Thursday, January 31, 2019


The Independent Budget Office has released a report showing that very few NYC employees are opting out of their unions even after the Janus Supreme Court decision last June made union dues optional for government employees.

 United Federation of Teachers
District Council 37
Police Benevolent Association*
Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association
Communication Workers of America
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Uniformed Firefighters Association
Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association
Council of Supervisors and Administrators
Detectives’ Endowment Association
Professional Staff Congress
Sergeants Benevolent Association
Organization of Staff Analysts
Service Employees International Union anyone who bets against
Uniformed Fire Officers Association
All Union Members
Largest City Unions by Dues Payers
June 2018
December 2018
Percent Change

Unions really deserve credit here for holding onto their memberships and getting new employees to sign up. 
We stated before Janus not to underestimate the UFT machine's ability to keep the dues coming in.
For those who argue the UFT hasn't faced its opt out period for 2019 yet so current members really haven't had much of a chance to leave, I say that anyone who bets against the UFT keeping their dues coming in is up against some long odds. 

This is part of what we said last May:

If the UFT gets over 90% of the membership to stay in the union under these conditions, I will tip my hat to them and admit that Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus loyalty oath based machine is one of the greatest political machines of all time. Unity offers little for $1,400 per year so if over 100,000 educated people say they will voluntarily pay, I would salute Unity. Those of us in opposition would deserve credit too for being able to beat this machine in elections at the high school level many times. I was on the Executive Board for a decade. 
Is it time to tip the hat?
I wish I could but I hear horror stories on an almost daily basis on how the UFT is coming up short supporting members who feel their rights are being violated. The UFT isn't changing. Maybe a union leadership that often tells us to shut up because we make $100k a year is as good as it gets. 

98.8% of the UFT membership are in right now.

*It was noted in a footnote in the IBO report that 450 cadets who were in the October Police Academy class were included as part of the 757 police not paying dues. Those police officers have since been signed up for the PBA. If we add in the 450 to the PBA numbers, their decrease is a little over 1% and is very close to the UFT's stability.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


We have an early contract and a state government that is somewhat more friendly than in the past. Even the Chancellor in NYC seems to be a slight improvement compared to what teachers are used to. Under these conditions, why is the UFT spending whatever amount of member money they are spending on a new television ad?

We have a good idea what the answer is. It's UFT election season. Since it is UFT election time, a feel good commercial that at the end shows the words United Federation of Teachers all over the screen might get some members to think positively about the current leadership and vote for Mulgrew/Unity instead of chucking the ballot in the garbage or considering another caucus.

Unless there is a miracle bigger than when Moses parted the Red Sea, Unity is going to win this spring's election but they would be a little disappointed if their vote totals went down which they very well might as they are running against opponents split into three opposition groups. The ballot will look strange and many will probably toss it in the waste basket. The UFT can't spend member money to put a direct ad out saying vote for Mulgrew/Unity so having some voices on video praising the UFT is the next best thing. These thinly disguised campaign ads have been a regular UFT election feature for so long that the leadership might even be doing them subconsciously now.

Back in the days when there was really opposition on the Executive Board, my friend Ellen Fox got up and asked why the UFT was running a television ad during a UFT election period. Then President Randi Weingarten, after claiming to be insulted by the question, soon thereafter pulled the ad while the election was occurring. At least Randi could be embarrassed.

I wonder if the two so called "independent" members of the Executive Board today who are running on the Unity slate or what is left of the opposition are going to ask that the current ad be pulled during election season. Maybe they will inquire about how much these pointless ads are costing the membership.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


Don't let anyone tell you it was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's resolve or the caving of the Republicans in the Senate that were the only factors leading to the end of the end of the federal government shutdown. Those were important parts of the equation but do not underestimate what happened last week when the airports on the east coast had to slow down because there were not enough air traffic controllers to allow the planes to operate safely.

