Monday, November 30, 2015

By Ignoring the Potential of Activist Unions, Krugman and Reich Offer Weak Answers to Addressign Income Gap

Something else began happening after 2000: labor in general began losing ground relative to capital. After decades of stability, the share of national income going to employee compensation began dropping fairly fast.
... Paul Krugman, reviewing Robert Reich book in NY Review of Books.
A big DUHHHHH! Just check out what has been happening to teachers and their unions -- often with the collaboration of our own leadership -- but I would take that back to 1975 - which I'll talk about at the end of this blog post.

I generally love Paul Krugman's analysis but he always stops short - at times very short - not only in his analysis but in ignoring so many obvious historical facts. (Thanks to Harris Lirtzman for linking to this on FB.)

There is a lot of food for thought in Krugman's review of Robert Reich's new book, Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few

I was bothered by a bunch of stuff.

As Krugman takes us through the way economists looked at the growing income gap (which has a hell of a lot to do with the achievement gap but people like Krugman and Reich who either support or ignore the Obama assault on education stay mum) I keep thinking that Marx pretty well predicted the concentration of economic power which then concentrates political power in the hands of an increasingly few people - the 1% of the 1%.

Then comes this Krugman comment on the Reich solutions:
In his proposals for new policies, Reich calls for a sort of broad portfolio, or maybe a market basket, of changes aimed mainly at “predistribution”—changing the allocation of market income—rather than redistribution. (In Reich’s view, this is seen as altering the predistribution that takes place under current rules.) These changes would include fairly standard liberal ideas like raising the minimum wage, reversing the anti-union bias of labor law and its enforcement, and changing contract law to empower workers to take action against employers and debtors to assert their interests against creditors. Reich would also, in a less orthodox move, seek legislative and other changes that might move corporations back toward what they were a half-century ago: organizations that saw themselves as answering not just to stockholders but to a broader set of “stakeholders,” including workers and customers.
These guys really have to be in a dream state given the realities of today.

Enforce contract law in a court system stacked on one side?

Give me a break. How can Krugman ignore the power of labor to strike is what helped build unions? And he and Reich don't dare go and examine the powerful role the left played in building militant unionism in the 1930s before being purged which left the leadership of unions in the hands of an entirely different breed. I read so m any comments about how the UFT has changed since Shanker - but in reality, Shanker's militarism was often narrow-based and because I was active in the critical opposition from 1970 on I saw up close the wearing away of conditions from the ground up while the leadership continued to flourish until Bloomberg took over the system and reduced their role in helping run the system that always has screwed the teachers.

They seem to act like unions have had no role to play in their own destruction. Or rather union leadership. Just check out a few of my fellow bloggers recently pointing out so many illustrations relating to UFT policy at the end of this article.

Krugman  mentions the New Deal as if the policies had nothing to do with the enormous pressure - and threats - from below due to the depression and the organizing going on in response. As if Roosevelt did what he did in a vacuum.

And of course when Krugman or Reich talk about the loss of union power do they touch on the passive and collaborationist response of an often corrupt union leadership which has lost the trust of so many of its members. Read the blogs and see how many UFT members can't wait for the Unity leadership to face the consequences of Friedrichs. Why is this nation so anti-union? Let's never ignore that oligarchical and repressive union leadership like Unity Caucus has a power to make their own people suspicious of the leadership which often translates into anti-unionism itself. Is it an accident that only 20% of the membership votes in elections? Or are they voting with their feet - the Don't Give a Crap vote.

I left this comment on FB on Harry's posting this piece:
I am trying to apply some of the theories to what happened to the UFT and teacher unions in general. While there was an illusion of power in effect the UFT began to lose power as a result of the 68 strike which was lauded as an extreme example of teacher power. But it wasn't. Immediately or soon after, class size reduction dropped off the table and teacher salaries began to slow down in growth. Liberals were in the process moving away from unions as witness the Woody Allen Shanker line in Sleeper. The 1975 strike which was sold out by a leadership which meekly accepted the layoffs of 15,000 people and drastic cuts in working conditions was pretty much the beginning of the end. As Krugman points out things began to really move in the 80s as the anti-union movement gathered force and how did the UFT/AFT respond? By jumping on board, if not helping to lead, the ed deform movement. Shanker partnered with the Clintons in Arkansas and Regan too. The Kahlenberg Shanker bio has the entire story but from a Shanker favorable POV. No wonder Eli Broad helped support that bio - linking the unions to ed deform.
Here are some excerpts from the Krugman review in NY Review of Books.
Something else began happening after 2000: labor in general began losing ground relative to capital. After decades of stability, the share of national income going to employee compensation began dropping fairly fast. One could try to explain this, too, with technology—maybe robots were displacing all workers, not just the less educated. But this story ran into multiple problems. For one thing, if we were experiencing a robot-driven technological revolution, why did productivity growth seem to be slowing, not accelerating? For another, if it was getting easier to replace workers with machines, we should have seen a rise in business investment as corporations raced to take advantage of the new opportunities; we didn’t, and in fact corporations have increasingly been parking their profits in banks or using them to buy back stocks.

