Monday, February 20, 2017

Is CIA the Good Guys? US Secret War in Laos - CIA Killed 10% of the Population

I watch the outrage over Trump and the intelligence agencies coming from so-called liberals, most of whom attacked the shit out of the CIA/FBI assassins for 60 years. Because we hate Trump so much are we lining up with the bad guys?

And by the way -- let's not forget the crap Obama pulled. This is not a defense of Trump but let's be real.

Read the NY Times book review of  The Not-So-Secret War: Revisiting American Intervention in Laos

This excerpt is a key:
“How many did we kill in Laos?” Nixon asked Henry Kissinger one day in a conversation caught on tape. Kissinger replied: “In the Laotian thing, we killed about 10, 15” — 10,000 or 15,000 people, he meant. The eventual death toll would be 200,000.
What made “the Laotian thing” possible was secrecy and deception. C.I.A. officers created a fake headquarters for Vang Pao to receive visiting congressmen and other dignitaries and fool them into believing they were supporting a shoestring, purely Hmong operation. Testifying to the Senate in 1971, Sullivan blatantly lied about the United States’ role in Laos, and blithely assured the senators that his appearance was “a very sincere token of an open society.”

Saturday, February 18, 2017

DeVos to Tour Schools With Randi - Marshals Doubled to Protect Randi From Union Members' Outrage

With Betsy DeVos mocked throughout the nation and  on the run, Randi Weingarten has legitimized, or normalized, her by arranging to go visit public schools with her. Some people are speechless. For long-time Randi observers this is totally in line with her modus operendi. Thanks to Abby in Newark for the story.
DeVos faced a storm of criticism before her confirmation vote, with critics arguing she lacked public school experience.
Protesters then tried impeding DeVos’s entrance into Washington, D.C.’s Jefferson Middle School during a Feb. 10 visit after she was sworn in.
DeVos ultimately entered the school, and Weingarten condemned those attempting to stop the visit, which was organized by the Washington Teacher’s Union, a group which also opposed DeVos’s confirmation.

“Just heard a protester blocked & almost knocked Secy @BetsyDeVos down at Jefferson,” she tweeted Feb. 10. "We don’t condone such acts. We want her to go to pub schls."

Right to Work Coming Soon to a State Near You as Iowa Joins Other States in Assault on Public Unions

If you check comments on some blogs there are a whole batch of NYC teachers who just can't wait for Right to Work to come along so they won't have to pay dues.
Garotte is New Iowa state symbol

As Iowa joined Wisconsin and other states in the assault, we can see that there is a lot more than paying dues involved.
Under the legislation, most public-sector union contract negotiations will be limited only to base wages. Unions will be banned from negotiating with their employers over issues such as health insurance, evaluation procedures, staff reduction and leaves of absence for political purposes. However, public safety workers such as police and firefighters will have a broader list of issues to be considered in contract talks. All unions will be barred from having union dues deducted from public employees' paychecks and unions would need to be recertified prior to every contract negotiation.
The legislation also changes the arbitration process when contract talks reach an impasse. Currently, the union and management would make their best offers and an independent arbitrator would be required to choose the most reasonable of the two. The legislation requires an arbitrator to consider the employer's ability to finance any wage increase. It also puts a cap on how much an arbitrator can raise wages. The wage increase could not exceed whichever is lower: 3 percent, or a percent equal to the cost of living increase outlined in the consumer price index.

An often hapless Democratic Party is left without any means to stop these assaults and the unions are so weak internally, they can barely mount a response. Too many people just don't give a crap.

Well, maybe as they see the joint assault that is coming from Betsy DeVos in destroying public schools our non-dues payers may very well find themselves fighting for their jobs and even pensions and possibly health care.

Now, does our union have a plan to battle this? From what I can tell from scuttlebutt, their plan is to retrench and shrink -- cut staff positions and salaries and offer less services. Watch what happens as each school has 2 lists -- UFT members and non-union members. The latter can be barred from union meetings and even though technically they are entitled to the same rights. But imagine a chapter leader trying to collect dues when faced with a non-payer who needs help. A mass of FUs will issue from school after school.
Reality is that the end will be near - a slow drip or a quick garrote.

I mean my plan would be to make it worthwhile to be in the union.

Friday, February 17, 2017

I Come Neither to Bury Nor to Praise Liberalism - Norm in The WAVE

Published Feb. 17, 2017

I Come Neither to Bury Nor to Praise Liberalism
By Norm Scott

My wife and I got a major dose of American history last week when she won the Hamilton $10 lottery – first row baby. (Sorry, I had to brag at the paying off of my wife’s year long quest of entering the lottery every day.) The experience (the show was even better than I thought it would be) got me to thinking, which can be a dangerous thing. So let’s talk a bit about “liberalism.”

