Tuesday, July 31, 2012

GEM's Julie Cavanagh Debates KIPP's Mike Feinberg on Charters

Costco's monthly magazine, Costco Connections, with a circulation of 8 million, contacted GEM a year ago asking us to debate on the issue of teacher seniority. I wrote that piece in opposition to E4E leader Sydney Morris (GEM/E4E Debate Seniority in Costco Mag: I Go Manno.... ). This year Costco was kind enough to come back to us on the charter issue and they suggested Julie Cavanagh do the article based on her role in opposing the charter school movement. In the August issue Julie debates KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg.

Julie wrote the piece in June while in the last month of her pregnancy but she would have done it while Jack was being born if she had to.

Here is the direct link: http://www.costcoconnection.com/connection/201208#pg1

Vote online:  costcoconnection.com

Or email:  debate@costco.com include your address, and phone #

UPDATE: Read Gary Rubinstein: What they teach the new CMs about public vs. charter schools


CHARTER SCHOOLS are independent, tuition-free elementary or high schools that receive public money and private donations. They are not subject to some of the rules, regulations and statutes that apply to traditional public schools but are held accountable for delivering certain academic results.

Supporters say that charter schools offer a greater range of educational choices, more innovative programs and a higher quality of education than traditional public schools. Since charter schools are created by the communities in which they operate they can provide exactly what the community needs, supporters add.

Critics argue that charter schools do not necessarily produce better academic results and that public schools also have innovative programs. Charter schools consume critical tax dollars, they add, money that would be better spent in our traditional public school system.

What do you think?

from an expert in the field:

Mike Feinberg is co-founder of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), a charter school system (www.kipp.org).

THERE IS NO SUCH thing as a silver bullet for public education. Charter schools are merely one promising tool in our ever-expanding tool belt of approaches to K–12 educational reform. These autonomous public schools provide a testing ground for innovation, where ideas can be tried, refined and then shared with educators from across the public school system.

When we started KIPP, we weren't trying to solve all of America's education challenges; we simply wanted to set up our students for success in college and in life. Our plan? Hold classes from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, every other Saturday and three weeks in the summer; have teachers set high standards and be available via cellphone after hours; and focus on teaching both academics and character. Eighteen years later, with 109 charter schools in 20 states across the country, 84 percent of our eighth-graders go on to college.

Charter schools are based on a simple horse trade: Freed from the strictures of the traditional district system, public charter schools can use innovative new ways to engage and support students. If they don't meet goals outlined in their charter agreement with their sponsor, or authorizer, they can be closed. When done right, advancements don't stay within charter schools' walls; they spill out, sparking a vibrant dialogue among public educators. That way, the best school practices can reach many more students than charter schools would be able to serve on their own.

Cross-pollination between charter schools and traditional district schools is paying off. The Houston Independent School District's Apollo 20 program is implementing best practices from KIPP and YES Prep and other charter schools in struggling district schools, and the Spring Branch Independent School District in Houston is partnering with KIPP to start new schools within schools modeled after our practices. This spring, officials from 18 urban school districts serving more than 3 million students entered the eight-month-long KIPP Leadership Design Fellowship, a federally funded program designed to share best practices and explore how to cultivate visionary leadership in public schools of all kinds.

High-performing charter schools over the past decade have shattered the myth that your ZIP code defines your destiny. To understand the true value of charters, it's important to look at not only the results, but how they are proving what is possible for public school students across the country. 

from an expert in the field:

Julie Cavanagh is a teacher, member of the Grassroots Education Movement and co-producer/narrator of The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman (http://gemnyc.org).

CHARTER SCHOOLS, in theory, appeared to be a good idea. Unfortunately, the charter school landscape has evolved into a politically charged campaign that aims to impose the same business-minded approaches that took our country to the brink of economic disaster in recent years.

In the past, race, gender, financial and/or immigrant status, or whether one had a disability, were the determining factors in access to a quality public education. The promise of one common public education system was to make these factors moot, to eliminate the access gap and to provide educational opportunity for all.

We have fallen short of that promise. Charter schools, however, do not bring us closer. In fact, they threaten years of progress in educational policy that have brought us closer to the goal of a free, fair, high-quality, integrated public education system.

Charter schools are not public; they are education corporations, many run as chains, and some for profit. Charter schools admit children only by lottery and counsel out children who do not adhere to their rules or standards. Charter schools serve far fewer English-language learners, students with special needs and those who qualify for reduced-price and free lunch as compared with public schools. Public means there is public oversight; charter schools are their own independent boards of education, and are overseen by boards of appointed, not elected, members with no or minimal parental involvement and empowerment.

Charter schools are not more successful or innovative than public schools. They have significantly higher staff and student attrition rates, which contradicts claims of high student achievement. Test scores increase as charter schools counsel out the neediest students. Yet, a study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University of 2,403 charter schools across the country showed that 80 percent of charter school students performed the same as or worse than students in public schools.

Access to a high-quality public education is a basic human and civil right; it is not something that should be won in a lottery. Instead of creating winners and losers, as the business model of competition and choice ultimately does, we should focus on the real reforms that will finally achieve the promise of one free, fair, high-quality and integrated public education system.

Find out more about this topic on the Web

Hong Kong Protests China Version of Common Core

 Here is a short break from @AFT coverage even though it links up given the support the AFT/UFT give the common core which will include more testing. I'm working on a video report on the contradictions inherent in the much ballyhooed AFT testing reso.