Meanwhile, forms of market power that benefit large numbers of workers as opposed to small numbers of plutocrats have declined, again thanks in large part to political decisions. We tend to think of the drastic decline in unions as an inevitable consequence of technological change and globalization, but one need look no further than Canada to see that this isn’t true. Once upon a time, around a third of workers in both the US and Canada were union members; today, US unionization is down to 11 percent, while it’s still 27 percent north of the border. The difference was politics: US policy turned hostile toward unions in the 1980s, while Canadian policy didn’t follow suit. And the decline in unions seems to have major impacts beyond the direct effect on members’ wages: researchers at the International Monetary Fund have found a close association between falling unionization and a rising share of income going to the top one percent, suggesting that a strong union movement helps limit the forces causing high concentration of income at the top.6
Following his schema, Reich argues that unions aren’t so much a source of market power as an example of “countervailing power” (a term he borrows from John Kenneth Galbraith) that limits the depredations of monopolists and others. If unions are not subject to restrictions, they may do so by collective bargaining not only for wages but for working conditions. In any case, the causes and consequences of union decline, like the causes and consequences of rising monopoly power, are a very good illustration of the role of politics in increasing inequality.

But why has politics gone in this direction? Like a number of other commentators, Reich argues that there’s a feedback loop between political and market power. Rising wealth at the top buys growing political influence, via campaign contributions, lobbying, and the rewards of the revolving door. Political influence in turn is used to rewrite the rules of the game—antitrust laws, deregulation, changes in contract law, union-busting—in a way that reinforces income concentration. The result is a sort of spiral, a vicious circle of oligarchy. That, Reich suggests, is the story of America over the past generation. And I’m afraid that he’s right. So what can turn it around?
Other bloggers on UFT/NYSUT alienation of union members in the face of Friedrichs:

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Building MORE: Challenging Unity Can Only Be Accomplished by the Un-Unity - a Democratically Run Caucus

If there is one thing I have learned and firmly believe in it is that in a UFT election, in schools where there are respected members of the opposition caucus who engage their colleagues on a regular basis, there will be votes for that caucus in the election. Theoretically, if a caucus has people in half the schools it could win the majority of votes of working UFT members. (I leave off retirees because there is so little access to them - and I also don't believe they are as important a factor until an opposition can reach the point where they are going 50-50 with Unity in the schools.

Furthermore, I also believe that a caucus must establish internal democratic principles that would apply to running the UFT if it were to take power. That is why I would not want to be involved in a top down leadership at the top organization that is run like Unity because that is a recipe for "new boss, same as the old boss."

But doing that is so incredibly hard and at times debilitating but worth the time and effort to get it right -  and I touched on some of this in my reports (Reports of the MORE Meeting: A Maturing Organization) on last week's MORE meeting with links to the Eterno (MORE CONTINUES TO GROW) and Zucker (South Bronx School Endorses Jia Lee as Next UFT President).

MORE must make sure it is the un-Unity to be credible. But democracy is harder the bigger you grow. Trust in each other also becomes a very important factor. I do want to get into some of the details of the democratic issues that came up before and during that November MORE meeting because what emerged were differing view of democracy, with some people claiming that a vote of an entire membership must be taken while others said that the decisions of people on voluntary committees should be trusted. I'm still rethinking some of this so I will do a follow-up piece getting into specifics.

The democracy issue dovetails into how to organize city wide to build an organization. I and others have come to see that this cannot be done by a sort of central committee trying to manage addressing 1700 schools and over a hundred thousand UFT members. I can only be done by localizing organizing using the basic structures of the DOE and UFT - chopping things down into districts and using concentrations of strength locally and not so spread ourselves too thin.
MORE local organizing event coming up

This requires a long and arduous process that must go way beyond an election every 3 years in the UFT.

Having been part of political movements inside the UFT since 1970 my experiences have led me to the point there are no quick and easy ways to challenge a Unity Caucus machine which has the ability to reach into every school and touch every single one of the roughly 108,000 active UFT members and 60,000 retirees.

It will take building a comparable machine in every district and school before any opposition has a chance of making a serious challenge.

Now over the years I have been criticized by readers for this attitude who tell me if we put a lot of money into advertising during election time it would make a big difference.

I reject this notion as being a diversion of resources - and going at it from the top down rather than bottom up organizing  --- an attempt to find a quick fix and skip the hard work of creating an organization that will go beyond an election campaign. I believe in spending money but on long-term organization building blocks.

The mistake these people are making is that they view a UFT election campaign as similar to regular political elections where a campaign organization is built and then dissipates after the election.

In the UFT what is needed is a permanent organization that doesn't miss a beat after the election and in fact uses the election to built out and extend its reach.

See also:
And if in the neighborhood or want to hang out with MOREs

MORE UFT to District 15 Happy Hour
District 15 happy hour!
Friday, 12/4 at Abilene on Court Street. $5 drafts and a full menu ‪#‎MORE2016‬

Friday, November 27, 2015

Lessons of Cuckoo

The Wave, for publication, Nov. 27, 2015
School Scope:  Lessons of Cuckoo
By Norm Scott

Watching a great play night after night for weeks is enlightening, not boring. Even at the closing of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at the RTC on Sunday I was seeing new things in the play. I got one such insight in the midst of saying my final lines as the doctor, which actually caused me to miss an important word, though I think I did recover in the next line. The relationship between Nurse Ratched and her nominal boss, Dr. Spivey, is a small but crucial subplot. Not only does Ratched rule the ward with an iron hand, she also rules the weak doctor who she manipulates in every which way to get what she wants. When she wants use the threat of  electro-shock therapy or the disastrous lobotomy in order to control and ultimately turn McMurphy into a vegetable, she still needs the doctor’s permission.

I have only 3 scenes in the play but each one moves the story along. In the first one the doctor is introduced to McMurphy and sees for the first time someone stand up to the nurse in ways that he did not imagine. He explains to McMurphy the rules of the therapeutic community and group therapy. He tells McMurphy that he should write down anything another patient says in the log book and asks if he know what that procedure is called, McMurphy asks, “Squealing?” The nurse smiles at the doctor benevolently when he corrects McMurphy: Group Therapy is what it is called.

