Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Say It Ain't So Elizabeth

We knew it was coming. Still, it was a shock see this headline in today's NY Times:

Losing Money, New York Sun Is to Shut Down

Yes, the home base of Elizabeth Green, the best education reporter I've seen in NYC, is publishing its last issue today. Elizabeth is quoted in the article:

“I don’t think it’s going to be hard for people to remember the role of this newspaper,” said Elizabeth Green, an education reporter who had worked for The Sun for 16 months. She defined that role as “people committed to having a substantial conversation and holding our leaders accountable.”

And she certainly did hold them accountable. That the conservative NY Sun allowed her such free reign to write comprehensive articles that so often nailed issues that the other papers were ignoring is remarkable.

From her first days in NYC, she scouted out all the players on the ed scene, not just the spokespeople. She even reached out to the ICE as an opposition caucus to the Unity dominated UFT to get our point of view even if she didn't always use our quotes. She got to know everybody on the scene, often meeting them for breakfast (I'm still waiting for mine.)

She was probably the only reporter who had direct access to Eduwonkette when she was anonymous and everyone was trying to expose her. Elizabeth inspired a level of trust even among teachers who so often mistrust reporters and when there was a story brewing, many of us handed it off to her.

In our last conversation she said she didn't want to leave the education beat, something which so many reporters who finally get to know the local scene end up doing.

Here's hoping Elizabeth Green is grabbed up by someone, hopefully in NYC. But if she's not given the room to roam she had with the Sun, it would all be a waste. I told her that if she ever got to work for the NY Times, I would bet she would find limits on her ability to expose BloomKlein because they seem to have a dog in the race.

So here's the challenge to the NY Times education editor. Hire Elizabeth Green and turn her loose. If they do, I expect to get that breakfast Elizabeth owes me.

See Leonie Haimson's tribute to Elizabeth Green:

On the blog, I write about the loss of Erin Einhorn, Mike Meenan, and now Elizabeth Green– and also recaps some of Elizabeth’s greatest hits

Education beat losing its best reporters...and now Elizabeth Green.

700 Billion Reasons to Vote Against the Bailout

David Sirota actually has 5 reasons. Read them at Norms Notes.

If You Want to Dance, Pay the Fiddler

Thanks to Fred Klonsky over at Prea Prez for coming up with this almost perfect quote that can be applied to today's financial situation from an old source. Boy do we need someone like him today.

It is an old maxim and a very sound one, that he that dances should always pay the fiddler. Now, sir, in the present case, if any gentlemen, whose money is a burden to them, choose to lead off a dance, I am decidedly opposed to the people’s money being used to pay the fiddler…all this to settle a question in which the people have no interest, and about which they care nothing. These capitalists generally act harmoniously, and in concert, to fleece the people, and now, that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people’s money to settle the quarrel.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 11, 1837

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bailing Out the Foes of Public Education

This article dovetails the politically and ideologically based ed reform movement (as opposed to education driven) with the current bailout mania. Note how Price starts with "A Nation at Risk" in 1983, which is exactly where Vera Pavone and I started with our review of Kahlenberg's Shanker bio (see sidebar for a pdf). Shanker's embrace of ANAR was a key element in the downhill spiral of the UFT/AFT in its alliance with the business community.

Bailing Out the Foes of Public Education
Quoting Friedman All the Way ...

We live in dubious times when staunch deregulators howl for vigorous and immediate regulation.

Lessons from the past

In 1983, the release by the Reagan administration of the report A Nation at Risk, launched over two decades of attacks on public education by right wing foundations and corporate pundits. Teachers and students were ill equipped to defend against the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, and the American Enterprise Institute, just a few of the many shock troops aiming their sights on the public schools.

The document stated that we were losing the battle against economic powers such as Japan, "unilaterally disarming ourselves" by miseducating youth.

In a previous Fighting Bob article, Demolition Reauthorization, it was described how "some of the loudest critics of public education, the Hoover Institution, the Fordham Foundation, the Aspen Institute, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Milwaukee's Bradley Foundation and Fortune 500 corporations everywhere have partnered with the federal government in an effort to, they claim, save our public schools."

The strategy employed so successfully in this all out blitz of the media by supposedly august foundations and think tanks is to attack the public schools, try and drain them of funds through tax payer vouchers to private schools, then to 'save' the remaining public schools, placing them under increased regulation, and when they fail, restructure them and reopen them as newly reconstituted charter schools.

The collapse of the banking, investment and housing industry draws similar parallels.


Message to the Press: Ask tough questions about the bailout

Are we being railroaded into believing there's a phony crisis to force the public to pony up to rescue the wrong people? Is the "crisis" the weapons of mass destruction of today? I think I got this right when I heard on CNN today that Goldman Sachs had $20 billion in risk that would be saved by the bailout. Remember that is where Paulson comes from. Goldman Sachs execs actually sat in on talks to design the bailout.

I am repeating a call I made a few days ago to bailout the American worker who provides the fuel for the economy by creating New Deal style WPA jobs for all the things this country need so desperately, including hiring scads of teachers and creating enough space to reduce class size in urban schools.

David Cay Johnston was an economics/tax reporter for the Times. This piece was posted on a forum for journalists (http://poynter.org/forum/view_post.asp?id=13611). Contradicting most of what we've been told about the credit situation, that he says is not a crisis, Johnston exhorts his fellow reporters to be skeptical and "check it out" instead of making the mistake they made in reporting the Administration's case for the Iraq war and the Patriot Act.

Here's an excerpt:
Ask this question -- are the credit markets really about to seize up?

If they are then lots of business owners should be eager to tell how their bank is calling their 90-day revolving loans, rejecting new loans and demanding more cash on deposit. I called businessmen I know yesterday and not one of them reported such problems. Indeed, Citibank offered yesterday to lend me tens of thousands of dollars on my signature at 2.99 percent, well below the nearly 5 percent inflation rate. That offer came after I said no last week to a 4.99 percent loan.

If the problem is toxic mortgages then how come they are still being offered all over the Internet? On the main page AOL generates for me there is an ad for a 1.9% loan (which means you pay that interest rate and the rest of the interest is added to your balance due.) Why oh why or why would taxpayers be bailing out banks that are continuing to sell these toxic loans?

Thanks to Merry T.

How to Save Millions in Education in NYC Without Affecting the Classroom....

....in your dreams.

Let's sell the Tweed Courthouse out from under BloomKlein

Jane Hirschman from Time Out From Testing is circulating a letter (read it in full a Norms Notes where Jane explains each item in detail.)

UPDATE: Chaz reminds me that he had his own list of suggestions. Also check the comments for additions.

The Mayor is announcing his plan next week for city-wide budget cuts, including in public education. The current financial crisis affords us an opportunity to look at the mismanagement of our tax dollars.
The number of DOE employees at Tweed Headquarters has increased by more than 500 in the last 5 years (from 1,832 in 2003 to 2,337 in 2008). That's a 28% increase! Currently, there are 14 job openings advertised on the DOE website, seven of which have salaries of $170,000 or more. We don't want additional CEOs from defunct Wall Street firms working for the DOE.
  • END THE LEADERSHIP ACADEMY - $10 million a year
  • CUT THE 2009 SCHOOL QUALITY REVIEW - $6.5 million

Feel free to add your own favorites.
I would add all merit pay programs and call for a public review of all private contracts and consultants. There is no excuse in the "no excuses" world of BloomKlein to cut one dime out of classroom services without looking at the enormous at the top.

Think they can get anything decent for the Tweed courthouse in today's real estate market? Could pay for a couple of new schools.

They're in a Snit at Mimi ....

...at must read blog It's not all flowers and sausages over how she dealt with a disruptive child who she calls "Big Boy."

