Thursday, May 30, 2019


There is some encouraging news from the Education Law Center. The lawsuit claiming that the city's obligation going back to 2007 to lower class sizes to averages of 20 in grades K-3, 23 from 4-8 and 25 in high school core subjects by 2012 will go to appeal. State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia had claimed that since the city didn't meet the lower class size goals by 2012, the issue was now moot.

Nine parents, the group Class Size Matters and the Alliance for Quality Education disagreed and sued. A judge ruled against the parents. All of us were asked to get involved by making sure to lobby that lower class size goals for NYC are still part of the state budget which we got so now the appeal can move ahead.

This is from Leonie's NYC Public School Parents Blog via the Education Law Center:
Under a state law known as the Contract for Excellence, or "C4E," the NYC Chancellor and the Department and Board of Education are required to develop a five-year plan to reduce class size to target averages in three grade spans: K-3, 4-8, and 9-12. After the law was enacted in 2007, New York City developed a plan which was approved by the Commissioner in 2007.

The City never fulfilled the 2007 plan within five years, or by 2012. Nor has the City implemented the 2007 plan or any other plan that complies with the C4E law. As a result, class sizes now are as large or even larger than they were in 2007. Between 2007-2016, for example, the number of students in classes of 30 or more in grades 1-3 increased by 4,000% to over 40,000.

In dismissing the Petition in 2017, the Commissioner ruled that since the 2007 plan "concluded" in 2012, or five years after it was approved, the petition was moot even though the City never implemented the plan. The plaintiffs challenged the Commissioner's decision in State Supreme Court, which "deferred" to the Commissioner's interpretation of the term "within five years" in the C4E law.

The plaintiffs have now appealed to the Appellate Division. They argue that the Commissioner misinterpreted the C4E law. The five-year endpoint in the law was the deadline the Legislature imposed to accomplish class size reduction. It was not the date at which the City's legal obligation would magically disappear. Moreover, the lower court wrongly deferred to the Commissioner's interpretation of the C4E law.

"The NYC Department of Education has violated the Contract for Excellence Law for over a decade because of its refusal to reduce class size," said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. "As a result, more than 336,000 students were crammed into classes of thirty or more this fall. Our thanks to the Education Law Center for representing Class Size Matters and nine NYC parent plaintiffs in this important appeal. If the Appellate Court decides on the basis of the law and the facts, it will require that NYC students finally receive their right to a sound basic education with the smaller classes they need and deserve."
I have one important question to add:


Leonie and other organizers have  a demonstration for the City Council to use funds to lower class size scheduled for June 11th at City Hall at noon.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019


Thanks to Pat Dobosz for sending out this article from The City showing that there has been a huge increase in parents of special needs students filing complaints that their children have not received special education services they are entitled to.

Complaints filed against the city Department of Education by parents of special education students have skyrocketed since 2014 — sparking a “crisis” that leaves some kids without essential service for months on end, a state-commissioned report found.

The flood of parents battling the public schools system for support is threatening to overwhelm a dispute-resolution system suffering from too few hearing officers and inadequate space to hold hearings, according to the external review obtained by THE CITY.

Complaints jumped 51% between the 2014-’15 and 2017-’18 school years, the report found. That surge has continued into the current school year, with 7,448 complaints filed as of late February — more than the total for the entire prior school year.

The average complaint was open for 202 days in 2017-’18, according to State Education Department data.

Growing complaints have caused a “crisis” that could “render an already fragile hearing system vulnerable to imminent failure and, ultimately, collapse,” Deusdedi Merced, of Special Education Solutions, wrote in a 49-page report obtained through public disclosure law and provided to THE CITY.

“That it has not yet collapsed is remarkable given the staggering numbers of due process complaints filed in New York City.
The article next provides an example of a student who has never had his Individualized Education Plan adhered to in four city schools. This is no surprise.

Special ed neglect is a legacy of former mayor Michael Bloomberg's small schools' policy, at least at the high school level. I have heard from multiple people in different schools that special education services are not sufficient because small schools in general can't possibly provide all of the necessary programs for the students in the small schools that have IEPs that call for varied services. It is also not uncommon from what I have heard to "dump"  special education students into general ed settings with inadequate support.

The City article addresses some of this further down:

“A significant amount of time has been spent trying to get these cases to settlement, so that process can sometimes take six to eight months itself,” said Nelson Mar, a senior staff attorney at Bronx Legal Services.

He noted the root of the problem is that public schools simply don’t have enough services to cover the needs of many of the city’s 224,000 special education students.

New York City logged more due process complaints than California, Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania combined, according to 2016-’17 data collected by the state Education Department.

“The reason why you’re seeing these astronomical numbers is because they have never addressed the fundamental problems with their delivery of special education services,” said Mar. “There’s not enough programs and not enough staff to provide services.”

 Special education is another area where the NYC schools are shortchanging students and parents while putting teachers in impossible situations.

Sunday, May 26, 2019


The latest NY Post piece by Sue Edelman on an out of control school where UFT members are placed in jeopardy.

An excerpt:
A highly regarded Brooklyn school has become a zoo where students threaten teachers and roam the halls, injuring each other and adults, desperate staffers told The Post.

