Thursday, May 31, 2018

NYSAPE Parents Demand the NY Legislature Repeal the Education Transformation Act & APPR; Stop Playing Political Games with Our Children’s Education

Be sure to read this and spread the word. This bill is a sham!

New York State Allies for Public Education - NYSAPE
Parents Demand the NY Legislature Repeal the Education Transformation Act and APPR; Stop Playing Political Games with Our Children’s Education

More information contact:
Lisa Rudley;
Jeanette Deutermann;
NY State Allies for Public Education - NYSAPE

Parents Demand the NY Legislature Repeal the Education Transformation Act & APPR; Stop Playing Political Games with Our Children’s Education

NY State Allies for Public Education, a coalition of over 50 parent and educator groups active across the state, vehemently opposes the new teacher evaluation bill, passed by the NYS Assembly and now being considered by the NY Senate as S08301. This bill would change the teacher evaluation system in the state for the fourth time since 2010. This bill, like the current evaluation system, fails the most important measure, it does absolutely nothing to alleviate the impact a test-and-punish system has had on our children.

Contrary to the claims of some of its supporters, a careful reading of the bill indicates that it continues to link teacher evaluations to growth scores, using either state standardized exams or alternative assessments approved by the State Education Commissioner. The bill also leaves the controversial HEDI rubric and corresponding weights in place.

NYSAPE recognizes that the American Statistical Association and the National Science Foundation have concluded that rating teachers based on student growth scores yields statistically invalid and flawed results.

Jeanette Deutermann, a co-founder of NYSAPE and leader of Long Island Opt Out, said “Backroom deals and political leveraging have resulted in an Assembly and Senate bill that purposely fails to decouple test scores from the teacher evaluation system, fails to reverse the destructive receivership law, fails to remove the arbitrary and capricious growth model, and leaves room for grade 3-8 state assessments to once again be used in our evaluation system. Teachers and students deserve a bill that reverses the destruction caused by the Education Transformation Act.”

NYSAPE shares the concerns of the New York State School Boards Association and the New York Council of School Superintendents that this bill, if passed, could mean even more testing.  If districts decide to tie teacher ratings to student scores on alternative assessments, those assessments would come in addition to the annual state tests that are required by federal law.

Education historian Diane Ravitch points out, “The current teacher evaluation law (APPR) was passed to make New York eligible for federal funding from the Race to the Top program in 2010. Under this law, 97% of teachers in the state were rated either effective or highly effective. The law is ineffective. It should be wholly repealed, rather than amended as proposed. Let the state continue setting high standards for teachers and let local districts design their own evaluation plans, without requiring that they be tied to any sort of student test scores.”

“The entire idea of basing teacher evaluations on student growth is a farce. Districts will create new metrics that are just as unreliable and invalid as the grade 3-8 test scores. It is time that politicians cease meddling in matters they do not understand and return teacher and principal evaluation back to professionals and elected school boards,” said Carol Burris, the Executive Director of the Network for Public Education and a former New York State High School Principal of the Year.

“The worst outcome would be if this faulty bill passed in exchange for more concessions to charter schools, either increasing their funding or raising the charter cap.  Already charter schools in NYC are given preferable treatment in being able to claim free space at the city’s expense, when more than half a million of our public school students are crammed into overcrowded schools, with no hope of relief,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

Parents and educators have been demanding for a long-time that the APPR system be entirely repealed so districts can design their own evaluation plans untied to student test scores.  It’s time Albany stands up for children and stops playing political games with their education.

NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

VOTE Retiree Advocate: Current UFT Retiree Chapter Election Will Add 300 Unity Caucus Members to the Delegate Assembly

Once every 3 years, in the retiree chapter elections, the slate running against Unity gets to send out a piece of lit to the roughly 60,000 retirees.

If you are a retiree and haven't returned your ballot, consider voting for our slate. I'm running on the RA/MORE/New Action slate with
a bunch of great candidates and a great platform against Unity in the current retiree elections.

The almost 60,000 member retiree chapter is a means of control over the union by Unity Caucus - they vote in general UFT elections every 3 years (next one is 2019), although a pro-rated vote, but thus guaranteeing Unity's election.

I've always considered the chapter elections more important than the general election (taking place next year) in terms of control because control is crucial of the Delegate Assembly (consisting of every CL plus at least one delegate from each school and a 60:1 ration for a 2nd delegate - meaning you need over 120 members for a 2nd delegate. And this is only teachers, since functional chapters elect their own chapter leaders and delegates -- Unity control of these functional chapters with almost 40,000 members, in addition to 60,000 retirees is another key to control).

So, just as important in Unity control is the retiree chapter election currently taking place retirees get 300 seats to the DA (this was capped at one point because currently that would allow them 600 seats, which would be a joke given that about 800 people at max attend a DA -- probably much less. Unity has problems even filling the 300 seats - and not all of them come every time -- unless there is a big voting issue and they pack the place - often holding a Unity Caucus meeting afterwards - with food. (My main attraction if I ever wanted to join Unity.)

It's funny that MORE is in the name of the slate when the retirees who have been involved also come from the ICEUFT wing of MORE, people who have been asked to leave MORE by one particular faction. Since the only retirees in MORE are also associated with ICEUFT we will see where this takes us in the future.

I must say that I've enjoyed working with the people from Retiree Advocate and New Action and my colleagues Gloria and Lisa from MORE and ICEUFT.

We had many years of conflict while NA was working with Unity so it is nice to work once again with people of our generation who have lived through decades of UFT history and have some of the same understandings we have. I'm looking forward to future endeavors even though on the whole I believe trying to organize opposition voices in the retiree chapter cannot have much of an impact in terms of control of the UFT. But since there is not much going on in terms of opposition to Unity at this point, working with compatible people politically is satisfying.
Here is the email sent out to the candidates:
Greetings Candidates

Thank you for taking a stand and running as a candidate on the Retiree Advocate/MORE/NA Slate in the UFT Retired Teachers Chapter Elections!

