Tuesday, April 30, 2019


The UFT Executive Board met last night and the issue of school being open for the first time ever on December 23 when it falls on a Monday was raised by Arthur Goldstein. Thanks to him for raising it. He would have raised it on his own but this blog seems to be having an influence on the calendar issue as we have over 6,400 hits on Friday's piece which is pretty good for this little blog. Keep the pressure on the UFT folks. Also, thanks to Mike Schirtzer for getting us the information quickly.

Here is part of Arthur's question about December 23 from his report and answers from UFT Officers Evelyn de Jesus and Howie Schoor.

Arthur: There are four snow days next year. Aside from Sandy, we’ve never taken four snow days. Based on 30 years of precedent, people have already booked trips for this week. This feels like we’re giving something back and it needs to be fixed. Last time I looked, the school calendar was not the Ten Commandments. Is there any chance someone can talk sense to Tweed on this? I’ve seen the chancellor a few times, and he appears to be not insane.

Evelyn de Jesus—On the case. Not DOE but NYSED. Commissioner started this. DOE and UFT agree. Trying to get it together. Have Regents meeting and we will be fighting that.

Schoor—SED said not only do you need days, but also hours.

De Jesus—What happens is commissioner doesn’t want to include passing time. Pressuring DOE. We are working on that. She feels we have to make it up.

 Later President Michael Mulgrew chimed in:
Michael Mulgrew—Calendar—Issue is they are "adhering to contract"--that's the nicest way I can say it. Reason you would never open on Monday is it makes no sense. We do not agree. There is ongoing problem with commissioner. At first they weren’t even covering Passover. We said this makes no sense. We will go and deal with problem in Albany. I don’t know if it will work. We are very upset about it. They should’ve fixed it. They are adhering to contract, have legal right.

(A paragraph was removed after doing research as it no longer applies.)

How many other districts in NYS have school on Monday, December 23? If it is a state problem, other districts would be impacted. Let's find out please.

If we don't have enough instructional hours because of passing time in NYC, there are easy solutions. The DOE could simply convert all schools to 6 hour and 50 minute days, every day. Presto, instant extra instructional hours added from 6 hours and 20 minutes.  They could also take away one minute of passing time from each school which would add 7 minutes to each day in the classroom, times 180 instructional days for a total of 1,260 minutes. Divide that by 60 and we have a grand total of 21 more instructional hours. That's 3.5 added instructional days which would more than make up for Monday, December 23 being a day off.

After hearing from UFT leaders, it still feels like something doesn't quite add up.

Monday, April 29, 2019


The city no longer calls expected excess funds in the budget projected surpluses. They now refer to this money as reserves. It sounds like they are saving properly for a rainy day.

Mayor Bill de Blasio released his Executive Budget Summary last Thursday for fiscal year 2020 that starts in July. It is a $92.5 billion spending plan where spending is up from the current year.

How much will the city leave in reserve?

The answer is right in the summary:

Preserving historic levels of reserves

— $1.25 billion each year of the financial plan

— $4.47 billion in the Retiree Health Benefits Trust Fund

• $3.6 billion due to our actions under this

 By my simple math, that adds up to $9.32 billion in reserves. Not a bad rainy day fund. The slowdown in the economy that the city seems to be expecting that keeps city employee raises down is not yet materializing.

Every time one of these budget reports comes out showing the city doing very well financially makes me again ask this simple question:

Why are we waiting until October 2019 and October 2020 to get paid back in full without any interest for work we did from 2009-2011 that other city workers received in those years?

The city could have paid us back years ago and not missed a beat as the Independent budget Office estimated the cost of the lump sum payments to be around $1/2 billion to the city.

Also, why are city workers and retirees contributing huge healthcare savings to the city?

This year, according to the Budget Summary, it will be "healthcare savings of $1.6 billion in FY20 and $1.9 billion in FY21 and every year after."

Our unions are so generous with the city.

Friday, April 26, 2019


I sometimes can't believe how unbelievably petty the Department of Education is when it comes to human relations with teachers, parents and students and how the UFT often goes right along with the DOE. Case in point: the calendar for the 2019-20 school year.

The Contract in Article 20 says the Board of Education (the official legal name for the Department of Education) will not change the salary and working conditions affecting teachers without first consulting and negotiating with the UFT. The Board looks as though it is attempting to put one over on the Union by adding an extra work day for its employees for next year or maybe the Union is their partner in this ridiculous policy change.