See Leonie's critique of the ed deform TNTP report -- TNTP is loaded with former Tweedies:

The "Irreplaceables"; another flawed report from TNTP

and her piece on testing in the NY Times: NYT Room for Debate 

Here are 2 messages on the Hong Kong story, the first from a NYC teacher traveling in China and Leonie.

Please feel free to share this with our comrades. Hong Kong people seem to get it right. They are also the only ones worldwide with a vibrant OWS movement camped in the courtyard of the HSHB bank in Hong Kong that refuses to be disbanded.

 NYC Teacher in Shanghai


In Hong Kong thousands Protest plan to impose Chinese national Curriculum

Meanwhile kids of elite attend exempted priv schls

Sound familiar?

Leonie Haimson

NYC Parent Steve Koss who spends a lot of time in China commented:

Middle and high school students are fleeing China's education system by the thousands, heading for Australia, Canada, the United States, and even England or other European countries (although they generally prefer English-speaking countries). I don't have the statistics at hand except for some numbers from private schools in the US (up from just 65 students in 2005 to 6725 in 2010, per Bloomberg Info Svcs), but I know the numbers are exploding in Australia, Canada, and the U.S. 

The costs for this pre-college foreign education are HUGE, 150,000 to 250,000 yuan annually in a country where the average middle class family might earn 100,000 yuan in a year. But the benefits are worth it for these families: escape from a system in which one's entire future is based on high-stakes testing and the pressures on students are incredible -- exactly the things the Obama administration and the ed deformers are promoting most heavily. My wife is Chinese, and her cousin sent her high-school-age daughter to Canada for one year of high school, and now she's planning to go to Macalaster College in Hamilton, Ontario for undergraduate studies. She can get a good Western education without having to enter the unbearable national competition for college entry, the infamous gaokao (pronounced gow-cow) that ranks every high school senior in the country based on a single, three-day exam. And, of course, this says nothing about the problems of vast numbers of Chinese students who excel at rote book learning but lack even an ounce of creativity, inquisitiveness, or passion for learning.

The dirty secret in Chinese education is not Hong Kong, it's the massive flight away from the system and into foreign middle and high schools by parents who are savvy enough and financially capable enough to get their kids out of it. I suspect that Hong Kong parents are more worried about being co-opted into that rote learning, high-stakes-test-based measurement system than they are of their kids being "brainwashed" by political propaganda in the classroom. I know that would be my biggest concern if I lived there.

Steve Koss

I do want to add my own experience with Chinese students when I refereed a robotics tournament in Tokyo a few years ago. Chinese kids seemed so desperate and competitive -- when I issued one ruling against them they went wild -- one kid blaming the ruling if he doesn't get into a good school. Here are some posts from 2008 on norms robotics blog.

The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.

Monday, July 30, 2012

@AFT - Chicago Teachers Protest RTTT During/After Biden Speech


Substance REPORTS: Some AFT delegates protest Race To The Top while majority don 'Obama Biden 2012' tee shirts during speech by Vice President Joe Biden 

UPDATE: Read Biden speech, NYC Educator style:

Good Day AFT

MORE UFT Members Lisa and Gloria show solidarity with the CTU
We took most of these pics right after the Biden speech as CTU members handed out leaflets outside the hall. The first few were taken as Biden began to speak. Karen Lewis, CTU President and an AFT Ex Bd VP did not join the other AFT Veeps on the stage. Below she crosses her arms, showing displeasure at an unconditional endorsement.

Note that while most people in the audience wore blue Obama/Biden tee-shirts, most CTU members wore their red shirts.

This came in from an ed notes reader:
I just learned that Joe Biden's brother operates a charter chain in Florida I think teachers should not vote for Obama. I think the push should be to get as many teachers as possible to state they will not vote for Obama as long as he supports RttT and refuses to affirm support for public schools in a meaningful manner, and, addresses the issue of Biden's brother operating a charter chain and the possible affects in may have on this administration's education policies.


David Stone writes  at Subsatnce:

Trying to send a message to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden when he addressed the American Federation of Teachers on Sunday, July 29, 2012, delegates from the Chicago Teachers Union joined by other delegates held signs protesting Race to the Top. The CTU members wore CTU red shirts, while the majority of AFT delegates were wearing blue shirts with an Obama/Biden message.
The AFT has taken no official stands against the Obama Administration's under-funded, coercive, test-driven Race to the Top education program. The resolution passed by the convention against high-stakes testing and test abuse mentions "No Child Left Behind" (the program of the Bush administration) as creating test abuse, but does not mention "Race To The Top" (the current program of the Obama administration), which requires even more testing.

 Chicago Teachers Union delegates to the AFT convention (above) refused to wear the blue "Obama Biden" tee shirts that were being given away to delegates or hoist the "Obama Biden" signs, instead wearing Chicago's distinctive red tee shirts and silently holding up signs reading "Stop Race To The Top" during the July 29 speech by Vice President Joe Biden. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.

Video @AFT Special - Solidarity Resolution - Mulgrew, Lewis, Johnson Rock the House

You come after one of us, you deal with all of us ---- Michael Mulgrew.

Karen Lewis led it off and Mulgrew finished it, with Detroit's Keith Johnson and someone from Colorado whose name I didn't get in between. We get a sense that we are all in this together and if we don't fight this together no one can win.

