of the World paper that Murdoch recently shut down) for two decades after the Sun printed lies about a football tragedy. Many of the rest of us willingly buy up Murdoch's garbage. We do have the power of the purse if we choose to use it. As I found out last Saturday, there are many of us out there who can spread the word to many others.