Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Here is a link to the NY Times piece on our contract possibly being settled.  I know nothing more than what is in this article which claims that the UFT will be signing a nine year contract with retroactive pay and health savings for the city that will not cause us to pay for our basic plans.  We  will have commentary as soon as we hear more details.  For now, here is an excerpt from the Times piece:

The agreement would include retroactive pay equivalent to roughly 8 percent of salaries, annual raises of up to 2 percent a year and substantial savings for the city on health coverage, according to one official involved in the talks.
Three officials who insisted on anonymity because the deal had not been made final or announced said it could be disclosed at City Hall on Thursday; one official said the two sides would announce a nine-year contract.
Mr. de Blasio has cleared his schedule for the day, a mayoral spokesman said, postponing a long-planned major announcement about his affordable-housing plan.
One teachers’ union official said: “We’re just finalizing the language. It could be very soon.”
But officials warned that there could be last-minute snags because other municipal unions were weighing in with complaints that the raises given the teachers — which will probably set a pattern for the other unions — were too small and should be higher. Those pressures could cause some changes of the terms of the teachers’ deal.


Support the First High School Teachers to Join
Growing Opt Out Movement in New York City!!!!
On Thursday, May 1, 2014, we, the teachers and school staff, at the International High School at Prospect Heights are refusing to give the NYC English Language Arts Performance Assessment Exam.  We are standing in solidarity with the more than 50% of our parents who have opted their students out of taking the test. 
Please support the teachers and staff members who have joined together to abstain from administering a test we we believe is harmful to English Language Learners (ELLS).  We are not willing to sacrifice the trust of our students, their feelings of self worth, and our professional duty to do what is best for them. In good conscience, as educators dedicated to the learning of our students and the welfare of our school communities, we are not administering this test. 
We ask that Chancellor Carmen Fariña remove the New York ELA Performance Exam in favor of an assessment created by educators who best know the individual needs of their students and classrooms.
Ways to support the staff at the International High School at Prospect Heights:
      Sign a Pledge of Support
      Send a Photograph with a Physical Sign or Message of Support to
      Join our Press Conference on May 1st at 8:00 AM at 883 Classon Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11225

Monday, April 28, 2014


Even though I am on the UFT's 300 person Contract Negotiating Committee, I have no, repeat no, inside information to share on what is going on in the day-to-day negotiations between the UFT and the city and the Board of Education (AKA the Department of Education or DOE).  Negotiations are conducted behind closed doors between top union, city and DOE officials. The Committee is updated regularly and told to keep things confidential.

I am not letting out any negotiating details here but I would like to comment on a recent piece that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on AbsentTeacher Reserves.  My purpose here is also to propose a realistic method to place ATRs and if readers like it, consider taking it to the UFT. 

The tone of the Journal article seems to favor putting a time limit on how long someone can stay in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool without a permanent position before he/she is terminated.  This issue has been raised in contract negotiations and in the State Legislature on three separate occasions in the last decade and the city lost each time it attempted to fire tenured personnel without due process.  I want to believe the new Mayor and Chancellor would rather move on and discuss the best way to place the ATRs and not how to get rid of us (I will be an ATR at the end of June).

UFT members and assistant principals become ATRs because their schools are closed or downsized or they win in a dismissal hearing after the DOE tries to fire them.  The huge growth of the ATR pool was created by the 2005 UFT contract which stopped preferred placement for teachers when schools were closed or automatic placement if a program was downsized.  Instead of being placed, teachers and other UFT titles now become highly paid substitutes (ATRs) until a school principal accepts them.  ATRs stayed in a single school from year to year until 2011 but since that time they have been forced to accept weekly rotation to different schools as per an agreement between the city and UFT that avoided teacher layoffs.

As I am a Chapter Leader of a closing school, I constantly receive emails, texts and phone calls whenever an anti-teacher publication like the Wall Street Journal writes a new fantasy piece saying a time limit for ATRs to find a new job or be fired is up for consideration at the negotiating table or should be on the table.  Here is my response:

No viable union leadership, not even the UFT's who I often disagree with, would allow layoffs (which is essentially what a time limit for ATRs would be) to be determined based on whose place of employment (school) was closed or downsized or who beat dismissal charges.

The anti-teacher/anti-union press and organizations that want to privatize public education and break the UFT completely keep bringing the ATR issue up because they want to turn teaching into a job where teachers can be fired at will without any need for cause. They have been unsuccessful in New York for a decade but it does not mean they will give up.  The fact that the media continues to try to make firing ATRs without due process an issue, when in my opinion it has virtually no chance of becoming a reality, shows how far journalism has descended these days when it comes to education.

The UFT contract has gone to non-binding fact finding arbitration as per state law on four occasions including now.  One such arbitration panel proposed a settlement for the 2005 contract that the UFT for some inexplicable reason agreed was reasonable. 