The ballots should be arriving in mailboxes any day now. We ask everyone to contact all the UFT Retirees that you know and encourage them to vote our entire slate. Attached is a flyer that you can send to friends, families, colleagues, anyone that might know UFT Retirees.

It’s important to send a message to the UNITY caucus to let them know that we are not content with continuing the status quo. Retiree Advocate is committed to increasing rank and file democracy in our union. It’s time for our union to fight back with gusto against the forces that are trying to destroy what’s left of the labor movement in this country. The door knocking campaign is a good start but so much more is needed:

· Stronger protections for our working sisters and brothers,

· Preservation and improvement of our medical, dental and prescription drug benefits

· Political campaigns that arise from the rank-and-file as opposed to decisions made by the AdCom

· Stronger defense of our public schools and a more active role against privatization- No More Charters!

· And so much more………….

So even before you get your ballot, start campaigning and do what you can to get out the vote for Retiree Advocate/MORE/NA.

We will be in touch after the election and hope that everyone will join the caucus.

In solidarity,

The Retiree Advocate Executive Board

Gloria Brandman
Lisa North
Peter Bronson
Gregory DeSteffano
Robert Greenberg
Mike Shulman
Norm Scott
And a piece I wrote that appears on the back of the campaign lit sent out:
Our Lifelong Work Has Been Disparaged, Degraded, Marginalized and De-Professionalized

UFT retirees spent their lives in public service working with public school children. While things in the NYC school system were never perfect, many of us left with a sense of self-respect for a job well done.

So it has been sad to watch over the past two decades as our profession has come under assault from many directions. The major blame for the failures of the system has fallen on teachers, not incompetent supervisors put in place by their supervisors, often with bad intentions to put pressure on the higher priced teachers to get them out of the system. The “bad” teacher wrap has been used against all teachers.  Recent teacher protests in right-to-work states are only the head of the spear of massive teacher dissatisfaction nationwide over the disrespect, the false measuring from invalid tests, the labeling schools as failing, and attempts to connect invalid tests to teacher ratings and compensation. Our union leadership has not done an effective job of pushing back against this onslaught.

Under Bloomberg, over 150 schools were closed down, including most of the comprehensive high schools, with teachers instead of being placed by seniority which was done before the 2005 contract, being forced into an open market that was not very welcoming to those coming from schools branded as failing. Joel Klein’s implementation of the fair school funding formula in 2008 made it almost impossible for the higher salaried UFT members to get transfer. Many were tossed into ATR pools of floating substitutes. Mayor de Blasio, our supposed friend, continued closing down schools this year after his disastrous and expensive “renewal school” project where instead of sending in resources that would actually help teachers, schools were loaded with consultants and teachers forced into often useless professional development.

In the past 15 years principals have been empowered as never before and they have the advantage of consulting with a massive amount of lawyers in DOE Legal who advise them the best ways to get rid of teachers they do not like while said teachers are often sitting there without a clue as to what is being done to them because the principals are working from a handbook while teachers are left defenseless. Teachers in NYC are subject to 4 drive-by observations a year under the despised Danielson rubric, while teachers in the rest of the state are only subject to two observations.

The job of a teacher has been deskilled through scripted instruction as attempts continue to remove qualifications needed to teach. How long before the DOE rolls trucks down the street every morning to search for people off the street to fill the classrooms for a day?

Meanwhile the charter school invasion continued, with certain parts of the city being so overloaded with charters, the very existence of local public schools are threatened.

Think of the poor people who succeeded us as being the proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water.

As you read this you are probably heaving a massive sigh of relief over finally being out from under this state of affairs.

Sadly, this entire degradation of our profession has taken place under the UFT stewardship of Unity Caucus, our opponents in this Retiree Chapter election. As retirees it may seem there is not a lot we can do restore the status our profession once enjoyed. But if you elect us to the leadership of the Retired Teachers Chapter, we will not only continue to defend our interests as retired UFT members but will also engage in a rigorous defense of our former profession by using our time in the Delegate Assembly to call our leadership to account for its failures to adequately stand up to the forces trying to destroy the profession many of us loved.

Can we really call ourselves a union of professionals?

VOTE Retiree Advocate/MORE/New Action.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Broad Discussion on Implications: After Janus, Should Unions Abandon Exclusive Representation? | In These Times

Chris Brooks: The way I see it, right-to-work presents two interlocking problems for unions. The first is that unions are legally required to represent all workers in a bargaining unit that the union has been certified to represent, and in open shops the Duty of Fair Representation (DFR) requires unions to expend resources on non-members who are covered by that contract. This is commonly known as the free rider problem and it gets a lot of attention, for good reason.
The second problem is that open shops also undermine solidarity by pitting workers who pay their fair share to support the union against those who do not. This is the divide-and-conquer problem.
Shaun Richman: I had an article published in The Washington Post... trying to amplify.... the strongest argument that AFSCME is making, which is that the agency fee has historically been traded for the no strike clause and if you strike that there is the potential for quite a bit of chaos. So I wanted to put a little bit of fear to whoever might potentially have the ear of Chief Justice Roberts, as crazy as that may sound. But I also wanted to plant the seed of thinking for a few union rebels out there. If the Janus decision comes down as many of us fear then the proper response is to create chaos.
----- After Janus, Should Unions Abandon Exclusive Representation?

This is a must read piece on the post-Janus landscape - Michael Fiorillo posted it on the ICE listserve that is the most in-depth piece I've read on all the possibilities -- though the UFT is such a special case due to its size, outreach, the depth of its political  machine - Unity Caucus, its alliances with politicians, etc.

The article deals with the requirement that unions must represent everyone --even those who leave - though we have so many examples of the UFT not exactly doing that -- or only paying lip service to do so. Like abusive principals or schools being closed. (Judge in PS 25 Win Asks: Where's the UFT support? “doesn’t the UFT care that the teachers will be put into ATR or the rubber room?” “doesn’t the UFT care that the teachers will be put into ATR or the rubber room?”)

When the sole bargaining agent, as is the UFT, a union must represent all workers, even non-union members. So what if they don't have sole bargaining rep rights?

