Saturday, December 15, 2018

UTLA - Blue State Teacher Rebellion - 50,000 March

“If we are forced to strike, it will be to defend our schools; but it will also be because we think our kids deserve more and we deserve more, because we dare to have high expectations,” Caputo-Pearl said to the cheering crowd. “If we strike, it is all of our strike. When we win, it is all of our victory. Are we going to win for our schools? Are we going to win for our kids?” 
This is the way to do strike prep with an inclusive message for all. I've been very impressed by the strategy being followed by the leadership of the UTLA. They have not talked about teachers only. Calling for similar actions here in NYC will be mocked. One difference between LA and NYC: The opposition actually ran to win and did.

Diane Ravitch reports:
More than 50,000 March for Public Education in LA

LOS ANGELES — In a historic march, tens of thousands of students, parents, educators and community members marched through the streets of Los Angeles today to demand a reinvestment in public education and that the Los Angeles Unified School District stop hoarding the record-shattering $1.9 billion in reserves and use it immediately on our students, our schools and our classrooms.
UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl told the massive, picket-holding and banner-waving crowd that if there is no settlement by next month, “we will strike in January.”
“If we are forced to strike, it will be to defend our schools; but it will also be because we think our kids deserve more and we deserve more, because we dare to have high expectations,” Caputo-Pearl said to the cheering crowd. “If we strike, it is all of our strike. When we win, it is all of our victory. Are we going to win for our schools? Are we going to win for our kids?”
Then tens of thousands people began the march, chanting throughout the streets of downtown, bringing the momentum and energy of the national teacher rebellion to the doorstep of the nation’s second-largest school district.
The massive demonstration then walked from City Hall, chanting as they marched side by side to demand Supt. Austin Beutner and LAUSD fulfill the promise and hope of a quality public education for all, not just some. The march ended in front of the Broad Museum tohighlight the destructive role billionaires like Eli Broad play in draining money from our public schools and funding privatization schemes like the portfolio model.
“Eli Broad fought against school funding measures and he has funded the charter industry to undermine neighborhood public schools,” Caputo-Pearl said. “Broad has made LA a national experiment in privatization. Who’s ready to turn the tables on that? Who’s ready to fight for the nurses our students need? Who’s ready to fight for the counselors our students need? Who’s ready to fight for the class sizes our students need?”
United Teachers Los Angeles has been in contract negotiations with LAUSD for more than 18 months. In August, 98 percent of union members voted to authorize a strike. Negotiations are near the end of the fact-finding stage, after which the school district can impose its last, best, and final proposal and UTLA members can strike.
With class sizes that are too high and not enough resources in their classrooms and attacks to their profession, teachers are fighting for a profound reinvestment in Los Angeles schools. LAUSD has yet to make any meaningful progress on UTLA’s contract demands, including the ones that don’t cost money or would even save money, such as stopping overtesting and giving parents and educators a voice in school budgets.

Thousands of LAUSD teachers march in downtown Los Angeles as union moves closer to calling first strike in nearly 30 years

LAUSD Teachers March in DTLA as Union Moves Closer to Calling First Strike in Nearly 30 Years

Defying Predictions, Union Membership Isn't Dropping Post-Janus -

The UFT expects a right wing blitz to get people to leave the union in June when the window opens up. That was the reason they say they wanted the elections out of the way early. I guess Unity can sell the fact that they own every single seat on the Ex Bd as a sign that they are so popular and doing such a good job for the members. Or it can be taken that there is squeeze in the UFT on democracy and voices are stifled.

Below is not a pro-union perspective but some interesting points. Thanks to Mike Antonucci for publishing the link.
The Supreme Court’s ruling was expected to diminish union membership. But so far, many unions have actually increased their numbers since the verdict. Conservative groups are working to reverse that trend in the long run.
December 10, 2018

Union activists and supporters rally against the Supreme Court's ruling in the Janus v. AFSCME case. (AP/Karla Ann Cote)

Friday, December 14, 2018

State of the Union (UFT): Elections and the Opposition Caucuses - A Continuing Saga - Part 1


Over the next 4 months I will be doing a series of posts on the state of the union in the UFT, tapping into information about all the caucuses.

I can only hope that the folly of 3 opposition caucuses comes to an end and a strong force to stand up to Unity Caucus emerges to penetrate deeply enough into the schools to reach the 99.9% of the rank and file who don't give a crap about the caucuses.

That is what I will fight for -- bringing people, even with different political tendencies, under one banner to force change in the UFT. I am getting as much of this information on record before I lose all my faculties as a possible lesson for future activists in the UFT. Untangling this mess will take more than one blog.

Having been an active participant in the UFT opposition politics since 1970, I would say this is the weakest state of the opposition for decades, if not ever. With the opening of the UFT election season, it is time to review the disastrous state of the opposition to Unity Caucus as Unity is set to win every single seat on the Executive Board for the first time since the 1993 elections.

The opposition of three caucuses under the NAC label (since the 1981 election) had won 13 Ex Bd seats in 1991 and also won the high school VP in 1985. Now we have regressed to having 3 opposition caucuses running on their own and splitting the usual 10-12,000 opposition votes in the UFT.

So in this, and upcoming posts, let me survey the state of the UFT opposition from an historical and current perspective and why things look so dismal for the growth of the opposition in the future as we live deja vu all over again.

While I remain involved in the periphery of MORE I am non-sectarian in terms of other caucuses. I like the people in New Action and the work they do and I have tried to make peace with the people in Solidarity. I continue to organize ICEUFT meetings once a month and invite people from all caucuses to come. I think we are the one place where all groups can sit down and talk.

For the first time since the 2004 elections, there will be 3 opposition slates to choose from in the UFT elections.
  • New Action
  • MORE
  • Solidarity 
  • ICEUFT remains in operation but as a non-participant in elections.
This is the most confusion since 2004 when there were actually 4 opposition caucuses, with ICE being the newest. But At least in 2004 ICE and TJC were on the ballot in separate lines but ran a joint cross-endorsed slate for the high schools against New Action and won them (ICE ran with PAC as ICE-PAC). The last time before 2004 I can remember where there were 3 opposition slates on the ballot was - well, never. So we are in unprecedented territory here.

