Sunday, January 31, 2016

Mary Porter Comments on Roots of Undemocratic UFT, Tying to Gates, AFT. Unions Etc.

I came across an interesting comment from Mary Porter on FB adding flavor and context to my recent commentary and posting of an 18 year old Lois Weiner piece, ALBERT SHANKER'S LEGACY.

Mary has been extremely critical of Diane Ravitch and Deb Meier, especially over their recent support for the new federal ed law, ESSA and over giving cover to Randi, AFT, Lilly, NEA for their general cooperation with ed deform.  Jim Horn, Schools Matter, and Emily Talmage have also been charging the Ravitch inspired NPE and Fairtest as verging on sellouts.

For that is going too far and I tend to give the Ravitch crew, which includes the always amazing Leonie Haimson, the benefit of the doubt.

Diane published today a piece called:

My Views about ESSA: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

And Debbie Meier has always been for small schools for decades but soured on the Gates led crap.

I do have some interesting parent views from our change the stakes group on this internal conflict in the anti-ed deform movement but will get to that another time. I am by the way registered for this April's NPE conference, the past 2 which I did not attend. It is hard to accuse NPE which emerged out of a national anti-ed deform bloggers network where I was one of the initial members and did a lot of recruiting for. Just read  core-member Mercedes Schneider, deutsch29,  on Randi (An Open Exchange With AFT President Randi Weingarten).

The Roots of an Undemocratic UFT - Lois Weiner Oldie But Goodie: ALBERT SHANKER'S LEGACY - Mary Porter
This is my own commentary on Norm Scott's commentary on Lois Weiner's commentary on Al Shanker. It should be a blog, and I would be glad of an opportunity to expand it into one, with links. I'll tell the story we older teachers have just lived through, to explain how Bill Gates got entangled in our teacher union elections.

Some younger activists might not know this "ancient" history, so many are confused by and surprised by a rift in the movement to stop corporate education reform. The Shanker Institute, the Teacher Union Reform Network, Deborah Meier's Coalition of Essential Schools, and Randi Weingarten's Progressive and Unity Caucuses of the AFT loosely constitute one side of today's struggle for the teachers unions.

These groups cooperated with the Gates Foundation's original project of public education reform. Gates observed the success of Deborah Meier's Central Park East High School, and thought he could capture a set of best practices from it, "bring it to scale" under his corporate control, and produce his own network.

At the same time he also undertook a drive to capture the public school marketplace by legislating accountability to testable outcomes, and forcing underperforming schools (by his measurement) to be brought under his control. 

Breaking up public schools into smaller schools under his authoritarian, hierarchical model produced something different from Meier's progressive, student centered, democratically governed open classrooms, though. He funded them lavishly, but they produced poor testing outcomes. This was possibly a surprise to Gates. He continued to support the "performance based assessment" movement, and used their work to claim his digital assessment products are student centered. Linda Darling Hammond, of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium sits on their boards of the Essential schools and the Shanker institute. They provide the source documents for the Orwellian vocabulary of his digital data driven personalized scripted learning. 

Gates shifted his attention to forcing states to give control of underperforming public schools over to his privatized turnaround partners and Education Management Organizations. They tested poorly also.
As teachers became aware of Gates' role in the destruction of their schools, Randi Weingarten has used the antidemocratic union practices described in this paper to crush opposition within the AFT affiliates, especially the UFT in New York City. Members have formed opposition caucuses without loyalty oaths, using member driven governance to challenge Randi in many cities and some states. The Chicago Teachers Union is their most prominent representative. Many challenges are underway this winter in other cities.

Friday, January 29, 2016

RBE at Perdido Street School Blog Endorses MORE in, Sadly, Final Blog Post

On the union side, there are many great folks pushing back against the union leaders in the AFT, NEA, NYSUT and UFT, trying to end top-down unionism and make the unions more representative of the views of the rank and file.
In NYC, that movement is led by the people at MORE and before I go from the blogging scene, I want to say that I fully support the MORE candidates in the coming UFT elections and hope that we can finally get some people into the UFT leadership who fight for teachers and the teaching profession rather than sell us and it out piece by piece.... RBE
Say it ain't so.
A Blogging Hero Says Goodbye -

It is a sad day in the blogging world as Reality-Based Educator, one of the most read and respected bloggers coming from the NYC teaching ranks and beyond, hangs up his spikes (Goodbye And Good Luck) - and they are some set of spikes, offering some of the best in-depth writing and analysis of the ed scene. And RBE has been on top of everything - I used to try to post important news on ed notes but he always seems to beat me to it, thereby freeing me to stay on the couch. Shit - I'm really going to miss all the hard work he did. And what about the music tributes? Come on RBE, at the very least keep doing that.

I've known RBE for many years even though I only met him 2 or 3 times - he grew up in Rockaway - we hung out one day and I found out his music knowledge goes deep.

He has helped circulate MORE lit in his school along with another great guy who transferred there a few years ago, who, when I found out he was going there I told him to look RBE up and they have both been wonderful assets to their school, along with others I know who are working there, forming a core of progressive teachers that are so important to keeping a school alive spiritually. RBE is not hanging up his spikes when it comes to that work.

Before Perdido RBE often co-blogged with Arthur Goldstein at NYC Educator.

In his final post RBE very well sums up where we are at in the struggle:
The battles in education these past ten years have been brutal and we have seen our profession transformed into something barely recognizable from when I first started teaching fifteen years ago.

Common Core, teacher evaluations tied to test scores, EngageNY scripts and drive-by Danielson observations have ensured that many of us are teaching by numbers if wish to remain in our jobs for any period of time.

If you're a reader of this blog, you know that all the "change" we hear that is happening in education - from Cuomo's Common Core Task Force "reforms" to the changes NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia says we'll see out of the State Education Department, is just so much window dressing.

The instructional focus of the Common Core remains.

The bludgeon of the Endless Testing regime on individual schools remains.

For many teachers, teacher evaluations tied to test scores remain.

The unions have run ads lately touting change, but quite frankly, there is no change  - just more of the same with minor tweaks.

Despite the media narrative of the "powerful teachers unions," the unions never really tried to counter the reformers - they instead  collaborated with them on teacher evaluations, Common Core, Danielson, streamlined contracts and the like.