Here is another excerpt (the entire article is below the break):
If we lose the agency fee, some unions will seek to go members-only in order to avoid the free rider problem, and that's a lousy motivation. I'm not encouraging that, but I think it's also inevitable. Once you have unions representing these workers over here but not those workers over there, it's also inevitable that you wind up with competitor unions vying for the unrepresented. And the first competitor unions are going to be conservative. These already exist. They're all over the South and they compete against the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and National Education Association (NEA) in many districts and they offer bare bones benefits and they promote themselves on “we're not going to support candidates who are in favor of abortions and we'll represent you if you have tenure issues.” That's also bad but also inevitable.
There are so many excerpts I could post, so read the entire article. But first a few thoughts of my own related to our own situation in the UFT.

One of the issues that have come up in the red state teacher revolts - all right to work - is the low union membership and an element of competition between AFT and NEA for members even though they are nominally working together. One West Virginia teacher revolt leader who is in a school predominantly NEA told me that when he suggested working in partnership with AFT people the county NEA people were not happy.

This brings us to the issue of sole bargaining agent, which I wrote about in last week's WAVE: School Scope: The Janus Right to Work Case - How Bad Will it Be For the UFT? 

I went through a brief history of how the UFT won an election to become the sole bargaining agent in 1962 (in a 3-way race) for all UFT teachers and how that might be up for discussion in the wake of Janus when all states become right to work - and how that might lead to threats to the UFT's sole bargaining rights.

Say 10,000 people leave the UFT and organize an alternative and get enough signatures to call for their own bargaining by bringing in another union -- unlikely since this would be looked at askance by the labor aristocracy - but if those leaving the UFT weren't just looking to save money but were doing so as active organizers. Very unlikely but if the same kind of red-state militancy catches hold, the group most likely to organize would be the most disaffected from the union leadership -- pro-union people but anti-Unity Caucus.

Now I am not endorsing this concept but an intriguing idea that has been put forth is that since the high school teachers vote the opposition for most of the past 30 years - by a slim margin, albeit, what if the needed number of high school teachers singed up to call for an election in the high schools to select their bargaining agent? Now this is scary stuff since splitting the UFT does not look like a good idea - on the surface.

Last summer Mike Schirtzer and I ran a MORE summer series event that attracted 35 people to a bar and there was a lot more interest in the idea of a move to separate high schools than I expected -- I find a lot of resentment from high school teachers towards elementary school teachers who give Unity a seeming unassailable majority in UFT elections. 

As James Eterno often points out, when there was a high school teachers association - pre-UFT- its militancy helped drive the formation of the UFT itself.

We can never know what will happen post-Janus and where a rising up here in NYC might take place and who those leaders might be. I bet right now they don't know that they may end up leading some of these. actions.

So here is the very long article - which I still have to read in depth as it gets into so many interesting areas with different opinions and especially covers the right wing attacks trying to undermine unions even when they are couched in worker interest terms.

And by the way, can an argument be made at this point to actually jump on board and support the UFT and its Unity machine given these attacks?

Especially when there is no meaningful opposition in the UFT, with MORE seriously thinking it won't run and the recent turmoil in MORE that amounted to a purge of those who don't agree with the policies of one faction - so Unity like.

Are the 2019 UFT elections worth sitting out? More on that in future posts.

After Janus, Should Unions Abandon Exclusive Representation?
BY Kate Bronfenbrenner, Chris Brooks, Shaun Richman

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Judge in PS 25 Win Asks: Where's the UFT support? “doesn’t the UFT care that the teachers will be put into ATR or the rubber room?” “doesn’t the UFT care that the teachers will be put into ATR or the rubber room?”

“doesn’t the UFT care that the teachers will be put into ATR or the rubber room?”.... Judge Katherine Levine
“Why close a school that’s doing so well?” said Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters and one of the lawsuit’s supporters. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”... Chalkbeat 
Did the UFT abandon schools on the closing list, in particular, PS 25K? The judge who ruled last week to keep PS 25 open for now seems to think so.

At the Feb. PEP, the CSA made a strong statement of support while the UFT was absent and also did not support this law suit.

I reported on the Major Victory: Court Keeps PS 25 Open - Leonie and Crew Big Win.

Below is a follow-up report with reports about the judge's reaction to the UFT not being part of the law suit from the parents, supported by Leonie and pro-bono attorney Laura Barbieri - see links to her brief below. And raising questions about the very rationale for closing schools.

And I linked to Leonie's own report on her blog:

The big reprieve from Judge Katherine Levine came last week as the judge asked deep and probing questions, including questions why the UFT was not part of the suit to keep the high performing school open. The DOE sites low and falling school population - which people at PS 25 attribute to the DOE driving population down to force the school to close to make room for charters, including possibly Evil Eva. There is evidence that de Blasio and the DOE don't want to pay the damn rent after the Cuomo give away to charters laws so they target certain buildings as places to shove charters.

The UFT kept hands off - and I leave you to speculate as to the reasons.

At the Feb. 28 PEP, Leoni's assistant Sabastian Spitz spoke up for PS 25 and other schools being closed, citing the class size issue for many of these schools. Also speaking up was the supervisors union's Raymond Gregory. The UFT did not speak up for PS 25.

Gloria Brandman was at the hearing the other day where the judge kept the school that the de Blasio/Farina tried to close -- there were charters involved in getting the building. Gloria took some notes:
Judge Katherine Levine was a smart, feisty judge who reminded me of Chief Justice Ginsberg (see the spectacular documentary about her "RGB")
"Why would the DOE close a school and then open another one? It doesn't make sense."
I believe Laura, the school's attorney, said that they do it all the time.

When the judge was looking at the list of possible transfer schools the DOE is providing for the PS 25 students (some out of district, the better ones already overcrowded), she said about one of the options, "That's 29 minutes away!". Later, she asked questions about transportation, and stated that she knows the DOE only provides buses to schools in the district. The DOE attorney did not respond.

She asked, "Why are they closing it", the answer given is that it's small. She responded, "So is PS xxx" (I forget which school she cited.)