The 2005 arbitrators gave the city much of what it wanted including a longer school day, a longer school year, the end of a UFT member's right to file a grievance on a disciplinary letter for file based on its fairness or accuracy, the return of teachers to involuntary cafeteria and hall duty, weaker due process, an end to seniority and school based option transfers, an end to preferred placement for UFT members if a school was closed, an end to guaranteed placement if someone was placed in excess and more givebacks. 

However after just about conceding the entire store to the city, the arbitrators specifically rejected the city's proposal to have a time limit for people placed in excess to find a new job or be terminated.  Here is the actual language from 2005:

"Fourth, the City/DOE has recommended that an excessed teacher who does not find a new position within 18 months of being excessed be terminated from the system.  We specifically reject this proposal." (page 45; 2005 Fact Finding Report, bold added by me)

Since the Chancellor at the time, Joel Klein, believed that principals should be the sole judges as to who works in their schools, preferred placement for people from closing schools, a part of the previous contract, was ended and instead people in excess had to spruce up their resumes and look for a job.  If they were not successful, they became Absent Teacher Reserves.

ATR status is an indignity that to my knowledge is exclusive to educators.  It is only UFT members and assistant principals among public employees in New York State that have to pound the pavement to find a new job after their place of work closes or is downsized.

When firehouses close, do the firefighters have to knock on other fire house doors to find a new position?

When there are corruption problems and the NYPD cleans out entire precincts, do the clean cops, who just happened to work where there were major issues, have to go to other captains with their resumes to find a job?

It is only the educators. 

In 2006 Joel Klein took a second bite at the firing the ATRs apple in contract negotiations.  This time Klein and the UFT agreed to a voluntary buyout proposal for ATRs but he never offered much of a buyout so it never happened.

Then, former Mayor Bloomberg knew he wouldn't get anywhere at the bargaining table, as the issue was resolved twice in contract negotiations, so he tried to go to Albany in 2011 to change civil service law since New York State law uses reverse seniority for layoffs and time limits for ATRs would violate the law.  At that time Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver refused to allow a bill to change reverse seniority layoffs for NYC teachers to come to the Assembly floor. It was dead on arrival.  That's three failed bites at the firing the excessed teachers apple for the city.

What has changed since then? If anything, the political tide has moved more in labor's favor with the election of a more union friendly mayor. 

In addition, it must be pointed out how even though UFT leaders might not be the greatest union officials on the planet, they are not stupid.  In Chicago and DC where teacher unions agreed to put a time limit on teachers to find a job after a school was closed or downsized, those union leaders ended up being defeated in subsequent elections.

The Murdoch publications (Wall Street Journal-NY Post), the Daily News, Chalkbeat, Campbell Brown, and all of the astro-turf organizations that hate public schools and unions can waste another ton of paper and lots of internet bandwidth saying how we need to fire teachers who can't get a principal to agree to hire them but can anyone see any circumstances where teachers would ever agree to such conditions?

If the new mayor and his team are going to take a fourth bite at the firing the ATR apple as the Journal reported former Mayor Bloomberg was trying to do in fact finding, it would be a huge insult to teachers and unions. We hope that the current Mayor and Chancellor are more enlightened and will move in another direction.

Seniority rights are a basic union principle.  If the DOE wants to terminate a tenured teacher, they have to go through the legally mandated 3020A process, which still exists although it certainly is weaker under the new teacher evaluation law.

The only question that should be on the table now is how to get the ATRs back in the classroom.

As most readers of this blog know, I come from Jamaica High School: a closing school.  My anecdotal numbers on ATR hiring are mostly based on Jamaica and also come from friends from other closing schools.

I only know of about four or five teachers who were hired permanently from the ATR pool in the last couple of years.  Everyone else found a provisional position to cover a vacancy/replace someone who went on a leave or they were not hired. A few of the provisional hires were kept but many were not and are back in the ATR pool.  I know of no senior ATRS with over 20 years in the system, whose schools were closed, who have found a permanent job in another school.

Principals were offered generous subsidies to accept ATRs permanently (they only had to pay half of a beginning teacher salary for eight years from their budgets) in a 2008 ATR Agreement between the DOE and UFT but it did not eliminate the ATR pool. I do not agree that if they change funding to go back to charging principals an average of all of a district's teachers that it will eliminate the ATR pool as some people are hoping. The 2008 subsidies didn't work because many principals do not want too many senior people in their schools, regardless of cost.

If a principal were to hire someone like me with twenty-eight years experience, I would take my rightful place on the school's seniority list and probably be one of the senior people in that school in the Social Studies Department.  If that school then was downsized due to decreased enrollments or there was a budget cut (always a possibility), the Principal would be stuck with me and have to place into excess a newer teacher.  I understand why principals would want to protect their junior people who will more than likely not be tenured and can be made to do whatever administration wants (for example pass every student) as opposed to someone like me who might have some problems with that.

