Friday, August 29, 2014


ICE is meeting today in Manhattan at the Star light Diner.  Norm put the details of the agenda on Ed Notes  Here they are:

James Eterno has suggested we don't just chat n chew but work from a real agenda while chewing and chatting. Darn. Here are his suggestions, supplemented by some of mine, which means we will probably still be chatting and chewing at midnight.

1. ICE stayed together and did not disband in 2012 as TJC did after MORE was formed. I did not want ICE to stick around so we could merely get together and eat once or twice a year. We continued as an organization with a role to play in the union and education debates independent of MORE.
Note from Norm: At the MORE meeting with New Action last October, we offered the ICE model to New Action as a way for their people to work within MORE for our common aims while keeping their caucus alive. They rejected that offer.

2. We need to pay our respects to Gene and Loretta Prisco. We lost both of these wonderful people since we last met as a group. (Those who want their comments published will be videotaped).

3. Is ICE still needed?
If ICE still exists as an organization it should say something and take 
some positions, not just be a space for Jeff and I to share our personal views.  Our purpose as an organization should be on this agenda. Perhaps we are no longer necessary and should disband as TJC did in 2012. We can still get together and eat when we want to.
4. State of MORE and ICE's part in it.  Amazing young people have bred new life into opposition to Unity in the UFT. What, if anything, does ICE want to achieve as part of this opposition? Where do we see it heading?
(Combine items 3 and 4).

5. An ICE endorsement for Zephyr Teachout in the Democratic primary. Locals around the state are endorsing her. MORE probably won't do it so why not ICE? See support statement from James Eterno on ICE blog.
Norm amendment: ICE also endorses Green Party in general election.

6. NYSUT's Stronger Together. 
A legitimate statewide opposition to Unity is forming. The entire year at NYSUT should be reviewed. I propose ICE formally support Stronger Together. Some of us are already involved so why not formalize it if ICE still wants to play an active role in the union and education worlds? 

7. Midnight special - Discussing the controversy inside and outside MORE over the march, the UFT support of the march, what could have/should have MORE done? Not for voting, but for comment: did MORE do the right thing?


UFT members will probably not be surprised that a full summer of preparation was not sufficient for the Department of Education to be able to adjust our paychecks for the September 15th pay period.  Instead, we will have to wait until September 30 to see our first increase under the new contract. 

It is only 2% and back pay will only be from May 2013 so don't expect a big adjustment.

By the way, did anyone even know new teachers were getting an additional $2,000 increase?

Meanwhile, another city union, School Safety Agents- Special Agents, has settled their contract with Mayor Bill de Blasio.  The School Safety Agents have not had a contract since 2010. Safety Agents as part of their agreement also settled a discrimination lawsuit.  Therefore, they will get substantial retroactive checks.  No word on them having to wait until 2020 like UFT members to get full arrears.
The email from the UFT Staff Directors is copied in full below.

Dear James,
The first rate increases under the new UFT/DOE contract are taking effect this fall.
The contract featured a 1 percent pay increase retroactive to May 1, 2013 and another 1 percent pay increase retroactive to May 1, 2014.
For teachers, both the salary adjustments and the corresponding retroactive payments will be in your Sept. 30 paycheck. This paycheck will also include the additional $2,000 increase to the 1A and 1B steps of the teacher salary schedule effective Sept. 1, 2014.
Salary adjustments and corresponding retroactive payments for per session and per diem work will be processed on Oct. 3, 2014.
Another 3 percent rate increase will take effect on May 1, 2015.
LeRoy Barr and Ellie Engler
Staff Directors

Monday, August 25, 2014


I am away in Georgia attending a family wedding but I had a chance to look at my Department of Education email. Not surprisingly, the applications and resumes I sent out listing my accomplishments in the school system (lots of advanced placement teaching experience, running a college office, sitting on every committee known to the universe, winning awards) aren't getting too many responses.

What I did receive was an email from DOE telling Absent Teacher Reserves we will receive our September assignments on Thursday; interviews for leftover vacancies start on September 15 and weekly rotation begins in the middle of October.

