Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Did Charters Blink When Faced with Demise of Mayoral Control?

Acting to avert a leadership crisis in New York City’s schools amid a legislative stall in the Capitol, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo intends to call a special session of the State Legislature as early as Wednesday and introduce a bill that would extend mayoral control of the city’s educational system for one year.The session would be focused on granting Mayor Bill de Blasio another year of control over the city’s schools and their 1.1 million students, according to an administration official.

Andrew Cuomo to Call Special Session to Extend Mayoral Control of Schools - The New York Times

Mr. Flanagan and his Republican colleagues did pass several bills this month to extend mayoral control, but each bill included an increase in charter schools around the state, something that doomed them in the Democrat-dominated Assembly. Charter schools would not be addressed in the bill sent by the governor, according to the administration official.
Cuomo will introduce one year extension with No charter strings attached. And we know the hold charters have over Cuomo --- that he is brokering this to avoid an end to mayoral control which is a key to ed deformers, means the charters have blinked -- which by the way I predicted when I called in to the Brian Lehrer show and he asked me about the impact on charters if mayoral control ended.
If local communities had school boards and some control over the schools, that would let some air out of the charter balloon.

Here's the link:

Also worth checking out:

Leonie Haimson comment on the article below:
Good piece though I disagree that charter schools have arisen to replace the lack of community input- instead their rise has happened in large part as a result of shutting out parent & community voice.

Some key points before a full read:
A May 2017 Quinnipiac Poll, consistent with other polls on the subject, found that “Only 21 percent of New York City voters say Mayor Bill de Blasio ‘should retain complete control of the public schools,’ while 68 percent say he should ‘share control of the public schools with other elected leaders.’” However, this has not been acknowledged by the mayor or taken seriously by the media. This probably goes to show the power of the corporate-educational alliance so brilliantly forged by former Mayor Bloomberg in his takeover of the schools back in 2002.
When I listen to Mayor de Blasio decry the corruption and chaos of the old local elected school boards, I see it as an attack on the ability of communities of color to run their own affairs.
The idea that decentralization of a bloated school bureaucracy and local community control of neighborhood schools is presented as a given unfairly cuts off any serious discussion of what really happened with the community control movement and how it was made dysfunctional. It cuts off any serious discussion of the role of parents and communities of color in determining education.


Mayoral Control Debate Ignores Need for Community Control


Monday, June 26, 2017

Chronicling 40 Years of Democratic Party Decline

Raising money from Wall Street, from the drug companies, from health insurance companies, the energy companies, kept [Democrats] from their main contrasting advantage over the Republicans, which is, in FDR’s parlance, “The Democratic Party is the party of working families, Republicans are the party of the rich.” That flipped it completely and left the Democrats extremely vulnerable.... Ralph Nader

There's a lot of Democratic Party soul searching articles since last week's election loss in Georgia. I'm going to post a few of the interesting ones.

Love him or hate him, Ralph Nader makes a lot of sense in this historical analysis of the 40 year history of Democratic Party decline.

The progressive Intercept has an interview with Nader by
where he chronicles the stages in Democratic Party decline beginning almost 40 years ago:

Here are some of his Milestones of Democratic Party decline:
  • 1979: The party decides to compete for corporate funds with Republicans. They began to judge their challenge to Republicans by how much money they raised
  • don’t run a 50-state [presidential] campaign. If you don’t run a 50-state campaign, number one you’re strengthening the opposing party in those states you’ve abandoned, so they can take those states for granted and concentrate on the states that are in the grey area.
  • they decided to campaign by TV, with political consultants influencing them and getting their 15-20 percent cut.
  • the labor unions began getting weak, weak in numbers and weak in leadership. They began shelling out huge money to the Democrats for television. And as they became weaker they lost their grassroots mobilization on behalf of the Democratic Party.
  • We’re going to get you a living wage. We’re going to get a lean defense, a better defense, and get some of this money and start rebuilding your schools and bridges and water and sewage systems and libraries and clinics. Instead of saying that, they campaign by saying “Can you believe how bad the Republicans are?” Now once they say that, they trap their progressive wing, because their progressive wing is the only segment that’s going to change the party to be a more formidable opponent. Because they say to their progressive wing, “You’ve got nowhere to go, get off our back.”
  • And this went right into the scapegoating of the last twenty years. “Oh, it’s Nader, oh, it’s the Koch Brothers, oh, it’s the electoral college, oh, it’s misogyny, oh, it’s redneck deplorables.” They never look at themselves in the mirror.
  • they could never contrast themselves with the Republicans on military foreign policy – because they were like them. They never question the military budget, they never question the militarized foreign policy,

  • Nobody gets fired. They have defeat after defeat, and they can’t replace their defeated compadres with new, vigorous, energetic people. Labor unions, the same thing. They [stay in positions] into their eighties no matter how screwed up the union is. You don’t get fired no matter how big the loss is, unlike in the business community, where you get fired.
  • they make sure by harassing progressive third parties that the third party never pushes them.  

Read the entire piece below the break:

Friday, June 23, 2017

Politico - Undemocratic Mayoral Control Survives as Charters Get Major Objective - Ability to Hire Cheaper, Uncertified Teachers

SUNY is now planning to create “an alternative teacher certification pathway to charter schools.” The regulations represent a major first step to resolving an existential threat to the city’s large and powerful charter sector, which relies heavily on young and uncertified teachers, some right out of college, to staff their dozens of schools. Moskowitz, who demonstrated her power in the Capitol with a push to pass a sweeping pro-charter bill in 2014, has been advocating for a fix to teacher certification problems for several years..... .......Politico-- Charter sector secures win in Albany, clearing a path for deal on mayoral control
Eva gets her teachers
Politico reports that Eva gets what she wants -- charters will be able to hire uncertified teachers right out of school. What Politico and the press in general don't report is the context -- why don't they question the concept of uncertified and fundamentally inexperienced teachers and the impact on students?