Today, he yelled at another kid to "shut up." (The child at whom he was yelling was not making any noise, by the by.) The other child looked up and said, " you're telling ME to shut up??!? You NEVER shut up!"

And I knew it was time. We had an emergency class meeting, with Big Boy, in which we talked about how his behavior made everyone else feel. There was no pointing, no tattling, and no name calling allowed. My friends were only allowed to say how Big Boy's behavior made them feel.

....Big Boy ended up having the best day he's ever had. It was kind of amazing (although I'm not sure how appropriate).

Well, there was some reaction for the holier than thou crowd. Poor kid was embarrassed. You know the drill. Even a principal chimed in chastising Mimi (make sure to read the comments, which are mostly supportive of Mimi.)

I did plenty of the same stuff. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do to get some kids to cut the crap. Teachers of self-contained classes where you live with these kids all day all year have to use unorthodox means for the kids and them to survive in their little communities. When one kid is abusive to others, something must be done, often on the spur of the moment. Teachers can't afford to think deep psychology at these times. Soliciting comments of peers in a public setting when handled by a teacher like Mimi is perfectly legitimate.

Mimi points to how immature this kid is. The class meeting was probably the best thing that has happened to Big Boy in a school setting. He will still regress at times, but he is on the road to being able to work in a class setting. Hey, isn't school really about getting kids to to learn to function in menial jobs without complaint?

Bravo, Mimi.

Note: Flowers and Sausages and Have a Gneiss Day are currently my favorite blogs for their descriptions of the day today stuff that goes on in schools. That they seem to teach in such different settings and have such different backgrounds makes reading both blogs so intriguing. Both are deeply anonymous. If they weren't, they would each need a food taster.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

What grade did your school get?

Professor Celia Oyler at Columbia Teachers College sent this along to various list serves.

What grade did your school get? How valid and reliable are these grades? Given the fact that these grades are being tied to very high stakes outcomes (bonus pay and school closings), it is essential that the public be educated about the construction of the grading formula.

As teachers, we know that students want our grading systems to be fair.
Take the quiz on testing your knowledge on the school grading formula at
and decide for yourself just how "fair" the system is!

Also, "skoolboy" really breaks it down at:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hoola Hoops, Tulips, and CDOs... by George Schmidt

Naomi Klein points to the Chicago School of Milton Friedman's disciples as the most fundamental of capitalists. (To our educators, reading Klein will show you how Uncle Miltie's theories underlie a lot of what is going on in your schools today.) When right wing Republicans blew up yesterday's bailout conference at the White House, economists from Chicago were cited. No surprises there.

George Schmidt, who has lived under mayoral control of the school system for 13 years, would be classified as the alternate Chicago School. Can it be that George and Miltie's boys and girls have some common ground of agreement on opposing this bailout? In this post to ICE mail George treads on this ground.

Note that when George says, "The white collar workers who produced these commodities may have had "perfect" SAT scores and MBAs from the "best" Ivy League schools" he is also describing the very same types that Joel Klein has surrounded himself with.


Friends from ICE:

Some of us have been talking about this for a couple of weeks as the latest Wall Street, "bi-partisan", and Bush scam unfolded. For the first time in a long time, I find myself re-reading the first volume of Capital while agreeing with the most conservative Republicans. The market has judged these commodities, and there is no reason why we should not let the market continue to take its course.

Basically, the "products" that Lehman Brothers, Goldman, Merrill and Genworth Financial (watch that one next, shipmates) and the others were selling were no different (in the classical capitalist sense) from any other commodity produced for a competitive market. Just because they were given fancy named like "Collateralized Debt Obligations" (CDOs) or "Default Swaps" and had to wait to be birthed by Capital until the age of computers doesn't make them any different from their classical ancestors in the history of markets, bubbles, and panics.

The fact that the products were produced using computers by overpaid whiz kids (and their elders, right up to Henry Paulson) doesn't change their basic reality. The white collar workers who produced these commodities may have had "perfect" SAT scores and MBAs from the "best" Ivy League schools, but they were still producing a product to sell at a profit in the "marketplace" they've been worshipping since the first day they read "Atlas Shrugged" in one of those right wing essay contests every high school was forced by poverty to sponsor.

The financial products, as commodities, were and are no different from Hoola Hoops, SUVs, and Rely tampons (which also proved "toxic" after years of marketing hype).

This latest (bi-partisan) scam, from an Adam Smith point of view, is that they think they can unload a worthless inventory of commodities they have overproduced (in typical fashion, going all the way back to the Tulip Bubble at the very onset of Capital) on the taxpayers.

It may help some people to see what's going on by viewing all these arcanely named thingamajigs as simply the latest version of the Hoola Hoop. There is a market. The commodity is overproduced by those trying to cash in on the market. The price of the commodity crashes, and someone is left with huge inventories.

Why should we be buying this generation of Hoola Hoops with our tax dollars when we were smart enough to avoid buying them when they were for sale in the open market?

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance


Randi, Joel, in PR Joust of ATR's

You won't find many of these in the UFT proposals but you will find lots of rhetoric

see Elizabeth Green in today's NY Sun - I posted it on Norms Notes.

Comment from an ATR:

With all the anti-teacher and anti-ATR press out there this week, why is the UFT so silent????????????? Why no letters to the editors, no op-ed rebuttals? I am hearing from my fellow ATR's who were sent far and away this week and there are some real horror stories out there. And I have no idea what my rights are. Can I be made to sit in an office one period a day to do their bidding? Is this just something ATR's do since I don't see regular teachers doing it? Where is my file? If I am observed as a day-to-day sub, what can they critique me on? etc etc etc.

The silence from the union is deafening.

The silence has ended with the interchange of letters below between Randi and Joel and a UFT press conference that echoes the one held years ago on age discrimination. Sort of. (More aboutthe press conference later.) Both letters and a Tweed fact sheet (definitely read the "facts" on ATR's) are posted at Norms Notes. Also read the full ICE take on these "facts" Excerpt:

In no surprise to anyone, the DOE "Fact Sheet" on excessed teachers distorts the picture. They claim that most teachers in excess are finding jobs. However, a closer look at their numbers shows that their open market hiring system isn't working for most excessed teachers. By looking at the DOE's own data which we show below, we can clearly see that well under 50% of excessed teachers are being hired at new schools through the open market.... Their own facts don't lie. We need stronger contractual protections, not weaker ones.

My response it the usual. The UFT is more concerned with perception than reality. Prime: how the public perceives them. PR is king. Thus, being out in front with a rigorous defense of ATR's leads to the conclusion they created the system in the first place by giving away seniority rights.

How to defend ATR's? Unity suits say "You're still getting paid." They have no concept of what being a teacher is when they so blithely accept that you can be in the system for 20 years and be demoted to a day to day sub on a dime.

Some of our Unity brethren are crying in comments on the Norms Notes blog: Why blame us? Klein changed the funding. Boo, hoo. Poor dears. Got caught with their pants down.

Talk is cheap. To get anywhere the UFT would have to take a very hard stand on issues Klein wants badly and refuse all cooperative modes with the Klein. Target a cherished Tweed program and go after it full speed ahead by mobilizing teachers as refusniks. Without teeth, it's all about PR hot air.

Unity Caucus' Rick Mangone, chapter leader of the soon to be closed Lafayette HS in Brooklyn , has been commenting here and on norm's notes about the wonderful upcoming (it came) UFT press conference and how great it would be for ATR's. Again, later on that.

As you read the Randi/Joel interchange below, keep in mind that it is easy for Randi to propose anything. And just as easy for Klein to reject it. Now what? Do Unity people think that these words of Randi's will be enough to soothe the boo boo of the 2005 contract, which by the way Rick Mangone avidly supported? Teeth, man, teeth.

