Friday, June 29, 2018


In response to the Janus Supreme Court decision (the comment discussion is fascinating), the UFT put out a statement from President Michael Mulgrew that to me basically brushed off the decision as no big deal. He called the attack on us desperate. I would call it methodical and well planned. We are now a right to work country in the public sector where workers can refuse to join a union but still benefit from what the union does. 

The UFT also had an article with a sidebar what happens now piece. We are printing the what happens now part in full.

What happens now?
If you are a UFT member, you will remain a member. You’ll still receive all of the union benefits that you have paid for and enjoyed over the years.

If you paid agency fees, that arrangement ended with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Janus case.

Nonmembers will still be covered by the specific terms of the collective bargaining agreements, but you will no longer receive or have access to these services offered by the union:
Certain free legal services
Free counseling
Free or discounted training or professional development
An attorney during 3020-a employee discipline procedures
Member discounts through the UFT, NYSUT and AFT

And you will not be able to participate in union elections, contract ratification votes or votes about school-based options.

What you lose is not exactly earth shattering unless you are in trouble but I would not recommend becoming a freerider if you are a UFT member.

Let's be real people contemplating not staying in the union. Here are three simple questions:

1- Do you honestly believe we would be earning from $56,711 to $119,472 without a union?

2-Do you seriously think we would have a $0 healthcare premium and a pension (albeit an inferior one under Andrew Cuomo's Tier 6) without a union?

3-Do you really believe we can improve future working conditions without the collective strength that a union provides?

Please check out this study from the Economic Policy Institute that shows the impact when unions can and then cannot collect  fair share fees from nonmembers.

Some findings:
  • Public-sector unions raise wages of public employees compared with similar nonunion public employees, which helps to narrow the private-public wage gap in those unionized sectors. The current public-employee union wage boost of 5 percent to 8 percent (Keefe 2013) is rather modest and considerably less than the boost that private-sector unions provide. Thus public employee unions, on average, do not raise wages to meet the wages paid to similar private-sector employees.
  • However, public-employee unions in full collective-bargaining states that permit union security (i.e., agency shop clauses) do raise total compensation to competitive market standards set by the private sector. In other words, only public employees in states with full collective bargaining make as much as their private-sector peers. In partial collective bargaining states, right-to-work states, and states that prohibit collective bargaining, public employees earn lower wages and compensation than comparable private sector employees, and this low compensation may impede state and local governments from recruiting and retaining highly skilled employees for their many professional and public safety occupations.

Further down the impact of right to work is explained:
The weakening of unions through encouraging free-riding follows from the logic of collective action, which states that an economically rational individual will seek to enjoy the collective benefits of the group without paying for them. This behavior becomes more likely as the group grows in size and peer pressure becomes a less-effective method of enforcement, meaning that large groups often fail without some other compliance methods. The logic of free-riding takes over and the group then lacks the resources to provide the collective goods to its members (Olson 1965). What the private-sector research shows is that right-to-work legislation encourages free-riding and therefore reduces the ability of unions to organize, to negotiate contracts, to maintain majority status, and to represent all members. Consequently, RTW not only has a negative impact on the unions that we observe, but also means that other unions do not exist—even where the majority of employees want representation.

As stated above, this is a well planned attack on all of us. Understand that. The answer for the UFT is not that complicated. They must end the leadership arrogance and start acting like a real union again that involves its members and doesn't treat us in many cases like we are underlings.

I would also like to address here the UFT's claim that we are all still in the union. I hope it is true, however Education Week has an interpretation that might be a little different in a piece called 7 Things to Know about the Supreme Court Decision that Just Slammed Teachers' Unions 

Two of those seven struck me:
2. The justices also ruled that unions cannot deduct fees from employees' paychecks without their express consent. This part of the decision goes beyond what most court watchers were expecting, and it deepens the blow to unions. In some states, teachers have just a limited window of time in which they can tell their union they want to drop their membership. That rule would have been challenged in court had the Janus decision not addressed it. But now, teachers will have to affirmatively opt into paying dues to the union.

Do we have to affirmatively opt in post Janus?

Finally, 7 gives me cause for real hope:
7. This ruling could make unions more responsive to their members. At least one analysis showed that when state unions lose the right to collect agency fees, representatives tend to do more outreach to teachers to convince them to join. Katharine Strunk, a professor of education policy at Michigan State University, said unions might now shift their policy priorities to better reflect what their members want. 

We have been calling for the UFT to be more responsive to its members, and not just go through the motions, for years. Imagine what it would be like to have a union that reflects what members want. New York is still a relatively union friendly state. Positive change will only happen if we all remain committed to a union. That means all of us.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

UNIONS LOSE JANUS (Updated with MLC Chair Harry Nespoli Statement from Chief Leader and NYSUT President Pallotta Statement)

We followed the SCOTUS blog for the Janus decision. It has been issued.

It looks to these non lawyer eyes as a wide ranging ruling against unions. 5-4 decision. Agency fees are unconstitutional. Bad news for sure.