Charters have trouble competing for teachers and have to pay people more than they want --- by basically being able to drag people off the street they can control their salaries and cover their massive turnover rate --- none of this gets reported.

So for those who think mayoral control is dead, don't get out the stake -- Leonie points to some history:
Some fact checking & historical context on community school boards and what happened last time Mayoral control lapsed
If you follow the debate on mayoral control, it would seem everyone wants it --- except the public, parents and teachers -- the real stakeholders in the system. In the real world, the ed deformers have the major stake in keeping mayoral control, as does the UFT. And politicians. The press goes along. If you followed my post - I Enter Mayoral Control Debate on @BrianLehrer on WNYC--
after my call to the Brian Lehrer program on WNYC where I made the case for local school boards and the case against mayoral control (I didn't have time to make the full case) -- note the surprise in Brian's voice over the fact that people would support the old school board system -- albeit with fixes.

The obvious fact is that there is an attack from the massive ed deform machine on democracy-- elected school boards because they know they can't get very with them in the way.

Read Josh Karan's proposals to return to a rational governance process on Leonie's blog:

Josh Karan: an opportunity to revise Mayoral control and what should happen next

It was nice seeing Josh at the Skinny Awards dinner the other night. I'm going to repost Josh's entire piece over the weekend.

Brian Lehrer commented that the points I brought up were not being debated anywhere -- and I wonder why Brian would not do a segment on the old system with a serious, not frivolous, critique so we can explore real alternatives to mayoral control instead of accepting it as a given. Brian should invite Josh, Leonie, Lisa Donlan and others on his who to do a segment on school governance alternatives to mayoral control. What's the point of his repeating and endorsing the talking points of the ed deformers?

Mayoral control will not die here in NYC as long as the UFT supports it - though there are some misgivings, they are deathly afraid of local control -- they had to work very hard to try to keep local boards in their orbit. It is time for our people on the Ex Bd to begin to pressure the UFT leadership on this -- and I do get that these are high school people who would remain under a centralized system -- but maybe not -- is there room for local high schools?

Some of my fellow bloggers have commented:

Mayoral Control is History (Again) - .

Leonie points out, support for mayoral control around the nation is waning: Monday, June 19, 2017

Arne Duncan still arguing for mayoral control -- when the trend is in the opposite direction

In Chicago, there may soon be an election for a school board, which would take away control from Rahm Emanuel -- this is signficant since Chicago was the first place in the nation to impose mayoral control c. 1995 -- 22 years of hell is enough. Not to say that the deformer won't toss massive money into controlling every local election like they recently did in LA and other places -- and they are winning those elections, but at least we get to compete.

Why does the liberal press like NPR and Brian Lehrer totally ignore the issue of why it is OK for Long Island, etc to elect school boards, but not the cities?

Leonie also published this article on the NYCParents listserve:

NYC Voters Don't Want Mayoral Control Of Schools, Quinnipiac University Polls Have Found

https://poll.qu.edu/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2469June 22, 2017 - NYC Voters Don't Want Mayoral Control Of Schools, Quinnipiac University Polls Have Found Quinnipiac University Polling Logo PDF format

Three Quinnipiac University polls over the last two years show New York City voters oppose by wide margins mayoral control of the public schools.

The independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll asks, "Do you think the mayor should retain complete control of the public schools or share control of the public schools with other elected leaders?"

Opposition to mayoral control is more than 2-1, even topping 3 - 1, in each of three surveys:
"The pundits and the experts may believe that mayoral control of the public schools is the best way to proceed, but they haven't convinced the people," said Maurice Carroll, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

In each survey cited, Quinnipiac University surveyed more than 960 New York City voters with margins of error that were less than +/- 3.3 percentage points. The surveys were conducted by live interviewers calling landlines and cell phones.

The Quinnipiac University Poll, directed by Douglas Schwartz, Ph.D., conducts public opinion surveys nationwide and in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Iowa and Colorado as a public service and for research.

Visit poll.qu.edu or www.facebook.com/quinnipiacpoll

Call (203) 582-5201, or follow us on Twitter @QuinnipiacPoll.

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Here's the Skinny - Where World Class Ed Deform Resisters Gather

Yesterday I was walking east on 43rd Street on the way back from seeing a matinee performance of the soon to close Sweat -- a wonderful play that pretty much explains the Trump victory -- when I felt a tap on my shoulder. The guy looked familiar. "Thanks for all your help," he said. And I realized he was one of the amazing CPE1 parents who were honored Tuesday night at the Skinny Awards dinner (he wasn't there so I at first had a hard time placing him but he was at most of the hearings for Marilyn Martinez). It was the 9th Skinny Awards event and I've been at every one. Just a random slice of the remarkable crew from CPE1.

Arthur Goldstein has an excellent comprehensive report on the Skinny Awards run by Leonie Haimson to raise money for Class Size Matters. So I won't repeat all the honorees he lists but you should read his report: At the Skinnies.

And note that the draft beers we had were at a Happy Hour and all 3 beers (Fred Smith was with us) cost the same as that $14 beer Arthur bought me at the Hilton during the 2014 NYSUT convention. Maybe I'll get to buy him what will probably be a $20 beer at 2019 NYSUT.

We planned to sit together but since Leonie had to find a new restaurant 3 days before the event, sitting was a bit convoluted. Gloria Brandman and I ended up at the table with the CPE1 parents and teachers and had a blast. Catlin Preston, freed rubber room detainee after a year and a half, was at the table. I sat next to a young lady who just completed her first year of teaching at CPE1. She was one of the teachers hired by deposed principal Garg who stood with the teachers and parents who fought her, thus risking her career if Garg had remained. The vet teachers at CPE1 say she is developing into a super teacher.

Partying with the CPE1 crew made the evening even more special than usual.