This is my first year as a teacher in excess. I have attempted to actually try the open market and now the excess staff selection system with an open mind. I should know better by now.

UPDATE: I arrived home from vacation last night to find out I have been sent to Aviation High School for September. The email doesn't even tell me the time to report.  Am I supposed to figure it out on my own?

Happy rotating everyone!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I suppose it is a small victory when the New York State AFL-CIO stays neutral (at least for now) in this year's election for governor instead of supporting the anti-union, anti-public education Governor Andrew Cuomo's reelection bid. I thought they would outright endorse Cuomo and they still might after the Democratic primary.

Notice how the decision on a governor's endorsement by the AFL-CIO was tabled so it can be raised again later.  If Republican Rob Astorino is making headway in the polls after Labor Day, look for labor to come to rescue Cuomo in the fall.

In addition, as Reality Based Educator pointed out, the big public employee unions (including the UFT), who provide major financial support for the Working Families Party, already backed Cuomo in May by using their financial clout to make sure he received the Working Families Party ballot line for governor.

What is the problem with being outright opposed to Cuomo?  There is an alternative to Cuomo running in the Democratic primary in September.  Her name is Zephyr Teachout.  (I have printed her education platform below taken right from her website.)

Is there much in Teachout's education program that we could not support?  Yes we have been fooled by Democratic Party candidates many times in the past but her platform compared to Cuomo's pro-charter school, pro-high stakes testing, anti-teacher, anti-worker record gives Democrats a clear choice.

I'm not speaking for ICE or MORE but as a registered Democrat, I have no problem publicly supporting Zephyr Teachout and I will vote for her in September.

The main argument against unions endorsing Teachout is she has no money while Cuomo has plenty so he can spend huge on advertising which means Teachout has no chance of winning.  This is a valid perspective; Teachout is a super long-shot however she might not have to win to have an impact.

When a politician is as awful as Cuomo has been for us, what will it take to say we stand on principle and oppose him?  Do we always just play politics so maybe a politician won't be so horrible to us next time?

I realize unions must often navigate in tough political waters but the Public Employees Federation, a large state union, has stepped up and endorsed Teachout as has the Buffalo Federation of Teachers.

NYSUT-UFT, AFL-CIO neutrality says volumes about where our leadership actually stands which is with Andrew Cuomo.

