Damned if You Do
NYSUT Visits "Clueless" Cuomo and Fabulous Sandra Lee
Merryl Tisch To Andrew Cuomo: Let's Fire More Teachers, Raise Charter Cap In New York City
Here are links from Chalkbeat.
Written and edited by Norm Scott: EDUCATE! ORGANIZE!! MOBILIZE!!! Three pillars of The Resistance – providing information on current ed issues, organizing activities around fighting for public education in NYC and beyond and exposing the motives behind the education deformers. We link up with bands of resisters. Nothing will change unless WE ALL GET INVOLVED IN THE STRUGGLE!
GETTING RID OF BAD COPS A small percentage of cops commit most of the abuses. A study by WNYC News in New York found that, since 2009, 40 percent of the “resisting arrest” charges were filed by just 5 percent of New York Police Department officers. In other words, most officers rarely get in a confrontation that leads to that charge, but a few officers often get in violent confrontations. But it’s very hard to remove the bad apples from the force. Trying to protect their members, unions have weakened accountability. The investigation process is softer on police than it would be on anyone else. .. David Brooks.I've been meaning to post this 10-day old column from ed deform supporter David Brooks who raises some interesting points regarding police who will get increasing scrutiny. Is a version of VAM coming to policing?
The Union Future
NY Times Dec. 18, 2014
I think the only thing the protestors are accomplishing at this moment is the political destruction of de Blasio and creating the climate for a return to a Giuliani-type mayor.It's certainly beginning to look that way. Some teachers seem to be also taking an anti-De B stance, with one commenter wishing for the good old days of Bloomberg and even Giuliani. No matter what people think they think I still think that behind a lot of these feelings is the race issue. I'm just not articulate enough to flesh out my thoughts - it's the same feeling I have about the hatred for Obama that somehow seems to go a bit beyond what I saw even against Clinton. deB is coddling "them." And we know who "them" are.
Lynch is a big problem and I have no respect for any union leader who does not want to be part of the solution. And his comments were truly disgusting, and I really don't like the guy. But the public and his dues-paying members love him.I personally despise Lynch. Sure he is standing up for his members as he should and don't we wish we would see Mulgrew doing the same. I reported on a teacher under assault by her administration died recently at the age of 52 (Popular Teacher Dies Suddenly) a death some of her colleagues attributed to being brought on by the enormous stress the admins put her under I thought "is there blood on the hands?" But I didn't quite write it because I felt that would be going too far. Maybe not.
By Mr U.
Like him or not NYPD union leader Pat Lynch is doing what my Union leader has never done, speaking up and defending his rank and file. They organized job actions, went to the press, used social media, mobilized their delegates, and everyone spoke up for the PBA. They coordinated a media blast, turning their backs on a mayor who they feel betrayed them, even rumors of a work slow down. PBA members pooled money together and flew a sign over New York City attacking mayors. Say what you will, but every NYPD officer knows that their leader got their back. Police offers are closing ranks in New York City, they are defending each other. Officers are flying in from all over to show solidarity with their brothers.
Now compare this our teachers union. They mayor and governor stick an evaluation down our throats, we say thank you, in fact we ask for more. We demand 22 components and test based evaluations, even when our parents don't want it. Common core standards, which were created without one actual teacher, UFT president says he'll punch anyone who tries to take it away from us, even though teacher after teacher hates it. The mayor closes down schools and the profiteers come in to take up space, our Union leader says no problem. He even decides that we're going to get in the business of running charters. Contracts canceled in Philadelphia, unions destroyed in Wisconsin, schools closed en masse in Chicago, no one in the UFT cares. We can't can't even get the members from one school to show up to a protest against co-location at a public school 5 blocks away, never mind fly across the country.
