Wednesday, March 20, 2019

MORE Fallacies, E4E Inspire Caucus

From Ed Notes at the March Delegate Assembly:

MORE Fallacies: Beg UFT leaders to Organize and Mobilize, divide opposition and run not to win

In the current UFT election the MORE Caucus talks a lot about how much educators have won through striking in red and blue states. They point to the seminal and inspiring 2012 Chicago teacher strike and the recent strike in Los Angeles where the union leaderships organized, mobilized and prepared the membership for strikes, gaining over 90% support of the members. A keys to these strikes were alliances with community forces outside the union which MORE talks about – but only rhetorically.

Can you talk strike when you are not a serious threat to take power
What MORE won’t tell you is that the current progressive social justice oriented leadership in those cities formed broad-based caucuses and coalitions in Chicago (CORE) and LA (Union Power) to oppose the former timid top-down union leaderships and ultimately WON their elections in 2010 and 2014 respectively. If they hadn’t run to win, there would never have been strikes. The Unity Caucus leadership will NEVER strike or be pressured by the rank and file to strike. Only defeating them will lead to a union MORE envisions. And MORE is running NOT to WIN.

The way to change the UFT is to not urge the leadership to change but to present a credible threat to their overwhelming power and control by building the machinery of a massive rank and file movement with deep roots in the schools. UFT elections are only a piece of the mechanisms but they do demonstrate the ability to get support in the schools. In 2016 I helped run the MORE election campaign with a focus on winning a piece of the Ex Bd, which we did by winning the 7 high school seats. The hope at the time was to continue this building process by challenging in the middle and elementary schools. But the faction that took control of MORE blew that plan up.

Instead of following in the footsteps of CORE and Union Power, MORE has chosen an opposite approach of running not to win by refusing to unite with other progressive caucuses and independents and purging and pushing out those who resist this approach, using undemocratic methods and purposely not running divisional candidates where they could actually win. And to build an opposition, demonstrating an ability to win anything is part of the process.

A recent MORE election leaflet proclaimed: Collective Action Gets the Goods! Only a stronger base of rank-and-file teachers, counselors, paras and all education workers, knit together in a common organization that can share strategies and mobilize our coworkers can push the union leadership to alter its approach, and eventually lead the union in a different direction entirely.

I laughed out loud when I read this. As one of the founders of the MORE Caucus in 2011 I’ve watched with sadness (and some amusement) how MORE morphed from what began as an inclusive progressive big tent opposition group to Unity Caucus into an exclusive, divisive, narrow ideologically driven and fundamentally undemocratic organization that has driven out many progressive former members who way outnumber those who remain. There are even three former MOREs running on the Unity Caucus line, two of whom were elected to the UFT Ex Bd as MORE candidates in 2016 but have grown alienated with the actions of MORE. How can MORE boldly talk about knitting together rank and file UFT members when it has done the very reverse? Witness the current UFT elections where MORE’s refusal to knit together a coalition to attempt to make a dent in Unity power has led to a divided opposition where three weak caucuses are running limited election campaigns with 40-50 candidates.

I actually don’t disagree with many of the policies MORE puts forth but cannot go along with the tactics used internally and a program that not only has no chance of moving the UFT in a more progressive direction but by its divisive tactics actually has helped strengthen the control of the ruling Unity Caucus. MORE leaders talk about lack of democracy in the UFT while suspending members without due process and exhibiting a level of control that makes Unity look democratic in comparison. Instead of becoming a serious and inclusive caucus as a threat to Unity, MORE has become an ideologically driven exclusive club of self-proclaimed “activists” with loads of rhetoric but little action.

Still, I expect MORE to finish with the highest vote totals of the three running against Unity because New Action and Solidarity have their own problems. I will have more on the elections at the April 17 DA, the day the votes are counted when I will take a break from the count to hand out Ed Notes.

UFT Election: Inspire, E4E-based Caucus, new kid on the block

You might be seeing leaflets for the independent campaign of Michael Loeb, a CL in the Bronx. Michael is running under the UFT Inspire Caucus line. Educators for Excellence, funded by many ed deformers, has been viewed as an anti-union group but over the years has modified its tone and put forth a strong social justice agenda and through Mike has begun to engage in the UFT, mostly in calls for more democracy. Some teacher unions around the nation have vilified E4E, but not here. There has been some signs of cooperation between Unity and E4E. Is this a precursor of a future E4E caucus that might at some point contend with MORE for the title of THE SJ Caucus? Don’t sell such a well-funded group with full-time employees short. Mike serves on the national board of E4E and I have had some excellent conversations with him about unions and policy. He seems to have helped push E4E in a more positive direction towards unions and has been open to my criticisms. Whereas E4E used to throw me out of meetings, Mike has now invited me. Just in case, I will bring a food taster.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Rumor: Paul Egan Out at UFT - Everyone is Mum

When Paul Egan wasn't at last week's UFT Executive Board meeting we never got the latest updates on the Chelsea soccer team. Preferring Manchester United, who really cared?

