Sunday, May 27, 2018

Judge in PS 25 Win Asks: Where's the UFT support?

“Why close a school that’s doing so well?” said Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters and one of the lawsuit’s supporters. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”... Chalkbeat 
Did the UFT abandon schools on the closing list, in particular, PS 25K? The judge who ruled last week to keep PS 25 open for now seems to think so.

At the Feb. PEP, the CSA made a strong statement of support while the UFT was absent and also did not support this law suit.

I reported on the Major Victory: Court Keeps PS 25 Open - Leonie and Crew Big Win.

Below is a follow-up report with reports about the judge's reaction to the UFT not being part of the law suit from the parents, supported by Leonie and pro-bono attorney Laura Barbieri - see links to her brief below. And raising questions about the very rationale for closing schools.

And I linked to Leonie's own report on her blog:

The big reprieve from Judge Katherine Levine came last week as the judge asked deep and probing questions, including questions why the UFT was not part of the suit to keep the high performing school open. The DOE sites low and falling school population - which people at PS 25 attribute to the DOE driving population down to force the school to close to make room for charters, including possibly Evil Eva. There is evidence that de Blasio and the DOE don't want to pay the damn rent after the Cuomo give away to charters laws so they target certain buildings as places to shove charters.

The UFT kept hands off - and I leave you to speculate as to the reasons.

At the Feb. 28 PEP, Leoni's assistant Sabastian Spitz spoke up for PS 25 and other schools being closed, citing the class size issue for many of these schools. Also speaking up was the supervisors union's Raymond Gregory. The UFT did not speak up for PS 25.

Gloria Brandman was at the hearing the other day where the judge kept the school that the de Blasio/Farina tried to close -- there were charters involved in getting the building. Gloria took some notes:
Judge Katherine Levine was a smart, feisty judge who reminded me of Chief Justice Ginsberg (see the spectacular documentary about her "RGB")
"Why would the DOE close a school and then open another one? It doesn't make sense."
I believe Laura, the school's attorney, said that they do it all the time.

When the judge was looking at the list of possible transfer schools the DOE is providing for the PS 25 students (some out of district, the better ones already overcrowded), she said about one of the options, "That's 29 minutes away!". Later, she asked questions about transportation, and stated that she knows the DOE only provides buses to schools in the district. The DOE attorney did not respond.

She asked, "Why are they closing it", the answer given is that it's small. She responded, "So is PS xxx" (I forget which school she cited.)

Judge asked, "Did the CEC have any say?" DOE response- Multiple hearings were held. I believe the DOE Council stated that the DOE does listen. Many of us in the courtroom yelled out, NO THEY DON'T!

Judge asked, "If this school was 90% white and 10% black, would it be closed?"

Judge also pondered, "Would you conceded that the reason this is being done is because it has small class sizes?" and "What is the down side of keeping it open?" DOE attorney's rebuttal, "It's too small."
Judge wondered, What is the harm of keeping it open? "I'm keeping the stay in place."
"Disruption is not an option."
The judge also asked, "Are you telling me that there has never been a case where the parents have challenged the closing of a school?"

And regarding the UFT, judge was quite surprised by their absence. "Why wouldn't the UFT be a plaintiff?"
Why not indeed??
Also see the Chalkbeat article about the PS 25 win.  Several people are claiming that it is somehow selfish of PS 25 parents to fight to keep their school open or a “luxury” that DOE can’t afford.

Leonie's report included these links:
Congrats to the parents, students and teachers at this amazing school, to Laura Barbieri, our wonderful pro bono attorney, and my research assistant, Sebastian Spitz, who did much of the data and factual analysis for the case. Here are some of the legal briefs filed in the case, opposing the PS 25 closure:  

Support the Work Leonie Does by Attending The Skinnies, June 19

Leonie Haimson and Class Size Matters has been the major consistent and persistent advocate for teachers, students, parents and community over the past 15 years. She runs a major fund raiser every year at a restaurant with the leading resisters to ed deform in the room called The Skinny (not Broad) awards. I've attended every one of them and if you want to spend a few hours in a space with people you'd want to hang out with, especially in these times, this is the evening to do it. More info will come soon but read about just a few of the victories that Leonie has helped lead -- yes, she is a better advocate for us than our own UFT leadership.

