Wednesday, January 31, 2018


I read articles in the NY Teacher on paid parental leave. However, when I looked at the UFT's 2016 testimony to the City Council it is on paid family leave. The new state law covers paid family leave. Paid family leave looks like a more comprehensive benefit than paid parental leave. It would be available to all of us to take care of family members, not just infants.

Paid family leave would obviously cost more for the city and they would want more givebacks from us.  The state is now mandating paid family leave in the private sector that is paid for by payroll contributions by all employees at a company. The maximum cost per year per employee is only $85.56. That is not a huge burden.

If the UFT wants to win the widest support possible, they should push for paid family leave. While the city can afford to give us this benefit at no cost to employees, I am under no illusions that any city union can get it.

We are too weak.

Below is copied from the state website on what family leave covers in addition to taking care of a baby.

If an employee’s family member has a serious health condition, they are eligible to care for them under the Paid Family Leave program. Family members include:
  • Spouses
  • Domestic Partners
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Parents-in-law
  • Grandparents
  • Grandchildren
A serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves:
  • Inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential health care facility; or
  • Continuing treatment or supervision by a health care provider.
Ordinarily, conditions such as the common cold, the flu, ear aches, upset stomach, minor ulcers, routine dental or orthodontia problems, periodontal disease, etc. do not meet the definition of a serious health condition.
Active Military Duty Deployment
Paid Family Leave is available when a spouse, child, domestic partner or parent of the employee is on active military duty abroad or has been notified of an impending call or order of active military duty abroad.  
Employees can take leave to help out with obligations arising out of a call to duty—for example:
  • Making alternative child care arrangements for a child of the deployed military member;
  • Attending certain military ceremonies and briefings; and
  • Making financial or legal arrangements to address the military member’s absence.
Paid Family Leave, which provides wage replacement and job security, can be taken by employees who are also eligible for time off under the military provisions in the federal Family Medical Leave Act.

Monday, January 29, 2018


I came upon this piece from 2015 on the average salaries of NYC sanitation workers compared to other city workers. Since pattern bargaining gives us all basically the same raises, these numbers hold up today. Teachers are losing the income battle despite our advanced degrees and experience.

From the article:
One reason applicants may be lining up to become a sanitation worker is the pay. The starting salary is low, $33,746, but when you factor in overtime, it averages $47,371 in the first year. And after 5½ years, the salary jumps to an average of $88,616 dollars. That’s not bad, considering the average annual pay for New York City transit workers is $77,991, New York City teachers is $68,151 dollars and New York City Parks Department employees is $50,042.

Sanitation workers are considered uniformed workers so their pay is increased more than civilian workers in most labor contracts so the gap will only widen as time goes by.

If you are wondering about police officers, NYPD officers officers earn $85,292 after five years but the city admits that with overtime, night differential and longevity, that easily goes to over $100,000.

If we add in the pre-k teachers who work in universal pre-k Community Based Organizations, teacher salaries are probably lower than what is reported here. Ours is a mostly female job and sadly we are valued by society less than male dominated jobs. Does anyone have a better explanation as to why nobs that don't require advanced degrees earn as much or more than us? All respect to all of those workers; I do not begrudge them their living and feel in particular that NYPD officers should earn what their colleagues in the suburbs make. What about the way teachers are bullied by administration? It does not have to be this way.

I have been writing this blog and have been active in the UFT trying to change this for a long time but change can't come from Michael Mulgrew or Randi Weingarten; it has to come from the rank and file. Maybe the Me Too Movement will inspire teachers to speak up and stop taking the abuse at work.

Sunday, January 28, 2018


We have referred to the Carmen Farina-Bill de Blasio reign over the schools as kind of a Bloomberg-Klein lite but we can no longer consider it a lighter version as now the worst part of the Bloomberg policy of closing schools by ignoring the communities that want to keep their schools open is back in full force.

Everyone needs to hear what Norm Scott said to the Panel for Educational Policy last Wednesday. It is classic Norm expressing the frustrations most of us who have anything to do with the NYC school system under mayoral control feel. Nobody is listening to the public. Telling us we can vote out the mayor once every four years is not enough democracy. I would venture to say with some confidence that most of the voters do not have kids in the public school system. Mayoral control is the problem.

Norm is next.

Saturday, January 27, 2018


Mike Fiorillo sent out a great New York Magazine article earlier on the Democrats destroying themselves by ignoring unions, particularly when they are in power.