Right after Klein rejects Randi's proposals, what do her words mean? Does the UFT leadership believe ATR's will bow down and say, "Thank you, Randi. We knew you were with us. And when I am covering subjects I never imagined I would be teaching, I often think of how your words help me go on." Teeth, man, teeth.

I think just a few ATR's might be looking for some incisers to back up Randi's words.

Here's the letter Randi sent Klein on Sept. 24 calling for:
1. An immediate hiring freeze at the central Department of Education, and at the school and district level for any license areas where there are people in excess and available for placement.

2. A redeployment of teachers and other excessed personnel in the Absent Teacher
Reserve (ATR) into vacancies as they arise.

3. Develop a program to recertify excessed personnel in additional license areas, so they are available to fill vacancies as they arise.

Note in Klein's response how he threw her words back at her (emphasis mine):
I want to reiterate that we will not alter our policy on forced placement of teachers. It makes sense to try to limit the significant and growing cost of unselected excessed teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, but doing so by forcing these teachers into schools is not the answer. A return to this discredited practice, which harmed our schools for decades, would, once more, require schools to accept teachers regardless of whether principals and faculty believe they are the best candidates or good fits for positions.

At our announcement of the School-wide Performance Bonus awards last week, you and I both emphasized the critical need for teacher quality and effective collaboration among teachers and supervisors. You said, “We know, and I think there has become a real consensus in this City, that teacher quality and collaboration are real keys – pivotal keys – to turning around student achievement in schools.” Forced placement contradicts both of those goals. It would be far better to give excessed teachers a reasonable period of time to find a position before they are placed on unpaid leave. Such a policy would mitigate the cost while maintaining fairness and obviating the need for forced placement and all the negative repercussions a return to that system would bring.

Read both letters in full at Norm's Notes.

Of course Leo Casey chimed in with this analyis on Edwize:
First, as a result of the NYC Department of Education’s policy of school closings, there has been the massive displacement of hundreds of educators through no fault of their own. Second, as a consequence of the DoE’s changes to the school budget process, there has been the introduction of budgetary disincentives for the hiring and placement of experienced, senior teachers, a category into which many ATRs fall. And third, there has been the DoE’s gross mismanagement of its educational human resources, which has gone from bad to worse this last year. An intellectually honest account of the swelling ranks of the ATRs would address in a forthright manner each of these three developments.
Gee, Leo. Ya think? School closings? Ooooh! The UFT just spent the last umpteenth years cooperating with school closings. Exhibit #1: Randi Weingarten saying Lafayette HS SHOULD HAVE BEEN CLOSED. See any ATR's over there Leo?

And they changed the budget process on you? Oh, my! You just missed those issues when you'all pushed the 2005 contract down everyone's throats? As to Leo's use of the words "intellectually honest," his picture is in the dictionary – next to the antonym.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Naomi Klein: Now is the Time to Resist Wall Street’s Shock Doctrine

I am deeply immersed in Naomi Klein's (my new guru) Shock Doctrine, a 40 year history of the attempt to take back America from the New Deal. Total unregulated capitalism (Chile under Pinochet is the model) with no government interference. And for you educators – ending public education with total privatization, no more teachers unions – well, maybe "cooperative" and "collaborative" ones like the UFT/AFT. Or any union for that matter. What do you think? Are they pretty far along already? (See NYC school system, circa 2002-2008.)

And by the way. Instead of putting 800 billion into the corporate hoppers - supposedly to keep the economy humming and preventing unemployment, how about putting the money directly into people's pockets by a New Deal style WPA that would create jobs that could fix the deteriorating infrastructure, put people in many places where they are needed (London and Tokyo have so many people working at each subway stop to provide help and assistance), and goodness gracious, even enough teaching positions to cut class size.

Here is an excerpt from Klein's take on the current crisis over at the Indypendent.

I wrote The Shock Doctrine in the hopes that it would make us all better prepared for the next big shock. Well, that shock has certainly arrived, along with gloves-off attempts to use it to push through radical pro-corporate policies (which of course will further enrich the very players who created the market crisis in the first place…).

The best summary of how the right plans to use the economic crisis to push through their policy wish list comes from Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. On Sunday, Gingrich laid out 18 policy prescriptions for Congress to take in order to “return to a Reagan-Thatcher policy of economic growth through fundamental reforms.” In the midst of this economic crisis, he is actually demanding the repeal of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which would lead to further deregulation of the financial industry. Gingrich is also calling for reforming the education system to allow “competition” (a.k.a. vouchers), strengthening border enforcement, cutting corporate taxes and his signature move: allowing offshore drilling.

It would be a grave mistake to underestimate the right’s ability to use this crisis — created by deregulation and privatization — to demand more of the same.

Read the rest at the Indypendent.


Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transaction is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully
Minister of Treasury Paulson

PS: Non-Americans welcome too.

Anon. from internet

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

UFT Hypocrisy on Merit Pay Exposed

I'm working with the Justice Not Just Tests group from NYCORE to campaign against all forms of merit pay. An excellent pamphlet is being prepared that we want to distribute to schools that accepted and rejected merit pay, so let me know if you are interested in helping us get this out if you are in one of the shcools or have access to someone.

I almost missed this post on the issue from NYC Educator. It is posted here, but it needs to be reposted again so I am including most of it.

A recent post by Leo Casey in Edwize criticizes the School Progress Reports that the DoE issues (you know, the ones that give "A"s to schools the state classifies as "persistently dangerous"). I agree, of course, that there is fluctuation from year to year, and that the variation from one year to the next is not all that significant.

What, in particular, did Mr. Casey find troubling about these reports?
One small problem: they are not reliable.
He'll get no argument from me. Here, though, is what strikes me as odd--when I read this article in NY Teacher about UFT merit pay (you know, the merit pay system that absolutely is not a merit pay system, like the sixth class you teach Monday to Thursday that is absolutely not a sixth class), I can't help but notice the following:

The criteria for awarding bonus money to a school will be aligned with the Department of Education’s new School Progress Reports and entail various benchmarks, more than just standardized test.

Now this is where I really get confused. Since the School Progress Reports are not valid, why would Ms. Weingarten and Mr. Casey base the not-merit pay system on them? I mean, I've been reading Edwize and NY Teacher for years, and the one thing I've learned is that the UFT patronage mill never makes mistakes about anything, no matter what.

Hey, NYC. You must have an iron constitution. When I read Edwize, which is almost never, I get a tummy ache. Bromo, anyone?

Awe Shocks: Disaster Capitalism in Action

Are we in the worst financial crisis since the depression of the 1930's? I'm not so sure. And why should we believe what we're being told? Sure there are banks in trouble. But imagine if there's a tad of exaggeration to exploit the crisis. We're seeing shock and awe all over the place. While we're left staring into space, they run in a grab the cookie jar. Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," lays a lot of this out.

The proposed massive bailout has been called socialistic. Not. It is the reverse - the total take over of the financial system (it was part of the way there already) without the few checks and balances that remain. I can assure you of one thing. You hear all that talk about limiting CEO profits and pay? Right now for public consumption to temper the critics. Like I say about the UFT: Watch what they do, not what they say. They'll make an example of a few but the fat cats will walk away fatter than ever. At one point we said the new Russia was becoming more like us. It looks more like the US is becoming Russia with its privatized state with billionaire oligarchs and gangsters. Can assassinations of critics in the press in the US be far behind? Maybe that's why the press corps is so cowed about reporting the truth. Like, why isn't Naomi Klein on major TV stations explaining what's really going on? (Though I hear she made a great appearance on Bill Maher a few days ago.)