Among a spate of incidents since January at It Takes a Village Academy in Flatbush:

  • A teacher found a note slipped under her classroom door: “I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE BITCH!” — with a scrawled home address obtained by a kid who gained access to an office computer.

  • An irate student smashed a classroom door, shattering glass and cutting his hand.
  • A school safety agent trying to break up a melee fell and broke his arm.
  • A pregnant paraprofessional who asked a student not to shove her was menaced by the girl, who snapped, “I don’t give a f–k. I will f–k you up.”
  • A veteran staffer said, “The students are completely out of control.”
  • Another staffer said, “Long after the bells, kids are still in the hallway, loitering, playing, talking to their friends. The air reeks of marijuana.”
Teachers blame interim acting principal Sybil Girard, saying she has created a culture in which students freely defy authority.

“They’ve been empowered completely,” one said. “Just trying to get them into class or to do work, they say, ‘You have no right. I’ll speak to the principal to get you fired.'”

The staff have tried to get the principal ousted:
Faculty members have sent multiple letters to Brooklyn high school Superintendent Michael Prayor pleading for Girard’s removal, to no avail.

Further down in the piece there is a comment from a union leader on the situation. It is not from Michael Mulgrew or anyone at the UFT but rather from the
Safety Agents' union leader:
“That building is so out of control,” said Gregory Floyd, president of the union for school safety agents. “The number of incidents is excessive — fights, verbal assaults, children on children, children on adults — and it’s not being handled.”

Just another DOE story. Check out the DOE public relations spin:
DOE spokesman Doug Cohen said the school has received new safety training as well as supervisors. “We’ll continue to take action to meet the needs of our students and staff,” he said.

Blah, blah, blah.

Before anyone uses this story as an excuse to say we should not pay UFT dues, do you really think not paying union dues will make the schools safer?

Friday, May 24, 2019


I appreciate that Arthur Goldstein still writes Delegate Assembly reports even though he ran for election with Michael Mulgrew's ruling Unity Caucus.

From Arthur's report of the May DA, we learn that there are four snow days built into the 2019-2020 school calendar. Here is a question from a Delegate and President Michael Mulgrew's answer:

Q—December 23—seems like we may stay longer next year. How many snow days? If we get it, will they want something back for 23rd?

A—Officially we have four snow days. Anomaly year. Muslim holidays in summer, others on Saturdays. Will be many years with one or zero snow days. If they want us to give up something, we will have a discussion. My position is no. Hoping to fix it a different way. When minutes issue came up, was concern for small districts that needed flexibility. Good with that, but don’t want NYC hurt. We have June and July Regents meetings. Hope to resolve and move forward.
If there are four snow days built in, that is 5 hours and 30 minutes of instruction for each day. That is 22.5 hours of instruction (1,350 minutes) that could be given up due to snow. Then, why are schools open for a one day work week on December 23? The UFT answer is that we are short instructional hours because of a change in state regulations.

School has never in the past been open on a Monday when Christmas Eve fell on a Tuesday. UFT is consulted on the calendar. They knew about the regulation change in September and were told by the State through NYSUT to negotiate a new contract under the new rules. The UFT failed to do that as a contract was agreed to in October which did not alter any instructional work hours. School being open on Monday, December 23 is a major UFT screw-up that we have been fighting.

In his President's Report, Mulgrew addressed the December 23 issue in some detail.

From Arthur's minutes:

Calendar—December 23rd—Legal interpretation—we are strongly opposed—city has right to set calendar Tuesday after Labor Day to June 28. 23rd has never been used as report day. Very expensive to open a school for one day week. Makes no sense. Our issue is at state level. Regulation says a school needs to use minutes and not days. We did not agree, and don’t, because there is still a law that says there are days.

In NYC, there are some schools that don’t count some minutes. There is a reinterpretation. We are in midst of big fight right now. Calmer heads are saying this has to be straightened out, we think before school. We meet mandate under law is UFT position. We will have real conversation with Board of Regents, but they only meet once a month.

You need to pay attention to session time memo when it comes out on June 10th. You will see minimizing passing time, using homeroom as instructional, and maximizing instructional time. In original calendar, they weren’t even covering Passover. Believe with calmer heads we will get to a better agreement.

For anyone to ask:

  • How could our issue be with the state if the city is opening the schools on December 23 even though there are four snow days (22.5 extra hours of instruction) built into the calendar? 
  • If we are short hours and do not meet the new state guidelines for the minimum of instructional hours, how could we possibly be allowed to have four snow days which would make us short an extra 22.5 hours if we use them?
  • If there are four extra snow days and Monday, December 23 has always been a day off in the past, how is this not a change of our working days that would violate our contract?
I wish we still had people in opposition at the DA and Executive Board who were willing to ask the tough questions.

Thursday, May 23, 2019


Maybe I should just forget it when our budget expert Harris Lirtzman sends me new information showing that NYC's finances have never been better. I don't know why something inside just compels me to expose the reality about how the UFT and other city unions have not gotten us a fair share of the city's unprecedented prosperity over the last decade.

Ronnie Lowenstein is the Director of the Independent Budget Office. She testified at the City Council Finance Committee earlier today. Here are some highlights:

IBO projects the city will end the current year with a $3.9 billion surplus, $375 million more than estimated by the Mayor’s budget office.
We anticipate the city will end fiscal year 2020 with a surplus of $675 million, which would reduce the projected budget gap for 2021 to $1.7 billion—an amount largely covered by the reserves already built into the budget.