From the article:
The GOP understands how important labor unions are to the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party, historically, has not. If you want a two-sentence explanation for why the Midwest is turning red (and thus, why Donald Trump is president), you could do worse than that.
With its financial contributions and grassroots organizing, the labor movement helped give Democrats full control of the federal government three times in the last four decades. And all three of those times — under Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama — Democrats failed to pass labor law reforms that would to bolster the union cause. In hindsight, it’s clear that the Democratic Party didn’t merely betray organized labor with these failures, but also, itself.
Between 1978 and 2017, the union membership rate in the United States fell by more than half — from 26 to 10.7 percent. Some of this decline probably couldn’t have been averted — or, at least, not by changes in labor law alone. The combination of resurgent economies in Europe and Japan, the United States’ decidedly non-protectionist trade policies, and technological advances in shipping was bound to do a number on American unions. Global competition thinned profit margins for U.S. firms; cutting labor costs was one of the easiest ways to fatten ’em back up; and breaking unions (through persuasion, intimidation, or relocation) was one of the easiest ways to cut said costs.
Nevertheless, there was lot that Democrats could have done — through labor law reform — to shelter the union movement from these changes, and help it establish a bigger footprint in the service sector. At present, employers are prohibited from firing workers for organizing or threatening to close businesses if workers unionize — but the penalties for such violations are negligible. Further, while they must recognize unions once they are ratified by workers in an election, employers can delay those elections for months or even years — and, even after recognition, face no obligation to reach a contract with their newly unionized workers.
Democrats could have increased the penalties for violating labor law, enabled unions to circumvent the election process if a majority of workers signed union cards (a.k.a. “card check”), and required employers to enter arbitration with unions if no contract was reached within 120 days of their formation — as Barack Obama promised the labor movement they would, in 2008.

Or, if they were feeling a bit more radical, they could have repealed the part of the Taft-Hartley Act that allows conservatives states to pass “right to work” laws. Such laws undermine organized labor by allowing workers who join a unionized workplace to enjoy the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement without paying dues to the union that negotiated it. This encourages other workers to skirt their dues, which can then drain a union of the funds it needs to survive.
The article then cites a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research which makes the case by examining data that right to work laws lead to Republican gains. Let's examine the abstract and the conclusion of the paper.
The Abstract:
Labor unions play a central role in the Democratic party coalition, providing candidates with voters, volunteers, and contributions, as well as lobbying policymakers. Has the sustained decline of organized labor hurt Democrats in elections and shifted public policy? We use the enactment of right-to-work laws—which weaken unions by removing agency shop protections— to estimate the effect of unions on politics from 1980 to 2016. Comparing counties on either side of a state and right-to-work border to causally identify the effects of the state laws, we find that right-to-work laws reduce Democratic Presidential vote shares by 3.5 percentage points. We find similar effects in US Senate, US House, and Gubernatorial races, as well as on state legislative control. Turnout is also 2 to 3 percentage points lower in right-to-work counties after those laws pass. We next explore the mechanisms behind these effects, finding that right-to-work laws dampen organized labor campaign contributions to Democrats and that potential Democratic voters are less likely to be contacted to vote in right-to-work states. The weakening of unions also has large downstream effects both on who runs for office and on state legislative policy. Fewer working class candidates serve in state legislatures and Congress, and state policy moves in a more conservative direction following the passage of right-to-work laws.
Now read the conclusion as you ponder your future without being in a union or paying union dues:

The anti-tax political activist Grover Norquist recently declared that while President Trump may be historically unpopular, the GOP could still “win big” in 2020. The secret to the Republican party’s long-term success, Norquist argued, involved state-level initiatives to weaken the power of labor unions. As Norquist explained it, if union reforms cutting the power of labor unions to recruit and retain members—like RTW laws—“are enacted in a dozen more states, the modern Democratic Party will cease to be a competitive power in American politics.” A weaker labor movement, Norquist reasoned, would not just have economic consequences. It would also have significant political repercussions, meaning that Democrats would have substantially less of a grassroots presence on the ground during elections and less money to invest in politics.

Norquist’s theory is also shared by state-level conservative activists who have been driving the recent push to enact additional RTW laws in newly GOP-controlled state governments. Tracie Sharp runs a national network of state-level conservative think-tanks that have championed the passage of RTW laws in recent years in states such as Michigan, Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin (Hertel-Fernandez 2017). In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Sharp explained why she was optimistic about the long-run effects of her network’s push against the labor movement, explaining that “When you chip away at one of the [liberal] power sources that also does a lot of get-out-the-vote...I think that helps [conservative activists and GOP politicians]—for sure.”36 Internal documents from Sharp’s organization provide an even clearer message: by passing RTW laws, the work of conservative organizations like hers was “permanently depriving the Left from access to millions of dollars...every election cycle.” That meant dealing “a major blow to the Left’s ability to control government at the state and national levels.”

In this paper, we have brought these arguments to the data, examining the short- and long-run political consequences of state RTW laws. Comparing otherwise similar counties straddling state
(and RTW) borders, we find that the passage of RTW laws led Democratic candidates up and down the ballot to receive fewer votes. In Presidential elections, Democratic candidates received about 3.5 percentage points fewer votes following the passage of RTW laws in the counties on the RTW side of the border. RTW laws also lower turnout in both federal and state races. Further survey-based analysis revealed that working class Americans (but not professional workers) were less likely to report get-out-the-vote contact in RTW states following the passage of RTW laws, suggesting that weakened unions have less capacity for turning out Democratic voters. And we showed that union fundraising for state and local races (and Democratic funding in general) falls sharply following the passage of RTW laws.

The effects of RTW laws go beyond elections. We also examined how, by weakening the relationship between unions and the Democrats, RTW laws may have changed the political landscape across the U.S. states. Working class candidates—politicians most likely to be backed by the labor movement—are less likely to hold federal and state office in states following the passage of RTW laws. State policy as a whole, moreover, moved to the ideological right in RTW states following
the passage of those laws.