Teachout's education platform


Public education is the foundation of democracy. That’s why so many members of the founding generation in America promoted free public education. I was lucky to have the chance to attend great public elementary and high schools. My first real job out of college was as a special education aide in a rural public school. I know from personal experience that strong public schools are essential not just to learn the skills and gain the confidence needed to thrive in today’s economy, but to build the knowledge and experience every citizen requires to become a full participant in political society.
Governor Cuomo has abandoned our public schools. His drastic budget cuts are short- sighted and entirely unnecessary. Under his tenure, class sizes have swollen to record levels, depriving students of the attention they need. New York school districts have had to eliminate tens of thousands of educator positions, amounting to more than 10 percent of the entire teaching workforce. This means schools have had to slash art, music, and sports, among other programs.
What makes this even more outrageous is that Governor Cuomo did not make these cuts because state coffers were empty. He made these cuts so he could cut the taxes of New York’s wealthiest individuals, of New York’s wealthiest banks, and of New York’s wealthiest corporations. Worse yet, after intentionally starving New York’s public schools, Governor Cuomo charged New York’s public school teachers with failing New York’s students. He then used this charge to justify calling for the privatization of schools and for the imposition of draconian testing requirements.
One of the prime duties of the governor of New York is to safeguard our public schools from any private interest that threatens their public purpose. Yet Governor Cuomo, in his four years in office, has rarely even visited a public school. As Governor, I would dedicate myself every day to restoring New York’s public schools to their rightful place as the best in the nation. Specifically, I would pursue the following five strategies:
a. Full and Equal Funding for Public Education
New York spends $8,700 less per pupil in poor districts than we do in rich ones. That makes New York the sixth most unequal state in all America when it comes to school funding. This also means that New York is in violation of its own Constitution, which requires the government to provide a “sound, basic education” to every student, no matter his zip-code. I believe this constitutional obligation should be our floor, not our ceiling. New Yorkers have a right to demand the best public schools in the nation, with small class sizes, arts, and physical education for every child.
I would work to make funding more fair and equitable. Despite a promise to the contrary, Governor Cuomo has actually widened the funding gap between poor and wealthy districts.
b. End High-Stakes Testing
Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, we’ve seen a culture of test-and-punish overthrow actual teaching and real learning. New York State entirely botched the implementation of Common Core, which has ushered in an unrelenting regimen of tests. Governor Cuomo’s system of basing teacher evaluations on student tests has corroded actual learning.
We should slam the brakes on the barrage of high-stakes testing. This means halting both the new Common Core tests and tests that are part of the teacher evaluation system. We need to undertake a thorough reevaluation of all high stakes tests, with full input from educators and parents.
c. Protect Against Privatization
Governor Cuomo has promoted a private takeover of public education policy, by opening state coffers up to charter schools, which serve only three percent of New York’s students. In New York City, meanwhile, he has mandated that city taxpayers pay rent for privately run charter schools to the tune of $11,000 per pupil, thus fueling their massive expansion at the expense of public schools.
We should protect our public schools from privatization schemes, including the diversion of state funds to private schools through vouchers or back-door tax credits. We should repeal provisions enacted in 2014 that hijack control of decision-making about charter school co-locations out of the hands of local governments and that mandate that New York City pay for charter school rent.
d. Empower Local Communities
I would eliminate the undemocratic provisions of the cap on local school budgets— falsely sold as a tax cap even though it caps nobody’s taxes. Specifically we should hand back to local voters the right to control their own school budgets, by eliminating the requirement of a 60 percent supermajority. We should return to the principle of one person, one vote in school budget elections.
e. Suspend the Suspension Pipeline
We must end the ‘school to prison pipeline’ where excessive use of school suspensions for minor infractions deprive students of education, leaving them behind. Suspensions actually increase behavior problems and decrease school safety. In many urban communities there is a school suspension crisis—with huge racial inequalities in suspension rates. Greater suspension rates lead to higher expulsion rates and to increases in school-based arrests. This cycle starts with high suspension rates for young students, even as young as pre-k and kindergarten. We need solutions, not suspensions. We need to transform the culture in school buildings to support teachers and students, foster collaboration, teach problem-solving, engender real responsibility and accountability and keep students in school. This approach, called “restorative justice,” has proven highly effective. Due to a local community organizing effort in Buffalo, the implementation of these reforms have already led to a 30 percent reduction in suspensions. Students cannot learn if they are not in school.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


There is no more famous critic of corporate school privatization than NYU Professor Diane Ravitch.  Her blog along with the Washington Post Answer Sheet, written by Valerie Strauss, are two of the leading places to go for strong criticisms of the corporate drive to destroy the public school system.

Ravitch has been very careful about not denouncing the leadership of the teachers unions by telling us we need to support people such as her friend AFT President Randi Weingarten.  However, on Thursday she posted something written by AFT member Kipp Dawson that is quite critical of the undemocratic nature of the UFT.  The UFT basically controls the AFT as Dawson pointed out and both unions are run in a top-down way.

This is the first time I can recall an almost direct attack from Ravitch against the Unity Caucus, Randi's faction of the UFT. Unity enforces party discipline with a loyalty oath.  Unity members  must vote as the leadership tells them or they are ousted from the party.

This was followed by a post today where Ravitch questions one of NYSUT's baffling political endorsements for 2014.  Our union is supporting the leader of the renegade Democrats, the pro- charter Jeff Klein, who led the group that allowed the Republicans to control the State Senate. He is also one of two Democrats who voted to take away New York City teacher seniority protections.  Klein is being challenged in the September primary by Oliver Koppell

Perdido Street School took down this endorsement yesterday. 

By asking for an explanation of the Klein endorsement, Ravitch was lobbing a softball right over the plate for Unity foes to swat out of the park.  ICE's very own Michael Fiorillo stepped up to the plate to hit his usual grand slam as he summed up for Ravitch the union's twisted reasoning for backing Klein.

If only our membership would read this en masse.