The DOE recently released a school calendar for 2019-20 that has a work day scheduled for Monday, December 23, 2019. Work on a Monday when Christmas Eve falls on a Tuesday is unprecedented for as far back as I can recall. The UFT is consulted on the calendar every year. When the calendar was released earlier this week, I was astounded that the UFT was not completely outraged and telling its members about how it will fight the added work day. Unfortunately, it is very possible the Union has agreed to the calendar with the DOE as a picture of the calendar is on the UFT Facebook page without any official UFT objection.

I looked through my past personal calendars for school years where Christmas Eve fell on a Tuesday to see when winter vacation started in the past. I was not at all surprised to discover that the last school day in those years was Friday, December 20. I kept personal calendars going back to 1986. School on December 23 when it falls on a Monday is a brand new DOE policy.

For those interested in looking back for years when December 23 was on a Monday, here they are.

2013-2014-Last school day before winter vacation: Friday, December 20, 2013
Monday, December 23, 2013: No School

2002-2003-Last school day before winter vacation: Friday, December 20, 2002
Monday, December 23, 2002: No school

1996-1997-Last school day before winter vacation: Friday, December 20, 1996
Monday, December 23, 1996: No School

1991-1992-Last school day before winter vacation: Friday, December 20, 1991
Monday, December 23, 1991: No school

Why this extra day? The answer cannot be that there are not enough legal school days on the calendar. In fact, the calendar has plenty of extra days since Eid is in August and the Lunar New Year is on the weekend next school year so legally there are sufficient teaching days for full state aid.

Just to be sure the calendar is long enough without December 23, I counted the school days for 2019-2020. Teachers will be working a total of 186 days in the 2019-2020 school year. Since four days are allowed for conferencing, we are over the state law for a minimum of 180 school days where the schools receive state aid. Having December 23 off would not cause a problem with the state.

The answer also cannot be to further instruction. A single day of school on December 23 will be of little or no educational value and I gather just about every school district in the Western world will be off that day.

In reality, the UFT was either asleep at the switch and allowed the Board to pull a fast one on the calendar or the DOE is unilaterally adding the extra day which should be grieved immediately and loudly if the DOE does not relent.

Can someone in authority please raise this? That would mean you Arthur Goldstein or you Mike Schirtzer or you Jonathan Halabi or any of the other Executive Board reps.

UPDATE September 24, 2019
After the pressure the rank and file as well as parents exerted, the UFT kept the issue alive and the DOE has school has changed the calendar so school is now closed for Monday, December 23, 2019.

Here is a link to the updated calendar and one to our latest blog post.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019


Remember the teacher who was over charged substantially for UFT dues while on a Paid Parental Leave? We exposed the UFT overpayment that was later refunded to the teacher. Believe it or not, this member's financial woes from Paid Parental Leave from last fall still have not been resolved.

An email was recently sent to the UFT that we are writing about with full permission of the author.

When the teacher took Paid Parental Leave, this teacher was kept on DOE payroll. PPL is supposed to be unpaid from DOE but the UFT Welfare Fund is charged with making up the full salary for the PPL. We said at the time of the agreement between the UFT and DOE that all active school based UFT members are paying for by deferring a raise that there is nothing to guarantee that the UFT will pay the full salary for the duration of the PPL. Now we are seeing it play out in real life.

Since the teacher who emailed us was wrongfully kept on payroll, the DOE decided to take back their money through payroll deductions after the teacher returned from the Leave. The teacher did the math and the DOE has now taken back more money than the UFT paid the teacher for the PPL.

According to the calculations, the DOE took back over $700 more than they should have or the UFT shortchanged the teacher. Either the DOE took back too much money or the UFT did not pay enough or some combination of the two if the teacher added correctly. We have no reason to believe the teacher's calculations are inaccurate.

My guess is this might not be an isolated example. DOE and UFT numbers probably won't balance for other teachers on PPL.

This blog has been critical of the PPL deal because it is a cost benefit to the city that all active school based UFT members  are paying for by delaying a raise from November to the middle of February. We are not surprised that someone has been shortchanged repeatedly. PPL or expanded Paid Family Leave are benefits all workers should have that the employer should pay for.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019


We have been waiting forever in the USA for politicians to embrace a progressive education program. Mostly we have been disappointed over the last generation as politicians from both the Democrat and Republican parties continue to advocate for harmful public education policies, particularly on high stakes testing where the Democrats are as bad and in many ways worse than the Republicans.

Over in the UK, they may have a political mess because of Brexit but on opposition to high stakes testing in the lower grades in British schools, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has it right.

From the Guardian:
Labour has announced plans to scrap compulsory national tests for primary school children in England, with a promise to relieve pressure on overstretched schools and free up teachers to deliver a “rich and varied curriculum”.

