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.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

OT/PT Chapter Leader Recommended Ratification - Almost 70% Didn't Listen

Chapter leader tries to get people to approve -- statement to members is classic.

The Unity leadership has generally been able to maintain iron-clad control over its functional chapters -- there are at least 13 of them -- and the key is trying to coral and control the chapter leader and the chapter executive board. Secretaries, paras, retirees (especially), social workers -- but the revolt in the OT/PT chapter which turned down the contract overwhelmingly, is intense. The CL was elected last spring and is/was popular. But an OT sent me his comments to his membership that they should ratify the contract. How this plays out from this point bears watching. He would have a problem possibly in organizing them into a force that might wrangle a better contract next time. My sense is that the leadership will try to beat them into submission. I will continue to publish stuff as it comes in.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

UFT Contract: OT/PTs Defend Turning Down Contract

Norm, if you have any advice to give the OTPT chapter, please feel free. I have a feeling you are right and the union will just punish them for voting the contract down. Mulgrew apparently was very proud that he got us a $500.00 increase for longevity! We have three steps…10 years, 15 and 22 years. Pathetic.... Retired OT
The union’s announcement that the “UFT members vote overwhelmingly to ratify the DOE-UFT contract” with absolutely no mention of us was not only insulting but also dishonest.  ... OT who voted NO.
The retiree is referring to my comments in The WAVE that the UFT leadership would get even with them for turning down the contract.

Some people have been in touch with me and I suggested that if some OT/PTs want to sit down and talk over options - and there may be few. Here are some comments being sent to Ed Notes. (Leave your own and I will publish them anon if you want - or email me at
I was a DOE Occupational Therapist for 22 years and recently retired. I read your article in the WAVE this week and thought I would write in case you are not aware of what is going on with the OTPT chapter. I support my fellow therapists in their disappointment with the contract and for taking a stand finally and voting it down. 

OT and PT have notoriously been underpaid and ignored by both the DOE and UFT for years. We used to be required to work summers without additional pay up until 2008, or whenever that contract was approved. Thanks to Randi Weingarten, she somehow got us summers off back then by nothing short of a miracle.

I just want to clarify one of the more recent bones of contention regarding NPI numbers. An NPI number is what NY state requires therapists to get in order to bill for Early Intervention services. 

Most OT and PT’s work two jobs, as did I, 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. 

We turned to the union and were told, by Carmen Alvarez, that 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. 

We thought that was strange at the time, but most therapists were unaware of what was going on. About a year later, we learned that each speech therapist was given a yearly $5,000 raise for their NPI numbers. They were also granted the ability to work overtime to complete their work, while we were told that we were never to work outside the work hours. 

It’s been an ongoing battle with the union as to why were 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. They use this to argue why they can’t get us more money, yet if we point out that social workers are the highest paid in the DOE, and their counterparts working in other city facilities are paid half of what they get paid in the DOE, we get silence. They can’t justify the reasoning.


This is another post by a DOE occupational therapist :

A lot of DOE employees don’t know that the OT/PT chapter voted down their contract... all that was publicized was that 87% of the union voted yes and the contract was ratified. But not ours and for valid reasons. Since we are such a small chapter, we often get no mention, and the union doesn’t want to draw any attention to this one small, frustrated, and unhappy chapter. But here’s some background if anyone’s interested to understand our point of view...

By the end of our pay scale, we are paid almost 30k less than speech therapists (speech has the most similar daily workload to OT/PTs so it’s interesting to compare ourselves to them); 

-our masters degrees are undervalued and paid literally thousands of dollars less than others’ (teachers, speech, etc.), and those of us with doctorates get absolutely nothing for that; 

-we get an unpaid 30 minute lunch; because of our unpaid lunch we don’t accumulate enough hours and are not guaranteed the right to an FMLA in the case of an emergency unless we’ve worked summers; 

-if we choose to work summers we get paid several percentage points less than everyone else (I think we’re 13% while everyone else is 16 or 17%); if there’s an emergency we can borrow 10 days while others can borrow 20; 

