Thursday, November 30, 2017

Janesville: An American [Horror] Story

I added the word HORROR to the title because that is how I read the book -- like a sad horror story.

If you want to understand the Trump victory an even better story than the one told by J.D. Vance has been written by Amy Goldstein: a classic story chronicling the story of Paul Ryan's hometown, Janesville, WI and the impact of the closing of the GM plant from the initial announcement in 2008 and the chain reaction to other plants and businesses through 2013. Along with that story is the attack on unions and their deterioration from a vital part of the community to total ineffectiveness. (Mulgrew said at the last Ex Bd meeting he was bringing in a union leader from Wisconsin to speak about that devastation and how they responded.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Why UFT Leaders Won't Hold Abusive Principals Publicly Accountable?

Norm Scott to UFT Ex Bd at open mic: Let’s see everyone who works for the UFT be held as accountable as teachers are.
Howie Schoor responds: we are accountable every three years when UFT members vote in elections.
Norm (responding from seat): Janus will change your accountability equation.
Let me put aside the issue of accountability for people who work for the UFT who tell people under assault they are lucky to have a job for another time. Leroy Barr will be sure to get up at an Ex Bd meeting and defend anyone who works for the UFT even if they attack UFT members who demand they stand up for their rights.

Some people don't get why the UFT leadership won't hold abusive principals publicly accountable - echoing our president, even if they kill someone in 5th Avenue.

You see, in the UFT leadership bubble they won't do anything unless teachers in the school act first -- the classic Catch 22. They don't get why it is hard to stand up when you face daily observations in retaliation. Hmmmm- maybe I can come in and observe district reps and write them up.

I pointed out numerous times that last year's big successes at CPE1 and Townsend Harris was about parents and students acting and then the UFT seeing which way the wind was blowing caught on to the wave.

We've heard our union leaders openly say teachers need to be accountable. And teachers are held up to public scrutiny all the time while only Sue Edelman in the NY Post tries to hold principals accountable. The UFT leadership people are pretty silent about holding principals to the same accountability in a public forum.

The UFT/Unity lame excuse that principals are in another union - the CSA - does not hold water. Like give them free reign to abuse UFT members but we will honor some feudal pledge of union solidarity and protect them by not publicizing their transgressions?

I spoke at the open mic on this issue preceding the Nov. 6 UFT Ex Bd meeting, as reported by Arthur - see below -
and touched on many of these points.

Arthur's report is fairly accurate, considering I said a lot of stuff in the 5-7 minutes I spoke. I raised the CSA excuse as being lame and pointed out that 20 years ago I made a reso at the DA to remove tenure from principals because why help strengthen the very people who are often major obstacles on so many levels - the very reason we need tenure is to protect us from them? I pointed out then how few truly competent principals there when it came to being an educational leader with many being ego-driven and seeing any teachers attempting some autonomy or independent thought as a threat. I got a big laugh when I said - these were the competent ones. Of course Unity voted down my reso overwhelmingly.

Sandy Feldman was in her final months as UFT president (she was also president of the AFT since Shanker died the year before) and as the meeting ended she came up the aisle laughing and shook my hand. "I agreed with everything you said but we can't do anything because the CSA is another union." It was the first time in my 25 years in the union she spoke to me -- and I thought her feelings came through about boss and worker -- though how the boss can be considered an equivalent union member is beyond me.

Now, there was a brief period where there were some principal from hell pieces in the NY Teacher but I bet the CSA lobbied the UFT to end that practice.

But what has changed in 20 years? It's worse than ever since Bloomberg turned the Jack Welch leadership academy dogs loose on UFT members while our leaders have sat on their hands. 

What I urge the UFT to do is read the CSA - which went beyond the call in defending the awful Monika Garg,

Rosemarie Jahoda and Kathleen Elvin -- the riot act.

Here is Arthur's Nov. 7 report of my speech at the EB meeting:

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

ATR Karen Sklaire Benefit Show for Puerto Rico School

I posted Karen Skaire's remarkable statement to the UFT Ex Bd: ATRs to UFT - It is About Dignity, Don't Tell Us We Are Lucky to Have a Job.

I saw Karen Sklaire's one woman show on her experience teaching at the Fringe a few years and hope to make one of these fundraising shows for a school in Puerto Rico devastated by the hurricane next Monday or  Tuesday. I posted Karen's dramatic statement on being an ATR at a recent UFT Ex Bd meeting.

ATRs to UFT - It is About Dignity, Don't Tell Us We Are Lucky to Have a Job

From Our Island To Yours: A Benefit for La Escuela Jaime In P.R. is a benefit we are doing for this school in Ponce, Puerto Rico
Right now this Puerto Rican school is out of power and communication is very difficult. This is why we are doing this benefit to raise money for this school, these kids and this community.

They need:
-Air conditioners so we can get the school up and running
- A generator
- uniforms for the kids
- supplies for the students so they can start school again!
Come out on December 4th and 5th and 100% of your money to go towards rebuilding this school.
Tickets are at:

Come see two award winning performances directed by award winning director Padraic Lillis
Take a break from Holiday chaos and make a difference! #givingTuesday
If by chance you cannot make it- please make a donation to the same site!( but we REALLY would love you to be there!)
Can't wait to see you!
Make a difference for these children and these teachers!!!

