Friday, February 24, 2017

Opt-out leaders running for NYSUT board: Politico Reports on ST vs Unity NYSUT Election

ST leadership was shortsighted not to give MORE a seat - we signed up a lot of people to join ST -- I can't vote in this election and can only give moral support to ST -- but if they make this election about opt out, in a state with the highest opt out numbers in the nation out of NYC, they can inflict some damage on Unity even if ST can't win.... NS
I've been following the sturm and drang about the fate of the St
caucus and its run against Unity in the NY State union elections coming up April 7-9 at the NY Hilton. I don't have time to compile the various blogs from Arthur, James, Peter Z and the comments of Mike Schirtzer. Only James is supporting the ST effort. The big sticking point for some people is that there was an attempt by ST to reach out to Randi to broker a deal for a united slate. That would clearly have left MORE out of the equation -- last time MORE sort of ran in coalition for seats they could not win - only Arthur Goldstein was on the top slate, running against Andy Pallotta who was the Ex VP of NYSUT - the big money position occupied by Al Shanker and Alan Lubin before him.

Shanker brokered a deal over 40 years ago that helped forge the NEA/AFT merger in the state whereas the UFT would control the Ex VP money while non-UFT - upstate and Long Island - would get the presidency and 2 of the 5 seats. The UFT would get the other seat, thus creating a balance of sorts even though everyone knew the real gorilla in the room.

So when Unity decided to dump Dick Iannucci 3 years ago and form a phony caucus to challenge him, Stronger Together formed in opposition around Iannucci. And MORE played a role in that, giving ST somewhat of a city presence, though we never ran on their slate -- they were the ones who were nervous. Karen Magee was put in as the non-UFT president but broke ranks at one point in taking too strong a stand against testing, which doomed her.

Now the UFT is pulling its biggest power play since the Shanker merger by openly taking over the presidency and installing Pallotta -- and I imagine they will also keep tight control of the Ex VP money position. They will win of course.

But ST by putting itself out there as the opt out movement vs Unity is a very smart move. Now there is the Jia Lee conundrum -- ST is not running 5 candidates but 4 and there was pressure to include Jia at the 5th candidate. What voice has been stronger for opt-out than Jia? The current leadership of ST is still nervous about being associated with the only direct opposition to Mulgrew. And they did try to make a deal but were rejected. I get the picture.

Some of my good friends do not agree and have smashed Lillis. However at this point I don't see why not back ST against another Unity Caucus power play? Given the reality of state politics, at this point MORE is not a relevant player. On the other hand, ST leadership was shortsighted not to give MORE a seat - we signed up a lot of people to join ST -- I can't vote in this election and can only give moral support to ST -- but if they make this election about opt out, in a state with the highest opt out numbers in the nation out of NYC, they can inflict some damage on Unity even if ST can't win.

Some posts from other blogs- read some of the weird comments on this ICE piece from James who endorses Lillis:


And James posts sections of Pen is Mightier than the Person blog:

Arthur takes a counter position:
NYC Educator:
Stronger Together Minus Jia Lee=Neither Stronger nor Together
Without Jia Lee Stronger Together is Weaker Apart (UPDATED 2/22/17) 

Here is a great piece on the election from Politico.
Opt-out leaders running for teachers' union board
By Keshia Clukey 02/23/2017 05:16 AM EDT

ALBANY — Members of a group that has championed the test refusal movement are running for positions on the executive board of the state’s largest teachers’ union. The candidates say they want to better mobilize the union and its 600,000 members on behalf of the opt-out movement.

Three of the four candidates running for leadership roles at New York State United Teachers as part of the “Stronger Together Caucus” have been active in the opt-out movement in their communities.

The caucus nominations come as leaders of the test refusal movement have begun to expand their activism beyond simply encouraging parents to opt their students out of the state standardized, Common Core-aligned math and English language arts exams. 

Opt-out activists became involved in local and state elections this fall, backing candidates and trying to oust those who they felt didn’t do enough to change education law and policy in the state. 
Some of the parents, who also are teachers, are now looking for further solidarity from the union in terms of testing and pushing harder to repeal legislation that more heavily weighs the use of students’ state test scores in teacher evaluations.

“They have not been using the power that they have,” Bianca Tanis said of the current union leadership. Tanis, an Ulster County parent and special education teacher, is running for executive vice president under the Stronger Together Caucus line.

A statement on the Stronger Together Caucus website says that "very little has changed for students still being compelled to sit for flawed assessments that are too long and yield little to no usable information,” adding that the “message from headquarters to locals was not strong enough.”

The caucus is involved in other issues, including the union's governance, in addition to the opt-out movement.

Michael Lillis, a teacher in Lakeland and a parent who supports the opt-out movement, is the caucus' nominee for NYSUT president. He said he wants the union to take a stronger position on standardized tests. “I refuse to accept NYSUT’s ineffective action on issues which are critical to our profession,” he said in a campaign statement. “The struggles of educators will be the struggles of NYSUT.”

NYSUT, under the current leadership of president Karen Magee and executive vice president Andy Pallotta, has said that not enough progress has been made to restore the trust and confidence of parents and educators in the state tests. Pallotta and Magee could not be reached for comment.

The union vehemently opposed the heavy use of students' state math and ELA test scores in teacher evaluations, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo championed. That battle and the union's relationship with Cuomo became less adversarial after the Regents placed a moratorium on the use of the test scores in evaluations in December, 2015, at the suggestion of a Cuomo-appointed task force that included union leaders.

Official nominees for the union’s leadership positions will be likely be announced Monday. Delegate members from across the state will gather April 7-9 in New York City to elect a president, executive vice president, first and second vice presidents, and a secretary-treasurer, for three-year terms.

The Stronger Together Caucus candidates include Lillis, Tanis, who is a founding member of the statewide coalition of parent groups, New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE); Shenendehowa elementary school teacher Megan DeLaRosa, who is running for first vice president; and Malone high school teacher Nate Hathaway, a leader of the opt-out movement in his community, who is running to be secretary/treasurer.

NYSAPE, the group that lead the test refusal movement, has expressed frustration over the continued use of student test scores in teacher evaluations, over-testing and the use of the Common Core standards, which they say are not developmentally and age appropriate.

The parent coalition last spring called for the resignation of state Board of Regents members and endorsed new candidates for the board. 

Tanis said the Stronger Together Caucus would push for another review of the standards, as well as repealing the teacher evaluation law all together. "We would push for more transparency," she said.

Read Tanis’ campaign statement here and Lillis’ statement here.
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