Monday, September 30, 2013


Get out the Vote for Tish James on Tuesday in the Democratic Runoff!
Letitia James fought the mayor's reprehensible school closing policies; she deserves our support.
Note this is my view only along with my wife and most of the family but not necessarily the position of ICE, Jeff Kaufman, MORE or anyone else.


Saturday, September 28, 2013


We kind of figured the fact finders recommending a settlement for the UFT contract might try to avoid Mayor Bloomberg.  This piece from the September 26 NY Teacher (official newspaper of the UFT) confirms our thinking.  This is what we learn from NY Teacher:

The UFT has its last scheduled fact-finding hearing for a new contract on Nov. 4. After the final hearing, both the union and the Department of Education will have an opportunity to submit post-hearing briefs.

After the submission of post-hearing briefs, the next step will be for the fact-finding panel to render a nonbinding recommendation designed to help the union and the DOE craft a final settlement. There is no timetable for when the panel will issue its recommendation.

Translation: The process will be left for the new mayor to figure out.

This should be a positive development but since Bloomberg has moved these negotiations, as well as the overall atmosphere in the schools, in such an anti union direction, do not expect much from the fact finders to win our dignity back. 

I tend to agree with the Assailed Teacher that eliminating the horrific new teacher evaluation system and restoring the rights we forfeited in the 2005 contract (ability to grieve file letters,  preferred placement rights for UFT members when a school is closed, seniority and SBO transfers, no teacher hall, cafeteria or potty patrols, stronger due process rights) should be significant contract priorities.

Here is most of the Assailed Teacher's commentary on our last post:

To be honest, and I don't think I am alone here, I would forgo retroactive pay for a declawing of this evaluation system (as Anonymous said above at 5:49pm, the evaluation is a state mandate and needs to be repealed via the state, so a declawing is the best we can hope for) if not a total opting out of it for NYC. Let King threaten to withhold money like he did earlier this year. It would come back on him and Cuomo more than the UFT. On top of this, we would need a better 3020-a process (including reassignments and investigations), the right to grieve letters in the file and an anti-bullying clause that protects us from Tweedy and Leadership Academy administrators. For all of this, and some more things I can't think of, I would forgo retroactive pay.

Unfortunately for teachers in the schools, the union leadership is still touting the new evaluations and the 2005 contract as wins.  They have this narrowed down to the money which we also learn from the NY Teacher:

The dispute pivots largely on the question of pattern bargaining. The UFT’s position is that its members are entitled to the same raises other city workers have received. The mayor contends that the city cannot afford to follow the pattern.

However, the pattern is 4% + 4% and no givebacks.

Do you consider the teacher evaluation system a gain or a giveback?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


In the last day both NYC Educator and Reality Based Educator have posted material on the long ago expired UFT contract.  The teachers' contract ended on October 31, 2009 and the last raise for teachers and other UFT members was on May 19, 2008 ( yearly steps, education increments and longevity steps are not raises). New York City teachers have been working without a contract for almost four years. 

The Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law keeps the old contract in effect until we have a new one but in June the working conditions for the new contract were basically set by State Education Commissioner John King's arbitration on teacher evaluations. This fall we are discovering that those conditions are not very pleasant.  No teacher I have talked to is pleased with the new evaluations.

In my school and in emails, the two questions I am constantly asked are:

  • Why did the UFT agree to the awful teacher evaluation system?

  • Where is our new contract?

The two questions are of course linked and so are the answers.

Based on nothing but UFT President Michael Mulgrew's comments at recent meetings and being an outsider close enough to the inside to have some knowledge of how the process works, I think there are a few reasonable prognostications that can be made as to what will happen next year when there is a new mayor. 

If the red baiting campaign against Democrat Bill de Blasio succeeds (as it does in UFT elections) and de Blasio loses, Republican Mayor Joe Lhota would almost certainly continue the war on the UFT and there might be a disastrous ending. 

However, if de Blasio wins, the contract picture should revert to a more traditional model rather quickly. Unfortunately for working people, so much damage has been done over the last few years that the traditional center of gravity has moved in such an anti-union direction that it could be difficult to move it back in a meaningful way.