We've had a lot of fun with Paul over the years. So when I received a tip Sunday night that Paul Egan, whose official title is (was?) Political Director; Director of Chapter Organizing and Development was fired, it was a bit disconcerting. It seemed pretty weird for this to happen with Monday being lobbying day in Albany. Who knows what goes on in the inner circles of the UFT?

There have been political purges in the past.
Paul was not present at lobbying day on Monday. He is an elected AFT/NYSUT delegate and it will be interesting to see if he appears on the Unity slate when ballots are sent out in a few days. If he's gone that is a clue this was not sudden. If he's on the ballot then this may be more immediate. It would be a funny time to remove Paul for not doing his job well so soon after all the bragging the UFT did about taking over the state senate with their political operation led by Paul.

Maybe someone will contact Ed Notes with the full story. Personally I always liked Paul even if not always agreeing with his political strategy. At the AFT 2016 convention Arthur, Jonathan Halabi and I ran into him in a restaurant and had some fun. (I didn't even order the quail.) If the story is true does that mean he gets to go back to teaching after being gone for so long? I can see all those young people holding pep rallies for Chelsea.

nysut board of directors

Paul Egan

E.D. 33 (UFT)

    • Political Director & Director of Chapter Organizing & Development

      – Present 3 years 10 months
      52 Broadway, New York
    • Director of Legislation & Political Action

      6 years 2 months
      Responsible for the development and execution of our organization's government relations, inter-union relations, and electoral plans.
      Coordinate our political strategy with our state and national organizations.
      Oversee our PAC with the responsibility for our political contribution strategy, increasing voluntary contributions and ensuring compliance with city, state and federal reporting requirements.
      Design and implement plans that provide opportunities for members to engage in the political process through advocacy and the electoral process.
    • District Representative

      2 years 11 months
      Bronx, New York
    • Special Representative

      1 year 9 months
      Greater New York City Area
  • Image for Teacher


    NYC Department of Education
    10 years 5 months
    Greater New York City Area

Monday, March 18, 2019

Jackson Heights Queens Ed Forum: Ravitch, AOC, Liu, Jackson plus others

Leonie reports:  There was an amazing education forum yesterday with standing room only. Thanks to Jackson Heights People for Public Schools for organizing it. Among the wonderful speakers were Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents the district in Congress,  NY Senators Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz, who represent the district in the Legislature, as well as Senators Robert Jackson and John Liu. Among the terrific education advocates who spoke were Johanna Garcia of NYC Opt out, Maria Bautista of AQE, Carol Burris of Network for Public Education, Diane Ravitch, Kate Menken  of the NYS Association for Bilingual Education and me.
Fred and AOC- to the left (pun intended)
What would be a normal educational forum turned into a major event due to the star power of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez- and don't forget Diane Ravitch plus all the important politicians plus of course Leonie Haimson. And don't forget Fred Smith, my fellow 2019 Skinny Award winner, who always gets the money shot. I'm sorry I missed it but I spent the day doing a movie with some friends (and we actually shot the whole thing in one day.)

150 people SRO on a Saturday afternoon ed forum is not light.

Leonie has a report on her blog: Queens forum with AOC on how our schools must make every child feel like they matter

Chaz, who is not to the left, actually has some nice things to say about AOC --with the usual right wing trolls leaving comments attacking her. 
Chaz's School Daze Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) Supports NYC Public Schools - I know a hell of a lot of old white guys like me who love her work.

But I want to make special mention of the organizing group behind the event:  Jackson Heights People for Public Schools whose mission is: We work to educate the community about the public schools in Jackson Heights and to support parents and members of the community who wish to make our schools even better.

One of the founders and leaders of the group is currently a NYC high school teacher, Amanda Vender. I first met Amanda over a decade ago - I think she was working with the newspaper Indy Kids and I was distributing some of them to some people in the schools. Eventually Amanda became a middle school teacher and had kids -- I distinctly remember her bringing her few weeks old child to some forum we were running.

