Friday, April 30, 2021


For people who really want to return to normal pre-COVID living, I highly recommend reading this Lancet research. The authors find that five countries that chose a rapid elimination strategy with full lockdowns (Australia, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea) have fared much better than advanced countries that have attempted mitigation (the United States, Israel, the UK, France, Germany, etc.) They then write about getting this pandemic under control internationally as we move ahead.

From the study on mortality:

COVID-19 deaths per 1 million population in OECD countries that opted for elimination (Australia, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea) have been about 25 times lower than in other OECD countries that favoured mitigation. Mortality is a proxy for a country’s broader disease burden. For example, decision makers should also consider the increasing evidence of long-term morbidities after SARS-CoV-2 infection.

What about economic performance?

There is also increasing consensus that elimination is preferable to mitigation in relation to a country’s economic performance. One study quantified the optimal basic reproduction number so that elimination is achieved at minimal economic cost. To this end, consider weekly GDP growth with respect to 2019 for the OECD countries that opted for elimination or mitigation. Elimination is superior to mitigation for GDP growth on average and at almost all time periods. GDP growth returned to pre-pandemic levels in early 2021 in the five countries that opted for elimination, whereas growth is still negative for the other 32 OECD countries.

Oh and then there is freedom?

Among OECD countries, liberties were most severely impacted in those that chose mitigation, whereas swift lockdown measures—in line with elimination—were less strict and of shorter duration. Importantly, elimination has been framed as a civic solidarity approach that will restore civil liberties the soonest; this focus on common purpose is frequently neglected in the political debate.

The conclusion:

National action alone is insufficient and a clear global plan to exit the pandemic is necessary. Countries that opt to live with the virus will likely pose a threat to other countries, notably those that have less access to COVID-19 vaccines. The uncertainty of lockdown timing, duration, and severity will stifle economic growth as businesses withhold investments and consumer confidence deteriorates. Global trade and travel will continue to be affected. Political indecisiveness and partisan policy decisions reduce trust in government. This does not bode well in those countries that have seen a retraction of democracy. Meanwhile, countries opting for elimination are likely to return to near normal: they can restart their economies, allow travel between green zones, and support other countries in their vaccination campaigns and beyond. The consequences of varying government COVID-19 responses will be long-lasting and extend beyond the end of the pandemic. Early economic and political gains made by countries aiming to eliminate SARS-CoV-2 will probably pay off in the long run.

Green zones and vaccine passports look like they are going to be an issue as we move forward.

NY is definitely trending positive with COVID-19 as more and more of us are vaccinated but we are still in an orange zone with the virus continuing to spread in the community.

Educators of NYC has a survey out that thousands of educators, parents, and community activists have responded to so far.  I am somewhat surprised that preliminary results show overwhelming majorities support mandatory vaccinations for students and educators. This is not a scientific poll but the numbers are fascinating.

You can take the survey by clicking here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021


The PSC put this out for their retirees. The PSC is part of the Municipal Labor Committee as is the UFT. What's missing are questions about if prior approval will be needed for procedures, surgeries or tests. That is where it looks like the changes might be. Norm is likening these union negotiated changes to death panels as the unions would be helping to ration care. Is this too dramatic a description?

Frequently Asked Questions About the Proposed Medicare Advantage (MA) Plan 

What follows are questions sent to the Welfare Fund by participants in the recent PSC Retirees’ Chapter meeting. The answers given by Welfare Fund Executive Director Donna Costa reflect what is presently known. More details will be available when the bidder/vendor of the MA plan is selected. 

Q: Will all doctors accept the new Medicare Advantage Plan? 

A: All physicians who accept Medicare must continue to accept Medicare B coverage under the MA plan. 

Q: Will the coverage be equivalent to GHI SeniorCare? 

A: The table below details the current GHI SeniorCare coverage, deductibles and limits. All of the prospective vendors contractually agreed to offer the same or better coverage.

Q: Will the other Medicare Advantage plans that are currently in force remain or will they be replaced by the new Medicare Advantage plan?

A: The City has not yet determined whether it will offer the Medicare Advantage as the only plan option or offer both a Medicare Advantage and the option to purchase GHI SeniorCare. 

Q: Will there be two MA plan options? 

A: The possibility of two plan options is slim because all of the vendors have said they cannot guarantee the savings if members are allowed to pick from a variety of health care plans. 

Q: What is the cost to the City for the current health insurance program for retirees? 

A: The approximate current medical and hospital projected savings for all New York City ‘s retired Medicare eligible participants and their spouses is approximately $500 to $600 million. We assume a Medicare Advantage plan will reduce the City’s spend materially through efficiencies and moving to a single program. 

Q: Will the new MA plan be accepted anywhere in the US? 

A: Yes, you are covered anywhere in the US or US territories as long as the urgent care physician and/or hospital accepts Medicare. 

Q: I have GHI Emblem health for myself and my husband. My monthly cost is $2.00 for me and $2.25 for my husband. What will the monthly cost for the new MA plan be for me and for my husband?

A: The monthly cost you are referring to is the cost of the optional 365-day hospital rider. There is no cost for current GHI SeniorCare coverage. There will be no cost for any MA plan currently being considered. All plans will include the 365-day hospital coverage at no additional charge. 

Q: My primary care physician does not accept Medicare. I am currently reimbursed according to Medicare rates but pay extra to see him. Will this remain the same or will I not be reimbursed according to the Medicare schedule? 

A: If your primary care provider accepts Medicare but does not accept Medicare Assignment of Benefits (in which Medicare pays physicians directly), you will still be able to see the physician under the MA plans. 

Q: Will the $50 deductible, no-copay feature still be available under the Medicare Advantage plan? 

A: All of the plans being considered must meet the same coverage as the GHI SeniorCare Plan now offered. GHI SeniorCare currently has an annual deductible of $248 per participant, plus a $25 deductible for ambulance, durable medical equipment, and private duty nursing after the Medicare Part B deductible has been reached. 

Q: My wife is under 65, is on the Affordable Care Act, and has supplemental coverage under my Empire Blue Cross plan. Will I know for sure whether she will be covered as well under the Medicare Advantage plan being proposed before I have to decide whether to join city's Medicare Advantage plan?

 A: Spouses over 65 are eligible for coverage under the proposed MA plans. Spouses and/or dependents under 65 will also be covered, but details are pending the selection of the vendor.

Q: If I choose to remain with traditional Medicare, do you have a ballpark figure on how much I would have to pay for me and my wife if I wanted to retain the supplemental plan I have now? 

A: The option of purchasing the current GHI SeniorCare program has not yet been decided and will depend on which vendor is selected.

Q: What will the timing be for the transition from traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage? 

A: No vendor has been selected yet so the timing of the transition is still being decided. 

Q: Can such a large-scale conversion occur by July 1? 

A: At this point none of the bidders can meet a July 1, 2021, implementation. 

Q: How can continuing participation by Medicare doctors and other providers in the new Advantage plans be demonstrated and assured? 

A: The only requirement is that a doctor must be a participating Medicare provider. Currently 97% of all doctors accept Medicare patients. 