-we were required to hand over our NPI numbers so the DOE can use our notes to bill Medicaid with no compensation while speech therapists are given an extra $5000 a year for it; 

-we get no prep time and have 30 minutes a day to complete our documentation (8 daily notes, progress reports, IEPs, etc.)... speech has the option of completing paperwork at home and being paid for it, not us; speech also has the opportunity to take on an extra session during the day, if the school needs, and be paid for it, not us; 

So when we’re told that we’re so lucky that we don’t have to attend parent teacher nights, we’d like to clarify.... we would HAPPILY attend those evenings if we were compensated equally. The union’s announcement that the “UFT members vote overwhelmingly to ratify the DOE-UFT contract” with absolutely no mention of us was not only insulting but also dishonest. We love, respect, and support our colleagues: speech, counselors, teachers, paras... everyone. I am amazed and inspired by many of the people I’ve had the opportunity to work with. But we are very frustrated that the OT/PT chapter is consistently under-represented and are fighting for parity with our colleagues.

NY Mag on SSJ Student Walkout on Zuckerberg Program

Reporter Nick Tabor who had contacted me since he had previously written about the Summit Learning program and wanted to touch base with some of the students. We had a great chat and I filled him in on the context. He is not an education reporter but general assignment. Leonie, who has worked with Nick in the past, connected him up with the students and with Annette Renaud, the parent I've been working with.

Brooklyn Students Are Protesting Silicon Valley’s Favorite Education Program

Photo: Edin Mejia
The revolt over the Summit Learning Program, an online learning system partially bankrolled by Mark Zuckerberg and implemented in schools nationwide, has come to Brooklyn. Last week, a group of high-schoolers at Park Slope’s Secondary School for Journalism staged a walkout in the middle of the school day to have the “personalized learning” regimen removed from their classrooms.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Media Picks Up Student SSJ Walkout

Leonie has a story on her blog:
Brooklyn students fight against the Summit online platform and the Zuckerberg-Gates corporate machine -

Business Insider, which had a link to Ed Notes:

Students in Brooklyn protest their school's use of a Zuckerberg-backed online curriculum designed by Facebook engineers

Fast Times:

Brooklyn students walk out of school over Zuckerberg-backed learning system

Almost 100 students walked out of class at Brooklyn’s Secondary School for Journalism to protest the school’s use of Summit Learning.
The controversial educational system is backed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the philanthropic organization started by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. Students said the program, designed to deliver individualized learning, kept them tied to computer screens for hours each day, the New York Post reports.
Wi-Fi issues and system crashes also made the system–built with assistance from Facebook engineers–frustrating to use, and parents expressed concern about how student data would be used. The school is eliminating the program for 11th and 12th grade, according to the report.
It’s not the only school to back away from using Summit Learning: Other schools have ended use of the program amid concerns about curriculum content and data use, EdSurge reported last year.

The NY Post:

Monday, November 12, 2018

Are Democrats Finally Turning Against Charters?

The Legislature may not even bother to take up charter advocates’ most pressing need: lifting the cap on the number of charter schools that can open statewide. Fewer than 10 new charter schools can open in New York City until the law is changed in Albany.
That means the city’s largest charter networks, including the widely known Success Academy, will be stymied in their ambitious goal of expanding enough to become parallel districts within the school system... NYT

One of the losers in Tuesday’s election is the charter school movement, which lost a big and reliable advocate when Republicans gave up control of the majority to Democrats in the State Senate, both sides said.
The strongest backer of charter schools now is Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who wields extraordinary power in crafting state budgets under New York law. “What that means is you can stop bad stuff, but it doesn’t mean you will see an expansion,” Bellafiore said.... Newsday
Two articles that should give us some joy to read.

I've always maintained that 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. This goes back to when Clinton was governor of Arkansaw and Al Shanker built an alliance between the AFT and the neo-liberal Clintons -- and when Clinton became president, the alliance continued until Shanker died in 1997. Randi cemented the alliance. And the charter movement began to grow by leaps and bounds as ed deform geared up into this century.

After all, there is no better illustration of neo-liberalism than the anti-union, anti-public education charter movement.