I predict the UFT contract will be settled sooner rather than later in a de Blasio administration.  The UFT went to non binding fact finding arbitration with the Public Employees Relations Board a while back.  One of the arbitrators was picked by the UFT, one was selected by the city and the third was chosen by the first two as the neutral arbitrator.  Each side usually will win something in arbitration in order to justify the process. 

If past experience holds, the arbitrators will contact both parties and ask them what they can live with in the context of what is on the negotiating table.  They would like to get everyone to accept their report.  Knowing that Bloomberg wants to crush the union once and for all, it is difficult to imagine the current mayor signing off on anything.

However, there are seasoned veterans who work at the city Office of Labor Relations who have positive, longstanding relationships with the unions. Therefore, if Bill de Blasio wins the election in November, he will more than likely sign off on what the arbitrators come up with and that will form the basis of a settlement.

As for what will be in that agreement, it is somewhat predictable.  As NYC Educator quite correctly points out, our contract has traditionally been settled through pattern bargaining.  One municipal labor union agrees to a contract and that sets a pattern for a salary increase that all of the other municipal unions then must adhere to.  If a union wants an increase larger than the pattern, then they have to give up something in order to get more money.  The UFT did this in 2002 and 2005 by agreeing to work more time in exchange for salary increases above the patterns set by District Council 37.

The UFT is now two contracts behind because in 2008, DC 37 settled on a two year contract for a 4% salary increase in year one and another 4% raise in year two with no givebacks at all in either year.  They set a fairly decent pattern considering this was in the midst of a financial crisis but also it was during the period when Bloomberg was figuring out how to run for a third term so he wanted union silence. That contract has long since expired so DC 37 and most of the other city unions are only one contract behind.  We are two back.

In 2009, right around the time when Mulgrew took over the UFT presidency, the union was agreeing to support an extension of mayoral control of the schools in legislation in Albany.  Back then, just about everyone thought that by taking a dive on mayoral control, which was up for renewal that summer and actually briefly expired, it meant that it was just a matter of time before teachers would get the two 4% increases that most of the other city unions received.  Bloomberg would have none of it and instead decided to go to war with the UFT when he won a renewal of his school dictatorship.  It is a war he has essentially been winning.

He denied UFT members the salary increases that are owed to us based on decades worth of precedent and simultaneously the teacher unions in the state were persuaded to compete for federal Race to the Top funding which eventually led to what is arguably the most horrific concession in UFT history: State Education Commissioner John King's new teacher evaluation system. 

Bloomberg was quite correct when he stated that he won just about everything he wanted in the new evaluation system and he didn't have to give up anything to get it.  The UFT calling the new system a gain is baffling as I don't know of any teachers who were demanding more observations or having their annual rating based on student test scores or having the burden of proof shift to teachers in termination hearings if people are rated ineffective two years in a row. The imposition of a new evaluation system was originally tied to unions having new contracts but Mulgrew inexplicably agreed to have the two de-coupled.

So, a brief review of the situation today shows that the UFT is four years without a contract and five years without a raise.  Meanwhile, UFT leadership has already agreed to what might be the biggest giveback in the history of our union by supporting legislation to allow Commissioner King decide on the new evaluation system.  The contract is currently in the hands of three fact finders who will write a report that either side can reject or accept.

Will the fact finders say we should get the 4% + 4% pattern? In some form the answer is probably yes.  Will the city agree to it? That is a little more tricky.

Bloomberg's irresponsibility in not settling contracts puts the city in a bind.  If they try to do away with pattern bargaining, they will give away their best time honored negotiating strategy of settling with a weak union and then compelling everyone else to follow suit.  It is highly unlikely they will reject this strategy unless Joe Lhota wins the election and makes finishing off the UFT and other unions a priority.  We are in such bad shape in terms of our fighting ability, i.e. a job action, that Lhota might be able to pull it off should he become the mayor.

However, if the more labor friendly de Blasio wins, expect a different dilemma for the city. If the city says yes and agrees to the 4% + 4% pattern for us, then they will owe us a small fortune. Do the math: 

Top salary for city teachers is currently $100,049 (way under what teachers in most suburban districts around here earn).
x 1.04 (4%)

The increase for 2009-2010 is $4001.96. 