Judge asked, "Did the CEC have any say?" DOE response- Multiple hearings were held. I believe the DOE Council stated that the DOE does listen. Many of us in the courtroom yelled out, NO THEY DON'T!

Judge asked, "If this school was 90% white and 10% black, would it be closed?"

Judge also pondered, "Would you conceded that the reason this is being done is because it has small class sizes?" and "What is the down side of keeping it open?" DOE attorney's rebuttal, "It's too small."
Judge wondered, What is the harm of keeping it open? "I'm keeping the stay in place."
"Disruption is not an option."
The judge also asked, "Are you telling me that there has never been a case where the parents have challenged the closing of a school?"

And regarding the UFT, judge was quite surprised by their absence. "Why wouldn't the UFT be a plaintiff?"
Why not indeed??
Also see the Chalkbeat article about the PS 25 win.  Several people are claiming that it is somehow selfish of PS 25 parents to fight to keep their school open or a “luxury” that DOE can’t afford.

Leonie's report included these links:
Congrats to the parents, students and teachers at this amazing school, to Laura Barbieri, our wonderful pro bono attorney, and my research assistant, Sebastian Spitz, who did much of the data and factual analysis for the case. Here are some of the legal briefs filed in the case, opposing the PS 25 closure:  

Support the Work Leonie Does by Attending The Skinnies, June 19

Leonie Haimson and Class Size Matters has been the major consistent and persistent advocate for teachers, students, parents and community over the past 15 years. She runs a major fund raiser every year at a restaurant with the leading resisters to ed deform in the room called The Skinny (not Broad) awards. I've attended every one of them and if you want to spend a few hours in a space with people you'd want to hang out with, especially in these times, this is the evening to do it. More info will come soon but read about just a few of the victories that Leonie has helped lead -- yes, she is a better advocate for us than our own UFT leadership.

That is why every year, the first group I contribute to is Class Size Matters to help Leonie continue her great work. Details will be available soon.

Save the date for the Skinnies! & our win yesterday in court to save PS 25!

1. Please save the date for our annual Skinny awards, which will be held this year on Tuesday, June 19. We will be honoring some very special people and you don’t want to miss it! It’s always one of our most joyous annual events, in which we celebrate our wins and gain strength for the battles to come. More info soon on time, place and how to reserve a ticket.

2. Speaking of victories, we had a big win in court yesterday in the fight to keep PS 25 open, an extremely high needs school in Bed Stuy Brooklyn with small classes. The DOE wants to close the school despite the fact that it’s the fourth best elementary school in NYC in its positive impact on learning. More about why we believe this school should be kept open is in my letter to Chancellor Carranza, published in yesterday’s Washington Post; and my account of yesterday’s win is here. Our win to keep the school open for at least another year was also reported in the NY Post and Politico.  Thanks to the brave parents of PS 25 who refused to give up, and to our attorney Laura Barbieri of the pro bono law firm Advocates for Justice.

3. In other law-related matters, I filed an appeal to the DOE on their refusal to respond to my Freedom of Information requests, which are now more than two years old; we will take this to court if the information isn’t provided by June 5. And our class size lawsuit vs the state and the city will be heard in Albany on June 15.

4. There is lots more on the blog about the problems with the new teacher evaluation bill, on Chancellor Carranza’s first time testifying before the city council, and the culture of corruption at DOE that allows sexual harassment to flourish. In a refreshing change from our previous chancellors, Carranza admitted to Council Member Treyger that yes, class size DOES matter, and that when he taught 20-25 students he could do so much more for his students than when he had classes of 40. So I have hope that we may see more humane and rational policies to come.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

NY Times Stands Up for Rockaway Beach

Those who spend their summer at Rockaway Beach know how awful this is. That beach — a beautiful expanse of white sand along the southern coastline of Queens — is one of the crown jewels of New York City, leaving anyone who visits marveling at the idea that such a thing could exist just 20 or so miles from Midtown Manhattan....It is also the people’s beach, a breezy bit of heaven for the thousands of New Yorkers who can’t book a getaway to the Hamptons but need an escape from the city’s sticky summers all the same and love the ocean just as much... NYT
May 26, 2018, 12PM
Yes. Except we are better than the Hamptons where they can't see the ocean in one direction and the Manhattan Skyline in the other. And take a subway. Or a ferry.

Today's NY Times devotes considerable space in the main section to the Rockaway Beach erosion and closing issue. A wonderful editorial --

And a full page news article (below). If you read the local press like my own paper, The WAVE, this issue has been front and center for a year. We need groins/jettys. The Army Corps of Engineers jumped to out them in Long Beach after Sandy, but has delayed doing so in Rockaway. We have some groins and where they are located there is no erosion.

A Summer Bastion of Beach Culture Is Off Limits

Friday, May 25, 2018

Memo From the RTC: Mansplaining in “Lovers and Other Strangers”

My final column on Lovers and Other Strangers, a comedy - of sorts - but really with a serious tone about underlying relationships. Written by Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna in the late 60's- early 70's - the more times I saw it the deeper it seemed. It even brings up an interesing twist of the use of metoo. We were honored to have Renee Taylor at the May 12 performance.

Memo From the RTC: Mansplaining in “Lovers and Other Strangers”
By Norm Scott

Mansplaining (a blend of the word man and the informal form splaining of the verb explaining) means "(of a man) to comment on or explain something to a woman in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner"… Wikipedia

As I watched the final performance of the RTC production of “Lovers and Other Strangers” at a sold out house packed with seniors who laughed themselves silly because they got most of the references from the last-60s, early 70s time period, I realized that in each of the five vignettes, a common thread that ran through them all was a guy working very hard to manipulate a gal. The opening sequence has Jerry, having just picked up Brenda at Maxwell’s Plum, doing what he can to get her into bed – until she turns the tables on him.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Major Victory: Court Keeps PS 25 Open - Leonie and Crew Big Win

A great victory for Leonie Haimson and her team in keeping PS 25 open for another year.

Updated: Report on Leonie's blog:

Leonie joined this battle early on and we had Lisa and Gloria from our closing school committee involved too.

Below is Leonie's report to the listserve with more info to come later.