But the Opt Out movement has become that pushback and therein lies the hope I have for the future of public education - that parents, along with teachers, will take back their schools from the corporate reformers, the educrats, the consultants, the edu-entrepreneurs and the bought-off politicians.

If there is any bright light in the maelstrom of deform that we inhabit these days, it is the advent of a parent-led movement against the powers that be and their corporate backers to transform schools into one size fits all factories and children into interchangeable widgets.

On the union side, there are many great folks pushing back against the union leaders in the AFT, NEA, NYSUT and UFT, trying to end top-down unionism and make the unions more representative of the views of the rank and file.

In NYC, that movement is led by the people at MORE and before I go from the blogging scene, I want to say that I fully support the MORE candidates in the coming UFT elections and hope that we can finally get some people into the UFT leadership who fight for teachers and the teaching profession rather than sell us and it out piece by piece.

And with that, I say goodbye and good luck.
I still have hope that one day RBE will return, as he has in the past. I do share a lot of his despair over the future and keep being involved in MORE and Change the Stakes because there really is no other option. So RBE's endorsement of MORE and opt-out means a lot.

Almost every teacher blogger in NYC is not only backing MORE, but many are running with MORE. I'm still working on RBE to join the slate that will total 2-300 people so anonymity will still be assured.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Roots of an Undemocratic UFT - Lois Weiner Oldie But Goodie: ALBERT SHANKER'S LEGACY

There has been a lot of discussion over the Unity Caucus "loyalty oath" or a version of democratic centralism used by most socialist parties even today. I have come to see that if an organization engages in spirited democratic debate and then comes to a decision on an issue I can see the case for the entire org adhering to the decision. "Democratically" is the key word. Unity is not a democratic organization in practice so as someone pointed out it engages in undemocratic centralism. The big problem is that Unity has basically turned the UFT into a branch of Unity Caucus and whatever Unity decides becomes city, state and national policy due to rigid, controlled election process.

A prime example is the 750 AFT/NYSUT winner take all delegates who will be elected in May to represent the entire UFT membership at the AFT2016 convention this summer. Even if MORE/New Action got 49% of the vote the people who voted for them would get no representation - disenfranchising them and taxing them with union dues without representation. Can anyone spell Friedrichs? [MORE will debate Friedrichs at its Feb 6 meeting - all are welcome - and I will be raising this as a call for the UFT to change its constitution.] Another example is that in the retiree chapter election, Retiree Advocate got 22% of the vote but Unity gets all 300 delegates to our delegate assembly.

The roots of this system comes from Al Shanker and his cohorts. You can't really understand what is behind the system without studying its roots. Lois Weiner in a 1997 article upon the death of Al Shanker:
Borrowing a strategy more commonly used by political activists than union leaders, Shanker exercised authority through the mechanism of political caucuses, the "Unity Caucus" in the UFT, and the "Progressive Caucus" in the AFT. As is still true, these were "disciplined" caucuses, meaning that if members disagree with a position taken by the group, they may not express their opposition outside of the caucus in a public forum (Lieberman, 1997.) In the Unity Caucus, discipline extends to votes as well; to vote or speak against a caucus position carries the risk of exclusion from the caucus and the many jobs the union leadership controls (Weiner, 1976). Analyzing Shanker's mechanisms for controlling debate and decision making in the AFT, one critic compared Shanker's exercise of authority to the Leninist concept of "democratic centralism" (Lieberman, 1997). However, comparison of accounts of organizational life in both the UFT and AFT suggests that Lenin's Bolshevik party, at least until the Russian revolution, was less tightly-controlled than was the Unity Caucus under Shanker (Deutscher, 1954; Weiner & Markens, 1990).... Lois Weiner
I was emailed a link to Lois' 1997 piece elucidating some of the roots of the undemocratic legacy in the UFT going back to the early 60s. There have been some recent articles floating around delving into the roots of UFT history of lack of democracy and there has been some push back on aspects of one particular analysis coming from the International Socialists. Some people from MORE and ICE will be getting together during the mid-winter break to drill down deeper on this issue, focusing on the ideology and right wing social democracy behind Shankerism and his connections to his mentor Max Shachtman, which I delved into on ednotes.

Lois delves into this point:
As the nation's political climate became more conservative in the 1980s and '90s, Shanker's opposition to progressive political causes and his public rejection of the militant unionism that had earned him his early prominence enabled him to win the support of conservative authors and politicians with whom he had previously locked horns (Lieberman, 1995). Like Reagan and his appointees, Shanker opposed bilingual education, mainstreaming of handicapped students, and efforts to make the curriculum more multicultural. However, it is essential to note that what changed was the political temper of the period, not Shanker's ideology, which remained essentially the same as it had been since he became UFT President. Herein lies the element that connects all of the seemingly diverse aspects of Shanker's legacy, his political ideology, which requires explanation of events that one author has described as "Byzantine" (Mahler, 1997).
Shanker was a political co-thinker of a small group of former socialists, organized into Social Democrats-USA, commonly known by the acronym SD-USA. The intellectual mentor of this group, Max Shachtman, was well known in left-wing circles up until the mid-1950s as a socialist, a left-wing opponent of communism.
However, as the cold war intensified, Shachtman viewed American capitalism in an increasingly favorable light that called for forgiving many of the practices that he had previously contested. In an obituary, the theme of which was Shachtman's two deaths, one moral, the other corporeal, a critic of Shachtman' s "turn to the right" noted, "Shachtman had become an apologist for American imperialism's filthy war in Vietnam, aligned himself with the ugliest elements in the unions, rationalized the racist practices of the construction unions" (Jacobson, 1973, p. 99). 

I posted Lois article with some commentary on Norms Notes, October 11, 2007 

This is an old but very valuable piece by Lois Weiner, a former NYC teacher and UFT delegate. Lois recruited us to review the Kahlenberg book for New Politics. (Bold was added by me in some places to highlight points we are looking at.) Lois wrote a wonderful piece on neoliberalism and education which illuminates many connections between the actions of the Democrats, BloomKlein, Gates, Broad, Weingarten (posted here on this blog recently.)

The original is posted at:


by Lois Weiner

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

#MORE2016- Gary Rubinstein: Whatever Happened To KIPP?