School Scope: A New Chancellor, the PEP, NY as Right to Work

I'm going to the PEP tonight with some other MOREs. While Janus is viewed as a major threat to the existence of the union, as great a threat is from the closing of schools, along with abusive principals, rising class sizes, charters squeezing us for space, and all the other issues causing dissatisfaction among UFT members – so much of this without an adequate response from the UFT – because teachers in these schools will not be all so willing to pay dues to a union they feel has abandoned them. ( I would bet that no one from the UFT will be at the PEP to argue their cases.)
--> To be published Dec. 2, 2017 -

School Scope:  A New Chancellor, the PEP, NY as Right to Work
By Norm Scott

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Fariña to leave post? Is Cashin in the Running?
Carmen Fariña, who is apparently increasingly unpopular amongst the glitterati at the NYC Department of Education, is most likely leaving as Chancellor of the NYC schools and rumors are surfacing that our former local Superintendent Kathy Cashin, now a member of the state Board of Regents, may be in the running to replace her. While I believe de Blasio will choose a younger person of color to run the schools because with a school system that is about 80% non white, it would be easier to implement unpopular policies like closing schools. But Cashin, who has friends and foes, is an interesting option. I was a foe at one point because of her authoritarian and rigid educational policies that emphasized testing. And she put in too many awful principals under her watch – though I know and like some of her appointees. After she left the system she seemed to have a turn about in her views on testing, became a Regent and has joined with another former Superintendent Betty Rosa in pushing for more real, instead of the usual phony reforms. For us education wonks, this story is red meat. One demand I have for the next chancellor: no accent in their name so I don’t have to figure out how to type it.

Attending Panel for Educational Policy (PEP - the city-wide board of education) meetings
As I said above, I am an ed policy wonk – I know, I need to get a life – and later I am heading to Long Island City High School campus for the monthly meeting.

I’m going with a group from the MORE/UFT Caucus to raise issues around the potential closing of some schools which is suspect as just being a way to give more space to charter schools, in particular to Eva Moskowitz’ rapacious Success Charter chain. Actually, de Blasio should make Eva Chancellor of the 1800 NYC public schools, though the city would have to double to quarter million dollar a year salary to meet Eva’s current salary of over half a million for running 40 schools. Her goal is to control a hundred schools so there is a lot of space she will need, even though this is the richest charter in the nation and refuses to use any of that money to rent space.

Her goal is to ultimately push the public school(s) out of the building so she can take total control. In the long run an aspect of the charter school chains is about taking over real estate.  As the public school systems contract and head toward extinction, the buildings can be had for a song by the charters. Then come the sale of air rights and condo charter heaven.

This may be one of Fariña’s final appearances. I was at the final appearance of Joel Klein (when, in his relief at not having to be attacked by me, called me up to the stage to give me a goodbye hug) and Dennis Walcott – who shamelessly runs our entire Queens Library system which his old boss Bloomberg gutted in his dozen years as mayor. I started out liking Fariña, mainly because a good friend has had positive experiences with her, but over the years came to find her no better than Klein or Walcott and in some ways worse as she continued to defend some of the worst principals in the system. Her advice on how to get rid of teachers principals don’t like using any means necessary is being followed by all too many. Now if a teacher is awful, that is one thing. But there are all too many political vendettas by principals so the entire process becomes tainted.

Janus court case to turn nation into right to work
An upcoming Supreme Court case will next year, with Neal Gorsuch on the Court, will rule that union members don’t have to pay agency fee union dues, which will decimate public service unions, with the massive UFT expecting to take a major hit with an estimated 20-30% of UFT members not paying dues. The leadership is already cutting back. Those of us attending the bi-monthly Executive Board meetings have seen that in the paucity of macadamia nut cookies.

While the Janus case has galvanized the UFT and my own MORE caucus to action in trying to keep people on board, my concern it what will motivate people to keep paying if they perceive the UFT is not adequately advocating on their behalf?  While Janus is viewed as a major threat to the existence of the union, as great a threat is the closing of schools, along with abusive principals, rising class sizes, charters squeezing us for space, and all the other issues causing dissatisfaction among UFT members – so much of this without an adequate response from the UFT – because teachers in these schools will not be all so willing to pay dues to a union they feel has abandoned them. As a critic of the UFT leadership I still believe that a union is better for society than not having unions at all. I’m reading a book called “Janesville” by Amy Goldstein about the destruction of unions in Wisconsin and how that destruction caused so much dislocation as people slipped out of the middle class when the GM plant closed and the Auto Workers union was decimated. This is a must read horror story that tells us so much of why we are where we are today politically.

Norm pays his dues daily at

Monday, November 27, 2017

The failure of New Orleans Charter Take-over Exposed

Diane Ravitch posted this on Thanksgiving eve:
What a time to get this news: Thanksgiving Eve.

The New Orleans Tribune rips the myth of the New Orleans miracle.
Digest it over the weekend.
We have been hoaxed by Reformers. 

BREAKING NEWS: The Myth of the New Orleans “Miracle” Exposed!

Also a must read is: 
Louisiana Moves From 4th Worst To 3rd Worst On AP Performance where Gary exposes more of the John White (LA ed comm) ed deform ghoul's game.

A comment on the MORE listserve:

The failure of New Orleans Charter Take-over.......
In other words, nearly one-third of the schools are performing at a level that would have gotten them taken over by the state of Louisiana in the wake of Katrina. And we can’t even trust this data. Indeed, we fear the truth is far worse.

Let’s not forget that these power brokers and elite citizens that engineered the takeover of our schools cared nothing about firing more than 7,000 veteran teachers and school board employees—delivering a crushing blow to the city’s Black middle class—so long as their agenda moved forward,
 Here is the story:

Faking the Grade


The latest School Performance Scores for the state of Louisiana are in. And that makes now a pretty good time to finally come to terms with the fallacy of the miracle in New Orleans.
For the first time in more than a decade all public schools in Orleans Parish were lumped together in the state performance rankings—no separation of Recovery School District campuses from Orleans Parish School Board campuses. We suppose that makes sense with the impending “return” of schools to “local control”. Though, we suspect that the actual reason for the grouping is far more disturbing.  With the state department of education finally getting ready to return schools it snatched from local control back in 2005, grouping all these schools together in this year’s performance rankings is an early tip-off to the fact the state education department, the RSD and the “reform” advocates are ready to wash their hands. Don’t you find it interestingly ironic that Leslie Jacobs is announcing her retirement from the non-profit she founded to push her reform agenda just as schools are set to “go back” to local control? We do.
“Reform” Advocates Ready to Wash Their Hands
We can almost hear them saying, “Sure, we have had your schools under our control for 12 years. And, yep, we joyfully and willingly turned them over to outside, for-profit organizations to operate so we didn’t have to bother. Uhhh, yeah, our oversight of those charter operators was marginal at best. Of course, those operators made beaucoup money off the backs of some of the most underserved and disenfranchised public school children in Louisiana. Why do you think we snatched the schools to begin with? Sorry, no, we really didn’t improve educational outcomes for the community. But real soon, we will be giving them back with the caveat that they all remain under the control of charter management operators; and they will be your problem.”
Not yet convinced that the “reformers” are set to dump the schools they stole and failed to improve back in our laps without remorse? Well then, consider Jacobs’ Sept. 8 announcement that she will be stepping down from her role with EducateNow! and the role of the organization as “central repository for information” related to education reform is no longer needed as schools began to return to local control. We are not shocked by her announcement.
Still not convinced that the RSD has done nothing to improve education in Orleans Parish? Well, with the grouping of schools that have been under the auspices of the Orleans Parish School Board with those that were taken over and controlled by the RSD, the OPSB’s school performance grade dropped from a B to a C and its score dropped more than 14 points from 85 in 2016 to 70.8 this year.
We have known for quite some time now that the miracle was really a myth and that this reform and its purveyors, along with the state, the RSD and the charter operations to which they have given our public school students, our facilities and our money were failing our children and our communities. So, we can’t help but be infuriated by all of the recent “revelations” about what has actually been happening in public education, especially since they are not revelations at all. It’s time for folk to stop acting brand new.
To be sure, some of the same media outlets finally reporting the near truth about the failure of these schools as if it is some eye-opener have been some of the same outlets responsible for driving the false narrative of the reform’s success by either suppressing the truth or pushing falsehoods. So when a recent news report in The Times-Picayune/ titled “Charter schools aren’t measuring up to their promises” tells now in October 2017—some 12 years since the state takeover of schools—that many of the charter operators realized that they set “ambitious” goals and made promises that they simply could not realistically achieve, we go full-throttle with the side-eye glance.
Some charter operators even went so far as to suggest that they needed to set the unrealistic goals to get approval to operate schools, according to the report by reporter Kate Reckdahl.
There is no defending this action no matter how those who have pushed this reform try. And based on her comments in the T-P article, the same Leslie Jacobs indeed tried to spin this story. Thing is, we don’t want to hear about how these goals were set in “good faith” or how poorly schools were performing before Katrina. In fact, if we aren’t tired of the city’s elite pulling strings and crafting false narratives for their personal gain while leading us to slaughter like sheep, we sure ought to be!
It’s been 12 years since our schools were hijacked. And 12 years later, many of them are performing just as poorly as they were before they were stolen. To learn that charter operators set up goals they knew were unattainable just to get their charters approved and their hands on public money and facilities is indefensible Unless and until these pilfering reformers are ready to admit what they did and that it was wrong and then actually return public schools to real local control without charter organizations and unelected boards that come with them under the current model of return anything else they have to say sounds pretty much like sounding brass and tinkling cymbals—a whole bunch of noise.
It’s Been Fake from the Start
We use words and phrases like “return” and “local control” as loosely as possible because we stand by our judgment that the return of local schools as outlined by the current law enacted via senate bill SB 432 is nothing more than a counterfeit effort to deceive New Orleanians while charter operators and the corporate elite remain in control of our schools, our tax dollars and more importantly, the education of our children—our greatest assets, without a doubt.
As we looked over the 2017 school performance data, one thing was clear—Orleans Parish will be getting back schools that aren’t much better than the ones taken over 12 years ago in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In other words, the reform was a ruse. And this subterfuge has cost us dearly.
But we knew that already. Didn’t you? We said that. We wrote about it.
Numbers don’t lie. And year after the year, the numbers were telling the story. We’re just journalists over here—not a statistician among us. But all we had to do was look at the annual SPS reports to know that this “reform” was failing. Year after year, the school performance report cards filled with Cs, Ds, Fs and SPS scores so low that would not have held up in the fall of 2005.