Senior educators who can retire within a few years provide a good check on excessive administrator behavior and should be seen as valuable integrity people who can blow the whistle on wrongdoing without fear of reprisal.  I understand how we could be seen as dangerous to certain principals who want to play with statistics to make themselves look good. Schools will need substantial incentives to hire educators who could be seen as a threat to principal power over their fiefdoms  schools.

Just as Winston Churchill once said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others, seniority is the worst method to base hiring/layoff decisions except for all the others.  We have no meritocracy in the school system so basing hiring/firing solely on administrator judgment would not improve education.  On the contrary, it would make it worse as nobody would be able to speak out against terrible practices for fear of losing their paycheck. 

It would complete the bridge to the 19th Century that those who wish to privatize education want. Back then, hiring and firing was based on patronage in public service.  Anyone who thinks that a better system would emerge should read up on government jobs before the 1883 PendletonAct was passed to find out how politics intruding on hiring in the public sector is a bad idea.

The best way to get the ATRs back in the classroom this fall would be to make hiring decisions for people from closing schools (and other ATRs) in a similar manner to the way it was done before the horrific 2005 contract.  Back then teachers were given placement choices within the widest range possible by the Board of Education if a school was closed or reorganized (old Contractual Article 18G).  Senior teachers were not seen as ogres who caused schools to shut down in those days.

A teacher was given a wish-list of six schools and then was sent to one of them. Since some principals are reluctant to take veteran teachers in the current educational climate because we may talk too much, there would have to be a deal reached to influence some of them to accept ATRs.

The DOE should give ATRs the six school wish-list but instead of sticking ATRs on principals and making them pay on the school budget, the DOE should pay for ATRs centrally for their entire salary for as long as necessary (maybe up to a decade) when an ATR is placed in a school. A principal would not be charged a dime from the school's budget.  There would be no extra charge for the city taxpayers either as it's just a matter of paying for people on a central budget-line as opposed to a school budget-line.  Any subsequent downsizing caused by budget cuts or declining enrollments would be neutralized by this real subsidy. ATR's could be used to lower class sizes and guidance caseloads, a not so novel idea.

Under this plan, no ATR who had an ounce of sense would apply for a school that had a vicious anti-teacher principal unless they didn't do homework on schools.  (Yes I know principal turnover is high but at least ATRs could start out at places where they want to be.)

The 2011 policy, still in effect, of forcing ATRs go to a different school every week as highly compensated substitute teachers makes no sense and is a complete waste of  resources. 

Other proposed ATR solutions that keep provisional hiring going - a teacher stays at a school for a year and then can leave or be sent back to the ATR pool by a principal or yearly substitute rotations - will just keep a class of teachers going around from school to school for decades until the last ones retire. Why not just end it now? 

If someone is so bad, document it and use the 3020A process.  Principals could even make someone a co-teacher, as the ATR would not cost them any money, if they are seriously concerned about damage done to children by a specific ATR.  Administrators would actually have more control than they have now as ATRs are sent weekly to different schools to cover classes and principals must accept a different set of ATRs each week.

Maybe I am totally overestimating UFT leadership, but I do not see the UFT selling out the ATRs under any circumstances. UFT leadership has said in public that we could have had a contract long ago if we were willing to sell out the ATRs.

If Mayor Bill de Blasio is serious about not wanting to close schools, then the ATR pool will slowly wither away in the next few years so why not just put ATRs in schools where they have some desire to work and have the central Board of Ed, not individual schools, pick up the entire cost?  If anyone has a better idea, I'm listening.

Sunday, April 27, 2014



I saw this today and was impressed that Michael Fiorello's blueprint on how the privatizers are destroying public education has made it to Diane Ravitch's blog

Unfortunately, he nails what's going on in education perfectly.  Here is the post in full:

Reader Michael Fiorillo deciphers the corporate reformers’ game plan:
The Final Solution to the Teacher Question:

- Proclaim austerity for the public schools, while continuing to expand charters.

- Create incentives for non-educators to be in positions of power, from Assistant Principal on up.

- Maintain a climate of scapegoating and witch hunting for “bad teachers,” who are posited as the cause of poverty and student failure, doing everything possible to keep debate from addressing systemic inequities.

- Neutralize and eventually eliminate teacher unions (the first part largely accomplished in the case of the AFT). As part of that process, eliminate tenure, seniority and defined benefit pensions.

- Create and maintain a climate of constant disruption and destabilization, with cascading mandates that are impossible to keep up or comply with.

- Create teacher evaluations based on Common Core-related high stakes tests for which no curriculum has been developed. Arbitrarily impose cut scores on those exams that cast students, teachers and schools as failing, as was done by NYS Education Commissioner John King and Regent Meryl Tisch.