From SCOTUS blog:
Of practical importance, the Court also holds that employees must affirmatively consent before fees can be withheld from their paychecks —the system must be opt-in, not opt-out.

The Janus decision:

From the decision written by Samuel Alito:
States and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees. The First Amendment is violated when money is taken from nonconsenting employees for a public-sector union; employees must choose to support the union before anything is taken from them. Accordingly, neither an agency fee nor any other form of payment to a public-sector union may be deducted from an employee, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay. Pp. 48–49. 

My question is this: Are we all out now or is the card we filled in when we joined the UFT still valid?

From Justice Alito on the free rider problem:
In any event, whatever unwanted burden is imposed by the representation of nonmembers in disciplinary matters can be eliminated “through means significantly less restrictive of associational freedoms” than the imposition of agency fees. Harris, 573 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 30) (internal quotation marks omitted).  Individual nonmembers could be required to pay for that service or could be denied union representation altogether. Thus, agency fees cannot be sustained on the ground that unions would otherwise be unwilling to represent nonmembers. 

From the Elena Kagan dissent:
So take your pick. Either the majority is exposing government entities across the country to increased First Amendment litigation and liability—and thus preventing them from regulating their workforces as private employers could.  Or else, when actual cases of this kind come around, we will discover that today’s majority has crafted a “unions only” carve-out to our employee-speech law. 

Later on:
There is no sugarcoating today’s opinion.  The majority overthrows a decision entrenched in this Nation’s law— and in its economic life—for over 40 years. As a result, it prevents the American people, acting through their state and local officials, from making important choices about workplace governance. And it does so by weaponizing the First Amendment, in a way that unleashes judges, now and in the future, to intervene in economic and regulatory policy.

The Chief Leader has an article that should be read. 
An excerpt:
Following the release of the 5-4 decision, Municipal Labor Committee Chair Harry Nespoli, speaking for all the municipal unions here, said in a statement, “We have learned from our colleagues in less union-friendly states how to overcome the obstacles placed in our path by right-wing ideologues.”
He continued, “Janus was a wake-up call that well-funded groups are always looking for ways to oppress working men and women. We have heard the call and we will emerge stronger than ever.”
NYSUT President Andy Pallotta reacted too:
We knew this moment was coming.

Wealthy special interests have been fighting for years to undercut unions and roll back the benefits earned by working families. Today’s Supreme Court decision in Janus vs. AFSCME shows how far they are willing to go to attack working families. Anti-union forces think they can seize this opportunity to convince our members to abandon our union in an effort to diminish their voice in the workplace and weaken their strength at the bargaining table.

We are going to prove them wrong.
NYSUT fights to protect the collective bargaining rights that help secure higher wages, quality health care and a secure retirement for our members and their families. They know that strong unions provide our members a voice in the workplace and in the halls of power. 

We have fought long and hard to protect our brothers and sisters in the labor movement, and we are not going to back down now. Our movement is stronger than ever. We are committed to working like never before to encourage every member to stick with our union.

If you haven’t already done so, contact your local president to sign your re-enrollment card.  And I hope you will take a minute to visit to help fight to preserve our voice, our values and our union. 

This is our moment.  I am confident that, together, we will rise to it.

In solidarity,
Andrew Pallotta

Re-enrollment card? Interesting. UFT President Michael Mulgrew put out something that says, "If you are a UFT member, you'll remain a member."

Still not sure what is correct. 


From the Daily News:

The de Blasio administration struck a deal for a new 44-month contract with the largest city workers union — giving raises that will likely set a pattern for the entire city workforce, officials said Tuesday.

Under the $1 billion contract, the nearly 100,000 members of District Council 37 will get wage hikes of 2% in the first year of the contract, 2.25% the next year and 3% the year after that.

Mayor de Blasio announced the contract at City Hall with DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido.

In addition, there are more healthcare givebacks:

The city also struck a deal with the Municipal Labor Committee, which represents all city worker unions, to save cash on employee health care.

New rules will require workers to go to outpatient health centers, instead of hospitals, for some kinds of treatment.

And new employees for their first year must join the HIP Health Plan of New York, the cheapest health care plan the city offers, but will be able to switch to a pricier plan after that.

But city negotiators were unable to persuade the union to pay higher health care premiums.

The labor umbrella group said the health care changes would save the city $1.5 billion in employee health care costs over the next three years.

DC 37 also got the more expansive paid family leave, not just paid parental leave, like the state workers in the private sector.

We predicted DC 37 would settle and we are not surprised. One union settles and others are now stuck by arbitration precedent with the same settlement so this is basically the UFT contract. Compounded, it comes to a little over 2% annually that we are paying for much of with the healthcare givebacks.

Analysis will follow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


You can fight out of control principals and win but it sure isn't easy.

From Sue Edelman at the NY Post:

The Staten Island principal charged with felony insurance fraud has been bounced from her job, The Post has learned.

Oneatha Swinton, interim acting principal of Port Richmond HS, was caught registering her luxury cars at the Pennsylvania home of a city vendor she had hired — a scheme first exposed by The Post in November.

“The decision to remove Ms. Swinton was made in the best interest of the school community,” said city Department of Education spokesman Doug Cohen.