MORE is proud to have the amazing Gary Rubinstein running for AFT/NYSUT Delegate on the #MORE2016 slate in the upcoming UFT elections.

Former TFAer Gary has done nationally recognized work in punching holes in the TFA mantra, exposing the bullshit from schools that claim miracle scores and the charter scams. His blog is a must-read.

Here he take on KIPP, a no excuses charter, founded by former fellow TFA alums.
The KIPP network, founded by two 1992 TFA alumni, was once considered the ‘gold star’ of charter chains.  For a while their growth seemed inevitable, almost exponential.  They were all over the press, on Oprah, in Waiting For Superman, even present at the 2000 Republican National Convention.  But over the past two or three years, we haven’t been hearing that much about them.  Their growth seems to have flattened out and there has not been much press coverage of note.
I love that he takes on the biased Alexander Russo's analysis:
It is funny that Russo doesn’t ever speculate that maybe a chain like Success Academies is getting so much more attention is not just because they have a ‘hard-charging leader,’ but because KIPP is not getting the ‘outcomes’ that reformers require.
Gary is a gentleman. He calls it "funny". I call it "Bought."
On average, KIPP has lower test scores than 2/3 of the charter schools in New York City.
For Russo to ignore the uneven outcomes of KIPP schools as a possible reason for their recent lack of attention is odd, but not surprising as reform cheerleaders are often blind to any objective evidence that does not support their narrative.
 In New York City, all the KIPP schools funnel into one high school.  I actually visited that school a few years ago and witnessed for myself that mediocrity.  About two years ago that school moved into a brand new state of the art building.  Yet, we hear nothing from KIPP about the amazing things that are going on in that building. 
Read Gary's entire piece at his blog.

Whatever Happened To KIPP?


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Unity Caucus Propaganda Machine, PART 2: Oh, Democracy - How MORE Chooses Its Steering Committee

If you opposed the 65 year tenure of the Unity Caucus machine in the UFT, you have to work very hard on democratic procedures to make sure you
don't one day catch the Unity authoritarian virus and become like Unity. Oh, yes, Unity people will tell you how the UFT is a democratic organization - we've had 4 presidents in 50 years.

One of the reasons I'm still involved in MORE is that it is a chance to explore the very difficult idea of bottom-up democracy in new ways. Yes, there have been and will be ups and downs.

In Part 1 The Unity Caucus Propaganda Machine: Are Most NYC Teachers Clueless? How Dim is the Future? Part 1 I explored the Unity Propaganda machine and what it might take to challenge its dominance. In part 3 I'll get into the roots - you can't kill the head without going after the roots at the school and district levels.

Here, in Part 2 I use the current MORE steering committee elections to drill down into some of the good, bad and ugly aspects of trying to be an Un-Unity bottom-up democratic organization.

Nominations for MORE Steering Committee Election

It's that time again for the twice yearly MORE 9 person steering committee elections at a somewhat inconvenient time -- just as the UFT elections will be heating up. This will be the 6th election since MORE's went to this process in 2013. Before that when MORE was smaller, there was an informal voluntary committee - whoever showed up for a planning meeting was able to vote. When that structure became unwieldy due to growth, MORE moved to an elected steering committee and if that current structure stops working if MORE gets bigger, things will evolve into something else.

There was a proposal last summer to not hold this steering election and change MORE leadership at this time due to the UFT elections. It was voted down. I voted NO and was a voice for continuing the 6 month elections which one leader in CORE in Chicago, which holds elections every 2 years for steering, termed "crazy", wondering how an organization can run efficiently if it changes leadership every 6 months.

I don't see things that way. I like a rotating leadership and also opening up steering to new people. I also like the idea that if you somehow end up with a bad egg and a destructive force on Steering - like someone who passes on private information to Unity or makes private discussions public - you only have to live with that person for 6 months.

MORE also has a 2 consecutive term limit rule -- one can only serve for  one year before having to take at least 6 months off steering. This helps lead to some churn on steering - a good thing.

So far in the 5 steering committee elections in MORE's history, I believe over 30 different people have served. Some are serving for the 3rd time so there is some consistency in leadership.

I defended the MORE choice to go through a messy process twice a year for a bunch of reasons. We so much don't want to be top-down Unity-like. If we ever win power in the UFT we don't want to win as a caucus that functions like Unity because any such caucus would bring that same culture to running the UFT and we would be back to "new boss, same as the old boss."

There is a cost in doing things this way.

Decision making is slow and often laborious since Steering meets by phone or in person only every 2 weeks. (People are very busy as every classroom teacher knows, which MORE people are, and if you want a diverse group of people doing this work there has to be some leeway.)

No clear formal leadership emerges as power is defused. A MORE supporter stopped by at a DA to complain to me about this. "There is no sense of leadership," he said. "One day it is Julie Cavanagh and the next it is Jia Lee." I get it.  And I like it that way. I wouldn't want to see one voice become so dominant as to drown out others - that leads to dangerous territory. I view the MORE by-laws as in some ways as being obstructionist to being able to make decisions efficiently but I still opt for that at this time because I've seen too many groups split in pieces when people take rigid positions. Better no decision at this point than a wrong-headed one. At least until MORE matures into a smoothly working organization. OK, I am getting conservative in my dotage.

I think diffusing leadership is a good thing. Three years ago Julie Cavanagh was viewed as the leader of MORE. Now Jia Lee is perceived  as the MORE leader but even that is not true. Jia is a leader among many.

Term limits: I recommend it for the UFT/AFT
Taking time off from managing MORE opens opportunity to engage in broader issues. Jia was not on steering for well over a year and put efforts into building the opt-out movement, which of course has been the single most effective movement that has kept the Cuomo hounds off the backs of teachers - certainly more effective than the UFT.

Mindy Rosier put her amazing energy into MORE for a year and now she has time to put that energy into the Bernie Sanders campaign. She is running as a delegate for Bernie in NY.

Here is the MORE announcement for Steering. One of the great things is that if you are a member for even a short time, you are welcome to run. One day I hope people in New Action will feel comfortable running for a position on MORE steering while keeping their organization alive like ICE has done.