I've written a few blogs about the current situation with the opposition in the UFT:
UFT Election Season Opens, Does Anybody Care?
UFT Election Update: It's Beat Up MORE Time as it ...
UFT Caucus and Election History: 1962 - Present

Let me point out that none of the caucuses have more than 20-50 real members - actually less -  and in fact each are run by a small coterie of people numbering single digits who make the real decisions. Imagine -- the truly active core of all the opposition groups total 30 at most.

The saddest is MORE, which had so much promise when it was founded in 2012 and now seem proud to have shrunk in the name of unity under a single political line which it thinks will resonate with the membership. (More on MORE isolationism in future posts.)

Election petitions go out at the January 16, 2019 Del Ass and are due in mid-February. Ballots go out in mid March and are due back by April 16, with the count April 17. As a non-participant in the elections for the first time since 2001, the outcome will provide some lessons and will be fascinating to watch.

I'm urging a boycott for the election process - not only a boycott against Unity but also against an opposition that cannot come together, with each group trying to convince people that their position is best.

Why would people choose any of them? How could any of them claim they could run the union when they can't even agree with each other?

The number of non-voters will be a vote and send a message to the opposition to get their houses in order before the 2022 election.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Wildcat Underground: Oakland Teachers Pull Wildcat

We are teachers who have waited long enough

We are teachers, counselors, and other school workers at Oakland High School in Oakland, California. We have worked without a contract for more than a year.
We are prepared to strike if and when our union makes that choice.
Until then, we will carry out our own wildcat actions to spur the Oakland Unified School District to negotiate in good faith with our union.
Our first action is an Educators' Day Out work stoppage on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018.
Although we are all, individually, members of the Oakland Education Association, our Wildcat Underground actions are not sanctioned by the OEA. ......
The Wildcat Underground

This is beyond red state rebellion. I have had contacts in Oakland and will touch base. Meanwhile--

Mike Antonucci reports:
Unlike LA, however, rifts have developed between the leaders of the Oakland Education Association and factions of the rank-and-file. Today teachers at Oakland High School organized a sickout that was not sanctioned by the union. One source reports at least four other schools are involved.

“People were sick of the very slow moving and uninspiring actions being proposed by the union itself,” teacher Miles Murray told the Bay City News Service.

Posted: 10 Dec 2018 09:43 AM PST
While our attention has been focused on the impending teacher strike in Los Angeles, public school employees in Oakland are also in the fact-finding stage of collective bargaining and could hit the picket lines in January as well.

Unlike LA, however, rifts have developed between the leaders of the Oakland Education Association and factions of the rank-and-file.

Today teachers at Oakland High School organized a sickout that was not sanctioned by the union. One source reports at least four other schools are involved.

“People were sick of the very slow moving and uninspiring actions being proposed by the union itself,” teacher Miles Murray told the Bay City News Service.

“Now is the time for this movement to happen, and the union is moving too slow,” teacher Alex Webster-Guiney told KQED. “They need to be supporting the grassroots movement of their members.”
OEA has issued no statement about the sickout.

Although the union’s contract demands are similar to those in Los Angeles, the district has always been a cautionary tale of financial mismanagement. The state took over Oakland Unified in 2003 and didn’t return local control until 2009.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

French Revolution 2.0? Neither left nor right with touches of both

The demands of the so-called Yellow Vests in France are similar to those of other populist movements, but the uprising is not tied to any political party, let alone to a right-wing one --- NYT
The Gilets Jaunes (yellow vests) movement in France is at a turning point. .... While it is true that there were lumpen and far-right elements in the demonstrations over the weekend, these were marginal. From the beginning, the yellow vests movement has penetrated into very deep layers of society, with Front National voters and middle-class elements taking part alongside the working class and trade unionists.... Marxist. com
Left, right and center. Unity. Class unity and class struggle,  the dream of Marxists. Except that along the way, there will be intervention from left and right which will undermine and destroy the movement. And never forget infiltration from the government to sow seeds of distrust.

What is going on in France requires some analysis especially to seek any relevance for us here or even on the broader stage. I'm hoping we can do some of this analysis at next Friday's ICEUFT meeting.

I was impressed with some aspects of Thursday's NYT article
 How France’s ‘Yellow Vests’ Differ From Populist Movements Elsewhere

Definitely worth a read - see below the fold.

Then today I came across this analysis from

France in a “state of insurrection” as the yellow vests advance

For those - like me --  with a critical perspective of the Marxist left it is always fun to see the wishful thinking - you know, the usual chaos, mayhem and massive overturning of institutions and society. Marxists of course believe all this is inevitable and see signs of crack all over the place in capitalism. And the inevitable move to a perfect socialist system where everybody loves each other.

The article points out that the standard left and right in France have been caught tailing behind the movement, which seems to be un-led. Left annalists are not very comfortable with these kinds of spontaneous movements. They look like anarchy and the traditional left is very uncomfortable with anarchistic movements. Eventually leaders on the left and/or right or even from the center try to take over, which created dilution  and splits.
The organised working class has begun to enter the struggle (although the labour union leaders have dragged their feet), as have students, who are occupying their institutions in solidarity and raising their own demands. But despite Macron’s attempt to defuse the situation, the explosion of anger and frustration at years of austerity and inequality has acquired a logic of its own, and it will not be easy to put the genie back in the bottle.
Reminds me of the red state teacher revolts which caught the union leaders by surprise and of course they are always tailing the classroom-based teachers.