When people on the real “left” as opposed to branded “left” hear the NY Times and the Democratic Party – and Obama and the Clintons branded as “left” they pull their hair out. Maybe liberal or neo-liberal – which can mean different things but not what I consider the real left. But we’ll deal with my view of the left another time.

All people to the right of Genghis Trump have been branded as liberals, and by the more extreme alt-right wing as “libtards.” The liberal label has been much misused and misunderstood. For instance, I have not considered myself a liberal since the 1960s. I find no easy way to label my politics, which has ranged from Marxist to social democratic (Bernie Sanders style) to center-left. Many of us who have been on the defense of public education bandwagon have classified the assault by the “school choice” movement as a neo-liberal free market based attack on public institutions. One of the many contradictions in the choice movement is that they refuse to let the public hold votes on charter expansion and vouchers because the public almost always votes them down. So in essence they suppress democracy in the name of the free market. We’ll explore this contradiction another time.

Liberal, liberty, libertarian, and libertine all come from the Latin liber (free). Our system of government was one of the first liberal democracies (along with England) based on the European Enlightenment during the 17-18th centuries. The key was to reduce the power of the monarchy and to hold kings accountable. Early democracy was not for everyone. Certainly not women or the poor.

A major event was the beheading of Charles II* and the Glorious Revolution of the late 1600s which was a pretty effective way to show monarchists that they were going to be under some level of control. (It took the French another century to do the same to their king). The monarchy was kept in England but with major controls, like parliamentary supremacy, a bill of rights, habeas corpus and other basic building blocks of a liberal democracy. John Locke laid the groundwork for our own nation when he wrote about the consent of the governed and the rights of individuals and even the separation of church and state (hello Mike Pence) in the 1690s.

You may have noticed recently a lot of talk about checks and balances between the 3 branches (executive, legislative, judiciary) with the press (the 4th estate) being another check. On the French side, Voltaire and Montesquieu actually laid out many of the ideas (3 branches of government, separation of powers) used by the founding fathers to frame the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution which took shape from 1787 and was ratified in 1789. Hamilton and Madison played major roles in the process but once the nation began to function in the 1790s found themselves on opposite sides in the political wars – and there were political wars just as vicious as we have today. (See Aaron Burr/Hamilton duel which ended that feud in a pretty definitive way --- imagine settling our elections that way.)

Checks and balances are designed to prevent tyranny but don’t always succeed in many liberal democracies. But that can also lead to gridlock and a growing impatience over the messiness of democracy where maybe the trains always don’t run on time (see MTA transit) and a wish for a strong man (or woman) to shake the tree, democratic institutions be damned – see Mussolini and Putinism and the growing threats to European liberal democracies as the right wing rises.

Note: the far right is anti-liberal democracy, anti-globalism, anti-immigrant and pro-nationalist, which leads to some interesting thoughts on where we started. If liberal equates with free and individual rights, where does that leave us as the far right morphs into the mainstream?

Norm wrestles, not duels, with the alt right, the right, the left, liberals and the center on his blog

*From James Eterno:
Hey Norm,

From Ed Notes:

A major event was the beheading of Charles II and the Glorious Revolution of the late 1600s which was a pretty effective way to show monarchists that they were going to be under some level of control. (It took the French another century to do the same to their king). The monarchy was kept in England but with major controls, like parliamentary supremacy, a bill of rights, habeas corpus and other basic building blocks of a liberal democracy.

Charles I got his head chopped off mid 17th century, not Charles II. Charles II died of kidney failure or the cures doctors tried to give him. James II was the king during the Glorious Revolution in 1688. He fled the country and lived out his life in exile in France after he failed to take back Ireland.

The following article is republished from Uncle John's Ahh-Inspiring Bathroom Reader. Next time you feel yourself coming down with a cold, thank your lucky ...

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

DOE to Hire Former Principals to Do Hits on Tenured teachers - PEP Feb. 28 Vote

Consultants are assigned to cases involving teachers and other pedagogues who were rated unsatisfactory, and they prepare documentation related to the underperforming personnel. Team Leaders act as liaisons who offer support among the attorneys, Labor Support Consultants, and school administrators.  ....
Teachers ought to go and give the PEP some input on Feb. 28. Note than any mention of the word "support" doesn't mean support of the teachers but of the administrator.

When Mulgrew sang the praises of de Blasio in his endorsement this wasn't mentioned. Let's spend another million bucks to support DOE legal. I know one of these guys. Believe me - you go in guilty. Will the UFT have any presence at the Feb. 28 PEP to address this?