Here's the deal, don't like him, don't agree with, doesn't matter: every PBA member knows Lynch and the officer standing next to him has his or her back. Go ask the average UFT member if they feel the same about Mulgrew, we all know not one of the 80,000 will say yes. PBA is winning the public relations battle, they have the mayor scared, and no way are they settling for the garbage contract now that the UFT got. Like it or not, Pat Lynch is showing you what a Union leader looks like.
deBlasio could have chosen his rhetoric a bit more carefully when he made his public comments because it did cause a shit storm. Lynch is a big problem and I have no respect for any union leader who does not want to be part of the solution. And his comments were truly disgusting, and I really don't like the guy. But the public and his dues-paying members love him. Can't say that about Mulgrew who never should have sided with the likes of Sharpton. And wasn't it you who reported our Cope dollars are going to Sharpton??? It's like paying the Mafia for protection!! But it will be interesting to see how Lynch handles the up-coming contract. and if he does a better job than Mulgrew, then I have to respect that. Otherwise, Lynch would be a much better union leader if he works to repair the damage that is dividing this city. And I don't see that happening. on Teachers and Cops, Does de Blasio Have Blood on His Hands? -- Teacher Bloggers Peter and Patrick Chime in
Calling for a moratorium was not wrong. It was just a call and not banned. We still have free speech. But it would have been nice if it was honored to show the world that the protests are not about all police, but those that defy civil rights. But that's just me and it has nothing to do with being Liberal or not. The gesture would have done more good in the end because it's all about "public relations" no matter what the cause. And sometimes Liberals, Conservatives etc. forget that hence the closing of the government. There is a giant rift in this city and all sides need to be addressed. deBlasio made some huge errors in judgment IMHO, but I feel that way about his broken promises to educators during his campaign. It's his job to bring all sides together rather than enlarge the rift. I doubt he will be re-elected, and not just because of this. He has had an arrogance about him with the press, keeping appointments, and the new teachers' contract. But most of all on Marches Continue and Retro: Love me, I'm a liberal --- Phil Ochs
UPDATE: NY Times - After Killing of Police Officers, Protest Movement Is at a CrossroadsThe movie deals with the conflicts between King and SNCC and Malcolm X. Having a radical wing never hurts - as Malcolm says in the movie shortly before he was killed.
Don't mean to spoil this season, but it's truly a bummer;Heeeeere's Fred:
The DD logo really stands for dumber and dumber. ... Fred Smith
Tis the day before Christmas and I figured out something
About the devious marriage of John King - Arne Duncan.
Like all else they have done, it's not about education.
No, their goal is to take over our fat, fast-food nation.
It's really quite easy to discover the end game;
Their two year plan is as obvious as what's in a name.
We hear that America Runs (To The Top) on Duncan.
The slogan and donuts and coffee have long since sunk in.
And who's behind the Big Whopper more than John 'Burger' King!
So, the Duncan-King merger is a natural thing.
But because of their backgrounds, they have come up with a twist
Of catchy choice items that will go on their menu list.
There's the Double Cross San'wich Meal loved by Andrew Cuomo;
Have It His Way, or else you'll need more than a Bromo.
And Campbell's Hash Browns will honor the justice she seeks;
While she knows less about teaching each time that she speaks.
There's the Bloomberger slider -- only two ounces of meat;
You should be done in two bites, but beware it will repeat.
And Rhee Burger! Rhee Burger! is about to be added;
We're sure its nutritional value was greatly padded.
King couldn't resist the all-new Common Core on a bun.
Looking for a burger in between? You'll find there is none.
Now in races Arne with an assortment of sweets
For all kids and their parents he brings many treats.
There's a special on lemon-filled for each Long Island mom.
While Stars and Stripes donuts salute his NCLB bomb.
He makes sure all munchkins are sugared, jellied and glazed
As they prep for rigorous tests that will leave them half-crazed.
And his preservatives and false flavors ain't going away;
He's building capacity to reach every Pre-K.
Soon high school grads will get jobs in a Duncan-King store
Taking orders for burgers and donuts -- Kids of the Core.