Someone posted on FB:
Thanks goes out to Alliance for Quality Education, NYC Opt Out, Class Size Matters, The Network for Public Education & NYS Association for Bilingual Education.
But especially to Amanda Vender & Jackson Heights People for Public Schools for pulling it all together!!!
Amanda Vender at forum
Amanda never got deeply involved in the work of union opposition politics though she was a supporter. She focused on her work as a parent and actually did local community organizing where she lived, whereas groups like MORE just talk about community organizing in theory.

She and her group are bringing a pro-public school, pro opt-out, progressive vision of education to her own community. I realized that the work inside a union opposition begins to look meaningless compared to the work Amanda and others have done in their communities. If I had done similar work in Rockaway - (and of course if I had kids I might have), I would have been much more useful than I was pushing the boulder uphill in UFT opposition politics. Maybe next life.

Amanda Vender, one of the first AOC supporters is my model for educational organizing. Amanda not only talks the talk, she walks the walk.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

School Scope: Parent Action Conference: Opt Out Yes, Charters NYET!

Published in The WAVE, March 15, 2019

School Scope: Parent Action Conference: Opt Out Yes, Charters NYET!

By Norm Scott

The annual Parent Action Conference sponsored by NYC Kids PAC, Class Size Matters and Community Education Council District 2 (CECD2) took place on March 9 at the Peck Slip School in lower Manhattan, attracting some of the leading parent activists in the city. Kids PAC is the only lobby group focusing its attention directly on the interests of the children in public schools. The opening session was a discussion with state legislators:
Alicia Hyndman, Queens NYS Assembly Democrat 29th District, Jo Anne Simon, Brooklyn NYS Assembly Democrat 52nd District, Robert Jackson, NYS Senator from Manhattan. They were asked to respond to questions on a number of issues.

They all supported parent rights to opt out of standardized tests, opposed attempts to punish schools when numbers of parents opt out and opposed lifting the cap on charters in New York City, which has been reached. There are still over 90 slots open in the rest of the state and the charter industrialized complex has been pushing to get those added to our oversaturated city. It was pointed out that Republican state legislators support charters but few if any charters exist in their districts – they love them from afar as long as those charter bucks role in – but otherwise, NIMBY. They were also asked about the upcoming renewal debate on mayoral control. They all called for more limits and oversight.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Forest Hills High School, Ben Sherman Update: parents rip principal

This story won't go away until Principal Ben Sherman is gone and buried away at a DOE safe haven for principals where he will probably end up being a mentor -- maybe he's learned - he can tell them how to treat teachers like shit without getting outed.

The UFT has finally jumped on board with an article in the NY Teacher written by Francis Lewis HS CL Arthur Goldstein: the struggles at Forest Hills High School.

Eterno at the increasingly disturbing ICEUFT blog (due to the numbing comments) gives Arthur and the UFT grudging credit for finally putting up an article on a school with a lousy principal. Arthur has been up front on his blog in posting about FHHS. NYCEducator is the most widely read and respected blog not only locally, but nationally.

I had to put up this comment:
Forest Hills HS teachers contacted bloggers like James, Arthur and myself and we put up their views. The little dig at Arthur as a "former dissident" and the claiming of credit here is disingenuous. And when they came to the Ex Bd meeting last spring they were supported by Arthur, Mike and Jonathan from New Action. Arthur has taken on this fight as much as anyone and asked follow up questions on Monday at the Ex Bd. We complain when the NY Teacher doesn't cover but when it does it is reported begrudgingly. There are clear signs that the UFT did work behind the scenes in this case - they never do enough - but there would have been no massive vote of no confidence without their working behind the scenes. Our job along with Arthur and Mike is to keep the pressure on whether publicly or behind the scenes.
Some teachers at the school came to we bloggers late last spring and we encouraged them to come to the UFT Ex Bd meeting and some did -- that always seems to wake up the union leadership. 

But let's give credit where credit is due - Sue Edelman from the NY Post - her articles exposing principals have had more impact than any blog.

Clearly if you read the NY Post article, the DOE will jump over hoop after hoop without removing Sherman. 

I have a contact on the PTA who has slammed Sherman.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Tony Thurmond - A Lesson on Democrat Backstabbing - UPDATE - Tony Calls Diane

Here's a quick update on this post from Diane:

California: Tony Thurmond Called Me

I'm impressed that he called her.
The conversation is interesting in that Tony never says how the task force came to be chosen - and I'm going to venture a guess that Gov Gavin Newsom is the culprit and Tony is covering for him. Which emphasizes the point -- too many Dems are still ed deformers even hiding in plain sight.
UPDATE: In response to posting this on listserves I received the following from Diane confirming that Newsom packed the committee with charter people:
A contact who works in the State Capitol in Sacramento contacted me last night to say that Tony Thurmond did not name the committee: Gavin Newsom did.  --- Diane
Back to the original post:

Monday, March 11, 2019

TWTW: KidsPac, Face to Face With T. Rex - and I Didn't Bang a Gong

The Week That Was -- The past week was busy and intense.