San Diego School Board Pulls DeVos Invite

Monday, February 13, 2017

Charters are cancers. There are no good cancers–and charter schools are metastasizing throughout education

Has the public ed ship sailed? After rigthly declaring charters are cancers, Bob Braun asks a very pertinent question on his blog:
Do public school advocates have the will to fight Trump? Open question.
Sadly, we think not. On Saturday Braun attended a conference in New Jersey organized by advocates for public education. The conference included members and staff of such pro-public education groups as the Education Law Center and Save Our Schools. They were searching for some reason for hope given the lack of a sense of militancy in fighting off charters.
Don’t forget these were the activists, the advocates, the good guys, at the conference. But they argued against tinkering with the school aid formula, wrung their hands about seeking an end to charter schools completely, held out little hope about seriously integrating the public schools of the state, and believed that a mayor who hires school board members really means it when he talks about independent public education.
Even if Phil Murphy is elected, public education in New Jersey–and throughout the nation–is in serious trouble. 
Braun was clearly disheartened by what he heard.
Participants in the conference danced around the danger of charters–but they are starving public schools. Yet even charter critics like Mark Weber–better known as the blogger Jersey Jazzman–offered palliatives when, in fact, bulldozers are needed. Charters suspend and expel 20 to 30 times more students than do public schools, a good way of enhancing their student test results, and such behavior raises serious moral as well as political issues.
I too am often disheartened by the response to Trump where people are running around often chasing their tails -- like little yappy dogs seeing 10 balls and racing after every one until they get tired and lay down to rest. Watching our teacher unions scratch their asses as they face the end of the cliff is almost comical - almost. [UFT Message in Times of Right to Work--Do As I Say, Not As I Do]

I also attended a an event on Saturday - the monthly MORE meeting. I think at least the people attending see charters for the cancer they are - though I would like to see MORE get in the face of the union leadership for playing little games about how they can support charters that are open to more monitoring and unionization -- it is about dues after all.

Braun touches on NJ Ed Assoc Phil Murphy:
Part of the problem is that, among this group of advocates–and others, including the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the state’s largest teachers’ union–Phil Murphy is the heir apparent for what passes for progressivism in New Jersey politics.  Yet Murphy–like Jon Corzine, a Goldman-Sachs alumnus–has said virtually nothing about public education and his message is as inspiring and thought-provoking as a lecture on lawn mowing.
Trump and DeVos want to turn public education upside down and shake out all the money from its pockets so it can flow to corporate managers. We know that. What will Murphy do? What do these advocates want done?
 It’s not as if the problems aren’t known. Bruce Baker, the Rutgers professor who is probably the smartest and most cutting critic of state educational policy, warned both about the regressive nature of school funding under Christie–and the growing acceptance of the segregating effects of charter schools, privately-operated, public-funded schools that help frightened parents run away from public schools. “We’ve lost momentum on the idea that pubic schools should be inclusive,” he said. “They”–the critics of public schools–“are making the opposite argument and they are winning.”
In short, the fundamental idea that public schools are and should be  engines of equality and diversity is losing support.

Braun wants more resistance and less tinkering at the edges.
And how will it [support for public schools] be restored? Baker and others–including Theresa Luhm of the Education Law Center (ELC)–were not hopeful. No, it’s not that they were pessimistic–they were all hopeful the last eight years of Christie’s contempt for public education could be reversed. But they also warned that any effort to rewrite school funding laws were inherently dangerous because they invited political interference in the pursuit of true equity. Better to leave well enough alone and tinker with the edges.
Like Phil Murphy’s expected candidacy, this is simply not enough. Something akin to a political tsunami has occurred that is about to wash away public education as we know it and something more than the restoration of the Bourbons to public education is needed.
Mary Bennett, a former Newark high school principal,  spoke about governance–specifically the return of local control to the Newark schools. But she neglected to mention that the path to local control was impeded, not by the will of the Newark people willing to fight for their schools, but by the unfortunate deal cut between Christie and Mayor Ras Baraka to end criticism of Christie’s policies in the city, including the vast expansion–doubling in ten years–of charter school enrollment.
Baraka, in short, impeded the pace of a return to local control and now takes credit for expediting it. The dangers public schools face now cannot allow such delusional political thinking–the enemies in Washington are too real and too powerful.
 Braun lists the dangers facing public education:
It is underfunded.
It is racially segregated.
It is in danger of being swept away by charters.
Its employees are demoralized.
It has been targeted for destruction by a national administration unlike any other in the history of the republic.
In short, without aggressive action to restore the promise of public education, it will continue to lose support among those who will turn to nuts like Trump and DeVos to find answers in alternatives like vouchers, private schooling, and home-schooling.
The leaders taking aggressive action should be the unions which should go after the very concept of charter schools with guns blazing. Instead we get

Chris Hedges: Our Democratic Institutions Eroded

The four-decade-long assault on our democratic institutions by corporations has left them weak and largely dysfunctional. These institutions, which surrendered their efficacy and credibility to serve corporate interests, should have been our firewall. Instead, they are tottering under the onslaught. 
Labor unions are a spent force. The press is corporatized and distrusted. Universities have been purged of dissidents and independent scholars who criticize neoliberalism and decry the decay of democratic institutions and political parties. Public broadcasting and the arts have been defunded and left on life support. The courts have been stacked with judges whose legal careers were spent serving corporate power, a trend in appointments that continued under Barack Obama. Money has replaced the vote, which is how someone as unqualified as Betsy DeVos can buy herself a Cabinet seat. And the Democratic Party, rather than sever its ties to Wall Street and corporations, is naively waiting in the wings to profit from a Trump debacle.