Articles in the NY Times and Newsday is a sign the worm has turned in this state and others.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

NY Post: DOE restricts Zuckerberg Summit Learning as Students at Secondary School of Journalism Protest

This just may be the first student revolt against Zuckerberg and hi-tech assaults on education. That it was led by kids of color makes it special, especially when he hear of recent events where wealthier parents are controlling some of the tech infringements while poorer communities are getting Summit Learning like programs pushed down their throats. I think this story should be picked up nationally.
NY Post
Last week I broke a story on a student walkout at the Secondary School of Journalism on the John Jay Campus in Park Slope. The information about the walkout was provided to me by parent activist Annette Renaud, whose niece attends the school.
I raced out of the UFT DA this past Wednesday (Nov. 7) to attend the School Leadership Team (SLT) meeting at SSJ after being alerted by Leonie Haimson, a meeting attended Sue Edelman of the NY Post.

Sue has done some of the best reporting on shenanigans at the DOE on the part of officials and supervisors. She is a hero to many teachers. (Sue is also the niece of my former next door neighbor, so we go back a long way since she first came to NYC to work for the Post decades ago.) Today Sue's article appears in the NY Post:

Leonie, of course, is also a hero to many of us for her amazing work.

I wasn't originally clear about all the reasons for the walkout but the way principal Livingstone Hilaire has run the school was a factor in the student revolt. (His reputation over the years has been sketchy, as reported by some of my correspondents who worked at schools he has run.) From what I hear, a number of teachers have left the school and been replaced by newbies who don't dare speak out.
Sue does quote one:
A teacher who requested anonymity said Summit glitches include system crashes, poor wifi in the old John Jay HS building, and a lack of laptops. What’s worse, the teacher added, many students hate it. “It’s a lot of reading on the computer, and that’s not good for the eyes. Kids complain. Some kids refuse to do it.”
Leonie's eye was caught by the involvement of Summit Learning, which is owned by Facebook's Zuckerberg and we are not surprised that Summit mines student and family data for future use. She immediately retweeted my post and left this comment:
Parents and students throughout the country have rebelled vs the Summit system b/c the students start to hate school, fall behind and become disengaged from their learning having to stare at computer screens for many hours per day. Moreover, all their personal data is being scooped up by Mark Zuckerberg via his CZI LLC.
(See below for a list of links Leonie has provided.)

Zuckerberg is giving away ice water in the winter:
Last summer, Summit trained 9th and 10th grade teachers, paying for four nights in a Newark, N.J, hotel plus meals.
Student Mitchel Storman
Hilaire ran the SLT meeting, which lasted until past 8PM. It was not well attended - there were no teachers present - but there was one freshman student, Mitchel Storman, who gave an honest assessment of what is wrong with the Summit program which turned parents, who at first seemed skeptical of the critiques, in the room around. Mitchel was one impressive 14 year old.

Leonie read a list of the data collected on the students and people's eyes lit up. This is Zuckerberg of Facebook data fame and they took notice. I pointed out that teachers' comments might follow the student forever.

Hilaire, who can be a charming guy, played it a bit dumb when Leonie asked for a copy of the Summit contract and if it complied with the state student privacy law. He said DOE Legal had approved his use of Summit. Yes, DOE Legal -- so competent.

When students walked out, the DOE did nothing but try to convince them not to do it through the Supt. But ---

The DOE only takes action when it gets negative press - it ignored the student walkout. So in response to Sue's story:
The DOE said late Saturday the school will immediately drop the Summit program in 11th and 12th grades. Administrators will ” continue to be in communication with students, staff, and parents about the new strategies over the next few weeks,” said spokeswoman Danielle Filson.
David Bloomfield, a Brooklyn College and CUNY Grad Center education professor, said the online system “fits the Facebook business model,” but came into city schools with little input or review.
“It’s educational experimentation on our kids,” he said.
At a school meeting last week, SSJ parents also voiced concerns about privacy in light of recent Facebook data breaches. Summit collects a wealth of information on each student, from age, ethnicity, and extracurricular activities, to grades, test scores and disciplinary penalties. It insists the data is safe.
Read it all at:

Here is a photo from Sue's story - she went back to the school on Thursday. You gotta love these gutsy kids.