Saturday - Mar. 2 -- the big Bernie rally at Brooklyn College after my early morning yoga class. It was good to be back on campus where I spent so many years - tuition free as an undergrad. How could we afford it then but not now? Bernie's speech was excellent.

Sunday, Mar. 3 - My 74th birthday. The day began with the Frank Caiati acting class at the Rockaway Theater, followed by heading into the city for a matinee of Kiss Me Kate, followed by dinner at a Greek restaurant nearby on 7th Ave and 57th St.

Monday - A free day of reading and hanging out.

Tuesday - Media event at the Museum of Natural History for the preview of T. Rex which included a panel with the curators, spending time at the exhibit - seeing those cute feathers on the baby T.Rex. Followed by a private one hour tour upstairs where they prepare the fossils. Always my favorite museum and the dinosaur area was a must see for everyone of my classes. I took each class there 3 or 4 times a year -- I never tried to see the entire place in one shot - I focused each time on a different area. They had worksheets for the dinosaurs and had to look for specific displays -- not the heaviest lifting but it provided some focus. I learned this time how much new info there is on dinosaurs.

Sunday, March 10, 2019


I was at KidsPac/Class Size Matters all day parent conference Saturday and John Liu was there - he was my choice for Mayor in 2014. Good to have him back. I have some video of him which I will put up later. There is a move to reform mayoral control - not end it. Lui was asked how he would deal with the charter lobby attempts to tie mayoral control to lifting the charter cap. He said he's heard nothing so far. The NYC cap is full but there are still over 90 slots open around the state and the charter people want to be able to make those available to NYC. Every charter costs the UFT jobs - and dues. So expect them to fight tooth and nail on this one and the good will towards charters is fading fast.

Albany, NY - The Senate Majority announced today that they will hold a public hearing on school governance and mayoral control in New York City. Senator John Liu, Chair of the Senate’s NYC Education Committee, will lead this hearing, to ensure that legislative activity in 2019 addresses the needs of New York City students. 

“Schools are the most important priority of state and local government, and how they are governed and operated are of the highest public interest.” Said Senator John Liu, Chair of the Senate's NYC Education Committee. “Our hearing seeks to engage all stakeholders in the city to inform the way forward, including any changes that should be enacted."

The hearing will be on Friday, March 15th, at 10:00AM, in the Senate Hearing Room, 250 Broadway, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10007.

If you would like to testify at the hearing, please RSVP to

Follow on Twitter at
New York State Senate | | 518-455-2415

Saturday, March 9, 2019

School Scope: Teacher Strikes, Amazon and Unions, Public Advocate By Norm Scott

Published March 8, 2019 in The WAVE -

School Scope: Teacher Strikes, Amazon and Unions, Public Advocate

Recently West Virginia teachers went on strike, closing down all but one county. Diane Ravitch reported: “thousands of West Virginia teachers and school workers walked off the job to kill a privatization bill reputedly written in retaliation for last year’s historic nine-day teachers strike. Only hours into the Tuesday-Wednesday walkout, the state’s House of Delegates voted 53 to 45 to indefinitely table Senate Bill 451, which had linked a teacher pay raise to the gutting of job security and a first-time legalization for West Virginia of charters and private school vouchers.” WV teachers refused to be bribed and the legislators blinked. And Kentucky teachers engaged in wildcat sickout actions. Both states are red Trump territory.

The wave of strikes continued in blue-state Cal ifornia with a week long strike in Oakland which ended with an 11% salary increase, 3% bonus at ratification, lower class sizes with phased-in class size reductions, 5-month pause in school closures, lower caseloads for special education teachers and counselors, the school board will vote to push the state for a charter school moratorium. The Oakland education system has been dominated by the anti-public school/pro-charter reformists funded by billionaires, often supported by Democratic Party politicians. Don’t think the history of support for phony reforms won’t come back to bite Dems in the upcoming battles. The new left in the party seems to understand the impact of the attacks on teachers, their unions, neighborhood schools and public education which has led to a shift within the party, though I haven’t seen very many signs from our local Dems – yet.

Congratulations to Republican Eric Ulrich for his 2nd place showing in the Public Advocate race with almost 20% of the vote. As a Republican who is a Trump critic, and since 90% of Republicans support Trump, that puts Eric far out of the mainstream of his fellow party members who fundamentally support a lying, racist, cheating con-man, to quote his own former lawyer. Eric despite winning Queens and Staten Island, has a touch road as a Republican in this city.