Lowenstein projects slower job growth but continues:
Likewise, we expect slower but continued growth in city tax collections. IBO projects that tax revenue growth will average 3.7 percent annually from 2018 through 2023

Are UFT salary increases under the current contract equaling the city's projected 3.7% increase in tax revenues?

Year   Salary Increase
2019- 2%
2022-0% through September 13th.
2023-To be determined

As for waiting until 2020 for half of the back pay (lump sum payments) from 2009-2011 that UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the city couldn't afford to give us back in 2014 because the city's cupboard was bare and he repeated this in 2017 because he said the costs were too large, IBO  told one of our readers back in 2016 what those costs would be to the city.

While IBO does not have an exact cost for how large these retroactive lump sums will be, because they are directly linked to the number of union members who will be employed on the days the payments are scheduled to be made, we can estimate the maximum cost of these lump sums based upon the total PS costs for pedagogical employees in 2009-2011.  Based upon the total PS costs from those years we estimate that the entire lump sum payment would be a maximum of $560 million if every member were to remain employed by the DOE through 10/1/20.
This total would translate to a maximum of $70 million paid out in 2017 and $140 million paid out in 2018 – 2020.  These funds, if not already accounted for in DOE’s financial plan, would increase the city-funds portion of DOE’s budget by less than one percent in 2017 and around one percent in each subsequent year. 
IBO has not made any estimates about what the final cost of this portion of UFT’s collective bargaining agreement would be although we assume, as a result of attrition and other separations, that it will be somewhat less than the $560 million.  

A maximum cost to the city of $140 million for 2019 and the same for 2020 (it is less because of the UFT members who resigned or were terminated since the 2014 contract was signed and won't get the remaining lump sum payments). The city could afford to give us that money today and it would not make an even tiny dent in their huge $3.9 billion surplus. 
I don't expect the city to even entertain the thought of giving us the money now or both the 2019 and 2020 payments combined this year (some would complain about the higher tax bracket) but the point is to say that other than UFT incompetence or the UFT lying in bed with the city, there was absolutely no reason for us to have to wait ten years for money we earned back from 2009-2011. We should have been paid in full years ago.


Transport Workers Union Local 100 is the union for New York City bus and subway workers. They, just like the UFT, had a recent election for officers. Just as with the UFT, the voter turnout was abysmal. The challengers in the Local 100 are protesting the election with the US Department of Labor.

In the Chief Leader article covering the challenge, Joe Campbell one of the defeated candidates for President is cited. Tony Utano is the TWU President who won the election.

In the immediate aftermath of the election results, Mr. Campbell wrote in a social media post that Mr. Utano’s slate “was voted in by 18 percent of the eligible voting membership. That means 82% did not vote for them. Think about how dangerous that is going into contract talks. The fault of voter suppression, member disenfranchisement, and a purposefully horrible election process is the fault of the Union leadership and they wear that badge with dishonor throughout this upcoming term.”
I thought it might be interesting to compare what Michael Mulgrew's mandate is among working NYC teachers (no retirees or non teaching UFTers in this comparison. I want to talk teachers.

Fortunately, we have Jonathan Halabi from New Action's breakdown of the votes. While I disagree with Jonathan writing a wrong name for one of the caucuses as it is insulting to them and their voters, I still was pleased to have a place to look for election results.

There are around 70,000 UFT NYC teachers (that is probably a low number), Jonathan counts 11,909 voters. That translates into about a 17% turnout among teachers. We are approaching low turnout levels not seen since schoolboard elections. Michael Mulgrew's percentage of the votes may look huge at 78%, but it is only about 13% of the eligible teachers. Mulgrew's real strength is with retirees who don't vote in most unions for who represents active members.

Since Jonathan counts in a way that shows the number of voters lower, there probably were a few more voters but you get the idea.

A 13% mandate (let's make it 15% if we estimate higher) is no mandate and it explains why we can't do much as a union. On the other hand, to be fair let's give another view. Some might argue that the 86% teacher voting in favor of the recent contract shows teachers are content. That referendum had over 60,000 teachers cast ballots but voting was done in the schools where it is easier to get teachers to vote but there is very little security.

Do any readers want to chime in here? Are teachers content or have they given up on the UFT or is there something else going on?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019


Sleeper is a 1973 Woody Allen movie where someone goes in for surgery and wakes up 200 years later to find a completely different world. One of the jokes in Sleeper shows how teacher unions were thought of back in 1973.

From IMBd:

Miles is told the old world was destroyed when a "madman named Albert Shanker got hold of a nuclear weapon". Albert Shanker was the longtime head of the NYC public school teacher's union, the United Federation of Teachers, and was often criticized for his extremist views and actions. 

There was actually a time 46 years ago when a teachers' union was considered powerful.
Now let's go to 2019 popular culture by looking at the HBO series VEEP. Former Vice President and former President Selina Meyer is running again to be President and looking for endorsements in Season 7, Episode 3. As Selina discusses endorsements with her staff, they note how one of her opponents got endorsements from two senators and a union. Selina answers that she needs a union endorsement too but not the teachers. She wants a good union.

Even with the recent strikes, popular culture today treats us as a pathetic joke.