Michael Fiorillo says:
Endorsing an oily bottom-feeder like Klein is just part of Unity’s workaday world. NYC teachers who’ve been around for a while probably have not-so-fond memories of the UFT leadership giving its annual John Dewey Award to Republican governor George Pataki, and then stabbing Democratic gubernatorial candidate and long-time UFT ally Carl McCall in the back some years ago. It’s typical behavior on their part.

After all, this is an organization that continues to endorse Mayoral control of the schools (except when the Mayor tries to rein in charter schools, in which case they silently stand by and allow him to be knee-capped by Cuomo/Moskowitz), did nothing to keep Bloomberg from buying an illegal third term and then gave him a de facto endorsement in 2009, takes pay-offs, er, investments, from Gates and Broad, supports Common Core and the testing regime that motivates it, as well as test-based teacher evaluations. The hostile takeover of public education would have never, ever, had the “success” it found if Weingrew had not accepted its premises.

Unity often appears invincible, given their choke-hold on power and the frequent cleverness with which they manipulate it, but everything runs it’s course, and these people have been enjoying their one-party state, and the double pensions that accompany it, for more than half a century. Unity Caucus is literally the last of the great political machines.

However, Unity Caucus is trapped in a dilemma: it fattens off the apathy and demoralization of its grossly manipulated membership, yet that very same apathy and demoralization inevitably lead to the weakening of the union, which ultimately endangers their hold on power.

The stronger they appear, the weaker they in fact are.

Michael Mulgrew can threaten to punch us all in the face – everyone, that is, except Andrew Cuomo, whom he kneels before – but he is now widely seen as a joke and embarrassment, and it’s hard to maintain monolithic power when your ostensible leader is a literal punch line.

Like the Communist Party in East Germany, which it ironically resembles in its inner “Democratic Centralist” workings, Unity will continue to be invincible, until it isn’t.


Please let's not talk much about results of Common Core tests.  No spin and no need to call anyone any names or punch anyone in the face.  The increase in scores was predictable but hardly reflective of anything.

Part of this year's incrementally higher test scores can be attributed to the geniuses at the State Education Department merely lowering the cut scores.  What this means is the students needed to answer a lower percentage of questions right this year as compared to last year to achieve the same score.

It is all explained by Lace to the Top.

"Results of the ELA tests are up 0.1%, but the cut score was lowered by 2% (3rd grade).  In 2013, students needed to receive 35 out of 55 possible points to achieve a passing score of 3.  In 2014, students needed to only receive 30 out of a possible 49 points to receive a passing grade of 3."

Has standardized testing been sufficiently debunked yet?

If you need more evidence, read Julie' Cavanagh's critique in the Daily News.  She hits it out of the park too.

From her piece:

"It is no surprise that the results mirror the struggles and deep flaws in our society.  Of course, the goal was never to actually fix our schools -- there are no profits in doing that.  There are no profits in providing small class sizes, experienced educators and services like counseling, tutoring and family support -- proven reforms that would benefit all students.

Instead, the focus is on unproven standards and the tests that supposedly measure our student's
competency -- written by the very people who profit from their use."

Thursday, August 14, 2014


New York State United Teachers is remaining neutral in the 2014 governor's race. At its endorsement conference this week, NYSUT decided not to support Zephyr Teachout for governor in the Democratic primary or Howie Hawkins from the Green Party in the general election if Teachout loses the primary. We are not opposing Andrew Cuomo's reelection.

NYSUT's neutrality will clear the way for the AFL-CIO, to endorse Cuomo just like in 2010.

Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association President Beth Dimino reports over on Facebook how NYSUT had the opportunity to oppose Cuomo during the endorsement conference: "There were many who called for endorsements of Teachout and/or Hawkins."  

Yet another Revive NYSUT promise goes down the drain.  President Karen Magee's Revive NYSUT campaign literature in the fifth bullet said her caucus was "Against Cuomo."  They further emphasized, "We are not pro-Cuomo.  We have called him the Scott Walker of New York." Our new leadership group had a chance this week to align the NYSUT endorsement with their campaign literature, but just like with Common Core, they have once again they failed the test.