- Get teachers and administrators, whether through extortion (see RttT funding) threats or non-stop propaganda, to accept the premises of “data-driven” everything, even when that data is irrelevant, opaque, contradictory, or just plain wrong.

- Get everyone to internalize the premises and language of so-called education reform:

- Parents are not citizens with rights, but “customers” who are provided “choices”
that are in fact restricted to the decisions of those in charge, based on policies
developed by an educational industrial complex made up of foundations,
McKinsey-type consultants and captive academics.

- Students are “valuable assets” and “products,” whose value is to be enhanced
(see the definition of VAM) before being offered to employers.

- Teachers are fungible units of “human capital,” to be deployed as policy-makers
and management see fit. Since human capital depreciates over time, it
needs to be replaced by fresh capital, branded as “the Best and Brightest.”

- Schools are part of an investment “portfolio,” explicitly including the real estate
they inhabit, and are subject to the “demands” of the market and the preferences
of policy-makers and management.

- Create an intimidating, punitive environment, where the questions and qualms are either disregarded or responded to with threats.

- Get the university education programs on board under threat of continuing attack. Once they are on board, go after them anyway, and deregulate the teacher licensing process so that it’s easier to hire temps.

- Eliminate instruction that is deemed irrelevant to the most narrowly-cast labor market needs of employers, getting rid of art, music, dance, electives, etc., thereby reducing the focus of education to preparation for passive acceptance of low-wage employment.

- Embed software and electronic gadgets in every facet of the classroom and school, from reading to test-taking, with the intention of automating as much classroom input and output as possible.

- Use the automation of the classroom to enlarge class size – something explicitly promoted by Bill Gates – and transform teachers into overseers of student digital production that is connected to massive databases, so that every keystroke is data to be potentially monetized.

- Cash your bonus checks, exercise your stock options, and declare Excellence and Civil Rights achieved.

Friday, April 25, 2014


I just read Diane Ravitch's piece on the Tennessee State Legislature and Governor Bill Haslam rapidly reversing course and banning the use of student test scores for teacher evaluations.

This is the commentary on the bill from the Tennessee Teachers Association on Twitter:

TN Education Assoc. @TEA_teachers Apr 23
It is now officially prohibited by law that TVAAS (student test scores) may not be used in teacher licensure decisions in any way. Huge, huge win for teachers.
In addition, the great state of Washington refuses to tie teacher evaluations to student test scores even though they have just lost their waiver from the retaliatory provisions of No Child Left Behind.  Every child is supposed to be proficient in reading and math by 2014 according to that federal law.  In essence, the state of Washington told President Obama and Secretary of Arne Duncan to go ahead and make their day.
Hey NYSUT/UFT: What are we waiting for?  States are fighting back! Tennessee is a conservative southern state. 
This is liberal New York with our self described "progressive" governor who is in some trouble politically and is up for reelection in the fall.
Now is the time to push to end teacher evaluations based on student test scores!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Leonie Haimson leads Class Size Matters and is a key founder of Parents Across America.  These are two excellent parents' groups who fight for public schools.  Leonie led the fight against InBloom, the Gates Foundation funded data gathering firm that wanted to collect data from students for no legitimate reason. 

Yesterday, Leonie released a statement over at the NYC  Public School Parents' Blog, and in other places, touting the end of InBloom. 

The demise of InBloom is good news.  Leonie describes InBloom's goal succinctly:

InBloom was  not designed to protect student privacy but the opposite: to facilitate the sharing of children’s personal and very sensitive information with data-mining vendors, with no attention paid to the need for parental notification or consent, and this is something that parents will not stand for.

Public education defenders have seen so many defeats over the last decade so it's refreshing to have a real victory every now and then.

Unfortunately, the corporate education privatizers will most likely just take their money elsewhere in the education world to continue to harm our schools, our kids, our teachers and our nation.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


TWU Local 100 (city transit workers) has reached a deal with the MTA.

According to Capital New York, the settlement includes "five years of annual wage increases, including 1 percent in the first two years, and 2 percent in each of the final three years, paid maternity and paternity leave, improved optical and dental benefits, and, noted union president John Samuelson, pointedly, 'no zeros.'"

It is difficult to understand why TWU would settle for this package for city transit workers when a federal commission recommended that Long Island Railroad unions get almost twice as much (17%) over a six year period and LIRR unions are threatening a strike for July.

Update at 9:55 pm
I just read a Newsday piece on the TWU settlement and this quote helps me to understand it a little better: "A TWU source noted that, while the total raises may be smaller, the LIRR unions could argue that the TWU deal is comparable with what they are seeking because the railroad unions have gone longer without a contract. LIRR unions haven't had a contract since 2010. In 2010 and 2011, TWU workers got raises totaling 7 percent."

How this settlement will impact on city workers, including UFT members, is an open question as the MTA is a state agency, not a part of city government. For city unions the news of this agreement looks to be somewhat positive as the precedent of three years of no raises set by state civil service unions, that the city wanted us to swallow, has now been broken albeit with rather small increases.