“The biggest asset Trump has is the decadent, clueless, narcissistic, corporate-indentured, war-mongering Democratic Party,” Ralph Nader said when I reached him by phone in Washington. “If the Democratic strategy is waiting for Godot, waiting for Trump to implode, we are in trouble. And just about everything you say about the Democrats you can say about the AFL-CIO. They don’t control the train.".....  Chris Hedges, The Elites Won’t Save Us
I've been around people on the left for many decades and many disparaged our democracy as being somewhat of a phantom -- and as a student of history I often agree. Think of the Red Scares, McCarthyism, slavery, money buying politicians. So it is interesting so many people from conservatives to liberals claiming we will see even these fragile institutions disappear into fascism.
Hedges pretty much trashes every institution and says the only thing that will save us is resistance. But I don't see how non-organized resistance can work. I hate the Democratic Party but also feel that if a lot of the energy out there went into forcing change that might be worth it. But maybe not.

He closes with:
We are in the twilight stages of the rolling corporate coup d’├ętat begun four decades ago. We do not have much left to work with. We cannot trust our elites. We cannot trust our institutions. We must mobilize to carry out repeated and sustained mass actions. Waiting for the establishment to decapitate Trump and restore democracy would be collective suicide.
Below is the Hedges article continued with some great analysis.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Irony surealism: I’m Just Wild About Betsy (sort of) - Norm in The Wave

Published Friday, Feb. 10, 2017 at

I’m Just Wild About Betsy (sort of)
By Norm Scott

While most of my colleagues rend their clothes in anguish over Betsy DeVos becoming education secretary after VP Mike Pence had to break a tie vote in the Senate, the first time in history, I am seeking out the positives, one of which is the negative reaction to DeVos of so much of the pro-charter, pro-choice movement for which on the surface, this should seem to be a slam dunk.

Pro-choice advocate Marco Petruzzi writes:

Following DeVos’ controversial congressional hearing, on the eve of the Senate’s vote to confirm her nomination, charter supporters and leaders like myself must pause and consider what it means to be an Education Reformer. A wholesale embrace of Betsy DeVos and President Trump’s pro-choice policies ­ — and whether they include vouchers, for-profit charters, and more freedom from transparency and accountability as has been hinted — poses serious threats to our movement and potentially to public education in America…..

He wants do defend public education from DeVos. The difference between us is that he views charters as public schools. I don’t since public schools are open to all and managed by a public agency accountable to elected officials. But some important elements of the charter industry are clearly nervous about DeVos and Trump.

When billionaires like Eli Broad, who helped found and support so much of the anti-teacher, anti-union rhetoric came out against DeVos I knew something interesting might end up brewing ¬ – that an aggressive move to voucher the nation and undermine the entire concept of the public school system might actually lead to the public turning away from the entire concept of a free market approach to education and return to supporting the concept of making sure every neighborhood has a quality zoned public school that has the support of the community.

In fact, to some extent that is already happening as the battle over DeVos brought a lot of people to start thinking of their own public school experience in their own neighborhood and how they were not willing to throw that away. For two Republican Senators from Alaska and Maine, both women who represent mostly rural states where there is no budget to put competing schools all over the place, voted against DeVos, that was ground-breaking as a few others on the fence were besieged by calls and emails from around the nation. Anytime DeVos does something dumb they will be reminded. For a change the Democrats hung together, many of them in fear of their own base rising up in a left version of the tea party. There were actually hundreds of people marching to Chuck Shumer’s house to protest his voting for some of the cabinet appointments.

What I think is happening is that the charter industry is trying to continue to brand itself as part of the public schools and get the benefits of their sudden popularity. Our job is to point out that putting competing schools across the street from each, with the charter having enormous outside resources for ads and recruitment while the public schools had to use every resource internally, is an existential attack on public schools.

What is interesting about DeVos is that she doesn’t care about school quality or even spending much time or money monitoring schools. She cares more about profit than performance. Her attitude is “It is not our job to tell parents their school sucks. Let the market decide. If parents don’t like the school, they can vote with their feet. We will offer them some money towards a private school.” I know this may make sense to some but wherever it has been tried it hasn’t worked. DeVos’ own state of Michigan where her family has enormous influence is a disaster area for education.