Class hatred

The yellow vest movement initially started in peripheral towns, cities and rural areas across France (residents of wich rely on personal vehicles to get to work, and thus will be hit severely by a higher fuel tax) and it includes many women and single mothers. Most are low-income workers, including secretaries, IT workers, factory workers, delivery workers and care workers – in short, people who are most affected by rising costs and wage stagnation. These working class and poor middle-class layers are resentful of years of being squeezed through austerity and increasing living costs, and are now expressing a deep hatred of the rich and the Macron government that represents them....
The class character of the yellow vests, and their loathing for the rich, became clear during the demonstration in Paris on Saturday. Acts of vandalism hit the wealthy west and centre of the city, with storefronts smashed and looted, dozens of expensive cars burnt and the Arc de Triomphe covered in anti-government graffiti, along with the slogan: “The yellow vests will triumph.” The protestors smashed the windows of a newly opened Apple Store (AAPL.O) and luxury boutiques of Chanel and Dior, scrawling “Merry Mayhem” on a wooden board and pinning it to the facade. Of course, there were also some lumpen and criminal elements taking advantage of this situation, but that is not the main character of the movement.
And the police over react. The article points out that the French revolution came out of protests against taxes.
Unsurprisingly, the capitalist class are horrified at the protests. Not just because it is bad for business around the Christmas period or because of rising fuel shortages due to spontaneous blockades at depots, but because of the fear that this movement could develop into a threat towards the regime as a whole.
 as the movement has begun to radicalise and the working class imprint on it increase, a lot of the rubbish on the right is being thrown out and the class contradictions within it have become clearer. For example, another viral video shows Yvan Benedetti, former president of the ultranationalist group L'Œuvre française (himself dressed in a high-visibility jacket), being attacked and driven off by anti-fascists within the yellow vests.

There is a paradox in the current French standoff, as Mr. Macron’s rise was itself predicated on sweeping away existing political parties, and on a rejection of traditional intermediaries like labor unions.
There's a lot of meat in this article, so check it out here. And look for the wishful thinking aspects.
And here is the NYT article below:

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

First Charter Chain Strike Today in Chicago - 500 at 15 UNO/Acero

Chicago educators at Acero charter schools go on strike, a first for the independently operated campuses - Chicago Tribune

The leadership of the CTU came under some criticism for organizing charter school teachers into the CTU because it was viewed as helping keep charters alive rather than trying to drive a stake in the heart of the movement. They certainly seem to be having more succcess than the UFT has been having.

Here is this morning's report from the CTU:

Monday, December 3, 2018

UFT Election Season Opens, Does Anybody Care?

Well, apparently some people care. Just not enough to make much of a difference. Today, the UFT Ex Bd will set up the election timetable. There is an election committee chaired by Amy Arundell. They met last week with one rep from each of three caucuses plus a dozen Unity Caucus members. Why shouldn't Unity get a 12-1 advantage?

Below is the column I submitted to The WAVE for publication Dec 7.

I'm still holding to my boycott the election position.

School Scope: UFT Election Season Opens, Does Anybody Care?
By Norm Scott

The UFT has announced its timetable for the upcoming UFT elections. Petitioning will take place from mid-January to mid-February and ballots will go out late March, to be returned by mid-April. I already know the results not because I can read the future but because I can read the past.

Every three years the 200,000 member United Federation of Teachers, elects its leadership. Actually, it re-elects its leadership, as it has done since the union was founded in 1962. Many UFT members are not aware that there are political parties – caucuses - in the UFT. There are a number of them. Currently they are MORE, New Action and Solidarity. ICE-UFT was an election caucus through 2010, but currently exists to meet in a diner once a month to gossip about the other caucuses and eat rice pudding.

Unity Caucus has won every election and has set up rules to assure its election in perpetuity. Sort of like those Republican controlled states which have gerrymandered their way to victory. At least there is a chance every10 years to make changes. Not so in the UFT, which is fundamentally a monarchy.

The only area of weakness shown by Unity has been in the high schools, where Unity has lost by a small margin in almost every election since the early 90s. There are about 20,000 high school UFT members, of which about 4500 voted in the last election. The opposition, if they can agree to unite for the elections without scratching each others’ eyes out, can win the seven (out of 101) Executive Board seats. In 2013 Unity garnered a paltry 1580 high school votes. The opposition did even worse but smartened up by coming together in 2016 and won with 2350 votes. Not exactly a mandate but it was still 150 more than Unity got. Actually, Unity increased its vote by about 500 from 2013. But still, embarrassing. The Unity Caucus union leadership, with all its advantages, can garner the support of only 2200 out of potential 20,000 votes. Sad.

As for the rest of the UFT, there is fundamentally one big yawn among the 70% of the membership which doesn’t vote.

One would think you’d have to be nuts to get involved in an election you have no chance to win. But lo and behold, in every election cycle, one or more non-Unity caucuses decide to throw their chalk into the ring. I, for instance, have been a very active participant in every election cycle with a variety of caucuses since the 2004 election. That’s five elections where I ended up putting in months of work. For the record, I am nuts.

In the 2016 election my goal was to win the seven high school Executive Board seats and we accomplished that. This time none of the three caucuses could come together, so there will be three opposition groups competing for those 2300 votes. Which means, Unity will win the high schools in addition to every other position. Yes, I’ve been nuts when it comes to UFT elections over the past 15 years. Not this time.

Norm’s nuts at

UFT Contract Vote: Comparing 2014 and 2018

Someone in MORE put this together. Do your own interpretation of the data. In 2018 More people voted yes. Less people voted. Note the total number drop in NO votes by teachers from 16k+ to 8k+.
I was speaking to a band member last night at the cast party at the RTC and he is a MS science teacher -- looked to be around 30. Non-political in terms of UFT. Not unhappy with school or principal. While recognizing the pay compared to inflation issue, he said the key to him was the less observations and he supported the contract as moving in the right direction. He didn't talk about health care.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

School Scope: I Don’t Get It - Norm in The WAVE

Submitted for publication, November 30, 2018,

School Scope: I Don’t Get It
By Norm Scott

I don’t get it: That the opposition caucuses in the UFT can’t seem to come together to run against the ruling party of the UFT – Unity Caucus – which as controlled the union since its inception almost 60-years ago. So unless there’ s a change, three groups will be competing for the roughly one quarter of those who bother to vote against Unity in almost every election, though in the high schools the opposition vote is generally over 50%, which has allowed the opposition to win the seven high school executive board seats. UFT elections every three years are stacked in favor of Unity, especially due to the potential votes of retirees, who are happy campers who have left their classroom concerns far behind. They might as well not waste their time running at all, which perfectly suits me. The UFT is fundamentally a one-party system and we should treat it that way.  I say boycott the elections, which by the way, 70% of the members do anyway by not bothering to vote in the first place. Hmmm, maybe they figured it all out way before I did.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Memo from the RTC: Doubling Up on Pippin By Norm Scott

Last weekend to see the show.