Leonie of course is the heroine of so much of the resistance to ed deform over the past 15 years and though not publicized enough, her husband and major backer, Michael Oppenheimer, is one of the leading voices on climate change, often appearing on PBS and quoted in the NY Times. Read his Wiki and imagine what a power couple he and Leonie are. It is always great to touch base with Michael, even if once a year. (I did invite him to come visit Rockaway while it's still there.)

Lawyer Arthur Schwartz who was one of the honorees had a previous engagement but did make it there near the end of the evening, just as the belly dancer came out --- you sly guy Arthur.

The Townsend Harris super student journalists were award winners too -- how interesting that 2 of the 4 winners were related to abusive principals.

Dianne Ravitch was there as usual and she told me about her joke tweet urging Trump to drop a super bomb on North Korea and how seriously some took it. So she took it down. Jeez. Sometimes I get the annoyance over political correctness and how it riles people.

Regent Chancellor Betty Rosa was there and just think of that --- Meryl Tisch's successor came to the Skinnies -- she was honored a few years ago, along with Cathy Cashin.

Here are a few pics I took. I do have video of the belly dancer but I leave that for private viewing.

Photos below

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I Enter Mayoral Control Debate on @BrianLehrer on WNYC

I just got off the phone after appearing on Brian Lehrer show (one of my must listens every day) on WNYC defending local school boards and attacking mayoral control. Brian seemed surprised to have 3 teachers on the line to support local school boards, given the narrow and biased debate. They picked me to rep the group.

Here's the embed code for the 33 minute segment -- I'm 23+ minutes in:

Brian Lehrer

I tried to make as many points as I could based on recent blogs by Patrick Sullivan, Leonie Haimson and James Eterno -- all links are in my post, Did UFT Boycott DeB Mayoral Control Rally? Patrick Sullivan: What Would Be The Impact of End of Mayoral Control

Here are some quick points I made:
  • Local control was only pre-k to 8. High schools were never decentralized.
  • My district had corruption and patronage and I and others consistently opposed that but we had a monthly forum in the neighborhood where parents, teachers and community members could make their points, in addition to having school board elections to challenge their control.
  • There is much greater corruption under mayoral control - as we've seen over the past 15 years -- add up the money lost in the districts and compare.
  • The 1996 law put curbs on the districts -- more accountability.
  • We could control the machine politics with more oversight.
When Brian asked me about how charters would deal with that I pointed out why isn't their buying of politicians more corrupt than what ever local school boards did?

Charters in no way want local control because most communities don't want charters. Ben Max of Gotham Gazette, who was on with Brian disagreed with me and said some neighborhoods want charters.

I disagree -- if we had local school boards, the people who supposedly want charters would be involved in controlling the public schools and would have the ability to make the kinds of changes they want.

Charters have used mayoral control as their main instrument. Since de Blasio is not in their pocket, they are unhappy, though from what I've seen he has given them almost everything they want.

Later I got this tweet from Ben Max:

Ben Max
Jun 21
@NormScott1 @BrianLehrer good talking with you earlier, Norm. interesting points. isn't this charter point negated by the state, though? 

I replied:

Norm Scott   @NormScott1
Jun 21
@BrianLehrer charters fear local bds.@BrianLehrer Parents that supposedly want charters would control public schools and negate charter or run them. 

 charters fear local bds.@BrianLehrer Parents that supposedly want charters would control public schools and negate charter or run them.

Some parents will want to be involved in local school board. I can also see highly funded charter school supporters running in some crucial districts and charterizing the entire district, though I believe they don't want everyone -- so maybe select the juicy stuff for themselves. So there could be a downside to this too.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Julius Caesar in Central Park: Willie S. Says, “Assassination Doesn’t Work”

I shared my travails in getting tickets to Shakespeare in the Park's production of Julius Caesar (The Hunt for Tiks to Julius Caesar, NAACP Debate on Charter Moratorium, Puerto Rico FMPR Teachers. Here is my in depth review, which I sent in to The Wave.

Julius Caesar in Central Park: Willie S. Says, “Assassination Doesn’t Work”
By Norm Scott

“Democracy—Not Donald Trump—Dies Brutally in ‘Julius Caesar,’ Just as Shakespeare Intended” proclaimed The Daily Beast, referring to the recent and controversial production in Central Park which closed a short run on June 17. Also pointed out was this important point: “The production’s detractors had not realized that a Caesar, dressed as Barack Obama, had also been killed in a production five years ago. Caesar is a figure of power, and different productions in different eras configure him as the leader-figure of that moment.” Where wuz u who doth be outraged this time? Ahhh, the relevance of Shakespeare over 400 years after he wrote the play.

I studied the play in the 10th grade at Thomas Jefferson HS in Brooklyn. Our teacher, Miss Port, took us to see the movie starring Marlon Brando as Marc Antony. The movie wowed me, especially Brando’s funeral oration (“I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”)

I spent half a day last Thursday racing around the city in an attempt to get tickets to the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production. Chances were slim, as I found out when I arrived at the senior citizen line at 8:15 AM, where there were already about 70 people in front of me and was told by others on line near me, “No chance. You have to be at least by that tree to have a shot.” It turned out that even that tree was too far away. The Public Theater crew informed us of the bad news around 10 AM, that at most 40 people would get tickets. But there would be a last chance lottery at the Public Theater at noon, so I headed over there, only to find a very long line. But they took everyone who got there before noon and with hundreds of people packed in waiting breathlessly for the 20 or so numbers to be called, mine came up. Yes, you may rub me for luck the next time you see me.

Now let’s get down to business over the production’s use of a Trump-like figure as Caesar with a model-like wife with an Eastern European accent. Maybe this was a bit too obvious, as people would have gotten the point anyway, but it was sure a hell of a lot of fun to watch the caricatures – until the assassination, that is.

