Monday, March 28, 2011

The Green Dot/UFT 80% Solution - to the Destruction of Public Education - Leo Casey Defends Green Dot Charter at Left Forum

“Randi and I and Mike Mulgrew and I — we don’t agree on everything. … How do you find the 80% we all agree on?”- Green Dot's Steve Barr

Maybe you've been seeing stories in the last few days about UFT/AFT charter school partner Green Dot charter, now to be known as Future is Now Schools. The UFT/Green Dot - or the new name FINS? -or whatever-  is part of some deal to close down 2 Bronx schools and hand them over to Green Dot. There's so much meat in this story, my cholesterol is shooting up just writing about it.

Now you know I am way out there even from some of my colleagues in the movement because I consider the UFT leadership - and I mean the very top, not the rank and file Unity people - collaborators - not labor dupes or just bureaucrats looking to make a buck. I mean full scale ideological collaborators with so much of the ed deform program - and beyond. But they have Leo Casey out there trying to cover this up by giving the union a "leftish" face. Ho, ho, ho.

Before I do any parsing, here is a Gotham item with links to 2 stories:
Under pressure, Steve Barr is leaving Green Dot, the charter school chain he started. (GSTimes)
OK, so if you did your homework you see Randi buddy Barr is being barred from Green Dot and he and the UFT partnership have to change names. Something about financial irregularities. But, hey, Barr is in it for the kids.

Leo Casey on tape defending Green Dot contract

Now if you are up to date on the story, check out this video selection I put up from Leo Casey's panel at the Left Forum - sorry, I'm choking at the very thought of Leo and Left in the same sentence - I started throwing the rope over the lights to hang myself when Leo used the expression, "we on the left" shortly after red-baiting people who oppose UFT policy by comparing their ideology to Leon Trotsky and Rosa Luzemberg. But I have the entire video and will be putting it all up. There's just so much good stuff I don't know where to start.

Emily Giles, a chapter leader from the Bronx whom I've worked with in GEM, made a very strong statement about the UFT support for charter schools (she does agree charter school teachers should be organized) and also raised the UFT role in mayoral control. Leo responds, followed by a comment by  Stanley Aronowitz on mayoral control. Watch the 6 minute segment first before continuing below.

Had fun? There's lots more to come in future videos - wait till you see how Leo defines public education to fit UFT policy.

Gotham exclusive interview with Green Dot leaders

Now let me get to the Maura Walz (who is leaving to move to Atlanta - we'll miss you Maura) piece at Gotham with some delicious quotes from Barr and partner Gideon Stein, an anti-union guy "won" over by Weingarten and Mulgrew. “Randi and I and Mike Mulgrew and I — we don’t agree on everything. … How do you find the 80% we all agree on?”

What's there to win over when they agree on 80%? What's left to not disagree on? Now, read the following carefully:
[Stein] asked Barr how he could help Green Dot’s mission of re-making schools in partnership with labor. Now Stein is the president of Barr’s national organization, which changed its name today from Green Dot America to Future Is Now Schools. And he’s rejiggered his social calendar. “I’ve now had dinner and drinks with Randi 10 times in the last eight months,” he said, referring to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Future is Now, whose name is a play on President Barack Obama’s charge to “win the future,” aims to spread the principles that have governed Barr’s schools in California and New York around the country. Those principles include a simplified teachers contract that trades higher pay for tenure and sets only class size, the length of the school day and year, salary and benefits. Barr said that he also aims to transform the learning experience through technology.
Stein and Barr want to start by expanding in New York City, where they are working with the United Federation of Teachers and the Department of Education on a plan to take over two struggling Bronx schools starting next year. The plan would test a model that has not yet been tried here: removing the schools’ principals and half their teaching staffs.
You mean the model used at Locke HS in LA where Barr fired 70% of the staff and then got these results, which of course he is given a pass on, as I reported:
Mar 09, 2011
The state test results released Tuesday for Locke High School weren't the sort of thing its new operator, Green Dot Public Schools, is accustomed to seeing: Not a single student scored as proficient in geometry, for example, ..
And again in Aug. 2009 based on work done by Leonie:
Diane Ravitch on charters in the LA Times
And another fine piece from last week along similar lines:
And here's the June Graduation section from the Time's "journal"-type series about Green Dot's takeover of Locke HS in LAUSD. Clearly, throughout the series, the writer is spinning for Locke the whole time, but has enough honesty (or carelessness) in this section to let some tellingly truthful details of actual student behavior slip out:,0,2545367.story

Lackluster test results for Mayor Villaraigosa's high-profile schools and Locke High
The two highest-profile school-reform efforts in Los Angeles — the mayor’s schools and the conversion of Locke High into six charter schools — achieved lackluster results in state test scores released this morning.
Oh, you mean that model. Maura continues:
Organizing parents to support his efforts is also central to the expansion, Barr said. For the two turnaround projects in the Bronx, Barr has promised to knock on every door in the communities where he is taking over schools in an effort to build parent support. He’ll lean on a veteran community organizer he and Stein have hired away from the SEIU for the effort, Mike Dolan.