The contrast between the popular culture portrayal of us in 1973 compared to now could not be clearer: from able blow up the world to not even worth being courted.

Sad and scary too.

Monday, May 20, 2019


Sue Edelman is an excellent reporter. Her latest NY Post article about the Department of Education is a rare look inside headquarters at Tweed.

An excerpt:
Whiteness has become “toxic” under schools Chancellor Richard Carranza’s regime, insiders charge.

At least four top Department of Education executives who have been demoted or stripped of duties under Carranza’s sweeping reorganization are poised to sue the city, claiming he has created “an environment which is hostile toward whites,” a source told The Post.

The women — all white, veteran administrators — contend they were pushed aside for less qualified persons of color.

“These decisions are being made because
DOE leadership believes that skin color plays a role in how to get equity — that white people can’t convey the message,” said a source familiar with the complaints.

“There’s a toxic whiteness concept going on.”

DOE of course denies any of the promotions, demotions or early retirements are because of race. 

In my experience with the DOE, once Joel Klein left hiring up to whatever supervisor was responsible for filling a position without any regard for civil service norms, the hiring and firing culture became one where looking out for your own kind was often acceptable. The bias cuts in many different ways.

Further down in the Post article, we learn more about the Central DOE culture:
“Since Carranza took office, he’s brought in a lot of new people. As a result, it’s been bureaucratic chaos and backbiting, with deputies and their subordinates seeking better perches in the pecking order,” said David Bloomfield, a Brooklyn College and CUNY Grad Center education professor.

“Racial tensions appear to be one manifestation of these internal battles.”

Sue then shifts her focus toward a different aspect of the race story as her piece continues:
Meanwhile, the DOE has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants to coach supervisors on how to “disrupt the power structure and dismantle institutional racism,” a supervisor said.

“There’s been a lot of discussion of white supremacy and how it manifests in the workplace, conversations about race, and looking at how the white culture behaves,” said a white executive who received the training.

“White supremacy is characterized by perfectionism, a belief in meritocracy, and the Protestant work ethic,” the exec said, adding that whites who object when accused of deep-rooted bias are called “fragile” and “defensive.”

“Can you imagine if we scrutinized blackness or brownness? We’re being trained in anti-bias not to stereotype blacks, but they’re fostering a stereotyping of whites.”

For those who wonder why white  voters often appear to vote against their own economic interest by voting Republican, look no further than this story for some of the answer.

Some of the folks who comment here and forced me to moderate might want to chime in as some of the usual stuff is fine with this story. Go ahead but please be careful. It is still a family blog mostly.

Saturday, May 18, 2019


Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has released his Thurgood Marshall education plan and it is the best education program I have seen from a Democratic contender in decades. It looks like he is listening to Diane Ravitch.

Please read it in its entirety.

Bernie is calling for an end to for profit charter schools, a moratorium on new charter schools, full public accountability for charter schools, stronger tenure as well stronger union rights for public school teachers, a $60,000 minimum salary for public school teachers and so much more.

Here is what the education plan says about the wave of teacher strikes that have spread around the USA.

Over the past year, tens of thousands of teachers across the country have gone on strike to demand greater investment in public education. The wave of teacher strikes throughout the country provides an historic opportunity to make the investments we desperately need to make our public education system the best in the industrialized world, not one of the poorest.

There isn't that much not to like. All that is missing is a denunciation of standardized testing and a call for charter schools to be phased out but his charter policy is very favorable.

I would especially like to hear from Middle of the road politically or right wing teachers on why we should not strongly consider backing Sanders based on his education plan.

Before backing anyone officially, of course we should examine what the other Democratic candidates do on public education.  It is finally part of the discussion in the election for president. Sanders' plan is a big step forward.

Thursday, May 16, 2019


Sometimes I cannot believe how well off the City of New York is. Our budget expert Harry Lirtzman sent me the latest Independent Budget Office report analyzing Mayor Bill de Blasio's Executive Budget. IBO shows the city swimming in money. Read the first two paragraphs that describe the healthy state of the city's finances.

June 2019 marks the 10-year anniversary of the end of the Great Recession. Over the last 118 months the country has experienced a slow but steady recovery, a recovery that will soon stand as the longest economic expansionary period in U.S. history. New York City has seen record growth in economic activity during this period and as a result the city’s own finances have thrived. The city’s tax collections have increased by nearly 65 percent since the end of 2009, an average annual growth rate of 5.7 percent. Collections of property and personal income tax have grown annually by an average of 6.9 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively.

While certain economic indicators have recently signaled uncertainty ahead, for the most part the city’s economy continues to flourish. Still, policy decisions taken at the national and international level continue to pose potential threats to the city’s fiscal condition while pressure from Albany places millions of dollars of city funding at jeopardy. Yet, even with these risks acknowledged and at least partially accounted for, the city’s revenue forecast and expenditure plan continues to grow at a moderate pace while out-year budget gaps remain manageable.

So tax revenue is up 65% since the end of 2009. What rate have salaries for NYC teachers gone up since the end of 2009.

2010-4% increase

City tax revenue up 65% while UFT member salaries rose by 16% and part of that is paid for with healthcare givebacks (higher copays).

Michael Mulgrew bears plenty of responsibility here for negotiating subpar raises but so do the 75% and 86% of teachers who voted for the two contracts that contained these paltry increases.