Was the production glorifying the assassination of Caesar/Trump? Though modernized (there’s a no toga zone), it stays true to Shakespeare’s point: that engaging in an act of assassination leads to much worse outcomes than the ills the conspirators thought they were solving – and in fact this has proven true throughout history. Shakespeare wrote the play in 1599 just as decades of reign by an aging Queen Elizabeth were coming to an end, with rumors swirling of conspiracies to remove her from the throne, even by dint of assassination. Shakespeare couldn’t get a contemporary play past the censors, so he resorted to using history to make his points, even though he plays his hand cagily, seeking to avoid being drawn and quartered by the authorities, by refusing to come down on the side of rebellion, no matter how bad the rulers were, because the outcome would be so much worse.

As a man, Caesar had little in common with Trump. Caesar was an accomplished general, politician and a brilliant writer, and also had an affair with Cleopatra, things Trump may try to claim – just don’t tell him Cleopatra is no longer with us. They do have in common a high degree of vanity, elements of narcissism and certainly an authoritarian bent and a willingness to twist facts.

This production, and Shakespeare, do not make Caesar/Trump a hero and engage in some spoofing of their egos. But the conspirators who claim they need to kill Caesar to save Rome don’t come off much better. Cassius, of lean and hungry look, though passionate, is manipulating and vicious. Caesar favorite Brutus, who comes off as naïve but necessary for the plot to succeed, is recruited to the cause and when he puts the final dagger into Caesar as he comes staggering to Brutus, whom he looked at as a son, the famous line, “the unkindest cut of all” is appropriate as Caesar falls to his death. This was possibly the most consequential assassination in history as the direct outcome was 400 years of the Roman Empire.

Shakespeare mocks “the people” who shift from anti-Caesar to pro Caesar based on who spoke to them last – in this case, Brutus’ fatal decision to let Marc Antony have the last word. And oh what words they were, especially since “he” was played brilliantly by a woman (House of Card’s Elizabeth Marvel). No, Shakespeare does not seem to be a fan of democracy.

The production pits the defenders of Caesar as a police state. They are led by Marc Antony and Octavian, Caesar’s nephew and adopted son, who is portrayed as a snot-nosed, cold-blooded and arrogant kid. Take a look at the recent video of Jared Kushner and there is an eerie resemblance.

Supporters of the plotters wear “resist” arm bands and shout “this is what democracy looks like” and “the people united will never be defeated,” the latter as the police state kills them all, thus defeating the people united and ending up with the real final cut of all – the end of the Roman Republic and Octavian, who defeats his rivals and establishes the Roman Empire with himself as the Emperor Augustus. The closing vision of future emperor Octavian staring at the audience cold-faced (Kushner again) over a stage loaded with the dead bodies of the resisters, makes the message clear: democracy is no better off when people resort to assassination of a leader, no matter how dangerous and unpopular (though I would question that when it came to Hitler and maybe a few other monsters.)

Though I am a fierce opponent of Donald Trump (and the Republican agenda) I classify attempts to impeach Trump based on flimsy evidence as political assassination that would lead to worse things, just as the ridiculous Republican impeachment of Bill Clinton led us to George Bush and the catastrophes visited upon us as a result of his presidency – and yes, you Obama bashers, the Bush years were worse and the Trump years will escalate things in the direction of the ultimate demise of whatever democracy we think we have, with a widening income gap that will open the populace to demagoguery - from the left and the right.

Norm resists, mostly requests to do chores from his wife, every day at ednotesonline.com

Monday, June 19, 2017

Did UFT Boycott DeB Mayoral Control Rally? Patrick Sullivan: What Would Be The Impact of End of Mayoral Control

Greater representation and agency for the members of the communities that rely on public education can only make it better, not worse. The mayor should stop trying to sow fear among public school parents and students.   He should back the Assembly leadership that's willing to let the law expire rather than knuckle under to demands to hand over the people's schools to the privately controlled boards of the charter world.... Patrick Sullivan
Norm's comments:
While the elites cry about an disaster the end of mayoral control would be, stakeholders and people on the ground are screaming for it to end. With Republicans trying to hold mayoral control hostage in exchange for more giveaways to charters, the neo-liberal bleating hearts keep supporting a major instrument of ed deform- the removal of controls at the local level by giving all the power to the mayors who can then deal - from the bottom. At today's pro-mayoral control rally Farina joined in the fray -- yes, that Farina who ran district 15 under the old system -- and wasn't de Blasio on that local school board?

Now the UFT is taking a more nuanced position than in the past --- calling for more controls on the mayor -- without abandoning the idea - which would lead to local school boards, which the UFT finds abhorent.

Funny, but it seems they did not attend today's pro-mayoral control rally, which included other unions. 

Other bloggers have been out there on the issue and (as usual) we tail far behind but also have the advantage of being able to link to them.

James Eterno at the ICE blog asks the eternal question: WHY WOULD ANYONE BE AFRAID TO LET MAYORAL CONTROL EXPIRE?

Leonie Haimson at
Arne Duncan still arguing for mayoral control -- when the trend is in the opposite direction 
Below, Patrick Sullivan at the NYCEdNews Blog lays out the consequences of going back to pre-Bloomberg times, something both Dems and Republicans will not let happen -- look for them to blink before it happens because none of them want to bring back the mess for politicians of local school boards, which many of us old hands really do miss even when they were local patronage mills --- but even with low turnout they still offered a space for community involvement and believe me whatever money went into the local corruption, it pales in comparison to the large-scale games played with the mayor in control.
Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mayoral Control Expiration -- What it Really Means

The state law dictating the governance of NYC schools expires on June 30th.  In the State Senate, Republicans and a rogue gang of Democrats calling themselves the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) are refusing to consider renewal until the Assembly agrees to create more charter schools in NYC.  In the political battle over privatization of our public schools, some have claimed the expiration of mayoral control will be catastrophic and put our kids at risk.