That should help city workers a little in our bargaining and UFT members in particular.  Remember, we are behind a round compared to most other city unions. The pattern for the previous round is 4%+4% increases. There is no city pattern for the current round.


Someone sent out this Policeman's Benevolent Association ad from the Daily News.  Without knowing anything else about contract negotiations, I think we can safely assume that 0% +0% + 0% probably followed by 2% + 2% raises is still the offer on the table from the city for all city workers for the current round of collective bargaining.

That is the state pattern set by Governor Cuomo and the CSEA that the city is attempting to follow for city unions in spite of a huge city surplus. If the city is not moving for the PBA, it is hard to see them going higher for another union to set a pattern they will have to replicate with other employees.

Remember, the UFT and a few other unions are a contract behind so we are still owed 4% + 4% from the last round of bargaining that most other city unions already received. 

Thanks to Reality Based Educator's comment, we have been directed to the Times article which says the MTA, a state agency, could be moving off of the three years of zero raises in negotiations with TWU Local 100.  However, 8% over five years that the Times is reporting as the offer for city transit workers looks like much less than the 17% over six years that a presidential panel recommended for Long Island Railroad workers recently.  More to come as soon as we have it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


It's not a surprise to me but when you click for Revive NYSUT, you will be sent to the official NYSUT site.  Revive was a convenient campaign site for the NYSUT election that has now disappeared.

While in Chicago last summer, one of the pieces of advice given from members of CORE (CTU President Karen Lewis's caucus) was to strongly urge groups to keep their dissident caucuses together even after winning union elections.  Revive was started as a change group and won the NYSUT election with four new officers including President Karen Magee and one incumbent: Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta.  They have quickly morphed into the established leaders. 

We don't want people to forget the Revive NYSUT promises so here they are straight from a leaflet they handed out at the NYSUT Representative Assembly.

Revive NYSUT is...
  • Against Common Core
  • Against APPR
  • Against High Stakes Testing
  • For Opt Out Parental Rights
  • For a New SED Commissioner and Regents
  • For an End to RTTT and an End to Gates $
  • Against Cuomo
  • Against the Tax Cap and the GEA
  • For NYSUT Transparency
  • Against Fort Orange Club Memberships
What Revive NYSUT is not...
  • We are not puppets of the UFT.  We represent members from the Bronx to Buffalo.
  • We are not Pro-Cuomo.  We have called him the Scott Walker of NY.

This is a comprehensive agenda.  Let's see how they do now that they are in office.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


As we pointed out here a few days ago, Lee Cutler won a landslide victory outside of NYC in the NYSUT election for Secretary Treasurer but he lost the election to Martin Messner because of the bloc of votes from NYC Unity bound by Michael Mulgrew to vote for Revive NYSUT. Cutler issued the following statement on Facebook at Stronger NYSUT.  It is reprinted here in its entirety. 

Message from Lee Cutler:

To All of Our Supporters,

The long campaign is over and Revive won this election. Many of you knew how the odds were against us in this race, but considering those odds, every Stronger Together candidate did extremely well and won support from an impressive number of delegates throughout New York State. I thank you for staying with us despite those odds. We all had confidence we could win and stayed in the fight until the bitter end.

While many of you are disappointed about the results, many good things came out of this campaign. Most important were the friendships and union relationships formed. Leaders and members who never knew each other before are now friends with other NYSUT members throughout the state.

These are friendships that will not end and these bonds will ensure that all voices will be heard in the years ahead and in that sense, NYSUT did grow stronger due to the work we did together.

Even before the campaign, I spent a good part of my time as Secretary-Treasurer traveling to all parts of the state getting to know you, your students, and your communities. For me, the campaign just gave me more opportunity to meet more of you and see more of your world. I consider myself lucky to have experienced every region of the state as I immersed myself in your cultures and your communities. I saw firsthand the local struggles you face and will never forget these struggles as I move forward in my career and do what I can to work for solutions.

The work we began together in human rights and social justice will not stop. I am sure NYSUT will always be a voice in that fight. And I personally plan to be a leader in the human rights movement and continue the work of engaging our students in this critical work. So thank you; thank you for your support. I don't say this lightly. I know we had to earn your support. I know you expected that we speak truth in order to receive that support and through your votes, I know that the viewpoints of all the Stronger Together Officers and At-Large Directors will be represented as NYSUT moves forward.

I wish the new leadership team the best of everything and offer them my support. The challenges public institutions face are huge and, New York State is still led by a governor who thus far has done everything in his power to weaken K-12 schools and our higher education institutions. Along the way, he has attacked unions and our pensions and has turned his back on health care institutions. It is my hope that the new leadership team will hold this governor accountable for the policies already in place that are harming all of us and the institutions that we value most.