Memo from the RTC:  Doubling Up on Pippin
By Norm Scott

Substance: News analysis: Is CORE founder Jackson Potter's power starting to fade?

His eloquence and brilliant mind on display during the board meetings resulted in former Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Chief Arne Duncan, who later became Obama's education secretary, to remark that he wanted Potter to work for him. Nobody worked harder than Potter to make CORE the leader of the CTU today. He began passing out flyers, organizing meetings and perhaps most importantly, understanding the role politics would play to inspire teachers to fight for a new union.
Karen Lewis and Jesse Sharkey were put into power courtesy of Potter. He invited Lewis to join his caucus and made sure she got elected to the steering committee to run it. He gave his blessing for Sharkey to serve as Karen's running mate, and eventually replace her as CTU president. .... Jim Vail, Substance
Jim Vail, who I've met a few times, dissects the role Jackson Potter has payed. Jackson has had enormous influence over the past decade as the key organizer of CORE. He always seemed like a political genius and at one time was a close associate of the late George Schmidt. CORE won the election to run the CTU in 2010 and we all got to hang out together at the AFT convention in Seattle a few weeks later, where the CTU delegates pushed back against Randi and Unity on certain issues. By 2012 when there were about to strike, they had pulled back from challenging Randi because they bigger enemy was local. By 2014 they were totally in Randi's fold.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

UFT Election Update: It's Beat Up MORE Time as it Pulls a Garbo

I had advocated for MORE to either run with everyone or not to run. I made the case for not running but for using the election to run an educational campaign on some crucial issues, including why the election is bogus since Unity will always win. It is no accident that 70% of UFT members don't vote - because the election is meaningless to most people. I can predict the outcome right now -- 25% anti-Unity votes split 3 ways. What surprised me at the meeting last week was how many people in MORE were reluctant to run and wanted to spend the time building up the organization and their own chapters. These were mostly the new people who have not been involved in elections before and seemed to want to do more interesting things. A few more votes and MORE would not be running. So I am hopeful for the future. ..... Norm on the UFT elections

Well, the bloggers are out (see links below) with some brutal attacks on the MORE Caucus for "vanting to be alone" in the UFT elections.
For the record, my position in MORE was to run with everyone in a full-fledged, full slate election to challenge Unity everywhere or to not run at all. (More on this below).

We all know we can't win a bogus election so why try? 7 seats out of 102 on the UFT Ex Bd is a toehold but that is all it is.

Opposition Caucii have run in tandem over the past 40 years and the results are pretty much the same - at most win the high school seats.

What's wrong with 3 running on their own programs and seeing it they have support? I assume about 10-12000 people will vote anti-Unity.

MORE doesn't want to waste its time in an unwinnable election and doesn't want to waste time negotiating with other caucuses on platform and other election issues when it can run its own campaign with its own line. No one is winning, so why not get your own 2 pages in the NY Teacher?

I have my own reasons to beat up some people in MORE - like the 17 who signed an email asking me and others from ICE to leave -- but I won't go there at this point. We refused to leave because we had helped found and build the caucus and weren't going to walk away even when we witnessed some ugly stuff.

There are some really good young teachers in MORE and people are attacking them for being too left. I am somewhat left politically myself, though I have to say that some of my experiences with sectarian leftists have somewhat soured me on the left.

There are a bunch of newbies --  Democratic Socialists -- maybe some Bernie people -- so I'm fine with MORE being a left caucus. As long as they pay attention to what's going on in the schools and not go off on tangent after tangent. I liked that they took a stand against the contract. I feel every contract should be opposed until we have 20 in a class.

ICE was/is a fairly left group but independent and open left -- a big tent. The difference is the level of sectarianism in MORE where one line is the accepted one and there was a dangerous and undemocratic move to purge people who voted against that line.

That the line is fundamentally the same one we saw coming out of Teachers for a Just Contract for 20 years before they went defunct upon the founding of MORE is sort of amusing. I mean, one reason we founded ICE was to counter the TJC line. The ICE/TJC tensions never went away and I would pin the recent splits in MORE went along those lines. Maybe it wasn't possible to put these two caucuses into one group. We were warned by some ICE people who would not join MORE, claiming it would be taken over by ISO sectarians. And so it has come to pass. (Many on the left avoided TJC because it was known to be controlled by ISO and an organization called Solidarity (not the caucus) which is behind Labor Notes. The Labor Notes line has come to dominate MORE.

What is that old TJC line? That the contract is the focal point -- remember we joked that it was Teachers for Just a Contract (and nothing much else). The other angle used to be to talk strike prep - this time with a new twist -- look at the red state teacher revolts as a model. I don't believe it will work here but if it works on people the more power to them. What makes the current version of MORE different from TJC is the heavy social justice rhetoric.

Depending on outcomes, these positions don't last forever so we never know what will happen.

ICE is a free for all. And as long as ICE keeps meeting over the rice pudding I am fine. And Gloria, Lisa and I am working with New Action people in the Retiree Advocate. And though I get hot in the collar at times I'm trying to find common ground with Solidarity Caucus.

In fact I'm having fun trying to be the Jolly Old Fellow.
A little election background: I had advocated for MORE to either run with everyone or not to run. I made the case for not running but for using the election to run an educational campaign on some crucial issues, including why the election is bogus since Unity will always win. It is no accident that 70% of UFT members don't vote - because the election is meaningless to most people. I can predict the outcome right now -- 25% anti-Unity votes split 3 ways. What surprised me at the meeting last week was how many people in MORE were reluctant to run and wanted to spend the time building up the organization and their own chapters. These were mostly the new people who have not been involved in elections before and seemed to want to do more interesting things.