Ignore the fear mongering coming from many quarters, especially the mayor, on what the expiration of mayoral control means.

Here's what it really means:

Fewer mayoral appointees on central board

The central school board will go from thirteen members to seven.  This board was labeled "The Panel for Educational Policy" by Mike Bloomberg instead of "the Board of Education" but it's the same entity in the law, "the city board".  Each borough president will continue to appoint one member.  What changes is the mayor now gets only two appointees instead of eight.

In the current system the mayor selects the chancellor.  When the law reverts, the board has this power.  We already have a chancellor so the new board will likely just reaffirm her position.  There are few decisions made in the summer.  The big stuff happen later -- budgets are considered in the spring. The board will have to meet to approve contracts.

True, the new board composition allows less influence for the mayor and more for the borough presidents but keep in mind our current borough presidents -- Gale Brewer, Ruben Diaz Jr, James Oddo, Eric Adams and Melinda Katz -- are probably the most serious and level-headed set the city has ever seen.   In other words, there will be no chaos.

Less corruption

Proponents of mayoral control are warning of a dramatic increase in corruption.  What they ignore is the large scale corruption that has transpired under mayoral control.  The concentration of power in the mayor's appointees and corresponding decline in scrutiny of contracting has permitted corruption scandals far exceeding anything seen in "the bad old days".   For example, here's a trio of multi-million dollar scandals:  Future Technology Associates, Custom Computer Specialists and Champion Learning.  The balanced board will promote tighter scrutiny of spending and likely produce a reduction in this type of large-scale fraud.

Local school board elections

At some point the local school boards in each of the city's 32 districts will need to be elected.  Greater representation and agency for the members of the communities that rely on public education can only make it better, not worse.

The mayor should stop trying to sow fear among public school parents and students.   He should back the Assembly leadership that's willing to let the law expire rather than knuckle under to demands to hand over the people's schools to the privately controlled boards of the charter world.

- Patrick Sullivan
Manhattan Member NYC Board of Education (Panel for Educational Policy) 2007-2013

Sunday, June 18, 2017

City Days: The Hunt for Tiks to Julius Caesar, NAACP Debate on Charter Moratorium, Puerto Rico FMPR Teachers

I've got a story to tell about my quest for tickets to Julius Caesar in Central Park --but you have to wade through my day by day account of last week - skip ahead when you get bored.

My passions right now are local/union/national politics and sports and gardening.

I've been dealing with some health issues due to an infection and having to take IV antibiotics and spending most of the week days over the past two weeks in the city, coming home to Rockaway for the weekends. (I may dump Ed Notes on Mike Schirtzer sooner than he thinks.) It's so much easier in the city than in Rockaway. A year ago I had one doctor. Now I have 5, all of whom I can walk to in the city.

Last Monday, June 12, I came into the city taking the ferry from Rockaway to Wall St and then changing (free transfer if you ask on the ferry) to the East River ferry that makes 5 stops in Brooklyn and Long Island City before getting to my stop at East 34 St. All for $2.75, the cheapest boat ride you can get and something tourists and non-Rockaway residents are discovering. So it took about 2 hours door to door, but who's in a hurry?

I met a guy on the ferry who came down from upstate just for the ride back and forth to Rockaway. He told me he was a chief investigator for SCI and worked for Stancik and Condon and worked the Board of Ed beat for 20 years and in fact was in on the raid of my district 14 offices after $7 million disappeared. I mentioned how no one went to jail on that caper (due to more than a little political influence by the Hassidic community of Williamsburg). I didn't catch his answer -- must have missed it due to traffic noise. Seemed like a nice guy but just hearing SCI gave me the woolies -- but one interesting factoid - he trashed OSI.

When I spend time in the city I am energized. Monday I had to wait all evening for a delivery of some meds so it was a wasted night -- but it was hot out so I spend the evening watching the Mets and then the Yankee games, with some cable TV politics interspersed.

Tuesday I headed over to Bryant Park in the afternoon to do some reading but ended up seeing a mini-opera. That night I went to see Carol Burris challenge two charter slugs at an NAACP sponsored debate at the NYC Bar Association. I had considered going to a movie instead but was glad I went. Carol, as usual, was excellent. The Politico ed reporter, Eliza Shapiro who was moderating, was pretty bad and often clueless. The charter slugs were shameless. I need to write this up in a separate post.

Wednesday, I spent the early part of the day checking out the scene at Shakespeare in the Park before signing up as a member of the Museum of Natural History and the NY Historical Society before heading over  to the Delegate Assembly and then to the Dark Horse for the MORE session with the amazing FMPR teachers from Puerto Rico, (see Arthur - Homophobes Yes, ATRs and FMPR No and James - who brought up the MORE ATR reso), followed by the MORE event for the Puerto Rico teachers from the FMPR, which attracted almost 50 people. The story told by the 3 teachers from PR, a few of whom we've met before, is an astounding one of battle by a militant union and betrayal. There were so many lessons, this needs a separate post.

Thursday was spent in a hunt for tiks for Julius Caesar at Shakespeare in the Park, which I describe below. My wife came into town to join me. Friday we headed back to Rockaway for the weekend.

I'm actually feeling pretty chipper, even more so in the city than in Rockaway. Being car-less, I have to walk and take public transportation. I walked over 5 miles a few days last week. When I get back to Rockaway I laze around like a slug.

But I want to talk about Thursday's hunt for Julius Caesar tickets, which was the hottest ticked in town. [See links below to interesting articles on the production.]

On Wednesday (June 14) I wanted to scout out the scene so I took the subway up to E. 86th street and walked cross Central Park to check out the situation at the Delacorte Theater and what time I would have to be there on Thursday to get tickets. The guy I spoke to looked at me and said -- for the senior line, maybe around 9 AM. The other line, earlier, like 7AM. So I figured I'd get to the senior line around 8:15.