As an officer you welcomed me into your homes and communities and an election does not mean that those friendships have to end. For that reason, it would be an honor to stay in touch with you. My new email is I'm sure our paths will cross again and that like me, I am certain that you will be unionists who really believe we are stronger together.

All the best and in solidarity,


Thursday, April 10, 2014


Instead of my usual complaints about how one sided debate was at a UFT Delegate Assembly, I have to admit right from the start that UFT President Michael Mulgrew made a real attempt on Wednesday to play by the rules by focusing on having both sides heard during debate.  It didn't hurt his majority Unity Caucus, who have the votes to pass just about anything at the DA, but it feels good not to have to report about how he spent the entire meeting only calling on one side.  It wasn't perfect but it was much better than usual.

President's Report
19 people were stabbed by a student at a school in Western Pennsylvania.  We are watching this terrible situation closely.
Los Angeles: There is a lawsuit fighting teacher tenure by saying it is an infringement upon student civil rights.  We are helping to fight this.  It is the same right wing groups: Student's First, American Legislative Exchange Council and Democrats for Education Reform (our enemies) that are behind so many of the attacks on teacher unions and public schools.  Make no mistake about it, they want to privatize public education.
Philadelphia: There is a "reform" commission that has gone to court.  They are trying to have teacher seniority and due process rights taken away.  90 out of 290 schools in Philly are now charter schools.  Basically they are trying to end the union contract.  Same groups are behind this case as the LA case.
Chicago: Our same enemies are behind legislation that would lower future pensions of in service people by around 30% and force public employees to pay 2.5% more in pension contributions.
Former Mayor Bloomberg worked with the same people to run well financed campaigns against us here in NYC but we have survived.  It's all about politics.
We are in a state election cycle and our enemies just spent $ 5 million on a campaign for charter schools in NYC.  New mayor wants to work with teachers and parents. Former news reporter Campbell Brown is starting another astro-turf group to lobby locally against our contract.
New campaign by our enemies against the new promotion policy that deemphasizes standardized testing.  They will also try to change the evaluation system to make it more about standardized test scores.
Under Bloomberg's promotion policies, where only the test results mattered for students in grades 3-8, fewer children were held back.  Bloomberg replaced social promotion with social graduation which is why so many students need remedial classes in college.
Politicians think about the next election.  We think about the long term. Our enemies have been emboldened by their success with the new charter school law.
A good lobbying effort produced a mostly successful budget agreement. 
-There was a 5.2% increase in school aid from the state to NYC.  This is up from what we originally were looking at.
-There is $300 million in additional funding in the budget for pre-kindergarten.
-There is a moratorium for high stakes Common Core testing for students; we don't yet know about the tests being used for teacher evaluation as the Legislature is still in session.
-In Bloom (the data collection company) is gone.  Commissioner John King could not guarantee privacy of student information.  We are glad to see Rupert Murdoch will not get student information.
-There will be no standardized testing for grades pre-K -2.
-There will be audits of charter schools in NYS including in NYC for the first time.
-On the down side, the charter school lobby took advantage of a political opportunity to guarantee  colocations and force the city to pay their rents.  We think this provision will end up in court for years.
NYSUT: Karen Magee was elected NYSUT president.  There are three other new officers who have been elected.  Our own Andy Pallotta will continue as Executive Vice President.
the President repeated his remarks about social promotion and reiterated that more students will probably be held back now that teachers have a say in who will be promoted. 
There has not been much immediate relief for our members yet under the new regime but Chancellor Carmen Farina at her meetings with teachers has heard from us about bully principals and excess paperwork.
Artifacts in New Evaluation System
1-Teachers decide on whether or not they want to hand in artifacts and the teacher has the option on which artifacts to hand in.
2-Teachers can turn in artifacts up until Friday, April 11 if we want to but we can also bring artifacts in at the summative conference if we want to because so much of John King's ruling is contradictory.  
3-Artifacts were a good idea that John King and the DOE turned into a bad idea.
4-Artifacts only make up a small percentage of our final rating (3 points) so teachers should ask the principal what he/she is going to give on the artifacts score.
5-People need to chill out on artifacts.
During the question period this came up again, so we will put the answer here.
Question: If principal doesn't rate us on certain domains, is it an automatic ineffective?
Mulgrew Answer: No, the teacher would get a NA in that area. Some schools will have an artifact party on Friday and submit so many artifacts and demand that they be rated.
OT's and PT's-We won the arbitration.  They will be getting paid in May.
Staff Director's Report
Leroy Barr announced the dates for some events including the April 26 Spring Conference at the NY Hilton.
Question Period
Question: The first question concerned Absent Teacher Reserves being evaluated.
Mulgrew Answer: ATR evaluation is still under the satisfactory or unsatisfactory system.  We're not sure how it will work for someone who was placed in a school in the middle of the year.  We can't talk about contract negotiations but hopefully this will be our only year under the current system.
Question: As many ATR's are reading specialists, how can we see that they are placed in schools?
Mulgrew Answer: We know that there is an untapped talent pool that could be utilized better.  We can't talk about this right now because it is in contract negotiations.
Question: Shouldn't we be insisting on certified teachers for the new pre-K programs?
Mulgrew Answer: The state will be reimbursing at a rate of $10,000 if certified teachers are used but only $7,000 if a Community Based Organization uses uncertified teachers.  Those teachers will have a maximum of three years to become certified.  UFT will help them get certified and that should help in organizing.
Question: Some UFT members are going into disciplinary conferences without UFT representation.  What are the ramifications?
Mulgrew Answer: They can be dire and no one should go in without UFT representation.
Question: Principals asking for lesson plans and doctor's notes unlike in the past.  What can we do?
Mulgrew Answer: The administration could always ask to see a lesson plan but they cannot dictate format or collect them ritualistically. We are not publicizing what we are doing behind the scenes but we are working on reigning in onerous administration.  We are also waiting for a decision on the lesson plan arbitration.
New Motion Period
UFT Secretary Emil Pietromanaco introduced a resolution to support the UPS drivers who were fired for supporting a co-worker who was dismissed.  The resolution was added to the agenda and later passed unanimously.  (The drivers were reinstated  yesterday.)
Special Orders of Business
A motion to fix problems of the New York State Alternate Assessments carried unanimously.
A resolution on the May Day rally produced the most controversy. The rally is to support labor rights, immigrant rights and jobs for all. Unity's Paul Egan put in an amendment to make it a little stronger and MORE's Megan Moskop introduced an amendment to make it a more massive rally with specific slogans including a $15 an hour minimum wage,  full retroactive pay for city workers and more.  Mulgrew called on people on both sides of this issue and there was a decent debate.  The MORE amendment failed; the Egan amendment passed as did the resolution.
The final resolution was to support President Barack Obama's call to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.  Mulgrew asked if somebody wanted to speak against this resolution and Joan Heymont responded by noting how she is against both $10.10 and $15 as poverty wages and that we should stop blindly supporting Dems and Obama. She added that if a system can't provide for its workers then it needs to go.  After this, there was a vote and the resolution carried.
That's all for this month. Enjoy Spring Break and may all your artifacts be rated highly effective if you choose to hand them in!