By the next scene something has happened. Doc and McMurphy enter the ward arm in arm laughing and clowning. Clearly, McMurphy has used his charms on the doctor to wean him away from the nurse’s control – not because he cares about him – he actually also has no respect for the doctor – but in his war with the nurse, anything goes.  When nurses suggests shock therapy, doc says no and sides with Mac, pointing out that in the absence of violence shock therapy is not indicated. But soon enough there is some violence and sure enough, shock therapy is ordered.

In the doctor’s final scene, we see Mac enter post-shock therapy as a zombie. Doc and nurse full well know he is playing around but the other patients don’t know and are shocked. Then Mac springs into life, dancing and singing with such vigor, a relieved audience breaks into applause. They too have been taken in by Mac. Nurse is outraged but doc can’t stop laughing as he enjoys Mac’s show and actually breaks out into guffaws at some of the outrageous things Mac says. So Nurse pulls another power card and escalates things by asking doc to prescribe a pre-frontal lobotomy and doc flat out refuses, standing up to her for the first time, saying that he will never agree unless there is recurrent violence. And of course the tragedy play out when violence does recur. Mac has taken away not only the patients from nurse but here we see she has lost Doc, her foil. And that now makes her desperate to regain her authority. Mac must either leave or have the operation to tame him and set an example. She must provoke him into violence so she can get what she wants, even if that violence is a threat to her. These insights came to me in the midst of reciting my final lines and even if the final performance, I stood up taller to nurse than I had before.

The roles played by nurse and mac are symbols of authority that go beyond institutions to nations and the people who resist authority and even touches on the current roots of terrorism. Is Mac a version of a terrorist and Nurse the voice of the states trying to stop him? Themes I shall explore in future columns.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Memo From the RTC: No, Billy and McMurphy Didn’t Really Die

Memo From the RTC: No, Billy and McMurphy Didn’t Really Die
By Norm Scott

At the final performance we were standing on the receiving line some members of the sold out audience jokingly told Frank Caiati*, who as Billy Bibbit commits suicide near the end of the RTC production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, that they were so glad to see he was still alive. Thus the power and realism of the production, which is sort of funny, considering the entire story may have come out of The Chief’s imagination. The play can get pretty raw so I was surprised to see so many kids with their parents at the Saturday night performance – but these are RTC theater kids working on the upcoming production of Shrek, so they know the score. Still, one parent of one of most experienced young actors, now 16, told me her daughter was so moved, she cried as the ending unfolded. One of the key points in the play is how quickly it goes from comedy with the audience laughing to tragedy.
Photo Credit: Rob Mintzes

Those who didn’t get to the 6 sold-out performances in Fort Tilden, the first time an RTC non-musical has sold out, have no idea what I am talking about. Maybe next time in a decade for the 20th anniversary of the original RTC production when I can play the doctor as an 80-year old – if I’m still here.

There was a whole lot of sadness amongst the cast at the breaking up of a family that had been spending so much time with each other over the past months as people headed off to their regular lives and some to other projects. John Stillwaggon who received raves as McMurphy is off to Texas for a tour of his one man show based on David Sedaris’ “Santaland Diaries”. For a non-actor like me, seeing how a professional actor work up close is a special treat. John will be in Texas for the winter before returning to Brooklyn and we can hope to see him again at the RTC.

Most of the rest of the cast, having regular jobs, may not be pros in the strictest sense, but they have so much experience they might as well be. It was quite a treat listening to the talk backstage of the lead roles so many have played, from Willy Loman to Hamlet and everything in between.

One of the run things for me was getting to work with and know Geoff Rawlings who I had only heard of as an artist – I took a drawing session with him years ago. I had no idea he was also an actor who had played the role of Scanlon in the 2005 production. I found him one of the most interesting people to chat with. And oh those not for public consumption drawings that kept popping up around the set.

Sadness quickly turned to cast party – once the cast had followed orders to clean up the dressing room, store all costumes, wipe down the mirrors, etc. (no food until it was done). People were reluctant to leave so they engaged in some shenanigans on stage, the highlight being trying to fit the entire cast into the small booth meant to hold no more than 3 people. Everyone made it except me and one other cast member, but I managed to get a photo.

By noon Monday, Tony Homsey and his crew had taken down the magnificent set and we were down to bare stage, getting ready to put up the Shrek set.

Memo from RTC will be on hiatus until after the New Year, so have a happy holiday season. I will delve into the many themes in the play in my other column, School Scope.

*The only reason I can even think of going on stage is because of Frank Caiati’s acting classes. Frank will be offering an 8 week acting class at the RTC starting this Sunday. Contact me by email ( and I will forward it to Frank who will contact you if there is still room.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

MORE Supports Puerto Rican Teachers Union, Links to Backstory

Angel Gonzalez (left - no kidding), Lisa North, FMPR Pres. Rafael Feliciano at forum c. 2011

ICE, GEM and now MORE have been supporting the FMPR for over a decade, since they bolted from the AFT - they sued but lost and the FMPR won and withdrew 40,000 AFT members.We established contact with the FMPR through NYC teacher Angel Gonzalez who worked with ICE and then helped found GEM. His good friend, FMPR President Rafael Feliciano,  made a number of visits to speak at meetings and events. (We had some quotes from him in our movie.) It's been a long story, too complicated to tell now. I'm proud that MORE is contributing $200 to the support of the FMPR.

There are few unions in North America which has as proud a tradition of struggle as the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico. The FMPR, after battling for autonomy from the AFT, lead a 2008 strike that, among other things, kept the island free of charter schools.