Klein's thesis is that when a system suffers severe shock, whether a natural disaster or man made, a golden opportunity is presented for those who are prepared to rush in and grab what can be grabbed while people are still in shock and before any opposition can formulate. This is a world-wide phenomenon: Examples she cites: Iraq, New Orleans, Russia, Chile in the 70's under Pinochet. She could have included the NYC school system under BloomKlein, as clear a case of the shock doctrine as can be made. But more on shock and awe in NYC schools at another time.

Klein (Naomi, not Joel) puts forth the idea that in the 1970's the Milton Friedman school of an unfettered, fundamentalist view of capitalism began to put into effect its plan to dismantle the New Deal, which just by the way saved capitalism from coming undone in the last great financial crisis when there was actually a left in this country that was capable of organizing people.

Klein writes in her introduction:

The corporatist alliance is in the midst of conquering its final frontiers: sectors of Western economies that have long been protected from profit making – including responding to disasters and raising armies. Since there is not even the veneer of seeking public consent to privatize such essential functions, either at home or abroad, escalating level of violence and even larger disasters are required in order to reach the goal....Bush's exploits merely represent the monstrously violent and creative culmination of a fifty-year campaign for total corporate liberation.

Well, we may be in the mother of financial disasters and whether it is all real or "created" or exaggerated to create the sense of shock needed, the goal is to move the ball up the field. Check Blackwater to see private armies and the privatization of disaster response. Oh, and have you checked the enormous profit-making opportunities in the NYC school system where even after school programs have been thrown on the table for private firms to make a bundle? Sorry, I was going to resist going there today.

Klein talks about the Keynesian/New Deal concepts of capitalism:

A free market in consumer products can coexist with free public health care, with public schools, with a large segment of the economy – like a national oil company– held in state hands. It's equally possible to require corporations to pay decent wages, to respect the right of workers to form unions, and for governments to tax and redistribute wealth so that the sharp inequalities that mark the corporatist state are reduced. Markets need not be fundamentalist.

Keynes proposed exactly this kind of mixed, regulated economy after the Great Depression, a revolution in public policy that created the New Deal and transformations like it around the world.

It was exactly this system of compromises, checks and balances that [Milton] Friedman's counterrevolution was launched to methodically dismantle....the desire for a clean slate on which to build a re engineered model society.

Klein refers to the Friedman doctrine as a "dangerous ideology" because of its drive for purity. Sound familiar?

Bob Herbert in the NY Times last week discussed the Palin/McCain health plan which would basically lead to the end of employer backed health plans and throw everyone at the feet of health insurer middlemen who can take their pound of flesh out of the system. And how's about that old kid, social security, the prime New Deal enchilada the Friedman bunch have been after? I'm heading down to get mine while it's still there.

So expect the latest economic shocks to lead to - not more regulation, but less. Just listen to those radical kids for change - Palin and McCain who will take the right wing ideology so well described by Naomi Klein in her book and use the current crisis to go further in making the American government an instrument and banker for the private interests while removing as many of the protections for the American public as they can get away with.

As for the NYC school system, 3 reorganization shocks were applied and the continuance of the mayoral control onslaught continues. As we write this the UFT leadership is figuring out how they can present to the membership a PR-based document that makes it look like they want changes but in reality continues a system that has the ability to apply the shocks needed to cow parents and teachers, not to say children, into submission.

For a prime example of the latter, check out D2Route's Educating the future workforce to accept disaster capitalism. (thanks to A Voice). If you think this is about KIPP, you are correcto.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

UFT Unity Caucus Hack of the Week: Charlie Turner

Read all about the "compassionate" Charlie Turner, Brooklyn high school District Rep. in comments on the ICE blog. I extracted them on Norms Notes. If you need him, Turner is always available to pull opposition literature out of teacher mail boxes. The ultimate UFT "suit", this guy wears a suit over his suit.

Blog of the Day: My Kingdom for a Parking Space

For those who follow the adventures of Have a Gneiss Day, this blog is a real treat. I found It's Not All Flowers and Sausages through Gotham Schools. Get the scoop on what really goes on in schools. Here, we get the real scoop on the impact of the parking permit amidst the other trials that go along with teaching. Some commenters tell her to go to the union, not realizing it was the union that sealed the parking deal.

Sometimes it feels as if the forces in the universe are alligning to make this job as difficult as possible, just to see if I have the balls to stick with it. Other times, it feels as if teachers (as people) are the absolute last priority on everyone's list...that we will just suck it up and deal with ridiculous situations "for the kids."

If one more person tells me to do it "for the kids", I might throw a kid at them. Seriously. Stop playing on our good intentions and altruistic dedication to the future and treat us like the professionals you so desperately claim you want us to be. It just seems at times as if this job teeters on the brink of being inhumane.

More at It's Not all Flowers and Sausages

Monday, September 22, 2008

The PR Assault on ATR's Begins

Tim Daly of the New Teacher Project, is out with another assault on ATR's. (See 3 articles in NYC papers I posted on Norms Notes.) He had a similar report back in May '08 (see links below to 3 Ed Notes posts at the time.) Daly feels any teacher who can't find a job within 12 months should be put on unpaid leave. That the city hired 5000 new teachers with a 1000 senior, higher salaried teachers, many who tried to apply for jobs but found little interest, possibly due to these very same salaries, is not a factor to Daly.

As the organization with a $4 million contract to recruit and train new teachers, Daly has a big dog in the race. But he is "concerned" about the costs of carrying these ATR's. I do not see the connection. Why would the NTP get invlolved with this issue if not for the fact that if ATR's were hired before new teachers were hired, Daly's contract would be endangered. Oh what will he do when all senior teachers are gone? Why there will be a new generation of senior (relatively) with high salaries to go after.

I guess part of the $4 million is to lead the PR assault on ATR's that BloomKlein hope will pressure the UFT to give them up.

What do you think most teachers feel about the odds of the UFT succumbing to public pressure? (See comments from ATR's in previous posts.)

As a union that wants to be viewed as "progressive" and willing to be part of the ed reform movement, especially with Randi Weingarten's new national stature as president of the AFT, all balls are in the air.

Previous Ed Notes posts on Tim Daly and the NTP

How Many Sides of His Mouth Can Tim Daly Speak Out Of?

The New Teacher Project

Absentee Teacher Reserves

Here is the list I printed in May of all the people the NTP has to support with that DOE money.

NYC Teaching Fellows [support]
Lesley Guggenheim, Program Director
Joseph Bywater, Senior Director of Operations
Gabriela Calderon, Selection Lead
Chris Casarez, Director of Placement
Dan Cayer, Recruiter
Alissa Ginsberg, Selection Lead
Paul Hawkins, Director of Technology
Kathryn Hayes, Director of Training and Support: Instructional Quality
Ellen Hur, Director of Marketing and Recruitment
Brandeis Johnson, Director of Training and Support: Development and Design
Jennifer Lee, Operations Associate
Kimberly McCann Fultz, Operations Team Manager
Michelle Mercado, Director of Selection
Crystal McQueen, Pre-Service Training Coordinator
Lindsey Payson, Training and Support Coordinator
Kristen Rasmussen, Communications Team Manager
Lindsey Reu, Communications Manager
Nahid Sorooshyari, Selection Lead
Deborah Teng, Marketing Lead
Liren Teng, Operations Associate
Maria Uruchima, Training and Support Associate
Melody Vargas, Placement Lead
Alice Walkiewicz, Placement Lead
Jessica Wedge, Recruiter

Weingarten Supports Closing Salary Gap - Maybe

One intriguing comment from Randi Weingarten today in Elizabeth Green's report on Tim Daly's report on ATR's (see our post later this afternoon) in the NY Sun as a way to cut down on the reluctance of principals to hire higher salaried teachers:

The president of the teachers union, Randi Weingarten, said in a statement responding to the report that she supports evening the financial playing field between senior and junior teachers.