Monday, April 07, 2014


No huge surprises in the New York State United Teachers election on Saturday at the Representative Assembly.  According to the figures I received that are weighted (big locals like the UFT have many more votes than smaller unions within NYSUT), Revive NYSUT's presidential candidate Karen Magee received 61% of the weighted votes while Stronger Together incumbent Dick Iannuzzi garnered 39% of the 328,014 weighted votes.  (328,014 people didn't vote; this is how it is counted with the weighing.)  The results were closer for the other officer candidates. 

We congratulate Ms. Magee and the entire Revive NYSUT slate for their victory.  They have pledged to be against Common Core, the teacher evaluation system, the tax cap, Race to the Top, Gates funding, Governor Cuomo and more.  We wish them well.

A detailed look at the numbers for the election, which we have said was run on as tilted a playing field as a UFT election, shows it was much closer than most people expected.  Outside of New York City, Revive candidates either lost or only won by a small margin.  The difference in this election was the New York City UFT Unity Caucus bloc of votes. 

These Delegates are bound by their caucus obligations to support the decisions of their caucus in public and union forums (the so called Unity loyalty oath) so we knew 34% of the vote (the percentage the UFT has in this election according to what we looked at) was going to Revive from the beginning. That is a healthy head start.

For Secretary-Treasurer, Revive's Martin Messner won with 53.7% of the weighted vote while Stronger Together incumbent Lee Cutler came in with 46.3%. We got to know Lee Cutler a little during the last month and found him to be a decent guy who did a pretty good job as an officer. We are not surprised that he won a huge percentage of the vote outside of New York City. Let's look at some of the details.

There were 328,014 weighted votes that were cast in the election for president.  It was less for other offices which is not unusual in any election. Since 34% of the votes were from the UFT and this was a non secret ballot, we can safely assume that all of the UFT votes were for Revive's Martin Messner.

Outside of NYC we can conclude there were 216,489 weighted votes by simply subtracting 111,525 (34% of the total weighted votes cast) from 328,014 (number of weighted votes cast for president).  Now subtract from Messner's totals the same NYC 111,525 weighted votes from his 175,790 total and he is left with 64,275 votes while Cutler keeps all of his non NYC weighted votes which add up to 151,526.  Outside of NYC, where the election is not a top down mandate from Michael Mulgrew, Cutler won easily with 70% of the vote to Messner's 30%.