A few more votes and MORE would not be running. So I am hopeful for the future. Not running in the election but engaging in a campaign for a better union was the very position I took when MORE first formed for the 2013 election and I was one of the few people to support this.

Since MORE didn't grow - and even shrank by the 2016 election, I began a year earlier in 2015 by again urging MORE not to run. But then Arthur, Mike S and James Eterno convinced me how bad they wanted to beat Unity for the high school seats and I changed my mind and put my energy into that election.

It was we who suggested in the summer of 2015 that MORE reach out to New Action to run a joint campaign. They were sort of slow moving and we actually didn't get their candidates until pretty late - and even had to draft someone at the last minute when one of theirs dropped out.

There were some people even then who were not happy with running with New Action, but the enthusiastic response to the news dampened them. Now the anti- New Action people seem to have prevailed. In the meantime, in June 2015 Portelos declared he was running for president with Solidarity and they insisted we all should run together with him as the presidential candidate.

I won't go into the ugly details of why none of the other groups wanted to run with him. I'm trying to be in a peaceful mode and when I see him I have a nice time talking about union stuff. When it was announced that MORE and New Action had gotten together for the 2016 elections, there was joy in Mudville over the alliance of the old and the new -- really the 3 active caucuses of the early 2000s -- NAC, ICE and TJC. We knew we could win the high school seats.

I disagree with MORE's decision to run alone but understand MORE has very limited resources to put into an election. Thus the better option was to not run. I will continue to call for people to boycott Yet Another Bogus Election - YABE. Here are the links to the blogs:

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Mike Davis - "The Lesser Evil - The Left - The Democrats and 1984?

In this essay, first published over 30 years ago, Mike Davis warns us about the pitfalls of electoralism, and the passive clientelism that tends to replace popular politics under the bureaucratic guidance of the Democratic Party. 
I viewed myself as just to the left of the Democratic Party. Just when I thought it safe to get into the weeds of the reform movement in the Democratic Party, Sean Ahern sends me this interesting piece. It hasn't deterred me but it is a warning to go into this with eyes wide open. A long read but it touches on so many issues relevant to today. There is so much meat in this.

Davis deals with the moves of the New Deal Democrats into the New Politics and the neo-liberalization of the Democratic Party -- neo-liberals are fundamentally free-market, including education, and fundamentally anti-union which is why the Democratic Party basically abandoned the unions despite their slavish devotion.

Note also the mention of the Dem Party's work with the Business Rountable, which fired the first shot in 1983 in the coming ed deform wars to undermine public education and teacher unions. For fans of Al Shanker -- he jumped on board this so fast which began our decline.

He also hits at Shanker's Social Democrats USA right wing splitoff of the Socialist Party.

And with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) becoming such a big deal with some newly elected openly declaring themselves DSAs as does Bernie Sanders -- he covers its foundations.

If you are a junkie like me, you won't be hungry after eating all this meat.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

School Scope: Schools Threaten Parents with ACS; UFT OT/PT Turn Down Contract

Thanks to Leonie Haimson for posting this info.
Published in The WAVE Nov. 23, 2018.
There are 2 Eva schools in Rockaway.

School Scope: Schools Threaten Parents with ACS; UFT OT/PT Turn Down Contract
By Norm Scott

School employees have been charged as mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect but in some cases there has been abuse of the process itself. Some NYC principals have been known to call, or threaten to call, Administration for Children’s Services, New York City’s child welfare agency (ACS) on parents who might be deemed “politically difficult” and not because the children are being mistreated, says a recent Hechinger report.

Such a call charging the parent with neglect could lead to serious repercussions, including the ultimate outcome of children being removed from the home. Such threats are used against outspoken parents.

Some charter schools have used this tactic to force parents to remove unwanted children who might bring charter inflated test scores down. Eva (Evil) Moskowitz’ Success Academy, the largest network in the city with almost 50 schools, has been one of the most egregious, frequently calling ACS to encourage parents to take their children, often with disabilities, out of the school. This has led to a number of legal and civil complaints against the charter network. A law suit against Success was allowed to proceed when the judge said “allegations that school employees called police or child protective services on 4- and 5-year olds, would, if true, help to demonstrate enough ‘bad faith or gross misjudgment’ to sustain the discrimination claims. Calling ACS is one of the tools in their repertoire to make the parents comply,” said Irene Mendez, a staff attorney with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, one of several groups that filed the suit.”

The report points out that “school workers may sometimes be overzealous, calling in allegations over relatively minor issues such as broken eyeglasses, inappropriate clothing or small scratches…. disproportionately affect[ing] low-income families of color, who tend to live in neighborhoods and attend schools that have bigger police and social services presences and whose children are more likely to show markings of poverty that can be confused with neglect.” Racial bias often plays a role when people of different cultures are the ones making the judgment.

There are Success Academy schools in Rockaway and if any parents experience similar pressures (in any schools), please contact me and I will put you in touch with the lawyers handling such cases.

UFT Contract: Occupational/physical therapists say NO by 66%
While 87% of all UFT members voted YES, livid OT/PT members are demanding a renegotiation. Some WAVE readers have been in touch and have explained why they are so unhappy and I have been publishing the comments on my blog.  A WAVE reader: “Most OT and PT’s work two jobs because our salary is so far below speech and teachers. Most of us had NPI numbers because of our second job in early intervention. It was not a requirement for our work in the DOE as therapists. About 3 years ago the DOE sent in Medicaid doctors because they were able to bill Medicaid for our services. At that time, speech was also required to meet with the doctors. We were told in no uncertain terms that we had to hand over our NPI numbers to the DOE so they could bill. The UFT told us we had no choice and had to turn over our numbers. Speech therapists, on the other hand, were told NOT to hand over their numbers by their union rep. It’s been an ongoing battle with the union as to why were required to turn over the one bargaining chip we had.... our NPI numbers without receiving a dime. Yet, speech therapists were given another $5,000 yearly outside of a contract. That further increased the disparity in our pay. The union claims that OT and PT receive more than their counterparts in city hospitals, which is not true.”