All we had to do was examine the havoc it was wreaking in the lives of local parents and students:
Schools opening.
Schools closing.
Schools changing from one charter manager to another.
A tortuous admissions in which parents crossed their fingers and hoped—no prayed—that some computer algorithm’s random selection would work in their favor. It was also a process that some schools were allowed to exclude themselves from altogether.
This brings us to the bogus notion of school “choice” that reformers have held up as a blessing for parents and students, when, in fact, the only entities that exercise any real choice in admissions have been the charter schools—not parents, not students.
Unelected boards not bound to parents or taxpayers determining school policies and deciding how money is spent.
Many parents even uncertain as to who they could or should call if they had problems, questions or complaints—the OPSB member they elected or the board actually governing the school.
Kids waiting in the early dawn to catch a school bus from one part of the city to another and getting home at dusk because neighborhood schools have become non-existent. And even if there was one just a block away from home, the question became was it a quality school? And even if it was, could your child get a seat there?
All we had to do was look. This year is no different. Out of the 73 Orleans public schools (OPSB and former RSD schools combined), only 15 (about 20 percent) earned an “A” or a “B”. We will get back to them later.
Twenty-seven schools earned “Cs”, which signify acceptable or satisfactory performance, but not exceptional. One school has been given a letter grade “T”, meaning that it is in charter management transition and not subject to ranking this year.
Now, let’s talk about the Ds and the Fs. There are 30 of them. More than 41 percent of all Orleans Parish and RSD schools are failing or have failed.
Almost one-third of the schools—22 to be exact—have school performance scores 60 or lower. In other words, nearly one-third of the schools are performing at a level that would have gotten them taken over by the state of Louisiana in the wake of Katrina. And we can’t even trust this data. Indeed, we fear the truth is far worse.
A Numbers Game
The state education department, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Louisiana legislature have messed with the numbers since Katrina—lowering the minimum SPS to facilitate the takeover, raising it again to hide its failure. It is hard to tell up from down, especially with a LDE and other leaders that have done everything in their power to “muddy up the narrative” and “take some air out of the room” (LDE Superintendent John White’s words from 2012 taken from e-mails in which he was discussing damage control in response to revelations about sketchy private schools receiving state money through school vouchers). The LDE has even taken to withholding comprehensive data from those attempting independent analysis and research into the academic progress and education reform.
Under the state’s Freedom of Information law, citizens have requested data such as voucher programs’ exact enrollments and costs, and demographics of voucher students; test-score distributions and technical reports; details of School and District Performance Score calculations to verify accuracy and credibility; charter schools’ enrollments, charters and leases; and exact enrollment numbers. Those requests have been repeatedly thwarted by John White. So do we really know how these scores and letter grades are being determined? Do they line up with the same standards the state used to engineer the wholesale takeover of our schools? Or does the game remain rigged?
Meanwhile, a state audit released in early October 2017 panned how Louisiana’s education department monitors charter schools and urged the LDE to improve how it measures school performance of the charter schools attended by more than 53,000 public school students—most of them here in New Orleans, but also across the state.
Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s report outlines serious and non-critical violations in how the LDE determines school performance ratings. Among the report’s finding was the state department of education’s failure to ensure charter schools enrolled the required number of students who qualify for free and reduced lunches, students who have disabilities or students who are parents.
In other areas, auditors said the department didn’t specify how to address violations in charter schools and should better inform parents of how to make complaints.
Another report by the legislative auditor on the use of academic performance in the charter school renewal process was released Oct. 18 and found among other things that the state department of education was renewing charter schools that may not have demonstrated improvement in the academic performance of its students.
The legislative auditor has also been a longtime critic of  the RSD’s failure to maintain and account for state property and equipment housed on charter school campuses.
But have we ever really been able to trust the state to determine which schools are failing and which ones are meeting the academic needs of its students. Has it not always been some arbitrary determination that fits the end goal of those wielding power and influence—no matter the impact on our communities?
They Never Cared
Let’s not forget that these power brokers and elite citizens that engineered the takeover of our schools cared nothing about firing more than 7,000 veteran teachers and school board employees—delivering a crushing blow to the city’s Black middle class—so long as their agenda moved forward,
And back in early 2005, before Katrina, when only a handful of schools were deemed failing, the legislature—no doubt at the behest of so-called reform advocates—lowered the minimum SPS to 60 to make way for the wholesale takeover of our schools right after the storm while New Orleanians was strewn across the country in shelters and hotels. That was a dirty move, and we won’t forget it.
They created a narrative to fit their scheme, telling all who would listen that public schools in Orleans Parish were deplorable and that this “reform” would be a magic bullet. They knew that was a lie then. Lying is easy for the diabolical.
Question. When the state hijacks local public education and fails to improve it after more than a decade, who is there to snatch public schools out of the incapable hands of the state?
Well if Orleans Parish is the example, the answer is easy—corporate giants and for-profit charter management organizations. In fact, they don’t even have to snatch them. Our schools have already been placed in their control; and under the current model of return, these charter operations will remain in control under what we suspect will be the loose oversight of the OPSB, whose superintendent does not strike us as being interested in acting as much more than an agent of this bogus reform movement.
For the last decade, the reform advocates—buoyed by the mainstream media—have pushed the message of widespread improvement in local public education as a result of the takeover. And for the last 10 years, we and other courageous leaders, like retired educator and administrator Dr. Raynard Sanders; community leader Brenda Square; parent advocate Karen Harper Royal; researcher Dr. Charles Hatfield; and retired educator, administrator Dr. Barbara Ferguson,  who have seen through the mud, have called foul.
Of course, Orleans Parish is home to some high-performing public schools. Fifteen of them have earned at least a B in latest round of performance Before you get all excited or try to convince us that the nine “A” and six “B” schools are shining examples of success as a result of the takeover and the so-called reform…don’t bother.
We know the truth. Schools like Benjamin Franklin, Lusher, Warren Easton and a few others have always been top performers. They were the schools OPSB were left with after the reformers pillaged and plundered. Decades before Katrina, long before the RSD and even before high-stakes testing became the order of the day, these schools benefited from selective admission processes and extraordinary resources that were not available at many other public schools in the city. As the reform movement took hold and charter operators were allowed to come in and create arbitrary rules and special agreements, admission to those schools and others like them only became more selective—like setting aside seats at the exclusive Lusher for children of Tulane University faculty and staff.
All of this simply made it easier to get the best and brightest students while excluding others. So that Lusher and Ben Franklin are two of the top 10 schools in the state does little to impress us. When these campuses get to cherry-pick who they want to educate and weed out others, it becomes a lot easier to get results.
Mostly, we refuse to get excited about a few schools doing well because these schools can only serve a fraction of the public school students in New Orleans. Orleans Parish has always had a handful of great schools. This takeover, this so-called reform was supposed to improve all of our schools. It did not. Nearly 79 percent of public schools in Orleans Parish are either failing, have failed or are only providing mediocre results. And that’s not good enough.
The so-called education reform movement that has held our city captive for 12 long years has been faking the grade this entire time. And we are angry and saddened that few of our so-called leaders have had enough conviction of character to dare to stop it. Many have been complicit even as they return to us every two or four years asking for our votes.
Just like the RSD’s time in Orleans Parish will soon come to an end, so should their time as influencers and elected officials.
There are those who suggest the local education battle is a lost cause and that the widespread operation of our schools by charter managers is here to stay. From time to time, we become a bit dismayed and almost accept that position ourselves. But we have fought too long for what is right, and we won’t stop demanding the complete and absolute return of local schools to real local control, even if we stand alone.
Our mantra of late—taken from the words of Dr. Louis Charles Roudanez, founder of the historic New Orleans Tribune—is that it is time for us to be leaders ourselves. It is way past time that those who portend themselves as leaders of our community take a stand on the issue of public education in New Orleans. Far too much time has already been wasted.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Another de Blasio Giveaway to Success Charters - Playing the Consolidation Card

There is a proposed consolidation of P.S. 269 and P.S. 361, buildings K864 and K869 (where P.S. 361 is currently located). If approved by PEP, PS 361 would become vacant. The NYCDOE is proposing to use the vacant space for the opening of a new Success Academy middle school that will serve rising middle school students from Success Academy- Bergen Beach and Success Academy Bensonhurst, both of which would serve fifth grade students for the first time in 2018-2019. ... A concerned parent
We recently pointed to the giveaways in District 21 with commentary from Leonie Haison.

