Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Mayor Bill de Blasio has picked the new Chancellor. He is Alberto Carvalho. Politico, ABC 7 and other media outlets have profiles on Carvalho who has led the Miami Dade schools since 2008 when he took over from former NYC Chancellor Rudy Crew. Carvalho will succeed retiring Carmen Farina next month.

Since Carvelho won a not so prestigious award from Eli Broad, a notorious anti-teacher reformer, Carvalho might be automatically disqualified from any pro-public school list of possible Chancellors. Add to this his support for school choice and his placement on Eva Moskowitz list of acceptable Chancellor candidates and this does not bode well. There probably aren't going to be any major changes from the disastrous policies that have plagued NYC schools since 2002 or maybe even 1999 when Crew left. Carvalho's claims to fame are that he lowered the achievement gap for English Language Learners and raised the high school graduation rate to record highs in Miami.

As far as Carvalho's relations with the teachers union goes, the Politico piece says this:

In 2011, Carvalho helped implement a merit pay system — considered anathema to most teachers union officials, including (AFT President Randi) Weingarten — that tied raises to teachers' evaluation scores and provided bonuses for highly effective teachers. He had occasional confrontations with groups of teachers upset about pay issues and rising health care costs. And he was sometimes at odds with the leadership of Miami’s local teachers union, United Teachers of Dade. After Miami-Dade schools and the union settled a new contract late last year, Carvalho praised the deal while UTD President Karla Hern├índez-Mats said, “It is absolutely not what our members deserve.” 

As we head into discussions on a new contract in NYC with a contract ending late this year and considering we will most likely lose members when the Supreme Court probably lets public employees stop paying union dues, I think we can safely say the road ahead is not going to be easy.

Our best hope is a renewed militancy among the members.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


From CBS:

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) - West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announces teachers will go back to work on Thursday and teachers will get a five percent raise.
Gov. Justice says that they are taking Wednesday as a "cooling off day" because some counties have already canceled school.
According to his proposal, all state employees will receive a three percent raise, and any employees related to education will receive an additional two percent raise.
From further down in the updated article
(Governor) Justice's chief of staff says thanks to the president's tax plan, Governor's roadbond and improving GDP - revenue has been up these last two months. So now the state is expected to bring in $58-million more dollars this year. That money will go towards the raises.

$58 million magically found. I think the strike had something to do with that.

The Legislature still has to vote on the raises and there are other issues besides pay. However, I think it is clear that this illegal strike over money where the union held out and got the government to up its offer from 2% to 5% was successful. Educators also are getting 2% more than other government workers.

Can WV now be the go to model to look at on how to do an effective job action?

More on the strike from CNN.


The notice below came from MORE. I despise school closings for what it does to students, families, teachers and communities. I am in exile because Jamaica HS was unfairly closed.

Since Mayor deBlasio is going after 13 schools, we are approaching Bloomberg territory for closings.  Fight as best as you are able to but mayoral control of schools is the real problem here. Until we have more than just the mayor to appeal to, nothing much will change.

Come to the PEP Meeting this Wed. Feb. 28
 Murry Bertraum HS at 411 Pearl St, New York, NY
in Lower Manhattan, adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge and City Hall
This Wed., Feb. 28, the Panel of Educational Policy (PEP ) will vote on the proposals to close 13 community schools. It is very important for as many folks as possible to attend this meeting to show support for the school communities that would be adversely affected by these actions.
There will be a press conference and rally against school closings before the PEP  at 5:30 and you can sign up to speak at the PEP at that time as well.
MORE/CASCADE (Coalition Against School Closings and Displacement Everywhere) is fighting against the current round of school closings in NYC. We are against labeling any schools as "failing," against Renewal and Receivership School programs that don't help, against targeting these schools for Charter Co-locations, and against closures. We see the connection between school closures and the privatization of our education system as well as the anti-displacement movement.The next meeting of CASCADE,  Campaign Against School Closures and Against Displacement Everywhere., is on March 10, at 2:30 at the CUNY Graduate Center. All are welcome to come and strategize about how to stop school closings. 

Monday, February 26, 2018


We knew the Janus case was coming. Today the Supreme Court heard oral arguments. Remember, the public sector unions dodged a bullet back in 2016 when Justice Scalia died. The Supreme Court then split 4-4 on keeping agency fees (fees paid by non members) legal for unions in the Friedrichs case. After reading today's oral arguments in the nearly identical Janus case, I think I can say without too much reservation that things did not go well for the unions.

Unless there is a miracle, each one of us will get to decide if we want to pay union dues or not in the not too distant future. Make no mistake about it, the unions, whether we like the leadership or not, will be weakened.

Janus is arguing that paying union dues if he is not a union member is compelling him to associate against his will with an organization and thus speak against his will. This he claims violates his First Amendment rights. The unions counter that since non-members benefit from what unions do, they should have to pay for it. They cite Abood as a 1977 9-0 precedent where the Supreme Court said agency fees for non-union members were constitutional.

That was in a different time back in 1977. By getting soft and trying to play concessionary games with the powers that be, unions have gotten nowhere. Today just confirmed that.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the swing vote, lays out the conservative goals in this excerpt from today's oral argument from the SCOTUS blog that I think gets to the core of the matter.

When Illinois solicitor general David Franklin took his turn at the lectern, Kennedy – who is often regarded as a key vote in high-profile cases – left little doubt about where he stood. “What we are talking about here,” Kennedy said sternly, “is compelled justification and compelled subsidization of a private party, a private party that expresses political views constantly.” Later on, Kennedy asked attorney David Frederick, who appeared on behalf of the union, whether, if the unions lose, they “will have less political influence.” When Frederick answered “yes,” Kennedy shot back, “Isn’t that the end of this case?”