I’m beyond my word count. More next time. Happy Thanksgiving.

Memo from the RTC: Pippin Opens to Full House in Director John Gilleece Finale (Maybe)

Memo from the RTC:  Pippin Opens to Full House in Director John Gilleece Finale (Maybe)
By Norm Scott

I saw the original Pippin with Ben Vereen as the Leading Player on Broadway in the 1970s. I think I fell asleep, as I usually did at the theater in those days. So I barely remembered it. But we did name one of our cats Pippin and she lived to be eighteen, so I have a deep connection to the show, though it wasn’t one of my favorites. With the Rockaway Theatre Company closing its season with the 2012 revival of the play, I finally got to see a more exciting version of the show and remained fully awake. There was such a feast of activity taking place on stage, and at times in the aisles, I didn’t know where to put my eyeballs. I’m going back at least two more times.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Memory of 1975: Strike Penalties in NY Include Double Pay Fines and Loss of Tenure for a Year

I was on the picket line for three strikes in my first 8 years as a teachers. There have been no NYC teacher strikes since 1975.

Let me say that I firmly believe there can be no major gains without a credible strike threat. But I don't believe we will see that here in NYC unless there are catastrophic cuts -- like a severe depression and attempts to cut current salaries.

I bring this 1975 strike story up because there are people in the UFT today who are saying the leadership should get the membership strike ready because the West Virginia and other red state strike are an example that UFT members might be ready to follow. The Taylor Law penalties is one reason why that won't happen here until NYC teachers are eating dog food like teachers in the red states.

I found this document as a remnant of the Sandy storm. It was addressed directly to me by then Chancellor Irving Anker on December 1, 1975. I forgot about the loss of tenure for a year.

There were also severe penalties on the UFT with fines and loss of dues checkoff for a period of time, which force the union to send many of its staffers back to schools. In the current age of Janus this would possibly eliminate the UFT and leave us without a union at all.

The thing about the 1975 strike was that it was wasted, with a union leadership not committed to the strike. Al Shanker led us over the Brooklyn Bridge in a massive march with the theme "we won't go back 'till we all go back." NOT. 15,000 didn't go back.

Shanker, who went to jail in a big show, helped bail out the city using our pensions and that created a climate of less penalties on the leadership which then accepted the layoffs of 15,000 people, the loss of preps, higher class sizes and the cutting of the school day twice a week. More cuts came the next year. Randi once told the DA that Shanker considered this strike his biggest mistake. But he never wanted to strike. I could tell at the big Del Ass where we took a strike vote. There was such militancy coming out of the schools he had to strike to maintain credibility but he had a plan to make sure there would never be such militancy again to over ride what the leadership really wanted -- which was to capitulate.

The UFT/Unity leadership had to teach us a lesson -- to never strike again. That was why when Randi held a strike vote at one point, we all laughed ourselves silly -- as did the city.

The lesson to me was to never trust the Unity Caucus leadership to  talk about a strike.

The old Teachers for a Just Contract (TJC) - or as we called them - Teachers for Just a Contract -- used to call on the leadership to prepare people for a strike. I pushed back against that idea because the only way to bring up a strike was AFTER you replace Unity, not before -- witness our pals in Los Angeles who took over the union BEFORE talking strike. Same in Chicago.

I bring up because I hear calls for the current union leadership to create more militancy and strike prep out of the MORE caucus, which has come under the influence of the very same people who ran TJC.

Deja Vu all over again.

That MORE has also chosen to run alone in the upcoming UFT elections is a sign of giving up the battle to challenge Unity in a serious manner for the foreseeable future. I'll have more to say about the state of the opposition in future posts.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Chief: UFT Therapists Turn Down 7.5% Raise by 64%

I'm just back from the UFT Ex Bd meeting where they voted to go to the DOE to try to get the nurses part of the chapter, which did ratify the contract, their raises which I would term a stab in the back. But details on that in a follow-up.

Here is the Chief article.

Forsake 7.5% Raise by Big Margin

Occupational, Physical Therapists Veto UFT Pact to Protest Pay Disparity

Occupational and Physical Therapists who work at the Department of Education have chosen to forgo what they believed were minimal raises in order to achieve parity with other staff members who work with students with disabilities by voting against the United Federation of Teachers contract that was ratified Nov. 2.
Though 87 percent of the 90,000 UFT members supported the deal, just 36 percent of Occupational and Physical Therapists voted in favor of it. About half of the 2,500 non-pedagogical employees cast ballots, with 796 voting against the agreement, according to the American Arbitration Association. Employees in these titles will not receive the planned 7.5 percent raise and other provisions in the 43-month pact.

School Scope , Nov. 16. 2018 - Norm in The WAVE

Published in The WAVE (page 11) Nov. 16, 2018

School Scope:  Brooklyn High School Students Walk Out to Protest Mark Zuckerberg Learning Platform
By Norm Scott

I broke the story on my blog ( and it was picked up by education reporter Sue Edelman of the NY Post, Business Insider and NY Magazine so far.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, like so many billionaires (i.e. Bill Gates, Reed Hastings of Netflix, Laurene Jobs of Apple), think they have all the answers for our schools. Zuckerberg and Chan created a platform called Summit Learning which basically plants the student in front of a computer and turns the teacher into a manager who introduces a lesson and then supervises the students. Students at the Secondary School for Journalism (SSJ) on the John Jay campus in Park Slope had enough and a hundred of them walked out of class on Monday. This just may be the first student revolt against  and hi-tech assaults on education. That it was led by kids of color makes it special, especially when we hear of recent events where wealthier parents are controlling some of the tech infringements on their children, while poorer communities are getting computer programs like Summit Learning pushed down their throats. Teacher expertise is minimized and allows for the hiring of cheaper inexperienced teachers. But what else is new? The student leaders have been in touch and they are writing a letter to Zuckerberg asking for a meeting to explore their objections.