De Basio Caves in Blackmail Scheme: Eva/Success S...

Leonie does more spadework on the consolidation plan:

If the two schools are zoned and have separate zones, then the merger should need CEC 22 approval. 

According to the most recent Blue Book (2015-2016), PS 361 is made up of two buildings, with a total enrollment of 538 and combined utilization of about 100% -- and lacking 3 of its allotted cluster rooms.  The minischool has lots of preK and Kindergarten classrooms.

22    K864    P.S. 361  (OLD 89) - K    363    411    88
22    K869    P.S. 361 MINISCHOOL - K    175    128    137
Here are the annual space surveys:

The main building has a swimming pool according to this, which I'm sure Eva would love.

The BB says PS 269 is at only 55% capacity with 390 students and with a capacity of 736; it is also lacking 3 of its allotted cluster rooms.

If these two schools were consolidated and their enrollment figures from that year are still the same,  that would put the combined enrollment at 928 and would put the school at about 127%.

PS 269 would likely lose a lot of classroom space, including science, ESL rooms etc.

And we know the capacity formula is aligned with larger class sizes than they should be.

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Network For Public Education Study Exposes Charter School Scams It concludes charter schools are a “failed experiment”

Alan Singer does a great summary of the NPE report at Huffington.

Network For Public Education Study Exposes Charter School Scams

It concludes charter schools are a “failed experiment.” 

Alan Singer

Network for Public Education
Six months into its first year of operation, Innovative Arts Academy Charter School in Catasauqua, Pennsylvania was forced to restructure its leadership when student enrollment dropped. It replaced another charter school in the same building. The previous tenant, Medical Academy Charter School closed because of financial problems and low enrollment. 
The just-released Network for Public Education (NPE) report, “Charters and Consequences,” documents charter school scams supported by wealthy “philanthropists,” powerful political interests and an assortment of entrepreneurs looking to make money off of education. Eleven studies look at the charter school assault on public education, from Oakland, California to Brooklyn, New York with stops in Arizona, Texas, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. Operating “behind a wall of secrecy,” the dark side of the charter movement includes “mismanagement, failure, nepotism or outright theft and fraud” and “abuse of taxpayer funds.” The full report is available online. Unless otherwise noted, information in this blog comes from the report.

Memo From the RTC: Why Do They Do It?

Published Nov. 24, 2017

Memo From the RTC: Why Do They Do It?
By Norm Scott

One of the most moving parts of Café ’17 was Anthony Melendez opening Act II singing “Just the Way You Are” as photos of the children of the RTC family flashed on the screen. What we don’t see is the hardships faced by so many new parents because this is the only advanced nation that doesn’t offer paid parental leave. (Pug: see my School Scope column for more on this issue.)

The closing of a show at the Rockaway Theatre Company is like the breakup of a family. Everyone has been working for months on the show and suddenly it’s over. The cast party is the final chance to be together and many just don’t want it to end.

I’ve often said that it is too bad the public fans of the performances of the RTC  don’t get to see the performers at the cast parties after large cast musicals close. I sat in the back of the theater about an hour and a half into the cast party following last Sunday’s 10th and final performance of Rockaway Café ’17. It was about 6:30 PM. Most of the cast was still there and on stage – doing songs and dances from the show they had just spent 3 weekends performing and two additional months preparing. Then, noticing that most of the cast of the widely successful Chorus Line from last March were on the stage, they began to perform songs and dances from that show. When I left at almost 8PM guitarist and singer Nick Compagnone was surrounded by those still there who were doing a sing along.

Friday, November 24, 2017

School Scope: Are Our Local Politicians Part of Our Transportation Problems?

The WAVE - Published Nov. 24, 2017

School Scope:  Are Our Local Politicians Part of  Our Transportation Problems?
By Norm Scott

November 20, 2017

I hope you all read the massive NY Sunday Times expose of the MTA transit mess (The Making of a Meltdown: How Politics and Years of Bad Decisions Plunged the City’s Subways into Misery) going back to the Mayor Giuliani and Governor Pataki thefts of transit funds for their own uses. They are both Republicans by the way. But the Times doesn’t let  Democrats off the hook, lambasting Governor Cuomo for his misappropriation of funding at the MTA and also Mayor de Blasio. Mayor Bloomberg – a Republicrat – is also not let off the hook. So while most of our local politicians chase unicorns with their advocacy of the mythical Rockaway Rail, or cry about Select bus service on Woodhaven Blvd, they neglect to push for controls over the manipulation of transit funds which could be used to get us around the city in a reasonable amount of time. No, the ferry, unless you are going to lower Manhattan or Sunset Park saves no time, even if a pleasant ride. I wonder how it’s doing now that summer is over other than during rush hours? Why aren’t the people we elect going after the bad decisions and politics instead of chasing fantasies?

Yesterday I had to go to Wall St and I took the fastest route I’ve found: Drive to the Newkirk Ave. station, take the B to Atlantic Ave and change for the 4 or 5. Total number of stops for both trains: 8. Door to door in about an hour and that included finding a parking spot near Newkirk, not always easy. Our local politicians must push for improvement in subway service on the A train which always seems to be having problems.

Time for Paid Parental Leave
As I pointed out in my RTC column, many couples connected to the RTC have had children recently and often had to suffer from putting their new babies with strangers because we are one of the only advanced nations without paid parental leave. Seventy five per cent of teachers are women. Think of mothers with babies being forced by economic reasons to return to the classroom while their minds are on their babies being cared for by others. Do we think the kids in front of them can possibly have their full attention, no matter how dedicated they are as teachers? As parents and teachers the children on both ends of the stick suffer. And that is why most advanced nations do have parental leave, some for up to a year. Even many American companies understand that to keep their employees engaged they must offer parental leave. But our self styled “progressive” mayor doesn’t believe in one of the key signs of a progressive government.