Unless Donald Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch is a closet liberal, this case is over and it's time to think about a post Janus world for government employees.

If you are hoping the unions lose so you can stop paying dues, all I can say is be careful what you wish for, you may very well get it.

Kennedy explained what this case is all about: decreasing working peoples' political influence.

For those who want to read the entire transcript of today's oral arguments, go here.


The NYC economy continues to grow. Comptroller Scott Stringer has released a report showing the current city surplus is $2.6 billion. That's not quite a record and it is down but it isn't bad.

Of course with municipal labor contracts due and Donald Trump in the White House, Stringer's report is filled with all kinds of warnings. However even with a smaller surplus, the reality right now is the city is still doing well economically. I haven't read too many economists who think the recession is right around the corner.

In terms Of the Deparment of Education,  Stringer's report says this:

DOE:  More for the Classroom, Less for the Bureaucracy
  • Since 2012, Central Administration staff has increased by more than 400, a 24% rate of growth – twice the rate of teaching staff growth, at 12%.
  • There is rampant waste and lack of accountability at DOE. Comptroller audits have found:
    • In a sample of just 8 schools and one administrative site, one-third of computer hardware was unaccounted for, with no follow-up action to implement basic controls;
    • $1 billion investment in high-speed broadband while one in three teachers remain dissatisfied with the service; and
    • $2.7 billion in no-bid contracts.

Is anyone surprised by anything here?

Sunday, February 25, 2018


The teachers of West Virginia are leading the way with their strike that will continue for a third day on Monday.

This is from AFT WV President Christine Campbell who is quoted in the Washington Post:

“They’re having an open dialogue with these people,” Campbell said. “I just believe that it’s time. We’ve seen some complacency over the years, because they didn’t feel like the people are listening to their voice. Now that they have stood up . . . I’m so thrilled that they are actually talking with their representatives and their representatives are talking with their constituents and hearing their concerns.”

Does that sound familiar NYC teachers? Nobody is listening to us either and complacency defines many teachers in NYC. Yes our salaries are better than West Virginia but our working conditions are worsening each day in NYC in so many schools.

It looks like the question in WV is if they can hold out longer than the government. Their 1990 strike later eleven days. In NYC, it is about whether we will stand up for ourselves.  We certainly cannot expect our union leaders to stand up for us.

Friday, February 23, 2018


Chalkbeat covered changing the NYS teacher evaluation law. Our state union NYSUT is leading the fight to change the law. NYSUT wants the state to end mandates from Albany on eval and put it back to individual districts with student test results out of the mix.

Noticably absent from the discussion is the UFT. Although the UFT voted for the NYSUT resolution to get testing out of evaluations, UFT President Michael Mulgrew is now leading the charge to keep the current system in place. He says the NYC evaluation system could be a model for the state.

As for the petition people are looking for from us on repealing the evaluation law, I have been asking around. Do we go to repeal everything in 2015 law (eval, CTLE hours, four years probation, receivership), or do we go after just evaluations? Let us choose our target now folks.

ICE is meeting later today. I am still out of town but hopefully eval will come up.

Thursday, February 22, 2018


Teachers in West Virginia went out on strike in an illegal action today. It was more than just the teachers participating in the two day illegal job action. Here is an account from WVMetroNews.

Charleston W.Va.-- The storm that's about to happen hasn’t hit West Virginia for almost 30 years.

Today, thousands of teachers and service personnel will be on the picket line — rather than in the classroom — all over West Virginia.

The last time that happened was 1990 — and even then it was only the teachers.

This time it’s bus drivers, school cooks, maintenance workers, teachers and other school employees from all of West Virginia’s 55 counties.

Here are the numbers for those who could be rallying at the Capitol or on picket lines at their schools:

18,900 classroom teachers.

If you include classroom teachers and principals and administrators, it’s 24,000.

Then mix in 13,500 service workers.

“We can’t stop this,” Joe White, executive director of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, told members of the West Virginia Board of Education during an emergency meeting on Wednesday.

It looks like it is the Teachers leading the way with other public employees coming along. Their salaries and benefits are decided statewide in WV.

Our wages in NYC in the public sector are done through pattern bargaining. One union settles on a salary increase, or a freeze, and the rest are forced to adhere to the pattern.

We can stipulate that our wages and benefits in NYC are better than public employees in WV but our working conditions have consistently been deteriorating and will continue to unless we step up. Why wait?

Cue some dream state music here please.
Imagine what would happen if instead of accepting this pattern bargaining system, all of the city workers bargained together to demand good contracts and we were ready to strike to get them? The city might have to find a way to treat us with some real respect.

I will even concede that since we have issues with our management, we can exclude the management unions from our grand coalition. Put Teachers with Sanitation, DC37 and the rest.  It is my imagination so I will even include Police, Fire and Corrections. Oh what a powerful group of unions it would be.

We could tell the mayor: "To hell with the Taylor Law." Throw in Transit (I know they negotiate with state), we could easily be European style unions. Think France.

Nobody would be worried about people leaving the unions because the Supreme Court will soon say we can.

Now I am waking up. Back to reality. I am in the UFT. DC37 will probably soon get a contract with lousy raises and we will go through a long song and dance and get the same contract as will the Police and everyone else in the municipal workforce.