FMPR marcha

This week, the FMPR (along with other teacher organizations) helped lead a massive one day strike, protesting austerity and privatization and the territory’s education “reform” plan in the context of its debt crisis.  They are in the course of rebuilding their organization after a series of attacks, including government decertification, raids by SEIU, and firing of its executive committee from their jobs as teachers.  MORE is proud to announce that we are supporting the FMPR in its fundraising drive with a $200 contribution, even though we are in the midst of our own fundraising campaign for the UFT elections.

Please consider making your own contribution and circulating this fundraising letter to your coworkers and fellow unionists.  This is an important effort to build concrete solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are examples of the kind of struggles that we need to wage in order to win.

FMPR viejo san juan

Check can be sent to:
Federación de Maestros de PR
Urb. El Caribe
1572 Ave. Ponce de León
San Juan, P.R. 00926-2710

¡La Lucha Sigue!

(FMPR) and the AFT - Ed Notes Online
Feb 24, 2008 - Then there's the role SEIU and Dennis Rivera is playing to undermine the FMPR: - (with the AFT cheering?) by organizing a rival union (the ...

Defend FMPR Teachers Union!
Mar 14, 2008 - Defend FMPR Teachers Union! Pro-Imperialist SEIU, AFT Tops Knife Puerto Rico Strikers. MARCH 11—The Federación de Maestros de Puerto ...

AFT maneuver defeated -
Sep 16, 2005 - In September 2004, the FMPR's assembly of delegates voted democratically to disaffiliate from the AFT, declaring their independence. The AFT ...

LaborNet: Online Communications for a Democratic Labor ...
Puerto Rican teachers protest AFT hearings in San Juan. Special To Labornet ... The AFT is seeking to put the FMPR in trusteeship. "Chupa cuotas" on one of ...

Puerto Rico's teachers battling takeover by U.S. union
Workers World Party
Jul 15, 2005 - The Puerto Rico Teachers Federation (FMPR, its Spanish initials) was ... in Puerto Rico, representing 43,000 teachers—under AFT trusteeship.

Puerto Rican teachers' union fights takeover - Liberation News
Sep 1, 2005 - The FMPR is the largest labor union in Puerto Rico, representing 43,000 ... Shortly after its foundation, the FMPR joined the AFT based on ...

SEIU to Raid Union Representing 40000 Teachers in Puerto ...
Labor Notes
Jan 29, 2008 - Rivera further stated that he could not envision FMPR affiliating with SEIU because FMPR had disaffiliated from AFT. During the contract fight, ...

Puerto Rican Teachers Fight for Union Democracy | Labor ...
Labor Notes
Jun 30, 2005 - At a disaffiliation assembly in September 2004, more than 60 percent of FMPR voted to leave the AFT. In response, the International has been ...

#E4E Gets Big Unwelcome at Chicago School - What You Can Do In NYC if they come to your school

Watch out for this group. They are not to be trusted! Have they come to your schools? Sarah Chambers added 7 new photos.
Sarah helped organize her school to resist the #Educators for Excellence  Astroturf message disguised as supporting teachers.

Educators for Excellence, the AstroTurf group, came to my school and boy, did we give them a run for their money!
When they walked into the staff cafeteria, it was covered in flyers about who they really are, union busters!
Our contract action team members also went into action when we found out they were in the building. They spoke with their team members about E4Es corrupt agenda.
We also made it clear that we are a union school and we don't support their agenda.
90% of the teachers completely boycotted their lunch, but the ones that came by refused to sign their cards or give their info. Some teachers interrogated them.
An e4E staffer made a Freudian slip and said, "We are pro public school and pro charter, I mean pro union, not pro charter."
Watch out for this group. They are not to be trusted! Have they come to your schools?

2011 Flashback: Untenured Teachers Defend Seniority, Counter E4E Line and Lies

We, the undersigned teachers who have been teaching in New York State for five years or less, stand in solidarity with our more experienced colleagues and strongly support maintaining the seniority rule. ... We reject political tactics that raise the specter of massive teacher layoffs in efforts to divide the workforce and pit parents against teachers. In the interest of our students, we stand with senior teachers in supporting the seniority rule. ... 
Check out this impressive letter sent by these teachers, many untenured, almost 4 years ago. It countered the anti-tenure propaganda put out by ed deformers using E4E as their vehicle, trying to show that younger teachers were opposed to seniority.  Funny how E4E claims now it wants to support teachers. Some of the signers have left the system but most probably have their tenure and are pretty darn happy they do.

I recognize a bunch of names from MORE. Funny how some people claim MORE members don't defend teachers.

Someone sent me this because I met a signer at the MORE meeting on Saturday who will probably be a candidate in the UFT elections running with MORE for a fairly important position (other signees are also running with MORE). I had not heard her name until about 2 weeks ago but heard she has attended MORE meetings and has been active in NYCORE which is very focused on social justice issues. I raise this point because the letter below has such strong elements of trade union seniority protections along with a strong social justice component.

An Open Letter from Newer Teachers of New York State
February 27, 2011
Dear parents, students, colleagues, school administrators, elected officials, and members of the public, 

Currently, New York State's seniority rule protects experienced teachers from layoffs, a policy sometimes known as "last in, first out." In recent budget negotiations, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Black have pressured Governor Cuomo to overturn this rule. We, the undersigned teachers who have been teaching in New York State for five years or less, stand in solidarity with our more experienced colleagues and strongly support maintaining the seniority rule. 

As newer teachers, we rely on our more senior colleagues for guidance and support. Senior teachers offer us their advice, their formal mentorship, and their connections with communities. Without more senior teachers, we would lose our bridge to lessons learned through years of dedicated work in the school system. 