A year ago one of the members of the UFT caucus, Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) had a baby and started a petition among UFT members. It garnered 3000 signatures and MORE decided to take up the issue. Late last spring, Emily James, a Brooklyn high school teacher, after having a 2nd child and facing financial difficulties put up her own petition which so far has garnered over 80,000 signatures from around the city. (Read her Daily News op ed on my blog: One of the 7 MORE high school UFT Executive Board members contacted Emily and asked her to come to a UFT Ex bd meeting to present her case directly to President Michael Mulgrew and he responded in a very positive way, taking on the campaign, which apparently is annoying the newly elected mayor according to Mulgrew, who supported de Blasio. My group MORE is also taking part in the campaign and I will report on my blog and in The Wave on how things are going.

Next time I may put my foot into the minefield of  sexual harassment charged and the #metoo campaigns. Or not.

Norm steps in it daily at

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

De Basio Caves in Blackmail Scheme: Eva/Success Steals More Space from Crowded Public Schools as Class Size Soars

Bulletin: Eva Moskowitz to be next chancellor, replacing Farina.

Just joking -- why would Eva take such a big pay cut? But she might as well be chancellor since she can dictate whatever terms she wants. And with her aim of 100 schools she will be in basic control of the public school system.

If you think Janus is the biggest threat to the UFT you are wrong. It is the expansion of Eva's union busting growing charter movement. I would bet that Eva and crew will one day establish their own company union as a way to control their growing teacher corps. You know the drill -- once they get their foot in the door of a building the ultimate aim is to do what they can to undermine the coloco public school and gain control of the entire building.

Politico reports (see below) that Eva and cohort threats to run an ad campaign against de Blasio over denial of space in public schools in District 21 - one of the whiter districts in Brooklyn - led to his caving in at the speed of light. Leonie highlights the overcrowding in Dist. 21 (Bensonhurst area and south Brooklyn).
D21 schools average 99% utilization; with 22 schools at 100% or more, 2 of them middle schools.

From Arthur:
I'm sitting in my packed-to-the-gills high school right now, with 4700 students attending school in a building designed for about half that. We have rooms that are converted closets, rooms in which there are portable AC units that are so loud you can barely teach when they're on. A whole lot of teachers turn them off rather than utilize them. Meanwhile, Eva Moskowitz, funded by hedge fund zillionaires running an expensive ad campaign for her, is crying that the city is discriminating against her students.  
------ Arthur Goldstein at NYC Educator
Maybe Arthur can threaten to run a major media campaign accusing de Blasio of not providing enough space in his school. How about the sounds of silence from our UFT/Unity leadership?

I hope you read Arthur's piece the other day - The Audacity of Eva
where he pointed to the vast overcrowding leading to higher class sizes at his school. Arthur follows up on the class size issue with his UFT Ex Bd report: Nov. 20th Executive Board Takeaway--Happy Talk from Unity and Recycled Class Size Issues

Yes happy talk from Unity Caucus which has not been concerned about class size for, oh, 50 years. By the way -- if you check any literature coming out of the so-called opposition in the UFT you won't find class size mentioned on any list of priorities either. [One of the reasons we formed ICE Caucus in 2004 was over the lack of attention to class size by the then opposition.]

Leonie Haimson reports on the class size matters and nyc public school parents blog:

Nov 21:NYC Class sizes increase again this year; Parents, advocates and attorneys urge NYSED Commissioner rule on complaint and make DOE take action now

Leonie also provides commentary on Eva's theft of more space:
Politico (more below) says that DOE has agreed to provide space in D21 and D22 school buildings for two new Success middle schools as well as more middle school seats in district schools as yet unspecified.  Which particular buildings aren’t yet reported either.  This is the result of the Mayor giving into the threat of a 7-figure ad campaign paid for by Eva’s hedge fund backers.

City officials noted the de Blasio administration has identified 5,000 seats for Success Academy students over the last four years. The network will gain an additional 1,000 seats through the space deals brokered Monday.

D21 schools average 99% utilization; with 22 schools at 100% or more, 2 of them middle schools.  Only 37% of seats needed to alleviate overcrowding and accommodate enrollment growth, according to DOE, are currently funded in the capital plan.  See data here: District 21 

Meanwhile, the DOE capacity formula assumes class sizes of 28 in grades 4-8, rather than the 23 in the C4E plan.

D22 schools are at 108% on average  with only 35% of needed seats funded in capital plan – and with NO seats as of last year sited or in scope or design.  26 of their schools are at 100% or more; one a MS at 122%.  See District 22 data. 
If only the more than 500,000 NYC public school students in overcrowded school buildings had hedge funders to pay for a seven figure ad campaign.
Thanks Leonie

SCOOP: CITY FINDS SPACE FOR SUCCESS CHARTERS, AVOIDING SHOWDOWN  POLITICO's Eliza Shapiro: Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration has found public school space for several growing Success Academy charter schools, Department of Education officials told POLITICO on Monday. The space arrangements allow the city to avoid another potentially bruising battle over school space with New York's largest and most politically influential network, run by one of de Blasio's most reliable foes, Eva Moskowitz. The city has identified buildings that will allow two Success schools, Bergen Beach [D22] and Bensonhurst [D21], to grow into middle school grades.
Moskowitz warned that over 700 of her students would be forced to seek other schools if the DOE didn't find suitable space by the end of the year. The DOE has also identified options for other new and growing Success schools. The network has over 15,000 students in 46 schools across four boroughs. City officials noted the de Blasio administration has identified 5,000 seats for Success Academy students over the last four years. The network will gain an additional 1,000 seats through the space deals brokered Monday.
Moskowitz and the lobbying group that supports Success, Families for Excellent Schools, have launched the latest in a series of hashtag-ready campaigns in recent weeks to pressure the city on space. The so-called #SpaceToLearn campaign has included press conferences, media calls — the latest of which was scheduled for Monday afternoon and canceled — and a New York Daily News trial balloon in which Success officials indicated they would move ahead with a six-figure ad buy to pressure the mayor. Spokespeople for Success did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.
The deal allows the city to avoid another major dust-up with Success after a similar fight in 2014.
But this year's fight lacked the political urgency of the 2014 battle, which became a referendum on not only de Blasio's stance on education reform but his political instincts during the first months of his administration. That's partially because city officials have said for months that the DOE was planning on identifying space for the growing network, a sharp contrast to 2014, when it was initially unclear whether the city planned to simply shutter several Success schools. Read more here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Martin Messner Resigns as NYSUT Treasurer - But Don't Weep for Him - Janus Here we come

