We here at the ICEUFT blog sometimes can't believe how uncaring some of the actions of the State Education Department, the New York City Department of Education, the United Federation of Teachers fronted by Michael Mulgrew and an opposition caucus called the Movement of Rank and File Educators can be.
If we had an ICEUFTblog "Blame-Meter", all four entities would receive some kind of point for the school calendar in NYC that keeps schools on Monday, December 23, 2019 and/or not solving the problem.
We have documented over
how having school on Monday, December 23, 2019 is a horrible precedent for teachers, administrators, parents, students and anyone else connected to the New York City school system. There is so much culpability to go around for this absurdity. It is hard to know where to begin our analysis.
The State Education Department
SED forever allowed "passing time" between classes in secondary schools to be counted as instructional time. This is why NYC was able to have a 6 hour-20 minute instructional day for decades. I personally made it through high school in NYC under the 6 hour and 20 minute day. I went on to obtain a BA, MS + 30 additional credits after having most of my K-12 education with these "short days". Even when NYC extended time for teachers starting in 2002, most schools did not use the extended time for full class instruction. New State regulations that were approved by the Regents in September changed all of this so now days and hours are counted for adding up minimum state instructional time for students. Therefore, many NYC secondary schools will not meet the new minimum 990 instructional hour classroom requirement for the 2019-2020 school year. The SED created this problem. They couldn't just follow a simple rule: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." There was no plausible reason for the State Ed Department to rock the boat on the hours of instruction issue. Give SED a big thumbs down.
The New York City Department of Education
The NYC DOE knew full well these new State Education Department rules were going into effect. Those of us who were expecting them to be humane and follow past practice by not opening on December 23 when it falls on a Monday, as all of the other school districts in NYS where people could find calendars are doing, were expecting too much from the DOE. I am giving the City DOE the least amount of blame here, however, as they are often a disgusting employer. An uncaring employer would try to weasel another day out of its workers and cut into their Christmas vacation. The DOE is playing the role of Ebenezer Scrooge which is not surprising. They get a smaller thumbs down as far as I can tell.
The UFT Led by Michael Mulgrew-Unity Caucus
It is tough to decide whether the UFT or SED is more at fault here. The SED is to blame for changing the regulations after decades where they worked just fine. However, there is no doubt that the UFT is at fault here in a big way as they were notified in advance of the change and the UFT was told to account for the new regulations in their new collective bargaining agreement but instead the Union did nothing.
The UFT knew in September 2018 that the State Education Department had issued new regulations on counting days and instructional hours, not just days, when figuring out the minimum amount of time needed in school calendars. The Union knew as of September that SED would find our traditional calendar to be short on teaching time. SED, through our state union New York State United Teachers, informed the UFT and all locals in a Fact Sheet
that " that 'passing time' between periods does not count as instructional time." In addition, the SED told all union locals through NYSUT: "Future collective bargaining agreements will need to comply with these regulations."
Guess who just happened to be negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement when this Fact Sheet came out? The UFT and NYC DOE. They didn't bother with the new state regulations and reached a new contract agreement in October keeping the old instructional time schedule.
Someone at the UFT should be held accountable for neglecting to cover this issue in contract talks. Since the SED said that we had to deal with it in a new contract, our contract should have been reviewed with Albany on the work day and work year before anything was agreed to. What was the rush? The 2014 contract did not expire until the middle of February of this year. The UFT gets a huge "asleep at the switch" thumbs down on this topic. Can we put a letter in their file?
The UFT has proposed only one solution now which is to beg the SED to reconsider on passing time not counting as instructional time and then to convince the DOE to change the calendar. I hope that works. I really do want them to succeed.
However, if the UFT is not successful, then having school on Monday, December 23 amounts to yet another UFT giveback. Giveback is the generic term for adding a day to the work year at no extra pay. This will happen again and again when all of the holidays fall in the middle of the week in future years.
This blog led the fight against the 2018 contract
and we didn't even know about the calendar problem. (You are welcome to blame us for not seeing the NYSUT Fact Sheet in September but we were not sent the Fact Sheet as we weren't negotiating the contract. That's the UFT's job, not a dissident blog.)
MORE'S PETITION FOR A GIVEBACK
Wait, we are not done giving out blame. One of the opposition caucuses MORE apparently read our blog posts as they knew the years when school was closed on Monday, December 23 in the past. (Maybe one of their people did the research on past years but I doubt it.) However, MORE's proposed solution to the problem makes less than no sense. MORE wants the Chancellor to reconsider giving us the day while MORE does not even address the new State Regulations. After petitioning NYC Chancellor Richard Carranza to change his mind, MORE asks, "If this is not possible, could we extend the school year until June 29 or switch this day with another holiday?" Is MORE serious? This is what the contract
says about the school year in Article 6E:
1. All teachers shall report to their schools to begin work on the Tuesday
following Labor Day, and will have a professional day on Brooklyn-Queens Day.
The Tuesday following Labor Day may be an instructional day. Teachers shall be
in attendance on duty thereafter on all days of the school year except for the
last two weekdays of the month of June.
MORE suggesting we make one of the last two weekdays in June a workday is a pure and simple giveback.
We now have a bipartisan consensus in the UFT among two of the political caucuses that we should have a new giveback. MORE would make it June 29 while Mulgrew-Unity wants it to be December 23.
ICEUFT blog stands against either giveback. We've given back enough already! (see 2002, 2005, 2014 and 2018 Contracts, 2013, 2015 evaluation systems, Tier VI, four years probation and more for ample details)
When judging this debacle, the DOE and the SED are our employer and the state oversight agency respectively. Our employer and the SED are not known for being that intelligent or sympathetic to teachers, students and families. We should put maximum pressure on them to reverse course on the December 23 issue by telling our union representatives (UFT, CSA, DC 37) that school being open for a one day week on Monday, December 23 is completely unacceptable to us.
I also support any action by the UFT/NYSUT to tell State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia that passing time should count as instructional time as it always had in the past. If the UFT wants to join other NYSUT locals in a no confidence resolution on Elia, I would endorse that as well for many reasons.
If that doesn't succeed, I would support a move to have the UFT Contract reopened on Article 6 (work day and work year) only to reapportion time so that we add a few minutes to instruction so that our traditional calendar will be approved by SED. See our prior post for a detailed explanation.
The real fault and the grand prize on the "Blame-Meter" goes to the UFT whose job as a labor union is supposed to be to protect our interests but instead they agreed to yet another giveback. It's time for us to make them do their job. MORE gets a consolation prize for proposing a June 29 giveback of their own and SED gets one for starting this mess. NYC DOE gets a dishonorable mention for just being their disgusting selves.
If all else fails and schools in NYC end up being open on Monday, December 23 (a likely outcome), I really want to know what teachers, other staff members and administrators are willing to do. If people are all going to call out sick en masse, are they going to go to thousands of doctor's offices to get medical notes? Are some unthinking teachers going to post pictures from Aruba or some other vacation spot? I know what theft of services is.
By all means, let's have the discussion!
One rule besides the usual ones. No comparing us to corporate America. Our comparison group is other school districts in NYS that as far as we can find are all off on Monday, December 23, 2019,