Hello MORE-UFT members:
It is time to elect a new Steering Committee for MORE-UFT!
To nominate yourself or someone else as a candidate to run in the election for the new MORE-UFT Steering Committee, please send an email to
The nomination period will runs through Saturday January 30thso we can have elections and put our new Steering Committee in place by February 14thOnly dues paying members can serve on steering or make nominations.
Some of the responsibilities of steering members include: 
  • attending once monthly meetings and participating in a conference call once a month
  • chairing one or two of these meetings and taking notes for one or two (chairs responsible for soliciting and preparing agendas, notetakers responsible for publishing summary).
  • responding to email on a regular basis (the steering listserve averages about 300 messages monthly)
  • attending and helping to plan MORE meetings and other activities
  • Terms are 6 months long. The next Steering committee will serve from March 1 until Sept 1.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Unity Caucus Propaganda Machine: Are Most NYC Teachers Clueless? How Dim is the Future? Part 1

Excerpt from comment on Perdido St School: When we are fully finished as organized teachers, it will be one of the last blocks in the long story of American labor history to crumble, and it will have done so not with a fight, not with a gallant last stand, but simply with apathy, ignorance, and foolishness.  ...
My response to this comment is that I have maintained for the past 15 years or so that building an infrastructure and doing regular outreach and education must be the first step in waking people up. Having at least one or 2 people in each school who can counter the Unity machine - like house to house fighting with Unity which engages in vicious infighting to protect their turf.

From reports coming in from comments on blogs and in emails, people are complaining how most of their colleagues are not aware - clueless about so many issues.

How most people even in schools with active members of groups like MORE, NYCORE, Teachers Unite are confused or ignorant or seduced by the propaganda machines out there. Most people do not read the ed blogs or go to MORE meetings or are on MORE Discussion boards which seems to be the one place where debates are taking place.

Besides the biased and misreporting mainstream press another reason most teachers have no idea is that Unity has almost total control of the UFT communication network - the NY Teacher, district reps and other patronage people going into schools and propagandizing. And insipid and expensive commercials.

There is only one way to counter that: build a parallel network of information at the school and district level. This is a marathon not a sprint and many people I am in touch with poo-poo this strategy as too little too late. They are impatient for quick solutions - like sue the UFT over its undemocratic process. Good luck with that. Or scream and yell and jump up and down and hope for results - the "throw it against the wall and see if it sticks" thesis. Have fun with bombast and see how far that gets you.

When I began Education Notes in hard copy (around 1000 copies) at the UFT Delegate Assembly back in 1997 I sort of had the long run in mind. So almost 20 years later here we are not much further along. But I still have faith, especially given what has begun to happen in other cities.

Within a few years of starting Ed Notes it became clear that most of the people I was targeting at the DA were Unity and I would have to tailore an appeal for change to them and to the new UFT President Randi Weingarten. After a few years it was clear I was barely making a dent, though enough independents began sharing my views.

I realized that being one person with a limited distribution this was not going to have much of an impact against the Unity machine and that an organization had to be built. Especially as Randi increasingly supported ed deform.

The landscape in the early 2000s was not promising. New Action, before the Unity deal, seemed increasingly ineffective and TJC seemed to be in a rigid ideological box. The 3rd group, Progressive Action Caucus (PAC) was basically a one-issue group focused on protecting teachers from the loss of their licenses due to not having passed the exams (they were the ATRs of the time but under the threat of being terminated - which thousands were).

Soon after the 2001 election I tried to use Ed Notes, which was about to go citywide beyond the DA with my looming retirement, as an organizing force to bring all these groups together but warfare quickly broke out. After the New Action deal with Unity in 2003, I called a meeting of Ed Notes supporters and that led to the formation of ICE.

ICE received a very warm reception initially but reality began to set in over time. There were many good things about ICE and also some serious flaws. I won't go into them at this time. But I think I learned some things. And by 2009 with the ed deform movement reaching all the schools, the idea of a non-caucus to take on the bigger battle emerged with GEM (Grassroots Education Movement) which began to attract people from a variety of teacher groups and some new people.

By 2011, the UFT/Unity machine was a bigger elephant in the room than ever and the idea of uniting the forces attracted to GEM into another try at a caucus began to take shape in monthly secret meetings which resulted in MORE in 2012. My goal from the beginning was that MORE had the potential to become that wide-ranging organizing force to counter Unity that I envisioned back in the late 90s.

It has not been all that easy.

I envisioned as a first step that MORE would have a newsletter along the lines of what Ed Notes was with distribution to hundreds of schools on a regular basis - 4 times a year to start - that would become the alt NY Teacher.

That hasn't happened in any regular basis and one day I'll get into the reasons why. MORE seemed ready to do leaflets but not newsletters though I believe that may change after the election.

Reaching rank and file UFT members has been a very frustrating process over the years, though the recent social networking has helped groups like MORE.

I have maintained for the past 15 years or so that building an infrastructure and doing regular outreach and education must be the first step in waking people up. Having at least one or 2 people in each school who can counter the Unity machine - like house to house fighting with Unity which engages in vicious infighting to protect their turf. That takes organizing and outreach and building local structures at the district level. The problem with the opposition for all these years is that it has often skipped the building steps and focused on the elections every 3 years. I've seen signs that there has been some awakening -- MORE has adopted this strategy in name at least -- I'm watching to see the  outcomes of this in practice.

In part 2 I'll delve into the conundrum of building an organization like MORE in an often painful process of taking all points of view into account while upholding internal democracy so MORE doesn't turn into top-down Unity.

In the meantime, here is a comment on the dismal future in this
NYSUT And The UFT, Allied Again With Cuomo, Spend Millions On Propaganda To Fool Their Members And The Public
Part of the landscape I see outside of NYC in the districts is that membership is DEEPLY unaware of basically everything, and especially Friedrichs. Teachers are by and large fully unaware. I've had to educate a lot of folks about it, and even then they walk away with a puzzled can only assume that this puzzlement is from not having any schemata or information architecture to attach the Friedrichs information many folks are only dimly aware of the reformer/privatizer/political threats we face, so hearing the Friedrichs thing is out of the blue for them. Besides, most working teachers live under the ridiculous canard of "the pendulum" by which they think that "things will straighten out."

So, because of this I have no faith that teachers are "waking up" and will begin to insist on change or whatever. They wont. The awful leadership of the UFT and NYSUT will continue, even as those organizations shrink post-Friedrichs.