Post Court ruling victory photo. Gloria Brandman in the house as always.

We won our TRO to keep PS 25 open for another year! - Leonie Haimson

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Stringer Report on DOE - Central Staffing Up 21% -

Leonie Haimson posted this on her listserve.

Important new report from NYC Comptroller on Department of Education watch list

Very important analysis from Comptroller showing increased spending on central administration at DOE, increased spending on private contracts with little oversight, and many initiatives such as Renewal schools and 2nd grade literacy coaches with little or no data provided by DOE to be able to assess their effectiveness.

When similar spending trends or questionable policies without evidence of their effectiveness were implemented by Bloomberg/Klein, they provoked real controversy, but DOE under de Blasio/Farina has gotten more of a pass.

Here are some notable excerpts, but the whole report should be read carefully.

Harlem Renaisance Ed Pipeline, NAACP, CEC5 Call for Charter School Moratorium and Other Education Reforms

The counter revolution against charter school invasions keeps growing.  This comes from one of the epicenters - Harlem.

When? Thursday, May 24, 2018, 11 AM
Where? Abyssinian Baptist Church (132 W 138th St, New York, NY 10030)

Dr. Sanayi Beckles Canton, CEC5

The District 5 Community Education Council, NAACP, The Harlem Renaissance Education Pipeline and community at large call for a charter moratorium and an investment in public schools to promote equity and transparency in New York Public Schools
“School District 5 leads city and state call-to-action for equity and transparency in all public schools”

New York, N.Y. (May 24, 2018) — Today, community leaders and stakeholders will converge at Abyssinian Baptist Church (132 W 138th St, New York, NY 10030) at 11am to announce a call- to-action to end the structural and institutional disparities in New York public education.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

School Scope: The Janus Right to Work Case - How Bad Will it Be For the UFT?

Submitted to The WAVE for May 25, 2018

School Scope: The Janus Right to Work Case - How Bad Will it Be For the UFT?
By Norm Scott

“Two previous unions of New York schoolteachers, the Teachers Union [TU] , founded in 1916, and the Teachers Guild [TG], founded in 1935, failed to gather widespread enrollment or support. Many of the early leaders were pacifists or socialists and so frequently met with clashes against more right-leaning newspapers and organizations of the time, as red-baiting was fairly common. The ethnically and ideologically diverse teachers associations of the city made the creation of a single organized body difficult, with each association continuing to vie for its own priorities irrespective of the others. – Wikipedia,

The TU was more left wing and the TG was formed as a counterweight to its dominance by former members who were being outvoted in the turbulent times of the 1930’s. The TU was decimated by the McCarthy witch hunts and the TG began to gain ascendency, particularly when the national American Federation of Teachers (AFT) sent in full time organizers like Albert Shanker. There were many separate groups in the NYC teacher corps representing many segments – elementary, middle and high school teachers, for instance. The high schools were the most militant (and still are today, as shown by the fact that over the past 30 years they have consistently voted for the opposition in the UFT, including the most recent 2016 election). The evening school teachers actually went on strike in the late 50s, shaking up the labor movement in the city. That led to a merger of the high school teachers association and the TG in 1960 when they formed the UFT after Mayor Wagner granted public unions bargaining rights. That forced an election to decide which group would get sole bargaining rights since the law allowed for only one bargaining agent. There were three contenders: the UFT, the Teachers Union and a group formed by the NEA, the AFT’s national rival and the UFT won hands down.

Since then, there has been little overall challenge to the hegemony of the ruling Unity Caucus, except in the high schools. Being the sole bargaining agent is a big thing and allows the union to collect dues from every school worker represented by the UFT, even it they choose not to join. That has been challenged in state after state as a way to weaken unions and has been a very successful tactic by the right wing in turning many states into what is termed “right to work” (RTW).

The about to be announced Janus decision in the Supreme Court will turn every state into RTW, including NYS. There are implications for the UFT aside from the possibility that numbers of teachers will leave the union and stop paying dues. If enough leave, that will weaken the union, possibly severely. But the bigger threat might be challenges to their being the sole bargaining agent if enough people sign cards calling for a new bargaining election, the first since 1962. More on this idea next time.

Norm is organizing a bargaining election at where he will have to vote against himself. Not the first time.

Port Richmond HS Parents lobby Cuomo to block principal Oneatha Swinton appointment

Six candidates were interviewed by parents and teachers in March. All but Swinton, who they ranked in the bottom half, have received rejection letters, sources confirmed. In their letter to Cuomo, parents cited The Post’s investigation. They also complained that Swinton had misused school funds by making unnecessary hires and refused to share the school budget... NY Post
Let's hope the new Chancellor makes a clean sweep of some of these characters.
The April 25 PEP brought out a contingent of Port Richmond HS parents, students and teachers protesting their principal, Oneatha Swinton, who also got bad reviews at the Secondary School for Journalism at the John Jay HS Campus in Brooklyn (Inside School, comments).

Here is a short video I made that night after meeting parent activist Annette Renaud, who was going to bring a contingent of teachers and parents to the UFT Ex Bd meeting to raise questions directly to the chancellor but that meeting was closed to outsiders. Maybe another visit to the PEP is in order.

Video: PEP April 25, 2018 - Port Richmond HS Protest

Sue Edelman in the NY Post has a piece on the parents going directly above the heads of the DOE to Cuomo, thus giving him another chance to embarrass de Blasio again. The DOE has still been sheltering abusive principals. When de Blasio makes his weekly appearance on the Brian Lehrer show, people are beginning to call up and ask about specific cases.

