Wednesday, August 29, 2012


The Chicago Teachers Union, led by the upstart Caucus of Rank and File Teachers, gave their legally required ten days notice before they can call a strike.  Read all about it here and you also might want to look at some interesting analysis here and of course at Education Notes.

I had the privilege of attending a forum where two of CORE's people from Chicago spoke to some activists in New York last Thursday.  What the Core led CTU is doing is inspiring.  They are combining old fashion militant trade unionism with strong outreach to the community.  Hopefully, it is a winning combination.

What happens in Chicago will definitely not stay in Chicago so please support the CTU cause in every possible way.  Their possible strike has national as well as international implications for teachers and the labor movement as a whole.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Lisa North presented the case against charter schools, and for fully funding public education, at a hearing in Brooklyn on Tuesday.  The public was commenting on two new charter school proposals.  Here is her report.

I went to the "public hearing" on two proposed charter schools in District (13).   Only 2 people showed up that were not charter school people.....myself and a representative from City Councilwoman Letitia James' office.  I started off saying that having these public hearings at this time of the summer cannot be "public" hearings, as the public did not show up.  Also the place of the hearing is NOT even in District 13! (Ms James rep also spoke to these issues).  The DOE rep said that it was the state's regulations that forced them to be held now and that the D13 CEC offices were under construction (new school being placed there). 

I spoke to fact that the two charter school proposals sounded great and the people working to bring them to District 13 seemed genuinely  interested in helping the students in District 13.  The problem is that many of the public schools in District 13 are in great need of resources, not competition from other schools.   If these schools are approved to share a neighborhood public school, it will only HURT the many students already in that school.  Those students will have to share the gym, lunchroom, library, etc. Also taking students to fill up the charter schools means that the neighborhood school lose the funding.  Then that school has less money for arts, music, and partnerships with community groups.  The money to set-up these charter schools should be used to give our public schools more resources.  I told them that they should be confronting/pushing the DOE to allow groups of people to start regular public schools, not charter schools.

I also spoke about the fact that when you control for ELL, special education (especially those that need more services), free lunch (not just reduced lunch), and the students that are pushed out, charter schools do NO better than our public schools. Why not put the resources and your ideas to work in our District 13 schools?  

I also asked (during the question period) about how they were both going to fund a longer school day and about the fact that most charter schools only keep teachers for a few years.  There was a discussion about this also.

Unity Preparatory Charter School of Brooklyn, is being started mostly by former teachers (some from Brandeis HS).  Many live in Ft Greene (District 13).  They are young and want to make a difference.  They wanted to talk afterwards and we discussed the issue of charter schools being used to privatize ALL education here in the US.  I told them by participating in this charter school they have to know that they are basically part of the problem.  I said you have to see the BIG picture, not just wanting to start a great school for students and teachers.  They didn't want to look at that, and then I said.....people wanted to have blinders on about global warming.......and now many cannot deny that it is happening.  You must see the implications of your current actions.

Letitia James' rep said that I had said most of what she wanted to say, then she also discussed some of the issues.   Everyone thanked me for coming!!.....A rep from the NYC Charter School Center came up after and asked why NO UFT reps EVER come to these meetings!  As I was walking away I realized it was because they can't talk against charters as they SUPPORT them!

 I think it is time for the UFT to have a different position on charter schools.  They could  say that they have run their own charter schools.  From that experience they have learned that there is NO silver bullet to improve student learning.  It takes resources to help struggling students like smaller class sizes, programs for parents, social supports for students and families, in school intervention programs, and high quality after school and summer programs, to name just a few.  The UFT could call for a stop to all new charters and instead for the resources to be used for our struggling public schools.  No one is blaming the current charter school teachers who mostly want to help students, it is just that the charter school experiment has NOT worked.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


A little summer reading for you thanks to my colleague Marc Epstein.  Marc had his students read "The Fun They Had" by Issac Asimov this past spring. He gave me a copy too.

This wonderful short story, written in 1951, involves kids in the year 2157.  They look with envy at their forefathers who actually went to a school building and read real books.  Enjoy it but realize this future shock may be upon us long before 2157 if the Joel Klein's and Michael Bloomberg's of the world have their way.

An excerpt for you:

Margie went into her schoolroom.  It was right next door to her bedroom, and the mechanical teacher was on and waiting for her.  It was always on at the same time every day except for Saturday and Sunday, because her mother said little girls learned better if they learned at regular hours.
The screen was lit up and it said: Today's arithmetic lesson is on the addition of proper fractions.
Please insert yesterday's homework in the proper slot.
Margie did so with a sigh.  She was thinking about the old schools they had when her grandfather's grandfather was a boy.  All the kids from the whole neighborhood came, laughing and shouting in the schoolyard, sitting together in the schoolroom, going home together at the end of the day...
And the teachers were people.

Friday, August 10, 2012


ICEUFT blog is certainly supporting the Chicago teachers.

Solidarity with Chicago teachers!
Chicago teachers authorize strike! Come build solidarity & learn about the struggle

A discussion featuring a presentation by a Chicago Teachers Union member

Thursday, August 23rd
6:30 p.m. 
at The Murphy Institute
25 West 43rd Street, between 5th and 6th avenues
18th Floor, Room C/D

Public schools, teachers and their unions are under attack throughout the country.  The drive to privatize our public schools and strip away teacher protections is only accelerating.   In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel canceled a promised 4% pay raise to Chicago teachers and proposed lengthening the school day by 20% with only a 2% raise.  In addition, Emanuel proposes implementing a merit pay system for teachers--a similar system in Baltimore has led to 60% of teachers receiving unsatisfactory ratings.  In response, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has refused to back down and has shown the power of solidarity, holding large rallies and forging alliances with community members.  The CTU is demanding smaller class sizes, fair pay and a diverse and fulfilling curriculum for Chicago students.  This spring, 90% of all CTU members voted to authorize a strike.  98% of those voting authorized a strike.   

The CTU's campaign has met with some initial success.  Emanuel recently agreed to hire almost 500 teachers, mostly arts, PE and enrichment teachers.  These teachers will be hired from a pool of laid-off, experienced teachers.  The result is that a longer school day will not force teachers to work longer and harder with no compensation.

While this victory is inspiring, the CTU's strike preparations continue, as there has been no agreement on teacher pay, class sizes, merit pay and other important issues.  It is urgent that teachers, parents and community members show our solidarity with CTU.  We also have a lot to learn from CTU's struggle.

Come hear a presentation by a CTU member and help organize solidarity for the Chicago teachers here in NYC!

Stand with CTU! 
Sponsored by (list in formation):  Movement of Rank and File Educators, Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence, Coalition for Public Education, Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), Labor Notes, New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCoRE), New York City Labor Against the War, OWS Labor Outreach Committee

Contact to help organize the event or to co-sponsor