Good news for sure but this principal was allowed to reign freely at a different school for seven years.

We salute the Port Richmond High School community for their determination.

Meanwhile, the battle over PS 25 continues. This is the top performing but under-enrolled school closed by former Chancellor Carmen Farina and the eight mayoral appointees on the Panel for Educational Policy that was saved by a lawsuit. Eva Moskowitz wants the space for one of her Success Academies.

From activist Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters:
It's the end of the school year, but not the end of our battle to save PS 25, a great school in Brooklyn that the previous Chancellor tried to close.
Even though the court has placed a temporary restraining order against closing the school for at least another year, we would really like our new Chancellor to rescind the earlier decision to close PS 25 that was made before he came to NYC, and instead allow this great school with small classes and great results to grow. Please send a letter now to Chancellor Carranza and urge him to add a preK and a 3K class to the school for next year. He seems to be progressive, he says he understands that class size matters and that he really cares about kids; let him show this is true by saving this school from closure.
In other news, Eva Moskowitz is on a tear to convince the Chancellor to put a Success charter middle school into the building, by demanding that he call this an "emergency". We believe inserting her middle school in the PS 25 building would be illegal without any public process and so late in the year. See why here.  

I entered the fray on the controversy over admissions at the NYC selective high schools with a piece in Gotham Gazette, highlighting some under-reported aspects of the issue; please take a look and let me know what you think.

Finally, thanks to Harry Lirtzman for commenting yesterday to quote from the Supreme Court blog that Janus should be decided today or tomorrow. Since we are the largest local in the country I believe, it would be a little ironic if the case is decided on the last day of school.

Monday, June 25, 2018


The Supreme Court has still not issued the Janus v AFSCME decision. They are saving it for the end of their June term. Who knows what that means? All I can say is they don't overturn 40 year precedents every day so this is a big deal if they overturn Abood and outlaw mandatory fair share (agency) fees in the public sector.

The unions have scheduled a rally for Janus Decision Day at Foley Square in Manhattan at 5:00 P.M.

From the Public Employees Federation:

On the day the Supreme Court issues its decision in Janus v. AFSCME, join union activists in Foley Square, from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., for a protest rally (or, if there’s a miracle, a celebration). 

I would like to see something on the UFT website about this rally. I can't seem to find it there in the Action section.

Sunday, June 24, 2018


There appears to be some good news coming out of New Jersey.

NJ Advance Media for

In an early and sudden move by incoming Newark Schools Superintendent Roger Leon, 31 employees -- including several high-ranking administrators -- were told Friday they would be fired if they didn't resign by next week, two sources with knowledge of the matter told NJ Advance Media.

The overhaul, first reported by Chalkbeat Newark, comes a week before Leon takes the helm as the district's first School Board-picked leader in 22 years. The state returned local control of the schools to the board earlier this year.

A school district spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday. 
The shake-up appears to target employees associated with former state-appointed superintendents Cami Anderson and Christopher Cerf, often criticized for bringing in "outsiders" to run the district, and foreshadows Leon's likely departure from their vision.

A native Newarker, Leon has worked in the district for 25 years, as a principal and later as an assistant superintendent. He officially begins his tenure July 1.

Leonie Haimson at the Skinny Awards last Tuesday said that Richard Carranza was the best NYC Chancellor she's seen in twenty years and she was hopeful.

Chancellor Carranza could take a bold step by having a Newark style housecleaning at the Department of Education here in NYC. However, with Mayor Bill de Blasio still at the helm in a mayoral dictatorship over the schools, I'll believe there will be real change when I see it.

Saturday, June 23, 2018


A teacher I knew once was arrested for smoking marijuana and was removed from the classroom and sent to the rubber room the next day. What about a principal arrested on a third-degree felony this week? She is back on the job after her arraignment.

An excerpt from an article in the Staten Island Advance:

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Interim Port Richmond High School Principal Oneatha Swinton was busted Thursday for car insurance fraud in Pennsylvania, authorities said.
Swinton, 39, of Woodstock Avenue in Tompkinsville, was charged with four counts of insurance fraud, a third-degree felony, theft by deception and criminal conspiracy, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Her alleged accomplice, Tanya John, 44, a former employee of the New York Department of Education, is charged with insurance fraud and conspiracy in connection with the scheme.
"These two defendants concocted a plan to fraudulently obtain lower insurance rates," Shapiro said in a press release.
In May 2014, authorities said Swinton fraudulently obtained her Pennsylvania driver's license by using John's local address.
John allowed Swinton to transfer the energy account for her residence into Swinton's name to secure proof of residency, authorities say.
After obtaining the license, the Staten Island resident then allegedly registered her two Lexus vehicles in Pennsylvania to secure cheaper rates. 
You would think this would be enough to have someone immediately assigned away from children but you would not be right.
Later in the story:
According to a source, Swinton was at Port Richmond High School Friday.
Attempts to reach her at the school and her home were unsuccessful.
"She will remain as interim acting principal at the school while we review the charges," said a spokesman for the Department of Education. "We treat these matters with the utmost seriousness and will ensure it's appropriately addressed." 
The Department of Education's "My principals right or wrong" policy continues unabated in NYC. However, I would be surprised if Swinton is appointed permanent principal at Port Richmond and of course she is innocent until proven guilty. 
I predict that after a plea deal she will end up reassigned to some cushy position in the school system.