Q: If I remain with regular Medicare next year, can I join the Medicare Advantage plan the following year without penalty?  

A: If you opt out of the proposed Medicare Advantage program you will have to wait until the next Medicare open enrollment period before changing again. The same goes if you take the MA plan and want to switch back. 

Q: My spouse is not eligible for Medicare because he has fewer than 5 years legal residence in the US. He is a dependent on my GHI plan for medical and Empire for hospital. How would this plan affect him? 

A: Since your spouse is not eligible for Medicare, he would not be eligible for the MA plan. Your spouse would be covered under a GHI type plan. Details are still pending the selection of the vendor. 

Q: If my husband and I choose to stay with Traditional Medicare and purchase our own supplemental coverage, will NYC still reimburse us for our Medicare premiums? 

A: I believe so but that is not yet confirmed. 

Q: Is there any way that they would grandfather those already in standard Medicare since that was what we were told we would get at the time of retirement? 

A: Since the new plan is offering the same or better coverage than GHI SeniorCare, I do not think NYC will be open to continue paying for the current plan. 

Q: Will there be a way to pull out if they go through with this and it dosen’t work well? 

A: There are contractual guarantees and penalties that will come into play if the plan does not meet its obligations to provide the same or better coverage than the current plan. 

Q: What kind of coverage does the MA plan provide for when we are out of the US? 

A: You are covered in full from the 1st through 60th day, except for the Medicare deductible amount, and from the 61st through 90th day, except for the Medicare coinsurance amount. 

Q: My husband is a dependent on my health coverage. If we are moved to an Advantage plan, what will happen to his coverage if I die before him? 

A: Whether you move to the MA plan or not, your spouse’s health care will cease on the last day of the month in which you die. Your death is a qualifying event and will trigger a special Medicare open enrollment period that will allow your spouse to select traditional Medicare A & B or another Medicare Advantage program.

Q: Will he have to re-register with Medicare to get the traditional Medicare restored, with the appropriate card, or would this be automatic? And will the procedures for this transition be addressed in detail? 

A: When an MA vendor is selected all the procedures for the transition will be addressed in detail. 

Q: How do Medicare Advantage plans make money? 

Here is Donna’s overview: Medicare Advantage plans act as both Medicare A & B and Medicare Supplemental insurance. Medicare pays the vendor a monthly amount to manage the Medicare A & B claims and pays them an administrative fee to do so. CMS funding to MA’s is based on “Star” rating and “risk” of membership. Higher ratings equal more CMS funding. The star rating also has a direct impact on their Quality Bonus Payment (QBP). In 2018 Health plans with an Overall Star Rating of 4.0 and received up to a 5.0% QBP. Star ratings are also a tool to assist Medicare beneficiaries in selecting high quality plans. See below for a description of the five main star categories: 

• Staying Healthy: Plans are rated on whether members had access to preventive services to keep them healthy. This includes physical examinations, vaccinations like flu shots, and preventive screenings. 

• Chronic conditions management: Plans are rated for care coordination and how frequently members received services for long-term health conditions. 

• Member experience: Plans are rated for overall satisfaction with the health plan. 

• Customer service: Plans are rated for quality of call center services (including TTY and interpreter services) and processing appeals and new enrollments in a timely manner. 

One benefit of the MA plan is that since it is responsible for Medicare A, B and supplemental care issues, our members and/or the welfare funds have a single go-to entity to reach to for help on any issue related to Hospital, physician and/or other covered treatment. 

Another way the MA program is incentivized to help members is to help them better manage their conditions by identifying these members and offering them additional help. This is in no way similar to a managed program which restricts members to certain providers. An example would be in identifying a diabetic and offering them better tools to help manage their condition (more current blood glucose monitor perhaps?). The MA provider is betting that by identifying at risk members early they can help the members to remain healthier longer which means there will be less related hospitalizations thereby recognizing a savings in claims dollars spent and an additional savings in improving the member’s risk score. See the slide below for examples:


The UFT is feeling the pressure from retirees on possible changes to retiree healthcare that the UFT is negotiating as part of the Municipal Labor Committee with the city. Michael Mulgrew will do a town hall for retirees on Tuesday. I wonder if the UFT will try to screen out tough questions as they do with active members at town hall/DAs.

The email:


For those who think having a union means nothing, I suggest you look very closely at the data below from the National Education Association.

Which state ranks highest for average teacher pay? NY is number one. It is fully unionized. The UFT started that charge for better conditions for teachers in the 1960s and early 70s. Then, the unionized Westchester and Long Island teachers led the way to increase NY teacher wages from the 80s until the Andrew Cuomo years. Do you think NY is number one without unions? The states that round out the top five are all heavily unionized.

Where are teacher wages rising fastest now? You guessed it if you said it was mostly states where teachers were willing to go on strike. Washington is number one followed by Oklahoma. West Virginia is at four. NY is in the middle of the pack here at 22. I think the last teacher strike in NY State (illegal of course) was 1999.

Please note also that Wisconsin, where teachers have to opt into their unions each year and collective bargaining rights were decimated by former Governor Scott Walker, now ranks 45th in terms of rising wages.  I think we can safely conclude that the data shows that in states where unions are weak, the teachers don't do very well.

I am not saying unionization is the only factor that leads to higher wages but following this fairly simple formula that is easier said than achieved will generally succeed:

Educators United + Militancy = Better Wages and Working Conditions.

What are you doing to make this happen?

Tuesday, April 27, 2021


From the latest edition of the Chief Leader, there is a lengthy piece on privatizing retired NYC government employee health benefits through a Medicare Advantage plan. This looks like it will be happening later this year. For those who do not wish to read the entire article, here are the paragraphs I found most concerning:

"In the Medicare Advantage programs that we're looking at," [Deputy City Labor Commissioner Claire Levett] said, "you can still go to any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare," noting that "99.5" percent of the nation's doctors participate in Medicare.

She conceded, however, in a subsequent email that a concern raised in the City/New York Focus article that more than half of Medicare Advantage participants were in plans that required prior authorization for some services, including ambulance rides, had validity.

'Some Pre-Authorization'

"Our finalists indicated in their proposals that some services will require pre-authorization,"  Levitt stated. "These include hospital inpatient, behavioral health inpatient, ambulance and step therapy for certain high-cost drugs. Note that all these services and many more require pre-authorization in the City's current plans for active employees, as they help control quality and costs by getting patients to the appropriate care. The retiree should not have to do anything about the pre-authorization; they are typically handled by the provider."

They claim they will get lower administrator costs from private providers. This study from KFF seems to show this does not happen in the real world.

A key part:

Medicare Benefit Payments for Traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage, 2008-2018

The overall cost of administering benefits for traditional Medicare is relatively low. In 2018, administrative expenses for traditional Medicare (plus CMS administration and oversight of Part D) were 1.3 percent of total program spending; this includes expenses for the contractors that process claims submitted by beneficiaries in traditional Medicare and their providers. This estimate does not include insurers’ costs of administering private Medicare Advantage and Part D drug plans, which are considerably higher. Medicare’s actuaries estimate that insurers’ administrative expenses and profits for Part D plans were 10.7 percent of total plan benefit payments in 2018. The actuaries have not provided a comparable estimate for Medicare Advantage plans; however, according to a recent analysis, simple loss ratios (medical expenses as a share of total premiums collected) averaged 86 percent for Medicare Advantage plans in 2018, which means that administrative expenses, including profits, were 14 percent for Medicare Advantage plans.