That is why every year, the first group I contribute to is Class Size Matters to help Leonie continue her great work. Details will be available soon.

Save the date for the Skinnies! & our win yesterday in court to save PS 25!

1. Please save the date for our annual Skinny awards, which will be held this year on Tuesday, June 19. We will be honoring some very special people and you don’t want to miss it! It’s always one of our most joyous annual events, in which we celebrate our wins and gain strength for the battles to come. More info soon on time, place and how to reserve a ticket.

2. Speaking of victories, we had a big win in court yesterday in the fight to keep PS 25 open, an extremely high needs school in Bed Stuy Brooklyn with small classes. The DOE wants to close the school despite the fact that it’s the fourth best elementary school in NYC in its positive impact on learning. More about why we believe this school should be kept open is in my letter to Chancellor Carranza, published in yesterday’s Washington Post; and my account of yesterday’s win is here. Our win to keep the school open for at least another year was also reported in the NY Post and Politico.  Thanks to the brave parents of PS 25 who refused to give up, and to our attorney Laura Barbieri of the pro bono law firm Advocates for Justice.

3. In other law-related matters, I filed an appeal to the DOE on their refusal to respond to my Freedom of Information requests, which are now more than two years old; we will take this to court if the information isn’t provided by June 5. And our class size lawsuit vs the state and the city will be heard in Albany on June 15.

4. There is lots more on the blog about the problems with the new teacher evaluation bill, on Chancellor Carranza’s first time testifying before the city council, and the culture of corruption at DOE that allows sexual harassment to flourish. In a refreshing change from our previous chancellors, Carranza admitted to Council Member Treyger that yes, class size DOES matter, and that when he taught 20-25 students he could do so much more for his students than when he had classes of 40. So I have hope that we may see more humane and rational policies to come.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

NY Times Stands Up for Rockaway Beach

Those who spend their summer at Rockaway Beach know how awful this is. That beach — a beautiful expanse of white sand along the southern coastline of Queens — is one of the crown jewels of New York City, leaving anyone who visits marveling at the idea that such a thing could exist just 20 or so miles from Midtown Manhattan....It is also the people’s beach, a breezy bit of heaven for the thousands of New Yorkers who can’t book a getaway to the Hamptons but need an escape from the city’s sticky summers all the same and love the ocean just as much... NYT
May 26, 2018, 12PM
Yes. Except we are better than the Hamptons where they can't see the ocean in one direction and the Manhattan Skyline in the other. And take a subway. Or a ferry.

Today's NY Times devotes considerable space in the main section to the Rockaway Beach erosion and closing issue. A wonderful editorial --

And a full page news article (below). If you read the local press like my own paper, The WAVE, this issue has been front and center for a year. We need groins/jettys. The Army Corps of Engineers jumped to out them in Long Beach after Sandy, but has delayed doing so in Rockaway. We have some groins and where they are located there is no erosion.

A Summer Bastion of Beach Culture Is Off Limits

Friday, May 25, 2018

Memo From the RTC: Mansplaining in “Lovers and Other Strangers”

My final column on Lovers and Other Strangers, a comedy - of sorts - but really with a serious tone about underlying relationships. Written by Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna in the late 60's- early 70's - the more times I saw it the deeper it seemed. It even brings up an interesing twist of the use of metoo. We were honored to have Renee Taylor at the May 12 performance.

Memo From the RTC: Mansplaining in “Lovers and Other Strangers”
By Norm Scott

Mansplaining (a blend of the word man and the informal form splaining of the verb explaining) means "(of a man) to comment on or explain something to a woman in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner"… Wikipedia

As I watched the final performance of the RTC production of “Lovers and Other Strangers” at a sold out house packed with seniors who laughed themselves silly because they got most of the references from the last-60s, early 70s time period, I realized that in each of the five vignettes, a common thread that ran through them all was a guy working very hard to manipulate a gal. The opening sequence has Jerry, having just picked up Brenda at Maxwell’s Plum, doing what he can to get her into bed – until she turns the tables on him.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Major Victory: Court Keeps PS 25 Open - Leonie and Crew Big Win

A great victory for Leonie Haimson and her team in keeping PS 25 open for another year.