This post has been updated with link to NY 1 story. Thanks to the reader who sent it.

Friday, June 22, 2018


Nobody outside of the close Department of Education-United Federation of Teachers inner circle has seen the full Memorandum of Agreement on Paid Parental Leave. However, the Delegate Assembly was asked to vote on it the other day sight unseen. (In Mulgrew we trust!) We do have the Union's Frequently Asked Questions as a sort of guide but if anyone can get the actual text, please send it our way.

My vote (the only possible vote in my view) would have been to abstain if I was still a Delegate. Do you vote on what you haven't read?

The following is by David Irons, a UFT member whose popular Facebook Page is called Vote No on the UFT Contract. His views are his alone and do not necessarily represent the Independent Community of Educators. In fact all of the posts here do not necessarily reflect the views of ICEUFT unless the piece is approved by the caucus. Someone on Facebook asked for a person in the know to refute any of this. We would like to hear direct answers to David's points.

Parental Leave is a SCAM!!!!! (Some quick analysis)

I wanted to be excited about the new "Parental Leave," and like many of my friends on Facebook was. I am a foster parent, I have adopted several children and I plan to have more in the future. I am not a woman hating man either, I supported a leave that worked for "most"...but the details are horrible here!

1. The City is just trying to save the UFT and the UFT got $51 million dollars every year forever from the city. You will NOT be paid by the city, you will be paid by the Welfare Fund. The city funnels the money into the Welfare fund, the UFT pays out a little of it and keeps the rest as their slush fund.

2. Unpaid leave is NOT pensionable! Again, you don't get paid by the NYC DOE, you get paid from the UFT. So the Parental Leave time will not count towards your service.

3. You do NOT have to use your CAR a matter of fact I was told you can’t unless you are a “birth mother.” So there is no way to get the time pensionable or as part of your DOE salary if you are near retirement.

4. We are all paying for it, and a lot. A one year raise at 2% for the UFT is estimated by the IBO (Independent Budget Office) to cost $240 million dollars. 73 days of lost raises is $48,000,000 dollars a year in perpetuity. My question is, what happens when our salaries grow, but the contributions to the Welfare Fund by the city don't? The UFT now has an incentive NOT to fight for higher raises for us, this benefit could strip the Welfare Fund bare in the future!

5. The city and UFT have you by the proverbial chain. If you take the benefit then you must return for 12 months or pay it back in full.

6. There's a lot hidden about who will be eligible: "If you have taken other leaves of absence prior to the parental leave, you should contact your UFT borough office with questions about their eligibility." It sounds like a smaller and smaller group will ever see the lauded benefits here.

7. For foster and adoption the child must be under 6. Trust me, a 7 year old needs just as-much if not more bonding time than a 2 year old.

8. If two parents work for the UFT they only get a total of 6 weeks they can use. So you both have to pay for it with 73 days of no raises, but you can't both benefit from it!

9. If you receive your child/have your baby during the summer you may lose all or part of the benefit. A man, woman adopting, people fostering, etc. only gets 6 weeks, so there is a large swath of the year(summer) you would not benefit. Again, the UFT walks away with $51 million every year forever and most of us get NOTHING!

10. Our chance at paid FMLA leave is gone. The UFT settled for nothing! Remember, this is only for parents, not for personal illness, taking care of a sick family members, etc. like NYS mandates for private employees now.

I am sure there are a lot more bombs to come when the full details see the light of day. The UFT is by far the biggest winner, watch closely, the Welfare Fund will not payout $51 million dollars for decades...but they will hire 100’s of Unity Hacks to administer the money!

But rest assured, NYC gave us nothing! We ALL paid for it with our own money! Michael Mulgrew and UFT are horrible negotiators, they go in with a dollar of OUR MONEY and come out with ten-dimes for themselves and call it a win.

David Irons

Thursday, June 21, 2018


Many of the leading advocates for public education in NYC, NYS and nationally were in attendance on Tuesday evening as Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters presented the Skinny Awards in Manhattan (opposite of Eli Broad who presented the privatization approved Broad Awards for years). Being in the presence of Leonie, Diane Ravitch, Carol Burris and so many other public education advocates was a thrill for sure.

Having my friend Norm Scott honored with an Award was fantastic. Nobody works like Norm to document what is occurring in the world of public education, including of course at the UFT. He is a great advocate for teachers, parents, students and the Union. Also honored were Councilman, Danny Dromm, test expert and critic of high stakes tests Fred Smith and a City Council assistant Jan Atwell.

Image may contain: 6 people, including James Eterno and Patrick James Walsh, people smiling, people sitting and indoor
Norm front right with Michael Fiorillo, and Patrick Walsh on one side
Norm's wife Carol next to my wife Camille and me on the other side.