Here is Sue's story

Parents lobby Cuomo to block  principal’s appointment

By Mary Kay Linge and Susan Edelman

Striking teachers burst neoliberals' fantasy in one amazing moment | Thomas Frank | Opinion | The Guardian

For decades we have been told that the way to fix education is to fire people but red-shirted marchers across the country have shown the power of solidarity ... What unions do is more than protest. They change the dynamics of a community. They change the balance of social power. They change the way people think....
This article is another find from Fiorillo.
What I like best about the wave of teachers’ strikes that have swept America these last few months is how they punch so brutally and so directly in the face of the number one neoliberal educational fantasy of the last decade: that all we need to do to fix public education is fire people.... Thomas Frank

Striking teachers show that cutting education to fix it is a neoliberal myth

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Antonucci: How to Stage A Successful Teacher Strike in 4 Easy Steps

Everyone is excited about the teacher revolts around the nation and here in NYC there is talk in MORE and other places about how to connect those red state actions to the UFT. I'm open to exploring ideas related to conditions in NYC schools and whether there can be a movement coming out of the rank and file. One thing we notice is that there is really a tale of two school systems. Around the internet we read so many comments about awful conditions. And then we hear another side coming from people who are in "safe" schools -- places with good, caring principals.

Despite his view from the anti-union right, Mike Antonucci's analysis is always worth checking out, despite appearing on the - ugh - 74. Some people ask me why I read Mike and my response is that his stuff is less ideologically driven than the left wing press on education issues, especially in covering teacher movements.

How to Stage A Successful Teacher Strike in 4 Easy Steps

Friday, May 18, 2018

NYT - Why the Teacher Walkout Movement Won’t Reach Every State - Dana Goldstein

Not a lot of analysis here -- but some interesting points about the states revolting and why others may not - the way schools are funded.Goldstein does contrast the Jersey City one day strike. Are there ideas out there about possible job actions here in NYC? Flu season can be pretty rough -- maybe a blue flu in a school with an abusive principal?
In North Carolina, as in the other five walkout states, union membership is optional for teachers.....
What state could be the next to have a teacher walkout? There have been scattered rumblings of protest in Nevada and Louisiana. And there are at least five additional states that meet the major conditions for a statewide action: centralized governance and funding, and below-average teacher pay and per-student spending. The states are Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas and New Mexico.

-----walkout states: Its state government plays an unusually strong role in funding education and setting its priorities, often superseding the influence of school districts.

This strong-state model can include a larger-than-typical role for state governments in funding schools, a state-mandated salary schedule for teachers or efforts to equalize funding between poor and rich school districts.

Because of such policies, the states are, in a way, ripe for large-scale labor actions, despite having weak public sector unions. Unlike some Northeast states where teachers in one town can earn $20,000 more than those in a nearby city, low-income and middle-class districts in the states that have had walkouts have similar teacher salary and school funding challenges, building solidarity — and political leverage — across hundreds of miles.

---  Most states have schools that are funded more or less equally from state and local coffers, with voters making many financial decisions close to home.
---- Dana Goldstein, NYT,Why the Teacher Walkout Movement Won’t Reach Every State

Teachers marched in Raleigh, N.C., on Wednesday, as North Carolina became the sixth state where educators have left their classrooms to protest low pay and school funding.CreditCaitlin Penna/EPA, via Shutterstock

School Scope: Teacher Unions and Right to Work

Published May 18, The WAVE,

School Scope:  Teacher Unions and Right to Work
By Norm Scott

Last week I wrote about the red-state teacher revolts that seem to be sweeping the nation in states that cut taxes and education drastically. Many of the strikes have been illegal wildcat actions – not necessarily sanctioned by the unions, which in those states are under state control by the two big national unions, the NEA and the AFT (the local UFT has its foot in both, but plays the major role in the AFT, where the UFT tail wags the bigger dog through sheer numbers alone. Other than a brief 4 year period since 1974, former UFT presidents have moved up to AFT president.)

All these states are right to work (RTW) states where teachers are not required to pay union dues even when the unions negotiate their contracts and offer other services. Thus, union membership is low and the unions are relatively weak compared to non RTW states like New York, where the unions have such control over the members, they can put a damper on the type of actions taking place in the red states, where teacher militancy has often been led by teachers in the classroom who have acted independently of the union leaders. It is my contention this can never happen here in NYC due to the extensive control the Unity Caucus party that has run the UFT since its inception almost 60 years ago. I can remember only one time where a revolt from the classrooms forced the UFT to take strike action. That was in 1975 in the massive budget crisis. As UFT leader Al Shanker did not really believe in the strike, the outcome was not very good and 15,000 people were laid off and we were fined 2 for 1 through Taylor Law penalties and the UFT itself lost dues check off privileges for a period of time, which means the city doesn’t take dues out of the paycheck. That is a severe penalty and that threat alone often keeps unions in line.

With the Supreme Court about to render a decision in the Janus case, which if it goes against unions, as expected, the entire nation will be right to work and the UFT could lose thousands of members who won’t pay dues, thus leading to massive cuts in the union bureaucracy and some level of control over its members. Politicians recognize this danger to their partnership with the unions and, led by Gov. Cuomo have moved to offer some protections to the unions by passing a law that doesn’t require them to provide lawyers to teachers in trouble. Keep ‘em in the union with threats will not be enough of an incentive for some, especially younger low-salaried members who pay the same dues as senior members making much more money, many of whom are not staying in the system.

If it comes about, will a weakened UFT lead to more militancy from below and lead to wildcat actions like a blue flu? I’m betting NO, unless conditions here mirror red states. And that will take a long time in coming.

Norm wildcats every day at

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

End Danielson - NYC Rank and File Stand Up - PS 8X Solidarity - 50 UFT Members Rally in Front of School

Only the left can organize? MORE evidence to the contrary  -- .... an esteemed colleague in ICEUFT. 
Now it is time for all of us to come forward to join the effort to repeal the evaluation law and tell the world we have had ENOUGH! .... ICEUFT blog
The always awesome Roseann McCosh sent James and I a wonderful little note earlier today about an action 50 teachers at her school, PS 8x, took this morning. This school is not a hot bed of left-wing activists. In fact, quite the opposite. Roseanne did sign up 30 members of her staff to join MORE in the 2016 election. So PS 8 on the whole supported MORE in spite of its left wing politics.

If I had to name one of the leading organizers in the UFT, Roseanne, a former Unity Caucus CL who saw the crap early on, would be at the top of my list.

When we hear of red state teacher revolts we often find that the militancy rises out of the ranks, not from an organized push from left wing activists or union officials. In fact, many in the red states are not left but center, and even right.