In addition, the rates of black and Latino new teacher hires in New York City have steadily declined since 2002, while the vast majority of New York City public school students are black and Latino. Opening up more senior teachers to layoffs would risk further decreasing the already sparse ranks of teachers of color. These teachers provide guidance for younger teachers of all backgrounds, and play an important role in the lives of our students. 

We also believe that Bloomberg and Black’s so-­‐called “merit-­‐based” system for retaining teachers will foster competitive, fearful school cultures that are detrimental both to teachers' professional development and to student learning. In addition, Bloomberg and Black seek to measure teacher performance by student test scores, an imperfect measure at best, and one that encourages narrowly test-­‐focused curricula. 

Finally, Bloomberg and Black's arguments against the seniority rule are based on the fact that newer teachers work for lower salaries than our more experienced peers; allowing experienced teachers to be laid off would therefore reduce the total number of necessary layoffs. This argument, however, fails to account for the true cost of professional development and adequate support for newer teachers. It also ignores the fact that teacher experience is one of the most reliable predictors of student learning. If student achievement is the priority, then experienced teachers are more than worth their cost. 

Ultimately, the debate over who to lay off is a distraction from the root causes of inequity that continue to affect our profession and the lives of our students; budget cuts should not include any teacher layoffs. Education is an investment in our future, and cuts to education are ultimately short-­‐sighted. We reject political tactics that raise the specter of massive teacher layoffs in efforts to divide the workforce and pit parents against teachers. In the interest of our students, we stand with senior teachers in supporting the seniority rule. 

Newer Teachers of New York State—
Stephane Barile, Facing History School, Manhattan
Kayty Himmelstein, West Brooklyn Community High School
Liza Campbell, Academy for Environmental Leadership
Ashraya Gupta, Victory Collegiate High School
Sarah Hoffman, International Community High School
Hilary A. Lustick, The Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School
Sarah Solomon, Martin Lurther King High School for Law
Nathan Larsen, Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School
Margrit Pittman-­‐Polletta, P.S. 24, Brooklyn
Jamie Wilber, High School of Arts and Technology
Patrice Fenton, Fort Green Preparatory Academy
Joy Blakeslee, New Day Academy
Marcus Artigliere, P.S. 220
Daniel Hildreth, P.S./M.S. 34
Mark Speiser, Murrow High School
Eric Newville, Academy for Environmental Leadership
Amanda Cook, Mineral Springs Middle School
Eileen Marks, I.S. 421
Monica Simone, M.S. 8
Elizabeth Marouk-­‐Coe, Parsons Elementary School
Mike Nappi, P.S. 347
Chris Abram, Bronx Community Charter School
Bob van Pelt, International High School at Prospect Heights
Kena J. Hazelwood, Victory Collegiate High School 18K576
Ariela Rothstein, East Brooklyn Community High School
Camila Leiva, Pan American International High School
Alba Lamar, M.S. 286
Natalie Acosta, C. 92
Stanley C. Armour, FDA III
Lena Hayes, P.S./I.S. 323
Kimberly Kern, P.S. 15 Roberto Clemente School
Mark Friedman, Rochester City School District
Danielle Lamb, K. 336
Gina Angelillo, The Bay Academy I.S. 98

Rosemarie Frascella, The International High School at Prospect Heights
Margaret Fequiere, JVL Wildcat Academy Esther Eng, P.S 244Q
ElyseWilson EastBrooklynCommunity High School
Mackenzie, McDowell, The School for Global Leaders
Samantha Hurley, I.S. 96 Patricia Rivera, P.S. 315
Ryan Daniels, High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology
Terence D. Adams, Women's Academy of Excellence
Steve Cuttler, Academy for Environmental Leadership
Christopher Nielsen, M.S. 80
Leah Siepel, Flushing International High School
Lauren Fardig, Banana Kelly High School
William Linville, I.S. 217
Danielle Rovello, I.S. 220
Stephina Fisher, Arturo A. Schomburg Satellite Academy Bronx
Leia Petty, Academy for Environmental Leadership
Wazina Zondon, Urban Assembly Institute for Math and Science for Young Women
Natalia Ortiz, West Brooklyn Community High School
Danielle Merker, P.S. 111 Grace O'Keeffe, Hudson HSLT
CandiceChiavola,ManhattanCenterfor Science and Mathematics
Lily Ho, P.S. 133Q
Gabriella Alvarez, Abraham Lincoln
Bridget Eldridge, P.S. 3
Lisa Elkaabi, Gramercy Arts High School
Jessica Chan, P.S. 130M
Nina Uy, P.S. 49
Judy Chao, West Brooklyn Community High School
Kyungeun Lee, P186x at P.S. 140
Princess Calder, P.S. 274K
Lydia Li, Fort Hamilton High School
Daniel Kerman, West Brooklyn Community High School
Lorena Santos, Susan Miller Dorsey High School
Nkomo Morris, Brooklyn Community Arts and Media
Maria Ponciano, P.S. 64X
Gina, Sartori, Academy of Environmental Leadership
Diane Rees, P.S. 11K Dana Levy, P.S. 261
Magdalena Guillen, Brooklyn Democracy Academy
Damiana Degioia, 528 K17
Gisell Quinones, P.S. 194
Michael Hills, Institute for Collaborative Education
Naomi Sharlin, High School for Violin and Dance
Timothy Wong, P. 754X
Maria Mendez, Christopher Columbus High School
Monica Ioffe, Murray Hill Academy Andrew Issermoyer, K. 529
Patricia Tusay, Gateway Academy
Eric Shieh, Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School
Devin Sprague, Gaynor McCown Expeditionary Learning School
Emily Munzer, P.S. 34 Lorna Barnett, J.H. S220 Roscoe Holcomb, P.S. 203
School affiliation for identification purposes only

Monday, November 23, 2015

Reports of the MORE Meeting: A Maturing Organization Plus How Jia Lee Helped Rescue MORE

There are two bogger reports out on the MORE meeting this past Saturday by
Caucus building is a long and winding road
These positive reports on the state of MORE are somewhat remarkable as they come from people who a little over a year ago were not happy with the state of MORE and either had left or contemplated withdrawing. They were joined by other blogger critics and I too felt I was on the ropes with frustration. 