Jeremy Corbyn chose to set out his proposals to abolish the regime of “extreme pressure testing” in an address to teachers gathered in Liverpool for the annual National Education Union conference.

In a speech warmly received by NEU members, who voted on Monday in favour of a ballot to boycott Sats tests next year, the Labour leader said: “We need to prepare children for life, not just for exams.”

He denounced the high-stakes testing culture, complaining that children in England’s schools are among the most tested in the world, and pledged a Labour government would abolish Sats for seven- and 11-year-olds, as well as controversial plans for baseline assessments for reception classes.

How about a so called progressive  candidate for US President taking a position like this?

Update: After the Bernie Sanders' campaign talked to Diane Ravitch, Diane reports that Bernie's positions on education have improved.  Sanders, however, is not yet there when it comes to opposing charter schools.

From Ravitch:
I am still waiting for a Democratic candidate who will explain why we as a nation should have two different publicly funded systems of education–one that chooses the students it wants, and the other required to accept all students. One, under private management, and the other controlled by an elected school board, or a board appointed by an elected official.

Sunday, April 21, 2019


Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed the new changes to the teacher evaluation law. NYSUT President Andy Pallotta is ecstatic.

From NYSUT'S Weekly Update:
APPR reform is now law

"Finally!" said President Andy Pallotta upon enactment of the state's teacher evaluation reforms. The changes end the mandate that tied evaluations to state standardized tests and restore local control and collective bargaining to the process. "Educators across New York earned a huge victory after banding together to push for fixes to the broken teacher evaluation system that created undue stress for teachers, students and parents," he said.

I get we can't have state tests used to rate us unless our union agrees with it but basically nothing much changes in evaluations. Teachers are still rated half on student assessment results on some assessment that is not designed to evaluate teachers.

Here is a link to the NYSUT Fact Sheet on the new law.

Anyone who can explain it so that a non statistics major can understand it gets a prize.

Friday, April 19, 2019


Michael Mulgrew was reelected UFT President with 86% of the vote. No surprise there as the system is tilted heavily in his Unity Caucus' direction. However, there was an upset in the UFT election as Lydia Howrilka from Solidarity Caucus easily surpassed MORE's Dermot Myrie in the race for second place. Here are the totals from the UFT website:

UFT President Michael Mulgrew has won his fourth term as the union’s president. Mulgrew, the Unity Caucus candidate, received 38,591 votes, or 86.2 percent of the votes cast, while Solidarity Caucus candidate Lydia Howrilka received 3,604 votes (8 percent) and Dermot Myrie the candidate of the MORE caucus, got 2,540 votes (5.6 percent).
Mulgrew's margin of victory was huge compared to 2016 when MORE ran with New Action and Solidarity only ran individual candidates however Mulgrew's vote totals actually went down slightly from 2016.

2016 Mulgrew- 39,176
2019 Mulgrew-38,591

Mulgrew's totals dropped in spite of having former opposition leaders Arthur Goldstein and Mike Schirtzer now running on the Unity slate and having for the first time a massive get out the vote campaign that included numerous robo-calls to members reminding us to vote along with text messages and an annoying ad on the website that blocked everything. The ad told us to vote.

Opposition group MORE's vote totals fell off a cliff compared to 2016 when they ran with New Action.

2016 Jia Lee (MORE Presidential candidate)-10,743 votes
2019 Jia Lee (MORE Vice Pres Sped candidate)-2,700 votes

Meanwhile, Solidarity received some of the MORE support.

2016 Francsco Portelos (Solidarity Presidential candidate split votes only) 1455 votes
2019 Lydia Howrilka (Solidarity Presidential candidate) 3,604 votes

That is a fairly substantial increase for Solidarity which does not exactly have much of a presence in most schools. New Action took some of the opposition votes too but we don't know the NAC numbers yet since they did not run for officer positions and all we received was the officer totals. A few opposition voters went to Unity with Mike and Arthur but many others became part of the garbage can vote as they threw the ballot away. Hopefully, they recycled the paper.

Unity won the entire 102 seat Executive Board. There will be no representatives there that did not run with Unity.

We look forward to seeing how Lydia does as the leader of the opposition. She's the Shadow President.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


I have no idea what these three stories have in common but they are all current.

UFT Election Vote Count is Today
The UFT election that my friends and family in the schools told me was one big, giant yawn of indifference is over and the votes will be counted today. We already know Mulgrew/Unity will win by a huge margin. We will see how the three opposition groups do. Maybe after this election there will be attempts to pick up the opposition pieces or perhaps it is time to concede for good that the Unity machine is too strong to challenge electorally. Unity might not look out for the working conditions of the average teacher that strongly but they are certainly adept at protecting their own power that they will never yield, certainly not with the current UFT electoral structure.