Listen to the Colorado union rep if I remember correctly 2 years ago there was so much excitement about the "collaboration" in Colorado which she says has now been thrown out. Yes, are people learning that even when you try to give them much of the loaf and keep a piece for yourself, they don't even want you to have that piece.

And Detroit Fed Teacher head Keith Johnson who seemed so smug in Seattle got up and made a rousing speech about the overwhelming attack going on in Detroit and other cities. Lisa and Gloria were sitting with a Detroit teacher who told them her salary this year was $8000 less than last and she will finish her career making less than what she started with.


I know many of you guys are saying it's all bullshit. But I was in Seattle in 2010 the Gates fiasco and the climate here has turned. Will they act on it or are these just words? I truly believe the UFT and the AFT will back Chicago all the way. There is no choice. I told Randi the other day that Chicago was bringing us all together. While I will continue to hammer them when needed I am also looking for areas where we can agree.

I was impressed and shook Mulgrew's hand afterward. When they do the right thing we should say, "Right on" and the message Mulgrew sent and the way he delivered it was Right On!

Read Biden speech, NYC Educator style:
Good Day AFT
Previous @AFT Ed Notes Reports (in reverse chronological order)

The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.

James Eterno on Jamaica HS

Hi Everyone-

The State Education Department has released its report based on their visit to Jamaica High School in February.  The SED confirms what we have said all along about our students being cheated.  I have a piece on the ICE UFT blog and Diane Ravitch has written something on her blog.  Please go to either one and comment.  NY1 has also covered the story.

The Report

NY 1 Story

Diane Ravitch Blog


The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

@AFT - Chicago Teachers Show Displeasure at Unconditional Obama Endorsement

Inside the hall as Biden starts speaking
CTU President Karen Lewis Reacts to Biden Intro as she refused to join other AFT veeps on stage

More photos later.

The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.

Breaking @AFT - Before Biden Speech: STOP RACE TO THE TOP From Chicago Teachers

NO to Overtesting, NO to Merit Pay, NO to Privatization.
YES to small class sizes, YES to early childhood education, YES to wraparound services.

Leaflet was passed out outside the hall by members of the Chicago Teachers Union as Biden is about to speak. But most delegates do not have it in their hands.

CTU people tweeting it.
The amazing Jen Johnson
CTU is a solutions-based union.

Members of AFT Exec Council invited to stage.
Lots more to report but it is already 3:45.
The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


I included Randi's intro which is pretty good but you can move the slider if you want to skip it. I didn't even have to bother as I saw Randi tweeted the official speech which is better video since mine is from the screen.

Diane Ravitch at the AFT from Grassroots Education Movement on Vimeo.


Here are my tweets for some of her great quotes - in reverse order:

Stop Walmartization of pub education. U will persist, your cause is just and u will win. Thank u. Standing O. 
bad things don't go on forever and when it collapses u will be there to celebrate the end of reign of error.
Louisiana props, Texans school bds oppose high stakes testing. Deform in Tex and will end there.
Florida - parents/tchrs beat parent trigger law - calls it parent tricker law. Props to Fla.
Stay strong UTLA
props to Chicago TU for beating Rahm - 98% yes strike. Way to go CTU. HOPE
Carrots and sticks for donkeys not professionals. Props to UFT for beating Bloomberg on 24 schools. Best - took judge 7 minutes
tchr need to be eval by prof principals not by those who took one yr course. Loudest cheers.
ravitch -do most to fix schools: open health clinic in every school
Merit pay- as it you aren't trying. Never worked, doesn't work. Raise scores if threaten to cut off tchr fingers

@AFT Share My Lesson = No Speeches

It's like giving you the best wine and pissing in it with the common core --- George Schmidt
 Remember when Randi spent a million bucks developing a curriculum for NYC teachers to use? Nada came of it but it looked like good PR at the time. She might as well have dug a hole and tossed the money in.

Now we have Share my lesson online as solution driven unionism. You know the solution is we need better lesson plans. How about share my test prep lessons for common core?

This is in the ed deform book ---- solutions are on the teacher. Have 35 in your class or an abusive principal who makes you teach pablum and test prep? No excuses and no worries. Go to Share My Lesson.

She just acknowledged David Sherman, the old UFT Veep I think I once ran against in the elections, for being involved in this project.

I went to the bathroom and saw 2 of our Brooklyn UFT people, one of whom teaches 1 period a day. I urged him to use Share My Lesson.


Forget everything I said about Share My Lesson. We went to the Detroit Institute of Art for a few hours tonight and SURPRISE, we all got this nice lunch bag with a box of caramels (they ran out of dessert in the museum). I don't know what I will do with a lunch bag other than packing it to eat in my backyard. But I can be bought for a lunch bag and caramels. Don't forget it.


The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.

@AFT: NYC/Chicago Showdown Over Moratorium on Charters, School Closings, Turnarounds

UFT/Unity Caucus AFT delegates stood small and showed their true colors in opposing a reso calling for:
a moratorium on new charter schools, school closings, turnarounds and for a return of charter schools to their original purpose 
proposed by the Chicago Alliance if Charter Teachers and Staff.

WTF you must be saying. How can the UFT be opposed to this reso? Well, they didn't openly oppose it but instead tried to table it by referring it back to the AFT Exec council for the next 2 years. Hell, in 2 years there may no longer be a public school system.