We actually held an ICE meeting attended by 25 people, including many non-ICEers where people vented their frustrations.

We knew that MORE, as a multi-year effort to pull many of the disparate elements involved in the UFT (ICE, TJC, GEM, NYCORE plus non-affiliated) together into one group, would be the only sustainable game in town over time and turning it into a viable organization was worth putting effort into.

People went back to their corners to lick their wounds while things cooled down. One new person who walked into the storm emailed me to suggest that why don't people in MORE just work on the issues that interest them? That opened up the idea that MORE could use some open internal space for people who might not agree on everything to pursue their aims using the structure of MORE - an attractive idea to building a caucus that wanted to not be Unity. If you have an idea and others are with you and you aren't going so far off the reservation as to violate core principles then JUST DO IT. MORE began to focus more on some core stuff like supporting chapter leaders by running training and a powerful listserve as a helpline when people in their schools ran into trouble

Of all the people in MORE, one particular person held her cool and worked across the lines to put things back into order: Jia Lee. I, as one of the hotheads, received encouraging missives from Jia as did many others. Jia tirelessly - remember she is a single parent of a now 12-year old - put herself out there to find ways to make this endeavor work. 

Only a tiny sliver on the fringes of MORE saw this as an opportunity to do their own self-promotion rather than try to help put Humpty Dumpty back together again as Jia did. 

Which is just one reason why the majority of the long and short term fighters against Unity are supporting Jia Lee for UFT President.

James Eterno points to the maturing of MORE - and that is such a wonderful point. So many of us were not thinking that little babies like MORE had to go through its tantrums before learning how to work with each other or if you can't work with certain people there should be enough space for them to to their thing.

Peter Zucker's piece is also a powerful statement from someone who barely know Jia but sat next to her at the MORE meeting on Saturday and has an account of his conversation with her. Peter also saw something James and I saw - where MORE general meetings had at times been difficult, and this one had a patch of rough road too - which I will get into in a future post -- the democratic process was such a breath of fresh air given how we see the UFT operate - really an exhilarating breath of fresh air.

Peter saw what we have seen in Jia since she and Lauren Cohen walked into a More Than a Score event GEM held on testing almost 4 years ago. That event, which included Leoine Haimson, Carol Burris, Gary Rosenberg (Stuy teacher and major blogger about TFA) and Arthur Goldstein (NYC Educator)- who was supposed to attend but due to a death in the family had his statement read by the chair person of that meeting: a 7 month pregnant Julie Cavanagh who 6 weeks after giving birth accepted the MORE nomination for its first presidential candidate in the 2013 UFT elections.

Is there any better sign that MORE can go from Julie to Jia without missing a beat?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Revisting Bloomberg Closing School Policy and UFT/Unity Complicity as They Sends Hacks to Schools They Helped Close Down to Talk Friedrichs

by Jeff Kaufman

Far Rockaway, NY Nov. 19. 2015. 

A UFT Special Rep led a union meeting held with the teachers of QIRT in which he demonstrated that the UFT, in its present condition, has little regard for us.

He began the meeting with a bizarre explanation of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case currently pending in the United States Supreme Court in which non-union teachers have complained that they should not be forced to pay union dues. The case is significant and will, if the plaintiffs win, completely alter labor management relations in the public sector since teachers and others will probably not want to pay dues for unions they believe are not helping them win significant contract rights.

The UFT’s very existence is at stake but why would the Special Rep talk to us about this? Is there anything we could do about a case pending before the US Supreme Court?

This is a significant time to organize ourselves and select representatives who will actually think about our members and not their own pocket books. While there is no question that our Union must survive informing a Chapter about this case shows how ineffectual the Union leadership is.

The Special Rep continued to talk about the grievance procedure, lesson plans and unit plans; items which are clearly not issues for our Chapter.

● Where was the Union when they destroyed our grievance procedure and took away the right to grieve letters to the file?
● Where was the Union when Danielson was implemented?
● Where was the Union when testing was and still out of control?
● Where was the Union when the Union gave up any credible influence in the educational process?

The Union was and continues to be complicit. We need a Union that puts its members first; not for some misguided leaders.
Jeff Kaufman
We can add to Jeff's list - like where was the union when they started closing down large high schools in the earliest days of the Bloomberg admin? Let me focus on that issue here.

When the UFT/Unity send people to your school to talk about the Friedrich's case which may allow teachers to stop paying dues they are clearly concerned about the damage to the machine that may incur when people who have been poorly served by the union choose that option. Given UFT partnership with the deformers for decades, there is a lot of anger out there at the leadership.

How about starting with reforming the union constitution to allow the disenfranchised to have a voice? Like currently, the UFT Exec Board is 100% Unity Caucus endorsed and in the coming election about the best the opposition will do is to capture the 7 high schools seats out of 100. Do we think that only 7% of UFT members don't support Unity?

One of the union's major failures was their cooperation in the closing of large schools until it got so bad late in 2009 that they tried to respond with too little too late.

The issue of the closing of large high schools and breaking them into small schools was a topic of conversation when I had the pleasure of having lunch with Jeff Kaufman earlier this week - he is teaching at a school at Far Rockaway HS campus. For newbies, Jeff was a major opposition voice in ICE and the UFT and he and James Eterno led the charge when we had UFT High School Exec Board seats from 2004-2007.