Paid Parental Leave is only controversial in NYC at this blog because all active UFT members will be paying for it by extending the contract, not the city. I don't see the cost as prohibitive for us but the city has an $8 billion surplus so why should teachers pay a dime for this?

I asked about Seattle in yesterday's post. Out there the government picked up the cost for Paid Family Leave for its employees. That's how it should be in NYC too. Mayor Bill de Blasio says he wants to make NYC the fairest city in America. Paid Family Leave is much better than just Paid Parental Leave because any employee can use it to care for a sick relative. It's not just to take care of infants. Perhaps the Emerald City in the Pacific Northwest is too far away and too progressive to have much bearing on NYC.

What about college professors in SUNY? Are they close enough to matter for us on this issue?

New York State has budget problems unlike NYC. The state had a $4.4 billion budget hole to close as of January. The budget was eventually balanced without that much difficulty which is not surprising. In this fiscally tight atmosphere, Governor Andrew Cuomo could have easily cried poverty when dealing with the SUNY union, the United University Professions. Instead, Cuomo intervened for whatever reason and found funding for a wide ranging Paid Family Leave benefit as part of the UUP contract last month that also includes 2% annual salary increases. The benefit will pay up to 67% of average salary for up to 12 weeks. Again, this is part of the contract so it is a new benefit on top of a raise. That's called a union gain.

This is from the Chief Leader. Fred Kowal is the UUP President.

The union, whose membership is 53 percent female, did not have to make any concessions to obtain the benefit, according to Mr. Kowal. He praised Mr. Cuomo for the state’s willingness to work with the union on the issue.

“The Governor had made a firm commitment that he wanted this for municipal employees,” he said.

The UFT settling for a narrow Paid Parental Leave as an extension of the contract set the precedent that UFT members will have to pay for Paid Family Leave in NYC. We now have a 0% increase for about 30% of a school year thanks to the UFT twice extending the present contract. We will surely get hosed by the city if we want to expand Paid Parental Leave to Paid Family Leave. It's not coming for free like at SUNY.

Wouldn't the UFT  and other city unions have been wiser to wait until the contract was up and make this part of the next settlement rather than do this on the eve of Janus as more of a public relations move than anything else? We could have used the UUP settlement with SUNY as a precedent and waged a real fight for a comprehensive Paid Family Leave benefit.

We would have had to use these simple words in negotiations:
"UUP got  comprehensive Paid Family Leave with the state; the city is in much better financial shape compared to the state; we demand Paid Family Leave too at the city's expense." In union negotiations parlance, "ME TOO!" Then, put on a full court press asking if teaching parents in NYC are not valued like college professor parents at SUNY.

Don't call us Monday morning quarterbacks and tell me that I should have said this beforehand. Read our June 6 post. We hoped the UFT and other city unions would use the state precedent and ram it home with the city's better financial position but the UFT as usual accepted the city's terms although we can say they were modified a bit so it really looks like a wash. Much more to come when contract is settled.


From the Albany Times Union:

ALBANY - Many of the hopes and dreams for this year's legislative session were dashed on Wednesday night as state legislators prepared to make their scheduled exit from Albany for the year.

Further down:
It was clear where some of the issues went to die, as sports gambling, a package of transparency measures, an expansion of charter schools and requirements for reporting bullying were killed by the state Assembly and the state Senate pulled the plug on safe staffing at hospitals, the DREAM Act, an overhaul of the teacher evaluation system, election reforms and additional gun control.

Since nothing happened on the law to slightly tweak the teacher evaluation law, let's restart our push to get rid of the entire teacher evaluation law. End student test score based teacher evaluation and Danielson observations. We have a petition that almost 1,300 have signed.

It's a nice start but with more teachers over here at the ICEUFT blog because of the debate on who should pay for paid parental leave, us or the city, maybe some will become interested in really getting rid of a horrible evaluation system. This is really an issue I am passionate about.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Mayor Bill de Blasio have reached an agreement on paid parental leave for UFT members.

It is six weeks with full pay and if accrued sick days are used, it can be longer,up to 12-14 weeks. That is a gain but please note it is parental leave and not the expansive paid family leave (taking care of sick relatives) that the state mandated in the private sector.

  • The cost will be paid for, not by the city, but by all active UFT members. We will achieve the savings by extending the present contract by another 73 days.

Therefore, the current contract raises are now 10% total salary increases for a total of 7 years and 3 months and 13 days (we already extended a month to pay retro for 2009-2014 retirees). The average raise for the present contract is now down to 1.37% per year. Mulgrew set the worst pattern ever and it only continues to get worse. That is not a misprint.

Any increase in the next contract will be delayed until mid February 2019 so you now have almost 30% of a year of another 0% increase. Remember, the contract originally ended in October 2018.

City must be broke again? No, they have surpluses as far as the eye can see ($8 billion) but UFT membership will pay the price once again.

Also, for anyone who says I am unrealistic expecting the city to pay for this, city government in Seattle pays for paid family leave for city workers; union members do not. Don't forget it's paid family leave so anyone can use it to care for a sick family member. It's not just for parents out in Seattle.