West Virginia public employees are showing a different path today. We should learn from them.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


The notion of a teachers' strike, which seems so 20th Century here in NYS as we have the anti-worker Taylor Law that makes strikes by public sector employees in this state illegal, is not so crazy in West Virginia. Teachers are ready to walk off the job on Thursday and Friday in W.VA. It's illegal in W.VA. for teachers to strike. They don't care.

This is a Republican state where Donald Trump got close to 70% of the vote in 2016. In "progressive" NY, we won't even contemplate the notion of possibly thinking about any kind of job action. Wonder why we are so easily pushed around these days in the Empire State, particularly in NYC?

Here is a summary of the strike situation in W.VA. from In These Times:
Teachers and service personnel across West Virginia are planning to strike on Feb. 22 and 23 in an effort to boost pay and lower their increasing healthcare costs. It will be the first statewide walkout in nearly 30 years.
The strike was announced by the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia and the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) during a weekend rally at the state capitol in Charleston that attracted teachers and other public sector employees and supporters. Hundreds also showed up at the capitol on Feb. 2, where they sang “Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, hey, hey, goodbye!” while Tim Armstead, Republican Speaker of the W.V. House of Delegates, gave a speech on the House floor. At this past weekend’s rally, WVEA President Dale Lee declared that all 55 of the state’s counties were prepared to stand united. “The entire state of West Virginia will be shut down,” declared Lee, whose union is an affiliate of the National Education Association.
According to a 2017 study that ranked each state’s average teacher salary, West Virginia is the sixth worst in the country. On average, the state’s teachers make $45,477, compared to first-place-ranking Alaska, where teachers make $77,843. W.V. teachers want the state to fund the state’s Public Employee Insurance Agency (PEIA) and increase their salaries. The state’s House of Delegates has voted to give public school teachers 2-percent raises next year and a 1-percent raise over the next three years, while the state’s Senate has approved a 1-percent raise, every year, over the next five years. Union representatives believe these raises are inadequate, especially when considered alongside the rising costs of healthcare.
Kym Randolph, director of communications for the WVEA, tells In These Times that dissatisfaction has been brewing for years. “It’s a number of things,” says Randolph. “PEIA, lack of salary, years of neglect, anti-worker policies … healthcare that’s inadequate.” According to Randolph, lawmakers have become “entrenched” on the issue of teacher salaries and are difficult to persuade.
According to World Socialist Web Site, the West Virginia movement for action came from the ground, not from union leaders:
“This whole movement has been from the bottom up and I’m going to do my best to make sure that we demand actions that will benefit all West Virginia public employees and West Virginia’s children,” Nicole McCormick, a Mercer County teacher, told the World Socialist Web Site.
McCormick, who emphasized that all public employees need a substantial pay raise, continued, “I feel, and many others as well, that now is the time to harness this historic opportunity to demand what will progress and redefine West Virginia.”
Around the state there were reports that teachers were threatening to leave the unions if they failed to call a strike, while others called for broader strike action by public-sector workers who are all affected by the state’s move to increase health expenses.
In 1990, 22,000 teachers defied Democratic Governor Gaston Caperton and the state’s ban on teacher walkouts, striking for 11 days in the state’s only official teachers’ strike. Conditions for educators today are the same, or worse, than they were three decades ago when their pay was 49th in the nation.

Expressing the militant mood, reading teacher Karen Stroup declared, “Without us, the state of West Virginia would shut down,” according to local media coverage of a rally in the eastern panhandle town of Charles Town last Friday. “We’re not out here just for teachers,” Jamie Bowden, an English teacher, was quoted as saying in a report in the Journal. “We’re here for all employees in West Virginia, because what’s going on in the legislature affects all of us.”

On the illegality of the strike, this is from MetroNews:

West Virginia last had a widespread teacher strike in 1990.  The walkout lasted 11 days and shut down schools in 47 of the state’s 55 counties. It ended on March 17th when Governor Gaston Caperton, legislative leaders and union representatives announced a settlement.
It’s worth noting that the 1990 strike was illegal.  Then-Attorney General Roger Tompkins, in an opinion delivered to then-State School Superintendent Hank Marockie, said that “There is no right to strike against the state.  Thus, any strike or concerted work stoppage by public teachers of this state is illegal.”
Tompkins opinion was based on a series of previous rulings by the Attorney General’s Office, as well as court decisions.  He cited a 1970 federal court decision supporting Governor Arch Moore’s decision to fire striking State Road Commission employees.
The court ruled that “to permit a strike by public employees at any level is inconsistent with the orderly process and sovereignty of government.”
Tomkins further found that teachers who strike are failing to fulfill their contract and could face disciplinary action.  “A county board may suspend or dismiss a striking teacher for insubordination or willful neglect of duty” under state law.
During the 1990 strike Governor Caperton threatened action against the teachers, but never followed through.  Lee says teachers today are not worried about possible ramifications of a work stoppage.
“Let’s say you fire 15,000 people… how are you going to replace them?”  Lee asked.  “That’s not really an issue in making the decision we are going to make.”
You see dear readers there is a moral in this story: We have the power if we would just get up and use it.

Monday, February 19, 2018


From Education Week. Thanks to Reality Based Educator for sending this out.

Bill and Melinda Gates have poured their fortune into, among other things, the push for common standards, small schools, and efforts to overhaul teacher evaluations. Reflecting on these funding initiatives in a recent interview with the Associated Press, the billionaire husband and wife team admit they haven't worked.
"It's in taking all of those lessons and saying, 'OK, but did they reach the majority of the school districts? Did they scale and change the system for low-income and minority kids writ large, at scale?' And the answer when we looked at it, it was no," Melinda Gates told the AP.
The two have acknowledged missteps before, most recently with the Common Core State Standards. As Liana Heitin (now Loewus) reported in May of 2016, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation acknowledged having underestimated the amount of resources and support public schools would need to incorporate the standards.