So much for the new NYSUT bosses listening to the rank and file.

This endorsement action pretty much fits in with the theory as to why Randi Weingarten had a major role in the coup to unseat Dick Iannuzzi as NYSUT President. Over at Ed Notes, Norm Scott reported on this in February: "My sources say that Randi could not accept Iannuzzi and crew's blatant rejection of Cuomo which would leave her without a role to play with the big boys on the state Democratic Party level. My sources say that it is more important to her than even considerations of splitting NYSUT."  Good sources Norm!

See the list of NYSUT endorsements here

Were any of you asked about any of these?

Friday, August 08, 2014


I was trying to relax yesterday and escape the education and union worlds for a while but was interrupted multiples times as three reporters contacted me about a Department of Education press release (see below) on the Absent Teacher Reserves.  A different member of the fourth estate called asking for my view on UFT President Michael Mulgrew's speech at the AFT Convention in defense of the Common Core where our leader said he was going to punch someone in the face.

The press seemed interested in why there were so few takers for the ATR severance money which amounted to a few thousand dollars.  I responded easily by saying we need jobs and we're well qualified, mostly experienced teachers who are looking to teach.  I called the severance money insulting and ridiculous.  For the DOE to claim they are saving money is absurd as the few people who took the severance pay were probably going to leave anyway. 

Geoff Decker from Chalkbeat actually found a real live ATR who accepted the money.  Not surprisingly, the teacher could have retired anyway.  You can find the NY 1 piece here (It was nice working with Lindsey Christ again who in the past was very fair when it came to Jamaica HS) and also linked is a recent article in the NY Post on ATRs by Sue Edelman.

It seems none of our intrepid print journalists want to write about (or maybe their editors didn't see fit to cover) the contradiction in the press release that I pointed out to them.

The DOE says, "There will be no forced placements." OK but then two lines later they declare: "If a teacher from the ATR fails to appear at interviews or fails to accept a teaching position he or she is offered, the teacher will be deemed to have resigned from the school system."  That sounds like forced placement to me.

The quote they use from Chancellor Carmen Farina adds to this confusion as she states: "We are pleased that through this educator's contract, we were able to develop a process that is mutually beneficial for the DOE by reducing spending and for the teachers who have chosen to leave. And we are doing so while respecting mutual-consent hiring. There is no forced placement of these teachers.”  (Emphasis added by me)

Let me understand them: Teachers are not going to be forced placed but if we turn down a position or don't show up for an interview we will have resigned.  How is that not forced placement? 

The Farina/DOE anti-teacher bias is fully on display here.  The DOE means ATRs won't be forced on principals but we can be compelled to accept positions at poorly run schools where no teacher in their right mind would want to be employed.

Is there respect for the mutual consent doctrine as Farina claims?  She needs to be called on this statement. There is no mutual consent doctrine for ATRs.  We have to survive until June in a school we are forced placed in. At that time we can request to escape from our provisional assignment.

Many of us will be forced placed and we will then be subject to a harsher disciplinary process, including truncated dismissal hearings since we are still ATRs.

I am so glad Norm Scott traveled to Los Angeles to record much of the AFT Convention.  Norm paid his own way to go to LA.  We should take up a collection to reimburse his airfare, hotel and meal expenses.  Why should only Unity Caucus members who sign the loyalty oath to do as Mulgrew tells them attend conventions on our dime? Norm did a fine public service by recording floor speeches at the AFT Convention and filing numerous reports.

Thanks to Norm, anyone can watch the video of Mulgrew's defense of the indefensible Common Core State Standards and make up their own mind about whether his argument makes any sense. 

Norm and I both told Daily News reporter Stephen Rex Brown how he needs to follow the Bill Gates and Eli Broad money to see why the AFT-NYSUT-UFT are such avid cheerleaders for the Common Core, even though most teachers know these so called standards are just tools for more high stakes testing of teachers and students, while also being used by the education profiteers to make loads of money.  The union is in on the foundation money gravy train so of course they endorse Common Core. Teachers who wrongfully lose their careers because of junk science based evaluation systems linked to Common Core and Race to the Top (which the union also endorsed) are just collateral damage as far as they are concerned. 