Now for year two:
x 1.04 (4%)

The increase for 2010-2011 is $8,163.99 over what we have now.

Then, the retroactive increase for 2011-2012 is another $8,163.99.

For 2012-13 add another $8,163,99.

Now add up all of the retroactive money and even if there is a contract right away, the city owes teachers on maximum a staggering $28,493.39. If this lingers into 2014, as it almost definitely will, the retroactive price-tag goes to over $30,000 for senior teachers. 

The amounts for newer teachers are lower but Bloomberg's irresponsibility will still cost the city a great deal of cash and will be called a budget buster.  A friend suggested staggering the payments over three years, as they do with termination pay, to ease the budget pain for the city. In addition, we have to make up a small amount from a prior pension agreement but since that time new teachers have been stuck with an inferior Tier 6 pension, so we have given back even more.

It must be emphasized over and over how we have already conceded in terms of pattern bargaining because the pattern set by DC 37 is 4% + 4% with no givebacks and the new teacher evaluation system is arguably the biggest concession ever made by the UFT and the Legislature passing Tier 6 was not a gain either. The city owes us this money without givebacks.  We should demand it and an end to the evaluation system.  Yes we would need to go the state and have the law changed. That is what we should mobilize around.

Unfortunately, I forecast that a huge majority of teachers will vote for any contract with retroactive raises in spite of the fact that such a contract will be our only chance to have any say on the new evaluation system, as it will be incorporated into the agreement.

We may also see a loss on merit pay with teachers rated highly effective getting bonuses.  In the end our contract will probably be something like the Newark, NJ contract or the New Haven, CT contract.

On a positive note, I am not worried that the UFT will add insult to the evaluation system injury by selling out the Absent Teacher Reserves in a new contract by giving ATR's a time limit to find a new job after they are excessed.  This surrender makes no sense.  It would have to be agreed to by the State Legislature and other unions would destroy Mulgrew for setting a precedent that could then be applied to them too.  (Close the fire houses and make the firefighters find a new house to accept them or face layoff). I also see some minor tweaks in the teacher evaluation system that Mulgrew will trumpet as great gains but will have little impact in the schools.

De Blasio and the UFT may also use the fact finding report as a starter and then expand it to a grand bargain on a much longer contract to settle two rounds of collective bargaining at once. Remember, the fact finders are dealing with our last contract which will have expired in 2011. We will have caught up with everyone else who does not have a contract.

I am not ready to publicly speculate on what could be in a grand bargain for a longer agreement but understand it is a possibility. 

As usual I hope the situation will turn out differently.  Maybe de Blasio will be the progressive he is accused of being and/or the rank and file teachers will be appalled and not accept the new evaluation system thus forcing a real sea change.  It could happen but it is up to us to make that a reality.  More likely, we will be thrown some money and we will be resigned to our awful working conditions.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


On Wednesday there was a special Delegate Assembly meeting called to endorse Bill de Blasio for Mayor. UFT President Michael Mulgrew used a major part of his report to talk about how he brought Democratic mayoral candidates Bill deBlasio and Bill Thompson together last weekend for a meeting at UFT HQ.  His unity meeting obviously succeeded as it was one of the reasons Thompson was persuaded to drop out of the race for mayor on Monday even though all of the votes in the primary were not yet counted. 

While Mulgrew appeared magnanimous with the mayoral candidates, he did not treat his Delegates the same way as he cut off debate on the deBlasio endorsement resolution before anyone was allowed to speak against the motion. Instead, to kill time he spent several minutes telling jokes while Delegates waited for deBlasio to show up to address them.

I raised a point of order and read the following line from Robert's Rules of Order (the parliamentary procedural rule book), "Ending debate.  Debate of a question is not ended by the chair's rising to put the question to vote until both the affirmative and the negative are put;" It goes on by saying that "a member can claim the floor and thus reopen debate." That is clear language. 

Now look up the meaning of the word debate from Webster's Dictionary: "Debate-1: To discuss a question by considering opposing arguments."  The leadership of our union does not understand the words opposing arguments as in this so called debate, two Delegates from the majority Unity Caucus spoke in favor of supporting de Blasio and then a third, a retired teacher, rose to call for the end of the debate. 