Making minimum wages, and will it really be strange
When they take in cash for their bosses but they can't make change?
Don't mean to spoil this season, but it's truly a bummer;
The DD logo really stands for dumber and dumber.
Dec 17, 2014, 15 comments
Jun 26, 2014, 183 comments
Elvin's New Year Resolution:
1. Work harder to create a "Workers' State Island" at The John Dewey High School Campus;
2. create a link with the soon-to-be-commercially-
viable-for-American capital Cuba's Tourist Dept. and propose an "Ineffective- Teacher- Non-Stop- Balsero -Caravan to Mariela Harbor (with the hope of renaming it "Catalina Harbor" in the future!);
3. contact Denis Rodman to come and give a "pep talk" at the next Faculty Enhanced -Information-Gathering Session (i.e. "Faculty Meeting") on the topic of "Using Sports Teams and Personalities to Promote Healthy Groveling Before Maximum Leaders";
4. create a bulletin board for "Dewey Honors Ferguson's Finest", with an auditorium event featuring the Principal's hero, Officer Darren Wilson, interviewed by Our First Lady herself, via Skype;
5. Inaugurate the Joel Klein-Kathy Black Memorial Garden, with a flower bed reserved for future to-be-deceased-staff members (purchaseable by staff with their Teacher Choice funds);
6. break ground for the first-ever "I Can't Breathe Fun Run" ,and schedule the Gym for an upcoming weekend (now that those bothersome Flames are out of the picture!);
7. Hold a combination "Hedgefund Wedding" (to replace that odious "Hippie Wedding"!) and Cross Burning on the Athletic Field honoring personal "galpals" Eva Moskowitz and a sensational robotized effigy of a "pregnant" Eva Braun, (created under School Safety's armed "persuasion" by Dewey's very own Robotics Team!) and culminating in the "immaculate/digitalized conception" of "The Sapphic Kathleen", a rabid unbreakable cholera-spewing "doll" that will birthe at the entrance to The Loading Dock on the anniversary of "Dewey's Dowager Queen"'s first working day at Dewey ;
8. funnel all remaining ATR's and "3020A"ers into the former Teachers' Lounge on the 2nd floor, and rechristen it "The UFT Waiting-To-Be-Terminated Room"; have supervisors escort all OSI "visitors" into the former Teachers' Lounge on the 3rd floor, and run continuous relays of hash brownies and mescaline-dowsed smoothies from the former Teachers' Cafeteria into the locked-from-the-outside room;
9. sharpen the Cook's knives in the Student Cafeteria;
10. have the Parent Coordinator start a rumor that the Dishwasher is having an affair with the Cook's wife;
11. schedule a "behind-the-scenes tour" of the cafeteria upon the Parent Coordinator's return from her assignment;
12. contact NBC to see if they could use a highly- effective high school principal for the next season of "Undercover Boss", and buy an Imelda Marcos mask in anticipation of the episode, so as to work unsuspected side-by-side with the rodents- I mean the teachers...
let's stop at 12 in honor of "The 12 Days of Christmas"!!!
South Bronx School blogger writes in this post -Wingnut Right and New York Post Hypocrisy: God forbid if a teacher so much as did something wrong and the Post and the wingnut Right (And crazy Governor Andy in Albany) would be calling for that teacher's keyster. Or worse, what would they say if that teacher had been charged in the past with misconduct in several past instances, like... Officer Pantaleo?
...was the subject of two civil rights lawsuits in 2013 where plaintiffs accused Pantaleo of falsely arresting them and abusing them. In one of the cases, Pantaleo and other officers ordered two black men to strip naked on the street for a search and the charges against the men were dismissed.Where there is smoke there is usually fire. Speaking of fire how long will it take to terminate Officer Pantaelo? Faster than a teacher? Will the Post and the wingnuts of the Right be calling for a speedier process to fire cops? To keep bad cops off the job? To do away with due process? A way to better evaluate cops? To be sure that cops that are hired are from the highest 1/3 of their college class?