Messner [who was not given a leave to continue working for NYSUT].... has gone back to the teaching job. He is deducting the teaching salary from his NYSUT salary and working nights and weekends for NYSUT. So his district pays him 60K and we get him for the bargain basement one-time-only price of 180K. (That's a lot better than some of the gigs UFT doles out. I've met people who'd pretty much sell their souls for 30 bucks an hour.) My sources tell me that Messner will continue with this work until August, 2018. Let me be the first to say, as someone with no voice or vote in NYSUT, that it's a great honor to pay not only his salary, but also those of his colleagues (none of whom the majority of rank and file New York City high school teachers had any say about). Here's the thing, though--my source tells me that by waiting until August 2018, Messner will be vested in the NYSUT pension system.  So if Messner worked for four years, he's made almost a million dollars. Pension on that could be payable years from now, but must be worth pursuing. I imagine NYSUT officers provide well for themselves.
Teacher Union leaders relax in their hot tub
Arthur broke the original story on October 1 about NYSUT Treasurer Martin Messner's double dipping: Nice Work If You Can Get It.

Today Mike Antonucci reports that Messner has resigned as Treasurer but will continue to work for NYSUT in some capacity while still doing his teaching job. Mike reports Messner's severence package is not too shabby:
His severance package, however, is generous: 3.5 months of salary, a two-year pension credit, and $25,000 for a 529 benefit plan or a tax-deferred annuity. He will also be paid $5,000 a month as a consultant by the AFT and NYSUT from March through August in 2018.  
The 2 year pension credit is tied to the fact that Messner will be vested in the NYSUT pension system in August 2018. That is in addition to his teacher pension when he retires from there.

Part of our UFT dues goes to NYSUT -- with shenanigans like these the argument to stay in the union without massive changes in the way they operate will be a tough sell. I guess Messner is trying to get nailed onto the gravy train while he can.

Now don't get me wrong. Antonucci is part of the anti-union animus and these reports help accomplish the ends of these people -- the demise of teacher unions -- though that might put Mike out of business when he has no dirt to report. But our union leaders are so tone deaf they are the boiling frog.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Bill Clinton, Hillary revisionism not conveniently timed for Democrats

...if the Clintons had agreed to go off into a normal post-presidency instead of holding Democrats hostage in an emotionally abusive relationship for 16 more years, or if Democratic voters had insisted that they do so - that would have been decidedly more convenient for the party. There would probably be a Democratic president right now - maybe even a female one.

The Clintons held the Democratic Party hostage for 2 decades — and the sudden revisionism is inconveniently late.... The Clinton model of doing good should be an uncomfortable one for the left - one in which extremely wealthy people and countries with questionable human-rights records come together and freely give their money away to further their agendas and burnish their reputations, convincing one another all the while that concentrations of wealth can be a good thing so long as the wealthy are civic-minded. .....  Business Insider

I am posting articles critical of the Clintons and their hold on the Democratic Party because of our own union's -- the AFT/UFT/NYSUT complicity in these policies. As pointed out yesterday (How Education Reform Ate the Democratic Party - Clintons Led the Way in Attack on Teacher Unions), the union was a partner with the Clintons and Obama in ed deform - until it got  to be so heavy they began to push back. But it is not just on education, it is also about allowing big money to control the Party and lead to its policies. Thus you will never see the UFT/AFT etc go after big money and corporate interests other than to support taxes on the rich --- which is meaningless without educating people -- like using the commercials on TV, etc -- about exactly they are affected.

This article came in from Michael Fiorillo and talks about the not only the covered up Bill Clinton sex scandals but the big money interests. One mistake in this is calling Monica Lewinsky an intern which she wasn't -- she was an employee of the White House - but still -- Clinton was just dumb. But not too dumb when it came to money.

Some excerpts from the Josh Baro article.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

How Education Reform Ate the Democratic Party - Clintons Led the Way in Attack on Teacher Unions

This article is so good I want to print it out and eat it. Thanks to Patrick Walsh for sending this along.

Jennifer Berkshire in an in depth exposure of the Clintons' role and neo-lib Dems in leading ed deform attack on teachers and their unions, which was also chronicled as a positive by the Richard Kahlenberg book on Al Shanker (Tough Liberal), who was a Clinton partner --- instead of opposing he had the AFT/UFT work with them. [See Vera and my review in New Politics of the book where we refer to Shanker as a Ruthless Neocon].
To begin to chronicle the origin of the Democrats’ war on their own—the public school teachers and their unions that provide the troops and the dough in each new campaign cycle to elect the Democrats—is to enter murky territory. The Clintons were early adopters; tough talk against Arkansas’ teachers, then among the poorest paid in the country, was a centerpiece of Bill’s second stint as Governor of Arkansas.
.... as America ponders the mounting economic disequlibriums that gave rise to the Trump insurgency, concerned plutocrats can all agree on one key article of faith: what is holding back the poor and minority children who figure so prominently in the glossy brochures of charter school advocates is not the legacy of racist housing policy or mass incarceration or a tax system that hoovers up an ever growing share of income into the pockets of the wealthy, but schoolteachers and their unions.... Jennifer Berkshire,
This is a must read article -- for a decade we have been talking about the Clinton role in opening up the war on teachers back in Arkansas - as I said but can't say often enough, Al Shanker, head of the AFT and UFT joined them as a partner and led the way for teacher unions to walk into the world of ed deform for 30 years instead of opposing it and Randi followed along in spades -- the classic frog being boiled. Unfortunately Jennifer doesn't go the role the union played in this article. [Note to Randi haters who call her a sellout and who wish for the days of Shanker -- she was chosen by Shanker and Feldman for that very reason.]