I was sitting next to an elderly delegate from Florida and she was astounded at the arguments being used by Unity Caucus "leading lights" Jackie Bennett and James Vaszuez as they led an assault on a reso sponsored by the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff calling for a moratorium on new Charters, School Closings, Turnarounds.

How about Jackie saying "we already have a reso opposing school closings in NYC but that may not be appropriate for the AFT?"

Then James said it was too broad -- blah, blah, blah --- and we stopped Bloomberg's turn around with court action --- so this was not needed. Huh? Come back next time James and let us know where your 7 Queens schools you "saved" are at.

Unity trotted out a Brooklyn charter school Chapter leader who said this reso would make it hard to organize charter school teachers -- by calling for a moratorium? Remember this reso is sponsored by the Chicago charter school organizers and they were astounded at this argument.

(I have more notes on the debate and what they were saying and will post later if I have a chance, besides Vasquez calling the question when he could as did Jackie's husband, Tom Bennett, the SI/Bklyn Dist rep -- and possible replacement for Leo Casey as HSVEEP.)

Yes, hard to believe, but for those of you who might think the UFT is rigorously opposed to all of the above (closings, charters, turnarounds) you should attend an AFT convention to see Unity Caucus in action. (They also scuttled an agreement with the Chicago TU on an anti-testing compromise. More on that later as I flesh out all the facts.) I use their actions on a reso like this as my proof they are closet and not so closet supporters of much of ed deform policy no matter how it slaps the rank and file teacher in the face. But that is what collaboration brings.

The Chicago Teacher Union reps led the call for putting this motion on the convention floor today instead of burying it as Unity tried to do. Theirs and other arguments were so powerful that Unity list for one of the few times by a vote of 225-192 to the cheers of the crowd. My Florida neighbor jumped out of her seat in exultation. Unity slugs called for a roll call but were shouted down.

I left at that point but what followed was typical Unity skulduggery. Not being able to kill the reso for 2 years they resorted to using the committee procedure of bringing only 3 resos out of committee to the floor. All others are deferred to the end of the convention (I believe). And so Unity found another way by making this the 4th reso.

Not only did they do that but they shoved all other Chicago testing resos to the back of the line. I was told that Chicago and NY spent the morning working on language on a good CTU reso requesting a cost analysis of testing and test prep. Chicago amended the reso to make it more palatable to NYC and Jen Johnson from CTU and Janella Hines from UFT both got up and supported it and it passed overwhelmingly (sorry I don't have electronic versions of the resos now.)

Then Unity turned around and made the reso 5th on the list so it would not come to the main body today.

Last night, I spoke to some CTU delegates and they were livid. Interesting that at the top level of the CTU relations with Randi are very good and I do not believe these low ball dirty actions will have an affect as they can probably in their minds separate the actions coming out of NYC from Randi at the national level. Some talk at the press table with Chicago people is that if Randi were hands on this would not have been so crude. I'm not so sure.
You can't have a democracy in a capitalist society without strong unions as check and balance. Randi left out: you can't have strong unions without democratically run unions. --- Ed Notes
Chicago is now talking about floor strategy when the education committee reports to the convention. Right now it is after 11 and all sorts of presentations are going on. I will post a blow by blow account while also trying to video our Unity slugs at the mics trying to manipulate the debate. Lee Sustar says they use this mind-numbing stuff to lull people before the floor debates begin. I gotta get some coffee but am afraid to leave and miss something.
The basic work is always done in committees, which non-delegates are not allowed to attend. So I've never been able to attend a committee meeting at an AFT convention (see NYC Educator). But there was room in the education committee meeting and Lisa and Gloria got in while I was out looking for smoothies. I was not going to bother and head back to the hotel when it started to pour so I went on over and was I glad I did. I got to watch all my old friends from Unity pull the same old crap --- it was like being at a UFT delegate assembly. I was in the back behind Brooklyn High School District Rep skuzzball Charlie Turner who is not only a red neck but actually has a big red neck.

Oh, and there was a Progressive Caucus meeting yesterday right after but I went back to the hotel to get ready for the evening events by changing into my Tommy Bahama shirt which I wore for the first time -- (on sale at West Palm Beach Macys in Feb.) When I went back later, they were just breaking up and I was glad I didn't go. Some of these people who I see at every DA give me the creeps. I know I keep harping on it, but every single CTU/CORE person I meet is so awesome to talk to.

Previous reports

The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.

@AFT: Stephen Sawchuck on Unity Caucus and Leo Casey Response

You can't have strong unions without democratically run unions. --- Ed Notes.
Leo Casey explains "democracy", AFT/UFT style to Stephen Sawchuck. I call it Dictatorship. 

Randi said yesterday, "You can't have a democracy in a capitalist society without strong unions as check and balance."  Randi left out: you can't have strong unions without democratically run unions.

Think you miss the role of union history, and how the traditions the AFT comes out of understands democracy. 

For AFT, democracy is organized, with political parties that advocate ideas & platform. Caucuses are our political parties. 

AFT always a union & as such comes out of social democratic tradition, with focus on collective voice. 

NEA has a much more individualist notion of democracy --anyone can command the attention of all 6000 delegates on any topic.
I'm not saying one is superior to the other, just that they are different, and explain some of how the conventions work 

I am just saying your explanation was not complete. This is poorly understood topic, with lots of uninformed commentary.

Of course in the world of Leo, social democratic "tradition" and "collective voice" means undemocratically shut out all voices of disagreement. 