Petruzzi expresses his fears:
There is real danger in conflating the idea of choice and quality. What makes charter schools successful isn’t a free market approach of unregulated education…. a dramatic acceleration of charter growth is likely to lead to a decrease in quality…. Any effort to grow charters by deregulating the sector would spell long-term doom…

From his mouth to you know who’s ears.

Are we entering a zone of surrealism where Trump/DeVos ed policy in some weird ways end up dovetailing with the anti-testing movement? We do seem to have some right/left alignment on the interference of the feds that we saw from the Bush and Obama administrations. There is a lot of irony in that it has always been the Democrats and the left that wanted the feds involved to address racism and segregation and other ills perpetrated by some states. Having seen the abuse by the feds, now the left is advocating for more state controls. NY State and Massachusetts and California – Hillary territory -- have generally had the higher performing schools and the past 16 years of both Dems and Rep have been disruptive.

The south and rural areas --- Trump support ---- have always suffered. Think having teacher unions have anything to do with that? But even that may not last much longer as the Trump admin aims its arrows at unions, especially teacher unions. The outcome for all will not be good but things weren’t going too well anyway.

At least the beast is rising.

Norm feeds the beast at

Friday, February 10, 2017

A Public School Teacher: Looks like public education is going the way of the dinosaurs

There is a push to defend out public schools in response to Trump and Betsy. And to defend teacher unions. Given my contact with both public schools and the UFT over the past 50 years sometimes I wonder exactly what am I defending? Twenty years of Giuliani and Bloomberg in charge of the city, followed by 4 more under de Blasio and Farina? A one party undemocratic UFT for the past 60 years? One teacher emailed me this morning with this:
Looks like public education is going the way of the dinosaurs. And the Democrats including union leaders all had a hand in it.
If public schools were doing the right thing, there would be nothing to worry about. However huge class sizes, low quality curriculum, schools budgets spent on countless vendors not classrooms, no supplies or even books, veteran educators jumping ship, students being denied or delayed special ed services, bad district and school leaders, parent and teacher voice shut out, etc
Now tell me... why would parents keep their kids in a district public school???? As for teachers - they should start thinking about 2nd careers. And it's not just Trump. This is has been a long time coming. He's just sped up the process..
It is true that the UFT alliance with the Democrats has led us to Betsy DeVos and even to Trump. Where are we to go? I find so much from the left annoying. The right is - well it is the right. And the center is the Democrats. I find it funny that there is now something called The Resistance -- I've considered myself part of the Resistance since 1970 -- but this might be something interesting to watch. I'm not ready to throw in the towel like some others.

And then just as I'm about to post, this comes in:
A 90-minute Training on Nonviolent Action

Presented by NYU's
Wagner Graduate School of Public Service; Gallatin School of Individualized Study; School of Law's Public Interest Law Center; and Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

The history of democracy in the US and abroad is in large part a history of popular protest—from the Civil Rights Movement, LGBTQ activism, or the Tea Party movement in the US to the ousting of dictators around the world. Despite the centrality of protest to the expansion and dynamism of democracy, the skills needed to bring democracy to the streets are rarely taught in contrast to other forms of political and civic engagement.

Popular protest—like other forms of political action—requires passion to be effective, but also planning, organizing, training, and discipline. Drawing on the deep expertise of leading practitioners, this 90-minute training on nonviolent organizing, advocacy, and action will start to develop the skills needed to be an effective, informed, and prepared activist.

Session 1—Developing a Strategy of Protest: Target, Demand, and Power
Daniel Altschuler, Managing Director, Make the Road Action Fund

Session 2—Into the Streets in Civil Resistance: Engagement, Mobilization, and Action
Rev. Noelle Damico, Senior Fellow, Work with Dignity, National Economic and Social Rights Initiative

Session 3—Telling the Story and Massaging the Message: How to Communicate an Unarmed Struggle
Jamila Brown, Digital Communications Strategist, The Opportunity Agenda

Session 4—How to Confront Violence, Coercion, and Arrest With Nonviolence: What You Need To Know
NY Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU)

Event Details:
Thursday, February 23, 2017

Time: 6:30pm – 8:00pm 
Location: Eisner and Lubin Auditorium
Kimmel Center for University Life
60 Washington Square South

RSVP purple button

Report from Success Academy on non-Snow Day

Just overheard, three Success Academy staff members talking about their day yesterday. One was joking about how in one class, the teacher preached all day from a Bible. (Is that on the test???) Then they went on to make fun of a child who apparently spoke up about this. Real nice..... .......Public school teacher in co-located school

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Schirtzer DA Report: Mulgrew Throws in Towel – "We are going to become a right to work country"

