Thursday, April 19, 2007

Deal Announced on Reorganization: Did BloomKlein Blink?

The UFT Exec. Bd. will meet on Monday, April 23 to rubber stamp the just announced deal between BloomKleinGarten and various so-called parent reps, though those actually elected in various regions seem to have been left out of the process. A special Delegate Assembly has been called for April 25 to do the same. A memo was sent out by the UFT saying the May 9th demo is postponed. Read: Cancelled. The chance to finally give people an opportunity to vent their anger and frustration at Tweed seems to have gone up in smoke.

It was increasingly clear. The foment concerning the May 9th demo at Tweed involving leading parent groups and the UFT as a follow-up to the Feb. 28th rally was putting BloomKlein on the defensive. The alliance of parents and teachers and community elements had to be broken by them. BloomKlein will get a reprieve from what would have turned out to be a embarrassment that would force the national and local media to reevaluate their adulation of the BloomKlein "reforms." What a lost opportunity to take the fight against the corporate model to the next stage. If you read all the way through this , you will also see that BloomKleinGarten have also driven a wedge between what looked like a united front that was forming. Divide and conquer used to perfection.

That rally, which was billed as a means to fight the reorganization for the 3rd time in 5 years rather than an attack on the negative impact of control of the school system in the hands of this mayor or any future mayor, could have been used as a springboard to force BloomKlein into further concessions. There is nothing in the agreement described below that reverses any of the incompetent, self-serving, misdirected, cruel, etc. policies that have so damaged the school system and many of the people - parents, teachers, children - in the educational community.

Except for a few instances, the wording is full of the kind of promises to consult, recommend, participate but contains little or no elements that bind the very people at Tweed who have engendered such distrust in the past.

On the surface the agreement does look like a win on the funding formula that penalized schools with high salaried teachers, at least for the next few years. I might be wrong here, but I seem to remember Klein saying all along they would not implement it right away. But there are wrinkles.

The NYTimes says this on the funding plan "compromise":

"The change means that when a veteran teacher paid nearly $100,000 a year retires, a principal can hire a similar teacher or hire a rookie for about $50,000 and use the remaining $50,000 for other expenses."

If this is true, will a principal chose a senior teacher or take the 50 grand? This seems like little change in reality

Not trusting BloomKlein on anything, seems to force them to hold off. We think. Who knows what they will actually do and I recommend watchdogs keep a very close eye on them. On the other hand, I believe that many Kleinite principals won't hire senior teachers anyway for a lot of other reasons than just salary (look what has been going on in the schools for years with attacks on senior teachers who might actually want to see the contract, what is left of it, enforced.) They can get away with it because the UFT gave up so many seniority protections in the contract.

From Day One of BloomKlein, the UFT has been more miffed at the fact that they were not allowed to sit at the table like they had done with the old BOE than they were at the decimation of the union at the school level. When I hear people say BloomKlein want to kill the union they are wrong. They only want to kill the union at the bottom, which they have managed to do in so many places. They want and need the current UFT leadership at the top to do exactly what they have done in this case: kill a potential rise in militancy on May 9th and control and deflect any signs of militancy that might arise. So many people are angry at Tweed both among parents and teachers that this rally promised to be unique - possibly the first such joint action in a long time, if not in history.

The sentiment was rising against mayoral control. We have said all along that the UFT has always, and will continue to back mayoral control, albeit with minor modifications. A further sign was in the UFT supported Spitzer's comments in favor of mayoral control today, where he erroneously stated he would veto any attempt to kill it, deliberately misleading people as there doesn't have to be any law to kill it. It sunsets automatically and we revert to the old system unless the legislature renews it.

The basic idiocy of the reorganiztion plan is still in place. And the fact that the continued idiocies that will result from mayoral control seem guaranteed to continue in perpetuity. Nothing has changed for the people in the school community from the past 5 years. I don't care what they say or what committees they form. They do not believe that reducing class size will have the same impact spending money on professional development will. That is their mantra, inherited from Anthony Alvarado. They will say one thing and do another. To put any trust in Tweed given their record is a mistake. What I find funny is that they can say they are going to do A,B,C,D horrible things and they drop D and everyone cheers like it's a victory.

BloomKlein blinked, on the surface. But they showed a nimbleness in responding that none of their opponents have shown. The may have broken the parent coalition uniting against them with the UFT. The actions of the UFT are not surprising. It is a shame that there are so-called parent reps who scrambled for the crumbs dealt out by BloomKlein just to get a seat at the table. But who will be the real long-range losers? Bet on the rank and file teachers and parents, along with the students.

The statement below by Tim Johnson, who made such a strong statement against mayoral control at the Feb. 28th rally, indicates that non of the elected parents took part in this deal (unless behind closed doors, a violation of the very openness some of them have been calling for.) Following this statement are the DOE and then the UFT press releases.