But the admission that the push for tougher teacher evaluationsincluding tying student test scores to teacher performance—has fallen flat is notable considering the contentiousness of the debate over how to judge teacher quality, and how influential the Gates Foundation has been in shaping that realm over the last decade.
If Bill and Melinda Gates concede that having teacher ratings based on student test scores isn't working, that would seem to leave UFT President Michael Mulgrew as the most notable figure out there waving the flag for teacher evaluations based on student test results or other assessments. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018


This Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student in Florida nails the gun problem so beautifully. Her name is Emma Gonzalez. She quotes one of her teachers saying, "When adults tell me I have a right to own a gun, all I can hear is: 'My right to own a gun outweighs your students' right to live.' All I can hear is, 'Mine, mine, mine, mine.'"

I heard so many of the students I have had the honor of working with over the decades in this young lady's words. It's worth seeing and hearing over and over again.

For those who say there are no laws that could have prevented these tragedies, Emma Gonzalez calls bs.

For everyone who says there are too many assault weapons out there so there is nothing we could do about the ones already out on the streets even if we ban them, I say a gun buyback program would be hugely successful.

If there is one thing my fellow Americans like more than guns, it's money.


This Chief Leader podcast provides details on Mayor de Blasio's pay to play city government.

Interesting listening.

The mayor is plagued with corruption problems yet survives as the UFT 's buddy while our working conditions in the schools do not improve. It makes me think for sure.

Saturday, February 17, 2018


We totally endorse this letter from Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris.

Dear James,
After the slaughter of students and staff in Parkland, Florida, the time for action has never been more urgent. The politicians sit on their hands as our children and their teachers are murdered in their schools. We will be silent no more! The failure to enact rational laws that bar access to guns designed for mass shootings is inexcusable. It is past time to speak out and act.
Pledge your support to stop gun violence here.
We call for mass action on April 20, the anniversary of the horrific shootings at Columbine High School. We urge teachers, families, students, administrators and every member of the community to engage in acts of protest in and around their schools. Create actions that work best in your community. Organize sit-ins, teach-ins, walkouts, marches--whatever you decide will show your school and community's determination to keep our students safe. One elementary teacher suggested that teachers and parents link arms around the school to show their determination to protect children.
It is time to let our legislators know that they must stand up to the gun lobby and enact meaningful reform to protect students and staff.
Advocacy groups including the AFT, NEA and the BATS have already pledged their support.
Pledge your support to stop gun violence here.
We are asking you to take the pledge now and join us on April 20. Be a leader in your own community and develop meaningful activities that show that you stand for safe and peaceful schools. Share your ideas with us.
Sign up here, and then post this link:
Sign up your families. Sign up your friends. There can be no excuse for inaction.
Thank you for all that you do.

  Diane Ravitch,
President of the Network for Public Education

  Carol Burris
Executive Director

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


We came to school dressed in red at Middle College High School to show our union pride today.

As we were taking our picture, I thought that if instead of this being a simple display of solidarity, what if it really were building to some kind of real action?

If we ever displayed our real muscle as teachers unified, we would be a powerful force. Let's build that movement for a real union. It can be done.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


The time is right to repeal the awful teacher evaluation laws (APPR) that were passed by the State Legislature to allow NYS to compete for President Obama's disgusting Race To The Top money. New York State United Teachers is taking the lead here.

NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said in testimony before the State Legislature that we must get student assessments out of teacher evaluation. NYSUT at last year's Representative Assembly unanimously passed a resolution calling for student performance to be removed from teacher ratings.

The UFT is the largest union that is part of NYSUT. UFT and NYSUT are both controlled by Unity Caucus. UFT President Mulgrew and NYSUT President Pallotta are both from Unity. Pallotta was once a UFT District Representative. This makes Mulgrew's actions in Albany, where he testified that the NYC teacher evaluation system could be used as a model by NYS, both confusing and infuriating.  Mulgrew is pretty much contradicting NYSUT and what he  and his people voted for.

I am not the only one who discovered President Mulgrew's troubling testimony. When we printed it on this blog, our posting received thousands of hits (many more than we usually get). Now, the opposition to Unity at NYSUT called ST Caucus (Stronger Together) has written a letter on evaluation in support of NYSUT's position while critical of Mulgrew and urging action on repealing the current evaluation law. It is copied in full below.

ST Caucus

James --

Urgent Call To Action On APPR

With the Committee of 100 quickly approaching, we want to take some time to address the important legislative issue of APPR. The moratorium is expiring and Commissioner Elia is looking at various approaches to solve the problems of the current, flawed APPR model. It is critical that we get APPR right!

At last year’s Representative Assembly, NYSUT delegates voted unanimously to oppose the mandatory use of student performance measures in teacher evaluation. We are excited to see the NYSUT officers supporting this resolution in their lobbying efforts in Albany and in regional meetings around the state.

In his testimony on January 31st, Andy Pallotta urged lawmakers to make statutory changes ensuring teacher evaluations are “returned to local control with no state mandates.” While this is a tremendous step in the right direction, members will need to continue to put pressure on lawmakers to secure appropriate statutory changes to the APPR law. We will not be able to fix New York’s flawed teacher evaluation system without standing in solidarity through a sustained campaign educating legislators and the public.