Sadly, we will do even worse when some of you quit paying union dues to get even with the UFT.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


On just about every topic we write about recently concerning the schools in New York City, one or two or sometimes more comments are written saying that routine extensions of probation, the broken testing system, school on Monday, December 23, etc. are just more reasons why we should stop paying union dues and drop out of the UFT. I disagree with these commenters but not because you don't have a point that UFT advocacy leaves much to be desired. 

I agree wholeheartedly on this point and nobody has been a more robust critic of the UFT in public than me, including while serving on the UFT Executive Board and at the Delegate Assembly. However, the commenters who want to drop out provide no viable alternative to the union we have. You say the UFT doesn't support us so to protest we should stop paying union dues. Short term, you will keep more money but long term you are dooming all of us to much more and deeper misery. Quitting the UFT is not the answer unless you are organizing something better which I see no sign of anywhere in the New York City teaching force.

Understanding all of the UFT's faults, including a lack of a real democratic structure, let us still acknowledge that NYC teachers during the current contract will eventually start out earning $61,000 per year and max out after 22 years making over $128,00 per annum with good benefits and, except for Tier VI, a very good pension. Do you think our salaries, benefits and pensions are in any way, shape or form possible without a union? Be truthful, please if there are comments.

Beyond the wages and benefits, you say the UFT doesn't defend us very strongly and in many cases they merely go through the motions by pretending to advocate for members. I agree there is some truth here. UFT's advocacy is not full force like say the way PBA President Patrick Lynch defends his members or TWU's John Samuelson supports his.  Let's accept it here as a given that the UFT is not always behind teachers 100% although I am sure many who work for the Union would disagree with that assertion.

The question then becomes this: What are you going to do about the sorry state of the UFT in many schools? If the answer is you are going to drop out and keep some more of your money, well how does that help our cause?

The argument I have heard is that if we all starve the UFT beast, then the Union leadership will be forced to work harder to support us to win back our dues money. There is a giant flaw in this argument as I see it. Many in the UFT leadership are basically incapable of changing and dues money or no dues money, they aren't becoming a militant union on behalf of their members. It is not in President Michael Mulgrew's DNA. Any show of activism is purely for show. The only game he and many of his Unity Caucus followers will play is the political game to try to convince the politicians to support us. They do play this game well at times.

These are not great political times for unions but we have kept a core of  a decent  salary and benefits. The UFT will still play the political game whether they have $100 million in the Union treasury or 100 pennies. If they only have 100 pennies, they will just be even weaker advocates for the members than now. If thousands of UFT members drop out and are not organized into anything, do you think the city is going to say we better listen to the teachers? No, we will all be that much weaker.

Do you truly feel that Michael Mulgrew is going to become Eugene Debs if half of us leave in order to convince the other half to stay? It won't happen. The militancy has to come from the rank and file. It will have a much greater impact if those militants are UFT members.

Potential defectors need to face reality. There is absolutely no evidence or historical precedent that anyone can find showing that weakening unions by dropping out and leaving the union with fewer paying members and thus fewer resources leads to improved wages, benefits or better working conditions. Find me an example, just one, where this has worked and I will listen.

There is plenty of evidence, however, that working people in states that have right to work laws  (unions can't force workers to join a union or pay a fair share fee if a non-union member) do worse economically. 

From the Economic Policy Institute 2018 study comparing right to work with non-right to work states:

  • Wages in RTW states are 3.1 percent lower than those in non-RTW states, after controlling for a full complement of individual demographic and socioeconomic factors as well as state macroeconomic indicators. This translates into RTW being associated with $1,558 lower annual wages for a typical full-time, full-year worker.
  • The relationship between RTW status and wages remains economically and statistically significant under alternative specifications of our econometric model.
Now that we are right to work in the public sector nationally after the Supreme Court ruled last June that government employees cannot be forced to join a union or pay fair share fees for what the unions do, those of us who are union dissidents are left with four choices:

1-We can shut up rather than be critical and ask to join the in crowd (become Unity UFT cheerleaders).

2-We can quit our union, go home and hope for the best.

3-We can try to form a better union.

4-We can attempt to bring about change from within the union while still being critical of its flaws. 

I still believe, until someone can convince me otherwise, that choice 4 is the way forward. We are better off staying in the UFT, even if we despise much of what our Union's leadership does, or rather often doesn't do, to defend us. Change happens in schools when we persuade our colleagues that it is in our collective interest to be active and force the UFT to support us. Dropping out to save some money each check is the wrong answer; it is pure "me only" selfishness.

Monday, May 13, 2019


Probation for teachers in New York State used to be three years and was changed to four by the awful Education Transformation Act of 2015. You would think four years would be a long enough time to evaluate a teacher to decide if they should receive civil service tenure. All tenure does is entitle a professional to a hearing before a neutral outside person before they can be terminated. It does not guarantee someone a job for life by any means.

Tenure in civil service is routine. Most federal agencies have a one year probation period. It is the same one year for most New York agencies. New York City Police Officers serve a two year probationary period.  Teachers in New York City stay on probation for twice as long as police officers and for no good reason. To add insult to injury, one of Joel Klein's legacies was to make teachers walk through hoops to achieve tenure by having to do tenure portfolios. I never did such a thing and barely noticed the difference when probation was over. It just meant fewer observations. The Department of Education in recent years has made a complete mockery out of the requirement that teachers serve a three year, and after the law was changed, four year probationary period by routinely extending probation.

