Sunday, June 12, 2016

Fifty Attend #MORE16 Wrap-up Meeting: Ovation for Ending Fair Student Funding

Dear Fellow MORE Members:

While we welcome a variety of gifts and insights, there is a need for prioritization. This is where we need an overarching analysis of what has hit teachers and other workers, namely neoliberalism, the purposeful destabilization of workers and workplaces in favor of ever cheaper labor. In the case of teachers, this translates into the attack on veteran teachers in favor of cheaper replacements.

TOP PRIORITY--JOB SECURITY: stopping the high turnover of teachers through Discontinuances, Bad Reviews (by whatever method) and Tenure Delays.We must end Fair Student Funding, where teacher salaries no longer come out of a common pot, but each school is a cost center. Fair Student Funding policy favors the cheapest teachers against the high paid veterans, forcing many tenured veterans into endless ATR and Provisional status. An insecure, migrant teacher is alienated from school community and is thereby hamstrung from being politically engaged.

Job Quality Issues are also important; lengthening of work week, paperwork increase, the high states tests are very important. However, a teacher must first have a job at all, before being able to focus on everything else. 

In sum, job stability has been fundamentally undermined. It must be squarely fought.

In solidarity, an attendee at the MORE meeting
Don't let good ideas fall into a black hole.

At the final MORE meeting of the school year, a retired teacher made a passionate statement about how the root of so much evil which has led to higher salaried teachers being pit against younger teachers has been the fair student funding formula when it relates to how teachers are paid out of school budgets instead of centrally and that it was incumbent for MORE address that issue.  He received a big ovation from the nearly 50 people present as he pointed out that the UFT/Unity caucus with access to the de Blasio/Farinia admin has not even brought the subject up. He pointed out it was incumbent for the MORE/NA high school exec bd reps to put this issue on the table ASAP. By the end of the meeting there were so many things for them to address.

I arrived 15 minutes early and the room was empty so I figured we might have 20 people at most. When meeting organizers Julie Cavanagh (with an almost 4 year old Jack in tow) and Peter Lamphere arrived a few minutes later, we began putting chairs around the tables. Within 20 minutes we were inundated by so many people we had to pull back into a giant circle that just kept growing as people arrived.

We spent an hour doing UFT election analysis where we heard the good, the bad and the ugly - I did the bad and ugly parts as I don't want people to dislocate their shoulders from excessive patting themselves on the back by focusing only on the positive. MORE needs to do a lot more organizing before it can be more than a glimmer of a threat to Unity.

Then we got into some meat of a discussion about the relationships between social justice unionism and what is termed bread and butter unionism - the idea that a union can't only be about fundamental service and defense of the contract - which of course the UFT/Unity doesn't even do well, if at all. So some fusion of the SJ and service concepts -- in fact the very idea of a union is social justice -- but a broader view of SJ is not just a moral issue but also a fundamental way of supporting the delivery of the service.

MORE's slogan that working conditions are student learning conditions and the converse - that learning conditions affect working conditions - is not a theoretical concept. As one person after another talked about abusive working conditions and abusive principals I pointed out that if there are hundreds of schools with toxic working conditions then those schools also have toxic learning conditions. There is the fusion of SJ issues. MORE can't just talk about student justice and people on the other side of the fence can''t just talk about teacher justice because the way to go after an abusive principal effectively is with a fusion because we know full well that the DOE and public will ignore teachers complaining but might listen when students, parents garner some political support and get press coverage.

The fair student funding formula helps create toxic working conditions which creates toxic learning conditions. The funding formula is not fair in any way.

There were suggestions that MORE and New Action use their exec bd seats to aggressively confront the leadership on its passivity when it comes to toxic work environments and that it put some serious pressure on Farina.

For people in the schools who don't go to Exec Bd meetings there are some thoughts of encouraging rank and file people (such as readers of the blogs) to attend some of the meetings during the year when some of these issues might come up. The EB can't just be a place where resolutions are brought up, debated, turned down ore watered down by Unity and then disappear into a black hole. MORE has to choose a few issues rather than throw everything up against the wall and see what sticks. Organizationally, one person needs to take charge and manage the campaign.

The problem often is that a great idea is floated and then disappears. It takes people power to form and execute a plan. There are people in MORE who teach in international schools with lots of immigrants. Some of them have teamed up with people in NYCORE to move on a plan. That is their passion and interest.

Back to fair student funding - if people want to get serious they need to form a FSF committee to plan a campaign. Otherwise a great idea falls into a black hole and never emerges again.


  1. I'm sorry that class size is not a priority issue for MORE. The issue of fair student funding is related as it forces principals to choose between trying to keep class sizes as small as possible and keeping their experienced teachers. However FSF is also framed by many as trying to ensure more equitable funding between schools with large numbers of poor and high needs students and those with a more advantaged population. This is the argument being used now in the debate over "comparability" at the federal level concerning the ESSA proposed regs by the DC Civil rights groups. If MORE is going to focus on FSF they need to develop a convincing message why this argument is wrong.

  2. Of course class size is a priority for more and will be during contract negotiations. Reality is that after 50 years of uft ignoring that issue we can only raise it. Their response is that city won't put up money. On fsf separating the teacher costs is the issue. The equity issue turns bogus when tied to the removal of high salaried teachers as a driving force. They want it both ways. They argue poor schools get inexperienced teachers yet fsf incentivize that very point. Joel Klein played both sides in ending seniority transfer rules to keep senior teachers in poor schools and after Randi but he turned tables and unleashed a war against them.

  3. A good example of the need to not only pass resolutions, but also follow-up:

    RESOLVED, that the United Federation of Teachers will vigorously raise the issue of returning to unit costing (ie, charging each school the citywide average for each salary) with Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña for school year 2015-2016, and will negotiate a rapid implementation, without harming current school budgets; and be it further

    RESOLVED, that these discussions and negotiations are understood to be separate and apart from any contract negotiations.

    This passed the Exec last April, I think the DA last May. I do not believe it has been acted on - exactly Brian's point.


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