1.3% administrative costs for traditional Medicare vs. 14% for Medicare Advantage plans but the city is going to save money by going to Medicare Advantage and retirees are supposed to have the same benefits. Something doesn't seem to add up.

The full Chief-Leader piece:

 Anxiety About Shift to Medicare Advantage Plan, City Clarifies Intent

By RICHARD STEIER Apr 23, 2021 Updated 59 min ago

Discussions between the de Blasio administration and municipal unions meant to produce hundreds of millions of dollars in health-care savings through a move to a Medicare Advantage program have prompted alarm and suspicion among some retiree groups and activists that the savings will be realized either by reducing benefits to them or increasing out-of-pocket costs.

Uneasiness grew after an April 21 article that was a collaboration between the investigative website The City and New York Focus headlined, "Retired City Workers Recoil at Coming Cost-Saving Medicare Shift." 

Among those it quoted was Jane Roeder, a former high-level official in the Office of Labor Relations, the agency that has been spearheading the city's attempt to reach a deal with the unions. Calling the prospect "a little frightening," Ms. Roeder said, "The word on the street is that these Advantage plans are fine as long as you don't get sick, as long as you don't need the chemotherapy that my friend is having right now, or radiation treatment, or infusion treatment, or skilled nursing."

Try to Allay Concerns

OLR officials have been tight-lipped about the discussions, which will eventually lead them to agree with the Municipal Labor Committee, the union coalition that negotiates health-benefit changes, on a single private insurer to run the Medicare Advantage program for 250,000 city retirees and their spouses.

But in the wake of that article, Labor Commissioner Renee Campion and Claire Levitt, OLR's Deputy Commissioner, Labor Strategies, spoke at length during an April 22 phone interview to try to calm those who seem convinced that they are collaborating with the unions to stick retirees with the short end of the eventual agreement.

They were somewhat limited in their ability to discuss specifics, Ms. Campion said, because "we have not selected a vendor yet. We are down to the finalists."

Although the City/New York Focus article said retirees had been told by their unions that the finalists were Aetna and Empire BlueCross BlueShield, Ms. Campion declined to name the finalists, or even to confirm that there were just two of them.

Insists Plan Will Help All

The one aspect she and Ms. Levitt were willing to affirm was that when a vendor was selected, the plan—which they expect to have up and running before the end of the year—would benefit retirees as well as the city and its unions.

Retirees' apprehensions had two roots, Ms. Campion said: "People are afraid, No. 1, that they're not going to be able to see their doctor, and it's going to cost them a ton more money."

While there are a small number of Medicare Advantage programs nationwide in which either or both of those negative aspects exist, Ms. Levitt said that neither will happen under the vendors the city and the unions are considering.

Ms. Campion said, "We are committed to our retirees and making sure any new program will increase quality and benefits while reducing costs to the city."

Medicare Advantage, Ms. Levitt said, is a replacement for the traditional Medicare Part A and Part B. Instead of being administered by Medicare, it will be run by a private insurer, something that is already true for 40 percent of retirees nationally.

The huge amount that the city and unions would be spending on the plan assures them better treatment than might be available through a smaller employer or union.

'Still Go to Any Doctor'

"We're buying a Group Medicare Advantage Program," Ms. Campion said. "It's still going to be a free program for retirees, and they'll still get Medicare Part B" reimbursement from the city.

Ms. Levitt said the fear caused by some Medicare Advantage plans that a smaller network of doctors would be available to retirees would not materialize with the vendor chosen by the city and the MLC.

"In the Medicare Advantage programs that we're looking at," she said, "you can still go to any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare," noting that "99.5" percent of the nation's doctors participate in Medicare.

She conceded, however, in a subsequent email that a concern raised in the City/New York Focus article that more than half of Medicare Advantage participants were in plans that required prior authorization for some services, including ambulance rides, had validity.

'Some Pre-Authorization'

"Our finalists indicated in their proposals that some services will require pre-authorization," Ms. Levitt stated. "These include hospital inpatient, behavioral health inpatient, ambulance and step therapy for certain high-cost drugs. Note that all these services and many more require pre-authorization in the City's current plans for active employees, as they help control quality and costs by getting patients to the appropriate care. The retiree should not have to do anything about the pre-authorization; they are typically handled by the provider."

And, she added, "Traditional Medicare doesn't technically require pre-authorization, but it does have medical-necessity provisions that apply to the payment of many services. So, for example, Medicare regulations state that 'Medicare covers ambulance services only if they are furnished to a beneficiary whose medical condition is such that use of any other means of transportation is contra-indicated. A beneficiary whose condition permits transport in any type of vehicle other than an ambulance would not qualify for services under Medicare.' " 

Whichever vendor is ultimately chosen, Ms. Campion said, the new program will mean "improvements on the benefits that people have in their Senior Care plan. It will offer both fitness and wellness programs to retirees, and result in lower co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses."

Not Squeezing Every Nickel

"We're not looking to save as much money as possible," she said, which was why the deal could offer improvements for retirees even while providing the city the cost relief it needs.   

Ms. Levitt noted that the many municipal retirees who have moved out of state will have access to the Medicare Advantage program that is chosen, and that in cases in which a retired worker's spouse is not yet Medicare-eligible, he or she will remain in the plan for active employees until they are old enough to qualify.

"The savings come from the fact that the [private] insurers are much more efficient at managing the plan than Medicare is," she said, notwithstanding Medicare's well-earned reputation as among the best-administered government programs. 

And, Ms. Levitt added, the vendor will have a built-in incentive to provide quality services: "the higher the plan is, the more they get from Medicare. We are only tapping into four-star plans."

MLC Chairman Harry Nespoli, who is also president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association, said April 23, "I understand the retirees' concerns—they're on fixed incomes and they want to know exactly what the changes will be."

'Can Keep Their Doctors'

But, he said of some of those who have been deluging their union leaders with calls, "They think it's the old Medicare Advantage. It's not: they can keep their original doctors."

While he echoed Ms. Campion's remarks, saying, "We still have to work out the particulars" of the provider and the plan, Mr. Nespoli said the MLC would meet with union presidents before the end of the month for a progress report, and would not finalize terms before having them vote on the agreement.

One of the early critics of the secrecy surrounding the discussions had been Stu Eber, the former head of the Managerial Employees Association who is now president of the Council of Municipal Retiree Organizations. In an open letter to the Mayor and the MLC that was published in this newspaper's March 12 issue, he stated, "Nowhere in this process have you consulted with the 200,000 people and their families to determine how it will help or harm us...The lack of transparency in your rush to change this program is both insulting and frightening to those of us who have collectively worked millions of years serving the people of New York City. How can we trust our very health to a back-room deal based on a dubious assumption of cost avoidance?"