What has the UFT done to stop this practice of extending probations? Nothing. Well, not exactly nothing because the UFT does go through the motions of making it look like they are doing something. They tell teachers when they get an extension of probation letter to get it to a NYSUT attorney before signing it (see below). That is a complete waste of time as these are boilerplate letters that DOE legal approves of and local administrators just fill in the blanks.

The UFT should be telling probationers that they will sue the DOE because the DOE is making these extensions routine to get around the tenure law which says four years of probation. In addition, this is another issue that could have been taken up in contract negotiations instead of just accepting an early contract with few substantive changes.

From Gene Mann's The Organizer:

New Teacher Corner: Extension of Probation

Probationary teachers are teachers that don’t currently hold tenure in their respective license area. If a principal should choose to extend your probation, it is important to know your rights as a NYCDOE employee.  As a probationary teacher, you do not have to immediately sign the extension of probation. Probationers have the right to have a union lawyer review it first. In fact, every extension of probation should be submitted to the UFT for a NYSUT attorney to review before the member makes the decision to sign. Please inform your chapter leader of the extension and then you should contact your district representative. They will need a copy of the extension so that it may be reviewed by a NYSUT attorney. If your principal is insisting that you sign the extension without the proper time for the extension agreement to be reviewed, do not to sign the extension and contact your district rep or borough office immediately.

Saturday, May 11, 2019


New York State United Teachers at their annual convention last week unanimously passed a special order of business to give the New York State Board of Regents six months to correct the flawed state tests.

From the NYSUT Weekly Leader Briefing:

In a sharp rebuke, delegates at the NYSUT Representative Assembly unanimously called on the state Board of Regents to direct Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia to fix the state's broken standardized testing system within the next six months

In the first RA since anti-union forces attempted — but failed — to use the U.S. Supreme Court to destroy the labor movement, leaders urged delegates to continue the fight for their rights.
Two questions:

1-Is NYSUT actually going to do something aggressive on testing or is this just NYSUT trying to pretend militancy in the age of Janus where members can leave their unions and are no longer forced to pay any fair share-agency fees?

2-Considering NYSUT has been well ahead of the UFT on the testing issue, will the UFT bluster about testing publicly but behind the scenes wink and nod while nothing of any substance is changed on testing?

I support the concept of the Correct the Tests campaign from NYSUT. Let's see what happens.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019


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 and over and 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.)

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:

 Work Year 
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,

Monday, May 06, 2019


According to a report from our friend Chaz confirmed by our common correspondent at Forest Hills High School, the Assistant Principals at Forest Hills voted no confidence in Principal Ben Sherman by an 11-0 margin (other reports had the vote at 11-1). This news came from the UFT Chapter Leader who announced it at five meetings. Our source tells us that according to the UFT Chapter Leader, the investigation of Sherman is being delayed by the Executive Board of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, the union for both the principals and the assistant principals in New York City schools.

If the report about the CSA Executive Board defending Sherman is accurate, it is a very puzzling development. I always thought it was a huge conflict of interest that the CSA represents both principals and assistant principals. In the New York City Police Department, there are separate unions for the detectives, sergeants, lieutenants and captains. I think the school supervisors should be organized with separate unions for the principals and the assistant principals.

If the news about the APs from Forest Hills is correct, it would seem that the CSA is protecting one of its members while basically ignoring the wishes of 11 others who are now reported to be on the record in opposition to Sherman. The Assistant Principals vote supports the UFT staff that overwhelmingly voted no confidence in Principal Sherman earlier this semester.

Saturday, May 04, 2019


NY 1's education reporter, Jillian Jorgensen, read our blog post on the calendar. She then emailed and called me the other day about the controversy of schools being open on Monday, December 23 next school year. As we have stated repeatedly over the last week, this is unprecedented as I have been keeping school calendars since 1986.

Jillian interviewed some people at my kids' school, PS 191 in Floral Park. I was one of those interviewed as a parent and a retired teacher. 

Shameless plug. Don't miss the video of the news report. You get to see my kids in it too. 

Tying Up Loose Ends on December 23rd Issue
When Christmas Eve falls on a Tuesday, we always were given Monday, December 23rd off but not in 2019 because the UFT was negligent in not covering the calendar issue in contract negotiations. Those talks culminated in a contract in October even though the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) put out a Fact Sheet in September telling local unions that the State Education Department expects new collective bargaining agreements to comply with new minimum instructional days (180) and hours (900/990) regulations.

The issue is not that we don't meet the minimum number of days that the SED requires for instruction. It is that the State Education Department no longer will allow districts to count passing time as instructional time. Therefore, even with 185 days in the calendar for next school year, we are short a few hours of the SED requirements. Ergo, a useless school day on Monday, December 23.

For those who have looked at the calendar and see an easy fix by making Wednesday, September 4 into an instructional day instead of a conference day, I don't think that will work. The SED allows four conference days to count as part of the 180 to be used for instruction. If we take September 3 and 4, add in Election Day plus Brooklyn Queens Day, we have four conference days. Those days are already counted as instructional. Taking one away will still leave us short apparently. There are also two clerical days (January 27 for high schools and June 9 for elementary schools) but I am not sure if they can be used as instructional.

