Tuesday, March 18, 2014

NYSUT: MORE Challenges Unity, VP Candidate Arthur Goldstein to Appear at PSC Candidate Forum Tonight

Overall, Revive did not look ready for prime time.  If this is the best they can do, then we may be in even more peril than now if they take over NYSUT in April.  The four incumbents in Stronger Together and Arthur Goldstein looked very comfortable up on the stage while Pallotta and his Revived challengers appeared to be overmatched at times... James Eterno report on Long Island Candidate Forum
To fully explain what is going on in NYSUT would take some time for those not following reports on ed notes. Here is the skinny.
  • Statewide Unity Caucus splits into Stronger Together (4 out of 5 incumbent leaders including President Iannuzzi) and Revive - Exec VP Andy Pallotta, supported by the UFT/Mulgrew and Weingarten.
  • Stronger Together takes a rigorous anti-Cuomo position in addition to pointing to the legislative failures of Pallotta, blaming him for being ineffective in fighting Cuomo's local property tax cap which has hurt smaller locals depending on that tax.
  • Revive positions:  bogus bullshit -- (we never claim to be fair.)
  • MORE teams up with the crew from Port Jeff Station out on Long Island to run for certain non-officer at-large positions as independents - at this time - though some (not all) may run on the Stronger Together slate. Julie Cavanagh gets to challenge Mulgrew directly once again for one of the NYSUT election districts - though NYC teachers cannot vote for her - the 800 Unity votes will go to Mulgrew. Same with other MORE candidates: Francesco Portelos, Lauren Cohen, Mike Schirtzer, Jia Lee, and James Eterno - see their statements in the NYSUT paper and at the MORE blog.
  • MORE has been in deep discussions as to the wisdom of joining the slate (if asked) and the current proposal is to allow each MORE candidate to make his or her own decision (unlike Unity Caucus which binds people). (I'll get into the angst this issue has caused within MORE at another time.
  • Arthur Goldstein, of NYC Educator blog fame, runs against Pallotta for the VP position, possibly on the Stronger slate if asked - that is to be determined.
  • Big city locals plus the statewide college local leaders have endorsed the Revive/Mulgrew slate but other than the NYC local Unity Caucus, have freed their delegates to vote as they wish.
  • Candidate forums are being held around the state. Arthur reports on the meeting here. See Eterno's report of the one on Long Island, where Arthur kicked Pallotta's ass. IANNUZZI'S STRONGER TOGETHER & ARTHUR GOLDSTEIN ARE CROWD FAVORITES AT CANDIDATE FORUM
  • PSC, a supposed liberal caucus, endorsed Revive and is holding a candidate forum tonight. Reluctantly, they were forced to invite Arthur. (More on that later). You can see Arthur's statement in the NYSUT paper and at his blog: Statement of Candidacy for NYSUT Executive Vice-President
Here is the MORE release from this morning.

MORE Challenges Unity In NYSUT Elections

March 18, 2014 — 

 New York – The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), the Social Justice Caucus of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), best known for opposing UFT’s President Michael Mulgrew and his Unity caucus in the 2013 UFT elections will now offer a positive alternative for leadership in the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) officer elections. This is unprecedented- never before has the Unity caucus or a sitting UFT president been challenged in NYSUT elections.

MORE is running in this election against the Unity Caucus because, according to candidate special education elementary teacher Julie Cavanagh,

“…Rather than collaborating with those who seek to destroy us, we must harness our collective power and stand with parents and youth to end destructive education policies and fight for the economic, racial, and social justice our teachers, students, and society need and deserve.”

In a break from his union’s leadership, MORE candidate and high school teacher Mike Schirtzer calls for an immediate repeal of the Common Core State Standards,
“Teachers did not develop it, nor does it have the best interests of our students at heart.”

The standards have been supported by the current union leadership despite they way they force classroom teachers to do ever-increasing amounts of test preparation at the expense of real instruction. Students are bored with the the constant “drilling”, which deprives them of an authentic, engaging education.

MORE is challenging for statewide union office in order to initiate a change in direction, towards standards developed by pedagogical experts and field tested before implementation. MORE candidate and elementary school teacher Lauren Cohen adds,

“The Common Core is fundamentally undemocratic – not only in its implementation but in its conception. Handing teachers rigid, scripted curricula benefits corporate interests while neglecting students’ need for a developmentally-appropriate and well-rounded education.”

Public school parent, teacher, and MORE candidate Jia Lee explains that she is running for this position because,
“Our union leadership has allowed for the high-stakes use of invalid standardized tests, putting an entire generation of youth, educators, and schools at risk, and has promoted a culture of fear. It is time for democratic policies that respect the diverse needs of New York’s public schools.”

Our union leadership has done precious little to stop the over-reliance on testing, even though a plethora of research proves that measuring students only on test scores does not provide a complete picture of what a child has learned.

Mike Schirtzer reiterated,
“The Unity caucus strategy has been political lobbying; they have not mobilized the UFT membership, even as schools are closed, high stakes tests proliferate, and student data is sold to the highest bidder. “

MORE believes our union must stand up in defense of our students. Reducing class size, funding the arts, offering a wide array of after-school programs, and providing full social-emotional and medical services for families would be the type of reform that would truly move our schools forward. Addressing poverty, racism, sexism, and other issues that our children face every day is what real union leadership is about.

Unfortunately, Unity caucus is stubbornly clinging to obsolete tactics that have resulted in the nearly unopposed corporate takeover of our schools. NYSUT and UFT must fight to allow working educators, students, and their parents, to determine educational policy. Policy should no longer be determined by those who seek to profit financially from our public education.MORE is challenging Unity in order to offer a slate of candidates that truly represents classroom teachers. Any policies the MORE candidates negotiate will affect them directly, because they are in the classroom each school day. That is not the case for the small clique of high-ranking Unity grandees currently dictating UFT policy.

Each new bureaucratic diktat, from Common Core to the cookie-cutter Danielson rubric to High Stakes testing, has resulted in less time for grading, lesson planning, and collaboration with administrators, parents, and colleagues.

These failed policies have buried teachers under mounds of useless paperwork that do not positively impact our students. A new NYSUT leadership that includes the MORE slate will mobilize rank and file educators in the five boroughs and locals from around the state to take back our schools. Education policy should never be dictated in corporate boardrooms or political back rooms. It should be created with the input of the real experts- working teachers and parents.

The elections will take place April 5th, 2014 at the NYSUT representative assembly held at the New York Midtown Hilton. Local union presidents and delegates from around New York state will converge at this convention to cast their ballots and determine the statewide union’s direction. MORE is running an independent slate of six candidates for Board of Directors At-Large representing UFT members; Julie Cavanagh, James Eterno, Jia Lee, Mike Schirtzer, Lauren Cohen, and Francesco Portelos. They have also endorsed the candidacy of Arthur Goldstein for NYSUT Executive Vice President and Beth Dimino, President of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, for a Director At-Large for Suffolk. Only elected delegates from last year’s UFT election may vote in the NYSUT election, not rank and file members. MORE represents thousands of UFT members (including over 40% of high school teachers based on the 2013 election results). UFT’s undemocratic rules do not allow for  proportional representation, therefore all the NYC delegates at NYSUT convention are from the Unity caucus. These are at-large positions, meaning that any NYSUT delegate may vote for us, including those not from the UFT.

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