Reason for No Discussions

When the two OLR officials were asked why there hadn't been education sessions to answer retiree questions and assuage their fears, Ms. Campion replied that this was not feasible at a point when the city and the MLC have not made a decision on the provider.

"You need to know who the vendor is before you can have the conversations," she said, with Ms. Levitt explaining that "the finalists have different benefits that they're offering."

Once the city and the MLC make their choice, she said, "There will be a very extensive outreach program," with a customer-service call center set up solely to answer questions about the program.

Ms. Campion provided a copy of a letter she had sent to Mr. Eber March 31 trying to reassure him that stated, "The selected Medicare Advantage program will continue to be free to retirees. The offerings have been carefully analyzed to ascertain that the program will not harm retirees but actually provide better or equal coverage. The program permits retirees to utilize any provider nationally that accepts Medicare, assuring that provider choices are as broad as they are under the current program. There will be no bureaucratic hurdles to selecting providers or obtaining care. The Medicare Advantage program also offers additional programs for retirees not available under the current program including transportation and food delivery for post-hospitalized patients and coverage for fitness programs."

Lost in the Mail

Mr. Eber, reached by phone that evening, when asked why, after receiving those assurances, he had remained skeptical of the program in his comments for the City/New York Focus article, said he had not seen the letter, which had been sent to him at the offices of the Professional Staff Congress rather than COMRO or his home address.

After a copy was emailed to him, he said he would defer a detailed comment on its contents but supported a resolution approved by the PSC's delegate assembly April 15 asking that the City University of New York instructors union persuade the MLC to place a moratorium on moving to a Medicare Advantage program.

Ms. Campion said the uproar from retirees had not been directed only at her agency. "I think the unions, from what we're hearing, are getting their fair share of incoming," she said, adding that once a vendor has been chosen, the city and the MLC will work jointly to lay out the details of the program for retirees.

She declined to comment on when the choice has to be made in order to have the program operational by the end of the year, except to say, "We need the vendor in place as soon as possible."    

Monday, April 26, 2021


If the UFT won't ask for member opinions on reopening schools safely, a group called Educators of NYC will. This is a group to watch. They are tech-savvy and rank and file oriented. 

I urge everyone not to just complain about Michael Mulgrew or Unity Caucus or us but to take the EONYC survey and then have all your friends complete it too. 

EONYC held a recent forum on the mayor's race that my wife Camille was a panelist on.

The current survey should help guide the discussion for the next Educators of NYC Zoom event coming up on the evening of May 11 which will be on school reopening in the fall.

This Zoom event will be taking place one day before the UFT Delegate Assembly. At the DA, there will be little, or more likely no, open discussion on reopening schools but teachers should have a say in what the fall will look like. If the Union doesn't do its job properly, we should step up and do it. Hopefully, the EONYC survey and forum will take off and feature a good sample size and then a real discussion so educators and parents can start to empower themselves. 

Click here to take the EONYC survey:

Click here to sign up for the May 11, 7:00 PM Zoom event which will feature representatives from the various UFT caucuses and others. 

We can make a difference when we get involved. 

Please no cynical it won't make a difference type comments. I have a cautiously optimistic feeling about what this group is trying to do. Please give their "Seee you in September" forum and survey a chance. 


While the New York City Teachers Retirement System and the UFT have been a bit tight-lipped about the possible early retirement incentive, the NYC Employees Retirement System has provided specific details.

This is what TRS is saying on its website:

News on Possible Retirement Incentive posted [4/21/2021]

A New York State law enacted April 19 (Chapter 59 of the Laws of 2021) authorizes but does not require the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to offer an Early Retirement Incentive to its employees, some of whom are TRS members. The DOE must decide by May 31, 2021 whether to offer any incentive, which provisions to offer, and which titles will qualify for certain provisions. Until the DOE’s decision is announced, TRS cannot provide information on eligibility or benefits under the potential ERI. We will post updates when available on our website and social media.

Now from the NYCERS website:

About the ERI

On April 19, 2021 Governor Cuomo signed into law Chapter 59 of the Laws of 2021, which provides the City of New York and the NY Board of Education, also known as the NYC Department of Education (DOE), the option to elect an Early Retirement Incentive (ERI).

Eligible members may not file for the ERI until the City of New York and/or the NYC Department of Education have elected to participate and established an Open Enrollment Period, and the Open Enrollment Period starts.

Chapter 59 of the Laws of 2021 contains two separate and distinct retirement options, Part A and Part B.  If the City of New York and/or NYC Department of Education elects to participate in the ERI, they may elect to participate in Part A, Part B, or both. If Part A is elected, the Mayor and/or Chancellor will then define what titles are eligible to apply for the ERI.

Please note that an eligible member can only file for Part A OR Part B. You cannot file for both.

What is the Benefit?

Part A: Eligible members are given additional qualifying service credit for up to three years.

Part B: Eligible members may retire without early retirement reduction factors and are not given additional service credit.

Members must be in continuous active service (being paid on the payroll, on leave with pay, or a leave without pay for less than 12 weeks) preceding the Open Enrollment Period AND:

Part A:

Eligible members must either be:

Eligible for service retirement

50+ years old with 10+ years of service if not otherwise eligible to retire, OR

In a plan that allows for retirement at 25 years of service, regardless of age. In this case, the additional service credit provided by Part A of the ERI may be used to reach the required 25 years.

Part B:

Eligible members must be:

55+ years old and have 25+ years of creditable service.

Part A

1/12 year additional service credit per year of pension service

Maximum additional service credit is three years

Early retirement age reduction factors will apply under the following conditions:

Tier 1

5% per year prior to age 55

Tier 2

Members who are age 55 or older with 30 or more years of service have no reduction

55/25: 5% per year prior to age 55. For members with more than 25 years of service in a physically taxing title, there is no reduction

Basic Tier 2 62/5, 6% reduction for each year of the two years prior to age 62; additional 3% each year prior to age 60. For members with 30 or more years of service, there is a 5% reduction for each year prior to age 55

Tier 4

62/5: 6% reduction for each year of the two years prior to age 62; additional 3% each year prior to age 60. For members with 30 or more years of service, there is a 5% reduction for each year prior to age 55

57/5: 1/30 for first two years prior to age 57; additional 1/20 per year prior to age 55. For members with more than 25 years of service in a physically taxing title, there is no reduction

55/25: 5% per year prior to age 55. For members with more than 25 years of service in a physically taxing title, there is no reduction

Age reductions are prorated for partial years.

Part B

Eligible members can retire with an unreduced benefit

Part B does not provide additional service credit

Next Steps

For City of New York employees, a Local Law must be passed by City Council and signed by the Mayor stating that the city is electing to participate in the ERI by June 30, 2021.

For NYC Department of Education (DOE) employees, a resolution must be passed by the Board of Education and signed by the Chancellor electing to participate in the ERI by May 31, 2021.

If the City of New York and/or the NYC Department of Education elect to participate in the ERI, they must establish an Open Enrollment Period.

If the City of New York and/or the NYC Department of Education elect to participate in Part A of the ERI, they must identify which titles are eligible to participate.

Sunday, April 25, 2021


The UFT's five-point plan for restarting schools falls woefully short in the area of reducing class sizes. The Union is only calling for a "reduction in class sizes in 100 of the city's neediest schools." 