The easiest solution is to just rework the number of hours in our instructional day by adding a few minutes of instructional time and just take away a few minutes from the 155 minutes of extended time done in single session schools each week. This is where the UFT was completely neglectful in collective bargaining. They should have insisted on changes to meet the new SED regulations on hours before agreeing on the 2018 contract. They had plenty of time since the contract was not due until the middle of February 2019. If principals, parents, teachers, students and others continue to put pressure on, the contract could be reopened on the time issue to comply with SED regulations if the New York State Board of Regents don't back off on the passing time issue.

There is plenty of precedent for reopening the UFT contract on the hours of work. When extended time was first brought into the contract in June of 2002, it did not work out well and had to be renegotiated in the fall of 2002 and then again in 2003, 2004 and twice in 2005. Only the second time in 2005 was it tied to a new contract. This was all done with the anti-UFT Chancellor Joel Klein and anti-teacher Mayor Michael Bloomberg in office. The use of the extended time was negotiated again with the current Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina in 2014. The membership approved each change in a referendum. There is no reason why the time can't be renegotiated again under Chancellor Richard Carranza to make everyone happy if the Mulgrew strategy of pleading with the Regents up in Albany to count passing time as instructional time doesn't work. Since the UFT is rightfully making the retention of the cap on charter schools a major priority up in Albany, it would seem like doing this here in NYC might be a preferable way to go.

For those who believe this will only be a one year problem, it will be worse in future years. When Eid and the Lunar New Year come on school days, we will be short days/hours and have to give back more days to meet the minimum instructional hours regulations. UFT members will be working more days for the same amount of money. That is called a contractual giveback. I concur with the commenter who said February Midwinter Recess will be on life support. We are going to have to make up days and hours. It is just a question of which days unless the Regents back off on the new regulations or we renegotiate the work hours portion of the contract.

For those who want to compare us with the corporate sector in terms of the number of days off teachers have, that is an apples to oranges comparison. Compare us with other school districts.

Thanks to one of our commenters from Tuesday's post (see below), we have a substantial list of school districts in New York State that will be closed on December 23, 2019. Another commenter pointed out that the suburban districts generally have contractual calendars with a fixed number of days. Ours is variable based on when Labor Day falls, when the last two weekdays in June fall and when the holidays occur. There are districts that have fewer than the 186 days NYC teachers will be working next year which it looks like the SED is going to make our new minimum. This year's NYC calendar has 183 working days for teachers. That's right, 183 and we have full vacations.

I don't know of any district that has 155 minutes built into each week for Professional Development, Parent Outreach and Other Professional Work. All we need to do is to take some of that time, and move a few minutes into the classroom for instruction and we're good. It's so simple but will only happen if all of us put the maximum pressure on the UFT and DOE.

From a comment on an earlier post on the issue:
December 23rd......Look at how many districts in NYS are off!!!!! This is not just Long Island districts but also every upstate school district I have seen so far...
NYS schools

Off Dec 23

1. Bellmore
2. Chappaqua central
3. Comsweogue
4. Garden city
5. Half hollow hills
6. Hicksville
7. Long Beach
8. Long wood
9. Manhasset
10. Massapequa
11. Middle country
12. Mount Sinai
13. North port east north port
14. North shore
15. Patchogue medford
16. Plainedge
17. Plainview
18. Port washington
19. Rockville center
20. Three village
21. Valley stream district 13

22. Ardsley
23. Brewster central schools
24. Byron Bergen central
25. Canandaigua
26. Cazenovia central
27. Chenango forks
28. Churchville-Chili central school district
29. Clarence central schools
30. Clarkson central schools
31. Cornwall central school district
32. East Syracuse Minoa
33. Greenberg’s eleven Ufsd
34. Guilderland
35. Haldane
36. Hilton central schools
37. Homer central schools
38. Kingston city school district
39. Lakeland central
40. Lansing central
41. Middletown
42. New Hartford
43. Palmyra-Macedon central
44. Pelham public
45. Pembroke central
46. Phelps-Clifton springs
47. Pittsford central
48. Rye union free district
49. Saratoga springs
50. Scarsdale
51. Scotia- glenville central
52. Starpoint central
53. Troy
54. Valhalla ufsd
55. Victor central schools
56. Voorheesville central
57. Washingtonville central
58. Webster
59. West genesee central
60. Williamson central
61. Williamsville central62. Yonkers

63. Capital region Boces
64. Nassau Boces

Thursday, May 02, 2019


We've done the research on school being open on Monday, December 23, 2019 for the first time ever when Christmas Eve falls on a Tuesday. We thought President Michael Mulgrew's remark that the Department of Education was "adhering to contract" was rather cryptic so with some help from the commenters, we looked it up and discovered the UFT made a big mistake by neglecting the calendar in contract negotiations and so now everyone will have to pay the price.

The New York City Department of Education and the State Education Department have long since not really been on the same page on whether passing time between classes should count as instructional time. The city DOE believes it should and SED has traditionally been silent but let the DOE slide as long as there were a minimum number of 180 instructional days in the calendar. That is until April 2018 when the State Education Department put out new regulations on the minimum number of instructional days and instructional hours required in a school district's calendar. The state Union, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) put out a Fact Sheet on the regulations that was updated in September 2018 when the Regents approved the new regulations.