But it’s far from clear that Barr’s attempt to replace the principal and half the staff of two schools won’t provoke an outcry similar to that sparked when the city has closed schools. Questions linger about the sustainability of Barr’s model, which has proven to be expensive in California. And already critics have grumbled that Barr, the city, and the union are proceeding with their negotiations without identifying the schools they are targeting to their staffs and parents.
(In our interview, Barr and Stein indicated that they had a high school in mind but wouldn’t name it.)
Hey, are you surprised that the UFT and Barr are working together to replace 50% of the teachers in these unnamed chools? How much do you want to bet the average teachers salaries are on the high end - closing schools decisions are based on the economics, not education -compare the schools chosen with similar performing schools not being closed - or turned around - or reconstituted - or regurgitated. That grumbler - critics have grumbled - is Ed Notes, by the way. Maura continues:
Working Together
The city’s teachers union, however, says it is committed to working with the organization. The two groups, along with the DOE, are already working to find common ground in an area where the city and the union have been stalled for months — a new evaluation system for the schools’ teachers.
Formal negotiations on the evaluations began just this week, but the Barr and UFT Secretary Michael Mendel said that there has been progress, although a new evaluation plan has not yet been vetted by lawyers to ensure it conforms to state education law.
“There is absolutely a willingness on our part and on Green Dot’s part to do this,” Mendel said.

Barr and Stein described a close friendship that has formed between Barr and UFT President Michael Mulgrew — and also between Stein, Mendel, and Leo Casey, the union’s resident big thinker and vice president.

“We met for breakfast and we ended up almost going to lunch,” Barr said of his first meeting with Mulgrew three months ago. He said that he found Mulgrew to be extremely thoughtful about the future of the teaching profession. The two spoke about how to reconfigure schools for a changing workforce, he said.
“I think a lot of this is just the lost art of trust,” Barr said. “Randi and I and Mike Mulgrew and I — we don’t agree on everything. … How do you find the 80% we all agree on?”
OK - close schools, get rid of teachers and use technology to get rid of more teachers.
Looks like a plan.

After Burn
Leonie had this comment about the technology component of Barr's plan (read - replace teachers with on-line learning).
In the NYT, he says he wants to take over schools in middle class neighborhoods as well as poor ones, and both pieces highlight how Barr intends to focus on “hybrid” learning, which means a combination of online learning mixed in w/ actual teachers --- the newest craze with little research backing to support it.
And San Francisco activist parent Caroline Grannan said:
Luckily not everything Barr touches turns to gold (or his preference, green). He has been viewed as invincible since the New Yorker devoted a lot of space to a puff piece on him, but his efforts to win a foothold in D.C. didn't get far:
And finally, Michael Fiorillo comments:

I'm so happy that Michael Mulgrew has found a pal who can give him (im)moral support while he goes about the hard work of selling out his members by teaming up to privatize schools, gut the contract (the Green Dot/UFT contract has no tenure or seniority provisions) and destroy the professional lives of the teachers who will be displaced at these schools.

And it's also heartwarming that Mulgrew could earn the affection of real estate developer and charter school funder Gideon Stein. Think of the effort involved in getting him to jilt Eva! But it's a leader's job to go the extra mile and make the tough decisions, and what could possibly be more important than keeping the dues machine going while public education is dismantled? Yes, like his mentor Weingarten, Mulgrew is striving to earn those pats on the head from the education privateers.

When Bloomberg wrote an editorial in the NY Times in February, saying that unions were important in helping him manage the workforce, it was the Weingartens, Mulgrews and Caseys of the world he had in mind. With the union functioning as an arm of the DOE's HR department, it's enough to make the people who've defended it ashamed.


  1. Leo Casey says here that committees w/ majority teachers control everything important that happens at Green Dot, but what about the fact that Barr gets to fire 50% or more of the current teaching staff at the school when it is converted to a charter? Is that decision controlled by teacher committees too? And how does the UFT defend this?

  2. It's not often that a union's headquarters should picketed by the membership, but if this begins to move forward, then this is one of those times.

  3. Terrific work on this. For more info, please read the Advertising Age article on Newscorp and Klein's role in capitalizing on his time as Chancellor.

    Also,check out Klein's current salary as stated in Bloomberg News.

    I imagine the 1.5 million bonus will kick in as soon as Klein can create more "markets" (charter schools) for his new boss.

    Also, didn't Klein also take a $34,000. pension when he left as Chancellor?

  4. Ask this--

    How many teachers have gone through the Green Dot "just cause" procedure?


    How many teacher jobs has it saved?

    I have asked this repeatedly to UFT sources and many reporters, and no one has an answer. A very prominent reformer type told me they don't use the procedure, and teachers GD doesn't care for are simply counseled out.


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