Its shocking to note how few teachers grasp the threats that are facing us. So few are informed. In the annals of labor history, the losses we are experiencing and facing will pale only in comparison to the fact that a generation of teachers were blissfully unaware of their circumstance in spite of having ample information. When we are fully finished as organized teachers, it will be one of the last blocks in the long story of American labor history to crumble, and it will have done so not with a fight, not with a gallant last stand, but simply with apathy, ignorance, and foolishness.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Salon on WE CAUCUS: “11,000 smart, committed teachers can change the world”: A group of working Philadelphia teachers is looking to upset the status quo of the teachers union

Up for a vote: "Social justice unionism," in which every teachers union member participates in educational change

MORE's homies from Philly get noticed.
The solution WE is offering is part of a national movement that seeks to drastically change the modus operandi of the teachers union from one in which union members pay dues and trust that the big decisions are being made by the leaders and lawyers at the bargaining table to one in which every single teachers union member actively participates in grass-roots educational change. This new approach, called social justice unionism, comes with a track record of success in cities like Chicago, St. Paul, Seattle and Portland.
I remember sitting in a bar in Chicago a few years ago chatting with some future WE Caucus people. They were interested in the idea of a caucus and were asking MORE people for some ideas. Then lookie down the road and these guys really may have a shot at winning something in the elections next month.

Some of you may have seen the very idea of social justice unionism, which is a merger of bread and butter issues with issues of concern to parents and students, being trashed as turning people off. Yet the only real challenge to Randi's control of the teacher union movement has come from SJ movements in the cities named above. Philadelphia has its own version of the Unity Caucus loyalty oath machine run by president Jerry Jordan.
Roat and Muhammad are running for president and vice president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) in the union’s upcoming leadership election, which will take place by mail-in ballot Feb. 4-23. PFT elections happen every four years, though they are usually non-events and many teachers report being unaware there are elections at all; the current leadership team, the collective bargaining or “CB team,” which is headed up by Jerry Jordan, has been steering the ship since the 1980s. Roat is part of a slate of nine candidates, all of whom come out of the Caucus of Working Educators (WE), the first group to seriously challenge the leadership of the PFT in three decades.
Three decades without a real election in Philly. The way Randi and Mulgrew like it. I wrote about Randi's visit to Philly to prop up Jordan against the WE challenge: Randi Visits Philly an Attempt to Prop Up Union.
See the Video From Philly: Who Are WE?

WE and MORE echo each other, especially on this point:
WE says the difference between them and the long-standing leadership of the PFT is fundamental, a matter of mind-set about what produces long-lasting changes–they call theirs “deep organizing” rather than the “shallow mobilizing” they feel the CB team has offered in the past.
“Sure, the CB team is opposed to forced transfers, layoffs and school closures too,” Roat says. “What we’re saying is that we would approach these issues in a different way. The CB team does not activate the power of its members.

"11,000 smart, committed teachers can change the world”: A group of working Philadelphia teachers is looking to upset the status quo of the teachers union 
Amy Roat (Credit: AP/Matt Rourke)
“I am sick of austerity,” Yaasiyn Muhammad, a teacher of African-American history at Central High School told a crowd of around 150 teachers gathered on a November Saturday in the Old First Reformed church. “I am sick and tired of cuts that disproportionately affect black and brown children. Status quo unionism has put the PFT to sleep.”  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

How a Friedrichs Loss Can Become a Win, Making Taylor Law Unconstitutional

...labor... needs more people engaging in a debate about what, in theory, could come the day after an adverse Friedrichs decision. That shouldn’t be limited to toying with the legal implications of the Court’s logic, but also what kind of mobilizations, boycotts and—dare we dream?—strikes could be launched in the days and weeks after....In These Times
My own thoughts have been skirting around the edges of the benefits of a Friedrichs negative decision and might actually lead to a new level of organizing. I've been thinking about Detroit where they are trying to pin the sickout on a totally weak and ineffective union. This article by Shaun Richman, a former AFT organizing director, doesn't go there -- as I wouldn't expect him to. Here he takes the free speech argument behind Friedrichs and runs down the field with it over the possible implications.
the parties behind Friedrichs—egged on by Justice Alito—are lodging a wildly expansive argument that every interaction that a union has with its government employer is inherently political. Bargaining demands, grievances, labor-management committees, job actions: all of it, goes the Friedrichs argument, is political, thereby making the collection of agency fees compelled political speech.
Let’s think about some of the implications of this argument. For starters, the Taylor law that tells CUNY faculty and staff that they will be fined and their leaders imprisoned if they strike seems clearly to be a coercive restriction on their chosen method of political speech. If the Professional Staff Congress is hit with any penalties for either planning or going through with a job action, one hopes they can time their appeals to reach higher level courts after the Friedrichs decision comes down in June.
 An article worth reading:

How ‘Friedrichs’ Could Actually Unleash Unions from Decades of Free Speech Restrictions

BY Shaun Richman

The CUNY Professional Staff Congress, during a civil disobedience action in November 2014. (PSC)   

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ravitch Ties the Michigan Detroit/Flint/Obama Story Together

It is worth reprinting Diane's blog in full here as it ties a bow on the Michigan horror story.