With the Campaign for Fiscal Equity money finally starting to be allocated in the New York State budget, federal money coming, the City Council now proposing more funding, and the mayor claiming that school budgets will receive 100% Fair Student Funding, the NYC Department of Education has no excuse left not to lower class sizes across the board. Class size reductions are needed in every school, not just the neediest 100 as the UFT is calling for or even the 10,000 classes that parents are proposing. 

From Class Size Matters, we have printed below the average class sizes the Department of Education was supposed to adhere to from the 2006 Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement that the DOE has never even attempted to get to and always had excuses for not even trying. They were supposed to reach these goals by 2011. Ten years later, it's about time to finally lower class sizes.

Here is what Class Size Matters and NYC Kids PAC said the other day on lowering class sizes:

The City Council in its preliminary budget response proposes that $250 million be spent on reducing class size next year, targeted first in struggling schools with particularly vulnerable students.

Class Size Matters and NYC Kids PAC strongly support this proposal, as the first step in a four- or five-year plan to lower class size citywide. The federal government is allocating about $7 billion over the next two years via the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) funds and the America Cares Rescue Act (ACRA) to help NYC schools reopen safely and with the support students will need to recover from the pandemic and more than a year of remote or blended learning.

In addition, our schools are also due to receive about $520 million in additional state Foundation Aid to NYC schools, increasing to about $1.3 billion over the next three years, to fulfill one of the goals of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. In that case, the state’s highest court concluded that NYC students were denied their constitutional right to a sound basic education, in part because their class sizes were too large. 

$250 million could pay for the salaries of about 2,500 new teachers, which could reduce class size in as many as 10,000 classrooms – as adding a new class with a new teacher lowers class size for all the other students in a school in the same grade or subject. In addition, we support the Council’s proposal to spend $110 million to pay for at least one full-time school counselor and one full-time social worker in every public school.

Our schools and our kids have waited long enough. There is no austerity as we attempt to recover from the ongoing COVID pandemic. Each school is going to receive 100% Fair Student Funding. I have never seen schools not start the year without a cut. This upcoming school year looks like it will be different. The mayor stated this last week:

For the 2021-22 academic year, 100% of “Fair Student Funding” (FSF) will be available for all city public schools, according to the mayor.

“Fair student funding means more money directly into classrooms serving our students. We know what this funding means: higher graduation rates, lower dropout rates and more students getting into college,” Mayor de Blasio said Monday.

The money is there to lower class size now, hire needed guidance counselors and social workers, and yes to pay UFTers for working last year's spring break. The UFT needs to step up and its members have the responsibility to tell the leadership that the time is now to put money into the classroom and not administrator slush funds.

Friday, April 23, 2021


This article on retiree healthcare for NYC government worker retirees is from The City-New York Focus. It was sent to us by a number of people.

The first few paragraphs:

Nearly 250,000 retired New York City employees and their spouses could have their health insurance changed to “Medicare Advantage” plans managed by private insurers as soon as July 1, New York Focus has learned.

Retirees, who are pushing to delay the switch, say they are worried that a switch away from their current Medicare plan could lead to dramatically higher out-of-pocket costs and a smaller network of providers.

“It’s a little frightening,” said Jane Roeder, a retired city administrator. “The word on the street is that these Advantage plans are fine as long as you don’t get sick, as long as you don’t need the chemotherapy that my friend is having right now, or radiation treatment, or infusion treatment, or skilled nursing.”

The proposed switchover follows a June 2018 agreement between the Municipal Labor Committee, a group that represents retired New York City employees, and the city Office of Labor Relations.

Under that pact, both sides agreed to reduce health care costs for retirees by $600 million a year relative to 2018 forecasts, starting in 2021. Switching to Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C, was one of eight possibilities proposed at the time.

Under Medicare Advantage, the city projects it would save that sum by paying a fee to a private insurance company to manage a Medicare plan. Documents reviewed by New York Focus indicate a deal is being negotiated between the city and private insurance companies seeking to administer the coverage.

Please permit me to remind everyone that part of our opposition to the 2018 contract was unknown medical givebacks. Here is the portion of our October 2018 piece opposing that subpar deal that covers healthcare.

Healthcare givebacks are for all of us in this contract, not just new teachers. The Municipal Labor Committee agreed to huge healthcare savings in June. This is from the City Hall Website article on the new UFT contract: “The agreement will provide total health care savings of $1.1 billion through Fiscal Year 2021 and $1.9 billion of annual savings thereafter.” Putting new teachers on HIP managed care for their first year, which is a major contractual concession as our contract says the city has to offer us a choice of free health plans, will not save the city $1.1 billion or $1.9 billion annually after 2021 as the city will still be paying their health insurance. Where are the new $1.1 billion in healthcare savings ($600 million must recur annually) going to come from?

New city employees have already been placed into managed care for year one of their employment. City retirees could be next. Retirees are talking about what we can do about this. I won't personally be impacted for a few years but I stand ready to support any action opposing privatization as should those of you who are decades away from Medicare eligibility.

Thursday, April 22, 2021


This information comes from the weekly UFT Chapter Leader Update. I have nothing further but urge everyone to read the Chief Leader editorial we cited and copied on Monday for analysis.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021


The UFT Scott Stringer endorsement is one I am a bit hesitant about. While Stringer brings some positive attributes in that he upset Charter Queen UFT bashing Eva Moskowitz in the Democratic primary to become the Manhattan Borough President and as Comptroller  Stringer has audited the Department of Education and found waste (kind of like finding sand at the beach), his record on education is a bit mixed.

We enthusiastically salute Stringer for appointing Patrick Sullivan as the Manhattan representative on the Panel for Educational Policy. Sullivan was usually the only one critiquing Mayor Michael Bloomberg for years while on the PEP and Patrick was a vocal supporter of schools that were trying to remain open in the Bloomberg years including being the only vote to keep Jamaica High School open in 2011. 

I had a longstanding relationship with Patrick and he gave me informal advice on how to approach the PEP. He was instrumental in working with us to make a presentation to the PEP. 89 of us showed up and we were at least successful in postponing our demise. These were the exact words I wrote on the blog back in 2008: "We would like to publicly thank Manhattan PEP member Patrick Sullivan for his support." Patrick was with us all the way through the phase-out and always had an encouraging word. For that, we have to thank Stringer for appointing him and standing by him. Yet when Stringer truly had a chance to make a difference on school governance in NYC in 2009, he did not come through.

Many of you may have forgotten that the law that gives the mayor control of the schools actually expired at the end of June 2009. Stringer had the opportunity to make some real noise that summer as the Bronx Borough President was already starting to call for discussion and debate on the schools. Who did Stringer send to the new Board of Education to represent Manhattan when the borough presidents had a temporary majority? He did not allow Patrick Sullivan near the Board of Ed when it had real power but instead appointed his general counsel, Jimmy Yan to rubber-stamp what Bloomberg wanted by reappointing Joel Klein as chancellor. 