This is from the NY Magazine:

On Friday morning, air traffic controllers missed their second paycheck due to the government shutdown. Many called out sick, resulting in delayed flights at some of the nation’s busiest airports, including LaGuardia, Newark, and Hartfield-Jackson in Atlanta. Now, flight attendants may also walk out. Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, told New York on Friday afternoon that she “just finished” recording a video message to members urging them to get to the offices of their congressional representatives until the shutdown is resolved.

“We’re mobilizing immediately,” Nelson said. Asked if this meant that flight attendants will not be going to work, she responded, “Showing up to work for what? If air traffic controllers can’t do their jobs, we can’t do ours.”
She previously talked about a general strike to end the government shutdown. Amen! It's about time.

Many people are wondering why it took so long for the federal workers to finally say they have had enough of working without pay. They were afraid. It took 35 days without pay for them to say enough. We see it in the schools in NYC how scared people are on the job. This needs to stop and it is around the country for teachers. Maybe, labor isn't going to take it any longer.

Here is part of an interview Sara Nelson did with Slate to explain:

Federal workers are not allowed to strike or participate in any kind of sickout. Did you speak to anyone from those groups about what it was like to work without pay and be prohibited from taking any kind of concerted labor action to protest those conditions?  
It was incredibly frustrating. What we heard from all over the country was, “They could end this. Why are they staying on the job? We did away with slavery with the 13th Amendment.” There was a lot of confusion about how this could even take place. No other country in the world would put up with this.

They felt really stuck. Don’t forget, if they struck, they were putting it all on the line. Not only were they sacrificing potentially their health care, their pensions, the right to ever work for the federal government again, but they could be prosecuted for striking. That’s how fundamentally they are not able to take action when there is such an egregious act against them. That’s outrageous and that’s something that has to change.

Do you think the legacy of the air traffic controllers strike under Reagan was something people were thinking about? 

Of course that’s something people were thinking about. There were strikers in 1981 who were indicted. There’s history here that people were following. Reagan made that a really popular move in the private sector as well, and that’s when the right to strike was diminished in this country, and when labor rights and labor membership hit a steady decline. Are we better off for it? I think what we’re seeing, with the teachers strikes, the hotel workers who took on Marriott and won, is that people are not willing to put up with it anymore. People are willing to do more to fight for their families because they have been pushed so far, and there has been so much productivity put on the backs of the American worker without any increases in wages.

Going forward, what’s the legacy of this 35-day period for federal workers and the labor movement more generally?
We can decide to fight for real labor law in this country with the fundamental principle that if you go to work you get paid. And you have the right to strike if you are not given that

Please watch this video to see Sara Nelson, a real labor leader.

Monday, January 28, 2019


Most suburban school districts in the New York City area used to get decent school budget increases before the Great Recession led eventually to the New York State Legislature passing the 2% annual property tax increase limit for school districts (NYC is exempt), fire districts, towns, cities (not NYC) and villages. The 2% limit (or rate of inflation if less than 2%) could only be exceeded with a super-majority 60% vote, instead of a majority vote.

The tax cap is a big reason why school spending increases, including salary increases for teachers, have been so anemic in New York State over the past decade. NYC teachers were able to catch up to many surrounding district pay scales because of limits on their salary increases caused in large part by the tax cap. NYC teacher salaries aren't rising fast for teachers to gain pay parity with the suburbs but rather pay is rising even slower in many surrounding areas or barely at all. It is long term austerity. The Great Recession is long since over but the 2% tax limit continues and just may never end. 

The new Democratic Party majority last week in the New York State Senate voted 58-2 to make the 2% property tax cap permanent. This is a major Andrew Cuomo priority. Where is that big change in Albany? Nobody likes paying taxes but if a majority of voters vote to go over 2%, shouldn't the majority rule?

Democrats took control of the Senate this month and pledged to keep taxes under control. 
In the Senate, though, protecting the tax cap has long been a priority of Senate Republicans, who held the majority for a decade before losing it in last November's elections.

Now Republicans are urging Senate Democrats to get Assembly Democrats to also approve the measure.
Assembly Democrats have been reluctant to make the cap permanent amid criticism by the powerful teachers' union that it is too restrictive and limits schools' ability to raise tax revenue for programs and staff.
At least NYSUT is on the right side of this issue.