Beyond revealing the importance of state RTW laws for a wider set of political outcomes than has been previously appreciated, our paper makes a broader contributions to the study of labor unions and the labor market. In older debates in the literature, scholars have asked what unions do in the United States. While a long line of work has shown the ways that labor unions directly affect the wage and income distributions—by compressing wages in unionized firms and industries—we emphasize the political nature of labor organizations. Beyond the bargaining table, unions affect inequality through the ballot box, through the politicians and policies they support. The capacity of unions to affect the labor market and the income distribution through this second channel may be waning as labor’s strength—and political clout—diminishes in the face of unfavorable state policy, such as RTW laws.

We're losing as working people and as if we read some of the right wing comments on this blog, we can see that some of our own people are contributing to our defeat.

Friday, January 26, 2018


A paraprofessional  noticed that the January 31 pay stub net pay is around $26 more than the January 16 amount. People were asking if there is a contractual raise or some rectroactive payment. No, I informed them that this is the new federal tax withholding from the Trump tax cut.

Ever the curious person, I went online to compare my own pay stubs from January 16 and January 31. As a teacher on maximum, my federal tax withheld went down $110.66 for January 31. I know things could change at the end of the year but something is wrong if a teacher making over $100,000 has a four times bigger actual dollar tax cut on a semi-monthly paycheck compared to someone making less than half of that.

I don't have specific examples but I am fairly certain that as we go up the income ladder, those tax cuts are going to be huge and make my $110 cut look like peanuts.

Making the rich richer is job one down in DC. Meanwhile,  our infrastructure is crumbling, our schools are overcrowded, etc...

You can go to payroll portal to find out about your stub.

Anyone want to tell us how they did?

Thursday, January 25, 2018


Pay to play politics in NYC exposed in court.

From the Daily News:
Without naming de Blasio, (Harendra) Singh stood in court and said he “gave and raised tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to an elected New York City official in exchange for efforts by that official…and other city officials to obtain official action from a New York City agency that would benefit myself and restaurants I owned,” court papers show.
A criminal information filed by the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney states a “senior aide” arranged a meeting with an agency head “to pressure the agency to make its proposed settlement terms more favorable to Singh.”
Further down:
During his Oct. 17, 2016 plea, Singh for the first time spelled out his intentions in clear pay-to-play terms: “I gave these donations to the elected official in exchange for efforts by that official and other city officials to obtain a lease renewal from the City agency for my restaurant on terms that were favorable to me."
After receiving the donations, de Blasio personally contacted the head of the agency dealing with Singh's lease and asked her to handle the matter. (de Blasio aide Emma) Wolfe also got personally involved.

The tweet below comes from Reality Based Educator in response to this story:

If de Blasio donor pleaded guilty to bribing de Blasio, why isn't the guy on the other end of the bribe (i.e., de Blasio) going to jail?

Good question.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


NYC public school parent leaders held a press conference at Tweed on Tuesday demanding a voice in selecting the new Chancellor to replace retiring Carmen Farina. The response from Mayor de Blasio's spokesperson is a classic:

"While parent and community input is an important part of our chancellor search, the decision is ultimately the Mayor's, who is a proud parent of former NYC public school students," said De Blasio spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie."

Sounds almost as good as President George W Bush calling himself "The Decider".

NY 1's Lindsey Christ found video from 2012 where candidate Bill de Blasio called for a "serious public screening" in looking to hire a Chancellor. He of course has changed his mind after being elected mayor. Power tends to corrupt people.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Arthur Goldstein's Executive Board minutes are must reading for UFT members. Last night, according to Arthur's report, UFT President Michael Mulgrew responded to a question about the new chancellor search by conceding that Department of Education middle level management is out of control.

What was that Mike?

Here are the minutes from this part of Arthur's report:

6:15—Mulgrew arrives

Having conversations—slim pickings for chancellor—not offering names, but telling them where to look and what we want. Need someone who wants meaningful collaboration. Middle management is problematic. no quality insurance. We want a teacher. Mayor agrees.

Lists are amusing. Post and Times almost identical. Half list fired by current admin. Most names pushed grads of Broad Academy. We are not fans.

Mayor has clear plan and policies. Based on research so they don’t write about that. They have to follow mayor’s benchmarks. Mayor puts ten year plans forth. Does not seem to be time line. Could take months. If we get right person, fine, but middle management out of control. Probably not looking internally. 

If middle management is out of control and problematic, where the hell has the UFT been the last four years?

Hasn't Mulgrew been touting how wonderful the NYC schools are? Aren't we a model school system?

What are we doing now to reign MIDDLE management in?

We also learned from Arthur's report that the UFT is attempting to bring Regents marking back to the schools. That would not make people who earn money doing per session marking exams happy but I think it does make sense for the school system overall as most of us are professionals who mark fairly.

However, we do have to be careful here because there are too many schools where administrators pressure teachers to pass everyone no matter what. They would turn up the heat on teachers on Regents marking. Also, our ratings and the principals' are tied to these grades. That needs to end.