John Ogozolek, a teacher in upstate New York, watched a news show and hit the ceiling. He wrote:
“CBS reporter Scott Pelley put Governor Rick Snyder on the hot seat yesterday, asking him repeatedly why he apparently still doesn’t have a handle on the specifics of Flint, Michigan’s poisoned water.
“PELLEY: So fair to say you don’t know what the lead content is in the water?
“SNYDER:Well, again — we don’t want people to believe it’s safe. Extensive testing is going on, has been going on for some time. And we are seeing improvements in the water supply. But we don’t want people to believe it’s appropriate to drink at this point in time, and that’s why I’m proud to have the National Guard out there working hard.
“PELLEY: I don’t understand why you can’t give us the latest testing data and what it shows for the water in Flint. What is the number?
“SNYDER:I don’t have the number at the top of my head of the very latest data. And it varies by parts of the city.
“PELLEY: I would think that the governor of Michigan would have those numbers at the top of his mind right now.”
“Later on , Pelley changes the subject to the deplorable conditions in Detroit’s public schools and the protest by teachers to call attention to the tragic situation: a classroom ceiling caving in, maggots in a toilet and little kids bundled up to ward off freezing temperatures as they try to learn.
“CBS PELLEY: In terms of the sickout in the Detroit schools [Wednesday], what is your message to the teachers?
“SNYDER: I would hope you would stop harming the children. I appreciate the fact that people have strong feelings on different issues. But to do it at the expense of affecting the school day for the children, I don’t think that’s appropriate.”
“Boy, oh, boy….it’s times like this when I feel like kicking in my TV screen. It’s a 30-year-old set, about the size of big pumpkin. Makes me want to punt it across the front yard.
“WHAT???? Is this guy Snyder crazy? He oversees the poisoning of an entire city’s water supply including what appears to be permanent injury to children…..and then he turns around and has the gall to blame teachers for “harming” kids. These are the same teachers who are trying to call attention to the actual damage that is being done to children day after day in Detroit’s public schools….harm that Snyder is still turning a blind eye to.
“Meanwhile, in another story, there was President Obama prowling around the Detroit Auto Show, taking time out to criticize the handling of the water situation in Flint. Teachers’ union members were on hand to protest outside in the bitter cold.
“Union spokeswoman Ann Mitchell told The Associated Press that teachers “couldn’t miss the opportunity” with the president in the city to say they “really need someone to help focus on the schools.”
“We have got to stop this whole business by Snyder, which is an attempt just further the charters and further, really, the destruction of education in the city. We are determined to win that fight. The whole next generation relies on it,” Cass Tech teacher and activist Steve Conn told CBS affiliate WWJ.”
“News to President Obama: your policies have helped aid and abet the destruction of public schools in places like Detroit. If you want to see who is also responsible for the disasters in Michigan, look in the mirror. It’s happened on YOUR watch.”

School Sickout and FLINT Water Protests: Outcome of Obama Supported Disaster Capitalism

Unions Fiddle While DETROIT Burns. We weren't hearing much about the Detroit school crisis from the AFT and its affiliate the DFT until teachers began to take wildcat sickout actions.

Yesterday, with Obama visiting the Detroit auto show to praise the Detroit comeback (huh?), we saw this headline:

Nearly all of Detroit's schools closed due to sickouts coinciding with Obama visit

The role the Randi backed Detroit Federation of Teachers has not been a prominent one even though CNN reports "An attorney for the Detroit Public Schools has asked a judge to issue a restraining order and preliminary injunction to force teachers to stop sickouts and return to work, according to court documents filed Wednesday. The motion names the Detroit Federation of Teachers, interim teachers union president Ivy Bailey and 23 Detroit Public Schools teachers."

Who else can they try to blame? The cannot conceive of the idea that teachers might reach the point where the brakes the union tries to apply just won't work. This is a point I tried to make in some of my previous posts regarding Friedrichs weakening the unions to the point where they cannot manage the membership as overseers. [ see extra credit below].

Then there is the Flint water crisis, which ties together with the Detroit school crisis:
As Governor Snyder was hiding behind Michigan's executive privilege laws and withholding information about the water crisis from the public, Detroit teachers were taking bold action that called attention to the deplorable learning conditions within the state's largest school district. More than sixty Detroit schools have been shut down this winter due to teacher sick-outs.

-----MLK's legacy lives as Detroit and Flint battle injustices, column

Of course we have this:
Republican leader of the Michigan House calls for teachers to be fired

Detroit school system wants judge to end teacher sickouts

"DPS has requested the court's intervention in addressing the ongoing teacher sickouts that are plaguing the district," Michelle Zdrodowski, the spokeswoman for the Detroit Public Schools said in a statement.
The teachers union responded to the filing, noting "Detroit deserves better."
"It is regrettable that the Detroit Public Schools seeks to punish those who speak out about the deplorable conditions in our schools," Bailey said. "It would be so much more productive to actually do something to fix Detroit schools rather than file restraining orders against those who expose the miserable conditions."
Nearly all Detroit's public schools were closed Wednesday as many protesting teachers called in sick, turning what was supposed to be a day to celebrate into one shining a harsh spotlight on one of Michigan's struggling cities.
President Barack Obama was in Detroit for the North American International Auto Show. He praised the American automotive industry's resurgence, which many people view as a major victory for Detroit.
But those inside the city tell a sharply different story, one illustrated in leaflets showing pictures of dead rats found at public schools, mildew taking over ceilings and walls and damage to school buildings.
Detroit teachers have pressed their case against what they call deplorable conditions and inadequate funding. They've also decried decisions made by the school system's emergency manager, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder -- criticism that echoes complaints in Flint, a Michigan city mired in a water crisis after state officials largely took over because of budget troubles, just as they did in Detroit.
Detroit teachers have backed up their words with mass sickouts, starting January 11, when 62 schools closed as a result.
Bailey estimated the doors of "over 30 schools" ultimately would be affected.
Zdrodowski said there would be no class Wednesday in 88 schools, about 90% of those in the system. 

But as of Wednesday night, the Detroit Public Schools' Facebook page indicated all schools will be open Thursday. The announcement included a request for students and parents to check the page again for updates.
The speaker of the House in Michigan called for absentee teachers to be dismissed.
"These teachers deserve to be fired for turning their backs on the children in their care," said Kevin Cotter, a Republican from Mount Pleasant. "Their actions also go against any possible resolution on potential (Detroit Public Schools) reforms, because any long-term agreement on Detroit schools has to put the kids first."
Cotter said more than 700,000 instructional hours have been lost.

Obama meets with Detroit's mayor

The timing -- on the day of Obama's visit to the Detroit auto show, with the national media attention that it brought -- was no coincidence.
The Detroit Federation of Teachers indicated as much on its website, saying now is the time to "fight for Detroit kids (who) are struggling in schools with hazardous environmental and safety issues (and) educators have made significant sacrifices for the good of students."

 Extra Credit:

Federal Civil Rights Complaint vs Success Charter Academy's Systematic Violation of Disabled Students' Rights

Success Charter Network, founded by Eva Moskowitz, is now facing another investigation. A FERPA complaint by Fatima Geidi to the US Department of Education on Eva Moskowitz's violation of student privacy by releasing a student's disciplinary records was filed in October. 