The same holds true if we take out the NYC votes from the other officers. Stronger Together's Maria Neira, Kathleen Donahue, and of course Dick Iannuzzi won easily outside of NYC. It was also very competitive outside of the city for Arthur Goldstein against Andrew Pallotta for Executive Vice President.

How does this formula play out with MORE (the Movement of Rank and File Educators)?  Michael Mulgrew and Julie Cavanagh replayed the 2013 UFT Election here at NYSUT for an at large Board of Directors seat.  Let's do exactly what we did with Cutler v. Messner for Cavanagh v. Mulgrew. 

Mulgrew garnered 197,081 weighted votes while Cavanagh received 93,830.  Now take out the 111,525 NYC Unity votes (I think we can safely assume that no NYC Unity voter would vote against Mulgrew in an open ballot) and Mulgrew is left with 85,556. Cavanagh keeps her 93,830 . The percentages work out to 52.3% for Cavanagh and 47.7% for Mulgrew.

Outside of NYC, Julie Cavanagh defeated Michael Mulgrew!

I don't think too many people in the suburbs or upstate knew who MORE was before this election. MORE candidates received a mere six minutes of speaking time at 7:30 am on Saturday morning to make our case to the Delegates.  We pooled that time for two speakers.

One of MORE's speakers, Lauren Cohen, was booed by the New York City Unity group that was sitting in the audience. Lauren persevered and she was great!  Mike Schirtzer followed and made another powerful statement for MORE. The people outside of NYC who heard them responded very positively. Delegates took pictures of the back of the MORE shirt I was wearing that says, "Our working conditions are our students learning conditions."

It is clear that when people know us, they will like us. MORE was not directly endorsed by Stronger Together so we basically ran alone and accomplished our goal on Saturday.

Sunday, April 06, 2014


The MORE crew with our friends Rob Pearl and Beth Dimino from the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association at the NYSUT Representative Assembly Saturday
I spent a long afternoon and evening on Friday and an unending day on Saturday at the NYSUT Representative Assembly. The election results are in but we have agreed not to disseminate them until they are told officially to the Delegates on Sunday.  Needless to say, we will have some analysis later on.

Thursday, April 03, 2014


How bad is the budget deal the New York State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo reached a few days back that advances the cause of charter schools over public schools?  One parent activist is basically saying it is the beginning of the end for public education in New York City unless we fight back now.  Is it that bad?  Read the case and you decide.

 This is do or die time.
I realize I may sound cynical and arrogant here but I worry we have collectively missed the boat. This is do or die time.
Our strength lies in the fact that we are not as removed from reality as the UFT leadership-we are not blinded by our short term battles and the need to declare victory no matter how destructive or irrelevant the win!
We are about to lose the war on public education.
Charter schools in NYC by law can now expand as much as they want, and new charters and existing expanded charters MUST be given space in our public schools OR we must provide and pay for their rent, along with the other many advantages charters benefit from, including now a bigger per pupil allocation, or a bigger piece of the never big enough edu-pie.

What does this mean for our schools? their students? and staff?
Do the math- the money and space and resources will come from somewhere. There is not a lot to cut- little to no discretionary funding as it is.
At some point - a not very far off point - there simply is not enough to go around and public schools will cease to function. Layoffs, cutting programs, choking by charter expansion, etc...
Game over. Education = privatized, last man standing will be the charter chains.
Anti-testing? Contract? PEP?  These are all worthy battles, of course, but WE JUST GOT PLAYED. 
Every slime ball we elect in Albany (I know of a mere 3 exceptions) sold out, sold us out and sold out public education.
They shrug or grin or shed crocodile tears and sock away their lulus and pet "asks" and we keep putting them in office to keep on keeping on.
Cuomo is the charter lobby's chief lobbyist. He stands ON children. Bring him down and all of our battles become relevant again.
Let this outrage go by and we have lost, literally.
We need to think about putting away the siloed asks and start acting as disciplined and focused as the opposition machine does.
We may not have billions for ads, we may not own the media and their editorials but we do have millions of feet- who can vote. The ads do not elect anyone- we do.  Bill de Blasio proved that last November.
Who would have thought that 12 years of destruction under Bloomberg was nothing compared to what we just experienced after a mere 3 months under the new administration?
Some parents are planning to lobby the Governor's local office (midtown) next Thursday, April 10th at 4:30.
I hope MORE and Change the Stakes and all the other groups fighting for public education can join in and send a strong message.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014


The movement to opt out of state Common Core testing is having an impact. 

Republican candidate for Governor Rob Astorino's decision to have his kids sit out the tests is a major move on his part.  He is certainly attempting to capitalize on the statewide anger over the Common Core testing.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has reacted by finally having second thoughts about how teacher evaluations are linked to the Common Core tests while student promotions are not.  Cuomo today said the issue needs to be addressed.

While we must beware of this governor bearing any possible gift, we can say that the opt out from testing movement is scaring the governor so that is a positive development for sure.