...we aren't hearing about charter precincts or busting up the NYCPBA or the monopoly that the NYPD has over policing or more stringent and punitive measures to evaluate cops and other inane stuff that we as teachers have been subject to for the last 12 years. ....http://www.southbronxschool.com/2014/12/wingnut-right-and-new-york-post.html?spref=fb
MORE wishes to express our deepest condolences and sends our warmest thoughts to the families of murdered NYPD officers Wenjian Lui and Rafael Ramos. All murder is wrong. All murderers should be brought to justice. This is true when police officers are victims and when civilians are victims. While we reject the language of those who would exploit this horrific event for political gain, let us work as a city and a nation, together, to create a better, peaceful, compassionate, and equitable world. Losing a loved one, because of the violent act of civilian or officer, should be something we can all agree must end.As so often happens, Julie Cavanagh wrote the basics of this statement, bringing her unique world view to the table - which is why I would follow her anywhere.
I support the police. I have come across a lot of cops that are jerks and a lot that are good people. That is the same in all walks of life. Some people suck, some don't. What happened in Bed-Stuy was completely FUBAR. BUT! De Blasio did not egg the protestors on nor is he anti-cop. But he has every right to inform his son of the perils he faces. He is a father first and a mayor second. .... Eric Garner should be alive right now. Watching the video one wonders why 4 cops could not take Garner down in a way other than he was. Garner was not a danger to anyone. A NYPD inspector once told me that best cop is one who does not let a situation get out of hand. Garner's situation got out of hand...Read it all: http://www.southbronxschool.com/2014/12/wingnut-right-and-new-york-post.html?spref=fb
In America nothing is sacred. Even before the bodies of the dead policemen Wenjin Liu and Rafael Ramos were cold, politicians seeking a soundbite, former politicians seeking the spot light and would be politicians seeking to jump start their careers ,were suddenly all over the place spewing venom and idiocy to all who would listen or could read as to the real reason why two policemen, ambushed in their patrol car in Brooklyn in a period of extreme racial tension, lay dead. They did not lie dead because a psychotic from Baltimore shot them at point blank range who earlier in the day had threatened suicide and then shot his girlfriend.
They lay dead because of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
They lay dead because of protestors.
This, at any rate, has been the line echoed back and forth across the country since hour one.
Oh, but the argument always will be that it is all about the children. But what about Eric Garner's children? What about the children of all the unarmed African-American's shot by the police? Are they not affected? Aren't all the African-American children not affected by NYPD in some sort of negative way?Yesterday when I responded to another bullshit Students First tweet referencing Campell Brown:
In an interview w/
@campbell_brown, Dr. @HowardLFuller discusses the role of #education in improving life outcomes: http://thebea.st/1zlhZo0 @StudentsFirstNY @campbell_brown @HowardLFuller Did Campbell talk about police and black youth relationships? Did she discuss stop and frisk
....despite both being part of powerful unions, teachers and police are treated very differently by politicians and the media. Why is that?.... http://www.accountabletalk.com/2014/12/why-teachers-need-guns.htmlThis fits right into a theme I've been working on - comparing policing to teaching and how the attacks have come on teachers - Blogger Accountable Talk takes aim:
More at http://www.accountabletalk.com/2014/12/why-teachers-need-guns.html
Why Teachers Need GunsIt's time to arm teachers.
But not for the reasons you might think. Allow me to explain.
Here's what has NOT happened in the wake of the Eric Garner case in NYC:
No, all those things were directed at teachers.
- Governor Cuomo has NOT made it a major policy issue to break the PBA, which he clearly does not consider a monopoly like the UFT.
- He has NOT demanded a new evaluation system of any sort that would help weed out the "bad" cops.
- Eva Moskowitz has NOT called for the opening of a series of "Police Success Academies" to study best practices for police officers.