Open Market Hiring Started Monday
Meanwhile, back in the schools the Open Market Transfer period has officially been opened since Monday. The Open Market should have another name. Some options:

Open Market, Where Experienced Teacher Resumes Go to be Ignored


The We Don't Talk to Anybody We Don't Know Transfer System


Experienced Educators Need Not Apply Transfer System

I acknowledge there are exceptions as some veterans do move through the Open Market but how many knew an assistant principal or principal that pushed for them? This is truly a system where it's not what you know, it's who you know. Does anyone believe this is a fair hiring process? Also, does anyone have any information on schools to avoid?

Cuomo Wants Charter Cap Lifted
A reader who often sends me interesting, if sometimes depressing, links sent me one from the NY Post on Governor Andrew Cuomo advocating for the State Legislature to lift the charter school cap to allow even more publicly financed privately managed-privately accountable charter schools to open in New York. With friends like Andrew Cuomo, public school teachers truly don't need enemies.

I guess we should be thankful that the Governor did not make this part of the budget process. Cuomo could have used the leverage of the April 1 budget deadline to add more charter schools in NYC but now lifting the charter cap will be another negotiating tool in Albany's June "big ugly" part 2 where compromises are reached on what passes and does not in last minute bills at the end of the legislative session. I am not ruling out the Democrats in the Legislature caving on the charter school cap being raised even though we know charter schools take needed resources and space from public schools and overall do no better at educating students. Charters get unusually favorable treatment as their backers have money and donate a great amount to politicians like Cuomo and others.

By contrast, public school supporters protested at Tweed (Department of Education Central Office) on Monday telling the Mayor to stop giving student contact information to charter schools since as parent activist Leonie Haimson put it, "our state law bars the use of student data for marketing purposes." Expecting our mayor to stand up to the charters is expecting too much although de Blasio is better than his predecessor Bloomberg when it comes to charter schools.

Monday, April 15, 2019


From Twitter Sunday.

Is this a new Randi or should we be cynical?

I watched the Town Hall and was not impressed with Bernie's responses on education. Talked pre-k and college. Nothing much on k-12. I like many of Bernie's positions, particularly on labor, but on education he has been less than ideal. In 2016, he supported charter schools.

It was more encouraging that the Sanders campaign recently reached out to Diane Ravitch to discuss education. Perhaps  his people will listen to Ravitch and move Sanders on the k-12 education issue.

Diane's report of the conversation:

She (Bernie's education advisor) called and conferenced in the campaign’s chief of staff.

Here is what happened.

I told them that I was upset that Democrats talk about pre-K and college costs—important but safe topics—and skip K-12, as though it doesn’t exist. Every poll I get from Democrats asks me which issues matter most but doesn’t mention K-12.

I expressed my hope that Bernie would recognize that charter schools are privately managed (in 2016, he said in a town hall that he supports “public charter schools but not private charter schools). No matter what they call themselves, they are not “public” schools. They are all privately managed. I recounted for them the sources of financial support for charters: Wall Street, hedge fund managers, billionaires, the DeVos family, the Waltons, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, ALEC, and of course, the federal government, which gave $440 million to charters this year, one-third of which will never open or close soon after opening. (See “Asleep At the Wheel: How Athens Federal Charter Schools Program Recklessly Takes Taxpayers and Students for a Ride,” Network for Public Education).

I proposed a way to encourage states to increase funding for teachers’ salaries. I won’t reveal it now. I think it is an amazingly innovative concept that offers money to states without mandates but assures that the end result would be significant investment by states in teacher compensation, across the board, untethered to test scores.

I recommended a repeal of the annual testing in grades 3-8, a leftover of George W. Bush’s failed No Child Left Behind. I pointed out to them that all the Democrats on the Education Committee in the Senate had voted for the Murphy Amendment (sponsored by Senator Chris Murphy of Ct), which would have preserved all the original punishments of NCLB but which was fortunately voted down by Republicans. I suggested that grade span testing is common in other developed countries, I.e., once in elementary school, once in middle school, once in high school.

We had a lively conversation. Our values are closely aligned.

They are in it to win it. I will watch to see if Bernie moves forward with a progressive K-12 plan. No one else has.

My options are open. My priorities are clear.