There is no little irony that Jeff's school had a visit this week from one of Unity's all-time slugs, Washington Sanchez to talk about Friedrichs. Poor Washington - who I caught leaving derogatory anonymous comments on blogs - he may have to go back to the classroom one day.

But really, a union should be talking to people about Friedrichs and the danger it imposes. But an autocratic union that turns so many people off?

Jeff, a former cop and lawyer, was Randi's worst nightmare when he was on the board, challenging her when she talked legal -- really some of the funniest moments in UFT history. And also - Jeff was the most notorious person rubber roomed while he was on the Ex Bd when he was chapter leader at Riker's Island. And I know there are some people out there who think they invented the wheel but after we got Randi to give time to speakers before EB meetings began, Jeff began to bring his friends from the rubber room to these meetings to speak. Jeff and James (and others) also led the charge against the 2005 contract over the creation of ATRS in that contract by ending seniority rules.

And oh yes, we all also spoke up against the UFT going along with closing schools - they did not begin to wake up until Bloomberg took a massive shot at them by trying to close down 19 schools at one time around 2009. I know this comparison may be looked at askance but it is akin to the misjudgements made by our government as ISIS took hold.

It was good to catch up with Jeff and get an insider's perspective on how things are going at a former large school that was broken up.

Far Rock was closed down so small schools could open and the UFT and its toxic Queens office was pretty much a partner with the DOE by putting up no resistance. Ed Notes was on the case:  Ed Notes Online: Where's Waldo – er– the Union at Far Rock?, Dec 26, 2006 and I was invited by some outraged teachers at the union to come to a union meeting after school to talk to the staff and one of the teachers who invited me was eventually fired by the DOE. One of the charges against the teacher? He invited me to the meeting.

Far Rock and other "campuses" like my alma mata Thomas Jefferson have seen the schools that replaced them but don't attract the top students struggle as much as the bigger school did - but with much less resources to offer any of the kids.

Leonie Haimson has a report on her blog debunking a recent "study" that pointed to success for the Bloomberg school closings:  Yet another unconvincing report on the results of Bloomberg's school closure policies.
Nor does the report mention the issue of soaring discharge rates at the closing schools.  In fact, the word "discharge" is never used in either the report or the technical appendix.  In the report Jennifer Jennings and I wrote on the DOE's rising discharge rate between 2000 and 2007, we found this problem especially evident at the closing schools, with rates as high as 50% for the last two graduating classes at closing schools.
Usually one school out of the 4 manage to attract/capture the top performing kids and rises above the rest on these campuses - until some other school in the area competes and starts stealing the top kids and then that school begins to go down -- it is a dog eat dog world in education now. But I've had fun when some of the principals of the "good" school brag how they brought up the grad rate of their school and compare it to the old large high school. Shael was always doing that - when in fact the same percentage of kids who were succeeding at the old large high school - sometimes 25-30% -- were just now concentrated in one separate school.

Jeff filled me in on his new school at Far Rockaway HS Campus, QIRT (Queens HS for Information, Research and Technology - I have to pause for a laugh at these long school names). He likes the school and the principal, who himself is a Far Rock grad. But on the whole the campus is like most of the former large schools - all of the small ones competing for the best kids.

He has only been there 3 months and at the end of this year it will be worth getting his analysis of the state of the Far Rock campus schools years after they closed down the big enchilada.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

One Flew Over Cuckoo Nest Has Themes Galore for Educators

School Scope: One Flew Over Cuckoo Nest Has Themes Galore for Educators
By Norm Scott

I began to explore some of the themes of the play we are performing this weekend at the Rockaway Theatre Company production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in my RTC column. I want to delve into some of the larger issues in this column. The question of authoritarian governing structures, the nation-state level down the school and an asylum run by an authoritarian Nurse Ratched, a iconic figure in fiction who represents state authority. I have one big speech in the play as the so-called doctor in charge who is in reality under the thumb of the nurse. I explain the concept of the so-called “therapeutic community” we are supposedly running. “This ward is society in miniature and sine society decides who is sane and who isn’t you MUST measure up,” I explain to the new patient, McMurphy, who is clearly not insane but acting like he is to escape the drudgery of the work farm where he was imprisoned for various transgressions, including statutory rape. An interesting concept that society decides who is sane. I then tell McMurphy that “our aim is a completely democratic ward governed by the patients working to restore you to the outside.” McMurphy either seems to take this seriously or else plays along to milk the system to undermine it by calling for the patients to take a vote on a fairly trivial matter like watching the 1963 World Series which Nurse Ratched clearly won’t allow because doing so will threaten her control over the patients. And thus the battle is joined between McMurphy and “Miss Rat-Shit” as he refers to her.

How modern is this play in today’s world? As a teacher I was also an instrument of the state working to control the inmates and often forced to repress certain behaviors that threatened my control of the classroom. So was I and other teachers a version of Nurse Rat_shit? As a somewhat free spirit I fought against the suthoridy of my at times Nurse Rat_shit principal and an undemocratically run UFT. So I often found myself playing the part of both protagonists in the play.

I won’t go any further this time but will get back into it in my column after the play closes this weekend.

Norm rails against authority daily on his blog

Memo From the RTC: Flying Over the Cuckoo Nest

Photo credit: Danielle Rose Fisher/John Panepinto

The Wave for publication November 20, 2015

Memo From the RTC: Flying Over the Cuckoo Nest
By Norm Scott

The epic struggle between Nurse Ratched and Randle McMurphy played out in the novel, movie and play of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” has become legendary in all 3 mediums. There are so many themes and strands, the audience of all three almost sold out performances leaves not only with thoughts that they saw a another great production from the RTC but also “what did it all mean?”