 I am also concerned that Stringer's campaign manager as he runs for mayor in 2021 is pro-charter school one-time Bloomberg lackey Micah Lasher. I remember Bloomberg/Klein sent Lasher to the Community Board 8 Education Committee meeting to sell the Board on Jamaica High School closing. To say that this guy was tone-deaf and didn't hear a word the community said is a complete understatement. One Community Board 8 member after another raised issues on why closing Jamaica High School was a terrible proposal and how the community very much supported the school. Lasher didn't respond to concerns but instead repeated ridiculous talking points and inaccurate statistics. He didn't hear a word that was said. I very much doubt he took anything positive about how the community wanted to save Jamaica High School back to the mayor or chancellor. Lasher subsequently worked for StudentsfirstNY where he was a pro-charter UFT basher. In fairness, Lasher tried to soften some of his pro-charter positions when he ran for state senate but personnel is policy and this guy's history is not favorable and he is running Stringer's campaign. 

What really worries me is none of these red flags concerning Stringer were raised in the extremely limited discussions that were held within the UFT. UFT President Michael Mulgrew claims the UFT had the most transparent process in deciding who the UFT would endorse for mayor. At Monday's Delegate Assembly, he repeatedly thanked the volunteers who donated their time in the political process. As a UFT member and long-time activist, I was never asked for my opinion on the mayor's race or any other endorsement. I don't know of anybody who was asked for an opinion.

We hear about the town halls the UFT did but besides getting to ask questions that were screened and then getting polled at the end, what was the role of the rank and file? We never saw any of the results of those polls but all of a sudden we made an endorsement of Stringer that the Delegate Assembly rubber-stamped on Monday.

The so-called debate Monday consisted mostly of Unity Caucus Mulgrew subordinates living up to their caucus obligation to support the decisions of the caucus in public and union forums by just parroting the party line and not dealing with any possible red flags on Stringer including the strong possibility that he won't win since viability seems to be a big UFT issue. There was also no discussion of the new ranked choice voting system NYC is using so we could possibly go for a second option or third option for mayor. We knew this  mayoral endorsement was going to be another top-down decision as we were given a preview the night before at the Educators of NY forum on the endorsement.

Unity packed the is Zoom meeting. I have no problem with people attending open meetings but I do have major concerns when they come with preconceived ideas and they just try to ram them down everyone's throats. One of my main problems with how Unity runs the UFT is that they don't talk with us; they talk down at us. This is why you hear very little these days from the UFT on the many issues rank and file UFTers have in the schools. UFT leadership has their own agenda and their job is to sell it to us. If you don't believe me, read their mayoral talking points for yourself that DOENUTSblog  printed and we copied below.

 Please note that there are a bunch of statistics Unity sent around that are more like quotes from an analytics page but nothing on how the actual decision was made to endorse a mayoral candidate. We all know we were never polled en masse and any ballot that members may have filled out at town halls was never discussed with the rank and file or even the Delegates. As my wife said at the Educators of NYC event, the rank and file were used as window dressing to make it look like they played a key role in the endorsement decisions.

In addition, there is not a word in the talking points on why the UFT rejected a ranked-choice decision to endorse two or more candidates as this is the first time the city will use ranked choice voting.  There also needed to be a real debate on whether we should endorse at all. The UFT Unity folks will talk down at us and say this is the greatest, most transparent process ever. Those who didn't like it, such as the 55% who voted against the UFT's comptroller endorsement at the DA last week, were just a bunch of "disgruntleds". 

The UFT's track record since 2001 is that we have not picked a Democratic primary winner once in an open mayor's race. I am leaning toward making Scott Stringer one of my picks in this primary but what would it have hurt for the UFT to also back Dianne Morales and/or Maya Wiley who both seem to be on our side on many labor and education issues? I wish we had that discussion.

The Unity email and talking points:

Monday, April 19, 2021


The latest on the ERI from the Chief Leader opinion page is below. The Chief speculates on a possible deal on health benefits for retirees in exchange for an ERI. From Friday:

Or is there something the Mayor wants from the unions before he opens the gates on the retirement incentive, such as a deal on health benefits that has already provoked anxiety and anger from retirees and their advocates?

We will post further information when we have it. We had said to watch out for possible givebacks. All I can say is that whatever is negotiated will almost definitely be done behind closed doors and we will be told when a deal is done. We will have zero input.

The  Chief editorial in full:

Early-Retirement Intrigue

Apr 16, 2021

You would have thought that the de Blasio administration had not been involved in the discussions on an early-retirement-incentive—limited to city employees—that was part of the state budget adopted April 6, based on the Mayor's decidedly ambivalent comments about it a week later.

During a media briefing, he told reporters, "We are trying to look at it and decide if it is something that makes sense for New York City, and how to proceed. And we will be talking to our union partners."

The measure came to life late in the budget negotiations, at a point when some thought it had lost all momentum once the city's unions began cooperating in providing Mr. de Blasio with the $1 billion in savings he said he would need last summer to avoid having to lay off up to 22,000 workers unless the city got serious infusions of outside aid.

The unions held up a large part of their end by agreeing to $800 million in savings before President Biden's American Rescue Plan was approved on the strength of strictly Democratic votes in both houses of Congress. They had agreed to defer wage and benefit payments beyond the end of this fiscal year June 30 in return for a no-layoff guarantee through that date, with the promise that it would be extended for another year if the city received at least $5 billion in state and/or Federal aid. 

The city's share of the Federal relief exceeded $6 billion, and the larger chunk of aid that went to the state seemed to put an end to any worries that Governor Cuomo and state legislators would have to cut aid to the city and bring the total assistance below the required $5 billion. Yet there has been no announcement that the extra 12 months of no-layoff guarantee has been activated. 

The original discussions about the retirement incentive came about largely because of the unions' desire to find a way to cut the city payroll without resorting to layoffs. But even as the fiscal picture grew brighter once Democrats had control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, unions led by the United Federation of Teachers and District Council 37 continued to push the incentive.

It wasn't because they wanted to eat their cake and have it too. There was a concern that the Federal aid was a one-shot deal, with that $6 billion m0eant to deal with losses suffered due to the pandemic but not as a recurring package. And so if by next year city revenues had not perked up, the unions did not want to have to make further deferrals of wages and benefits to head off layoffs.

The early-retirement incentive, under which the city would take an extra hit on pension costs in the short term but save more overall by having workers take advantage of up to three years' additional pension credit tied to years of service and either replacing them with people at entry-level salaries or letting some positions remain vacant, seemed a logical solution.

And so the Mayor's professions of uncertainty don't ring entirely true. We would have assumed the administration sounded out agencies about whether they could afford to lose senior workers in greater numbers than usual, and in which titles, at some point after the unions first raised the issue last summer.

Is it simply a question of wanting to gauge agency sentiment now that the incentive is a reality? A desire to cool down some of the euphoria the news produced among more-senior workers because a good number of them could wind up disappointed because their agencies have already indicated they can't afford to lose employees in key titles, particularly after having been limited for the past year in how many vacancies could be filled?

Or is there something the Mayor wants from the unions before he opens the gates on the retirement incentive, such as a deal on health benefits that has already provoked anxiety and anger from retirees and their advocates?