Let’s draw a line in the sand. We will not support any candidate for the Democratic nomination unless he or she comes out with strong policy proposals that strengthen public schools, protect the civil rights of all students, curb federal overreach into curriculum and assessment and teacher evaluation, and oppose DeVos-style privatization (vouchers, charters, cybercharters, for-profit charters, home schooling, for-profit higher education).

Silence is not a policy.

I agree 100% with everything Diane said.

Update from Bernie campaign via Diane:

"We must make sure that charter schools are truly serving the needs of disadvantaged children."

If that is as far as Bernie will go on charter schools, the main privatizing force, it is not promising.

Sunday, April 14, 2019


Yesterday, while relaxing with my son the doorbell rang and it was the local cable guy trying to convince me to switch to Charter- Spectrum cable and internet. I told the very polite young man that I am a union supporter so I would not consider switching to Spectrum until they settled their strike with IBEW Local 3 that is now over two years old. He seemed not at all surprised by my answer as he told me that he has heard that response from many potential customers. That gave me some hope.

For those who want an update on the strike, The Queens Chronicle has an extensive article in the latest issue.

Here is the beginning:

Two years and two weeks.

That’s how long it’s been since about 1,800 members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 3 went on strike against Charter Communications.

“Hundreds” have crossed the picket line, according to the company. The Chronicle could not get a specific number from either Charter or the union before deadline.

The strike started on March 28, 2017, with the union saying the telecom, which does business as Spectrum, was cutting pension and healthcare obligations. Charter said the union wasn’t taking a great deal that included raises for most members, though IBEW Local 3 claimed most of the proposed raises were required by the state’s minimum wage hike.

The most recent round of negotiations died in December after starting months earlier. Days after the talks ended, the union announced a campaign aimed at getting New Yorkers to boycott Charter.

Neither side appears to be surrendering.

 For more information, go to Unplug Spectrum and NYC CableTruth.

Friday, April 12, 2019


My home phone has been bombarded with robo-calls the last few days telling my wife and me to vote in the UFT election that is ongoing.

The call for active teachers (my wife) is from an anonymous voice and it is basically impartial. It does say that we are the strongest and largest union in the country that needs you now. Then the voice says that we need you to cast your vote and that turning out matters to demonstrate the strength of our union and that we vote. The implication is that we are the strongest and largest because of our democracy. I give this call a fairly neutral rating.

However, the message from Retired Teacher's Chapter Chapter Leader Tom Murphy in his robo-call to retirees is not very neutral at all. I have received the call three days in a row. It may as well have been a Mulgrew/Unity campaign ad. It starts with Murphy's recognizable voice and then the reminder about the ongoing election. Murphy then praises the UFT as one of the only unions in the country that allows its retired members to vote for the entire leadership of the union. The praise then turns to scare tactics as Murphy tells retirees to "vote as if your economically secure life depends on it. It does." This is a loud political dog whistle if ever there was one to vote for Mulgrew.

He may as well have said that we have to vote not to let those lefties from MORE or New Action or those Solidarity people get a hold of your pension and then you may end up broke.

Could you imagine Governor Andrew Cuomo calling us with taxpayer money on election day telling us to vote in the election as if our economically secure life depends on it? The non Democrats would go nuts. That is the equivalent of what is going on here. Murphy is actually on the ballot for a Convention Delegate for AFT/NYSUT position and he is making robo-calls.

I have said many times that the UFT Election is a highly sophisticated rigged procedure designed so that Unity Caucus will always win but appear democratic. Opposition groups and candidates are allowed an ad in the NY Teacher once every three years and an email. That exposure, or lack thereof, would never be sufficient to answer the three questions of politics from the electorate that every candidate needs a yes response to in order to have any chance of winning:

1-Do they know you?

2-Do they like you?

3-Do they trust you?

People as UFT politically savvy as Norm Scott and I even vote for the ones we know and like.

For example from Norm's EdNotes endorsement for President:

President: Lydia Howrilka, Solidarity 
I like Mulgrew a lot more than you would think. I've had almost no contact with him personally, but get a kick out of him. If we were in a different world I could sit down and have a beer with him. But I can't vote for him.

After some thought, including considering not voting for president, my vote goes to Solidarity's Lydia Howrilka who showed great energy in running against Mulgrew and also bravery in taking on this task while fighting for tenure.