When I joined the line on Thursday, my fellow line mates informed me we had no chance to get in -- she pointed to a tree and said no one past there gets in. But I got to meet a whole bunch of interesting people, including a retired teacher who taught in District 27 - we knew a lot of people. At 9:45, a rep came over and said there was no chance - some people began arriving at 5:30AM). He said they give out to the first 40 or so people which is 80 tickets. (He said the regular non-senior line had 500 people and only about 250 would get tiks -- the first person on line arrived about 1:30AM.) Some refused to give up and leave. I was reluctant but what was the point? I did talk to him and he suggested other options - they hold lotteries in all the boroughs - he said the Bronx was a good shot -- but also that if you get your name in the lottery before noon at the Public Theater at Lafayette Street -- of course there would be a lot more people there than in the Bronx.

So I headed over to the Public and got on a very long line at 11:15 but it moved fast. So many people kept pouring in. At noon they closed the lottery and started drawing for tickets. My wife was about to leave Rockaway and head for the half price ticket line so we could see some show that night and laughed when I told her to wait for the drawing.

The lobby was packed with hundreds of people and it looked like they were going to draw about 20 names.

The first raffle was 2 digits away from mine. Others got close to. They must have been close to 20 when BINGO -- my number came up -- one of my few lucky days - and we also won the lottery for Hamilton -- I guess politically tinged plays are my lucky charm.

I had read James Shapiro's book on the year 1599 when Shakespeare wrote Julius Caesar and put it in context of the political events in England when an aging Queen Elizabeth was rumored in danger of a coup. I also saw the 4 plays (shortened to an hour each) at Irondale last year, so I was familiar with the political context of the play. Basically Shakespeare was condemning political violence -- look what you will end up with -- and this production makes exactly that point and does not promote the assassination of Trump.

I will write up my impressions of the play, which I loved, in another post.

Before I bore you with details of my upcoming week in the city, here are a few links

A the guy stood outside yelling the entire play and continued to protest and shout Kill Chuck Schumer as we left -- people yelled back at him about an American production of “Julius Caesar,” in 2012 in Minneapolis, which depicted Caesar as President Barack Obama. He was surrounded by cops protecting him -- hmmm, wasn't he threatening a US Senator?

Upcoming week

I've got a busy upcoming week planned. I'm going in early by ferry on Monday morning with some Rockaway friends - a nurse is coming at 3PM to change my dressing and draw blood. Monday night I'm going to see the original King Kong in Bryant Park.

Tuesday I have a doctor appointment where I'm hoping for some good news. That night is Leonie Haimson's Skinny Awards dinner -- which by the way, we were informed last night that due to the restaurant's sudden closing, has been moved: here is her message:
Miraculously, I found a lovely Egyptian restaurant in Greenwich Village which the owner generously offered to me for the event.  Here are the details:
Casa La Femme, 140 Charles St.,  New York 10014
Map here: https://goo.gl/maps/NiQiePw2vLS2
Wednesday my wife is coming in and we're seeing Sweat at the matinee. It is also the day of the summer solstice - and international Yoga day - I actually registered for a 1PM hot yoga class in Times Square but will have to miss that.

Thursday my wife's cousin is coming into town bearing tickets to the Yankee game that night. We're going to hang out at the WFAN celebration at Grand Central Station. He may come with me to stop by at the MORE 5PM party at the Dark Horse, before we head up to the stadium.

Friday I'm coming home to Rockaway -- rehearsals for this summer's production of "The Producers" where I play the judge --

Someone suggested I should be sitting in the Here Comes the Judge seats for the Yankee game.

The Democratic Party: Left, Right and Center

My School Scope WAVE column didn't make deadline for last week but here it is anyway.

The Democratic Party: Left, Right and Center
By Norm Scott

Recent articles in journals and the mainstream press (https://tinyurl.com/y6v5we34) have been addressing the splits between a chunk of the Democratic Party base and the leadership of the party. For those optimistic about making headway against the agendas of the Republicans and Trump – if someone can figure out exactly what the president’s (gag) agenda really is --- these are dangerous warning signs of  even more internal conflict to come.

The wings of the party have been simplified by terming them as the Bernie and Clinton wings. Even if Hillary and Bill are not around, their wing of practical centrists – do what you have to do, say what you have to say – to win elections – seemed to be discredited by the Trump victory. But, “No”, they argue. “We really did win since we got more votes (as Gore did in 2000), Russia hacked and Comey did his damage and if we eliminate these factors we are back in the saddle.”

Well, not exactly. Without all the other stuff, the Dems still have very little power in the states, which are overwhelmingly controlled by Republicans, who can use their power at the state level to gerrymander all over the place while also engaging in voter suppression. Astoundingly, even the conservative leaning Supreme Court has been smacking down the North Carolina laws, though I’m sure the North Carolina legislature will work them out to their advantage in time for the next election round.

So something must not be registering when so many people have deserted the party by voting for Trump or not voting at all or voting third party. The Bernie wing – the resisters – are not as practical as the Clinton wing (only challenge where you have a chance to win, don’t be too left, etc.) They want to fight on the beaches and anywhere else where there can be a battle. Their theory is that even if you know you will lose in a very red state or district, being in contention with a progressive platform will win some people over, whereas not being there at all, leaves the field to one ideology.

A recent battle in Wyoming where a Trumpy won, although by a much lower margin than expected, brought this battle to the fore. The Democratic National Committee(DNC) refused to fund what they viewed as a lost cost, while the Bernie wing tried to make up for it with enthusiasm. “What was accomplished,” ask the practical wing? To my mind, the Bernies were able to cut into the red state dominance and this is a long war. Mainstream Democrats are always looking for short term victories. What they are doing now is identifying the fuzzy red state districts where they feel they have a shot, not engage in hand to hand combat everywhere. That is going on in the battle in the Atlanta suburbs, where a centrist Democrat (or what used to be the now extinct moderate Republican) is running on a moderate platform – basically Obama light. No single payer health care on his agenda.