Eric benefitted from the favorable press he received over being the only supporter of the Amazon deal. His ads talked about supporting unions but since Amazon is blatantly anti-union, squaring that circle seems like a stretch. I found it sort of ironic given how many in Rockaway are horrified at the homeless shelters while also supporting Amazon but aren’t making the connection between the even more outrageous homeless situation in Seattle, home of Amazon, than we have here. Support Amazon here so we can have even more shelters.

The NY Times, which took a pro-Amazon position, has also reported accurately on some of the actions Amazon has taken around the country when asked to pay their fair share of taxes: they renege on their deals and move the jobs. Why any politician would trust Amazon is beyond me. Union opposition has led the way in keeping the anti-union Walmart out of the city. Compare Amazon and Walmart to the pro-union Costco, where so many of us head to like lemmings. Costco is one of the highest rated places to work and the shopping experience reflects that.

The headline in The WAVE was: Locals ‘shocked’ by Ulrich Loss. Those locals must be smok’n something. Jumaane Williams’ margin of victory was 33% against a cast of thousands of Democratic candidates. Other Dem candidates turned their guns on Jumaane, a sign he was a clear favorite. Don’t forget his 47% with little money against Cuomo’s candidate for Lt. Governor in last September’s primary. He is a grad of Brooklyn Tech and Brooklyn College. I voted for Jumaane, whose career I’ve been following for years. Friends who live in central Brooklyn rave about him for his humanity, activism, and practical politics as one of the more effective City Councilmen. Just ask Eric, who was so gracious towards Jumaane – we might see them head to head in November. Lew Simon was outraged at the outcome and went on to attack fellow Democrat Jumaane Williams as not willing to stand up to de Blasio. Lew must have missed this headline in local papers: Jumaane Williams, a thorn for Bill de Blasio? The tenant activist turned Brooklyn councilman has become the public advocate - Bill de Blasio might be concerned.

Next week: Feeling the Bern(ie) at Brooklyn College.

Norm is a constant thorn at his blog at

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Jeff Bryant - Denver Teachers’ Strike Was a Rejection of Education ‘Reform’

Teachers in the school district that was supposed to be the model for education reform just rebelled—and won.
by , February 21, 2019

Jeff Bryant has been a major journalist exposing the holes in ed deform. Here's his take on the Denver strike against their merit pay system, which Randi Weingarten originally praised a decade ago.

Denver Teachers’ Strike Was a Rejection of Education ‘Reform’

Forest Hills HS Update - Supt Juan Mendez Pulled

Arthur has been on the case on the Forest Hills HS drama -- keeping it up front - and we know that this is a way to keep the UFT leadership's feet to the fire -- and the DOE too - they don't act until there's public exposure. One thing we know - even if Sherman is removed he will find a safe haven in the DOE bureaucracy and might emerge one day to run another school when memories fade.

The Ben and Juan Show--Episode 1 "Too Little Too Late at Forest Hills"

We received this from someone at the school:
Sherman - from The Chief

Dear Forest Hills High School Family:
Chancellor Carranza is committed to providing students and staff at Forest Hills High School the resources and support they need to succeed. The Chancellor and I have heard you clearly, and want you to know that we are working with the entire school community to build a strong and supportive environment.  
Effective immediately, Dr. Sean Davenport will serve as supervising superintendent until further notice, overseeing daily operations at Forest Hills High School. Forest Hills Principal Benjamin Sherman will report directly to Dr. Davenport, who will report directly to me. Dr. Davenport is a proven leader with over a decade of experience as principal, and I know he will be a strong partner who will work closely with students, staff and families. 
As your Executive Superintendent, I will work with Dr. Davenport and Mr. Sherman to ensure that Forest Hills is living up to the highest standards of excellence and achievement.  
Dr. Davenport and I will be on campus Monday at Forest Hills High School to meet with staff. As always, feel free to contact myself or my team with any additional questions. 
Dr. Andre Spencer
Executive Superintendent

A comment [edited]: You can quote me as a history teacher.

Why are they keeping this man on?  The fact that he needs one-on-one supervision speaks to his incompetence.  How can the faculty agree to serve under a man who has credible allegations of lewd, sexual behavior with students and staff?  The only way to return to our former high status is with a change at the top.

Article in The Chief

Forest Hills Too High? Teachers Say Principal Lets School Go to Pot

Amazon Was Never Going to Create 25,000 Jobs in Queens

Really good look at the fault lines of the Amazon deal.


Amazon Was Never Going to Create 25,000 Jobs in Queens