To be fair, AFT President Randi Weingarten believes we have to work with the reformers or they will destroy us just like they have basically killed off the industrial unions in this country. When I was on the UFT Executive Board, she called me naïve. She claims we are adapting to tough political times to survive.  I disagree.

I believe if teachers fought back like we were part of a real union at the city, state and national level, teachers, parents and students would rally to our cause and we would emerge victorious.  We could truly save public education if we really used union power instead of trying to appease the people who want to wipe us out.

As for Mulgrew's demeanor, yeah he was insulting but I agree with Norm how we wish Mulgrew would address our enemies with the same defiant tone he used during his AFT floor speech.

Read Norm's important commentary over at Ed Notes.

Full email from DOE press office on ATRs:

Education Reporters,

I want to update you on the first phase of our effort to reduce the size of the Absent Teacher Reserve pool. As part of the new contract with the UFT, if eligible individuals in the ATR pool decided to leave, they got a severance pay-out that was a sliding scale based on years of service up to a maximum of 10 weeks of pay. In the one-time window to take the package that ended this week, 115 people in the ATR, including 97 teachers, opted for a severance package. The average compensation afforded to each was 9 weeks of pay.

Reducing the Size of the ATR Pool:

The deadline to apply for the buyouts was Monday, August 4. As of this spring, there were 1,131 teachers in the ATR pool, with around 1,300 including all UFT titles. Please note that there is no ATR pool over the summer—a new one is established each year when the school year commences. Based on those leaving the ATR as a result of these packages, we expect to begin the coming school year with a smaller ATR pool than last fall. Note: the ATR is historically at its highest point in the fall, as the hiring process is still underway. At the beginning of last fall, it stood at nearly 2,000 teachers.

Cost Savings:

These buyouts represent significant long-term cost savings for the Department. On average, employees who took the compensation package earn $93,000 annually and as a group, when fringe benefits are included, the cost of maintaining these teachers in the ATR would have totaled $15 million in the coming year alone. Instead, the Department anticipates paying around $16,000 per employee for a one-time cost of $1.8 million total.

Further Tools to Reduce the ATR Pool:

Reducing the ATR pool and helping qualified teachers find permanent positions and helping those unfit for the profession move on to other careers continues to be an important priority for the Department. The severance package represented the first step in our new procedures to reduce the ATR pool, and over the coming months, we will move forward with other measures to further reduce the pool based on tools in the new teachers’ contract, including:

·         The DOE is facilitating interviews and introductions to help ATR teachers re-enter the teaching force.  Principals retain the power to hire or decline to hire a teacher from the ATR. There will be no forced placements.
·         If a teacher from the ATR fails to appear at interviews or fails to accept a teaching position he or she is offered, the teacher will be deemed to have resigned from the school system.
·         Starting later in the fall, the DOE will assign ATR teachers to schools with vacancies where they can be used on a temporary, provisional basis to cover classes and be considered for the vacant position. Principals can remove ATR teachers from these assignments at any time.
·         If an ATR teacher in a temporary, provisional assignment in a vacancy demonstrates documented problematic behavior more than once, the DOE will initiate a special 3020a process to expedite disciplinary action including potential termination.

Here is a quote for your use from Chancellor Carmen Fariña: “We're developing a world-class school system, and to do that, we need world-class teachers educating our students. We are pleased that through this educator's contract, we were able to develop a process that is mutually beneficial for the DOE by reducing spending and for the teachers who have chosen to leave. And we are doing so while respecting mutual-consent hiring. There is no forced placement of these teachers.”


Wednesday, August 06, 2014


I don't know if our post last week was read by UFT leaders but I do know today they acted properly by telling members about UFT's Staples boycott.

We here at ICE like to point out when the union does something well.

The email from the Staff Directors is copied below.

Dear James,

As you begin to spend the $77 that teachers will receive in Teacher’s Choice funds for 2014-15, please keep in mind that the UFT is supporting the AFL-CIO boycott of Staples.