Some at PS 8 refereed to MORE as "those hippy dippies." But if they feel even a leftist group is fighting for them and against the Unity machine, politics doesn't matter. I wish more MOREs felt the same about people on the center-right instead of viewing them as deplorable(s).

Here in NYC, while there are many issues of concern, there are certain push button issues, like Danielson. There has been a lot of talk in MORE over the past 6 weeks about taking the kind of action PS 8x took. The red state revolts and the action at PS 8x are examples that my esteemed colleague in ICEUFT is on to something. (Also see: Why We Choose to Leave MORE - John Giambalvo and Mike Schirtzer).

Hello Norm and James,

I've attached 2 pictures. This morning approximately 50 UFT members stood in front of our school building for 10 minutes as an exercise in solidarity. We decided at our last union meeting to start with a gathering in front just to show unity as union members. We didn't want to scare anyone away by getting too militant too quickly. A couple of signs were made by one teacher and when everyone saw them they quickly got on board with “End Danielson” and teachers have had “Enough.”

Once we realized everyone liked the ideas behind the signs we got everyone to chant, "End Danielson Now" "Teachers have had enough" "Paras have had enough" "What have we had? ENOUGH!" etc…

My CL made a point that even though I wasn’t rated under Danielson I was leading the chant. I then called out the names of the other staff members who, like me, are not rated under Danielson but still chanted. Danielson Teachers applauded these staff members and thanked them for showing solidarity. We ended by entering the building together in a moment of silence to mourn our profession. Mourning our profession is why we wore black.We are going to try to do this again next week.

I thought one of you would post about it on your blog. The teacher elected to be CL next year is holding the END Danielson sign. (I’m holding the ENOUGH sign).

Hope all is well with you both.


Videos, April 25: Aixa, Lisa, Norm, Leonie, Simon, Parent and Student

I did a quick mix of two sections of the PEP with people we know plus a parent and student fighting to save their school, which the PEP voted to close a few hours later.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Clear Evidence of Racism in NYPD Based on Marijuana Arrests - NYTimes

Government surveys have shown that black and white people use marijuana at roughly the same rate... 87 percent of those arrested in recent years have been black or Hispanic, a proportion that has remained roughly the same for decades,

among neighborhoods where people called about marijuana at the same rate, the police almost always made arrests at a higher rate in the area with more black residents...

officers in the precinct covering Canarsie arrested people on marijuana possession charges at a rate more than four times as high as in the precinct that includes Greenpoint, despite residents calling 311, the city’s help line, and 911 to complain about marijuana at the same rate, police data show. The Canarsie precinct is 85 percent black. The Greenpoint precinct is 4 percent black....

Black and Hispanic people are the main targets of arrests even in mostly white neighborhoods. In the precinct covering the southern part of the Upper West Side, for example, white residents outnumber their black and Hispanic neighbors by six to one, yet seven out of every 10 people charged with marijuana possession in the last three years are black or Hispanic, state data show. In the precinct covering Park Slope, Brooklyn, where a fifth of the residents are black or Hispanic, three-quarters of those arrested on marijuana charges are black or Hispanic.

 Whenever I get into a discussion on race, the marijuana arrest racial disparities are the strongest argument I've been able to use to prove deep racism exists. This NYT front pager from Monday, May 14 blows the lid off all the arguments used to defend NYPD policy. And it blows the lid off the bullshit de Blasio liberal cover - to such an extent he came out calling for reforms - as if he didn't know. He is the worst kind of phony liberal.

Surest Way to Face Marijuana Charges in New York: Be Black or ...
2 days ago - There are many ways to get arrested on marijuana charges, but one pattern .... the headline: Wide Racial Gap For Pot Arrests In New York City.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Why We Choose to Leave MORE - John Giambalvo and Mike Schirtzer

Why We Choose to Leave MORE
By John Giambalvo and Mike Schirtzer

We became involved with teacher unionism after a few years of working in the schools as a result of our classroom and school-level experiences where we saw public school teachers and students being cheated out of the resources needed to provide them with an adequate education. Sparked by the general lack of response from our union, the United Federation of Teachers, our involvement led us to join the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), an organization that we believed would respond to concerns of UFT members by allowing them, as well as members of their school community, a space to voice concerns about our schools within the political structures of our union and the Department of Education of the City of New York.

We joined MORE during a time when few voices within the UFT represented the needs and interests of our colleagues.

We joined under the premise that our union had the potential to be the most powerful vehicle of change for teachers, students and families in New York City and beyond.

We joined MORE to create a more assertive union, where member voice was the greatest priority and, when heard, would lead it to action for the entire education community.

We joined MORE to strengthen the UFT for the betterment of the teachers, students and families we serve. We were aware that the UFT apparatus, under the almost 60 year stewardship of the Unity Caucus, had developed more than a bit of sclerosis, had not been adequately serving the needs of its members, and that that power structure needed to be challenged from the ranks. We believed MORE offered the potential to engage in that challenge.

We joined MORE and were faced with working with people with many different political backgrounds and ideologies, including some differing from our views. We made concerted efforts to function collectively with other members of MORE to improve conditions in our schools. We learned the basics of their ideologies and did our best to find middle ground. We genuinely believed we were learning to struggle together in order to improve conditions, especially for those who were affected by hurtful policies on a daily basis.

We joined MORE to prioritize making connections with teachers throughout all five boroughs; to construct and devote our work towards an agenda that would have wide appeal to a majority of members of our union who have been shut out of influence. In order to be successful MORE would have to, not only offer a way forward by leading in a new direction, but do so by being responsive and interacting with UFT members in our own schools and beyond to transform a union that operated in an absolute top-down manner.

We have been disappointed.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen that MORE has been increasingly dominated by one group with a definite pre-formed unyielding ideology. We’ve come to understand over time that these voices do not represent the needs of most of our members, or even our students or parents. MORE has devolved into an organization that uses anti-democratic and secretive methods to push the agenda of this faction and marginalize, isolate and push vocal opponents out of the caucus.