This is from the NYSUT weekly Leader Update:

Why would they make a bad law permanent?

The state Senate passed S.1904, the bill that would make the tax cap permanent, but it can be stopped in the Assembly. NYSUT opposes any plan to make a bad law permanent unless it is amended to include key reforms.

To see why the 2% limit is not good for municipalities, read this from Patch.

The Tax Cap, enacted in 2011, is almost universally misunderstood by taxpayers who are affected by it.  Most think that it means that their tax rate cannot increase more than 2%.   Wrong. The Tax Cap stipulates that the taxing jurisdiction's tax LEVY cannot increase more than 2% or the rate of inflation as determined by the NYS Comptroller.   Under the law, a taxing entity can pass along to the taxpayer an increase of 2% over its previous year's tax levy.   This sounds reasonable to most people but the reality is that municipalities have so many  State-mandated costs, that the entire 2% is used up, and more, just meeting these costs allowing for no expansion of local programs and projects.
Pension contributions, unemployment insurance, health benefits make up the largest of these mandates but there are other smaller ones as well.   This means that by the time the taxing entity accounts for these mandates, their discretionary budget is already less than the prior year's.  As a very simple example,  if a municipality raised $10 million last year through taxes,  this year the Tax Cap would allow them to raise that levy by $200,000 to $10,200,000.  But if State-mandated costs have increased the expenses by $400,000 (not unusual), this year's operating budget must be reduced  to $9,800,000. This is, of course, a simplification as there are some exceptions.  Likewise, there are also financial penalties if a taxing entity exceeds the 2% Tax Cap levy without officially opting out of it.  

What this means to the tax payer is that cuts to a municipality's discretionary spending are going to be made – services, infrastructure and personnel are the most likely places for these cuts to occur.  Looking at local Towns currently undergoing their budget processes, two things are occurring amongst almost all of them – 1) they are passing resolutions to opt out of the 2% cap to protect themselves against future penalties  and 2) they are cutting things that are likely
to cost them more in the future – road resurfacing,  vehicle replacements and repair, amenities such as recreation and leaf removal,  important capital expenditures, and also personnel, leaving fewer people to do the essential tasks.  One way of keeping some of these services intact is to raise revenues outside of taxing. Of course, this results in higher fees for permits, applications, recreation programs, parking, etc. Another form of taxation.

While the 2% tax cap may sound good to the taxpayer right now, in the long run local governments are not going to be able to live up to their taxpayers' expectations as a result of an inflexible tax cap and mounting State mandates.

Friday, January 25, 2019


Aaron Pallas is a Columbia professor and a testing expert. In the Daily News, he wrote an op-ed explaining the new teacher evaluation bills that both houses of the New York State Legislature passed overwhelmingly on Wednesday. We have been critical of the bills as they do not decouple student test results from teacher and principal evaluations.

Here is a little from Pallas:

The parallel bills under consideration in the state Senate and Assembly remove the requirement that the state assessments in grades 3 through 8 in English Language Arts and mathematics be used to determine a teacher's effectiveness. Districts can, through local collective bargaining, decide to do so, but it’s not mandatory. In contrast, teachers’ contributions to student performance can be evaluated via Student Learning Objectives (SLOs), an academic goal for each student based on assessments approved by the State Commissioner of Education. The SLO is supposed to be customized to students' starting places, so that an end-of-course assessment can be used to determine if a student learned the amount expected in a given year, based on where they started. Each child can then be judged as to whether s/he met the target of a year's growth on the assessment.

In order for a teacher to be rated Effective, 75% of his or her students must meet a target of one year of expected growth, based on a state-approved assessment.