Since members of Unity Caucus sign a pledge that they will support decisions of the caucus in union and public forums (the so called Unity loyalty oath), Mulgrew knew how the Delegates from his party would stand on the issue and the only Delegate who wanted to oppose the de Blasio endorsement was Marjorie Stamberg, a person whose call for an American working class party is known throughout the DA.  She should have been permitted to address the body so we could hear an opposing viewpoint.  That is the whole purpose of debate.

Mulgrew not only ignored my point of order, instead he erroneously stated that a point of order is a question. What was he talking about? A point of order according to Robert's Rules is "an assertion that a rule is being violated and a request that the rule be enforced by the chair. It takes precedence over any pending motion out of which it arises."

At this point, the UFT's parliamentarian just fumbled through a book that looked from a distance like Roberts' Rules but said nothing.  Mulgrew, as previously mentioned, had nothing to say so he told jokes while waiting for de Blasio to arrive and then as soon as he had word that the Public Advocate was in the house, he called on Delegates to vote on the endorsement.  The vote was nearly unanimous (I voted for the endorsement as readers of this blog know I endorsed de Blasio prior to the primary) but I was once again disgusted by the lack of democracy at the DA and I wish that all of the people who complain about the DA would vocally show support when someone attempts to see that democratic protocol is followed.  Delegates came to me after the meeting and said I was right but during the meetings there needs to be a movement for real democracy.

Since this was a special Delegate Assembly, there was only a report from President Michael Mulgrew and the resolution to support deBlasio. The President covered much of the same ground he touched on last week in the Chapter Leader meeting.  However, before he began there was a moment of silence for Florence Wilpon, a UFT activist from PS 137 who recently passed away.
Concerning the opening of school, Mulgrew reported that the problems were the evaluation system and the lack of curriculum. He stated that the parents were upset with the recent test results and we need to be there to support them.  He talked about the desperate situation for teachers nationally.  He then took a poke at Bloomberg calling him the worst education mayor in history. 
He followed by speaking about evaluations and said we would not go back to the old system even though the current process is not that great.  The biggest concern is the Measures of Student Learning portion of the system. He said we had an agreement with the Department of Education in March that fell apart that was much better than the system State Education Department Commissioner John King imposed in his arbitration.
He added that there are contradictions in the arbitration and that it isn't going to work but that the point of the new evaluation system is supposed to be to support and develop the work that teachers do.  He told us he can't understand how a teacher who does not teach English can be held accountable for English test results.  He then stated that this is not the evaluation system we would want a year from now and said it would be fixed in contract negotiations.
The remainder of the report concerned politics.  Mulgrew said that our candidates won the vast majority of the 54 campaigns we were involved in this year.  He then spent time saying how Republican Joe Lhota wants to continue the Bloomberg education policies so we must defeat him and elect a Democrat as mayor.
On Thompson he pointed out that it is unconscionable that 10% of the primary votes are still not counted as of today and as a Thompson supporter, he respected the wishes of the candidate.  Then he talked about the meeting that was held last Saturday between Mulgrew, Thompson and deBlasio where they all agreed to do what is best for the city that they love by electing a Democratic mayor in November. Then, there was the aforementioned motion and the usual one sided debate.  Mulgrew then stalled and finally deBlasio came in and addressed the crowd.
De Blasio told the Delegates that we must fix what has been broken.  He thanked Mulgrew for handling a delicate situation well.  He said there was now a danger of complacency.  He stated that he saw the poll showing him way ahead but he wasn't fooled because vicious attacks against him would soon be coming because of his proposal to tax the wealthy to pay for universal pre-kindergarten as well as after school programs for middle schools.  He said they would throw the kitchen sink at him because of his alliance with the teacher's union.
He then declared that we can have a safe city and a strong city.  He spoke about his "Tale of Two Cities" theme noting that it is a patriotic act to acknowledge it and fix it. He said it is not anti-business to build affordable housing or for people like car wash workers and fast food workers to organize into unions.  He complimented the UFT for organizing the child care workers and said that he was honored to be a part of that campaign.
He pointed out that he is trying to be the first mayor to have a child in the public schools.  (Someone in the crowd yelled the name of his son Dante and received a warm reaction from the candidate.)
He then concluded his remarks by saying that he thinks of teachers as heroes and that in the next seven weeks we will need to give it our all as we must fight back against the brutal attacks that are coming and we must achieve a strong victory on November 5.  He received a thunderous standing ovation and the meeting ended.