The American Federation of Teachers, our national union, with union presidents from all over the country think the best way to fight Trump is with tweets and photos?....
After the snow talk, Mulgrew then played the SNL video on Sean Spicer, a hilarious parody of Trump's press secretary....
Our public education system and union are at risk of being completely dismantled, I have Muslim and Latino students who feel threatened by executive orders that put their lives in danger; there are schools which are slated to be closed; some teachers have principals that threaten their careers with abusive observations.... Yet, in the first twenty minutes of our union meeting we have laughed at snow and watched SNL.--- Mike Schirtzer
Mike Schirtzer provides excellent and often funny commentary below on the Feb. 8 UFT Delegate Assembly. Mike would give a very different report on the Ex Bd meetings where there are questions posed and questions answered, where the leadership in the room follows up with our people, and where there is real debate on resolutions.

Such a contrast to the DA.

Guess what is the major difference?

Mulgew is not at EB meeting other than for fleeting minutes.

Mike's report goes along with DA reports from Eterno and Goldstein.
No Sense Of Urgency From UFT Leadership

By Mike Schirtzer- UFT Executive Board and Delegate from Goldstein HS Brooklyn

I settled down in my chair for the February UFT Delegate Assembly (DA), our monthly union meeting that should be attended by your chapter leader and delegate (many don't go). With all that is going on since Trump took office I expected this would be a serious meeting with important decisions that would impact all rank and file members and the students we serve.

UFT President Mulgrew came on the stage and said "I know what you want all to talk about!" with a grin on his face. I immediately thought good, we're going to speak Trump right off the bat, but some people yelled out "SNOW!" and Mulgrew laughed and reiterated "yes, snow!" 

After the snow talk, Mulgrew then played the SNL video on Sean Spicer, a hilarious parody of Trump's press secretary. Now, let's face facts, to be a good teacher you damn well better have a sense of humor. However, this was just not the moment to be having a fun time. Our public education system and union are at risk of being completely dismantled, I have Muslim and Latino students who feel threatened by executive orders that put their lives in danger; there are schools which are slated to be closed; some teachers have principals that threaten their careers with abusive observations. This is a serious, critical time for the existence of our union. Yet, in the first twenty minutes of our union meeting we have laughed at snow and watched SNL. Can we get to serious business?

Finally, Mulgrew gets to Trump, DeVos, and all that is happening. Mulgrew explained that the entire country and politicians of both sides know how unqualified she is thanks to us. We all agreed, although I'm not sure what "we" did to sway any votes. We were told to make calls, but I tend to think the mass demonstrations on the streets have given the Democrats the chutzpah they need to fight these nominations and policies. Frankly, if people weren't hitting the streets, parks, airports, trains, marching in DC, I believe many Democrats would have confirmed DeVos. So I'm still not sure what the UFT had to do with this, but at least we were discussing real things.

The next big chunk of his report was on how our "Public Schools Proud" campaign is our big fight back. Mulgrew showed photos of teachers holding public school proud signs and tweets from our colleagues. Mulgrew told the DA how happy the other union presidents are that we started this campaign. According to him, they were all sitting at a table scratching their heads about what to do and Mulgrew, like Moses bringing the tablets down from Mount Sinai, presented his Public School Proud power-point show, and all the presidents jumped from their chair. He saved them from their despair with his hashtag and photo campaign. The American Federation of Teachers, our national union, with union presidents from all over the country think the best way to fight Trump is with tweets and photos?

Mulgrew then put pictures of buttons on the screen and asked everyone to choose white or black. The largest teachers union in the country monthly meeting in the face of destruction was tasked with choosing colors of buttons. Mulgrew and "Public School Proud" is not going to defeat a Republican Congress, Conservative Supreme Court, and narcissistic dangerous President that will not think twice about privatizing education.

During the open question period one chapter leader asked "Can we get buses to DC to welcome Betsy?" Now that seemed like the best idea in the whole meeting. Leave it to a rank and file member to think strategically. Let's get as many members as we can up to DC for a pro-public education march with parents and students. Lets show the congress and president that the masses love their public education system and are willing to fight for it. However, this was immediately dismissed by Mulgrew: "I think we will wait to see what she does. If there is a need, we will go."

The very worst part of the meeting came with another question from a delegate:

"Our president proposed national right to work law. How do we protect pensions, collective bargaining, dues checkoff?"

For those that may not know "right to work" means that members have the choice to join the union, rather than automatically becoming a member. Without dues, unions lose their power and membership. In many states this has meant the death of organized labor, with lower wages and reduced workplace protection.