Student protest leaders Zenaiah Bonsu (from left), Kelly Hernandez and Akila Robinson
Leonie Haimson's links:
Students’ personal data is being collected by CZI/Mark Zuckerberg and being shared with up to 18 other companies.  In at least 16 states parents and students have rebelled.

Facebook-backed school software shows promise and raises privacy concerns, WaPost, Oct. 11, 2016

Parents cite student privacy concerns with popular online education platform, WaPost, Sept. 5, 2017:

Parents rebel against Summit learning platform, Student Privacy Matters, Aug. 31, 2017

Update on Summit Schools including visit to a Summit school, Student Privacy Matters, Dec. 6, 2017

Connecticut School District Suspends Use of Summit Learning Platform, Edsurge, Dec 20, 2017

Two Districts Roll Back Summit Personalized Learning Program, Ed Week, Dec. 22, 2017

Zuckerberg and the parent pushback vs Summit schools; Student Privacy Matters, Feb. 2, 2018

Online Learning: What Every Parent Should Know, Network for Public Education, March 2018

Mark Zuckerberg Is Trying to Transform Education. This Town Fought Back, NY Magazine, Oct. 11, 2018.

What Just Happened to Summit? , Curmudgucation, October 14, 2018 , Website posted by parents fighting Summit in their own districts

Had a great time at dinner with Leonie at a Turkish restaurant on 7th Ave after the meeting. I had a chance to fill her in on some of the dramas taking place in the UFT. 

More drama on the trip home as trains we diverted and stalled and we had to improvise. My car was in Brooklyn and the Gil Hodges bridge was due to close at 11PM. I got to my car at 10:42 and hit the bridge at 10:59. I road that buggy like a formula one.

When American Troops interferred in more than an election in Russia

Pvt. Henkelman, who painted car bodies at Detroit’s American Auto Trimming Co. before being drafted, told the soldiers he would cross enemy lines alone, carrying a white flag. He would invite the Bolsheviks to a goodbye party. Then he and his co-conspirators would walk away from the war. Four days later, U.S. Army officers caught wind of the plot. Pvt. Henkelman was hauled before a court-martial and charged with treason, desertion and mutiny—crimes punishable by death.....
Soldiers in Company A of the 339th tried to forge a separate peace with Bolshevik soldiers across from their lines. One American, apparently the son of Russian or Eastern European immigrants, drafted the truce offering in rough Russian on Knights of Columbus stationery decorated with an American flag. The writer complained about the deceit of the British officers and the absence of British troops on the front lines.
Yesterday's WSJ had an amazing article about one of the most shameless events in our history -- the sending of troops to Russia to fight try to kill off the Russian Revolution. I'm posting this because a member of my writing group, Bruce Bowman, has written an as yet unpublished novel on this very subject. How American troops who were expecting to fight the Germans were sent to Russia to fight the Bolsheviks. So what's a little interference in the 2016 election compared to this?

More proof that Woodrow Wilson engaged in some of the most awful deceptions of any American president, despite his reputation as a liberal. When I studied history we viewed him as one of the good guys. Goes to show you how much stuff has been hidden.

The Saturday Essay
The One Time American Troops Fought Russians Was at the End of World War I—and They Lost
Thousands of U.S. soldiers sent to guard military storehouses from the Germans were instead ordered to wage war on the Bolsheviks
In late February 1919, the soldiers of Company B reached the breaking point, when griping gave way to mutiny.
The Americans had expected to face Germans on the Western Front. Yet three months after the Nov. 11 armistice ended the Great War, they were instead fighting Bolshevik revolutionaries in Russia’s frigid European north.
Dozens of their fellow troops had succumbed to influenza on the sea voyage to the Russian port of Archangel. Others had been killed in combat by an enemy armed with a local’s knowledge of trails and villages. Wounded Americans had frozen to death awaiting rescue in snowy forests.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Kristallnacht - The Day of Fate - David Frum, The Atlantic