There were many opportunities for the members of MORE to analyze the results of our work in order to determine the course of the group’s direction, but it has chosen not to do so. There were meetings with varying topics, causes endorsed, social media/blog data, and the results of the 2016 UFT election which provided data on voter turnout by division and district which clearly showed a much higher turnout in the Queens high schools (36.4% compared to 12.8% in the Bronx and 14.5 in Manhattan, boroughs where key leaders of the current leadership in MORE are based.)

Queens high school voter turnout was clearly the crucial difference in winning the high school seats but admitting that would be counter to the narrative being pushed.

This turnout was mainly due to the organizing efforts of two key MORE members. (Ed Note: Details and analysis of 2016 high school elections at

This should have been an important lesson for MORE about the kind of activism by some more members that reaches out and resonates with rank and file teachers. Yet, these people are the very people who are being pushed out of MORE. One of these people is the chapter leader of the largest high school in Queens with 300 UFT members and an elected UFT Executive Board member.

The other was a former chapter leader of a closed school who led a valiant battle to keep his school open but who was forced to become an ATR. One of the most respected voices in the UFT for almost 30 years who developed hundreds of contacts in schools all around the city, and served for a decade on the UFT Executive Board. He too is being forced out of MORE.

Along with one of us, two of the four MORE Executive Board elected high school representatives are being pushed out of MORE. What does this mean for MORE as an organization when it feels activists with this history and stature and the overwhelming support of their colleagues don’t belong?

Instead of revisiting different petitions we advocated for or addressing the way we have utilized our positions on the UFT Executive Board to create voice for colleagues, the small group taking control of MORE chose to purposely ignore these results, criticized us, and attempted to micro-manage us over issues like class size and the defense of ATRS and rank and file UFT members over abusive principals because this work did not fit their preordained agendas.

Attempts to build a large, robust organization, including the creation of newsletters produced for wide distribution, planning meetings with topics related to school-based issues, like the nuts and bolts of enforcing the contract or running for chapter leader, and attempts to compete in union elections (both at the chapter level and for citywide officers), have been met with obstruction, in-fighting, frustrating layers of bureaucracy and the gradual disappearance of democratic decision making.

All this is a direct result of the group’s lack of democracy and failure to connect with members in our schools.

Predictably, instead of growing into a member driven movement, MORE has seen its numbers dwindle to levels rivaling our earliest beginnings in 2012. Instead of examining and discussing the reasons for the shrinking of MORE, such as the inability to develop a newsletter and distribution network or even a regular handout at the UFT Delegate Assembly, the constant excuse has been that all the problems in MORE have been due to some rude emails by a few people.

In fact, dozens of people have abandoned MORE over the years due to the rigid ideological framework imposed in MORE. Their “solution” to the crisis in MORE has been to actively move to push out even more members who do not go along with their line, many of them older and experienced in union politics, obviously a threat to their ability to win over new and inexperienced teachers who enter MORE to their ideological line. Rather than engage in discussion, including historical reference and analysis, they want to promote their own political positions, positions that are rarely open to debate.

It is especially difficult for us to remain with a group that no longer honors the principles of democracy. There was a glaring lack of due process involved in our recent suspension from the MORE listserves and the caucus’ steering committee, which just happened to remove our ability to vote on crucial decisions concerning the direction they wanted to steer MORE in. There is no provision in the by-laws from suspension from steering.

This decision began as a disagreement over political process and the tone of some emails. The suspensions were decided without either of us being present. Just four people out of nine on the committee created, ex-post facto, new rules. Since MORE is on record as opposing suspensions and calling for restorative justice for students, calls for the use of restorative justice practices in lieu of suspension in our case were voted down.

As union members, social justice activists, and New York City public school teachers, we cannot compromise the principle of due process. We must expect from ourselves the rights we demand for our co-workers and our students.

The loss of trust in the people who made these decisions will be difficult to repair. The realization that a caucus dedicated to the principles of social and restorative justice but can no longer muster enough respect for basic due process portends a future for the group that is far too troubling for us to be part of.

It is simply not acceptable to be involved with an organization that does not hold itself to the very values of democracy upon which it is premised and for which we have both worked.

There are many good people in and around MORE and we are proud of our past work with them. But too many priorities have changed over time, both for the group and for ourselves. We seek out the serious work of helping to build a more robust union, one that can affect policy as it improves the conditions under which we teach and our students learn. We have concluded MORE as a caucus is not capable or willing to build this movement. In order to work with rank and file UFT members and other stakeholders, we feel it’s better we separate ourselves now. We are leaving the organization and disassociate our names from it.

We still intend to spend time learning from our from past successes and failures in future endeavors we pursue.

There is a Janus decision on the horizon, a well financed effort by corporations and interest groups to undermine unions, and a relentless effort to privatize our schools by forcing out veteran UFT members and closing schools in our poorest neighborhoods, which harms our children of color and immigrant children. It is imperative that our union fights harder than ever against these forces.

We are dedicated to defending members unfairly under attack, ensuring our children are provided a great public education in well resourced schools, fighting for racial integration of schools, defending immigrant, African-American, Latino, Muslim, and LGBTQ union members and students. We will continue our work in our chapters, Delegate Assemblies and Executive Board meetings to educate and activate union members, defend public education, demand due process for our students and colleagues, and advance the cause of labor unions for all workers.

In Solidarity,

Mike Schirtzer: UFT Executive Board, UFT Delegate, Social Studies Teacher

John Giambalvo: Social Studies teacher, Coordinator of Student Activities

John Giambalvo will is completing 18 years of service teaching social studies. He teaches in a Queens high school.

Mike Schirtzer, is a member of the UFT  Executive Board and a delegate from his school. He has been teaching social studies at Leon Goldstein HS in Brooklyn for 11 years

District 71 Manhattan High Schools: 683 votes= 14.5% of total HS turnout

District 72 Bronx High Schools: 594 votes=12.6%

District 73 Brooklyn High Schools: 729 votes=15.5%

District 76 Brooklyn-Staten Island High Schools: 984 votes=20.9%

District 77 Queens High Schools: 1712 votes=36.4%