- Wendy Kopp has NOT opened a "Kopps for America" boot camp to train tightly selected individuals to patrol the city's most dangerous streets after six weeks of training.
- Campbell Brown has NOT called the unrest in minority neighborhoods (ignited by incidents like the Garner case and the cop who twice punched a subdued teenaged boy) the "civil rights issue of our time".
- Campbell has likewise NOT called for an end to seniority rights nor job protections of police officers, nor has she filed a lawsuit to end those rights.
- The New York Post has NOT written stories on a daily basis vilifying police officers.
With the issues facing the police nationally and here in New York City, I began to think about the amount of policing I had to do as a teacher. From my earliest days, it was clear that a successful teacher was often defined as being able to control the kids and keep order in the classroom, in the halls, in the lunchroom, in the auditorium, and especially on class trips, which I took often, mostly on the subways and through the streets of Manhattan where keeping the kids in order was a primary matter.
Minimal teacher competence was judged on the ability to keep order. In some schools, that was the sole criterion and a few teachers focused on that aspect to the exclusion of so much else that goes into teaching. My school, in one of the toughest, high poverty areas of Brooklyn, also had a very large contingent of special needs children with emotional issues, many of them volatile. Thus, there were times when even teachers with good control might face situations where children were recalcitrant in following directions or showing respect towards the authorities in the school.
Thinking about the Eric Garner story and how he reacted to the attempt to arrest him reminded me of many incidents I faced as a teacher. “I’m taking you to the dean;” with a response “I’m not going.” Sometimes we called a supervisor. But, what if they weren’t available? I reviewed what went through my mind at these times, often anger and frustration, along with fears that my authority would be undermined if I didn’t take immediate action, especially when I was a young and inexperienced teacher. Saving face and maybe a bit too much testosterone at times made me take actions I came to regret, especially when I put my hands on a student, which immediately made things worse. Luckily I learned from my mistakes and evolved more effective tactics.
Special needs teachers I worked with taught me invaluable lessons. If someone is acting out with anger and irrationality, there are a whole range of reasons for those reactions and even without knowing the reason, a teacher must have an understanding and try to deal with the situation in a rational manner, with an eye towards consequences. That is not easy in the heat of the moment but try to imagine the outcomes for a teacher or group of teachers.
One of the first things I learned as a new teacher was not to let a child run out of the room. “What if they ran out of the building and into the street and got hit by a car,” was the mantra? So when that happened some teachers tried to restrain the children. Or if not possible, call the office. Before the witch hunts began against teachers under Bloomberg, a teacher had some room if they tried restraint. A former colleague of mine who covered other teachers during their preps was covering a class with an emotionally disturbed child who was supposed to get counseling during that period but the counselor never showed up. The girl ran out of the room twice and returned. When she tried it the third time the teacher grabbed her and sat her into a seat, in the process pulling a button off and grazing her cheek with the side of her finger nail, leaving a slight red mark. The principal, who hated that teacher, incited the parent to file charges and shortly after, five cops came to the school to arrest the teacher who was taken out in handcuffs and spent half the night in the precinct before being released. The case was dropped by the police, but not by the Department of Education, which put the teacher in the rubber room for years and brought her up for a 3020a dismissal hearing, which I attended. She was suspended for a year without pay. Stories like that sends chills down the spine of teachers, some of whom have faced charges for yelling at kids, now known as “verbal abuse.”
I’m not totally trying to equate the jobs police on the street do with teacher policing functions but there are some similarities in the process of how things can escalate, as they did in the Garner situation. Now with calls for police to face more scrutiny for their actions, they may face some of the same type of issues teachers have been facing – like attempts to use Compstat data to measure the performance of individual police. Recently there have been reports on the number of “resisting arrests” or lawsuits some cops have against them and that might lead to a measurement system one day, along the lines with the Value-Added Model evaluation being used for teachers. Police are also undergoing retraining.
I’ll explore some of these issues next time.
Norm blogs — with little restraint — at ednotesonline.org.