Friday, September 13, 2013

READING THE TEA LEAVES AT CHAPTER LEADER MEETING: Sayanara Bill Thompson? Don't Expect Much Improvement on the Evaluation System with a New Mayor

We're back in school and the UFT called for a Chapter Leader meeting on Wednesday at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriot.  Great cookies and lots of soft drinks were an enticement to listen to President Michael Mulgrew give one of his lengthy monologues.  After listening to him for over an hour, here are my quick views on what he said or at least implied:

1. The UFT will abandon Bill Thompson's mayoral campaign in a hurry  soon to achieve Democratic party unity and hope for the best opportunity to elect a Democrat as the mayor.
2. Mulgrew wants to tweak the new teacher evaluation system but we are stuck with it and the UFT will continue to promote it.  However, judging by the reaction from the Chapter Leaders, it seems like the rank and file aren't buying.

From listening to Mulgrew's remarks, at first it looked like the UFT would be sticking with Thompson.  He said that Thompson only missed the runoff by around 700 votes.  (That number was disputed by some people around where I sat.)  However, then Mulgrew stated that after twenty years of Republican mayors and the damage they have done to the school system, it is imperative that we elect a Democrat in November as our top priority. (Translation: We don't need a three week runoff where two Democrats bloody each other and Republican Lhota could possibly sneak in.) Mulgrew even stated that we don't want a split Democratic party.  He then told us there might soon be a special Delegate Assembly on an updated endorsement.  (Translation: We will be supporting deBlasio hopefully.)

Mulgrew was not humbled by the results (Thompson lost by around 14%) at all and took a victory lap by noting that Comptroller candidate Scott Stringer, who beat Elliot Spitzer in the Primary on Tuesday, specifically thanked the teachers for getting him in.  Mulgrew then reported on how UFT candidates won 42 out of 47 races on Tuesday and a couple of others are still too close to call.

During the question period, the Chapter Leader from Dewey High School questioned the Thompson endorsement and Mulgrew responded that it was done democratically and the Chapter Leader must not like democracy.  (I am just reporting folks; please don't gag when UFT Presidents stand up for democracy.)

Mulgrew also reported that the outgoing mayor would be trying to collocate and even close as many schools as possible before he leaves office at the end of the year. He also noted that we would be going to the Panel for Educational Policy to urge them to have teachers, not test scores, be the final judge on which students get promoted.

President Mulgrew ceded very little ground when he talked about the state imposed new teacher evaluation system.  While members of the Movement of Rank and File Educators were handing out leaflets with a petition on the back urging for a moratorium on imposing the new system, Mulgrew was inside telling us that the UFT disagrees with the implementation of the new system by the current Department of Education administration.  Specifically, he emphasized how there is a state Public Employees Relations Board case going on and a Union initiated grievance.  He also told us that there are 150 new arbitration slots thanks to the new system so we can have many problems that can't be worked out by October 25 taken to this expedited process. He once again insisted that we have stronger due process under the current system than we had in the past.
He then argued that the increased observations under Danielson's framework could be positive if they are handled in a collegial way by administration but if administration plays hardball with teachers, Mulgrew recommended that teachers respond in kind by holding them to the letter of the law.
Mulgrew did admit that he was troubled by the Measures of Student Learning (MOSL) portion of the new "Advance" evaluation system, where we are judged on student test scores, but he insisted that changing and expanding what can be used for our MOSL scores would be a priority in contract negotiations. 
During the question period, Mulgrew addressed lesson plans.  He told the Chapter Leaders that the Danielson framework leaves the lesson plan format up to the teacher but the DOE disputes this.  He said that our contract is still in effect in terms of freedom of lesson plan format and prohibition against ritualized collection of lesson plans by administration so we are in grievance in these areas.
Mulgrew summed up the evaluation system by predicting that two years from now, many more schools will be doing evaluation right than wrong and that teachers need to get over their fear of having other adults in their classrooms.  He also told us that we must report it to the UFT if we need questions answered on the evaluation system, if don't have curriculum or if we have problems such as oversize classes.
The President briefly touched on the national scene when he declared that the situation is dire in cities around the country for public education.  He told us how 35% of the teachers had been laid off in Philadelphia by a Democratic mayor who was turning over much of the system to charter schools.  He then stated that 52 schools were closed in Chicago despite the valiant fight against it there and those teachers only had five months to find a new job or they were laid off.  He then stated that Los Angeles and Houston were also in bad shape.
He followed this by noting that we are not in such a bad position in NYC but that over the next couple of years we may have the opportunity to turn NYC into a model public school system. He told us we might have to change from fighting to a different mode of operation in the near future.
(Translation: Expect more Newark/DC style contract concessions in the future in NYC. Get used to being judged on junk science and constantly observed. It will make you a better teacher!)