We, and the Stalinists, call Leo's version of democracy "Dictatorship." A poor excuse to justify having all 800 Unity caucus people here represent the view of the leadership while shutting out views like ours ---- ICE/TJC got thousands of votes of people who have no voice here. Read NYC Educator for more.

Stephen should ask how it is possible that every single elected position in the UFT is controlled by Unity Caucus, 100% unlike even Russia and Burma and more like North Korea.

Stephen followed up with:

@TeacherBeat NEA has a much more individualist notion of democracy --anyone can command the attention of all 6000 delegates on any topic.

@TeacherBeat I am just saying your explanation was not complete. This is poorly understood topic, with lots of uninformed commentary.
 Stephen's piece At Edweek.


And some more links on AFT from Gotham.
  • Randi Weingarten opened the AFT convention by calling for community-oriented unions. (Answer Sheet)
  • The new brand of unionism she’s proposing will be “solutions-oriented,” Weingarten said. (Teacher Beat) (this idea of "solution-driven unionism" appears to be a further gloss on the idea of labor-management collaboration., Hmm, "new unionism" 2.0?"

Understanding the Unions' Internal Politics

From Detroit
The American Federation of Teachers' convention begins this morning, and it's as good a time as any to review how the teachers' unions' internal politics govern what those of us attending these policymaking sessions see.
Each local AFT affiliate gets to send a number of delegates to the national convention, allocated proportionally based on the size of its membership.
Here's where it gets complicated. The locals get to choose how the delegate elections run, a process that is shaped by each local's internal political system. This matters most in the case of the United Federation of Teachers, AFT's New York City affiliate and the largest by far. It is heavily dominated by individuals belonging to one particular "caucus," or internal political party, called Unity. Nearly all, if not all, the UFT delegates belong to Unity.
Essentially, the combination of having lots of delegates, coupled with "caucus discipline"—toeing the party line in public is a condition of membership in Unity—means that much of the convention's direction is shaped largely by this constituency. In addition, many, though not all, AFT executive council members belong to the national version of Unity, known as Progressive.
The bottom line for our purposes is that Unity/Progressive folks are often at the microphones during debate, and have a lot of pull in the resolutions committees that decide which resolutions will be put to the delegates.
Compare and contrast this to the National Education Association. NEA politics are primarily state-based, with the larger, more populous state delegations obviously carrying the most weight. In practice, state affiliates also often team up on particular issues that arise at the conventions. Steve Owens, a Vermont local union leader, has a good description on his blog of how some state leaders successfully united to defeat a new business item at this year's NEA convention.
In addition, the NEA has a few powerful internal interest groups, like the National Council of Urban Education Locals, a group representing urban NEA affiliates. NCUEA often has a hand in shaping policies, as they did in 2011 in introducing qualifications on testing into the NEA's teacher evaluations statement.
Still, it takes only 50 delegates to put a new business item to the entire delegation, a process that doesn't have a parallel for the AFT.
These differences help explain why the NEA has a somewhat more boisterous, spontaneous feel, while the AFT convention tends to come across as more businesslike and orchestrated.

The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.

Friday, July 27, 2012

@AFT 11PM Friday UPDATE - A Walk and Talk With Randi

Updated Saturday July 28, 7AM

Let me start right off by saying the mood at this convention is so different than the Bill Gates celebration and walk-out two years ago in Seattle. I'll delve into some of this in future posts but the reason is obviously due to the assault on public ed and teachers. Everyone has woken up to the horror story. You still hear the word "collaboration" but not as strongly. How do you collaborate no matter how much you beg when you are dealing with an enemy with a knife at your throat, other than to try to suggest where to stick it in. And in that a sense of unity (emph small u) is forged.

Randi and Karen share a moment with MORE's Gloria Brandman (left).

A lot went on since Randi's speech. We got on the last bus over to the rally supporting the Detroit teachers and there was Randi. Passing by I told her I liked her speech (70% worth, but I didn't say that). When we got off the bus, we were like with the VIP crowd. Karen Lewis, in a spectacular red dress, came over to say hello and give me one of her notorious big hugs, the kind of hug that is enveloping the entire teaching world.

On the 2 block walk to the rally itself Randi turned around thanked me for saying I liked her speech and we engaged in a friendly conversation for the 2 block walk. (I turned off the video recording device, though nothing controversial was said.) As I've been reporting I an feeling recently that the attacks on so severe and outrageous that just hammering away at the leadership over every single issue can be counterproductive. Some of the Chicago people have been making that point -- pick and choose what you go after and how. My problem is that there are often too many choices, as you will see in my next dispatch where I will be hammering Unity Caucus. (And by the way, I've been giving Chi people short seminars on what Unity is and how they work.)

The Chicago situation has put Randi in a situation where she must appear to be militant. So I told her she delivered the speech very well (she doesn't always do that) and I could agree with 70%. We talked about where we can agree. She raised the testing issue. She might remember that I was bringing anti-high stakes testing resos to the DA well over a decade ago. I said that though I don't agree with the Obama endorsement she did a very good job selling it. She made me so pissed at Romney I was going to take the dog off my car roof. But I said she didn't convince me and I was still voting Green.