From the Fact Sheet:

The new regulations change to a yearly instructional hour construct that requires grades K-6 to have a minimum 900 hours of instruction per year and grades 7-12 to have a minimum of 990 instructional hours spread out over a minimum of 180 days. A half-day Kindergarten program is required to have 450 instructional hours over a minimum of 180 days.  
Sounds like no big change, right? Well no because the next paragraph defines what counts as instructional time and then explains how passing time between classes does not count.
While we are still awaiting field guidance from the Department, SED has produced a spreadsheet to provide districts with the methodology to calculate their instructional time over the course of a school year.  This spreadsheet (a link to this document is at the end of this Fact Sheet) indicates that “passing time” between periods and homeroom do not count as instructional time. In the past SED had only specified that recess and lunch were excluded from a typical school day to determine the length of the “instructional day.”  
You can review the spreadsheet yourself as there is a link to it on the NYSUT Fact Sheet.
It is clear, as NYSUT says, they are excluding passing time from instructional time.

New York City Public School teachers work a 6 hour and 20 minute day with the students and then there are 155 minutes of extended time each week for Professional Development, Parent Outreach and Other Professional Work. Let us do the math ourselves based on the 6 hours and 20 minute regular day to see if we are in compliance with the regulations.

990 hours (secondary schools) for a school year÷180 days=5.5 hours of instruction per day.

I am no expert but I cannot see what the issue is in an elementary school. There is not passing time so there are still 50 minutes for lunch and elementary schools only require 900 instructional hours. They look to be easily in compliance.

For secondary schools, it is a bit more complicated. 5.5 hours is 330 minutes of instructional time. 330÷7 periods= 47 minutes per instructional period. That leaves 50 minutes for lunch and passing in a 6 hour and 20 minute school. 2x7=14 for passing and there are 36 minutes for lunch. I see where it can be an issue in many schools with multiple lunch periods but it looks like an easy fix. 

If we are short one day according to the SED or maybe more in future years when Eid and the Lunar New Year don't fall in August or on a weekday, take 10 minutes from Monday and  from Tuesday's extended time and change them into instruction and all of a sudden we have an extra day 2+ days of instruction. Nobody would notice the change, believe me. Maybe some kids would be helped by the extra few minutes. 145 minutes are still left for those "extremely important" Professional Development and other activities. We have enough time in our work day if DOE is really interested in adjusting this. Add 12.5 minutes to be certain and I think we have a full three days of added instruction and still 140 minutes of extended time each week.

For a big school with a 6 hour and 50 minute day, it is easy to get in 330 minutes for instruction ÷7 periods =47 minutes per class. Add another 47 for lunch and 28 for passing (4×7) and we still have 5 left over to make the State Education Department extra happy. Obviously, passing time could be reduced to make the State Ed Department ecstatic. They have three minutes for passing at Queens Technical where my wife works. They are well in compliance it seems.

The hundreds of different schedules in New York City schools didn't seem to work for the State and so instead of fighting them or negotiating an adjustment to the daily schedule with the UFT, the DOE added December 23 as a school day. This is why Mulgrew said the DOE was "adhering to contract."

Since the UFT knew these were the new state regulations in September of 2018, why did they agree to a contract that didn't address the time issue? This is a huge error on the part of Mulgrew and company. Look at the final paragraph of the NYSUT Fact Sheet:

Existing Collective Bargaining Agreements
The regulations provide that no existing collective bargaining contract need be altered to comply with the new regulations. However, this does not absolve a district from complying with the 180 day statutory requirement and these regulations. As a result, if a district has less than 900/990 instructional hours in a year and if the contract is not altered then the district will incur a financial penalty in the 2018-19 school year.  State law provides that school districts will lose 1/180th of their Foundation Aid for each day the district is short of 180 instructional days.  Future collective bargaining agreements will need to comply with these regulations.
The UFT was fully aware they had to comply with the new regulations in September of 2018. At that time the UFT and the City/DOE were negotiating a contract due in February 2019 that they instead agreed to early in October of 2018 without dealing with the calendar issue.  The UFT agreed to keep the time schedules from the previous contract instead of being 100% sure they were adhering to new state regulations.

Hence, we are stuck with more days than many surrounding districts, just about as many work hours but with fewer days off. The time schedule should have been altered by collective bargaining and then cleared with the State Education Department before any new contract was signed.

The UFT has a liaison with the State Education Department and plenty of people in NYSUT who can advise us. In the final analysis, school on December 23 when it falls on a Monday would not have happened without UFT ineptitude.

The worst part about this is that the 990 hour problem will recur again next year and the year after as commenters pointed out. It will be worse when all of the holidays fall on weekdays so we will have to deal annually with which days off we want to give back. This is truly sad and totally preventable if someone at the UFT was awake and bothered to read and then act on what NYSUT put out in September.

I am almost positive nobody will be held accountable for this error at the UFT but what to do now?

Mulgrew's answer is to beg the Regents to reconsider the regulations. Maybe that will work. A better answer might be publicity and militancy but don't expect the UFT to lead any of that. Teachers, parents, principals, other administrators, students and others don't want Monday, December 23 to be a school day. We'll have to fight this one without the UFT it seems.