UPDATE-I came home from Brooklyn to eastern Queens, where I live, around 7:30 pm last night.  My wife and I ate, played some games with our four year old daughter (the fun part of the day) before helping to get her to bed.  I was exhausted so I went to sleep without checking the news and woke up before 5:00 am to write this piece. I didn't know that Thompson was fighting on. Is the UFT really considering holding out on this? 

Saturday, September 07, 2013


The Primary Election is Tuesday, September 10 and this has been one really strange race for mayor.  Yes it matters for teachers, parents and students who the next mayor will be and people have been asking me who I will be voting for in Tuesday's primary for the citywide offices. 

The Independent Community of Educators (ICE) has discussed the races but not taken a position.   What follows is my view and my view only that is based mostly on education issues.  It does not reflect the position of ICE or MORE, or Jeff Kaufman or anyone but me.

The UFT has been strongly pushing Bill Thompson, the former comptroller and one time president of the old Board of Education, for mayor. Like NYC Educator, I have made phone calls for UFT endorsed candidates I support, written newsletters and talked to my chapter about solid candidates who are backed by the UFT.  However, I cannot support Thompson for three reasons. 

First, he said Bloomberg was correct in not offering the same 4%+4% raises to teachers in 2009 that most other city unions received in the last round of collective bargaining back then. In the debate last Tuesday (go to around 8 minute 45 second mark for the question), Thompson did not come out and say we are owed retroactive money which is a small fortune after five years without the raise that most other city employees received and the city owes us because of pattern bargaining (one union settles on a contract and the rest of the unions receive the same financial terms).
Second, the co-chair of his campaign is Merryl Tisch, the Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents and architect of much of the teacher bashing-privatization agenda that is killing us.  Third, Republican former Senator Al D'Amato, a renowned teacher basher, is a key Thompson supporter and fundraiser.  Do you really think Thompson will ignore Tisch and D'Amato and side with us if he is elected?  Expect a modified version of Ed deform if he wins.  
The question must be asked about why the UFT has been so strong in their advocacy of Thompson.  It is the biggest push from the leadership that I have ever seen. Does anyone ever recall emails from the president asking us to contribute money to a political campaign?  Isn't COPE (political funds we voluntarily contribute from our checks) enough?