Symbol of Ed Deform: Kaplan blue ad in big letters (top) over DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Well, we got to the rally, which was much smaller than I thought it would be, with mostly Detroit teachers there. The idea was that Randi was going to go up and see the city manager who has imposed awful contracts on Detroit public workers. Lots of Chicago people were there in support and not one Unity person was there as far as I could tell. And this event was pushed with fliering at every session. Steve Conn and a crew from BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) heckled Randi as she spoke with calls for a strike. BAMN somehow manages to annoy so many people, even those on their side. They are running a slate against Randi as they did last time when they got about 5% of the vote.

I interviewed a bunch of CORE people at the rally. The difference between CORE and Unity is obvious. If you pick 10 people from each caucus at random. the level of knowledge and militancy and sense of independence is so high in CORE compared to the Unity. Someone left a comment on a previous @AFT post that UFT people were seen talking to CTU people, telling them they they wished the UFT could be as militant as the CTU. I didn't notice much of that, though a bunch of UFT people (including Mulgrew came to the CTU party later. Just watch the videos of my interviews with CORE people when I put them up.

Some Detroit teachers

Randi addresses BAMN's Steve Conn who was heckling with strike calls

Another Bamn heckler calling for a strike

More Detroit teachers
Later we went to the AFT Peace and Justice event with Karen as one of the speakers -- I am processing the tape now. Karen has some interesting things to say about organizing-- "4 years ago we were 8 people in a room reading Shock Doctrine."

And then off to the CTU dessert reception at the Marriott where one could mingle with Karen and Mulgrew. I had some great conversations all night, even meeting one of my favorite anonymous bloggers who does brilliant satire on the ed deform movement.

It was hail and good cheer tonight but in close conversations many CTUers wre very pissed off at Unity tactics regarding testing and other resos coming out of the Education Committee which I will report on tomorrow.

Previous reports

The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.

@AFT - Friday July 27 11:30AM - Solution Driven Unionism

Call it SDU. Randi's speech @AFT. A very different atmosphere from 2 years ago in Seattle. If Bill Gates showed up, everyone would walk out.
Era of good feeling
I'll try not to be snide -- or not too snide. I made up my mind I would try to cover this from a neutral perspective. which may violate my major dictum: watch what she does, not what she says. I hope we will have a version we can post -- I will post the video --- you really should watch this -- so many interesting high (and low) lights.

I'm going to try to give her an air hug --  just as I hugged her after her speech at the FAIR TEST event honoring Ravitch last month because it was a few hours before the Wisconsin results and her demeanor gave signs the news would not be good --- I really felt bad for the box she is in -- or has put herself and the union in.

She is coming on militant. Talks about beating Ohio Governor who then turned around and attacked only the Cleveland TU and lost badly. As Klonsky pointed out he could understand her if she said we did best we can but can't accept Cleveland is a model for nation. That is a major Randi contradiction.

Look at Chicago -- 98% of 92% voted for strike (rumor).

Weird -- combined massive loss in Cleveland with victory in Chicago as wins.

AFT grows in size in every division -- in spite of open season on teacher unions our union has more members than when we met 2 years ago (MAJOR contrast to NEA losses -- what's up with that? -- let's talk merget? -- we know Randi's dream is to lead a 4 million member national union.)

Talks about her teaching at Clara Barton

Solution driven unionism

Solving problems rather than winning arguments --- sounds like same old

"In NY State our union fought Mayor Bloomberg -- boos - "the dear man" (she forgot the plane ride and the shared box at Yankee Stadium).

She lists all the place where solution based unionism worked -- but did they? Used Other C word - Collaboration.

Now talks about common core standards -- "however you feel about CCS" -- to hedge AFT basic support -- but says CCS could turn into another testing scheme. GOOD!

Share my lesson -- another exciting initative. Like 2 years ago the same excitement with Bill Gates. Sorry, I promised to be good.

Upset with reformers who try to minimize effects of poverty. Attacks "no excuses" policy.
Wrap around services. She's proud that her home local in NYC is doing a similar initiative.

West Virginia gov is collaborative unlike Wis and Oh. SDU.

Damn -- battery ran out and I missed a chunk of speech. Maybe AFT will put it up.

My eyes giving out -- thank goodness Lee Sustar is sitting next to me and taking careful notes and will write it up at Socialist Worker.

Housing investments in teacher housing ---Lee points out this is her initiative with Rahm in Chicago -- I wish I could record his commentary as Randi is speaking -- he is in touch with a lot more than me.

SDU -- use our pensions to build jobs will make it easier to preserve them -- a few oy veys from my neighbors.

Talking about Roy Roberts, who forced horrible contracts on public workers and how she is getting a meeting with him this afternoon and how the rally of all of us today is forcing him to meet with her.

Taylor Law for all?
I hear from others at the press table that basically she is offering giving up right to strike in exchange for -- what?

Broward -- disgusted by what is going on but proud of AFT role.
If Wall st had done one tenth what AFT did to set things right we would be in good shape.
Candidates we are endorsing are not perfect but they recognize it is one thing to bargain hard, another thing to end right to bargain.

Can we answer every agenda that won't work with ideas that will?

Makes case for Obama vs Romney (would preserve Dept of Ed only to club unions into submission -- make no mistake -- Romney wants to wipe us off the map. I don't begrudge him his wealth but should Mitt Romney be our next president? Resounding NO. Cheers for Obama. Do we agree his admin has put too much emph on high stakes testing? YES. But we will continue to push back on it. Praises Obama stim plan which kept public school jobs.

 It is hard to argue that she doesn't make sense with this strong endorsement of Obama -- but I'm still voting Green. But if I were the deciding vote in swing state I imagine I would vote for Obama. Romney is really just sickening in all ways.