The intrigue is deepened by what we're told is language in the bill stating that to be eligible to participate in the program, employees have to be in positions that were originally slated for layoffs. Were lists of vulnerable job titles compiled and shared with union officials at any point?

And finally, there's one other element that raises eyebrows. When the city insisted that the program not be open to uniformed employees, among those who were excluded from eligibility were Emergency Medical Service workers. 

Under a City Council bill passed during the Bloomberg administration, they were entitled to uniformed status.

So was EMS left out because ongoing contract talks could result in the administration giving them the same pay pattern as uniformed workers rather than the slightly less-generous terms obtained by civilian unions, including the EMS unions' parent, District Council 37?

It's a lot to think about. 


It was 100-0 at the Executive Board for a Scott Stringer UFT endorsement in the Democratic primary for mayor. No surprise there. The Delegate Assembly vote won't be so high but it should be overwhelmingly in favor of Stringer. As for the UFT rank and file, who knows?

A new poll shows Andrew Yang leading.

From the NY Post:

Andrew Yang has built a sizeable lead in the crowded Democratic primary race to become New York City’s next mayor, according to a new poll released Monday — with more than 1 in 5 likely Democratic voters backing the former presidential candidate.

The survey, conducted by NY1 news and Ipsos, found that 22 percent of likely Democratic primary voters would name Yang their top pick on their primary ballot, 13 percent said that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams would be their first pick, while just 11 percent selected Comptroller Scott Stringer — the only current citywide elected official in the race.

The NY1/Ipsos survey also found some good news for Stringer — he narrowly edged out Adams and Yang as the second choice preference for Democratic primary voters with 14 percent compared to 13 percent for Yang.

DA REPORT (Abridged today)

Mulgrew thanks hundreds for volunteering and over ten thousand involved. 

We had deep relationships with five running in 2013. Nobody was going to hurt us.

Different now. Looking at viability and policies.

Rule to extend debate beyond 5 speakers on endorsement for mayor. (Looking at Robert's Rules. It says on page 261 that a motion to suspend the rules is not debatable on but there are three speakers Mulgrew allows.) Motion to allow more than 5 speakers gets 91% in favor.

Large field down to four. Politics is tough. More money spent on this mayor's race than ever before. We went through what candidates say. Look at education, social justice and how they will rebuild city. What is in the best interest of school system and Union. Want candidate in alignment with us who is viable. 

Last Friday, met with 20 volunteers. Anyone can volunteer. Process transparent. No consensus two months ago but now consensus. We have a longstanding relationship with Scott Stringer. We worked over weekend with consultants. Stringer viable and with us.

Resolution to support Stringer.

Julio Gomez motivated it, a Bronx chapter leader. He was followed by another in favor of Stringer, and then another in favor. The first three were all volunteers who were part of process. A fourth person, this one from the exec bd, supported Stringer.  A fifth person who was a political panelist from Staten Island was next to favor Stringer.

Mulgrew finally asks for a speaker against.  They find one who tries to amend it which she can't do. This person favors Dianne Morales. 

Another speaker speaks out in favor of Stringer. Another exec bd member then says she is for Stringer. A speaker follows to speak against. Mulgrew leaves chair to Barr (he wants to speak) Another speaker speaks for Stringer. Surprise, surprise Mulgrew speaks next. He spoke about five times longer than anyone else and then low and behold the next speaker moved to close debate. 85% voted to close debate. 

The final vote was 90% in favor of endorsing Stringer.


If you want to change the Union, you need to get involved. Run for a position in your school this spring and be the change you want. 

Send an email to your school Election Committee Chair by today to nominate yourself for Chapter Leader or Delegate. The deadline for nominations is today, April 19.

For details on what is involved, see our prior posting with a link to the workshop we helped Solidarity run.

Mayoral Endorsement

Also today,  based on the scripted performance we observed from the Unity reps who came to the Educator's of NY discussion last evening, expect a totally staged Delegate Assembly today for the UFT's mayoral endorsement. Unity showed up in full force to talk at people, not with members. Unity will not allow last week's embarrassing political defeat to be repeated at today's special Delegate Assembly.

DOENUTS has a brilliant report on last night's Zoom event that includes all eight pages of the Unity talking points showing how exactly to talk down to us and not listen.

Saturday, April 17, 2021


There is a special Delegate Assembly on Monday afternoon to endorse a UFT candidate for mayor. Everyone guesses the UFT will endorse Scott Stringer with some believing Maya Wiley has a chance to be second. Is this the right decision? Is the UFT top-down endorsement process fair?

If you are looking for a real discussion on the mayor's race and the Union's involvement, you will most likely be out of luck at the DA as it will more than likely be tightly controlled by Mulgrew. I predict a very long Michael Mulgrew filibuster where he will tout his chosen  candidate(s) as greater than FDR and JFK combined and then the hand picked Unity Delegates will be called on to agree with everything that Mulgrew says.  A dissident just might get to speak for 2 minutes but don't expect more than a token opportunity for someone to voice opposition to Mulgrew's chosen candidate(s).

For a complete discussion of the UFT's political endorsement process, join Daniel Alicea's Educators of NYC on Sunday evening on Zoom. Daniel is bringing together representatives of a number of groups within the UFT, including ICEUFT for this forum. My wife Camille will be representing our caucus. I will certainly be on the Zoom.

To register, go here.

Friday, April 16, 2021


It has been two days since the Wednesday Delegate Assembly and I am still having a tough time understanding the significance, if any, of what actually happened when the UFT leadership was rebuffed by a majority of the Delegates on a political endorsement. A clear majority of 55% voted to reject the endorsement of Corey Johnson for comptroller and four other candidates.

The Delegate Assembly is normally a rubber stamp for Michael Mulgrew, Leroy Barr, and the rest of the Union's leadership from Unity Caucus. Many, possibly a majority of the Delegates, belong to Unity  where they sign a membership obligation that binds them: "To support the decisions of Caucus / Union leadership in public or Union forums." In exchange, they get perks from the UFT. Leadership positions are never rejected by the Delegates but it happened on Wednesday. For those who do not understand the possible importance, please take a look at analysis from a veteran retiree who is no stranger to UFT politics that was at ICE-mail and EdNotes:

I think that anger over the current UFT mayoral endorsement forums was a contributing factor to the rejection of Unity's endorsement reso at yesterday's DA.

First you had Unity Guy [Dave] Pecararro throw a wrench into the works by feeling compelled to speak against the reso (ironically because of an anti-democratic, arbitrary Unity rule about amending resos, or unbundling endorsements, or something).

Then, the other speaker was also against the reso, and both he and Pecarraro were well spoken and clear. That presented a very negative overall picture before the vote. 

Add to that, that there is an institutional memory of similar DA objections to Unity endorsements in the past, often made very eloquently by Jonathan Halabi.

Then there is the burn factor: The fact that the UFT's mayoral endorsements are the kiss of death. (By the way, do you remember that Bill Thompson's education advisor, and probable choice for Chancellor was Meryl Tisch? Yes, Meryl fucking Tisch! And UFT endorsed him!)

Then there is the pandemic era anonymous digital voting that lets Unity members have some cover to vote their conscience.