The disappearing black teacher linked to ed deform [one third of NYC public schools have no black or Latino teachers today.]
Civil rights groups fiercely opposed the most controversial feature of the Clintons’ reform agenda—competency tests for teachers—on the grounds that Black teachers, many of whom had attended financially starved Black colleges, would disproportionately bear their brunt.
We saw the classic of ed deform was a disappearing of black teachers, many from the communities and their replacement by temp TFA white inexperienced people. In NYC alone thousands of teachers of color were fired 20 years ago over licensing issues related to the test teachers had to take. I knew some excellent teachers in my school who fell into this category.

We know ed notes readers so pissed at the Dem party role in ed deform they wouldn't vote for Hillary even though it will be proven that was also suicidal. Reason? The Dem Party centrists are being forced to back off ed deform -- witness Cuomo - even though if given a choice of him or Trump I would have a very hard time.

Here is another quote about a leading Dem:
Osborne told an interviewer that teachers unions belong in the same category with segregationist Alabama governor George Wallace. “They’re actually doing what George Wallace did, standing in the schoolhouse door, denying opportunity to poor minority kids.” To document their perfidy, Osborne cited the opposition of teachers unions in Massachusetts last year to Question Two—a ballot initiative proposing dramatic charter school expansion. Voters rejected the measure by nearly two to one—the same ratio, as it happens, by which wealthy pro-charter donors dwarfed the union spending that so upset Osborne.

Jennifer ties other leading Dems into the neoliberal deform movement

By the early 1980s, there was already a word for turning public institutions upside down: neoliberalism. Before it degenerated into a flabby insult, neoliberal referred to a self-identified brand of Democrat, ready to break with the tired of dogmas of the past. “The solutions of the thirties will not solve the problems of the eighties,” wrote Randall Rothenberg in his breathless 1984 paean to this new breed, whom he called simply The Neoliberals. His list of luminaries included the likes of Paul Tsongas, Bill Bradley, Gary Hart and Al Gore (for the record, Gore eschewed the neoliberal label in favor of something he liked to call “neopopulism”). In Rothenberg’s telling, the ascendancy of the neoliberals represented an economic repositioning of the Democratic Party that had begun during the economic crises of the 1970s. The era of big, affirmative government demanding action—desegregate those schools, clean up those polluted rivers, enforce those civil rights and labor laws—was over. It was time for fresh neo-ideas.

The link to the union capitulation is that Shanker endorsed the Nation at Risk in 1983 and unions stopped calling for lower class sizes and other real reforms -- that education can be reformed by getting more competent teachers and getting rid of so-called bad teachers -- and also -- using test scores to judge kids and teachers.

One more quote from Jennifer for those who don't get to the entire piece below -- something all of you should send out to everyone you work with and beyond.

Today’s Democratic school reformers—a team heavy on billionaires, pols on the move, and paid advocates for whatever stripe of fix is being sold—depict their distaste for regulation, their zeal for free market solutions as au courant thinking. They rarely acknowledge their neoliberal antecedents. The self-described radical pragmatists at the Progressive Policy Institute, for instance, got their start as Bill Clinton’s policy shop, branded as the intellectual home for New Democrats. Before its current push for charter schools, PPI flogged welfare reform. In fact, David Osborne, the man so fond of likening teacher unions to arch segregationists in the south, served as Al Gore’s point person for “reinventing government.” Today the model for Osborne’s vision for reinventing public education is post-Katrina New Orleans—where 7,500 mostly Black school employees were fired en route to creating the nation’s first nearly all-charter-school-system, wiping out a pillar of the city’s Black middle class in the process.

How Education Reform Ate the Democratic Party

The problem is that the Democrats have little to offer that’s markedly different from what DeVos is selling.

Read it all and tell me how it tastes:

Saturday, November 18, 2017

School Scope: Working With Your Hands Experiences Ignored in Schools, RTC Offers Set Building Class

Great minds must think alike - Arthur has a blog on renewal schools that touches on our schools no longer offering real training in trades - other than coding. I guess all those self-driving autos won't need repair. And there will be a roto robot to come over to clean out your drains.

My other WAVE column this week in addition to the theater stuff, School Scope, addresses vocational education, now called CTE. I go into the history of how many high schools offered so many options for students not interested in the academics. (Not to say they don't get any at all - they still had to take academic classes.) One of the few schools left intact was Aviation HS, where I hung out in my robotics years -- a real trade school leading to jobs in the airline industry. A model, in fact.

I'm excited about working with Tony Homsey when he teaches the course in basic set building. There are a lot of skills I've learned over the past 5 years of working with Tony, who seems to have an answer for everything. Just yesterday I had a problem shaving off a piece of metal I need to hold in my storm panel. In the old days I would have struggled to figure that out. I learned from Tony the value of having a grinder tool -- and the importance of wearing safety glasses. I did the job in less than a minute.

School Scope: Working With Your Hands Experiences Ignored in Schools, RTC Offers Set Building Class
By Norm Scott

Nov. 15, 2017
There used to be a time when there was a vibrant vocational ed program in NYC schools. Many high schools offered programs that had some real-life like training that led to jobs, especially for students who have no interest in going to college. Then came the ed deform movement led by both political parties which branded voc training as dead ends – that the only way forward for students was going to college. The voce ed programs were mostly destroyed in the NYC public schools by Ed Deformer supreme Michael Bloomberg and the agents he put in charge of the school system – Joel Klein and Dennis Walcott, now running the Queens libraries, an outrage in itself that this anti-educator should be in charge of a library system after his boss, Bloomberg, did everything he could to undermine the public libraries. (Yes, you anti de Blasio people, go and compare how libraries fared under both mayors.) It became a rule that non-academically oriented students were pushed into voc-ed programs and those diplomas were abolished. The reality is that a lot of students are not all that interested in academic programs.