Here is what Arthur asked and the answer from HSVP Janella Hinds:

Arthur GoldsteinMORE—Some people here know that my school and others are now giving midterms during this week, which is Regents week. Some schools are holding classes while they’re doing that, and while all English teachers are out of the building grading. It seems like Queens principals are having contests over how many things they can make their teachers can juggle at one time.

Not too long ago, we graded our own Regents papers and the city didn’t need to pull our teachers out of the building or pay for who knows how many hours of per session. Then Merryl Tisch decided we must all be a bunch of crooks and forbade us from grading our own students on standardized tests.

I can understand why they might suspect dishonesty. The state lowers standards and declares Michael Bloomberg a genius, then raises them and says all the teachers must be incompetent.

A bright light, for me, was when Janella proposed we move grading back into our own schools. An even better move would be to remove the ban on us grading our own students. I’d argue that if we were not fit to grade our own students then none of us should ever been hired.

So my questions are whether we’ve made any progress toward placing grading in home schools, and also whether we might move to make the geniuses in Albany reconsider a regulation that stereotypes us as a bunch of crooks. Just because they are, it doesn’t follow that we are.

Janella Hinds—Should not have both education and assessment moving. Conversations in process. Believe it would be more economically sound to keep teachers in school. Will talk with state to see about this.

Hey Arthur, at least the Unity crowd let you ask your question this time. That's progress.

Sunday, January 21, 2018


Sue Edelman from the NY Post has risen to the occasion by exposing much of the corruption and downright horror stories in the New York City school system again and again. She really does some excellent reporting.

Edelman has done three news stories in the last two weeks on yet another principal from hell: Emmanuel Polanco from JHSMS 80 in the Bronx. Her article earlier this month exposing Polanco convinced  more people to speak up so students and families of mistreated students have come forward.

This is how the school was described by insiders in Edelman's original January 6, 2018 piece:

Despite receiving millions in extra dollars and services, the 655-student Norwood school suffers from out-of-control students, filthy, unsafe conditions and thuggish administrators who try to keep the horrors under wraps, insiders have told authorities.

Further down we read:

Several teachers have begged for help from union, city, state and federal officials, calling Polanco — who starred in a seedy 2014 rap video as “El Siki” — a bully who boasts of friendship with Chancellor Carmen Fariña and instills fear in his faculty.

Now something from Edelman's January 13 article on Polanco inflicting corporal punishment on a student:

The Principal of a troubled Bronx middle school shoved a 14-year-old boy against a stairway wall, repeatedly jabbed his fingers into the teen's chest and screamed in his face, "I know you wanna hit me--hit me!," the youth says in an explosive claim.

Emmanuel Polanco of JHS/MS 80 in Norwood assaulted and humiliated 8th grader Jeremie Francis last April because he was "on the wrong floor" --even after the boy told the principal he was headed to a music teacher's room for a guitar lesson, according to the claim.

Another Sunday and today there is a new story on  the wrath of  Principal Polanco as Edelman keeps up the pressure on the Department of Education:

A Bronx principal accused of being a bully yanked an 8th-grader from an advanced class and confined him to a room without a desk for the rest of the school year — because he wasn’t wearing the school uniform shirt, the teen’s family says.
JHS/MS 80 Principal Emmanuel Polanco isolated 13-year-old Wilfred Maisonet last April because he “wanted to make an example of him,” his parents told The Post. 

I read all three articles and then searched Google looking for a UFT reaction. Only blogger Chaz has touched this one in detail. He pointed out quite correctly that any teacher accused of corporal punishment would have been out of that school in about about half a second while Polanco stays on as principal.

We actually did find something in the January 8, 2018 Norwood News where the UFT does comment.
Meantime, officials with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the union representing public school teachers, also met with staffers. A UFT rep held an open forum, gauging teachers on how they felt about the news story. In a statement, Richard Mantell, UFT vice president for middle schools, said the union “alerted the Department of Education to a slew of bad decisions by this particular principal.”
“Some changes have been made but the bulk of our complaints are still outstanding. So we will continue to advocate,” said Mantell.
 Is that enough to "continue to advocate"?

Where is the outrage from the UFT concerning this principal from hell? Small wonder we are so weak and teachers are so easily pushed around by an uncaring school system.

Saturday, January 20, 2018


The American Federation of Teachers put out a press release announcing that the Union has filed an Amicus brief in the case of Janus vs AFSCME.

For those living in a cave (far too many public employees fit this category I fear) who have not been following developments, this is the case that looks to make union dues optional in the public sector. The argument from Mark Janus is that agency fees for non-union members violate free speech rights of public employees who do not join a union. Janus contends that everything a union does with a government employer is political so forcing public sector workers to pay fair share fees is a violation of First Amendment free speech rights.

The argument from the defense is that since all employees benefit from the collective bargaining unions do, everyone has to pay for collective bargaining. No free riders.