She just concluded to big applause. There was a lot in the speech that worked for me. Maybe 70% worth.

I'm shutting down the video now.
Later I'll try to get to the rally and then tonight to Karen Lewis appearance at the Peace and Justice event, followed by the Chicago TU reception.

Previous @AFT posts:

The Motorless City: @AFT Convention

@AFT Convention: Thursday July 26

@AFT - Friday July 27 10AM Report

 AFT Press Release

@AFT - Friday July 27 10AM Report

I'm going to add to this running account as the day goes to simulate live streaming, so check back often. I'm taping what I can this morning and maybe at the rally this afternoon. I will repost this piece as the day goes on.

In addition I will post some other pieces on specific issues, especially two pieces I am working on. One is regarding the Chicago vs. NY/AFT version of the testing reso so I can give you a heads up on what may (or may not) turn out to be an interesting struggle. The other is one I've wanted to write for weeks -- how Randi has been forced to move -- for lack of a better word -- left and will not try to sell out the Chicago crew. I had some very interesting conversations yesterday. That is the reason to come --the insights you get from talking to all sides, including Unity people who want to chat.

Previous @AFT posts:
 The Motorless City: @AFT Convention
@AFT Convention: Thursday July 26

9:30 AM: Michigan AFT head David Hecker talks about how disaster in MI is worse than Wisconsin. He is followed by Detroit TU president Keith Johnson, who barely won election over BAMN's Steve Carr, really amazing. I think they found a reason to throw Steve out of the union after he lost by a handful of votes for charging the election was stolen.

Johnson goes on to introduce Mayor Dave Bing who has led the attack on the Detroit teachers. Some of us in the left side of the press box are looking at each other in disbelief.

Randi uses the C word
They just started running a film with Randi narrating - she says - "in a capitalist democracy the labor movement is the only check and balance." Again, in the left press box eyes roll. But she is right.

Still watching film, which I'm taping.

Really some good stuff with Chicago struggle playing a role but still hints of Randi "collaboration" theme. Randi may be pulled kicking and screaming into the struggle but as a politician with some skills she has no choice. The attacks of the ed deformers may be losing them one of their biggest allies.

Karen Lewis comes on screen and gets biggest applause -- like I said yesterday -- the rock star rivaling Diane Ravitch. (Rumor: Randi invited Ravitch and Rita Solnet to dinner.)

Heeeere's Randi -- Back soon for Randi's speech on her "new" vision for the union which translates into "social justice unionism" that she is calling "solutions based unionism" -- yawn.

The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

@AFT Convention: Thursday July 26

Nothing much went on today other than registration and caucus meetings. By the way, as I write this at midnight, Gloria hasn't arrived yet -- not even sure if the plane took off. She's been stuck since 4:30PM. And she is on a plane with lots of Unity people. They better get here so they can get to their assigned mics tomorrow in time to call the question.

Debate over secret vs open ballot
I joined Randi's Progressive Caucus for $25 and this time no one tried to throw me out as opposed to 2 years ago in Seattle. A bunch of Unity Caucus people were still trapped back in NYC as were people from many other places so attendance was sparse. One of the interesting issues was the discussion on the open vs secret ballot since there is a resolution being presented that a secret ballot is democratic given the tight control the AFT leadership exercises and that the current open ballot allows the leadership to punish dissenters.

How ironic that the Unity/Progressive Caucus machine (which controls the AFT) stands for holding elected delegates accountable to the people who elected them while when it comes to the UFT local delegate assembly in NYC they take the opposite position --- that the chapter leader and delegate do not have to be held responsible to the staff that elected them. Thus your average Unity Caucus slug can vote for mayoral control every single time and never have to be held accountable to the staff.

One guy argued that the open ballot was a hindrance to an NEA/AFT merger -- calling it an "AFT refusal to endorse basic stumbling block in promoting democracy."

Dick Iannucci – pres of NYSUT – the largest merged state  - said the "issues separating us in merger do not stem from this. There is no discussion of merger going on right now. The fabric of AFT is about being a rep body [oh, yeah!]. We don’t define ourselves to meet others’ definition." 

Interesting how there is no hint of merger talks. I imagine the strategy is to do this state by state. Michael Mendel, looking fit, was at the mic when Keith Johnson, Pres of the Detroit TU called the question to close debate. I called to Mike "he beat you to it" but Mike said he was going to speak. (He liked the Ranger trade).

The caucus then went through the various resolutions they were supporting that will come out of various committees which will be meeting all Friday afternoon to recommend the top 3 resolutions. Non delegates like us are barred from attending those meetings so we will have Friday afternoon free. This process is rather complex to explain but is is key to controlling the convention. Unity makes sure to have its people in control of these committees and the convention debates which begin on Saturday are controlled by the decisions made in committee. And Progressive Caucus controls all the committees and the meeting today went through the key resos they support.

Randi made a rousing speech about the attacks, etc. Interesting point- she said the AFT has grown in membership though they would be saying it is stable. That's very interesting given the major drop the NEA reported a few weeks ago -- so major it made headlines. (I can't find the link right now.)

I then went over to the Peace and Justice Caucus meeting afterwards where Lisa and Gloria have been major organizers over the years. With Gloria still on the tarmac in NYC, Lisa chaired the meeting. Lots of Chicago people were there and I have lots to report in my follow-up tomorrow. We went over the resos they will push, some coming head to head with Unity/Progressive. Again I will do that tomorrow.