I first met Lydia 6 years ago at the Portelos hearings. She was discontinued, which in almost all cases means the death of a career. I've never seen anyone put up the fight to stay in the system Lydia has. I also grew to like Lydia who attended some ICE meetings and made some passionate comments about why she was active in the union.
He knows her and likes her. I was considering burning the ballot since retirees should vote for a vice president but not the President who represents active people but I got to know Lydia too and many in the Solidarity crew and had no problem voting for them. (This is me speaking, not ICEUFT.) We have to work within the rules that exist, not the ones that are fair so I voted as did my wife.
If you don't think the election is a joke, check out the page on the ballot for the Functional (non-teaching) Executive Board. Nineteen candidates for nineteen spots and all from Unity. I have to vote as if my economically secure future depends on it Mr. Murphy? Yeah right!

For Unity to have to resort to political dog whistle robo-calls to retirees when they know they have every advantage, including being the only ones on the ballot for hundreds of positions, is rather abhorrent.

I did not vote for any Unity candidates. It is basically a morally bankrupt political machine and anyone who runs with them is just feeding it and the corporate Democratic Party interests our union endorses that in so many ways hurt teachers and public schools.

The UFT ballot for Functional (non-teaching) Executive Board. Notice all of the candidates are from Unity. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019


I have been saying since 2005, before the infamous 2005 UFT Contract, that the only way working people are going to turn it around in this country is if we are willing to work together with other unions to credibly threaten really large actions.

At the suggestion of my friend Sam Lazarus, I proposed to Randi Weingarten at the UFT Executive Board in 2005 that the UFT should combine forces with the Transport Workers Union to truly threaten to shut down the city in a huge combined action. Randi responded that she spoke to Roger Toussaint, then head of TWU Local 100, but soon thereafter the UFT conceded to the worst contract ever and the transit workers were left out alone in their strike. Weingarten did not even have the guts to call the TWU strike courageous.

Fourteen years onward, it is encouraging to see a real labor leader talking about working people coming together. Sara Nelson is the President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.

This is from Sara on Twitter:

Could you even conceive of AFT President Randi Weingarten or UFT President Michael Mulgrew saying anything like this?

Until we are willing to fight together as working people, we are going to continue to be stepped on by the government/corporate elite. Non-violent labor militancy is the best way forward, not looking for a seat at the table with the corporate Democrats.

For more Sara Nelson, here she is on MSNBC talking about the grounding of the 737 Max 8 and 9 after two related crashes.

Monday, April 08, 2019


One of the "big gains" in the current 2019 UFT Contract was when NYC joined the other school districts in the state in calling for two observations annually per teacher. Well, at least two observations for tenured teachers rated well previously. This "gain" looks like it is a case of the Department of Education giving to us what we already have. 

The current state law on evaluations since 2015 calls for two observations per year for teachers. I recall UFT President Michael Mulgrew at a Delegate Assembly telling us the state will take an annual rating with two observations. I know for a fact he was right as it happened to me in 2016-17 under the current law. I didn't complain as I was rated overall highly effective. I laughed. Most teachers have been unnecessarily stuck with four observations or more per year. A minimum of two in NYC was not supposed to start until the 2019-2020 school year according to the UFT Contract.

However, the UFT has put out something that I found in Gene Mann's The Organizer stating that two observations for this year are perfectly acceptable for a Measures of Teaching Progress part of the annual rating, whether positive or negative.

From The Organizer:
In the event a teacher does not receive the minimum number of observations required by his/her Observation Option selection, the teacher shall receive an MOTP (Measures of Teaching Progress)Rating provided that all of the following criteria are met: (a) there are at least two school-based evaluator observations (formal and/or informal); (b) all of the following components are rated: 2(a), 2(d), 3(b), 3(c), and 3(d); and (c) seven of the eight components of the NYC MOTP Rubric are rated. If any of the foregoing requirements are not met, the teacher shall receive an annual rating of Satisfactory, unless the teacher had excessive absences or otherwise contributed to the insufficient number of observations in which case the school administration may provide a Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory rating pursuant to Article 8(J)(l) of the 2009-2018 CBA. At the conclusion of each school year, the parties agree to meet and discuss the implementation of this provision and may collectively agree to modifications for the upcoming school year. Nothing in this section c shall be interpreted to limit the right of the Department or a teacher to make any argument in a § 3020-a or § 3020-b hearing.
This looks like part of a side document negotiated between the DOE and UFT as I couldn't find it as part of the 2018 Contract Memorandum of Agreement. I did copy right from the Organizer.

Wouldn't it be fair if the UFT insisted on administration doing the four observations if they want to rate a teacher negatively? No administrator would be stupid enough not to rate all of the required components in two observations if they are out to get someone. This document makes it easier for DOE as far as I can tell. I strongly support fewer observations but I think if administration fails to keep their end of the bargain by not doing the required number of observations that they agreed to do, then as a consequence they should not be able to rate someone poorly.