Here is what AFT President Randi Weingarten said in the AFT press release:

“The fight for prosperity and opportunity for all, embodied by the labor movement, is an anathema to the corporate backers of this case—the people funding it are the same people attacking civil rights, attacking voting rights and attacking public education.
“This case warps and weaponizes the First Amendment by enabling one person’s complaint—without any record or evidence—to undermine the interests of millions of workers across the country who benefit from collective bargaining. And it suggests that collective bargaining, which operates just like any other workplace consultation process, should draw far more constitutional scrutiny than its equivalents.
“The current law has preserved labor peace for four decades by balancing the interests of workers and employers and fostering partnerships to improve school districts and other public sector workplaces. We argue that engaging in collective bargaining is constitutionally no different than the state paying a consultant to advise it on employment relations issues. Further, the plaintiff’s argument is a dishonest rejection of established legal precedent, reaffirmed many times, and therefore must fail.
“I am confident that if the nine justices of the Supreme Court consider this case on the merits, not ideologically, they would agree.”
Unfortunately Randi, I think most of us would agree that five of those nine justices (John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Neal Gorsuch) will consider the case on ideological grounds and will bend the constitutional reasoning to fit their right wing point of view. I fully expect the unions to lose the case and what happens after that depends on how the decision is written and what the reaction is.
If you want to know why so few union members are shedding tears over the probable loss in this case, read this part of Randi's statement very closely, "The current law has preserved labor peace for four decades by balancing the interests of workers and employers and fostering partnerships to improve school districts and other public sector workplaces." She's kind of arguing something we all know: that we are company unions. Those partnerships she talks about are dominated by management. See NYC teachers for evidence.

Friday, January 19, 2018


Harris Lirtzman is a retired teacher who once worked for both the New York State Comptroller and the NYC Comptroller. He is our unofficial ICEblog budget expert. Last night he commented on our analysis of Arthur Goldstein's January Delegate Assembly report where UFT President Michael Mulgrew spent some time covering Governor Andrew Cuomo's budget proposal.

Mulgrew made our governor student of the month. One idea Cuomo has would replace or change the state income tax (no longer federally tax deductible) to a payroll tax. Another is to turn state taxes into charitable contributions (still federally tax deductible).

Harris commented here last night:

Harris L. said...
All Mulgrew's blithering about how NYS will be able to find a practicable way to replace the now-limited deductibility of income and property taxes by making state taxes "charitable contributions" or by replacing the income tax with Rube Goldberg-type changes to payroll taxes is just that, blithering.

Nobody knows what the governor's talking about. The few bread crumbs he's dropped randomly in press conferences make no sense to budget and tax people who do this stuff for a living.
Mulgrew can wish it were so but he ought not put around the idea that pressures on state and local budgets resulting from the damnable federal tax law can be easily waived away by some state-based shenanigans that the IRS would disallow anyway.

Harris supported his comment by sending me an article from the NY Times which shows how complicated Cuomo's tax proposal would be.

From the Times:
The report, released this week, laid out at least a half-dozen ways New York could rewrite its tax code, with no indication of which option legislators might pursue. There was a potpourri of progressive rates, wage credits and tax-withholding schemes, with officials cautioning that all the options would require further study. No bills have been drafted.

The possibilities included completely replacing the state income tax with an employer-side payroll tax; introducing a new progressive payroll tax in addition to the existing income tax, with tax credits to make up the difference; or designing a payroll tax only for wage earners above a certain income threshold — the taxpayers most likely to be hurt by the federal tax plan in the first place. Some versions would be mandatory. Others would be opt-in.

More than anything, the report illustrated how difficult it may be to turn academic theory into real policy, serving as a cautionary guide to other states contemplating similar options. And it underscored the political challenges that lie ahead for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, as he seeks to sell a new payroll tax that could slightly reduce workers' wages, even though the net payout, after taxes, would remain the same.

To sum it all up, a grand tax rewrite to get around the federal tax changes is not likely to pass in Albany.  Still our governor, who is probably eying the White House for 2020, is Mulgrew's student of the month. 

Hey, states rights are cool nowadays. You never know but I haven't forgotten Cuomo's anti-teacher, anti-public school, anti-labor record.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Family matters kept me away from the January Delegate Assembly. Fortunately, Arthur Goldstein was there and filed a report.

You can read it here.

I will quote one specific line from President Michael Mulgrew's report:

UFT is largest most powerful union in USA.

Does the word delusional come to mind or are you glowing with union pride in hearing our President boast about our size and strength?

Here is what Arthur said Mulgrew reported about the NY State budget:

State—Governor rolled out budget. Good things about public ed. Got large applause when he said NY State would protect union and workers. Proud NY State spends more on ed. than other states. Says we have educated him, are highly effective.

Budget proposal—two year process—have to meet minimums from last year—1.5% increase in education. Came in with 3% increase instead. He’s signaling he doesn’t know if he can get much further. Also, health care 3%. Important for students and communities we serve. We will not get involved in fights with health care workers, will have mutual support.

More important is idea of restructuring taxes in NY State. We will get a huge budget cut next year. Governor has taken lead and said in this. Federal tax plan specifically goes after 12 states, donor states, including us. We pay for services, 48 billion more than we get back. Being used in states that got tax break.

Now we are punished for not supporting candidates who passed that tax bill. Will cost NY 14 billion additional next year. Governor trying to give us deductions back. Will probably be used to give governor and corporations tax breaks.

NY State will create tax credit for charitable funds. 10K limit for state, local taxes, and mortgagee. Other piece is payroll tax, still deductible. We may lower income tax and increase payroll tax to use as a deduction.