Are Democrats Finally Turning Against Charters?
One thing Democrats and Republicans have agreed on is support for charters. DFER, Democrats for Education Reform was set up by billionaires to make sure charters had the backing of both parties. Clinton, Bush, and Obama had pretty much the same education policies of phony reforms that put the blame on teachers and make tests the end-all and be-all. (Trump of course with the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary has gone beyond even them in trying to privatize the public school system.) Underlying the reforms was anti-unionism from both parties. Non-union teachers without union protections are the reason charters have so much teacher churn.

I've always maintained that our own union, city, state and national - the UFT/NYSUT/AFT - weakness on opposing charters over their first two decades was a major reason so many Democrats fell into the charter trap. And the charter movement began to grow by leaps and bounds as education deform (deform) geared up into this century. Trump seems to have helped the worm turn as charters have moved from bi-partisan to Republican, like so many other issues. (At one point global warming also had bi-partisan support until Republicans weaponized the issue.)

Articles in the NY Times and Newsday addressed this issue, especially since the NY State Senate has turned. I recommend these two articles if you are interested.
New York Times: After Long Romance, Democrats Turning Against Charter Schools: The Backlash

Newsday: With loss of GOP Senate majority, charter school movement loses clout

UFT Contract
I reported last week that the occupational, physical therapists, nurses chapter had rejected the new contract by a 70% vote against. Some have been in touch and I will post some of their reasons next week.

You can find links to all of the above at Norm’s blog,

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Students to Zuckerberg: What Gives You This Right? - WAPO

“We wanted to fight back with a walkout,” Hernandez, a 17-year-old senior, tells EdSurge, “because when we tried to voice our concerns, they just disregarded us.” .... Student leader at Secondary School for Journalism on John Jay Campus in Park Slope
There have been a bunch of reports on the story we broke here two weeks ago with these posts (in reverse order of publication.)
The story even went international:
I'm from LaSexta Noticias. An important television of Spain. Do you have images of students' protests in Brooklyn because of Facebook's educational program?

And this:

WaPost: Students protest Zuckerberg-backed digital learning program and ask him: 'What gives you this right?

Diane Ravitch reports:

“Dear Mr. Zuckerberg.” Students Take Their Grievances about Summit Platform to Mark Z.

Students at the Secondary School for Journalism walked out to protest the Chan-Zuckerberg Summit depersonalized learning program, but thought Mark Zuckerberg might not have noticed. So they wrote him a letter to explain why they don't like interacting for hours a day with a computer. They wrote and told him that they were learning little or nothing, and they complained about the collection of their personally identifiable data. They asked why Summit (and CZI) was collecting all this data without their knowledge or consent. Great points!
The article appears in EdSurge, a tech journal that is partially underwritten by the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative. I bet Mark and Priscilla see it.

Memo from the RTC: As Pippin Opens, Andrew Barth Feldman Gets Lead in “Evan Hansen” on Broadway

Published in The WAVE, November 16, 2018
Note: This was written November 13. Pippin opened Friday night to a full house. See review in next week's WAVE. In addition, Andy Feldman received a hero's welcome from the entire RTC community before and after the show. (Photos were not in the Wave).

The cast of Pippin (partial)

Which is real? Erech Holder-Hetmeyer or his shadow? Erech is a grad of Murrow HS
Andrew Barth Feldman congratulated by another RTC superstar, Louisa Boyaggi, a NYC Guidance counselor

Memo from the RTC:  As Pippin Opens, Andrew Barth Feldman Gets Lead in “Dear Evan Hansen” on Broadway
By Norm Scott

Aside from the excitement of the opening of Pippin this weekend at the Rockaway Theatre Company, there is this news:

BURSTING with pride and excitement that one of our Young Adult Workshop kids and RTC member, Andrew Barth Feldman was cast as the first teenager to play Evan Hansen on Broadway in the six time Tony Award winning musical Dear Evan Hansen! We always knew this day would come….. Rockaway Theatre Company on Facebook

Yes, we all did know this day would come. That the multi-talented now 16-year old Andrew Barth Feldman, who has been working with the RTC since he was about 12, would make it big. So no one was really surprised at the announcement. Only that it happened so suddenly. One day Andrew in the teen workshop play or helping with doing tech at shows he was not in, or producing, directing and acting in his own production company which he started when he was eleven – or working in summer acting camp, and the next he is going to open at the end of January as the lead on Broadway in one of the most successful plays in recent times.

The thing about Andrew is that whatever he has done – act, sing, dance, pick up a new instrument and begin learning it in a few minutes – he does well. But more than that is his knowledge and passion about the theater. My wife and I even met him at a show with his mom a few years ago. He knows theater like some kids know sports. And his talent just shines. He won this years Jimmy Award for the best high school actor, which got him noticed by the folks at Evan Hansen.

Stacey Mindich, the show’s lead producer, saw Mr. Feldman perform a song from the musical “Catch Me if You Can” at the national high school awards, known as the Jimmy Awards, earlier this year. “Within the first 16 bars, I turned to the whole row of people who were sitting with me,” Ms. Mindich said, speaking by phone alongside Mr. Feldman. “And I mouthed the words, ‘I think that’s our next Evan Hansen.’”… excerpt from NY Times article. Read it all at:

I did manage to get over to a rehearsal of Pippin on Monday night, the beginning of hell week at the RTC and watched for just a bit but not too much to spoil opening night for me. I’m sending in a few photos I took.

Evenings November  16, 17, 23, 24, December 1, 2 at 8pm
Matinees November 18, 25,  December 2 at 2pm

Tickets may be purchased the web.

Friday, November 16, 2018

UFT Caucus and Election History: 1962 - Present

Click on image to enlarge
UFT Election History - Updated*
Produced by Norm Scott, Education Notes

Early 60s – a few election campaigns between various Unity factions. Shanker takes power in 1964 election.
1969-1975 – TAC only caucus to run. (TAC descended from left-leaning Teacher Union). Gets roughly 25% of vote.

1975: Massive budget cuts come after election and strike in fall of '75--- All caucuses work to oppose the deal Unity makes with the city that leads to massive cuts. This is the opportunity to build a united opposition but instead---
1975-76: Coalition of School Workers (social justice oriented),
New Directions (bread and butter) emerges from split with CSW.