All current metrics tied to student performance lack validity and reliability, so eliminating any mandate is the only solution that will ultimately return stability to the teacher evaluation process in New York. At a time when NYSUT has been clear and unanimous about removing state mandates, it is troubling to read the testimony of Michael Mulgrew. He had the following to say in his budget hearing testimony on January 31st:

Expand authentic measures of student learning

New York City’s teacher evaluation system gives schools choices about the kinds of student assessments that can be used in teacher evaluation, including essays and other ways that students can demonstrate their skill. We also give schools choices about how to measure student growth. We know our system is more responsive to the needs of individual schools and their students. It is a model that moves away from one-size-fits-all systems mandated by the state. We believe that the city’s approach could be a model statewide. The UFT believes we need to avoid a return to the testing craze that gripped New York for too many years.

While this system may be what UFT leadership desires, teachers in the rest of the state reject this idea as yet another mandate from the state. This can only be seen as more of the same. The fact remains that whether essays, portfolios, or tests, there is no valid or reliable formula to integrate student work into a teacher evaluation system. We agree with Andy Pallotta as he brought forward the unanimous position adopted by the NYSUT Representative Assembly: there should be no state mandate on student performance in our APPR. Michael Mulgrew’s position is not consistent with the will of New York’s teachers, the NYSUT Representative Assembly, or the NYSUT Officers.

Commissioner Elia’s survey on New York’s APPR is a tool of misdirection; we fully support NYSUT’s boycott. The format and lack of organized distribution make this an inherently flawed instrument. As we have seen in previous surveys from SED, ridiculously small sample sizes are used to represent the views of the state’s parents and teachers. We are in full concurrence with Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango when she asserts, “The state has had at least six years to listen to the voices of teachers and parents who are angry and frustrated with this broken teacher evaluation system. We don't need any more surveys or delays. This is the year to fix it. Evaluations must be returned to local control with no state mandates.”

In response, we are urging you to do two things:

Do not promote or respond to Commissioner Elia’s survey on APPR. If you have asked your members to fill it out, we are encouraging teachers to weigh in against using ANY form of student performance. Phrases such as “there are no effective or valid student performance instruments appropriate for use in teachers’ evaluations” and “return APPR decisions to local control” should be used frequently!

In the upcoming Committee of 100 meetings, we are encouraging NYSUT members to impress upon lawmakers the importance of getting rid of state mandates and returning local control to APPR. We do not need more flawed and invalid models of evaluation-- we need local control!

We look forward to seeing you at the Committee of 100 meetings and the NYSUT RA!

In Solidarity,

ST Caucus Executive Committee

Monday, February 12, 2018


The UFT might soon be settling on Paid Parental Leave for parents of newborns but we will not be getting a wide ranging Paid Family Leave like NYS is mandating in the private sector. This information comes from a source close to the negotiations. It seems there are some political considerations that are delaying an agreement from being reached.

The cost of Paid Parental Leave, according to this source, will NOT be loss of sick bank days or loss of the midwinter February break. It will be a low cost but we could not get any specifics.

Paid Family Leave to take care of sick family members, now mandatory in the private sector in NYS, won't be included for NYC Teachers, or any other city employees probably, because the city believes so many people would take advantage of the provision so they have no way of figuring out the cost. The state law would have to be changed to include public employees in the program NYS is mandating in the private sector. We'll see where this goes.

Sunday, February 11, 2018


The recent controversy about whether MORE should have talked to the press over the Black Lives Matter resolution being turned down at the Delegate Assembly got me thinking about how the UFT handled sensitive issues in the past. Is there anything more sensitive than a debate over whether or not to strike?

The contentious debate over strking in 1962 was covered by the NYC newspapers as this excerpt from an account in the NY Teacher shows.

At any rate, as the day of the threatened walkout drew near, negotiations heated up. On April 9, one day before the deadline, there was a breakthrough. Gov. Rockefeller agreed to lend the city some $14 million for salary hikes while Mayor Wagner, as he had done in the 1960 strike, put forward a plan to appoint a three-person, fact-finding panel. In a narrow 6-4 vote with one abstention, the union’s negotiating committee OK’d the Rockefeller/ Wagner offers.
Next it went to the union’s executive board. It was well past midnight on April 10 before the deeply divided group voted to accept the negotiating committee’s recommendation to delay the strike for one week while the fact-finding panel did its homework.
Throughout these long deliberations, the Delegate Assembly had been kept waiting, and waiting — and waiting. Convened at 4 p.m. on April 9 at St. Nicholas Arena in Manhattan, the more than 1,000 delegates sat around hour after hour, hungry for any bit of news or gossip. The first word they heard, though, was at 10:30 that night from School Board President Max Rubin, via radio and television. “We have been informed the negotiating committee of the UFT will recommend that there be no strike. There will be no interruption in the education of the city’s children.”
Not surprisingly, Rubin’s statement infuriated many of the delegates and played into the hands of the militants who were saying the leadership was trying to pull a fast one. It wasn’t until 1:30 in the morning that President Cogen finally made it to St. Nick’s Arena. Usually the home to prize fights and wrestling matches, the seedy West Side haunt proved an apt setting for what was to follow.
After waiting some nine hours, many of the delegates were in no mood for peace overtures. Cogen was greeted with catcalls, jeers and cries of “sellout” when he announced the executive board’s recommendation for postponing the strike pending the fact-finders’ report.