• “Silva is a charismatic talent” –LA weeklyI've written about my former 4th grade student who was in my class over 30 years ago when he did his one man autobiographical play, "Heavy Like the Weight of a Flame."
• “His sheer sense of will…is inspiring” –LA Times
• “Absolutely Sensational” –Art Beat Magazine
• “Silva is dynamic performer” –Backstage West
• “Watching Ernie is like listening to both exquisite poetry and music classical and jazz” –LA Times website reader's review
• “I expect we’ll be seeing more of Mr. Silva and this is a good place to get acquainted” –LA Weekly.
ROY G BIV: A Story Told Through The Eyes Of A Rock Icon
Brilliant and imaginative look into the life of the most prolific rock guitarist of all time
Tickets are only $15.00 dollars!
www.laguardiaperformingarts .org/event/ 3a48fb469b32eb6c3b2385dc178 0bdb7/Roy-G-Biv
December 16, 2014 (New York, New York) — TTO Entertainment, currently in residency as part of LaGuardia Performing Arts Center LAB series, presents ROY G BIV: A Story Told Through The Eyes Of A Rock Icon, written by R. Ernie Silva and Anthony Pearce and directed by José A. Esquea with choreography by Daniel Soto.
Performances: Saturday, January 10, 2015 @ 8pm and Sunday January 11, 2015 @ 6pm
Location: LaGuardia Performing Arts Center (31-10 Thomson Avenue, Long Island City, NY)
Transportation: A few blocks from the 33rd Street station on the 7 train line
The turbulent decade of the 1960s was a time of rapid and drastic change in America. The country was forced to re-evaluate and change its perspective on race, gender, war, and poverty. The cultural change driven by the baby boomer generation brought along for the first time in our country a cultural identity driven by the power and ideals of youth and every convention and notion of who and what we were as a country was turned on its ear.
In the world of music no figure became a greater symbol of the time than the West Coast boy from Seattle. The immortal lefty, the American Rock Icon, that in the midst of the British invasion somehow managed to climb the top of the rock and roll mountain seemingly coming out of nowhere and then in a flash, just like a comet in the night, was gone….
But what did it all mean, how did his life and time manage to cross so many roads at once, and leave us wanting for more? In this astonishing look at the life of a rock icon, R. Ernie Silva’s brilliant performance as the most prolific rock guitarist of all time, takes us to a space and time,ethereal and eternal, where all of the rock icon's choices will be examined under the colors life, light and the rainbow accompanied by the iconic electric rock, blues and revolutionary music that was the soundtrack of the times.
About: R. Ernie Silva’s power as performer for his previous work the has seen described as follows:
• “Silva is a charismatic talent” –LA weekly
• “His sheer sense of will…is inspiring” –LA Times
• “Absolutely Sensational” –Art Beat Magazine
• “Silva is dynamic performer” –Backstage West
• “Watching Ernie is like listening to both exquisite poetry and music classical and jazz” –LA Times website reader's review
• “I expect we’ll be seeing more of Mr. Silva and this is a good place to get acquainted” –LA Weekly.
About TTO Entertainment– the bourgeoning production company is helmed by co-founded by director José A. Esquea and choreographer Daniel Soto has in its initial year presented William Shakespeare's The Tempest, Like Water (a music, dance, and art event benefitting Wateraid.org), The Craft of Creativity (with Emmy Award-winning Muppet writer Joseph A. Bailey), and Stirred Crazy, Part 1 (inspired by the life of Richard Pryor Jr.). Its motto is, "We believe in the power of live performance and the human touch".
Thank the Good Lord that Max, Yetta, and Al won the day. Cuba & Jimmy Carter, Norm you will never get it....The comment above was left on my Thursday morning post, My Trip to Cuba With Paul Baizerman - in the Late 1970's where I pointed out a few differences between dictatorships on the left and on the right. I don't much care for dictatorships - which is why I have opposed the Unity Caucus dictatorship in the UFT that has lasted about as long as the Castro dictatorship - and in fact will outlast it.