Yesterday, it was announced that SUNY, the charter chain's authorizer, is investigating the Success Network's disciplinary and suspension practices, including the infamous "Got to Go" list first reported by the NY Times.
......Leonie Haimson, NYC Public School Parents
More yummy news since our earlier report

Success Academy Teacher Quits: Evil Eva Should Be Investigated for Child Abuse and Teacher Bullying

Reports coming in from Haimson, Ravitch via NY Daily News' Juan Gonzalez.

The FERPA complaint by Fatima Geidi?
Jia Lee has been teaching Fatima Geidi's child who was pushed out of Success and Jia has been involved in supporting Fatima and her child, both of whom attended the MORE education conference in November.

Federal Civil Rights Complaint vs Success Charter Academy's Systematic Violation of Disabled Students' Rights

Now  parents of 13 special needs students,. along with Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council Education Committee chair Danny Dromm, have filed a formal complaint with the Civil Rights division of the US Department of Education..
Some of the claims include refusing disability services required by law to the students, and harassing parents to force their children to transfer out of the charter chain into public schools. You can read more in this article by Juan Gonzalez here.

From the complaint, it is apparent that Success Academy's systemic violations include pushing students out via repeated suspensions, many times without due process and without reporting them as such, holding them back, denying them services, and shaming them.

You can read the full complaint at Leonie's blog:

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Jeff Kaufman Amendments for MORE Platform Approved at Meeting, Goes to Membership Vote

When the MORE platform committee shared what they came up with
MORE stands on its platform

Our 2016 Platform

and made it clear that it was an open platform open to amendments and modifications. Some people chose to criticize while offering no suggestions for changes to the platform committee.

The always reliable Jeff Kaufman came up with these suggestions and we reviewed them and gave people an opportunity to object or offer modifications at the Jan. 16 general meeting. They were approved and are expected to be ratified by the membership. As far as I know the process of suggestions is still open though time is running out as the election season gets closer.

There are more extensive suggestions that would not fit in a platform - like democracy:

Union Democracy: A Life-or-Death question for the UFT

Here are the amendments Jeff offered. (Jeff will be running on the MORE slate in the 2016 elections.)

AMENDMENT 1: ADD "End the per session pay formula and restore real time and a half for work beyond the school day based on salary.”

AMENDMENT 2: ADD ""Strengthen the grievance procedure by removing the cap that has been placed on the number of arbitration cases permitted annually;  providing a UFT investigative team for each case; and restoring rights that have been bargained away such as the right to grieve any material in our file."

AMENDMENT 3: ADD "Eliminate the designation “ATR” and assign teachers to a school of their choice in their District. Until the ATR designation is abolished, the UFT shall have an ATR chapter with elected representatives"

AMENDMENT 4: ADD "and end involvement in UFT Charter Schools except as a representative of union members.”

AMENDMENT 5: ADD "Create a sliding scale for union dues based on salary and require dues increases to be voted on at the Delegate's Assembly."

Success Academy Teacher Quits: Evil Eva Should Be Investigated for Child Abuse and Teacher Bullying

I spent much of my time at school crying in the bathroom and the stairwell. I cried from the emotional harassment I faced from my leaders, I cried from simply watching my scholars go through such grueling days and intense ridicule, and I cried because I was exhausted, stressed, and anxious, constantly feeling like I wasn’t enough and that I couldn’t be enough. When I helped my own scholars work through their tears, I would often ask them what they were feeling, and they would say “scared.”... Former Success Academy Teacher

When they start calling them children, I will know that they are completely de-programmed.... Diane Ravitch

Is it time to call 911 on Evil Eva's operation?

Diane Ravitch posted a letter from a teacher who has resigned.

It is worth reprinting the entire letter here to see just how evil Eva is.

Diane writes:
I received an email from a teacher who resigned her job at Success Academy. She was very unhappy. She wanted to explain why she couldn’t stay. Like everyone who leaves Success Academy, she requested anonymity. I get these emails from time to time. Occasionally, I meet with the unhappy young people (both women and men). They sound like people leaving a cult. Even after they have left, they still refer to five-year-old children as “scholars.” When they start calling them children, I will know that they are completely de-programmed.

This young woman writes:

I left my job at Success Academy because I couldn’t, in good conscience, be the teacher they wanted me to be. I have a lot of trouble writing and talking about my experience with Success because it truly makes me ill. Thinking about the way teachers spoke to children, with such disgust in their voices, makes my stomach churn. Thinking about the way my leaders spoke to me, with that same disgust, leaves me feeling just as sick.

I was immediately targeted by the leaders at my school for being too soft. I didn’t deliver consequences enough, and I didn’t hold high enough expectations of my four and five-year-olds. I couldn’t get them to walk in two silent, straight, militaristic lines with bubbles in their mouths and their hands glued to their sides. I wasn’t “aggressively scanning” for “defiant” children on the carpet—that is, children not sitting on their bottoms with their backs tall and their hands locked in their laps. I owned up to all of this with my leaders. I admitted to them that I have a hard time with holding such young children to such high expectations. And to build off of that, I found it simply wrong to hold every single scholar to the exact same expectations. You can’t give a fish and a bird the same task and expect the same results.

But that’s precisely what Success does. They don’t care what the circumstances are: you will stand like a soldier, you will sit with a bubble in your mouth and your hands locked, you will do all of your work neatly and silently, you will “silent laugh” and “silent cheer” when you find things funny or exciting, you will transition from your seats to the carpet “swiftly, safely, and silently,” and if you don’t, you’ll do it again until it’s perfect, even if that means missing recess or blocks time. My biggest mistake was admitting to my leaders that I found this system to be too harsh. The moment you speak out at Success, they come after you. They call it a “mindset” issue. They threatened to put me on a performance plan without giving me any examples of what I was doing wrong, instead simply berating me for these same issues week after week until I would slowly break and obey them. I worked tirelessly to please my leaders. I had never quit a job before, and am an incredibly hard worker, so I was determined to make this work. I wrote long reflections on my days and reached out to veteran teachers for help. I was quickly reprimanded for this as well, though, being told that if I needed help, I should just go to leadership—that I should never make my struggle apparent, or talk about it with anyone at school. This is all part of keeping up the facade of Success. The bright classrooms, the stunning bulletin boards, the perfect posture — everything must look perfect. It all boils down to the same principle: these people care about the wrong things. They feel the constant need to prove themselves through their appearance and their high scores, and in turn they don’t allow for any of the genuine elements of childhood and education to take place in their buildings.