Nothing is really changing much if Governor Cuomo signs the bills that passed the Senate and Assembly. Teachers will still be rated based on student scores on assessments. 
Pallas concludes:
Can these bills succeed in reducing the student testing burden, while still holding teachers accountable for student performance in a sensible way? Unfortunately, measuring student learning is messy, and it's easy to substitute algorithms for calculating Student Learning Objectives for careful thought about the links between teaching and learning.
That’s the real risk of these bills: They purport to get us out of the testing trap, and actually throw us right back in it.
In case all of that information with SLO's and student growth was a little too much for a Friday night, we will put the new evaluation bills into simple terms with all apologies to Pete Townshend:
There is only one way forward: Repeal the entire evaluation law and start over. Please spread our petition asking people to do that. (The link is also at the right side of this page.)

Thursday, January 24, 2019


Both houses of the New York State Legislature passed the bill to give local districts and unions an option to change the assessments teachers and principals will be evaluated on. The bill in no way changes the reality that 50% of teacher and principal evaluations will continue to be based on student test results.

Teachers being rated based on invalid/unreliable student assessments, even if they are different from the state tests, is wrong and does not help students to learn.

Here is the reaction to the bill passing from New York State Allies for Public Education on Facebook.

The “compromise” (with who now?) bill passed both houses. It was clear from each and every legislator in both houses speaking (with exception of just a couple), that they have NO IDEA that this bill does not decouple testing from evaluations. 

“It’s time we decouple testing from evaluations!!”
“I vote YES!!!” (to a bill that doesn’t do that)

It’s not over yet. We will push for legislators to sign onto a bill that will change the matrix from 50/50 to something much less (90/10?). This will require all hands on deck!

We CAN have an evaluation system that protects teachers AND students.

Read this account from the Daily News to show how the media doesn't get the bill either.

I mostly agree with our friends at NYSAPE but 90/10 is not the answer either. We need to scrap the whole evaluation law and start over.

  • We need an evaluation system that has 0% of educator ratings based on student assessment results.

  •   We need an evaluation system that does away with the Danielson framework forever.

You can sign and spread our petition calling for such a law.

On a totally different topic, Norm Scott has initial reactions from across the political spectrum on the Los Angeles teacher strike settlement

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


The New York State Assembly and Senate are debating a bill to replace junk science teacher evaluations based on state exams with junk science evaluations for teachers and principals based on either the same junk science exams or an option to use new junk science from student results from a new state designed "supplemental assessment".

This is right from the bill. Scores for the Measures of Student Learning portion of educator ratings will be  "based  on  a  state-created  or administered test,  or  (B)  based  on  a state-designed supplemental assessment."

Should we use new junk sceince or old junk science? 
The choice will be up to our local union and the district.

Now that's progress! Is this why we fought so hard to win the election in November and put the State Senate back into Democratic control?

The State Legislature is in no way discussing getting rid of educator ratings based on student scores on unreliable/invalid assessments.  The only difference from the current rating system is the moratorium on requiring the use of the grades 3-8 state exams to rate teachers is permanent and other state exams won't be mandatory to rate teachers or principals either but all of these exams may still be used to rate us. Who knows what the new "state-designed supplemental assessments" will be?

For those looking for relief from the Danielson framework, forget about it. Danielson observations stay if this UFT and NYSUT endorsed bill is passed.

Are teachers in the schools yearning for better junk science? I didn't think so.

Is this bill really the best we can do with a fully Democratic State Legislature and a Democratic governor?

We have a petition that over 1,300 people have signed to rid the state of junk science evaluations. Sign it and spread it please.

We are also encouraged that there are still people fighting high stakes testing. There is an action campaign to oppose this bill coming from the New York State Allies for Public Education:

From NYSAPE, here is a sample script that teachers can use in some form that I urge all of you to use when you call your Assembly Representative or State Senator.

SCRIPT #2 (For teachers--Note: a lot of the pressure to pass this bill is coming from NYSUT/UFT leadership so it is especially important for elected officials to hear that the leadership doesn’t speak for you in this instance.)

"Hi, my name is ______ and I am a teacher calling to urge the (Senator/Assembly Member) to vote NO on (Senate bill S1262/ Assembly bill A00783). It will do nothing to help me improve in my job, and will likely burden my students with more testing and test prep. I want a bill that de-couples test scores from educator evaluations and school receivership. Thank you and I will be watching to see how the (Senator/Assembly Member) votes.”