‘Strike, strike’

“No, no, Charlie,” the delegates chanted. “We want a contract, not more promises.” Newspaper accounts told of “frenzied foot-stomping and shouts of ‘strike, strike.’” To great cheers, militant leader and UFT deputy president Sam Hochberg called the city’s offer of $28 million “nothing” and predicted a “tremendous strike.”
Near 3 a.m., Shanker made an impassioned plea for restraint, warning of what was in store if the city got an injunction under the harsh Condon-Wadlin Law. “This is what you will have to face,” he said. “Your leaders will be arrested and will lose their jobs. As the first set of leaders is taken off to jail, another set of leaders will be arrested and jailed. Are there enough teachers who then will be willing to support a strike?”
Hochberg countered that if the union caved in to the threatened injunction, the board would have found its weapon. “I’d say you have given up the right to strike for all time,” Hochberg said.
Lou Frazer, a junior high school teacher, got up. “We are here for every teacher and not for money reasons, but for the preservation and dignity of the profession. Let us go. Our issues are clear, simple and valid. You owe it to yourselves.” The delegates were on their feet howling with approval.
By a resounding 9-1 margin, the delegates rejected the executive board’s plea for more time. It was decided, instead, that the issue would be put before the general membership later that day.
Round 2 at St. Nick’s that afternoon proved to be more of the same. There on the stage was the lone figure of Charlie Cogen standing before an angry crowd of 5,000 members stamping their feet, booing, jeering, yelling “sell-out” and “strike now” and waving signs reading “Money yes, promises no” and “Action now.” It took Cogen some 40 minutes just to bring the raucous group to order.
Boos and cat-calls greeted Cogen’s plea to avoid being labeled “strike-happy” and to vote for a temporary truce. Newspaper reports told of “prolonged applause and loud cheers” for Hochberg and Parente, “leaders of the militant wing.”
A Daily News reporter described the scene this way: “Some 5,000 public school teachers, split between red-hots anxious to strike today and more cautious souls … The union … is torn by internal dissension and power fights among its officers.” On the question of whether to postpone or strike now, the vote was 2,544–2,231 to rebuke the leadership and strike immediately. The hardliners had won by just 313 votes. The strike was on.

You’re all fired

Narrowly defeated or not, after the vote Cogen said, “We’re completely united.” Asked about the threat of being jailed if they defied an injunction, Cogen is reported to have smiled and said: “Life has risks. Everything has risks.” The next morning, April 11, brought out the pickets. One newspaper account told of one protester: “Charles Hoffman, 24, a 9th-grade teacher picketing outside JHS 65 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, said: ‘We’re getting a raw deal from the city and it’s up to the teachers to do something. It’s about time we stood firm. We’ve been fair. Now we have to be firm.’”

I didn't see accounts of people screaming for the "Cone of Silence" to come down on the Union back then. It shouldn't be called for now because of a Black Lives Matter debate either. We can handle it.

Saturday, February 10, 2018


I am in an unusual position concerning the internal UFT rift over Black Lives Matters' week of action resolution. The opposition MORE raised the resolution but the Unity dominated DA voted it down. I support the Unity leadership in steering clear of this as BLM can be a splitter issue but Unity's attacks on MORE for talking to the press on this topic are way over the top.

Except for a very limited number of issues, I have no problem with union debate being public. It is impossible to have real union democracy without transparency, particularly when we are discussing matters that affect the entire membership. I'm normally suspicious when groups demand secrecy which by the way is next to impossible in the age of the internet.

The ongoing debate over whether the UFT should've supported a Black Lives Matter week of action is alarming yet predictable. People who want our internal union disagreements to be kept inside the UFT are kind of unrealistic. What are they afraid of? The UFT membership has multiple perspectives on many subjects including Black Lives Matter.

For those not following, the Unity Caucus dominated UFT Delegate Assembly voted against support for a BLM week of action resolution in January as the issue is divisive or maybe since the opposition MORE had the idea, Unity automatically dismissed it. The press then talked to people from MORE who brought up the resolution and they gave MORE's views which were shown on NY1. Unity then must have gotten some blowback, so they responded by writing a long missive attacking MORE at the February Delegate Assembly as the "not so loyal opposition" to up the stakes.

For the record, I (not speaking for ICE) agree with Staff Director Leroy Barr that BLM is a splitter issue and the UFT should avoid splitters to the maximum extent possible. We need to be as united as possible in the age of Janus where the existence of the union as we know it might very well soon be placed in jeopardy by the Supreme Court. I think Leroy's analogy to the Vietnam War was inartful but made the point. I also feel the UFT learned after supporting Al Sharpton's Eric Garner march that the race issue can be very divisive. I discovered that the hard way when as Chapter Leader of Jamaica, certain people, in my opinion a little cynically, played the race card. Uniting us after that was difficult and a significant Chapter achievement.

The proof that Leroy is right about this being a splitter is here on the blogs. Read DOENUTS, Norm, NYC Educator, MORE and of course, not on the blogs but at the DA, the Unity piece attacking MORE for talking to the press. Splitter issue for sure. It is sound policy for the UFT to want to keep emphasizing what unites us in the age of Janus when the Supreme Court will probably soon rule that we can leave the union.

It would be nice if the Union would go to Albany to work on what unites us all. I think they should be pushing to repeal the teacher evaluation system that almost all teachers I know can't stand. We would all unite with the leadership to overhaul the evaluation law. We are united on evaluations but that is a matter for different postings.

I very much doubt that after the Supreme Court gives their Janus decision to allow public sector union members to stop paying union dues if people are going to base their decision on whether or not to stay in the UFT on UFT's lack of support for BLM's week of action. However, Unity attacking MORE for talking to the press about this or really almost anything, does not help our cause either.