Does anyone know where the document in italics that Gene Mann referred to comes from? I'd be happy to fix this posting if I am missing something.

Sunday, April 07, 2019


NYC pre-k teachers at Community Based Organizations are threatening to walk off the job in May if they do not receive pay parity with public school teachers. The cost for pre-k teacher pay parity to the city over four years is estimated to be $438 million according to District Council 1707, the union representing pre-k teachers who work at CBO's.

From Chalkbeat NY:

Pre-K teachers who work in community organizations have threatened a single-day strike in May to demand higher pay, casting a harsh spotlight on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature political achievement at the same time he is considering a presidential bid.

The mayor has made free pre-K available for every 4-year-old in the city at breakneck speed, an accomplishmentmade possible by the very pre-K teachers now weighing a walk out. In order to serve so many children, the city relies on community organizations, which enroll almost 60 percent of the students in universal pre-K. The rest attend public schools.

Teachers employed in community centers have a starting salary around $42,000. Those employed by the education department, represented by the United Federation of Teachers, have salaries that start around $59,000. The yawning gap has made it a struggle to recruit and retain teachers, community operators say.

The Day Care Council’s figure includes boosting pay only for certified teachers, which they estimate make up about 3,000 educators, or about half of those in the classroom. (Teachers can begin working at a community organization without certification while they earn their credentials, and operators say many of their teachers are on study plans because those with certification leave for the higher salaries offered at public schools.)

The city should not be allowed to contract these teaching positions out however pay parity does make sense.

What follows is probably the most interesting part of the Chalkbeat piece. The pre-k teachers in addition to pay parity with UFT teachers are calling for an annual 2.8% cost of living adjustment.

NYC teachers got about 2% a year for salary increases in the recent contract paid for in part with healthcare givebacks. Again from Chalkbeat:

Also included in the estimate is a pay boost for center directors so those employees will continue to earn about 23 percent more than teachers, and an annual compounded 2.8 percent cost of living increase.

At least the DC1707 accountants don't just tell their members the city has no money like the UFT leaders tell us.

Does anyone know why the pre-k teachers in CBOs are not in the UFT?

Friday, April 05, 2019


I received an email from Class Size Matters Director Leonie Haimson yesterday. Here is part of it.

The state budget was a big disappointment as far as education is concerned. There was no significant increase in state aid to schools nor any real CFE down payment on what the city is owed in terms of equitable funding. Mayoral control was renewed for three more years, with only small tweaks to the current system of one-man rule. About the only good thing about it was that the Contracts for Excellence program was restored, which means the appeal of our class size lawsuit can go forward. More about the budget here. Thanks to all of you who called and emailed your legislators about C4E! You made a difference.

You are welcome Leonie. We blogged Leonie's request for people to call Legislators on the Contracts for Excellence being in the budget. I called my Assemblyman and Senator so at least there is something to feel good about from Albany.

What would happen if the UFT really mobilized us on the lower class size issue?

Thursday, April 04, 2019


UFT Director of Personnel Mike Sill's email on the 2019 ATR severance package is below. If you are already eligible to retire, consider it. Otherwise, unless you have a job lined up somewhere else, I can't see even thinking about accepting this considering you will lose half of the retro repayments that we are still owed from work we did from 2009-11.

Dear ,

As you have likely heard, the DOE is offering a voluntary severance to all members of the ATR pool and to UFT-represented employees in Title I-funded positions in the nonpublic schools.

In order to be eligible, a person must be a member of the ATR pool (whether in a rotational or provisional assignment) or a UFT-represented DOE employee working in a Title I position in a nonpublic school.

Anyone who agrees to take the severance will receive $50,000 before taxes, on or about Sept. 16, 2019.

Employees who accept the severance offer must agree to either resign or retire (if eligible) no later than Aug. 23, 2019. Please keep in mind that people who resign forfeit their right to the 2019 and 2020 retroactive lump-sum payments from the 2014 DOE-UFT contract. Those who retire will still get those lump-sum payments, assuming they are eligible.

Eligible employees who agree to take the severance must return the Voluntary Severance Agreement and General Release form by May 31, 2019 at 5 p.m. You must submit the form in person to the DOE Division of Human Capital at 65 Court St. You must also bring a copy of your retirement receipt, if retiring.

Nobody should agree to take the severance before speaking to a UFT representative.

On Friday, April 12 at 4 p.m., each of the UFT's borough offices will hold a general information session for any employee of the ATR pool considering resigning or retiring.

At this meeting, pension representatives will provide members with information about retirement and the necessary forms and instructions.