Lynda Browning playing Ratched, was thrilled when she was booed by all three audiences last weekend when she took her bows. She had done an amazing job as an actress. Meanwhile womanizer, gambler and foulmouthed wild man and rebel McMurphy, played by the remarkable John Stillwaggon, turned into a Christ-like figure, gets rabid cheers and a standing ovation. Clearly, we know where the sympathy of the audience lies. Going to the theater is not all “let’s sit back and enjoy without dwelling on the issues being put on the table and a play that forces the audience (and the cast) to think deeply about the range of these issues takes theater to another level.

Near the end the audience is laughing at watching the inmates having a fun party set up by McMurphy. For a brief time in their lives, McMurphy has helped free them from feeling trapped by their illness. We know it won’t last but even though I’ve been through weeks of daily rehearsals I still find myself hoping.

Even the actors backstage are often talking about these issues. Why did he do that? Why didn’t McMurphy just leave when he had the chance? Once I am done with my lines as the doctor I go to the back of the audience and watch the ending and I want to scream – LEAVE. But Stillwaggon puts his arms out wide (looking like a cross) and it is clear that he won’t. He has gone from rugged individualist to someone who now takes responsibility for the others. The inmates who had been deep into their own personal miseries and were attacking each other before he came, are now a team truly working to help each other “restore each other to the outside” – one of my lines - and pompous lies - as the inept doctor. Obviously the people running the asylum had clearly been failing at curing anyone and in fact had made them worse.

Why did the RTC do a play they already did a decade ago? I got to watch a DVD of the RTC production from 10 years ago and the production levels of the RTC in terms of sets and lighting and sound has grown a hundred-fold to the point that RTC is capable of producing Broadway quality shows. Way beyond community theater. The contrast from the 2005 version is stark. Many people commented on the realism of the set designed by Frank Caiati (who played/plays Billy in both versions) and executed by Tony Homsey. One 5-year old commented: Is this a hospital?

Of course if you haven’t seen it, this weekend is the final chance – until 10 years from now. Friday, Saturday at 8PM and Sunday matinee at 2PM. Check the hotline 718-374-6400 as demand is high.

Note on RTC Patron Noni Ostrow Signoretti
Many people in the Rockaway community are almost speechless at finding out Noni had died of cancer at such a young age. My last memory of her at Brown’s hardware was behind the counter on early Sunday morning the day before Sandy as people lined up to get supplies. She never came back to Brown’s after the storm and moved to California. But we got to see her when she came back when Hayden was in shows on Broadway and we saw her in August when she gave us a backstage tour. We had no idea that she could be gone just a few months later. RTC had a special place in her heart and at her overflowing memorial last Sunday it was revealed that she requested all donations go to RTC. The show is dedicated to Noni and as the program says: “A dear friend and devoted member of the RTC. She is mourned by the entire Rockaway community. Like the content of this play, her untimely death is both tragic and surreal.”

Next time Norm will try to make the case for Nurse Ratched, which may be a harder sell than Johnny Cochran made for OJ Simpson.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fair test: Opt Out numbers top 500,000 - press release


National Center for Fair & Open Testing                                                                                               

for further information:

Bob Schaeffer       (239) 395-6773

Lisa Guisbond      (617) 959-2371                                                           

for immediate release Wednesday, November 18, 2015





     Around the U.S., well over half a million public school students refused to take standardized exams during the 2015 testing season, according to a preliminary tally released today. The count by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), a leader of the national assessment reform movement, is based on news reports and detailed surveys by local activists. 

Among the largest state opt-out figures (with sources):

-  240,000   New York (news reports and New York State Allies for Public Education counts) 

-  110,000+ New Jersey (Save Our Schools New Jersey)

-  100,000   Colorado (Chalkbeat Colorado and SEEK for Cherry Creek)

-    50,000+ Washington State (news reports) 

-  ~20,000   Oregon (news reports)

-  ~20,000   Illinois (More Than a Score)

-    10,000   New Mexico (news reports)

-       ?  ?     Other states not yet reporting


“The opt-out movement and other assessment reform initiatives exploded across the country this year as more parents said ‘enough is enough’ to high-stakes testing overkill,” explained FairTest Executive Director Monty Neill. “If anything, the estimate of half a million opt-outs in 2015 is low because many states have denied requests to make test refusal data public. This intense grassroots pressure is beginning to force policymakers to roll back standardized exam misuse and overuse.”  


FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer concluded, “The assessment reform movement is energizing ever-growing legions of parents, students, educators, school administrators, and community leaders. In the 2016 testing season, we expect many more families to refuse to take part in unnecessary testing, which undermines educational quality and equity.” 

- - 3 0 - -


- for details about local assessment reform campaigns:

            New York -- Lisa Rudley 917-914-9190 or Jeanette Deutermann 526-902-9228

            New Jersey -- Susan Cauldwell 908-507-1020 or Julie Borst 201-693-3808

            Colorado -- Ilana Spiegel  303-523-0711 or Stefanie Fuhr 303-483-1196

            Washington State -- Jesse Hagopian 206-962-1685

            Illinois  -- Cassie Creswell 716-536-9313

- to reach assessment reform organizers in other jurisdictions, see the state-by-state list of contacts at:



- FairTest’s recent report “Testing Reform Victories 2015: Growing Grassroots Movement Rolls Back Testing Overkill” is online at:

Monty Neill, Ed.D.; Executive Director, FairTest; P.O. Box 300204, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130617-477-9792; Donate to FairTest:

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