Why the US-Cuba Deal Really Is a Victory for the Cuban RevolutionThe left should recall and applaud the long resistance of tiny Cuba to the northern Goliath.December 17, 2014Cuba’s President Raul Castro (Reuters)No one in the mainstream media will acknowledge it, but the normalization of American relations with Havana, symbolized by release of prisoners today, is a huge success for the Cuban Revolution.The hostile US policy, euphemistically known as “regime change,” has been thwarted. The Cuban Communist Party is confidently in power. The Castros have navigated through all the challenges of the years. In Latin America and the United Nations, Cuba is accepted, and the United States is isolated.It is quite legitimate for American progressives to criticize various flaws and failures of the Cuban Revolution. But the media and the right are overflowing with such commentary. Only the left can recall, narrate and applaud the long resistance of tiny Cuba to the northern Goliath.For those actually supportive of participatory democracy in Cuba, as opposed to those who support regime change by secret programs, the way to greater openness on the island lies in a relaxation of the external threat.Despite the US embargo and relentless US subversion, Cuba remains in the upper tier of the United Nations Human Development Index because of its educational and healthcare achievements. Cuba even leads the international community in the dispatch of medical workers to fight Ebola. Cuba is celebrated globally because of its military contribution to the defeat of colonialism and apartheid in Angola and southern Africa. Now a new generation of Cuban leaders who fought in Angola is coming to power in the Havana and its diplomatic corps. For example, Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez, Cuba’s representative to the United Nations, today walks on an artificial limb as a result of his combat in Angola.When few thought it possible, Cuba has achieved the return of all five prisoners held for spying on right-wing Cubans who trained at Florida bases and flew harassment missions through Cuban air space. The last three to be released served hard time in American prisons, and are being welcomed as triumphant heroes on the streets of Havana. Three of the Cuban Five served in Angola as well.Tens of thousands of Americans, from the veterans of the cane-cutting Venceremos Brigades to the steady flow of tourists insisting on their right to travel, deserve credit for steady years of educational and solidarity work and for pushing a hardy congressional bloc towards normalization.President Obama has kept his word, despite relentless skepticism from both the left and the mainstream media. He is confounding the mainstream assumption that the Cuban right has a permanent lock on American foreign policy, especially after the Republican sweep in the November elections.In this case, Obama’s extreme emphasis on diplomatic secrecy worked to his advantage. For over a year, leaders in both countries have conducted regular private debates and consultations, which resulted in the detailed normalization plan released in both capitals today. No one was more important on the American congressional team than Senator Patrick Leahy. Their tight discipline held until the final moment.It is known that the private US-Cuba conversations about Alan Gross and the Cuban Five were the most difficult. The United States has never acknowledged that Gross was a de facto spy of a certain type, having traveled five times to Havana to secretly distribute advanced communications technology to persons in Havana’s small Jewish community before he was arrested in 2009. Also problematic for American officials immersed in decades of Cold War thinking was the task of wrapping their minds around the idea that the Cuban Five were political prisoners and not terrorist threats.Finally, when both sides had achieved an internal consensus, the project was derailed by the furious Republican-led blowback against Obama’s trade of five Taliban captives for captured American soldier Bowe Bergdahl in May 2014. Then the November elections interfered with, and threatened to indefinitely delay, the beginning of normalization. Chanukah was the last date for an announcement before the installation of the new US Congress.Because of the anti-Cuban slant of mainstream thinking, the media will make much of the anger of the Cuban right exemplified by Senator Marco Rubio. But while it’s too early to know, it’s hard to imagine his presidential ambitions being enhanced by arguing in 2016 that Obama should have tried to overthrow the Castros. Senator Bob Menendez has been a leading Democrat trying to block the Obama initiative from his chairing position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Most Democrats will be delighted to see Menendez, who represents Cuban exiles in Union City, diminished in the Senate.Going forward, the United States will remove Cuba from the “state terrorism” listing, which will ease the possibility of funding from the international financial system. For American citizens, permission to travel to Cuba will be significantly widened. Business and trade possibilities will increase. Starting with the 2015 Summit of the Americas in Panama, the American and Cuban delegations will sit at the same table. The so-called interest sections will be upgraded to formal embassies. The embargo is going to be hollowed out from within, with American tourist and investment dollars permitted to flow. With or without congressional action to lift the 1996 Helms-Burton act, the embargo is being dissolved. More than 400,000 Cuban-Americans traveled to Cuba last year alone.And here’s a prediction: if the president has his wish, the Obama family will be seen on the streets of Havana before his term is up.Editor’s Note: “Two Old Guys Talking” is the introduction to Tom Hayden’s forthcoming book, Listen, Yankee!, Why Cuba Matters, to be published next year by Seven Stories Press. The piece was finalized last month. The “two old guys” are the author, now 75, who first visited Cuba in 1968, and Ricardo Alarcon, now 77, former president of the Cuban National Assembly, foreign minister, and UN representative.