NYSAPE's press release on the bill:

More information contact:
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190;
Jeanette Deutermann (516) 902-9228;
NYS Allies for Public Education - NYSAPE

NYSAPE Urges Legislators to Vote NO to APPR Bill that Will Permanently Link High-Stakes Testing to Teacher and Principal Evaluations

This week, the NYS Assembly and Senate are expected to pass a teacher/principal evaluation bill that will amend the way NYS evaluates teachers and principals. Parents and educators who have taken a stand against the damaging effects of high-stakes testing vehemently oppose this legislation. Rather than the minor tweaks proposed in this legislation, we demand an immediate end to the mandated use of student test scores and student performance measures in the evaluation of educators and the closure of schools. Parents and Educators implore lawmakers to slow down and do further research. Please Take Action and write to your legislators in Albany to stop this speeding train!

Contrary to the claims of some supporters of the legislation, a close examination of the bills indicates that they continue to link teacher evaluations to student growth as measured by test scores and give the state education commissioner the power to shut down or take over schools based on state test results.

Reports of “decoupling” test scores from teacher evaluations are misleading and do not tell the whole truth. The proposed legislation does nothing to dismantle the current test-and-punish system. Under the proposed legislation, a district is no longer mandated to use the flawed grades 3-8 state assessments for evaluative purposes. However, districts must still use some type of test to evaluate teachers and principals.

How would this legislation work? School districts would still be required to administer all state assessments, but would have a choice between using the grades 3-8 state assessments for teacher evaluation or a different test altogether. If a district chooses not to use the grades 3-8 state assessments, the district must then select a separate assessment (often in addition to state exams) to be used in their evaluation plan. In addition to doubling down on high-stakes testing, the proposed legislation will logically lead to even MORE testing for students.

Despite the American Statistical Association and the National Science Foundation’s conclusion that evaluating teachers based on their students’ test scores produces statistically invalid results and does not improve learning outcomes, these bills ensure that 50% of teacher and principal evaluations will continue to be based on student assessments. This is hardly a victory. (For more on the 50% issue, see this article.)

Bianca Tanis, special education teacher and public school parent said, “I am disappointed by the misinformation campaign surrounding these bills. They perpetuate the same junk science that forces educators to teach to a test. At the end of the day, there is nothing about this legislation that is pedagogically sound.”

“Many professional organizations representing educators and stakeholders have expressed serious misgivings. The legislators must take the time to do further research and make an informed decision,” said Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent, Ossining School Board member, and founding member of NYSAPE.

“We understand that some support of this legislation focuses on local control and the ability of school districts and local unions to choose their own tests for evaluation plans through collective bargaining. However, these bills put the burden of evaluating a teacher squarely on the backs of children through test performance. An evaluation system that pressures children and ignores research is reckless and morally flawed,” said Jeanette Deutermann, leader of Long Island Opt Out.

“The receivership component of the law means schools can be closed because a handful of students perform poorly on state tests. The stakes attached to these exams have never been higher. In no way does it help teachers become better at their jobs or schools to improve. This legislation does not even come close to decoupling high-stakes testing from the ways we evaluate our teachers and schools,” said Kemala Karmen, co-founder of NYC Opt Out.

Education historian Diane Ravitch points out, “The current teacher evaluation law (APPR) was passed to make New York eligible for federal funding from the Race to the Top program in 2010. Under this law, 97% of teachers in the state were rated either effective or highly effective. The law is ineffective. It should be wholly repealed, rather than amended as proposed. Let the state continue setting high standards for teachers and let local districts design their own evaluation plans, without requiring that they be tied to any sort of student test scores.”

Jamaal Bowman, Bronx middle school principal, said, “It is time to bring together parents, scholars, students, doctors, educators, and all who care about our children to create policy that equitably nurtures the brilliance in every child. Why are we still discussing teachers and standardized tests without discussing the toxic stress that greatly harms our children daily, and the lack of opportunity that exists for so many children across the state?”