1977 election: TAC and Coalition of School Workers - United FightBack. (Note that hirsute guy 2nd from the top on the right.)
Two left-leaning caucuses combine bread and butter and social justice.
New Directions refused to join and runs own slate focused on bread and butter.
Outcome: 25-30% opposition vote split between two slates with ND getting a few % higher.

1979 – I don’t remember. I think my group - the Coalition of School Workers may have sat this out rather than have more than one caucus run against Unity. Or I might be getting 1977 confused with 1979.

1981: New Action Coalition - NAC
New Directions agrees to join election coalition between TAC and CSW only on condition that Marc Pessin be presidential candidate. Full slate of 800 people run. Focused on bread and butter in attempt to build opposition forces.

1983-1995: NAC runs as coalition of caucuses.
1985: Michael Shulman Wins HS VP but Unity refuses to seat him. (In 1994 Unity changes rules to prevent this from happening again by making VP elections at-large.)
1991: NAC wins 13 Ex Bd seats – HS and JHS - most ever.
1993: NAC wins no seats
1995: NAC wins 6 HS seats. TAC and New Directions merge to form New Action/UFT after election.
1995-2001: New Action wins HS seats in every election.*
1997: PAC caucus emerges to fight for those threatened with losing licenses – runs in election as a 2nd opposition slate to New Action. New Action puts two PAC high school Ex Bd people on its slate of 6 candidates. They win the HS seats.
*1999: NA and PAC run completely separately but PAC vote totals are 2% and NA wins HS Ex Bd in 3 way race - a very rare event.
*2001: PAC runs independent campaign but cross endorsed some NA candidates. Two NA Ex Bd candidates refuse PAC endorsement and do not appear on their slate but they win anyway in another 3 way race.

2001: UFT Elections changed to 3 years from 2 years.
2003: NA makes deal with Unity for HS EX Bd seats by not running against Randi for president. Emergence of TJC and ICE to push back against New Action deal with Unity.
2004: ICE and TJC – run independent campaigns and appear on ballot separately. There are 4 lines on ballot; Unity, NA, ICE, TJC. ICE and TJC cross endorse high schools and win 6 seats, leaving NA off EX Bd for first time since 1994.
2007, 2010: TJC and ICE run on one ballot line, leaving members with choice of NA and ICE/TJC --- NA candidates cross endorsed by Unity.

2013: MORE emerges from merger of ICE/TJC and others; Ballot line includes NA and MORE. Gets around 8500 votes.

2016: MORE and NA run on one line. Solidarity emerges but doesn’t get enough candidates to get a ballot line. Thus members see only Unity and one alternative for first time since 1995. But Solidarity running as individuals gets 1400 votes for president. MORE gets almost 11,000 votes.


I have always believed history counts. It counts a lot and trying to make decisions without seeing what the road looks like behind you before venturing forward. Most younger people aren't that interested in looking backward but want to forge their own path - and end up making the same mistakes. I know I did.

With my generation of activists in the UFT leaving the field and a new group of people taking over the role, it will be interesting to see what happens. I and others who have been involved in the past may be sitting this election out unless there is an intriguing reason to get involved.

With UFT elections coming soon and MORE discussing the issue at the Nov. 17 meeting, I put together a history of UFT caucuses and a brief history of UFT elections. Mostly this is from memory so if there are errors let me know.

The lesson I see is that caucuses split, merge, dissolve, etc and Unity prevails, holding on to the same level of power or increasing it. Witness the 87% approval of the contract.

Since the formation of MORE I have believed that the membership is only confused by multiple opposition groups, even when they come together for elections and then go their separate ways. I had always hoped MORE would evolve into one big umbrella group. Instead the opposite seems to have occurred.

Look at the chart above over the 50 years that I have been active. All models seemed to have failed in building a force to challenge Unity. Even when New Action seemed to be the major opposition force from the mid-90s through 2003, they way they ran the caucus turned others off. Thus we had PAC, TJC with its own voice, Ed Notes which led to ICE and in the 2004 elections there was fragmentation once again. ICE and TJC which functioned form 2004-2010 elections barely worked together due to ideological differences. When ICE announced a new caucus there was a big reaction from people who left New Action and felt uncomfortable in TJC's rigid ideological jacket.

I supported the idea of MORE as a big tent and continue to believe in one opposition group under an umbrella that could hold diverse views -- sort of like the Democratic Party -- a place where ideas can be fought out but at the end of the day everyone is united in opposition to Unity. We seem far from that today -- the opposition may be more divided than it has been since the 70s.

My views have evolved - I lean to an uncaucus - don't make your own caucus the central issue but focus on the interests of the membership.

Let's face it -- Unity will never lose. Even the people in Solidarity who seemed to believe they could win in 2016 have faced reality.

MORE and New Action understand that the most that could be won are high school seats and if properly organized, middle school seats 12 seats out of 100. Is it all worth it? Even when you win Ex Bd seats, there is a tendency to make the activity of the opposition focus on the EB where you have only a tiny sliver of say. I think that happened to MORE and caused all sorts of problems. Some people seemed to become obsessed over what the EB people were doing instead of going forth and organizing.

A case for running
Though I have doubts even about this, it only makes sense to run as one opposition. Two slates on the ballot. Unity and the opposition. I've been promoting the idea of something called United FightBack where all those opposed to Unity could gather. (We used that in the 1977 campaign.)

A case for not running
Elections often become internally divisive. In the past few elections I've urged people not to run in the elections but to use the process to focus an issue-oriented campaign and even get Unity to take part. Focus on the issues, not on an election that most UFT members don't bother to vote in.

The opposition received over 12,000 votes in the last election but end up with 7 out of 100 seats on the Ex Bd and no delegates to the AFT and NYSUT conventions. There is a lot of work and effort for very little outcome.

The UFT election process is corrupt and a formal boycott with a campaign pointing out how corrupt it is and saying we won't participate in this process and calling for reforms is a legitimate position to take.