Feds will call It outrageous. NY is acting like a corporation. Sad we’ve gotten to the point we even have to look at this, but if not, we will be hurt—individually, and our schools will hurt too.. We will work with governor to not allow fed scheme to hurt us.

Governor now gets student of the month, star on refrigerator, we must keep him there.

Cuomo student of the month? Ouch.

Staff Director Leroy Barr later in the meeting spoke against a MORE resolution calling for the UFT to support Black Lives Matter week in February. Leroy opposed it because he claimed it was a splinter issue. (I think he meant to say splitter because it would split the membership.) Leroy as reported by Arthur then said, "Many years ago, Vietnam War was splinter issue. UFT said, we’re not going to politically engage in that.Would take us away from main issues. Membership must be aware of attacks coming in next three months. We need to stay focused to stay largest and most powerful union."

Here we go again with the "most powerful union" line. If we are the most powerful union, why do so many of us feel we are treated like crap by the DOE and city? We can't even get two observations per year like just about every other school district in the state has. We can't get ATR's permanent jobs. Powerful?

DA voted down support for the Black Lives Matter week. (Some of our right wing people who comment are going to be happy about that. Will you give the UFT credit?)

I will try to attend the February DA meeting but don't feel I missed much in January. 


David Bloomield is a CUNY Education Professor. The NY Post asked him to do an op-ed on who the next NYC schools chancellor should be. Bloomfield writes a rational piece and proposes some real candidates who are not against teachers to be the chancellor.

It is the Post so a few of the teacher bashers like John King are raised just like they were in the almost completely anti-teacher candidates put forward by a NY Times editorial. However, Bloomfield in the Post puts forward qualified candidates, for example Josh Starr, who certainly are not known for blaming teachers for the problems in education.

If Bill de Blasio were bold and really wanted to show off his progressive credentials, he would take on the charters and stand up for public education as a signature issue. It might make a few donors unhappy but he would win politically. I don't see that happening but you never know.

More likely, we can expect more of the same of Bloomberg lite, featuring closing schools, testing, testing and more testing, continued pressure on teachers to pass students who do not deserve to in order to make statistics look good and lawyers everywhere to attack us.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Mike Schirtzer is a UFT Executive Board member from the opposition to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus and a Delegate. He also is a teacher at Leon Goldstein High School in Brooklyn. Mike is one of the few people who could really revive the UFT.

On Facebook Mike concludes Martin Luther King does not belong to either the right or the left. Asking to be judged by the content of your character as opposed to the color of your skin seems kind of out of place for both sides nowadays.

Mike's post is below.

Reverend Dr. King does not belong to the right or the left. 

The right can not support a racist and bigot, implement policies that favor one group over another, allow poor people to starve, and expand income inequality and then claim to honor King; how dare they. 

As for the left, he was a man of God and religion, that which you (the left) openly detest, he brought people together, he kept his eye on the prize, he connected class and race, he saw voting and politics as valuable, knew winning was important, and he called out the nations and its leaders for their racism on a daily basis; you have no right to claim him either.

Monday, January 15, 2018


The mainstream media, with a few exceptions, is generally very biased against teachers. This goes for the left, the right and the center. Anyone looking to see a firsthand anti-teacher, anti-public school editorial, just read yesterday's NY Times piece suggesting a rogues' gallery of blame the teachers, pro charter school candidates for Chancellor to replace retiring Carmen Farina. It reads as though the Times editorial board just asked the worst Chancellor ever, Joel Klein, who he would choose for Chancellor.

The Times suggests anti-teacher administrators from former Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky to the infamous John White, to the awful John King and not much better in between to take over the NYC schools. This is supposed to be the"liberal" N.Y. Times.

I would like to ask some real progressives who they would pick. I keep hearing about a national search for Chancellor but since the teacher bashers have had their way for so long, is there a pro-teacher person out there who would take the job?

We certainly could do worse than a Rudy Crew 2.0 but he might prefer CUNY Chancellor.

Or, perhaps, someone like Joe Rella from Port Jefferson Station would be an excellent pro-teacher Chancellor.

Any suggestions?

Sunday, January 14, 2018


Today (Sunday, January 14) is the last day to spend Teacher's Choice money. The accountability forms are due to your school by Friday (January 19). I have copied the UFT part of the Chapter Leaders Update on Teacher's Choice below. I also have a question for our readers:

What do you spend most of your Teacher's Choice money on?

I know of teachers who spend plenty of money buying many boxes of tissues for their students. I spend on ink cartridges which dry up very quickly these days. But what I've noticed in looking at receipts is that I spend too much of my Teacher's Choice on dry erase markers.

The ones the school provides tend to dry out almost instantly and the ones I buy seldom last more than a couple of days before they start to dry and the kids start to complain that they can't see what I write. (Yes, I usually remember to keep the caps on when not writing.) I don't think I write too much. I certainly write less at Middle College with its better technology than I did at Jamaica High School.

I haven't used chalk for years but I'm sure it used to last longer than the markers. Then again, there is no mess with the markers.

Happy Teacher's Choice last minute spending. Don't forget to do the accountability forms. Enjoy the long weekend.