Updated: Report on Leonie's blog:

Leonie joined this battle early on and we had Lisa and Gloria from our closing school committee involved too.

Below is Leonie's report to the listserve with more info to come later.

Post Court ruling victory photo. Gloria Brandman in the house as always.

We won our TRO to keep PS 25 open for another year! - Leonie Haimson

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Stringer Report on DOE - Central Staffing Up 21% -

Leonie Haimson posted this on her listserve.

Important new report from NYC Comptroller on Department of Education watch list

Very important analysis from Comptroller showing increased spending on central administration at DOE, increased spending on private contracts with little oversight, and many initiatives such as Renewal schools and 2nd grade literacy coaches with little or no data provided by DOE to be able to assess their effectiveness.

When similar spending trends or questionable policies without evidence of their effectiveness were implemented by Bloomberg/Klein, they provoked real controversy, but DOE under de Blasio/Farina has gotten more of a pass.

Here are some notable excerpts, but the whole report should be read carefully.

Harlem Renaisance Ed Pipeline, NAACP, CEC5 Call for Charter School Moratorium and Other Education Reforms

The counter revolution against charter school invasions keeps growing.  This comes from one of the epicenters - Harlem.

When? Thursday, May 24, 2018, 11 AM
Where? Abyssinian Baptist Church (132 W 138th St, New York, NY 10030)

Dr. Sanayi Beckles Canton, CEC5

The District 5 Community Education Council, NAACP, The Harlem Renaissance Education Pipeline and community at large call for a charter moratorium and an investment in public schools to promote equity and transparency in New York Public Schools
“School District 5 leads city and state call-to-action for equity and transparency in all public schools”

New York, N.Y. (May 24, 2018) — Today, community leaders and stakeholders will converge at Abyssinian Baptist Church (132 W 138th St, New York, NY 10030) at 11am to announce a call- to-action to end the structural and institutional disparities in New York public education.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

School Scope: The Janus Right to Work Case - How Bad Will it Be For the UFT?

Submitted to The WAVE for May 25, 2018

School Scope: The Janus Right to Work Case - How Bad Will it Be For the UFT?
By Norm Scott

“Two previous unions of New York schoolteachers, the Teachers Union [TU] , founded in 1916, and the Teachers Guild [TG], founded in 1935, failed to gather widespread enrollment or support. Many of the early leaders were pacifists or socialists and so frequently met with clashes against more right-leaning newspapers and organizations of the time, as red-baiting was fairly common. The ethnically and ideologically diverse teachers associations of the city made the creation of a single organized body difficult, with each association continuing to vie for its own priorities irrespective of the others. – Wikipedia,

The TU was more left wing and the TG was formed as a counterweight to its dominance by former members who were being outvoted in the turbulent times of the 1930’s. The TU was decimated by the McCarthy witch hunts and the TG began to gain ascendency, particularly when the national American Federation of Teachers (AFT) sent in full time organizers like Albert Shanker. There were many separate groups in the NYC teacher corps representing many segments – elementary, middle and high school teachers, for instance. The high schools were the most militant (and still are today, as shown by the fact that over the past 30 years they have consistently voted for the opposition in the UFT, including the most recent 2016 election). The evening school teachers actually went on strike in the late 50s, shaking up the labor movement in the city. That led to a merger of the high school teachers association and the TG in 1960 when they formed the UFT after Mayor Wagner granted public unions bargaining rights. That forced an election to decide which group would get sole bargaining rights since the law allowed for only one bargaining agent. There were three contenders: the UFT, the Teachers Union and a group formed by the NEA, the AFT’s national rival and the UFT won hands down.

Since then, there has been little overall challenge to the hegemony of the ruling Unity Caucus, except in the high schools. Being the sole bargaining agent is a big thing and allows the union to collect dues from every school worker represented by the UFT, even it they choose not to join. That has been challenged in state after state as a way to weaken unions and has been a very successful tactic by the right wing in turning many states into what is termed “right to work” (RTW).