A real union fights for benefits like paid parental leave that the employer pays for. A union like the UFT sends its members the bill.

For prospective parents, I say take advantage of the six weeks and bond with your babies but please think of all the rest of your colleagues who are paying for it.


We have learned from UFT Twitter this:
"Mayor de Blasio: starting in September on the First day of school, UFT members will have up to 6 weeks of paid parental leave.

UFT goes on saying, "This is huge! Subject to DA approval: Special Delivery."

We now have to ask about the cost and who is paying for this. The devil as always is in the details.

Original Post
Michael Mulgrew will have a press conference at 12:30 P.M. at City Hall. More details when we have them.

This is from Daily News reporter Ben Chapman's Twitter account:

New teachers union contract looks like a strong possibility today with this presser. No questions from the press permitted

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


This is from Politico NY this morning quoting Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on the totally inadequate teacher evaluation law being considered up in Albany during the last few days of the legislative session:

Heastie said despite agreement on some issues over the weekend, he does not foresee any “major policy trades” before session ends, particularly involving the teacher evaluation bill that Senate Republicans are trying to tie to an increase in the number of charter schools allowed in the state and weaker oversight at yeshivas from the state Education Department.

“If they want to pass teacher evaluations, a straight bill, we’d be happy for them to do it,” Heastie said. “But we’re not trading charters, we’re not trading anything on yeshivas, for this — it’s clear two-way agreed-upon bills. No trades.”

It almost sounds like the Democrats have a bit of a spine here. Maybe they have seen that most teachers aren't enthusiastic about a slight change in the law that leaves the current system mostly in place. My guess is Democrats are expecting to win the State Senate this November. If that happens, isn't it time to scrap the entire evaluation mess as our petition calls for? No half baked compromise bill.

Meanwhile, I am not surprised that the Supreme Court is saving the Janus decision until close to the end of their term. It is kind of rare for the Court to overturn a forty year precedent, which is what they will be doing if they overturn the Abood decision and allow people to benefit from the union without paying fair share fees.

Big decisions often come at the end of the term. It could be Thursday or Monday. We will react as soon as we read the decision.

There is a good analysis over at Vox. Please read.

Monday, June 18, 2018


Has anyone in authority finally come to the conclusion that putting mayors in charge of school systems in large cities is just going to lead to corruption as test scores and graduation rates become political tools to be manipulated?

In NYC, the NY Post publishes articles regularly exposing corruption scandals in New York City High Schools. In order to make graduation rates rise with students who have some great needs, principals do anything they have to in order to make sure students graduate The latest school exposed by the Post is repeat offender Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx which already removed a principal for playing games with the numbers but the new administration according to the Post is just as dirty as the old one.

From the Post:
This high school is a hooky player’s dream.
At DeWitt Clinton HS in the Bronx, kids who have cut class all semester can still snag a 65 passing grade — and course credit — if they complete a quickie “mastery packet.”
Insisting that students can pass “regardless of absence,” Principal Pierre Orbe has ordered English, science, social studies and math teachers to give “make up” work to hundreds of kids who didn’t show up or failed the courses, whistleblowers said.

“This is crazy!” a teacher told The Post. “A student can pass without going to class!
One would think that a principal who is replacing someone involved in scandal would be careful to not try anything funny but those of us who have worked in the schools understand that the culture to pass students by any means necessary is widespread in NYC schools. Numbers need to look good for the Mayor who controls the schools to look like he is running the schools successfully. People who object are dismissed by the Mayor as being involved in a "hyper-complaint dynamic" in the schools. Mayor Bill de Blasio is wrong in my insiders opinion. There is a hyper-corruption dynamic in too many high schools, not a hyper-complaint dynamic.

New York City is not alone in this regard. Washington DC provides us with another lesson in what happens when a mayor runs a school system with no accountability other than an election every four years.

This is from AP via Earthlink:
A decade after a restructuring that stripped the decision-making powers of the board of education and placed the system under mayoral control, city schools in 2017 were boasting rising test scores and a record graduation rate for high schools of 73 percent, compared with 53 percent in 2011. Glowing news articles cited examples such as Ballou High School, a campus in a low-income neighborhood where the entire 2017 graduating class applied for college.

Then everything unraveled.

An investigation by WAMU, the local NPR station, revealed that about half of those Ballou graduates had missed more than three months of school and should not have graduated due to chronic truancy. A subsequent inquiry revealed a systemwide culture that pressured teachers to favor graduation rates over all else — with salaries and job security tied to specific metrics.

The internal investigation concluded that more than one-third of the 2017 graduating class should not have received diplomas due to truancy or improper steps taken by teachers or administrators to cover the absences. In one egregious example, investigators found that attendance records at Dunbar High School had been altered 4,000 times to mark absent students as present. The school system is now being investigated by both the FBI and the U.S. Education Department, while the D.C. Council has repeatedly called for answers and accountability.

"We've seen a lot of dishonesty and a lot of people fudging the numbers," said Council member David Grosso, head of the education committee, during a hearing last week. "Was it completely make-believe last year?"