This is from the UFT January 12, 2018 Chapter Leader Update:

Submit Teacher’s Choice receipts by Jan. 19 — or forfeit your allotment

All members who received Teacher’s Choice funds must submit their purchase receipts and the Teacher’s Choice Accountability Form detailing these purchases to their payroll secretary by next Friday, Jan. 19. Members who received Teacher’s Choice funds and do not file an accountability form with the required receipts by the deadline will be obligated to pay back the money to the Department of Education. Educators in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool should submit their receipts to the administration of the school to which they are assigned on Jan. 19. The deadline for spending Teacher’s Choice funds is Sunday, Jan. 14. For more detailed information about the Teacher’s Choice program, go to the Teacher’s Choice section of the UFT website.

Saturday, January 13, 2018


In case you thought the opt out from testing movement was slowing down, this came to me from ST Caucus.

Friday, January 12, 2018


The UFT is trying to convince our members to stay in the union after the US Supreme Court almost certainly will rule that union dues are optional for employees in the public sector in the Janus vs AFSCME case.

What do you think of President Mulgrew's plan to save our union?

Dear James,

With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to hear oral arguments in the anti-union Janus v. AFSCME court case on Feb. 26, we are about to enter a new and dangerous phase for public-sector unions, including ours, that could imperil all the rights and benefits the labor movement has fought for over the years.

At this critical moment, are you willing to help keep the union alive and strong in your building?

Membership teams are being set up in every school or workplace. We are reaching out to you as a UFT delegate to invite you to help create the membership team for your chapter.

The team will be responsible for educating fellow members about the serious dangers posed by the Janus case and to build a sense of unity as we prepare to confront the challenges ahead. The membership team must be representative of the members in your building — that’s why, for instance, we want the para rep or another para to be part of the team.

Membership team members will be asked to attend one training session at their local UFT borough office. The team’s work will be done at the school site, mostly during school hours.

As a first step, membership team members will be having one-on-one conversations with all the members in their chapter to educate them about the Janus case and address any questions and concerns these members may have about how the case affects them. The membership team will also be engaged in organizing workplace actions to build union solidarity in each chapter.

We cannot let our enemies divide us. When the Janus ruling comes down, our fate will rest in our own hands. Only if we stay united as UFT members will we stave off this attack on the hard-fought rights and benefits of every UFT member.

Thank you for everything you do.


Michael Mulgrew

UFT President

Thursday, January 11, 2018


The Mayor is playing tough on paid parental leave but don't worry, the UFT is starting an email campaign. I'm sure Mayor de Blasio is scared. On the other hand, I guess we have to start somewhere and some action for something is better than nothing.

Michael Mulgrew's email to members:

Dear James,

Mayor Bill de Blasio made headlines in 2015 when he promised paid parental leave for city employees. Two years later, his administration and the Department of Education have failed to extend that benefit to public school educators — the very people who have devoted their lives to caring for the city's children.

That’s not progressive — that’s just wrong.

Please send an email NOW to Mayor Bill de Blasio telling him to support paid parental leave for UFT members. And ask your local Council member to support the UFT push for paid parental leave.

It’s time for the de Blasio administration to deal fairly with public school educators. We need the help of our Council reps to get that message across to him.

Thank you for taking action.


Michael Mulgrew

UFT President

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


Below is an entire email I received from Stronger Together (ST Caucus) showing how NYSUT has done very little to implement resolutions that were passed by the NYSUT Representative Assembly to oppose mandatory use of student performance measures in teacher evaluations and more. ST Caucus is the state opposition to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus

We see the UFT leadership, as usual, as the ones that are blocking a push for meaningful teacher evaluation law changes up in Albany.