The about to be announced Janus decision in the Supreme Court will turn every state into RTW, including NYS. There are implications for the UFT aside from the possibility that numbers of teachers will leave the union and stop paying dues. If enough leave, that will weaken the union, possibly severely. But the bigger threat might be challenges to their being the sole bargaining agent if enough people sign cards calling for a new bargaining election, the first since 1962. More on this idea next time.

Norm is organizing a bargaining election at where he will have to vote against himself. Not the first time.

Port Richmond HS Parents lobby Cuomo to block principal Oneatha Swinton appointment

Six candidates were interviewed by parents and teachers in March. All but Swinton, who they ranked in the bottom half, have received rejection letters, sources confirmed. In their letter to Cuomo, parents cited The Post’s investigation. They also complained that Swinton had misused school funds by making unnecessary hires and refused to share the school budget... NY Post
Let's hope the new Chancellor makes a clean sweep of some of these characters.
The April 25 PEP brought out a contingent of Port Richmond HS parents, students and teachers protesting their principal, Oneatha Swinton, who also got bad reviews at the Secondary School for Journalism at the John Jay HS Campus in Brooklyn (Inside School, comments).

Here is a short video I made that night after meeting parent activist Annette Renaud, who was going to bring a contingent of teachers and parents to the UFT Ex Bd meeting to raise questions directly to the chancellor but that meeting was closed to outsiders. Maybe another visit to the PEP is in order.

Video: PEP April 25, 2018 - Port Richmond HS Protest

Sue Edelman in the NY Post has a piece on the parents going directly above the heads of the DOE to Cuomo, thus giving him another chance to embarrass de Blasio again. The DOE has still been sheltering abusive principals. When de Blasio makes his weekly appearance on the Brian Lehrer show, people are beginning to call up and ask about specific cases.

Here is Sue's story

Parents lobby Cuomo to block  principal’s appointment

By Mary Kay Linge and Susan Edelman

Striking teachers burst neoliberals' fantasy in one amazing moment | Thomas Frank | Opinion | The Guardian

For decades we have been told that the way to fix education is to fire people but red-shirted marchers across the country have shown the power of solidarity ... What unions do is more than protest. They change the dynamics of a community. They change the balance of social power. They change the way people think....
This article is another find from Fiorillo.
What I like best about the wave of teachers’ strikes that have swept America these last few months is how they punch so brutally and so directly in the face of the number one neoliberal educational fantasy of the last decade: that all we need to do to fix public education is fire people.... Thomas Frank

Striking teachers show that cutting education to fix it is a neoliberal myth

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Antonucci: How to Stage A Successful Teacher Strike in 4 Easy Steps

Everyone is excited about the teacher revolts around the nation and here in NYC there is talk in MORE and other places about how to connect those red state actions to the UFT. I'm open to exploring ideas related to conditions in NYC schools and whether there can be a movement coming out of the rank and file. One thing we notice is that there is really a tale of two school systems. Around the internet we read so many comments about awful conditions. And then we hear another side coming from people who are in "safe" schools -- places with good, caring principals.

Despite his view from the anti-union right, Mike Antonucci's analysis is always worth checking out, despite appearing on the - ugh - 74. Some people ask me why I read Mike and my response is that his stuff is less ideologically driven than the left wing press on education issues, especially in covering teacher movements.

How to Stage A Successful Teacher Strike in 4 Easy Steps

Friday, May 18, 2018

NYT - Why the Teacher Walkout Movement Won’t Reach Every State - Dana Goldstein

Not a lot of analysis here -- but some interesting points about the states revolting and why others may not - the way schools are funded.Goldstein does contrast the Jersey City one day strike. Are there ideas out there about possible job actions here in NYC? Flu season can be pretty rough -- maybe a blue flu in a school with an abusive principal?
In North Carolina, as in the other five walkout states, union membership is optional for teachers.....
What state could be the next to have a teacher walkout? There have been scattered rumblings of protest in Nevada and Louisiana. And there are at least five additional states that meet the major conditions for a statewide action: centralized governance and funding, and below-average teacher pay and per-student spending. The states are Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas and New Mexico.