Is this a sign of a crack in the UFT's slavish commitment to equal raises across the board? Will future contracts have differentiated percentage raises and limits on the top?

While the concept has been raised in ICE at times, I look at Randi's statement as just something for her to say for PR purposes (I'm shocked), with no real plan. In fact it is not well thought out as a solution to the ATR problem because with 50% of new teachers leaving and Tim Daly lobbying for a lifetime contract to train new teachers, principals will always have a pool of bottom salaried people to plug into a 2 for 1 deal.

Currently, the gap between entry level and top salaries is $55,000. Most of the big raises start coming as people get into their 2nd decade of teaching through longevity raises at various points based on years of service. I haven't followed things that closely, but the gap still remains large for many years. But them again, even with a top salary of $100,000, the DOE and the UFT don't expect all that many people to get there. Thus, they could raise the top to $120,000 without worrying about it costing too much, while firming up the middle.

If she were serious, the key to doing this is to raise the jumps in salary at the steps in the first 8 years.

This is an idea that bears looking into - in theory.

Remember, this is the UFT which will manage to screw up even a good idea.

A Yankee Memory - and a Parade

In 1978 when the Yanks won the series I had a trip scheduled to the Museum of Natural History that week. It was not easy to change trips on short notice. I tried to think of a place to go in the financial district and came up with the American Indian Museum and pulled all the strings needed to get the change.

Naturally, I didn't include the fact that the main purpose was to attend the Yankee parade. So I took my 6th grade class to the parade route where we waited for the Yankees to pass. We had to wait for about 2 hours. The kids interacted with the people around us (which weren't enormous) as paper came down from the buildings.

Managing a class of almost 30 kids as the lone adult in those conditions is a good test of certain teaching skills. (They should give merit pay for this.) Especially since this was early October. But this was pretty much the same class I had in the 5th grade the year before and we were very comfortable with each other.

Finally, we saw the floats. "Reggie, Reggie," as the kids saw their hero (not mine, as Reggie was not one of my favorites.) They went by quickly - not many trucks. They were gone in about 30 seconds. The crowds disappeared quickly. The streets were loaded with paper that had been thrown from the buildings. The kids were rolling around in it and having a blast. They kept playing for a while and then we went to Battery Park for lunch and those great views of the harbor.

We never did get to that Indian Museum.

In 1998 when the Yankees won the Series, I was no longer at the school and working for the district. I took the day off and went to the parade - alone. The size and intensity of the crowds were enormous compared to 20 years before.

On the way into the city, I stopped to visit my old school. Ironically, one of the students on that trip had just completed a 7 year prison term and came to visit me just as I was leaving. I told him I was going to the parade. "Just like you took us," he said. Holy Cow! I had forgotten all about it.

"Mr. Scott, that was one of the best experiences of my life," he said. "I'll never forget it."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Derek Jeter for President

Todays' food for thought:

Would all the rabid Jeter fans whose vote for president might be influenced by race, view Jeter's mixed race the same way they view Obama's? Is Jeter more qualified than Palin? If he's not retired in 2012....

Claims Of Age Discrimination At Graphic Communication High School Prevail

UPDATE 2 (Sept. 24) : Mggie Wallace sent an updated version of her letter.

UPDATE 1 : I received a phone call this morning from one of the plaintiffs confirming the story on Friday's court victory.

On July 13, Jeff Kaufman posted a story on the ICE blog about the age discrimination law suit at Graphic Arts HS (Manhattan) which finally went to a jury trial on Sept. 8 and led to a victory by 3 of the 7 teachers.

This comment was left on the ICE blog in July by one of the ultimate winners.

Dear Teachers,

I am a litigant in the Graphics Age Discrimination Suit. I would like to share that we are going to federal court Monday, September 8, 2008 for 10 business/school days.

Let me verify that we have paid dearly from our own pockets to get there. We are fortunate to have a creative and motivated triad of lawyers who will not get rich, nor will we, from a win. This is about justice and reputation, and our rights to teach as we have always enjoyed. It is also about getting fair pay and professional treatment for teachers who have studied and worked hard to earn senior tenure and status.

Support outside Judge Jed Rakoff's courthouse in Southern District would be a joy to behold. The era of Bloomberg/Klein/Resnic needs a serious challenge by educators with backbone.

Thank you, and best regards.

Diana Friedline

Congratulations to Diana and the other teachers who won. To those who didn't: fight on. The story of the teachers sent to the rubber room to cover for administrative failure is particularly disturbing. See a report from Maggie Wallace below.

Our interest is in the role the UFT played at the chapter level and at 52 Broadway. Kaufman reported in his July 13 post:

Back in 2005 forty-five teachers filed a complaint with the EEOC that the DOE had discriminated against them because they were over 40 years old. The Daily News reported the filing and Randi Weingarten announced at the time that "88% of teachers brought up on disciplinary charges in the last three years were over 40."

In July 2007 I wrote this:

Remember the supposed Age Discrimination suit? The entire purpose was to deflect people from taking action on their own. When people inquire about it with the UFT’s Sherry Boxer, she says she has no info and refers them to the EEOC. Call the EEOC and they tell you Sherry Boxer knows exactly what is going on. If you try to get added on the case, they say “NO Dice.” Of course, why would the UFT want hundreds and maybe thousands of people listed? The might actually win and then how would they explain it to Bloomberg?

I've heard various reports since then that the EEOC complaint went nowhere. There were lots of derogatory comments about the UFT related to the ICE posting of the story. Did the UFT play any role at all in the lawsuit? Or did the teachers pay out of their own pocket? Will the UFT now claim a share of the credit for the victory and parade the winners in front of a Delegate Assembly? That's exactly what they did when teachers at Brooklyn Tech won a suit. One of them told me he has to spend $50,000 out of his won pocket.

Here's what I hear about Patti Crispino, the UFT chapter leadership at Graphic Arts:

Unity Caucus loyalist and hack, known to be more concerned about keeping literature critical of the leadership out of teachers' mailboxes (witnesses confirm her doing this) than fighting for teachers' rights in the school. Known for high level of cooperation with the administration. Provided no help at all for these teachers. Often viewed as an agent of the principal. Crispino is an example of the Unity people your dues pay for to got to conventions and get union gigs galore.

I'm shocked, shocked to find out age discrimination is going on here

I first raised the age discrimination issue at a UFT Executive Board meeting in the fall of 2004 in a case at John Adams HS in Queens, where the administration targeted older teachers. A number of teachers at Adams felt the UFT was protecting the principal after the leadership killed a story in the NY Teacher.

A back story here is that this incident led to a series of events that resulted in Betsy Combier getting a job at the UFT as part of the rubber room SWAT team in exchange for not revealing certain information about a high level UFT official suspected in the John Adams cover up. But that's a story for another time.

The leadership acted like it was the first they had heard of age discrimination. At the Nov. 2004 Delegate Assembly a few days later, Michael Mendel mentioned it and asked people to contact the union. Again, feigning ignorance. Randi Weingarten even emailed me asking for names. Eventually they held that press conference in January 2005.

I felt it was the usual public relations stunt from the very beginning, with good reason.

The UFT reaction riled an insider at the UFT who sent me a package of news articles from a local paper in Bay Ridge from 2003 discussing an earlier age discrimination suit by teachers in District 20 (Bay Ridge) against Superintendent Vinnie Grippo that was totally ignored by the UFT. Later, I was contacted by some of the teachers who told me the UFT was not only uncooperative in assisting them with gathering information, but actually obstructive. So much for their "surprise" that there was age discrimination. UFT leaders are deciding who will play Captain Renault in the remake of Casablanca.