“The entire idea of basing teacher evaluations on student growth is not only invalid, it is destructive. It alters the relationship between students and teachers--poorly performing students become a threat to job security. Districts will create new metrics that are just as unreliable and invalid as those based on the grades 3-8 test scores and Regents exams,” said Carol Burris, Executive Director of the Network for Public Education and a former New York State High School Principal of the Year.

“The day has come to call on all legislators to legislate and for all educators to educate. We need our legislators to stay out of the way when it comes to creating educational policy, especially when it has to do with evaluating teachers and principals. We need to bring trust back into the educational space. It all starts with trust, and we must trust the fact that using any test score to evaluate an educator is not only wrong, it’s just bad practice,” said Dr. Michael Hynes, Patchogue Medford School District.

The parents and educators in NYS who voted in this new legislative body are relying on them to slow down and take the necessary time to enact research-based legislation that will protect children, educators, and local control.

Please Take Action and write to your legislators in Albany to stop this speeding train!

NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state.

Sunday, January 20, 2019


Just coming off hiatus today to fully endorse the actions of the teachers from big cities that are fed up and are fighting back with strikes, other job actions and threatened strikes. Meanwhile in NYS, we are looking for incremental change on evaluation.

This is from Los Angeles where the UTLA (United Teachers of Los Angeles) strike has gone on for five days.

Bargaining is going on this weekend. Note that a big issue in LA is class size and we haven't fought for lower class size as a contractual issue here in NYC for fifty years. They are also battling against charter schools strongly out in LA. Saving public education is a big issue there.

Next we go up the left coast to Oakland where teachers on their own staged an unsanctioned walkout for a day. They are also threatening a full scale strike. The main issue here is pay but again class size is on the table.

From KGO in San Fransisco :

"Classes are too big, we don't have a living wage, so it's hard to pay rent," said Quinn Ranahand as she marched alongside other teachers.

Now on to Denver where teachers are catching the activist fever too. They are voting on whether to authorize a strike.

From the Denver Post story:

“It’s nice to see the union finally fight the Denver district’s plan, which has been happening forever in private,” Diaz said. “It’s long overdue. It’s imperative we value the teachers and what they’re asking.”

In NYC we usually endorse the district's plans unless I am missing something.

I fully acknowledge that teachers in NYC are paid better than the teachers in LA, Denver and Oakland but working conditions are not exactly improving here. We have an early, lengthy contract so forget about any militancy in the big apple as the contract is settled through 2022. Maybe, we don't need any. It is almost inconceivable to even consider any kind of action here over any issue.

If you want an issue we should be fighting over, it is teacher evaluation. However, in New York State, NYSUT and the UFT are looking to push for small gains as the bill on changing the evaluation law is much less than meets the eye.

Here is a review from upstate teacher activist Bianca Tanis:

23 hrs ·

Please be aware that the proposed APPR legislation is not what the press claims it to be. At best, it’s a step in the right direction. Schools will still have to use a test to evaluate teachers and that test will count for 50% of a teacher’s evaluation. The difference is that it does not have to be the state test (although it can be) and your school district will get to decide which test to use. The bill still requires the use of junk science. Student performance will still be reduced to a growth score for use in the matrix. This is not a victory for students or teachers. No matter how innovative, authentic, and valid an assessment we can create, using student performance measures to evaluate the efficacy of a teacher is wrong. The practice has no basis in research. It is wrong and it will harm students. I acknowledge that this is probably the best deal on the table right now, but it is not a good one.

That's enough for now. Perhaps back on hiatus for a while but maybe we'll emerge again.

No time for hiatus with news coming in quickly.

The LA strike looks like it is over. The teachers won lower class sizes.

From The LA Times piece:

The tentative deal includes what amounts to a 6% raise for teachers — with a 3% raise for the last school year and a 3% raise for this school year. This was the district offer on the table before teachers went on strike, but the walkout was always about more than salary.

The agreement also includes a reduction of class sizes over four years to levels in the previous contract, but removes a contract provision that has allowed the school district to increase class sizes in times of economic hardship, Caputo-Pearl said in an interview. It was not immediately clear how that issue would be dealt with going forward.