-----walkout states: Its state government plays an unusually strong role in funding education and setting its priorities, often superseding the influence of school districts.

This strong-state model can include a larger-than-typical role for state governments in funding schools, a state-mandated salary schedule for teachers or efforts to equalize funding between poor and rich school districts.

Because of such policies, the states are, in a way, ripe for large-scale labor actions, despite having weak public sector unions. Unlike some Northeast states where teachers in one town can earn $20,000 more than those in a nearby city, low-income and middle-class districts in the states that have had walkouts have similar teacher salary and school funding challenges, building solidarity — and political leverage — across hundreds of miles.

---  Most states have schools that are funded more or less equally from state and local coffers, with voters making many financial decisions close to home.
---- Dana Goldstein, NYT,Why the Teacher Walkout Movement Won’t Reach Every State

Teachers marched in Raleigh, N.C., on Wednesday, as North Carolina became the sixth state where educators have left their classrooms to protest low pay and school funding.CreditCaitlin Penna/EPA, via Shutterstock

School Scope: Teacher Unions and Right to Work

Published May 18, The WAVE,

School Scope:  Teacher Unions and Right to Work
By Norm Scott

Last week I wrote about the red-state teacher revolts that seem to be sweeping the nation in states that cut taxes and education drastically. Many of the strikes have been illegal wildcat actions – not necessarily sanctioned by the unions, which in those states are under state control by the two big national unions, the NEA and the AFT (the local UFT has its foot in both, but plays the major role in the AFT, where the UFT tail wags the bigger dog through sheer numbers alone. Other than a brief 4 year period since 1974, former UFT presidents have moved up to AFT president.)

All these states are right to work (RTW) states where teachers are not required to pay union dues even when the unions negotiate their contracts and offer other services. Thus, union membership is low and the unions are relatively weak compared to non RTW states like New York, where the unions have such control over the members, they can put a damper on the type of actions taking place in the red states, where teacher militancy has often been led by teachers in the classroom who have acted independently of the union leaders. It is my contention this can never happen here in NYC due to the extensive control the Unity Caucus party that has run the UFT since its inception almost 60 years ago. I can remember only one time where a revolt from the classrooms forced the UFT to take strike action. That was in 1975 in the massive budget crisis. As UFT leader Al Shanker did not really believe in the strike, the outcome was not very good and 15,000 people were laid off and we were fined 2 for 1 through Taylor Law penalties and the UFT itself lost dues check off privileges for a period of time, which means the city doesn’t take dues out of the paycheck. That is a severe penalty and that threat alone often keeps unions in line.

With the Supreme Court about to render a decision in the Janus case, which if it goes against unions, as expected, the entire nation will be right to work and the UFT could lose thousands of members who won’t pay dues, thus leading to massive cuts in the union bureaucracy and some level of control over its members. Politicians recognize this danger to their partnership with the unions and, led by Gov. Cuomo have moved to offer some protections to the unions by passing a law that doesn’t require them to provide lawyers to teachers in trouble. Keep ‘em in the union with threats will not be enough of an incentive for some, especially younger low-salaried members who pay the same dues as senior members making much more money, many of whom are not staying in the system.

If it comes about, will a weakened UFT lead to more militancy from below and lead to wildcat actions like a blue flu? I’m betting NO, unless conditions here mirror red states. And that will take a long time in coming.

Norm wildcats every day at

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

End Danielson - NYC Rank and File Stand Up - PS 8X Solidarity - 50 UFT Members Rally in Front of School

Only the left can organize? MORE evidence to the contrary  -- .... an esteemed colleague in ICEUFT. 
Now it is time for all of us to come forward to join the effort to repeal the evaluation law and tell the world we have had ENOUGH! .... ICEUFT blog
The always awesome Roseann McCosh sent James and I a wonderful little note earlier today about an action 50 teachers at her school, PS 8x, took this morning. This school is not a hot bed of left-wing activists. In fact, quite the opposite. Roseanne did sign up 30 members of her staff to join MORE in the 2016 election. So PS 8 on the whole supported MORE in spite of its left wing politics.