Nobody who works in a NYC high school is surprised by anything that is occuring in DC. The only reason we don't see even more stories of playing with numbers in NYC is that teachers have basically been frightened into silence in many schools. Administration here is very skilled at scaring teachers and retaliating against them as this story on two teachers at Clinton who are facing 3020a dismissal charges shows. The UFT, which should be screaming the loudest, is, well, the UFT. Don't expect much from the Union.

The only way to solve any of this is to return integrity to the school system by making the truthfulness of the statistics more important than the actual rise or fall of the graduation rate. That can happen if the UFT becomes a real union again. We should be the whistleblowers, not the NY Post.

Saturday, June 16, 2018


Since retiring in April, I have dedicated as much time as possible to being a volunteer advocate for teachers and some others. Not only do I assist UFT members with their concerns, I also work with friends from Long Island. Many people passed through Jamaica High School and I guess I developed a reputation for being a competent union representative so I am called on by former colleagues and their friends. It is a good feeling that teachers have some trust in my knowledge.

Today, I found out that a former Jamaica colleague now working in Nassau County won a programming grievance that I helped with. It was a rather straightforward case of too many preps so we just had to thumb through the local contract and find a clause that said administration can't do that. Once we discovered the right clause, we wrote something out and forwarded it in. This grievance was a fairly easy win. The person will start the year in September with a program that adheres to the contract and can prepare properly in the summer.

I have helped with other grievances and talked with union leaders from Long Island and upstate on many occasions. What I find interesting is how professional and respectful they are with me. I get a good feeling. It does not hurt that administration outside of the city in many districts is very different from what we have here in NYC.  In the Nassau case that was resolved today, it did not have to go to an arbitrator. Many administrators out on the Island can actually read clear language and they back down when they are violating the contract.

Let's compare that with New York City and trying to deal with the United Federation of Teachers and Department of Education. When I was a chapter leader, I had a basically professional working relationship with most of the UFT hierarchy and almost all of the grievances filed from Jamaica High School went through as far as they could. However, when we had programming grievances, they often weren't resolved in June and if they went to an arbitrator, it went until October so then programs had to be changed and kids were impacted. It would be in administration's interest if they really cared about students to resolve most of these cases and not let them go outside the building. That is how it should be and to be fair, this is how it is in NYC schools with enlightened administrators but hundreds don't follow this simple reasoning.

In addition, in the UFT contract, unlike many on Long Island, it is up to the Union, not the person grieving, to decide whether a grievance will be taken to the Chancellor and arbitration. The Union says they wrote the contract this way to avoid setting bad precedents but in reality it's just another way the UFT controls the members. The grievance process is slower than slow and generally situations are not resolved because nobody from the DOE Office of Labor Relations that I know of is encouraging principals to resolve grievances. Instead, the DOE practice boils down to "My principals right or wrong" in most instances.

Total principal empowerment has led to a very adversarial process in NYC in many cases. Last year I represented someone in a school outside of Middle College where I was the UFT delegate. The UFT actually allowed me to present a Step I grievance to the principal. The grievance went in our favor but then the Union quickly pulled the plug on sending me in to help members and the principal in this school soon thereafter ran rough shod over the teachers and people had to transfer as their only option. Had the UFT led a real fight, we might have won.

The UFT leadership I guess believed I was showing them up. It was bad politically for them. Forget about the possibility that I may actually be competent and trying to advocate for teachers. When talking to union people outside of NYC, I never get that nasty look that says, "What are you doing here?" Teachers aren't asked, "Why are you talking to someone from NYC?" It's refreshing.

To the dear Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's faction of the UFT) higher ups  that seem to be intimidated by me having anything to do with a member who has a grievance or otherwise needs help and asks me for it, I have some advice: Relax. Winning a UFT election as an opposition caucus is about as likely as winning the mega-millions drawing.

You also need not worry that Michael Mulgrew is going to employ me. For anyone who witnessed our battle of wills at the contract Delegate Assembly in 2014, I think you saw that the animosity between us was real. When Mulgrew and I have seen each other at closeup range a few times, we normally don't even say hello. You think he is going to hire me to take your jobs? Not in a million years.

Since opposition to Unity isn't exactly united at this point,  I don't even know if we can pull it together to win the high schools next year in the 2019 UFT election, particularly if we lose members after the Janus decision.

Calm down Unity people; when I try to advocate for a member, my primary motive is to help that person. At least they seem to understand that concept on Long Island.

Thursday, June 14, 2018


This is from the NY Post.

A Queens assistant principal created a sexual assembly line of teachers at his Queens high school – and rewarded conquests with professional perks, according to a shocking new $10 million lawsuit.

John Binet bedded at least four staffers at Hillcrest HS since being appointed to lead the Jamaica school’s English department in 2014, according to a Manhattan court case filed Monday.

Binet belittled female teachers who questioned his behavior as “resistant” and once counseled a male colleague that the best time to pursue colleagues was around graduation, according to the suit.

Teachers lacking membership in Binet’s harem saw their careers stall while participants were treated to professional benefits, according to the suit filed by one current and one former teacher at the school.