Maggie Wallace sent this report this morning:

September 21, 2008 (modified Sept. 24)

A jury of 7 found the New York City Department of Education and the principal of Graphic Communication High School in Manhattan, guilty of age discrimination in the case of three out of the seven teachers who brought the charges with federal court. Two of the teachers remain in the school organization. A third teacher was forced to retire 2 years ago.

Jerod Resnick, the principal of HSGCA, was found to have discriminated against Midge Maroni, 60, Diana Friedline,57, and Anthony Ferraro 71, teachers of English, Commercial Art and Design, respectively. Ferraro was forced to retire two years ago while Maroni and Friedline still work in the school.

Judge Jed Rakoff of the Southern District Federal Court located in downtown Manhattan concluded that the DOE and Principal Resnick may be liable for other types of discrimination. Other claims of wrongful termination, harassment and retaliation were dismissed because they were not “directly related” to age discrimination.

Judge Rakoff denied the claims of two Spanish teachers who have spent two years in the Teachers Reassignment Center (also known as the “Rubber Room”). The teachers were accused of wrongful actions related to Regents testing by Judith Silverman, an assistant principal who admitted her own responsibility for the failure in court. The teachers testfied that the school had not provided the department with the required testing materials.

While Silverman was not disciplined, the three tenured teachers who comprised the Spanish department were “reassigned” for failing to administer the oral portion of the Spanish Regents in January 2006. However, according to Rakoff, the evidence presented by the plaintiffs lawyers, although supportive of the teachers claims, was not “directly related to age discrimination.” Further evidence could indeed prove the DOE and the principal of HSGCA are liable for other discriminatory practices based on ethnicity or race. The members of the jury acknowledged that the educators who brought the lawsuit had indeed been submitted to unfair labor practices which pointed to “all kinds of discrimination.”

“My heart goes out to these two teachers”, said Judge Rakoff of the teachers who remain in the infamous “Rubber Room”. In recent past Principal Resnick has sent at least 9 other teachers to the DOE confinement center. His hostility against teachers have earned him the “bully principal” title by local newspaper including the United Federation of Teachers newspaper, The New York Teacher.

Elaine Jackson, a tenured teacher, was hired in 2004 by Resnick as an assistant principal for the English Department. Ms Jackson was soon replaced by a younger male administrator, one of the administrators accused of ageism by English teacher Midge Maroni.

Elaine Jackson was asked to leave the school by principal Resnick after a semester of harassment and retaliatory actions, because “things just didn’t work out between us.” Ms. Jackson was never paid as an assistant principal and was demoted to teacher status. She was forced to transfer to another school even though she was willing to stay at Graphics as a teacher.

Anthony Ferraro, an experienced senior teacher who was targeted by Resnick and several assistant principals, stated in the lawsuit that he was forced to leave the system (DOE). He testified that the ordeal caused him a great deal of anguish and anxiety, and made his daily life miserable.

During their testimony, Josefina Cruz and Gloria Chavez told the jury the school administration ignored the protocol, violated the rules of Regents testing by scheduling freshmen Spanish dominant students to take an advanced exam designed for Spanish learners.

The claimants said the school administration didn’t provide the Spanish teachers with the required materials to test the students, according to Regents requirements. . They further testified that according to the testing procedures, it was the responsibility of the regents coordinator, the assistant principal and the principal to distribute the materials. The claimants reported the testing violations to the New York State Board of Regents but none of the administrators responsible for the Regents’ violations at Graphics were disciplined. Instead, the Comission of Special Investigation (CSI) and Office of Special Investigation(OSI) both investigative arms of the New York City Department of Education conducted their own investigation based solely on the principal’s claims.

When questioned by Ambrose Wotorson, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, why Resnick’s school had been in the School Under Review Report (SURR) list for the six years he had been principal of Graphics he responded that the school was being investigated because of claims of Regents testing violations.

The trial which lasted two weeks, started September 8, 2008 and concluded on September 19, 2008 documented the ordeal of the 7 teachers who brought claims of discrimination before the court in 2006. One of the allegations claimed that Jerod Resnick rated at least 19 teachers unsatisfactory during the school year 2004-2005 so that he could make room for younger teachers. Most tenured teachers left the school and sought positions in other schools. retired or left the system. They were replaced by younger, untenured and unlicensed teachers.

The plaintiffs who were found to be discriminated against were awarded various sums of money. Other claims found not to be age related could still be discriminatory in nature and the DOE and Principal Resnick Could be liable for other discriminatory practice.

Here are some posts from the Ed Notes archives on age discrimination:

October 24, 2007
What happened to the Age Discrimination lawsuit?

The UFT has been making the rounds of the Reassignment Centers.
UFT Rep Jeff Huart was asked this question:

What happened to the Age Discrimination lawsuit?

Jeff Huart: The UFT is going forward with the lawsuit. People who believe they qualify should get their information in to the union.
Question: But information is out there that the UFT is not going forward with it.
Huart: The UFT is going forward with that one and the one for the people in the Reassignment Centers.
Question: Do teachers know about the general age discrimination lawsuit. Many teachers claim never to have heard about it.
Huart: District reps went to all the schools to tell about it.

How many schools do District Reps reach a week? Might as well use a milk carton and string to deliver the message. Not in the NY Teacher. Not in the UFT Weekly Updates to chapter leaders. Not a flyer handed out at the Delegate Assembly, or even an announcement to have senior teachers contact the union. But whispers from District Reps (those that are competent or awake). That's showing you are serious about age discrimination.

Remember: watch what they do, not what they say!

July 28, 2007
UFT: Masters of Deflection

The UFT response to teachers asking for help has been “Wait till September.” It could be a song:

Wait till September
We hope you won’t remember

Just how much you’ve been screw-ew-ed.

Even when people get some attention, they often don’t realize the UFT leadership tries to deflect people from taking action either on their own or even worse (for the leadership), in concert with others. It takes some people years to realize this. The goal is to stop anything from getting organized and if the threat is serious enough they may actually do something (or give the impression they are doing something.)

Remember the supposed Age Discrimination suit? The entire purpose was to deflect people from taking action on their own. When people inquire about it with the UFT’s Sherry Boxer, she says she has no info and refers them to the EEOC. Call the EEOC and they tell you Sherry Boxer knows exactly what is going on. If you try to get added on the case, they say “NO Dice.” Of course, why would the UFT want hundreds and maybe thousands of people listed? The might actually win and then how would they explain it to Bloomberg?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Well, I finally saw some tears flowing/Day of Infamy

Comments from ATR's posted on the ICE blog. The UFT is less than useless. More like toxic. I wish these anonymous commenters would at least identify the UFT officials publicly.

Many letters were given out at Tilden yesterday and today. Veteran teachers are all being assigned as ATR's to various locations. Since they all must appear on Monday, the number of teachers who got letters through out the week are all here today, Friday the 19th.

I can hear a teacher crying next door as I write this. If she wanted to leave Tilden, she would have asked for a seniority transfer years ago. She loves the kids in this community and wants to stay. She has over 20 years experience.

The locations are, well, to be blunt the locations that parents usually use the no child left behind act to get their kids away from. Seniority transfers used to allow you to pay your dues in a tougher school then move somewhere that the kids really think that the N word is really a bad word. Now it is the opposite. You work in a tough neighborhood for twenty years with dreams of finishing your career in that nice school near your home in the borough or place that you live in and as you walk out today past that new young teacher hired by a new school, you realize that you are on your way into the belly of the beast.