If I had to name one of the leading organizers in the UFT, Roseanne, a former Unity Caucus CL who saw the crap early on, would be at the top of my list.

When we hear of red state teacher revolts we often find that the militancy rises out of the ranks, not from an organized push from left wing activists or union officials. In fact, many in the red states are not left but center, and even right.

Some at PS 8 refereed to MORE as "those hippy dippies." But if they feel even a leftist group is fighting for them and against the Unity machine, politics doesn't matter. I wish more MOREs felt the same about people on the center-right instead of viewing them as deplorable(s).

Here in NYC, while there are many issues of concern, there are certain push button issues, like Danielson. There has been a lot of talk in MORE over the past 6 weeks about taking the kind of action PS 8x took. The red state revolts and the action at PS 8x are examples that my esteemed colleague in ICEUFT is on to something. (Also see: Why We Choose to Leave MORE - John Giambalvo and Mike Schirtzer).

Hello Norm and James,

I've attached 2 pictures. This morning approximately 50 UFT members stood in front of our school building for 10 minutes as an exercise in solidarity. We decided at our last union meeting to start with a gathering in front just to show unity as union members. We didn't want to scare anyone away by getting too militant too quickly. A couple of signs were made by one teacher and when everyone saw them they quickly got on board with “End Danielson” and teachers have had “Enough.”

Once we realized everyone liked the ideas behind the signs we got everyone to chant, "End Danielson Now" "Teachers have had enough" "Paras have had enough" "What have we had? ENOUGH!" etc…

My CL made a point that even though I wasn’t rated under Danielson I was leading the chant. I then called out the names of the other staff members who, like me, are not rated under Danielson but still chanted. Danielson Teachers applauded these staff members and thanked them for showing solidarity. We ended by entering the building together in a moment of silence to mourn our profession. Mourning our profession is why we wore black.We are going to try to do this again next week.

I thought one of you would post about it on your blog. The teacher elected to be CL next year is holding the END Danielson sign. (I’m holding the ENOUGH sign).

Hope all is well with you both.


Videos, April 25: Aixa, Lisa, Norm, Leonie, Simon, Parent and Student

I did a quick mix of two sections of the PEP with people we know plus a parent and student fighting to save their school, which the PEP voted to close a few hours later.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Clear Evidence of Racism in NYPD Based on Marijuana Arrests - NYTimes

Government surveys have shown that black and white people use marijuana at roughly the same rate... 87 percent of those arrested in recent years have been black or Hispanic, a proportion that has remained roughly the same for decades,

among neighborhoods where people called about marijuana at the same rate, the police almost always made arrests at a higher rate in the area with more black residents...

officers in the precinct covering Canarsie arrested people on marijuana possession charges at a rate more than four times as high as in the precinct that includes Greenpoint, despite residents calling 311, the city’s help line, and 911 to complain about marijuana at the same rate, police data show. The Canarsie precinct is 85 percent black. The Greenpoint precinct is 4 percent black....

Black and Hispanic people are the main targets of arrests even in mostly white neighborhoods. In the precinct covering the southern part of the Upper West Side, for example, white residents outnumber their black and Hispanic neighbors by six to one, yet seven out of every 10 people charged with marijuana possession in the last three years are black or Hispanic, state data show. In the precinct covering Park Slope, Brooklyn, where a fifth of the residents are black or Hispanic, three-quarters of those arrested on marijuana charges are black or Hispanic.

 Whenever I get into a discussion on race, the marijuana arrest racial disparities are the strongest argument I've been able to use to prove deep racism exists. This NYT front pager from Monday, May 14 blows the lid off all the arguments used to defend NYPD policy. And it blows the lid off the bullshit de Blasio liberal cover - to such an extent he came out calling for reforms - as if he didn't know. He is the worst kind of phony liberal.

Surest Way to Face Marijuana Charges in New York: Be Black or ...
2 days ago - There are many ways to get arrested on marijuana charges, but one pattern .... the headline: Wide Racial Gap For Pot Arrests In New York City.