A top official in the New York State Comptroller’s Office has urged regulators to require more transparency on charter-school finances. The response has been, well, nonexistent.
by Marian Wang
ProPublica, Dec. 16, 2014, 3:13 p.m.
Add another voice to those warning about the lack of financial oversight for charter schools. One of New York state's top fiscal monitors told ProPublica that audits by his office have found "practices that are questionable at best, illegal at worst" at some charter schools.
Pete Grannis, New York State's First Deputy Comptroller, contacted ProPublica after reading our story last week about how some charter schools have turned over nearly all their public funds and significant control to private, often for-profit firms that handle their day-to-day operations. The arrangements can limit the ability of auditors and charter-school regulators to follow how public money is spent – especially when the firms refuse to divulge financial details when asked.
Such setups are a real problem, Grannis said. And the way he sees it, there's a very simple solution. As a condition for agreeing to approve a new charter school or renew an existing one, charter regulators could require schools and their management companies to agree to provide any and all financial records related to the school.
"Clearly, the need for fiscal oversight of charter schools has intensified," he wrote in a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last week. "Put schools on notice that relevant financial records cannot be shielded from oversight bodies of state and local governmental entities."
It's a plea that Grannis has made before. Last year, he sent a similar letter to the state's major charter-school regulators – New York City's Department of Education, the New York State Education Department, and the State University of New York.
He never heard back from any of them. "No response whatsoever," Grannis said. Not even, he added, a "'Thank you for your letter, we'll look into it.' That would have been the normal bureaucratic response."
We contacted all three of these agencies and the mayor's office for comment. None of them got back to us.
The charter-school debate in New York, as elsewhere, is politically fraught. De Blasio's cautious stance on charters has put him at odds with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose financial backers include some big-dollar charter-school supporters. The state comptroller's office has faced repeated lawsuits from charter groups and operators challenging its authority to audit charter schools.
To Grannis, though, his efforts aren't about politics. His office is "agnostic on charters," as he put it. His office also audits the finances of traditional public-school districts, he pointed out.
"We're the fiscal monitors. We watch over the use or misuse of public funds," Grannis said. "This isn't meant to be anti-charter. Our job is not to be pro or anti."
Grannis has not yet gotten a response from the mayor's office about the letter he sent last week.
As to the charter-school regulators who got his letter the year before? He's still puzzled why they wouldn't be more interested in a possible fix, or why the charter regulators never bothered to respond.
"I honestly don't know," Grannis said. He said he's going to send another round of letters to them.
Related coverage: Read about how some charter schools "sweep" nearly all their public dollars directly into private firms, or our piece on how a chain of charter schools is channeling millions of public education dollars to for-profit companies controlled by the schools' founder.
If you have information about charter schools and their profits or oversight — or any other tips — email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.