The place where that younger teacher should have been paying their dues at this very moment. I feel bad for the ones who voted no on the last contract. For the ones who voted yes and were dumb enough to tell me that you did? LOL seems appropriate.

Yesterday September 19th 2008 was a Day of Infamy. All the ATR's in my school and other schools got their new assignments. ATR"S are being sent to alternative schools, learning centers, mini schools, not places that senior teachers would normally go to.But since we were sold out by the UFT we have no choice. The plan as most people see it is to make us uncomfortable so that we will quit or retire or they will send us to the Sup's office on some type of phony insubordination charges.

And where is our union, Blowing Smoke" like the district rep did at our school yesterday. He just answers questions with double talk answers. Why did they call an emergency meeting yesterday at 2:15 this meeting should have been last week. The reps response was that they did not anticipate the DOE's action. Everyone else in the system knew that this was going to happen yesterday except the UFT.

ATR's wake up. The UFT sold us out.The time for a Class Action Case is now. Do not expect any help from the UFT, they created this whole situation with their lousy contracts.

Some teachers in my school are calling for a job action. That's one thing Randi is afraid of doing so it should be done. It was done in Philadelphia a few years ago and it worked. Lets work together and forget the UFT.

And a comment on this blog:

At South Shore on Friday, a notice was posted over the timeclock that all ATR's, with or without programs, had to report for a meeting with the principal at 2:15. Mind you, our day ends at 2:25. So all 20 ATR's gather and wait and wait and wait. (This after a really horrible day of anxiety and tears. Normally nice tempered friends were at each others' throats.) So we wait. And wait some more. Finally, after someone called downstairs, the principal and APO arrive with the dreaded pile of letters. Some ATR's had already left in anger since it was now OUR time.

There was a rumor that Charlie Turner, our union rep, would be there too but he was a no show. My envelope was one of the first and since I could deal with the tension no longer, I ran out opening my letter as I did so I have no idea what news others got or what the reaction was.

On my way out I ran into two former students who were so glad to see me but I couldn't talk for the lump in my throat. I never said goodbye to anyone but the wonderful safety agent at the front desk whose two daughters were in my AP classes a few years ago. South Shore is my neighborhood school; the kids there are my neighbors' kids. I had always intended to end my career there. And when none of us were able to get jobs at the 8 new schools upstairs, it was clear that we don't count for anything. I report Monday to a school I don't know, to administrators who will do whatever they like with me; I could be a classroom teacher out of license or a day to day sub or a much hated competitor for classes in license. After almost 20 years of excellent teaching, mentoring, etc., what a pathetic way to almost end a career. I wish I could just go away. Teaching is my identity and Bloomklein and the Randi and the union have destroyed my identity.

Ed Note: Ed Notes rates Charlie Turner as one of the lowest of the low Unity Caucus hacks. Having crawled out from under a rock, he must have returned from whence he came to avoid facing the music from an angry group of teachers, who have as much anger, if not more, towards the UFT.

Q&A on NYC Pensions

I remember hearing some bad stuff about how pensions and salaries were treated in NYC in the 30's. And we haev the example of the mid 70s' when salaries were frozen, schools closed, preps cut and there were 15,000 layoffs. Remember the current UFT contract assures no layoffs - unless there is a financial crisis. That is the source of the ATR situation. And if there are layoffs, will they find a way to get rid of ATR's or will the newer teachers be cut?

Anita asked a question on ICE-mail to Queens high school chapter leader Michael Fiorillo (see his suggested financial commentary web sites in the sidebar). (People could use some answers from the UFT.

The questions I have and I'm hearing from colleagues: is a TDA account insured? What about our pensions?? (Feel squeamish that we just don't know such basic facts.......)

Michael responds:

Hello Anita and Everybody,

To answer your questions as best I can, and please DO NOT base any personal decisions on what I'm about to say since I can be wrong, my understanding is that:

- If by "insured" you mean guaranteed by the federal government a la the FDIC, then Variable A is most certainly NOT insured.

- I am not familiar at all with Variable B, and cannot comment. It is said to be invested in the most secure and stable financial financial instruments, but what does that even mean in this climate?

- Frankly, with the caveat that I could be wrong, I have fears about the fixed fund, as well: it is certainly not insured by the FDIC, and if there is any kind of insurance it is through private entities (such as AIG , AMBAC and others). Not a comforting thought. I've been following this issue very closely for years now, and have worried about the safety of the fixed fund in a financial crisis. After all, at a time when banks were paying 2-3% on CD's, how was the fund able to provide an 8.25% return? My fear is that they could possibly have these toxic intstruments, which paid higher interest.

- As for the pension fund, the New York State constitution protects the pensions of all vested members. However, and realistically, how much comfort is that, when the Federal Reserve Bank itself is overextended? Unfortunately, the predators and parasites at the investment banks - the same people "investing" in charter schools, Teach for America and corporate school reform in general - have for years seen the pension funds as rubes to be fleeced.

What we are seeing is the direct result of thirty + years of income polarization based on the cannibalizing and outsourcing of the nation's real productive capacity; unfortunatley, because of the infinite greed of these sons of bitches, we will all reap the whirlwind.

I hope this "helps."

Michael Fiorillo (aka "Mr. Sunshine")

Friday, September 19, 2008

More Voices of ATR's

Comments from ATR's on the ICE blog

As an ATR I was looking to the UFT for help. But when the New York Teacher came in the mail on Sept. 12th there was not one story about the ATR situation in it. It was then I realized that we had all been sold out by the UFT. I called the UFT district office last week and John Settle got on the phone. He is a special rep who makes over $100,000 a year.All I got was double talk which is probably a requirement for getting his position. The best thing all 1,400 ATR's can do is file a class action suite against the UFT and the DOE, there is strength in numbers. I am sure that the UFT would not like it if we could find a way to withhold our dues to them. This would be a million and a half dollars a year. Why should we pay dues to them they are not representing us.