Thursday, February 08, 2018


At last night's Delegate Assembly, I attempted to get the Unity Caucus dominated body to see reason and work up in Albany to scrap the teacher evaluation system as a top legislative priority. I was as usual voted down by the Unity dominated Delegates. This is the motion and most of my remarks in favor. I was rushed by President Michael Mulgrew but got in most of what I wanted to say.

Resolution on changing Teacher Evaluation System
February 7, 2018

Whereas, NYSUT President Andy Pallotta called for an end to using student test scores in teacher evaluations;
Resolved, that the UFT will join with NYSUT to make it a major legislative priority to eliminate student test scores from teacher evaluations and return teacher evaluations to local control.

We got a hint from Presidents Mulgrew and Pallotta  about UFT and NYSUT’s Albany priorities in teacher evaluations in recent testimony to the legislature. President Pallota said that  “Teacher Evaluations should be returned to local control with no state mandates.” He also said, “...changes in the federal law contained in the Every Student Succeeds Act eliminated the mandate for testing in teacher evaluation.”

UFT President Mulgrew said something a little different in Albany.

The UFT still wants to use student assessments to rate us and that is the wrong approach.

The argument given by the UFT leadership is that under the current evaluation system, very few teachers are rated ineffective, way less than were rated unsatisfactory in the old system. That argument is incomplete. Ratings only tell part of the story. Since we have so few adverse ratings, it would logically follow that fewer teachers would be facing dismissal charges compared to the old S or U system but data I've seen does not bear this out.

366 tenured educators were charged under state law in 2014 followed by 392 in 2015 and 381 in 2016. Average in the Bloomberg years from 2002-2013 when we had the S or U system was just 271. If the evaluation system was so great, because it produces so few adverse ratings, tenured educators facing dismissal hearings should be declining dramatically but they are not. They are up and anyone who gets two ineffectives under the current system has the burden of proof on them. Nobody in the old system carried the burden of proof. A few more tenured educators are actually losing their jobs in 2016 compared to the last two Bloomberg years according to analysis I was shown. We’ve gained nothing from having fewer ineffectives.

What about probationary teachers? A person a very close to me was a probationary teacher rated effective last year. She was also discontinued. There were others as well. Who cares if you are rated effective if you don’t have a job. Our ratings mean nothing to our bosses so why should all of us have to struggle with a system that requires intimidating Danielson drive-bys with cookie cutter rubrics and student growth measures that are often incomprehensible when the federal law no longer requires these mandates? Let’s start over.

One cannot fully comprehend how awful the evaluation system is until you have lived under it so may I please ask that someone who works under Advance speak in favor of it and not an officer or union employee. Those up on the stage have never lived under Advance.

To their credit, after I yielded the floor the officers did not raise their voting cards to speak but a Chapter Leader from a closing school who is in Unity rose to give the rebuttal against me.

She didn't refute any of my points that the test scores and overall rating are hugely irrelevant to whether our jobs are placed in jeopardy but instead said that the student test score results saved her rating because she was a Chapter Leader who spoke out. That was enough to persuade the vast majority of the Unity loyalty oath signers to vote against my resolution.

I lost the vote but the the rank and file in the schools are really the ones who are being defeated. Pulling your dues post Janus decision isn't going to make it better.

After the vote, Mulgrew felt the need to inappropriately respond to me by noting that he and Pallotta sat next to each other in Albany and then he pointed out that educators are still facing 3020a (dismissal) hearings at high rates because the Department of Education is throwing so many charges at them, hoping something will stick. He ironically was making my point that the ratings really don't matter much.

I've tried to use logic two years in a row to convince Unity Caucus that the membership hates the evaluation system and we need to replace it. Can anyone help me out?

Wednesday, February 07, 2018


Apologies for smart phone errors.

Presidents Report
When I arrived, President Michael Mulgrew was talking about Betsy DeVos' one year anniversary as education secretary in DC. DeVos is talking school choice. Our Union pride campaign is ongoing.

Puerto Rico governor trying to use storm to privatize education there. Mulgrew introduced people from union there.

State Budget
Need revenue in Albany. We favor millionaire tax. Something will spring up late on charters. We will have big budget cuts in Albany from Trump tax changes. Members happy with tax cut. People will be unhappy when they do income taxes next year. NYS biggest donor state to other states. We will have a significant deficit unless we make up for what federal government did with tax code.

Anyone who won a Broad prize should be automatically disqualified as a possible chancellor candidate.

Visiting Nurse Service
Tough negotiation. Ready to strike if we had to. Leadership of VNS settled contract.

Negotiating Committee meeting March 1. Brooklyn Collegiate won and is not closing.

Door knocking campaign ongoing. Preparing for Janus. Only pro Janus people given permit to protest outside supreme court for February 26 oral arguments.

Koch brother spending $400 million against us. Enemies know what they want. They plan. We must educate membership. Oral arguments in Janus will be publicized. Many members tuning out news. Kim from NEA in Wisconsin fighting back. Colleagues around country depending on us.

Kim Kohlhaas NEA Wisconsin introduced and addresses DA. She thanked NYC teachers. Scott Walker's Act 10 took away collective bargaining rights. Lost seniority, lost prep time, class size up, mandatory meetings every day throughout the year before school, $11,000 cut, no contract, no grievances, and more. All teachers on one year contract. Charters and vouchers statewide. Voucher students get more money from state than public school students. Huge teacher turnover. Online course for 15 months to be a teacher.