If you are eligible to retire and plan to accept the severance offer, the UFT Pension Department can also print a benefit estimate for you to review at the April 12 meeting. This printout provides you with an estimate of your maximum annual pension calculation along with different amounts for any pension options.

If you request a printout, you must fill out all of the fields in the registration form for the estimate to be accurate. Pension representatives will be in attendance to walk members individually through their pension benefit estimates and answer specific questions.

You can find all of the information requested in your 2018 Annual Benefits Statement (ABS) from TRS. If you do not know how to access your ABS, this video from TRS will demonstrate how to view it.

If you plan to retire and you have a final consultation already scheduled, you do not need a printout for this meeting. If you request a printout, there is no need to schedule a final consultation since we will be giving you all the information and forms you will need.

In order to receive a printout of your pension breakdown at the event, you must RSVP no later than Sunday, April 7.


Michael Sill
UFT Director of Personnel

Wednesday, April 03, 2019


I knew the state budget was not a win for public education but I cannot explain it as quickly and efficiently as teacher activist Liat in BK did on Twitter:

Tweet 1
I can’t sleep bc I am FURIOUS😡 that our Democratic supermajority in Albany STILL (STILL!) failed to fully fund public schools in the budget. Literally every @NYSenDems & assembly Dem ran on #fundCFE. But they caved to Cuomo & were too scared to tax rich peoples’ 2nd homes.

Tweet 2
So who do we primary challenge in 2020? Because there are kids whose class sizes will be too big, who won’t have basic supplies or after school programs because of this. @makeNYTrueBlue @AQE_NY @zansari8 @es_indivisible @indvsblharlem who was too cowardly to do the right thing?

Tweet 3
.@bkindivisible is meeting tomorrow to brainstorm our game plan for 2020. So who’s it going to be?

Tweet 4
Final piece of my fury— the @UFT. They supported Cuomo vs. @CynthiaNixon — look how that turned out. Barely an increase in school funding even after thousands of members lobbied in Albany on 3/18. No further accountability for charter schools either. What exactly did they get? 😤  *

I have the answer.  The UFT has our seat at the table in Albany. We are the darlings of the corporate Democrats.

*The UFT didn't endorse Cuomo but our neutrality last year, particularly in the primary, was de facto support.

Monday, April 01, 2019


There is a budget deal in Albany. The schools get more money from the state but not enough to satisfy most education advocates and Mayor Bill de Blasio keeps control of New York City schools for three more years without any substantive changes.

From Chalkbeat:

New York lawmakers reached a budget deal Sunday that boosts education funding for school districts across the state by a billion dollars and extends mayoral control of city schools for three years — the longest extension since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office.

The $1 billion increase brings state spending on school aid to $27.9 billion, almost identical to last year’s increase. But, as in previous years, it was still substantially less than what lawmakers and the state’s Board of Regents requested.

The budget deal — often referred to as the “big ugly” — also included a slew of other policies that affect city schools, including mayoral control, tweaks to the city board that votes on school closures and contracts, and changes to local parent councils. Lawmakers were expected to vote on the deal Sunday.
On the tweaks to Mayoral control:
After campaigning aggressively to retain his control of the city’s schools, de Blasio won a three-year extension of mayoral control. It’s the longest renewal since he took office and will extend beyond the end of his final term.
In the past, Senate Republicans were only willing to negotiate one- or two-year extensions in exchange for concessions, such as on charter schools. But with Democrats in charge of the state Senate, attention focused away from charters and moved toward elevating parental input in city schools since some of the state’s newly elected Democrats criticized mayoral control as being too top-down.
In one example, the city’s Panel for Educational Policy, which has the power to approve contracts and sign off on school closures but is generally considered a rubber stamp for the mayor’s preferred policies, will add two members. The panel is being increased in size from 13 to 15, and one member would be elected by the presidents of local parent councils across the city.
The mayor will now appoint nine members instead of eight, so his power over the panel, which rarely breaks with his proposals, will not substantially change. (The deal would also require a new 10-day notice and written explanation for removing any panel members.)
At least the charter cap wasn't lifted but charter schools still received the same funding increase as public schools. It looks like the 2% tax cap limit for municipalities and school districts is in there too so don't expect salaries for teachers in the suburbs to start heading up again anytime soon.
If this is the best public schools can do with significant Democratic majorities in both the Assembly and Senate and a Democratic governor (albeit Democrat in name only I concede), the political process without any leverage from threats of statewide teacher action may not take us very far up in Albany.
You can read more about the overall state budget deal here. They don't call Albany budget bills "The Big Ugly" for nothing.