And the cherry on top was the mayoral forum charade where Yang - because of "viability" - was invited at the expense of other more progressive, more pro-labor candidates; as though all the forums (crappy as they were) leading up to the "Final 4-um" meant nothing. All that mattered was public polling. That pissed off more people than Mulgrew realized.

Add it all up and you've got an endorsement smackdown and a very shaken Unity leadership.....

Because of electronic voting at the DA's, Staff Director Leroy Barr can't see who is voting against the leadership like in live meetings. District Representatives keep chapter leaders and delegates in line by sitting together to make sure they do what they are supposed to. 

What happens next? I doubt there will be that many more electronic DA's with secret ballot voting. But for now, according to Michael Mulgrew, the UFT is planning a special DA for a mayoral endorsement where I have heard from multiple sources that the Union will be endorsing Scott Stringer and maybe Maya Wiley as a second choice (rank choice voting is here but few understand it). The question to ask is this: Is that what our rank and file want? I don't know what the answer to that is.

I would like to add that I do support what David Pecoraro said during the DA about David Weprin for comptroller over Johnson. Weprin is a Jamaica High School graduate who took a principled stand to support the school and then went way above and beyond to save our school when Joel Klein-Dennis Walcott-Michael Bloomberg-Bill de Blasio-Carmen Farina closed us. 

Weprin was with us all the way opposing the Department of Education from the start of the closure process in 2009 (we were delayed for a year by a judge) to the final graduation ceremony in 2014. Even in 2013-14 when we were in the last year of phasing out but there was a new mayor, Weprin formed a committee and he worked with us to try to turn what was left of Jamaica High School into a school that would survive as a small school within the school building. He sent a representative to our still very functioning School Leadership Team on several occasions and helped us with a resolution for the local Community Board in support of keeping the school alive that carried unanimously.

Weprin along with Borough President Melinda Katz, several other politicians, and the UFT Chapter made a valiant last stand. Only Bill de Blasio and Carmen Farina know why we were turned down. The main problem with the schools in 2014, as it has been since 2002 and still is in 2021, is mayoral control. We need to discuss that as much as who the next mayor or comptroller will be.


This just came our way on Twitter:

UFT special delegate assembly announced for Monday, April 19th at 4:15 pm.  EXEC BD will meet at 3 PM.  Mayoral endorsement to be voted on and announced.




If you have any doubt about the Republican-libertarian-right wing agenda to privatize public schools, please read this piece from a Washington Post blog written by Valerie Strauss called The Answer Sheet. In it, the Network for Public Education's Carrol Burris interviews Charles Siler, a former lobbyist for the school privatization people. Understand that the privatizers want to destroy public education and unions and they have loads of money to do it.

The beginning of the interview:

BURRIS: Let’s get straight to the point. It is becoming more obvious that all of the voucher and charter expansion legislation we see this year is part of a larger mission being pushed by libertarian Republicans. First, am I right? And second, what is the ultimate goal?

SILER: There’s virtually no other initiative in the education space that’s a bigger priority for the Right today than creating and expanding unaccountable, unrestricted, universal voucher programs. The easiest way to recognize this reality is to look at the incredible number of school voucher bills being pushed across state legislatures just this year.

They aren’t doing it because their constituents are demanding these programs. Voters continually reject voucher programs, and in any state where a public response is permitted, the wave of public opposition to these programs dwarfs the astro-turfed support for them. They also fervently refuse to include any kind of measures to mitigate fraud, waste, abuse and lack of accountability in these voucher programs despite having evidence from established programs. But simply setting up voucher programs isn’t their ultimate goal; it’s just the current next step towards their ultimate goal.

Their ideal is a world with as minimal public infrastructure and investment as possible. They want the weakest and leanest government possible in order to protect the interests of a few wealthy individuals and families who want to protect their extraction of wealth from the rest of us. They see private wealth accumulation as a virtue signal because a person can only become wealthy by creating something of exceptional value for the public. In their world view, the more money someone has, the more moral life they've lived, and any attempt to take that money through taxation or other means is a moral issue.

That's why they work so diligently to undermine public infrastructure, whether that's public schools, public transportation, military spending, and even the carceral system.

They also work to undermine collective action in the form of unions, voting blocks, protests, and more. To them, it's equally immoral for a union to demand higher wages of a business owner as it is for voters to impose a higher minimum wage on business owners. The same people pushing for school privatization are the same ones pushing for voter suppression, and that's why. They fear the power of people.

On charter schools:

BURRIS: We are now seeing charter expansion legislation paired with voucher legislation. How do charter schools fit into the agenda?

SILER: Charter schools are part of the incremental march towards full privatization. Sometimes charter schools are part of the hook for large donors. A number of wealthy privatization financiers have become part of the movement by funding large grants and other programs for charter schools.

Also, charter schools can be set up in a number of different ways depending on the local political climate, all while starting the shift of public funds into private investments. Charter schools also help garner the support of white voters as charters often find creative ways to discriminate against students of color, increasing segregation. Charters create a number of loopholes in the public education space, from financial and academic accountability to legal protections for marginalized students, which begin to normalize those problems for the general public. In many ways, charter schools are the gateway to total public school dismantling.

And more:

BURRIS: Who are the major funders of the so-called school choice movement, and why are they hostile to public education?

SILER: I can’t speak about specific funders or donors who haven’t been identified already in a public way, but some are pretty obvious. Former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has made dismantling public schools part of her life’s work, and through the DeVos Family Foundation, she funds privatization efforts across the country. Her work as a financier likely has done and will do more damage to public schools than her entire tenure with the Trump Administration.

The heirs of the Walmart fortune, the Walton family, also funds privatization across the country — especially charter schools. The Koch Foundation is probably the most publicly villainized supporters of dismantling public schools, and in many ways, there wouldn’t be such a vast network of pro-privatization advocates had it not been for the tireless support of Charles and David Koch. There’s also the Bradley Foundation which contributes to numerous conservative groups and is also a financial driver of school privatization.

But it's not just billionaires. It's also local businesses funding privatization efforts, either through donations made by their owners or investments into state and local chambers of commerce. It's individuals, small donors, too. But they really aren't sufficient to make the entire machine, the industry of school privatization, function. It truly takes the massive investment of the exceptionally wealthy to drive the privatization agenda.

Their hostility to public education is best described as being the nexus of three parts. First, they want to minimize any government spending whatsoever, and public education is one of the largest line items in any state budget. Getting rid of public education spending would massively reduce the tax burden on wealthy individuals at the state level.

Public schools are also incredibly popular, and they don’t want the general public to view public institutions as effective or popular. It’s why they’ve driven a false narrative about “failing schools” for decades now, and it’s also why they continually attack Social Security, Medicare, public pensions, public transportation, and more because they know it’s impossible to get people to share their vision for limited government when people have so many positive experiences with government programs. And lastly, it’s about diminishing collective power. Taking down public schools also means taking down teachers’ unions, PTO’s, local school boards, and all the other ways those of us who aren’t exceptionally wealthy come together to push for collective investment in our communities.

Public schools and the communities around them represent the kind of togetherness privatization advocates despise.