Mulgrew replied, "We are going to become a right to work country. We are preparing for what we will do when that happens on the state and city levels. It depends on the provision in the laws and what states can do within that law- some states sign up members every year others sign once"

Basically, he has already thrown in the towel! Mulgrew
spent at least 30 minutes explaining how his tweet campaign is the greatest thing and when members want to know how is the union planning to really fight back against the greatest threat, the president of the largest AFT local basically said we have already lost.

My good friends of UFT leadership/Unity Caucus always accuse MORE of complaining but offering no solutions. So here are some suggestions from MORE:

-Send out texts, emails and articles in our newsletters to communicate how unions and public education are being threatened.

-Visit schools where there are no functioning chapters to educate our members about the importance of being in a union.

- Encourage our members to get involved, to join their chapter consultation committee and/or school leadership team, become a delegate or chapter leader, and/or organize a pro-public education rally at their school. Ask members to speak at PTA/PA about the importance of the UFT.

-UFT trainings for those interested in resisting abusive administrators. The goal should be to rebuild confidence in the union at the chapter level.

-Start a city-wide contract campaign consisting of district level meetings open to all members to discuss demands for the next contract and strategies for how to win them.

-Build a UFT presence at the various anti-Trump rallies that are in the works. For example, we should support the February 28th PEP and Day of Action which seeks to defend our immigrant students. Also, we should have a large presence around the "Save JHS 145" campaign. Teachers who have not protested much before, have hit the streets in recent weeks.

-And last but certainly not least have members of the UFT leadership go to schools and listen to members about what they want to do and start to implement their ideas.

Now is the time to involve our members and show the value of our union, or else we're not going have a union to save!

Why DeVos Vouchers May Be Dead Issue - Republican Women Senators

In voting against DeVos, Collins and Murkowski are remaining true to their long-standing positions on vouchers. In July 2015, both voted against student vouchers, three times.... Monkey Cage
It wasn't totally surprising that the 2 Republican defectors on DeVos were women, but they are also from rural states. A third woman, Caputo from W. Virginia was a possibility but look at one crucial reason she went for DeVos:
Capito may feel less political pressure to vote in line with the teacher’s union because West Virginia adopted a right-to-work law in 2016. Alaska and Maine do not have right-to-work laws. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a right-to-work law prohibits labor unions from mandating union membership for workers, such as K-12 teachers. Once a state adopts a right-to-work law, that state’s teacher’s unions become less powerful, as they have fewer members, a smaller budget and can’t contribute as much to political campaigns.
The WAPO Monkey Cage

Author The DeVos confirmation vote suggests Trump will have a tough time passing a school voucher law

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

UFT Sells Mayoral Endorsement for a Snow Day - NY Post Goes Nuts

UFT endorsed with de Blasio waiting in wings --- I was lurking with my cell phone to get a pic of him in the hallway. DeB addresses Del Ass. I go downstairs and people come streaming down screaming with joy as snow day announcement comes over on cell phones -- the single biggest gift teachers can get --- the thing I miss most since retiring --- and we walk out into 60 degrees around 6:30 PM praying that 12 hours later we are covered in snow. Because if we wake up and it's still 60 degrees --- there will be hell to pay.

I tried to get a pic of dB going in but had to get it off the screen.

MORE Delegate Assembly Newsletter - Feb. 8, 2017

I've taken on a project for MORE to produce a newsletter aimed specifically at the people attending the Delegate Assembly in a limited edition. While some of it may be inside baseball, some people may want to share with some of their colleagues who might be interested.

For today there are items on the MORE reso on immigrant students, the attempted closing of JHS 145x, how Cuomo's budget is a giveaway to charters, a piece from Arthur on how James Eterno was treated at the last DA when he raised an item on the number of observations.

If you want a copy, Get your copy of the newsletter here.

Also coming up Saturday

MORE General Meeting
Come help MORE set our organizing priorities for the Spring and beyond! See the proposed agenda here.

2/11 @ CUNY Grad Center Room 5414
12:00 - 3:00
RSVP for the meeting!
Facebook Event

And this special event:
Special Education Strategy Forum
Attend the Movement of Rank & File Educators’
How do our children with special needs get the schools they deserve?

How can labor be a driving force for educational justice and special education supports & services in NYC?

Educators, parents, advocacy groups:
Let’s come together to plan & organize so that we can guarantee our kids get the education they deserve and are legally mandated to receive!

12noon - 4pm

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

On DeVos From One outraged principal who is a both a democrat and union man

A comment from a principal on Betsy Confirmed: We Won, We Won:
We all know Betsy DeVos is another Cathie Black. While she is obviously unqualified, she is also really kind of irrelevant. 

What amuses me is that our very own DEMOCRAT Governor has come out saying he wants to eliminate the cap on charter schools in NYC and I haven't heard a word from any of the protestors who claim to be outraged by De Vos' policies, policies which Andrew CUOMO supports wholeheartedly. 