See the follow-up interchange between Marge Colb and Martine Guerrier, a clear sign that BloomKlein has broken the parent united front that was forming by divide and conquer. That Martine would respond in this way -- attacking the elected CPACs instead of standing for their involvement is a clear sign of what we thought all along the role she might end up playing.

Statement released from Tim Johnson, CPAC (Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council)

Dear CPAC Members/Friends:

I released the following statement today in response to the Mayor's press conference announcing an agreement between the City, the UFT, & other organizations:

"This agreement provides no relief for disenfranchised parents, who were once again denied a seat at the table. Not one elected parent leader stood with the Mayor today. Our fight for full empowerment for public-school parents continues."

Tim Johnson, Chairman
Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council (CPAC)

Marge Kolb email:

After reading about the agreement the city reached with teachers and parents regarding the reorg and fair funding, I emailed Martine Guerrier on Thursday night and had the following exchange with her:

Dear Martine:

I'm wondering why there is an announcement of an agreement between parties, including parents, on the reorganization and yet the Chair of CPAC, Tim Johnson, has posted the statement (above).

What parents were involved in the discussions among parties? I went to the CPAC meeting last Thursday and there was no announcement that parents were invited to discussions with the Mayor and/or Chancellor. I, as a CEC member, know of no invitation for CEC members or even
just CEC presidents to participate in talks.

Marge Kolb

Reply from Martine: The parent from CEJ may not have been featured highly enough.

Then Marge wrote: I don't know what CEJ is. And are you saying there was ONE parent involved in the discussion? And, why wasn't it the Chair of CPAC which is the CHANCELLOR'S PARENT ADVISORY COUNCIL?

Martine replied:

NYC-CEJ (CEJ) is a coalition of PUBLIC SCHOOL PARENTS citywide who have been fighting to improve our schools alongside CPAC for our kids. They are just as valid in representing parents as you are and it is wrong to belittle the participation of any parent organization
representative. I believe it is a good thing to have many parent organizations involved and representing important issues, even if they are not CPAC. It is time to support the opening of doors to more parent representatives and voices. There is plenty of work to go around, so I am glad to see progress in recognizing parent leadership from other parent organizations.

You can disagree with me, but I believe it is about time that more parent leaders are recognized.

As an aside... ACORN, AQE, BEC (one of many organizations in CEJ), WFP, Small Class Size Coalition, UFT, and others who are part of the announced taskforce have been members of the parents rights movement for a long time. Please let me know: Is it your position or CPAC's
that these groups are not really valid representatives of the school community?

My final reply of the night:

Dear Martine:

My position is that the DOE and/or State Legislature have over the years insured parent involvement in the public school system by forming the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council (pursuant to Chancellor's Regs) and the CECs (pursuant to state law) - both of which are made up of parents ELECTED to represent other parents citywide. Why then would the DOE fail to involve parents from either of these groups in very important discussions about the organization of the school system, especially since CPAC and a number of CEC's have raised concerns and questions (many of which remain UNANSWERED) about the reorg and the fair funding proposals?

Marge Kolb

DOE Press Release (with some comments by me in italics below some sections)

PR- 117-07
April 19, 2007


Teachers Union Supports Department's Fair Student Funding Plan and English Language Learner Strategies

City Commits to Work with Teachers and other Stakeholders on Class Size, Parent Engagement, and Middle School Initiatives

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, and United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten today announced a renewed commitment to work together to strengthen and implement key reforms to bring greater accountability and equity to New York City's public schools. The Mayor was also joined by City
Council Speaker Christine Quinn, City Council Education Committee Chairman Robert Jackson, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition Chung-Wha Hong, NY ACORN Executive Director Bertha Lewis, and Irania Sanchez representing the Coalition for Economic Justice and Make the Road by Walking. In particular, the
City and the Union announced agreement on a Fair Student Funding proposal that will correct historic inequities in school funding, while also ensuring continued stability for all schools. They also announced new collaboration on a range of other issues including teacher tenure, class size, parent engagement, and middle school improvement.

"I strongly believe in the need for mayoral control and a clear line of accountability running all the way up to the mayor," said Mayor Bloomberg. "But I also believe in bringing people together around a common goal. The Chancellor and I appreciate all the people who have come together today behind these initiatives. I think they will make a big difference for our schools and our students."

"After weeks of public discussion and debate, we have today a set of criteria that will strengthen our schools and provide a better educational experience for families and students. Working with the Mayor's office, teachers, advocates and the Council, we have put together a work plan to lower class size, support educators, protect English Language Learners and improve our middle schools, with the full engagement of parents and school communities," said Speaker
Christine C. Quinn.