Once again paralleling NYC Educator, I received phone calls asking me to make phone calls for Thompson.  Unlike NYC Educator, I was not home and didn't respond.  Mailings from Thompson show up regularly in my mail at home.  There are UFT sponsored TV ads in support of his candidacy and last Tuesday the District Representative for Queens High Schools made an urgent plea for chapter leaders to go to every member to individually convince each member to vote for Thompson.  They are calling it the most important vote we ever have had.  I don't agree that Thompson is worth all of this fuss. To me it looks like the union leadership is looking out for their own reputation and really not considering its rank and file.
People have asked me if the union will be weakened if another UFT endorsed candidate loses in the primary. Remember we supported three candidates who each lost in 2001.  The answer is it will hurt us but we would be weaker supporting another winning Democratic candidate who is in bed with the same interests that want to privatize public education. Ask yourself what we have gotten back for endorsing Barack Obama for president.  What did the AFL-CIO get for supporting Andrew Cuomo for governor? I do not think Thompson would be as bad as those two but I don't see anything but marginal improvements for us under a Thompson mayoralty.
Based on the evidence, at this time I do not think a Thompson endorsement is wise but I would consider supporting Thompson in a runoff against Christine Quinn which now appears to be a highly unlikely prospect. 
What about the other candidates? 
Christine Quinn, as Speaker of the City Council, could have told Bloomberg to take a hike when he asked for a third term by never bringing the bill to end term limits to the City Council floor but she didn't do it.  Instead, she made a political deal in 2008 to overturn two votes of the people supporting term limits for city officials.  She paved the way for Bloomberg's disastrous third term.  In return, I will not be supporting her. The fact that she is endorsed by the anti teacher NY Times, NY Post and Daily News just clinches my anti Quinn vote.  People are saying that a vote for Quinn is a  vote for a de facto term four for Bloomberg and I concur.
Sal Albanese is a former teacher who says as part of his education plan that he will "Stand up to the UFT."  He goes on to say the following concerning teachers, "...a Mayor who represents the whole city must be willing to put his foot down, be a smart financial steward, and protect the interests of all New Yorkers."  I don't want a mayor who is putting his foot down on me.
Case closed on Sal.
John Liu makes many good points on issues but he has little chance of winning and he has run a radio ad saying that he is going to get rid of bad teachers.  Is that based on student test scores? That is a deal breaker for me.
Bill de Blasio is kind of an unknown as to where he really stands.  The current Public Advocate is running a progressive campaign with his "tale of two cities" advocacy for the poor and middle class.  His big proposal is to tax people making over $500,000 a year to fund universal pre-kindergarten and after school programs.  Having a four year old daughter myself and knowing how difficult (basically impossible) it was to get her into a city pre-K program this fall, de Blasio's proposal strikes me as being very sound. 
Bill deBlasio also has the endorsement of the leading fighters against the school privatization movement: Diane Ravitch and Leonie Haimson.  In addition, the Professional Staff Congress (CUNY teachers union), an American Federation of Teachers local, is endorsing deBlasio as is Local 1199, the biggest union in the city. 
Public advocate deBlasio has been criticized for changing positions on issues such as ending term limits which he supported in 2005 but then opposed, when it mattered in 2008, when Bloomberg and Quinn engineered the mayor's third term. 
My biggest concern is seeing that de Blasio has worked closely with the real estate interests that have certainly not done much to improve life in this city for average New Yorkers.  If elected, will he help his money people or the other New York he is campaigning for?  I am skeptical.
My wife and I met with the Public Advocate to ask him to assist Jamaica High School back in 2010. He was sympathetic but there hasn't been much help since then from his office. In fairness, there wasn't much he could have done other than join lawsuits. 
The rest of the Democrats and Republicans in the field are obviously not viable including Anthony Weiner, aka Carlos Danger.  When the UFT made their ill timed endorsement of Thompson in June, Danger was still riding high in the polls.  His latest sexting scandal had not yet been exposed. 
Unlike some of my fellow bloggers and others who write regularly on NYC education matters, I am a NYC resident and registered Democrat.  My vote will be for Bill deBlasio. Although I am not convinced that de Blasio is a great candidate, I'm betting that having support from people like Diane Ravitch, Leonie Haimson and Professional Staff Congress President Barbara Bowen will persuade him to do what is right for public education more than Bill Thompson who is backed by Merryl Tisch, Al D'Amato, AFT President Randi Weingarten and UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