And that seems to be the defining issue between the Bernie and Hillary wings. How bold can you dare to be?

Last weekend a whole batch of people I know headed to Chicago for the THE PEOPLE’S SUMMIT: BUILDING THE POLITICAL REVOLUTION, where the Bernie wing of the party – potentially the basis of a new party. Think of what Emmanual Macron did in France. In one year he created an entirely new party and undermined the traditional right and left. But he did it from the center – he might be viewed as being in the Clinton/Obama wing and in fact Obama has a bromance with him.

On the other hand, in the recent election in England, the Labor Party, led by the far left Jeremy Corbyn who some say make Bernie look like a centrist, made a massive comeback when it was predicted they would be headed for oblivion.

My sentiment is with the Bernie people and believe his message resonated with a lot of people, including many who ended up voting for Trump. What is missing from the Democrats, no matter what wing you are in, are a deep bench of dynamic potential candidates, though word is that is beginning to happen at the grassroots level.

This is why my favorite two hobbies are sports and politics and I spend my days listening to either WFAN or NPR. Any chance Aaron Judge would run on the Democratic ticket?

Norm indulges his fantasies at ednotesonline.org

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Hang With MORE and Puerto Rico Teacher Union Leaders After Today's UFT Delegate Assembly

There's a lot of skulduggery around the relationship between the AFT/UFT and the FMPR, which was once the major teacher union in Puerto Rico. The FMPR pulled out of the AFT and then was sued by the AFT, which lost the suit. That's the skinny. I had been working on a comprehensive blog to explain it all but got distracted over the past 10 days, so that will have to wait. But looking forward to hanging out tonight with the leaders of the FMPR.
Norm (I'm starting to sign some of my stuff since some readers think my name is ed notes.)

FMPR Panel for tonight - following DA

Dark Horse Pub

17 Murray St - downtown NYC

Down the block from City Hall

6pm meet and mingle

6:30 discussion

Our Federacion de Maestros de Puerto Rico panel:

Mercedes Martinez the President of FMPR, is a ESL teacher with a bachelor's degree in general arts from the Social Sciences Faculty and a bachelor's in ESL. she has 39 graduate credits in ESL. A teacher in the DOE since 2007 and immediately joined the FMPR. Participated in all the strikes, protests and activities in our union. Mercedes created a bond and organized parents throughout the years in defense of public education, fighting against school closures. She mobilized teachers, against labor injustices committed by the DOE and has prevailed through many struggles.

Edwin Morales, Vice President of FMPR, has a a bachelors degree in Economy from the University of Puerto Rico and is currently finishing his master's degree. He joined the DOE in 2009 as a Math teacher, and the FMPR the same year. He was the representative from our Area II, which includes 7 cities in our country. He has led fights against school closures in San Lorenzo and prevailed. Edwin has been involved in all of our struggles in defense of public education. He led the boycott with other teachers in his school against standardized testing where 65% of the total of the students participated in the opt out movement.

Ana Guzman is the current Secretary-Treasurer of the FMPR. She has a bachelor's degree in sociology, and a master's degree in ESL. She joined the DOE in 2002 and the FMPR in 2004. She has occupied different rank and file positions in our union, as secretary of the Local Union of Carolina. Ana participated actively in all of our strikes, protests, and activities and has led a massive boycott of the standardized tests in her High School, for two years, where the participation of the students in all subjects evaluated has been under 45%. This has been possible due to her work with parents and students, explaining to them why we oppose to such tests.

Moderated by Mike Schirtzer- Social Studies teacher and UFT delegate from Goldstein HS in Brooklyn. He has been in MORE since it's founding, elected to the first steering committee, and organized the struggle to protect our immigrant youth in front of Chancellor Farina. He also led the fight against the last contract ; holding forums, organizing protests, and writing widely circulated articles. Mike helped form the high school committee of MORE which resulted in winning the high school division of the UFT. MORE/New Action now has 7 seats on the UFT Executive Board, with Mike being one of the elected representatives.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

NY Post Red Scare Alert: McCarthy-like Attack on MORE Teacher; MORE Responds

Francesca Gomes with best friend
TIME Magazine (who did not write about Francesca) pointed mainly to bankers and financial experts for the meltdown in their complete list of “25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis”.... MORE responds to NY Post attack on left, In Defense of Francesca Gomes, Bankers Should Be Slammed!
the Post has at least one reporter at all times on the "embarrassing teacher stories" beat. They regularly call OSI to find out about the latest cases that are under investigation - it's part of their long term campaign to demonize public employees. However, since the election, there definitely has been a shift towards attacking left wing teachers politically--- comment on MORE Listserve

"Leftist teacher’s homework assignment slams bankers" blared the headline in an article written by NY Post reporter Melissa
who showed up with two NY Post interns at the home of NYC teacher and founding MORE member, Francesca Gomes, on  Saturday morning to engage in a spurious piece of reporting. Francesca Gomes has been politically active on the left for decades and has never hid it.

When asked to leave one of the witch hunters refused to leave the private property. Now I support the rights of reporters, considering myself one, to get a story. But illegitimate and inconsequential stories like this one? Melissa whines:
When confronted at her Brooklyn home, Gomes slammed the door in a reporter’s face.
Really? Francesca, you didn't invite them in for tea? By the way, there were 3 people who came to her home, not one. Like Francesca had to be "confronted" over her "crime".

The story opens with: Blame the bankers!
Wait -- why not go all the way and say it in red:
Blame the bankers!
Melissa Klein adds the pitchfork:
A left-leaning humanities teacher at a Brooklyn middle school handed out a homework assignment this month in which students had to fill in the following sentence:
Wait Melissa, you forgot to add this:

Here is the so-called offending question Francesca asked:
“Banks are often run by ————— people who look for ways to hurt the most financially vulnerable people in the country.”
Oh let me count the ways banks hurt the most financially vulnerable people. In the Post/Trumpian world, that makes them heroes for screwing the little people. My answer would be SHITHEADS? What is yours?