"Since the mayor's State of the City address we have voiced areas on which we agree and disagree. I am pleased we have reached agreement on some of the major instructional and funding issues that affect our 1.1 million students and the more than 100,000 educators who serve them - and on the mechanics to continue the dialogue," said United
Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. "The bottom line is how we help kids. Listening to parents and teachers is the vehicle to accomplishing that."

In his January 2007 State of the City speech, Mayor Bloomberg promised to correct decades of inequity in school funding by adopting Fair Student Funding, which will fund schools based on the number and needs of students. Since then, the Chancellor, his staff, and Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott consulted with almost 6,000 people at more than 100 meetings throughout the City in order to gain feedback and refine the proposal. Based on these conversations, as well as those with the Union over the past week, a series of refinements have been made.
These adjustments include:

* A "hold harmless provision," which assures that successful schools will not be destabilized by reduction in funds. Schools will carry forward their hold harmless from 2007-2008 to 2008-2009.
(Hasn't Klein been saying they will have a few years of grace all along?)

* A commitment to fund schools so they can continue paying for existing faculty, even as their salaries increase in the future. This protection will be available to all faculty positions where it is currently available (i.e., "base teacher" positions).
We've seen "commitments" ignored so many times in the past our heads are spinning.

* Allowing schools to keep any "hold harmless" funding from the current year that is connected with teachers who choose to retire or leave a school. This provides schools with the financial ability to replace departing teachers with other senior teachers.

In addition, the Administration will invite the Union, as well as the New York Immigration Coalition, and the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, to become members of an advisory group that will analyze the impact of Fair Student Funding and recommend refinements over time. While the Administration and the Union agreed to work together to implement FSF, the UFT continues to believe that using "actual teacher salary" as a consideration in hiring decisions under the Open Market Transfer System is impermissible under the teachers' contract and has filed a grievance to that effect.


Teacher Tenure
In his January State of the City address, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the City would strengthen the criteria by which the Department of Education awards tenure to ensure that teachers who receive tenure deserve it. The Department is forming an internal committee to develop the criteria for which teacher tenure will be granted, and will invite the UFT to participate in this process.
What does 'participate" mean? What if there's no agreement? Does UFT have veto power? Bet not!

Class Size
After the New York State Education Department issues class size regulations, which are expected within weeks, the City's Education Department will work with the UFT and other stakeholders such as New Yorkers for Smaller Class Size to develop a joint set of recommendations on how best to implement the regulations.
If they are truly joint and not unilateral then this might be a win.

Parent Engagement
The DOE will create a committee next week to design improved processes for parent engagement. The committee, led by the department's Chief Family Engagement Officer, will encourage the City Council, ACORN, the Coalition for Educational Justice, and other appropriate stakeholders to participate. The committee will focus on recommending steps to improve parent engagement and ensure that all schools have a functioning School Leadership Team, comprised of teachers, parents, and other members of the school community.

Who decides on the "appropriate" stakeholders? Recommendations are just that. If they were to be trusted that migh be ok. But are they to be trusted?

English Language Learners
The Department of Education will significantly increase the weights for English Language Learners to reflect the specific challenges these students face. The Department will ensure that English Language Learners with low academic achievement will receive additional support.

Middle Schools
As part of the Department of Education's effort to improve middle school education and results, the department will consider the recommendations of Speaker Quinn's middle school task force. If the Chancellor accepts the recommendations, the DOE, in conjunction with the Center for Educational Justice, the City Council, and other
stakeholders, will work together to implement the proposals in at least 50 schools.

Consider? Trust?

Student Success Centers
Working with the Urban Youth Collaborative, the Department will explore the idea of developing Student Success Centers, designed to work with high school students to increase graduation rates and help prepare students for college and careers.

Again a word like explore, expect unilateralism.

UFT Press Release

Union, parents, city reach agreement on reorganization

New York City teachers, parents and students have finally been heard.

The UFT and our coalition partners have come to an agreement with the city on some of the most troubling issues in the DOE’s latest reorganization plan, including school funding, tenure, class size, parent engagement, ELL funding and a middle school strategy.

We believe the agreement, which was announced at a Thursday (April 19) afternoon press conference, will protect members and avert the destabilizing effect of the new funding formula on schools.

In addition, the agreement will give educators, parents and others a continuing voice in decision-making through several new central committees and revitalized School Leadership Teams.

UFT President Randi Weingarten said she still has qualms about some aspects of the reorganization. She said, "We believe in additional funds for the kids traditionally left behind, but not at the expense of schools that work. This agreement eliminates all the economic incentives to destabilize good schools."

In light of the agreement, we are calling for a special meeting of the Delegate Assembly on Tuesday, April 24, at 4:15 p.m. at UFT headquarters, 52 Broadway to discuss the next steps in our work.

Please make every effort to attend. The details of the agreement will be discussed.

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