I am an ATR. My brothers have been NYPD cops for ten years. One taught H.S. and one was a para who finished his B.S. degree after becoming a member of the NYPD. He subs on his days off. They both married their college sweet hearts who both teach elementary school in Brooklyn. I have another brother who teaches special ed in Florida. My family, for some reason is full of teachers and police officers. In my opinion, years ago, your parents taught you that going to college would ensure that you became something other than a civil servant. I suppose it was Mom's way of saying that there are different rungs on the social ladder and that in her view, those who were educated seemed to have more in life than your average city worker. We saw it that way as well. This is why all of her children went to college. As the years went by, we noticed that the value of a degree seemed to diminish. I saw friends leaving teaching for jobs as firemen and police officers. I saw friends that went to law school become police officers instead of pursuing their dreams of being a lawyer. As we matured, we began to look at the benefits of the various fields of employment. I was somewhat surprised to see how many more benefits that your basic civil servant had in their contracts with the city than teachers do. Before I was an ATR, I was surprised when my sister in laws ran out of sick days as new teachers who had just given birth. They had to borrow sick days. I then realized that we do not have "paid" maternity leave. Should I point at a pregnant colleague's bulge and say that I hope they get better soon? When my sister in laws had their second child, they started losing days of pay. They had not caught up yet to their borrowed days. I once asked Randy in person why we do not have paid maternity leave and she said that it never goes through each time they ask for it. I doubt that she ever really makes it a union issue. When one of my sister in laws needed heart surgery right after giving birth, she went to 60% of her salary for six months. After six months, if she did not return to work, she would receive no pay. My brother was working every second job that he could to pay his mortgage. Other unions have unlimited sick and paid maternity leave. Most also have a heart fund. We do not in the UFT. Do we ever ask for it? We have no worker's compensation. When I was assaulted at work by a student, I had to pay every hospital and doctor co-pay and every physical therapy co-pay for the six months that I required it. The DOE will only reimburse up to $700 in co-pays for LOD injury unless it is an assault. Well, the student said that he was only joking around when he dove at me from behind and tackled me down to the ground. Eureka! Since he said that he was just playing around, I guess that it was an accident. So it cost me to be the victim of a crime at work. My brothers often ask me a few times before they understand the nuances. They ask things like, "So who got collared for assaulting you?" I just have to explain that I walk past the student every day at work and he laughs at me each time. That sort of, "You aint nothing sucker, I got over" sort of smirk. Why do I have to see this student again? What union would allow that? Other city jobs have a 20 year retirement. A teacher starting out now has at least four years of college before employment, the related expenses, and years of night school just to obtain the final certification for teaching. While in school, you learn that the time spent in college is called opportunity cost by an economist. Anytime that you are obligated to spend other than working is a lost opportunity to make money. Get it? Those first four or five years of school could have been the first few years of full time employment in another city job that has a 20 year retirement. You actually incur an expense (tuition) for those years of study as you also lose money and time towards retirement by not being employed. If Mom's advice were correct, the pay off would come when you acquire your degree. However, you find that you are making the same amount of salary as your friends who became city employees such as NYPD, Corrections, Transit, Sanitation, etc. You are surprised when they compare their contract talks with ours because of all of the sacrifice that we make before employment. You are more surprised when your friends have purchased homes years before you and that you paid $400,000 for the same semi-attached home as the one they paid $180,000 for only seven years earlier. So now you realize that while you sat in school, you were also losing money in future disposable income. Your mortgage payments are more than twice as much as theirs. Now, years later, they are retiring. Some have bachelors degrees that they obtained at night. They are starting second careers as teachers in places like Middletown N.J. and Long Island. That raises my eyebrows. Their mortgages were refinanced to 15 year rates at lower interest when you were just learning about buying a home. Their houses are paid off and were sold as a down payment on a big detached home in New Jersey. Their new mortgage is still lower than yours. You wonder who the smarter person actually is. If you start teaching at 22, you will work 33 years before you can receive retirement pay. You do the math for when it was 62. Some people answer that we have summers off and a shorter work day. I answer with, "How much work do you take home and how much time do you spend of your own time performing work that is related to your day job?" Does a sanitation worker take garbage home? Does a fireman have to clean trucks and stow hoses at home? It would be called over time pay in any other union. Your lawyer does work at home. It is called the bill that you receive that makes your jaw drop while looking at it wondering if he really put in that much work on your single case. They say their job is more dangerous. I ask them how many times that they were wrestling with a 19 year old that was trying to cut them with a box cutter at work. Zero for them, two for me. Some of them have asked me what was happening since they read that they were going to "Tear your school down and build another one." I laugh and have to explain it best to them. I tell them to imagine that they are a cop for 18 years. The NYPD brings four new units into your station house. They tell you that you are now called an Absent Patrolman Reserve AKA an APR. They tell you that you have a chance of being hired in one of the new units in the station house but that you then observe thereafter that hardly anyone is hired as part of the new staff. So, they tell you to start writing a resume and going around on your own time asking the commanding officer of each station house if you can work for him because you are better than the other candidates that are lined up outside. You then say, "Oh well, at least I am getting paid." You then read the paper and your Police commissioner and the Mayor is saying that you are not working hard enough to be a Patrolman in a new station house so they want to fire you after one year of not finding work on your own time. You then read that your own union has screamed, "Never!" about many issues that they gave to the city anyway in the long run. I then say that with 19 1/2 years, you find yourself laid off. They usually say thing like, "No way man, they can't do that!" Well, not to you with your union but to us, yes they can and perhaps will. A childhood friend was a teacher for 20 years. He was fired for allegedly being insubordinate to a regional superintendent. He swore at his hearing that the woman was a nut who was lying and making the whole thing up. She swore that he did act insubordinate in a hallway when she told him to go back in an office and to stop talking to a colleague in the halls. I suppose that asking the question, "I am sorry Mam, who exactly are you?" is a reason to lose everything that you ever worked for. He has been unemployed for a few years now as a teacher. When he walks into the UFT office, the reps there throw their hands up and say out loud, "Oh boy, he is here again?" They try to actually get up and shut their door. It causes him to get so upset that his voice goes up. They then start saying, "Sir, you are yelling at me again!" He can't understand how after her testimony, that the words of Joan Mahon-Powell are still considered truthful in his case. That the UFT acts like he is an annoyance. Does anyone need a reminder of who she was. Just Google her name. If a cop is accused of cursing at a high school student, if substantiated, would probably lead to the loss of a few vacation days. For us, you would have to go home and tell your kids that Daddy lost his teaching job because they believed a kid that lied and said that you cursed at them. Now, we will lose this house if I can't find work and you will have to move away from all of your friends. This is exactly what happened to my buddy who I mentioned above. For the both of us, making it out of the housing projects and having the money for college required four years in the military. I have never mentioned the things that I have done and seen in those years to anyone unless they are close to me. My comrades at the VFW post know by my facial expressions. They see the same look in the mirror at times. Experiencing so much pain and coming close to death several times just to have the money to go to school and become a teacher? When you think of that, it makes it even worse to think of those years as part of the total loss I would suffer if the UFT failed to represent me like they did for my buddy. It just amazes anyone who hears his story. Everyone except the UFT. This former Marine and former Army Green Beret and now former teacher is doing landscaping work right now to pay his bills and feed his kids. A 50 year old landscaper with two masters degrees and a veteran of two branches of the military. One would never figure that that six foot tall light skinned black man with the weed whacker outside your window-- who seems to be mumbling to himself is actually mumbling the words "Damn UFT." My sister in law asked me yesterday what exactly an ATR was. I sort of looked at her funny because they just brought a new school into her building. I told her that the union membership better start worrying about issues that are not affecting themselves before the DOE's divide and conquer strategy sees them out of a job with some last minute "minor" change to the next contract. Yesterday, while speaking with my sister in law, when I got to the part about how we as a union do not have the right to grieve a false allegation by a supervisor with the letter in your file clause and how we keep giving back benefits and time, my mother finally chimed in on the conversation. In her best Brooklyn Jewish mother accent she said, "Stop acting like a kevetch and be a mench. Stop crying about it already. I can't take it anymore. You should have been like your brothers and become a cop." I just gave her that quizzical look. "She then said, "Oy, if looks could kill." as she walked out of the kitchen exhaling in mock frustration.

Well, I finally saw some tears flowing. Many letters were given out at Tilden yesterday and today. Veteran teachers are all being assigned as ATR's to various locations. Since they all must appear on Monday, the number of teachers who got letters through out the week are all here today, Friday the 19th. I can hear a teacher crying next door as I write this. If she wanted to leave Tilden, she would have asked for a seniority transfer years ago. She loves the kids in this community and wants to stay. She has over 20 years experience. The locations are, well, to be blunt the locations that parents usually use the no child left behind act to get their kids away from. Seniority transfers used to allow you to pay your dues in a tougher school then move somewhere that the kids really think that the N word is really a bad word. Now it is the opposite. You work in a tough neighborhood for twenty years with dreams of finishing your career in that nice school near your home in the borough or place that you live in and as you walk out today past that new young teacher hired by a new school, you realize that you are on your way into the belly of the beast. The place where that younger teacher should have been paying their dues at this very moment. I feel bad for the ones who voted no on the last contract. For the ones who voted yes and were dumb enough to tell me that you did? LOL seems appropriate.