“There are at least four female faculty members, whose names are known to the plaintiffs, who have all received benefits from their sexual exchanges with Binet,” according to court papers.

The case also asserts that principal David Morrison – who was investigated for improperly passing students in 2016 – knew about Binet’s behavior but did nothing to stop it because they were friends.

Both men are named as defendants.

“These individuals have been caught with their pants down,” attorney Gloria Keum told The Post Monday. “Time’s up for them.”

Filed by current teacher Caroline Shin and former staffer Eleni Giannousis, the suit asserts that there have been at least five formal complaints lodged against the two men with the teachers union and DOE – but that there’s been no tangible sign of action.

The atmosphere at the school became so poisonous for female teachers that at least six traumatized instructors have left entirely over the past several years, according to the suit.

We have been in touch with Hillcrest friends. Nothing yet questioning the accuracy of the story.

Queens High Schools administrators? How many more horror stories have to come out before people realize this is not an isolated problem?

Once again, where was the UFT?

The next paragraph in the Post story tells you everything you need to know about the UFT here:

Filed by current teacher Caroline Shin and former staffer Eleni Giannousis, the suit asserts that there have been at least five formal complaints lodged against the two men with the teachers union and DOE – but that there’s been no tangible sign of action.

"No tangible sign of action," is anyone surprised?


Thanks to Norm Scott for sending out a link to this piece from NY 1 on Port Richmond High School.

Here is an excerpt:

New details have emerged about the interim acting principal at Staten Island's Port Richmond High School.

Oneatha Swinton was appointed to PRHS as interim acting principal last July. Now the city Education Department is considering making her temporary appointment permanent, despite multiple complaints made by parents and teachers.

Swinton previously was principal at John Jay high school in Brooklyn.

When she left the Education Department's Office of Special Investigation had been looking into complaints by parents, alleging on cronyism and transparency.

That inquiry continues and others have since launched, including one looking at allegations she drives a car registered to a Pennsylvania address also used by an Education Department contractor.

Other complaints allege spending more than $400,000 on unnecessary positions for her friends and inflating grades to boost graduation rates.

Parents and teachers say they also have filed complaints with the governor's office which referred them to the state Education Department. That agency declined to comment as did Swinton. 

What does the Department of Education just rotate these people and hope nobody will notice? 

We will surely follow up here. 

It kind of concerns me in the Port Richmond story that the teacher who talked on camera had to have his face hidden and his voice disguised. I'm glad he spoke up but it is going to be difficult to win these battles if we don't come out openly even though I know the risk of retaliation in the schools is enormous. It's much less of a risk if people are together.

We can take this fight on in public as there are several schools that have contacted us about actions. It's kind of odd that they might not have confidence in their Union but they will will go to Norm or me. 

Here is part of what Norm says over at Ed Notes.

I'm also working with James Eterno on a plan to gather people from various high schools together to come up with joint strategies and maybe joint actions, including how to get people in their own schools on board. This summer we will hold some behind the scenes meetings. At the June 22 ICE meeting we will talk about the feasibility.

June 22 is the next ICEUFT meeting. We will surely be discussing the abusive principal issue.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Since I support freedom of speech and letting commenters say whatever they want, I am getting hit over the head from all sides on the comments.

One person who leans left called the comments here a "cesspool" and stated the following: "You run a board full of racism, sexism, anti-unionism, and hatred of children. I find it abhorrent."  I don't agree but I have heard sentiments like this, maybe not to this extreme, before. Some of you really know how to agitate which isn't necessarily bad but does need to stay in bounds.

Someone who I think is more from the right said about the recent removal of certain comments, "Only one point of view. Sad, sad. Free speech finally ended. You had a good run James." I disagree here too. The last thing I want here is an echo chamber. Disagree all you want and tell us what you think conditions are like in the schools or in the union.

Since nobody seems happy, let me state the comment policy that I will try to monitor more closely.

  • Please try not to make it too personal with each other. I don't care if you want to attack me or attack anyone in the union. We are telling you our ideas in the public domain. We are in union positions or want to be there. If you want to tell us we are a**holes or full of s**t, go right ahead. I can't say calling Mulgrew or Randi names is ok but calling Norm or me names is out of bounds.
  • Be careful about using profanity as kids do read this stuff and let's try to keep it as clean as possible. (Note how I bleeped myself above.)
  • No hijacking the blog. This is where I am drawing the line for real. There is someone here who takes our pieces on whatever topic they are on and then copies a provocative article from the NY Post or some other publication and puts it in the comments and then for the next two days people are responding to the Post piece in the comments and not the original posting. That has to stop. It makes me feel like I wasted my time writing the original piece (very damaging to my fragile ego). Please stay on topic. Some of these pieces are broad enough where you can throw your world views in but some really are not.  
If there are controversial comments, I have established an ICEUFT blog Comment Committee consisting of my wife Camille, Norm Scott and me to settle disputes.

I hope you find this policy fair. If not, as Norm says, start your own blog and cut out the middleman. We want to continue providing union and education news and opinion and we definitely hope to hear from everyone who reads this but please be fair.