James --
Happy New Year! We want to wish you a healthy and productive 2018.
As we approach the upcoming NYSUT Representative Assembly, we want to update you on NYSUT leadership’s progress in implementing resolutions adopted at the Representative Assembly. Monitoring the progress of resolution implementation is critical in understanding the health of NYSUT as a democratic body. The NYSUT Constitution places the Representative Assembly as the highest governing authority in NYSUT, with the exception of direct referendum of the entire membership. In short, once the Representative Assembly adopts a resolution it is NYSUT’s policy, and the degree to which our officers implement that resolution, is a direct measure of the health of NYSUT as a democracy where our strength derives from the collective will of the members.  
One of the resolutions we are watching closely is Resolution 17 Resolution to Oppose Mandatory Use of Student Performance Measures which requires NYSUT to lobby lawmakers to make any Student Performance Measure non-mandatory as part of the APPR. This issue is all the more important as we near the end of the moratorium on the use of SED provided growth scores on the APPR. Despite the adoption of this resolution, NYSUT failed to update its APPR talking points to be used for in district lobbying days last year. Andy Pallotta and Jolene DiBrango have said, in person to unionists, that they are lobbying for the elimination of mandated student performance measures, yet we can find no reference to this position in any lobbying material or NYSUT publication. This is alarming on several levels. In fact, Jolene was recently on Susan Arbetter’s Capitol Pressroom program and she only mentioned the elimination of tests from APPR, not all student performance measures, as is NYSUT’s policy.  
It is clear that we need to change the APPR law; it is also clear that there are no valid and reliable ways to incorporate student performance into a teacher evaluation system. It is concerning to us that NYSUT is squandering precious time in this debate by its muddying of the waters with respect to our desired outcome. It is irrational to expect at the end of this process we will have an APPR that is free from unsound student performance measures, if we have never asked or lobbied for them to be removed.  
Another resolution adopted at the Representative Assembly was Resolution 15NYSUT Oppose Teacher Participation in Generating Test Questions for the New York 3-8 Math and ELA State Assessments,which required NYSUT to refuse to participate in any endeavor to promote, support or organize efforts to have teachers write test items for the 3-8 math and ELA state assessments until the benchmarks have been corrected. While NYSUT is complying with the letter of the resolution, they are not in compliance with the spirit of the resolution. The ineffective advocacy on this issue makes us look foolish as can be seen in this Daily News article. This is simply ineffective and inexcusable advocacy on an issue that we have taken a position on in each of the last three RAs. In 2016 we adopted Resolution 9 Oppose the Current College and Career Readiness Standards Created by NYSED and a Call for their Replacement, which required that the “NYSUT officers shall develop, and send digitally, an open letter to the parents of New York explaining how the benchmarks have contributed to a false narrative of failure and ultimately hurt children, digitally forward such letter to the editorial boards of major newspapers and make it available to members and parents and other electronic means, as may be appropriate.” Had NYSUT done this, our position on writing test questions would have been much more clear and effective.  
It is clear from the work NYSUT has done on the Constitutional Convention that NYSUT knows how to sway the public’s perception on an issue. It is also clear that the membership is expecting the same dedication it brought to a transactional issue like the Con Con, to our transformational issues that deeply impact the professional lives of our members. Every Representative Assembly is a test to determine the health of NYSUT and value of our collective participation, the metric that we measure these upon is the degree to which NYSUT brings life to the positions adopted. We can see that much still remains to be done.

ST Caucus

Monday, January 08, 2018


Kimberly Watkins is the President of the District 3 Community Education Council. She and ten other members have written a brilliant op-ed in Gotham Gazette calling mayoral control of NYC schools a failure. First, they criticize the renewal school program as a waste of precious resources and then they ask a basic question:

But a simple question remains unanswered – indeed, unasked – from the original mayoral control debate under Mayor Bloomberg: If the mayor has control, for what are the mayor, the schools chancellor, and district superintendents responsible beyond daily operations and basic accountability for the overall system?

I would argue that the answer to that is very little beyond perpetuating an often uncaring, anti-teacher, anti-student, indifferent to parents bureaucracy.

The CEC members continue by explaining how so called school choice is a rigged system in favor of charter schools:

As the elected parent leaders of Community District 3 in Manhattan, we consider this question urgent. Many districts suffer from the question of local accountability; there can be circular finger-pointing among superintendents, principals, and the DOE. Many of the school communities we represent face a crisis not of their own making and for which the Department of Education has taken little responsibility.
In the northernmost part of our district, zoned elementary schools have seen a drop in their enrollment of a full third in the past decade. Leadership under successive mayors has not led to a dramatic renewal of these public schools, but a systematic hollowing out of their enrollment and place in our community.
This is not accidental. Under Mayor Bloomberg, charter schools proliferated through cooperation between his office and charter-friendly politicians in Albany. Today, parents across the city face a wide array of school options, but choice has ballooned in geographic clusters that correlate directly with racially segregated neighborhoods. In District 3’s Harlem neighborhoods, just 36 city blocks, parents send their children to more than 60 different school options inside and outside of the district.
District 3 is not even the most impacted by this failing governance structure. In the South Bronx and all over Brooklyn, public school leaders, parents, and other stakeholders face the same conundrum.

School choice was promised to improve all of our schools through competition, but the results have been far from that. In fact, the lack of transparency surrounding charter schools makes it almost impossible for school districts to predict enrollment, manage their administrations, and develop long term plans. We essentially have a de facto two-school system Department of Education, and that must end.
Across the city, zoned schools in heavily chartered neighborhoods have higher percentages of high-needs children than a decade ago; far higher, in fact, than the surrounding charter schools. Furthermore, district schools are left to “compete” in this complex environment with no assistance from the Department of Education, which leaves principals to “market” themselves with whatever they can shoestring together from already overstretched budgets.

Meanwhile, charter networks such as Success Academy spend lavishly on marketing consultants and direct mail campaigns to attract applicants. And they deliver this marketing via third party transactions that tap into student and family residential information that the DOE licenses, yet won’t provide to traditional public schools for the same purpose. The playing field to compete for students is not level, and nobody in the mayor’s office or DOE is taking responsibility for it, preferring to leverage dwindling enrollments by school mergers, closures, and truncations without looking at key underlying problems.

And the promised systemic improvements to all of our schools? It is nowhere to be seen.
I totally agree.
Before the mayor replaces Chancellor Fariña, we ask that he taps into our collective expertise. We need an educator, with a vision that will permeate to superintendents, an adroit manager, and someone who is willing to go deep into the structure for changes that will heal gaping fissures in the organization. New York City children deserve it.
I don't see that happening but the UFT should be pushing along with the parents for structural changes within the Department of Education.
Thanks to Lisa North for sending out the op-ed.