Interesting that I got an email from an ed notes reader while I was at the meeting. She surmised that Obama sat in Rahm to settle some of the issues with the CTU until the elections and then he would hammer them. (See Lee Sustar's great reporting for the Socialist Worker - Rahm blinks first in battle with teachers and Can the AFT meet the challenge?)

I asked that question and the CTU people were adamant that it was their pressure that forced Rahm. But earlier I had run into a CTU official who actually said there might have been pressure from the Democratic machine to tone it down.

P and J have snagged CTU president Karen Lewis, the unquestioned rock star of this convention, for their Friday night meeting which I am taping. Karen has to speak and run off to the CTU party and I'm going to run over there too with my camera to get the rank and file CORE people for some interviews. They have over 90 people here.

P and J meeting ended late -- around 8:30 and a whole bunch of us -- NYC, Chicago, Baltimore --- to the Marriott HQ at Renaissance for a bite. We went there because there are just so few restaurants around and where there are they are closed. We walked on some dark streets --- lights cost money and met up with some people on the street who shouted out hearty greetings. With everything closed we were forced to eat on the rooftop Marriott bar. A few tables off were a bunch of Unityites and I made sure to speak loudly and clearly when we discussed Randi. Gloria called and was still on the tarmac with the other Unity slugs.

Lisa, myself, a Baltimore teacher and Leo, her partner headed back through the weird Detroit landscape. We passed one open bar but otherwise, nada. A police car (one of the few we saw) stopped --"Are you lost," he asked, on his face a look of concern -- like why are you out walking in this area? Well, we were only 2 blocks from the hotel. Leo had attended a major rally of Detroit police and fire over the cuts and forced contract earlier in the day. We should high fived the cop as a message of solidarity. Detroit managers are attacking every public worker and I hear Rahm did the same in Chicago. When the CTU held its big march with 10,000 people the cops were totally supportive.

Tomorrow, Randi is leading a major march of AFT delegates to protest the enforced contract. Here is an excerpt from the AFT press office (see Norms Notes).

The convention opens with AFT President Randi Weingarten’s keynote address introducing “solution-driven unionism,” a redefinition of unionism that advances solutions focused not just on members, but also on the people they serve and the communities in which they live. Solution-driven unionism will advance creative solutions to unify members and their communities around issues important to all working people.

After delivering her keynote address on Friday, Weingarten will join members of the Detroit Federation of Teachers as they gather at the Detroit Pubic School headquarters to tell Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts to stop dictating and start working collaboratively to ensure the students of Detroit have what they need to succeed.
 2:30AM, Friday - Gloria is knocking on the door. Gotta go let her in.

Friday I'll report on the competing testing reso from the AFT and Chicago. Lots on that and there may even be a floor fight on Saturday or Sunday.

Meanwhile I have to cross post this awesome piece from NYC Educator -- we will report further on the Ravitch Sat 2PM speech and whether she might touch issues Randi doesn't want raised.

If Diane Ravitch Were UFT, She Wouldn't Be at AFT Convention

This week we've been examining precisely what it takes to represent the UFT at a national or state convention. The prime requirement, of course, is to be an invited member of the elite Unity Caucus, and to do that you must agree to support all union positions in public. Ravitch, though I like her very much, fails to meet the standard. Here's why.

1. She publicly opposes mayoral control. UFT supports it, and this alone would disqualify her. It's a long tradition to expel Unity members for failure to conform. In fact, Albert Shanker used to expel people for opposing the Vietnam War. Mayoral control is what brought us the rubber-stamp PEP, and I've seen high-ranking UFT officials get just as frustrated with them as most of us are. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and placing all that power in the hands of the richest man in New York was a huge error. We ought to stop pretending otherwise.

2. Ravitch vehemently opposes VAM, and has publicly labeled it for the junk science it is. She does not support using it for teacher evaluations, not at any percentage. Standard union argument is that principal's judgment can be flawed, and therefore other measures are needed. I cannot really argue that point, nor the one that there are plenty of crazy principals out there, but adding random nonsense to the mix hardly helps. In fact, if you have a small-minded principal, it's likely this person could work to see your value-added scores scour the depths of whatever underworld whatever remains of the soul of Joel Klein has been relegated to.

3. Ravitch fails to support Common Core. Ravitch says it should be tested before use. This makes perfect sense to me. In fact, with the AFT circulating a petition against excessive testing, before supporting it, wouldn't it be a good idea for us to find out precisely how much testing it will entail? The spectre of nine tests a year, to me, hardly bodes well. I'm upset by Common Core in that it does not differentiate between ELA for American-born kids and ESL for my students. To me, that's patently idiotic. Issues like these ought to be addressed before we throw our support to any program.

4. Ravitch is highly critical of union-endorsed President Barack Obama, going so far as to say he's given GW Bush a third term in education. UFT members won't be talking any of that when Vice President Joe Biden addresses the crowd in Detroit. When Obama's people applaud entire teaching staffs being fired, when Arne Duncan states Katrina was the best thing to happen to NOLA education, Obama says nothing, but Ravitch is not impressed.

I could go on, but you get the point. I congratulate the AFT for selecting Ravitch this year, She's a much better choice than Gates.

On the other hand, it's not particularly admirable that UFT leadership has excluded absolutely every New York City teacher who publicly supports her ideas.

The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.