I mean, were bankers responsible for the 2008 crash? Duhhhhh!

The witch hunt continues:
Gomes has been outspoken on lefty causes and is part of the United Federation of Teacher’s Social Justice Caucus. She is also a member of Socialist Alternative, the group that pushed for the election of a socialist candidate to Seattle’s city council in 2013.
Gomes leans further left than even Mayor de Blasio, and blasted him on social media in April for a comment he made at a Staten Island forum when asked about a “gag order” on teachers disparaging state tests.
Oh Melissa, don't you know that the Socialist Alternative candidate was actually elected to the city council and led the way to the $15 minimum wage that started the trend around the nation?
I mean, people actually voted for and elected a member of Francesca's leftist group. Is that what scares the hell out of the NY Post?

Shades of the red scare witch hunts of the 50s when teachers were fired for their political views. And by the way, UFT founder Al Shanker said it was right to fire those teachers.

I wonder how Melissa Klein would feel if I showed up with my Ed Notes press credentials at her door, alone with a photographer, to ask her  questions about how this story came about? Feel free to slam the door in my face Melissa. Or invite me in for tea.
Gomes leans further left than even Mayor de Blasio, and blasted him on social media in April for a comment he made at a Staten Island forum when asked about a “gag order” on teachers disparaging state tests. The mayor said, “Think of what it would lead to if teachers openly criticized every education policy they disagreed with,” the Staten Island Advance reported.
OMG: Fracnesca is to the left of the hated de Blasio, Can that be possible? And imagine the NY Post slamming Francesca for standing up to her nominal boss who tried to suppress free speech, the same guy the Post slams on every issue they can find. The Post apparently supports the de Blasio gag orders on teachers --

Maybe if Melissa had the same guts as Francesca she would stand up to her idiot bosses at the Post instead of becoming a hit woman for their biased politics.

Here is the link to the NY Post story.

James Eterno has some commentary:


And here is the MORE fabulous defense of Francesca, written by a MORE member who is an experienced social studies high school teacher in NYC who points out that the question Francesca asked is the same one asked by many of our leading politicians and editorial writers and even many reporters.
In Defense of Francesca Gomes, Bankers Should Be Slammed! - Were banks to blame for the Great Recession? Should middle school students be required to identify words like nefarious or reprehensible? 

MORE’s Francesca Gomes seems to think so and, last week, the New York Post noticed.
Francesca assigned students a handout with a word bank (a technique, by the way,  that is just good teaching practice). One portion read “Banks are often run by ————— people who look for ways to hurt the most financially vulnerable people in the country.” It seem like the choices remaining were “nefarious” and “reprehensible”.

We suppose that would lead students to conclude that the banks’’ actions were “nefarious” and “reprehensible”. But we also suppose that the banks’ actions in 2008 were, well nefarious and even reprehensible.

Senator Bernie Sanders seem to think the same thing saying once that “greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street”. Former US attorney Preet Bharara agrees. In 2015, the Post reported Bharara’s position that criminal activity on Wall Street caused 2008 meltdown. (They did so in an article they published entitled “Criminal activity’ on Wall Street caused 2008 meltdown: Preet”).

It’s probably important to note that the Post themselves never once blamed Wall Street for the financial meltdown that cost millions of people their jobs and their homes and kicked millions more out of America’s middle class forever. That alone may explain part of the reason for not feeling comfortable with a teacher assignment that associated the banks with nefarious acts.

But TIME Magazine (who did not write about Francesca) pointed mainly to bankers and financial experts for the meltdown in their complete list of “25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis”. We here love the Post, but we’ll take Time’s economic evaluations over the Post, most days of the week.

Other folks who blamed banks for the meltdown include John McCain and Barack Obama, the latter saying in 2009 that Americans had been “tricked into signing these subprime loans by lenders who were trying to make a quick profit. And the reason these loans were so readily available was that Wall Street saw big profits to be made.”, while the former declaring in 2008 that, “In my administration, we’re going to hold people on Wall Street responsible. And we’re going to enact and enforce reforms to make sure that these outrages never happen in the first place.”

Here’s what the bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) had to say on the matter:

“There was an explosion in risky subprime lending and securitization, an unsustainable rise in housing prices, widespread reports of egregious and predatory lending practices, dramatic increases in household mortgage debt, and exponential growth in financial firms’ trading activities, unregulated derivatives, and short-term “repo” lending markets, among many other red flags.”
So, yeah. We’re pretty sure that blaming the banks isn’t anything controversial.

But let’s face facts for a moment ok? Francesca wasn’t featured for having her students provide answers along a premise that everyone in America (besides the Post) seems to accept. She was featured because her political opinions are to the left of what the NY Post has deemed acceptable. She’s a leftist. A lefty. An alternative social something or other and, well, just left. For that reason, and that reason only, the Post decided to attack her.   

Now we’re proud to know that Francesca accepts all students in her classroom and we’re grateful to learn that she challenges those students with rigorous vocabulary. But we don’t much care about her political points of view outside of the work place and we don’t think you should either.

Why? Well, because as long as the law is being followed, the things a teacher does outside the school door is private. Teachers, especially ethical teachers like Francesca who challenge their students on a daily basis, deserves that privacy when they leave the schoolhouse.

As a good teacher, Francesca knows that it’s only ethical for her to avoid speaking about those viewpoints when she’s at work and in front of her students. We should probably remind you that she has not been accused of acting in an unethical manner in any way. The question on the assignment is clearly based on facts, not politics. 
We think teachers should teach facts. We also think they should enjoy their privacy after work.