Through its retail partnership with Staples, the U.S. Postal Service is privatizing postal operations and replacing living-wage, unionized Postal Service jobs with low-wage, non-unionized Staples jobs.

Read the UFT resolution to boycott Staples passed at the June Delegate Assembly.

As in previous years, to participate in Teacher’s Choice, you will need to submit receipts as proof of purchase. These receipts must accompany a Statement of Purpose/Accountability form. Once this form is available for this year, it will be posted on the DOE’s Teacher’s Choice website. To qualify under Teacher’s Choice, purchases can be made as early as Aug.1, 2014 but no later thanFeb. 28, 2015.


LeRoy Barr and Ellie
Directors of Staff

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


A call to action came in my email three times in the last day (see below).  The first one came from AFT President Randi Weingarten; then the same email arrived from UFT President Michael Mulgrew and finally version three was sent from NYSUT President Karen Magee. The final time it was signed by all three to show its importance.

The email says the UFT and NYSUT are already mobilized to fight Campbell Brown as she goes after tenure with a lawsuit and a public relations offensive against teachers' fundamental rights.  Even though I will support almost any union action, including this one, I am sorry but I am not feeling enthusiastic about battling for my rights alongside leaders who regularly surrender them.

Randi Weingarten routinely weakened tenure and seniority rights for teachers in NYC with deals she negotiated when she was running the UFT. The UFT gave away the right for teachers in the city to have a three person panel hear our tenure trials.  City teachers must face a single arbitrator in dismissal hearings instead of a three person panel as happens in the rest of the state.  NYC teachers can also be suspended without pay before a tenure hearing based on probable cause from what are often biased Special Commissioner of Investigations reports thanks to Weingarten's appeasement strategy. 

Add to this when schools close or downsize, as happens all the time in NYC, seniority means next to nothing.  Thanks to Weingarten's 2005 giveaway contract, teachers are thrown into the Absent Teacher Reserve pool when schools phase out or programs are cut.  Teachers become substitutes who are tossed around the system and have fewer rights than colleagues. She also agreed to weaker due process for teachers having difficulty with time and attendance.  As AFT President, Weingarten has continued her concessionary strategy when helping to negotiate contracts in places such as Newark, NJ and for other locals.

Under Michael Mulgrew's stewardship, tenure-seniority rights have been further eroded in NYC as he and NYSUT accepted a dreadful new teacher evaluation system to get some federal Race to the Top peanuts.  Under the new system, much of our annual rating is based on student test score results which research shows are not reliable measures of teacher effectiveness (junk science).  After two annual ineffective ratings, as long as a validator agrees a teacher is ineffective, the burden of proof in tenure hearings will soon shift to the teacher to prove he/she is not incompetent.  Ask any teacher who went through the similar Peer Intervention Plus program under the old system if they had any chance in their dismissal hearing after an outside (non Department of Education) intervener said they were incompetent? The answer will be no from what I have been told. Note the burden of proof was still on the employer; by next year it will move to the teacher. 

Absent Teacher Reserves have had tenure protections further diminished under Mulgrew as ATRs are now shifted from school-to-school on a weekly basis.  In addition under our latest contract, if two principals can cite an ATR for undefined "problematic behavior", the Department of Education can bring the ATR up on charges in an expedited one day State Law Section 3020a discipline hearing within 50 days.  The ATR can then be summarily dismissed based on whatever problematic behavior turns out to be.

Under the new contract if an ATR misses two mandated interviews without giving adequate notice (up to the DOE to say what that means), that teacher is considered to have resigned without any tenure hearing and will have to fight to get back on payroll. 

Tenure has been so eroded in New York City that it is a shell of what it once was.  Statistics show many cases end up with teachers resigning or retiring so don't buy it when someone claims how it is impossible to fire teachers. Forcing someone to quit has the same result.  Anybody who believes the myth that tenure guarantees teachers jobs for life (or even full due process in NYC) does not know what they are talking about.

Furthermore, almost half the teachers in the city have their probationary period extended or don't receive tenure at all and the union does nothing but complain about why so many new teachers are leaving on their own.  Maybe one of the causes of newer teachers quitting is because they have so little union protection. The great myth is the union is so powerful.  In reality it is a paper tiger, declawed long ago and therefore an easy target.