How to build back political power? Fight at local level before State level. Unions stronger and have better relationships with members.

Hortonville has horrible bully administrator. About half of teachers left. Parents reacted. 400 parents showed up at school board meeting. Board didn't listen because we did not file proper complaint. We ran parents for school board and took out school board President. Principal resigned. Teachers doing grassroots organizing. Local has identity. Amazing stories. Fighting to defend public education in Wisconsin. Union gives us voice to do our job.

Mulgrew back. Hears about apathy. Wisconsin traditionally strong union state. Taken years of damage to get back. Kim says they never thought it could happen to them.

Question: Is Kim's speech on video?
Answer from Mulgrew: We have a policy of no video at DA but we have video of Kim elsewhere.

Questions to Kim: What was contract like before?
Answer: It was 54 pages and now it fits on a post it note.

Q:What happened to pension?
A:It is sound.

Q: What about Scott Walker and race?
A:Scott Walker anti worker. He was tool.

Q: What is support from labor movement?
A: If not affiliated with AFT, we would not be here. You must keep your local strong. Keep the smallest locals strong.

Q:How to keep younger people active?
A: Listen to them. We had very good conditions because union went on many strikes.

Q:Public opinion in Wisconsin?
A:We were seen as elites in certain communities. Seen as babies because of finances. Wisconsin became a state of "I don't have it so I don't want you to have it too." Mean spirited.

Q:Being at will employee?
A: Renewal contract each year. Hard to advocate for kids as an at will employee.

Q:What can we do to help?
A:Keep local strong.

Staff Director's Report
Films at UFT HQ
Rally Feb 24 at Foley Square
More dates including next DA March 21.

Question Period:
Q: Internal debate last month. We must stay together. What can we do to keep internal debates from getting to press?
A: This is our discussion. DA passed a policy to not video. Debate and then we vote. People have right to free speech. Some things we say will be used by our enemies. Negotiations secret. DA taken many stances. Proud of them. Op-ed done the other day. Respond that we are proud of public education. Sometimes even our allies don't like what DA decide.

Q: Congestion pricing?
A:Should not have adverse impact on people who work in schools.

Q: ATR said to Delegate union does not help her?
A: UFT fought us being at will employees. Placing ATRs. ATR pool at lowest level in years. Keep chapters strong as Kim said. DOE talks about how horrible we are for standing up for individual employees and schools. Need to look at retention of teachers.

New Motions
Sterling Roberson made a motion to wear red on Feb 14. It was added to agenda.

I made motion to lobby to get rid of the teacher evaluation system. I will post it later. It failed

Special Orders of Business
Resolution to wear red on Valentine's Day passed unanimously.

Resolution to renominate David Kazansky for TRS Board. It carried.

That's all folks.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018


Anyone looking to see a full study of NYC government personnel, go to the New York City Government Workforce Profile Report. It is an interesting document with tons of information about the city workforce. We want to focus here on people leaving government employment. If the system was fair, one would think that those working in education would leave public service at roughly equivalent levels but the data does not show this.

Teachers, including DOE teachers and CUNY professors, are separated from service at a rate of 8.7%. The rate of separation for assistant principals is just 4.7% while the separation rate for principals is only 4.8%.

Separation includes retirements, resignations, and dismissals. Why is the rate for teachers so much higher than our bosses? If we look at retirements, 7.3% of assistant principals and 10.2% of principals are eligible to retire while 10.2% of teachers are also eligible to retire. Retirements probably aren't the reason teachers are separated from service at a rate much higher than our bosses.

If someone wants to make the argument that many teachers are not tenured so there should be more separation from service among nontenured employees, take a look at the educational paraprofessional title where only 7.2% are separated from service. Paras do not have tenure protections. One would think they would be separated from service at a much higher rate than teachers.

There is an anecdotal that does kind of illustrate the theory that teachers are often targeted by school level bosses while administrators are not.When administrators are pulled from schools, it might be a jolt to their egos but it doesn't mean any job insecurity in many instances. Take the case of Rosemary Jahoda, who was removed as principal from Townsend Harris High School and prior to that had a controversial tenure as an assistant principal at Bronx High School of Science. It was reported to me that she showed up last Monday at one of the replacement schools for Beach Channel High School to lead staff development. The Department of Education takes care of their administrators. We discovered a little data to back up what we all know is true. We'll keep looking for more.

Sunday, February 04, 2018


I finally think UFT President Michael Mulgrew has completely parted company with his rank and file. While NYSUT President and Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew and Randi Weingarten's faction of the UFT-NYSUT) backed Andy Pallotta called for the State Legislature to end test based teacher evaluations and we commended him for it, UFT President Mulgrew in testimony before the State Legislature says the NYC teacher evaluation system could be "a model statewide."

I didn't make that up.

You commenters who want two observations a year or a return to Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory annual ratings can forget about it. Our Union President thinks the current NYC teacher evaluation system is great. It could be a model statewide according to Mulgrew. I have copied below the whole section of his testimony on teacher evaluation so you don't think I am quoting out of context.

Expand authentic measures of student learning

New York City’s teacher evaluation system gives schools choices about the kinds of student assessments that can be used in teacher evaluation, including essays and other ways that students can demonstrate their skill. We also give schools choices about how to measure student growth. We know our system is more responsive to the needs of individual schools and their students. It is a model that moves away from one-size-fits-all systems mandated by the state. We believe that the city’s approach could be a model statewide. The UFT believes we need to avoid a return to the testing craze that gripped New York for too many years.

Click here for Mulgrew's entire testimony.