Where is the outrage? 

 It is so blatantly obvious that this is a pre-planned, simplistic and boring "Never Trump" campaign. Trump was a harmless TV host / developer when DEMOCRATS OBAMA AND CUOMO DOUBLED CHARTER SCHOOLS IN NEW YORK. 

They were also both in power when Democrat CUOMO Created Tier VI for new teachers who now have to work until 63. Can't blame Donald Trump for these things. So the thinking of many unionized educators was  Since these "Democrats" are giving us republican policies, why not vote for a republican and at least get a tax cut?

Trump/ DeVos' policies could never do harm in New York if our legislature wasn't down with them. Unfortunately, more and more people elected by their constituents as democrats to the NYSA Senate are joining the IDC to get personal perks. The have sold out those of us in public worker unions and public education in general. 

I myself long ago gave up on the "Democrat good, Republican bad" simplicity of the non thinking left. 

We have EVIL right here at home and those elected DEMOCRATS are the clear and present danger to us in NY. 

We know where most of the Republicans stand. They say straight out that they don't like us and will enact policies contrary to our well being. Fair enough, at least they are honest. However, many of these traitorous dems smile at us, take our union endorsements and then stab us in the back. And that's what hurts the most, when your "friends" do you wrong.

........One outraged principal who is a both a democrat and union man said...

Betsy Confirmed: We Won, We Won

Some will see this as a loss, but at this point, the vote does not really matter. Those who want to protect education have already won. Here's why.  .... Derek Black

I agree with the comments by Black. His most important point:
So many groups have come out against her publicly that she has lost what would have been her presumptive base. And everyone is now clear that she is unqualified for the job. Why would they listen to her? And she has fired teacher unions and supporters who would normally take a measured approach. 
Let's see Betsy go visit schools anywhere near urban areas and watch what happens.

Here is the bulk of his points:

UFT Leadership Shocked: Will They Make a Stand in Opposing Closing of JHS 145 as Giveway to Eva/Success Academy?

Last week after a presentation at the UFT Ex Bd meeting, the leadership acted shocked, just shocked, at being made aware of the situation. I imagine the connection to Eva's taking over the building might be a factor.

From Arthur Goldstein report on last night's UFT Ex Bd meeting - UFT Executive Board, February 6, 2017
Mike SchirtzerMORE—Last week JHS 145 spoke—Can we have an update?

Rich Mantel (Middle School VP) —going to school to meet with staff and help organize. Will do all we can to support.

Ellie Engler—Story he [JHS 145 teacher Jim Donohue] told [at last week's EB meeting] was compelling. We knew this was kind of a setup. Brought to highest level at DOE, supposed to give us an answer. We have found some shady stuff going on at Success Academy, we are checking, and we are prepared to bring it up at Tweed. We are buying sweatshirts for schools supporting them.
We've been reporting on the JHS 145 situation - see my last report: Is Attempt to Close JHS 145, a Political Giveaway to Eva Moskowitz? ( where I reported on Jim Donohue's excellent presentation to last week's Ex Bd meeting and included his statement. The MORE DA Newsletter also includes excerpts form Jim's report.

Mike Schirtzer called me last night and added to Arthur's report that the UFT leadership is claiming they are asking to have the closing of JHS 145 taken off the March 22 PEP agenda and are willing to go to City Hall if necessary.

Jim asked the UFT for 4 things:
  • We ask that the UFT publicly demand that the proposal for the closing of JHS 145 be pulled from the March 22 PEP agenda.
  • We ask that the UFT utilize its resources in the form of media, social media, twitter, etc. speak out against this proposal.
  • We ask the UFT to help us move the PEP from Manhattan to the school so that the community can attend, and if that proves impossible, to supply a bus for community members.
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we ask that Mr. Mulgrew come to our school to witness or participate in the student march to the District Office……[rumored to be taking place this Saturday].
We know they only work behind the scenes so don't expect item 2. I think item 3 -- buses - are possible. As for Mulgrew showing up --- I'll believe that when I see it.

If they do get this closing reversed I will praise them to the sky and enjoy watching Eva go crazy. I hear there are behind the scenes talks but can't report on some of the stuff I hear at this time.

Expect a lot of push back from the Success Academy lobby, since they are already advertising that they are expanding their middle school in that building. In fact expect a massive storm of protest. The alt-fact NY Post editorials are ready to stream.

What is interesting is that the UFT is about to endorse de Blasio and if the DOE caves on the closing of JHS 145 I say we hold their feet to the fire.

Now I know that people working with MORE have been involved in the story of JHS 145 for a year or more. Schirtzer invited them to come to last week's EB meeting and that seems to have woken the leadership up.

You know, I had some doubts about the value of MORE winning seats on the Ex Bd but given the action going on there I think there has been a lot of value.