I spent much of my time at school crying in the bathroom and the stairwell. I cried from the emotional harassment I faced from my leaders, I cried from simply watching my scholars go through such grueling days and intense ridicule, and I cried because I was exhausted, stressed, and anxious, constantly feeling like I wasn’t enough and that I couldn’t be enough. When I helped my own scholars work through their tears, I would often ask them what they were feeling, and they would say “scared.” They told me they were scared to come to school. I was, too. We all entered that building each morning in fear. This all being said, scholars at my school smiled. There are happy children at Success. When they do well academically, or when they get a prize or a “time-in” for their success, they smile. When they do have recess, they laugh audibly and smile. But the fear, anger, and sadness deeply overshadows these small instances of joy. You can’t structure joy. But leave it to SA to try.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Download The MORE Newsletter - Featuring Eterno, Goldstein, Wainer

  • James Eterno (ICE blog) on class size.
  • Arthur Goldstein (NYC Educator) on why he support Jia Lee for UFT President.
  • Kit Wainer on what changes MORE would bring to the UFT.
Three of the most experienced and knowledgeable chapter leaders over the past 20 years in the UFT.

One of the key indicators of growth in an opposition is the ability to reach into a number of schools with a smoothly running distribution network not just for UFT election years but on a permanent basis as a way to counter the Unity Caucus propaganda machine.

See NYC Educator on the costly Mulgrew propaganda send to every school:
We Finance the Mulgrew Campaign
The hope is that after the election, MORE will be able to do deliver a newsletter into an expanding list of schools at least 4 or 5 times a year.

One of the reasons Unity can so dominate the union is their ability to reach every UFT member fairly easily. All of you out there who complain about the union leadership can help with this effort by contacting me.

I helped put together this MORE newsletter as a counter to the usual flyers. I believe thoughtful content matters. I put the crew on a word limit count to make it fit and printed 10,000 copies which have pretty much gone into the schools and at the DA. A professional designer reworked it for this electronic version which you can print out and share with people in your school.

Here is the link at MORE where you can download and print this 2-sided newsletter.

Below are sample jpgs for your perusal. 

STCaucus Shares NYSUT White Paper, Slams NYSUT Lack of Transparency

NYSUT ... failed to inform the membership about its findings in the
NYSUT White Paper. (The following talking points are attached to make the dissemination of this information easier.
Talking Points). NYSUT’s lack of transparency regarding this position paper with the members of the rank and file serves only to keep membership in the dark thereby limiting membership’s ability to push back against the state tests and their onerous penalties, including but not limited to receivership.  .... STCaucus

Follow this narrative and see how important it is to watch what our leaders do not what they say. They are burying a report that would help grow the anti-testing movement.

NYSUT White Paper

The Stronger Together Caucus is disseminating NYSUT’s position paper opposing the current college and career readiness benchmarks in New York State.  The STCaucus is taking this action for two reasons:
  1. NYSUT was tasked, by a unanimous vote of its delegates at the April 2015 NYSUT Representative Assembly, to produce and disseminate this position paper.
  2. At this time, NYSUT’s position paper is behind a secure login on the NYSUT website which only allows delegates to access, rather than making this important information available to all members of the rank and file.  
STCaucus understands that every teacher should fully comprehend the inappropriate nature of these benchmarks and how they continue to corrupt the testing experience for our students.  For more than a year, STCaucus Leadership has made this argument central to the pushback against the inaccurate failing school/teacher narrative.  The data NYSED is utilizing to purport the benchmarking myth is deeply flawed.

The following timeline and linked documents will illuminate the importance of this narrative.

The following STCaucus letter was sent to Chancellor Tisch on December 22, 2014.  This letter was produced in response to the infamous Malatras’ letter dated December 18, 2014, in which, Governor Cuomo outlined the education agenda that became law on April 1, 2015.

On January 17, 2015, ST Caucus sent the following letter to the NYSUT Officers and NYSUT Board of Directors because there was no NYSUT response to the Malatras’ letter.

In response to NYSUT’s lack of pushback against the Governor’s narrative about failing NYS schools and teachers, STCaucus leadership brought the following Special Order of Business to the April 2015 NYSUT Representative Assembly. This Special Order of Business was passed unanimously on the floor of the RA.  

Recently, NYSUT’s Research Department completed the required report and did indeed send those findings to the Regents, as the resolution required. NYSUT however failed to inform the membership about its findings.  The report is only accessible to NYSUT delegates who have access to the secure login on the NYSUT website and there has been no reference to the position paper in NYSUT’s publications or on its public website.  NYSUT’s lack of transparency regarding this position paper with the members of the rank and file serves only to keep membership in the dark thereby limiting membership’s ability to push back against the state tests and their onerous penalties, including but not limited to receivership.  

We encourage all members to read the report for the purpose of educating themselves, their colleagues and their community members.  Please use the report’s findings to inform your local school boards, parents and local papers about the inappropriate benchmarks in New York.  
The following talking points are attached to make the dissemination of this information easier.

In Solidarity,

Chair: Beth Dimino—President, Port Jefferson Station Teachers' Association
Treasurer: Beth Chetney—President, Baldwinsville Teachers’ Association
Secretary: Laura Spencer—President, Smithtown Teachers’ Association
Membership Chair: Michele Bushey—President, Saranac Teachers’ Association 
Vice-Chairs representing NYS by region 
1)   Central NY/Southern Tier: Angelee Hargreaves—President, Port Byron Teachers’ Association
2)   Capital District: Megan DeLaRosa—President, Shenendehowa Teachers’ Association
3)   North Country: Nate Hathaway—President, Malone Federation of Teachers
4)   Tarrytown/Mid-Hudson: Mike Lillis—President, Lakeland Federation of Teachers
5)   Nassau/Suffolk: Kevin Coyne—President, Brentwood Teachers’ Association
6)   NYC:  Mike Schirtzer—UFT Delegate; MORE CAUCUS
7)   Western NY (Buffalo):  Joe Karb—President, Springville Faculty Association
8)   Western NY (Rochester): Orlando Benzan—President, Brockport Teachers’ Association

STCaucus membership registration is now online at