I do believe that the UFT will jump on board the deBlasio bandwagon if he wins the primary and is the Democratic nominee.
One final point on the mayor's race. The UFT is supposed to have such a smart political insider operation under Mulgrew but they didn't know that Carlos Danger might implode and much of his support could go to deBlasio.  Had they waited for this race to break a little in the summer, they may have not locked themselves into the Thompson corner that they are now stuck in with much of their membership not at all impressed.
Scott Stringer as Manhattan Borough President appointed Patrick Sullivan as his representative on the Bloomberg controlled Panel for Educational Policy.  Right from the start, Patrick has been a real friend of public education and a thorn in the side of the Department of Education.  He has been the only one to consistently expose the waste of taxpayer money in DOE contracts. Stringer has allowed Patrick to vote his conscience and he has come through for public schools, not only in Manhattan but citywide.
Stringer's representative is a true friend of Jamaica High School and not only supported us but advocated for our cause vocally at the PEP and behind the scenes.  In a rational political system, my school would not be phasing out.
I know some friends have some real issues with Stinger because of development in Manhattan but for me as a teacher, I am strongly persuaded that he has some principles because of Sullivan and the alternative of a return of Elliot Spitzer to office does not seem that appealing.
Tish James signed onto the lawsuit to save Jamaica and many other schools.  When Leonie Haimson convinced me to come with a group of students to testify before the City Council Education Committee, Councilwoman James treated our kids like the experts on education that they truly are.  I think she would be a strong public advocate, particularly for public education.
This summer, while away, my family kept up with the political and education news each day by going to the Perdido Street School blog.  I urge everyone to read Reality Based Educator daily.

Monday, September 02, 2013


As New York City teachers, we can usually count on our union, the United Federation of Teachers, to represent our employer's interests at least as much as ours if not more so.  Case in point: excessing in phasing out schools.  As a school phases out, obviously the staff is going to shrink as each year there is one less grade.  However, the UFT Contract has a clause that protects senior teachers.  It is Article 17B, Rule 10 which states:

Teachers at all levels who have served 20 years or longer on regular appointment shall not be excessed except for those in neighboring schools who are excessed to staff a newly organized school.

That is strong, unambiguous language that prevents excessing of senior teachers.  However, unbeknownst to anyone out of the inner circle of the UFT and Department of Education, last September the two sides reached an agreement to allow twenty year teachers to be excessed. For teachers in non phasing out schools, they are excessed within their own schools.  They become Absent Teacher Reserves who cover for classes of absent teachers but they are not subject to the horrible week-to-week rotation to different schools that other ATRs have been forced to endure since the 2011 UFT-DOE agreement on ATRs.

Since many Rule 10 teachers are serving in license areas where there are not that many openings, these people no longer have to teach out of license in order to stay in their own buildings. The remainder of the Rule 10 people are primarily teachers from schools that are downsizing, usually phasing out schools.

There is absolutely no reason for the UFT, which says they are against school closings, to not hold the DOE to the letter of Rule 10 in a school that is downsizing.  However, as part of the agreement from last September, the parties agreed that the DOE can excess veteran teachers in the last year of a school's phase out and send them into the week-to-week rotation pool.  This makes no sense educationally and it is a mindless concession on the part of the UFT.

Students and staff in closing schools have already been harmed a great deal through the phase out process as we have been labeled as failures by the city. The DOE then does everything it can to push students out of phasing out schools by not offering many of the classes that numerous pupils require for graduation and then telling them repeatedly that they should transfer.

Each year as the school loses a grade, there are fewer students so the staff is cut proportionally.  As a result, there is less access to more parts of the school building for the remaining students and there are extremely limited course offerings.  Having the Rule 10 people in the school provided much needed stability for the kids as at least there were known faces that pupils could turn to for college recommendations, advice, tutoring and support. In addition, having more teachers meant the DOE was compelled to provide more real classes as opposed to internet classes that are not rigorous and pupils complain about constantly. Rule 10 teachers guaranteed a modicum of normalcy in the insane world that is a closing school. This logic was ignored by UFT leaders when they agreed to force people contractually entitled to stay in a school out of their buildings.

Apparently, the UFT was not too proud about this Rule 10 agreement as President Michael Mulgrew only mentioned it in passing last fall and he never handed the full agreement out to us to let the Delegate Assembly vote on it. I only found out about it because the principal of my school gave me a copy in June.

Finally, for those hoping the UFT leaders would save us legally as they filed suit in 2011 to stop that year's round of school closings, a friend informed me that there have been no papers filed on that suit since May 2012.  Have they abandoned us there as well?

Happy Labor Day all and I hope to start posting regularly again as the school year begins.