The endgame for this fight against tenure led by Brown, high powered attorney David Boies and their secret huge donors is our union will fight back loudly (busy work for the membership) and then quietly appease the Democratic party establishment by possibly agreeing to chip away a little more at the tenure law in New York State, particularly for New York City teachers. That's right, we will face further concessions where our union will declare victory when we give up more of what is left of our rights.

The only variable preventing this from being an almost surefire result is the ethically challenged, anti-public school teacher Governor Andrew Cuomo is making Nixonian style mistakes concerning his role in interfering with the Moreland Commission investigations of corruption in NYS government.  Thank you Reality Based Educator for nonstop coverage over at Perdido Street School. As a result of this scandal, teachers may not be frontline targets in Albany for a while.

The email from our three renowned union leaders is in full below.


From: NYSUT ( This message is in your inbox because you've indicated interest in this sender.
Sent:Tue 8/05/14 3:05 AM

Defending Tenure

Teachers are under attack again. And we need your help to fight back.             
Last Monday, former journalist Campbell Brown announced a lawsuit in New York going after teachers' job protections.

That lawsuit, Wright v. New York, is a copycat of Vergara v. California.
Brown's organization -- cynically named the Partnership for Educational Justice -- has hired some of the fanciest PR firms in the country to sell their snake oil, including the firm that ran Mitt Romney's 2012 online campaign.
We need to make sure that our friends, neighbors and allies understand who Campbell Brown is, and who she really represents.

Will you help us spread the word by sharing this story with your friends and networks?
Share on Facebook and Twitter
Brown and her friends want to sell you the same "blame teachers" line we've seen from Michelle Rhee and right-wing politicians for years. They'll tell you tenure means a job for life and that due process makes it impossible to dismiss ineffective teachers. Now, emboldened by a radical ruling in California, they're spreading this case across the country, starting in New York.

This couldn't be further from the truth. In New York, teachers are granted tenure -- and due process protections -- after 3 years of success in the classroom. Once your boss grants you tenure, due process simply means they must produce just cause to discipline or terminate you. Due process gives teachers the protections to speak up for their students, stop cronyism and innovate in the classroom.
At the AFT convention, delegates said "enough is enough." We passed a special order of business to fight back so we could move our country forward. We need to stand together now.
It may seem like a small act, but sharing this story is important. Brown and her friends will spend millions of dollars on slick PR to confuse people and put the blame on teachers and our unions. She'll say she's fighting to represent students and parents. We need to make sure our friends hear the truth about who she represents from us.

Share the real story on Facebook
Share the real story on Twitter

We're going to fight this with everything we've got. In New York, NYSUT and the UFT are already mobilized. Together we'll fight in the courts, on the ground and in the media. But we have to start by making sure people know what's really going on.

You can make a difference, just by sharing this story and telling you friends what's really going on.

In Unity,

Randi Weingarten
Karen Magee
Michael Mulgrew

P.S. See how Campbell Brown dodged your questions last week on the Colbert Report here.

NYSUT - New York State United Teachers -- 800 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham, NY 12110-2455

Saturday, August 02, 2014


Mercedes Schneider, a well respected teacher-researcher from Louisiana, takes down the motives of the so called education reformers in a new book called, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who's Who in the Implosion of American Public Education.

Here is a review written by Seth Sandronsky in Counter Punch. (Thanks to Jeff Kaufman for sending it around.)

Sandronsky's analysis of Schneder's work contains this key section on Common Core State Standards:

"The CCSS is not piloted, or tested. Classroom teachers are uninvolved in pushing the CCSS, and its 'evidence' for improving students’ learning is a mirage, unlike the Gates Foundation’s dollars distributed to both political parties, think tanks and the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association. This is influence-peddling the old-fashioned way: buying it.

There you have education reform summed up in less than a paragraph. 

Schneider goes further than the most notable critic of education reform Diane Ravitch.  Ravitch is very careful about not criticizing the teacher unions whereas Schneider is willing to include union leaders like Randi Weingarten in her attacks.