Until November 1938, the Nazi program for Germany’s Jews was one of humiliation, segregation, and exploitation. Recent scholarship has drawn uncomfortable parallels between the Nazi subordination of the Jews before 1938 and the Jim Crow system of the American South at the same time. In the half decade leading up to 1938, German Jews were expelled from the civil service and from teaching posts. They were forbidden to marry Gentiles and risked murderous punishment for nonmarital sexual relations. They lost their licenses to practice medicine and law. They were barred from using park benches and swimming pools. They were excluded from Germany’s universities, then its high schools. They were expelled from orchestras and other cultural institutions. At every turn, they were economically defrauded and robbed: subjected to economic boycotts, punitively taxed, denied health insurance and other social benefits, and forced to sell assets at knockdown prices to regime cronies.
Yet through the end of 1937, it remained possible to hope that the Nazi persecution might still respect some last limits of humanity. While many individual Jews suffered assaults and some were murdered in the early years of the regime, systematic killing of Jews solely because of their religion still hovered over the horizon. Surely in an advanced and cultured nation, some decency must still constrain uttermost barbarity?
Eighty years ago this week, the last of those illusions was smashed like broken glass.
I posted another story on Kritallnacht on FB but this one by David Frum is so good as it connects some dots between then and now.

The Day of Fate

Friday, November 9, 2018

UFT Contract Vote Results - Finally

I've been bitching about the lack of exact numbers (UFT Contract Vote: Where are the numbers?) but here they are:

James has some comparisons to 2014 at the ICE blog:
There were 89,083 total votes cast this year compared to 90,459 in 2014. That's 1,376 fewer voters. In terms of teachers, there were 61,708 votes cast in 2018 compared to 64,232 in 2014. I can't explain that 2,524 drop in numbers for teachers.
Obviously a key vote came in the OT/PT chapter with only 36% approving the contract.

Very significant is the 86% teacher vote. Yes, 8600 voted NO in spite of enormous pressure and speed in the process, but 53,000 teachers voted YES. James points to 2500 less teachers voting than last time.

James points to the total NO vote as roughly 12,000.

Let me point out that in the 2016 UFT elections MORE/NA received 10,600 votes. Add the Portelos 1400 and we get about 1200 total in 2016.

What this tells me is that there is a floating 12,000 people in the UFT who are skeptical or opposed to Unity. That number has ranged between 9 and 12,000 over the past decades.

James thinks if the opposition had been in more schools the vote would have been higher.

But that is the point. Why isn't the opposition in more schools? And why has the number of opposition people and schools remained fairly constant over decades?

Here's how I'm beginning to look at it.
There aren't more opposition and therefore a greater vote because being an active part of the opposition doesn't and hasn't appealed to many people beyond this floating core. And I do not see any prospects for this to change in the near future. In fact I think it may shrink, given the opposition is at its weakest point in a very long time.

The Founders and Us -- Was John Adams Right and Jefferson and Madison Wrong?

Since the 1980s, Ellis argues, the political right has engaged in a persistent, well-funded and “radically revisionist” act of historical fraud, painting government as “demonic” in the eyes of its creators. Faced by the reality that [John] Adams anticipated — deep, endemic, expanding inequality — conservatives peddle Jeffersonian remedies, like the crippling of federal power. Ellis thinks the right has been so successful in selling this “extreme version of capitalist theology” that it has, to a meaningful degree, shut down the centuries-old debate about the role of government. The advocates of regulation and economic reform have been shouted down and shoved to the sidelines, Ellis contends, turning “mainstream politics” into “a one-sided conversation, a muted version of the American Dialogue.”.... NYT Review of American Dialogue by Joseph Ellis
A fascinating review of a book I think I should read but probably never will. I remember this debate taking place in my history classes in high school and college. But no longer I imagine. I keep telling people you can't understand what is happening today without looking back to the past. (Check out this Nov. 1960 article on JFK's victory.)

But no one wants to listen. Just yesterday at a luncheon where I was the only one present who was an adult in the 60s, I was asked if those years were as divisive as now. YES I said. Maybe more so. Here is more from the review by Jeff Shesol.
Jefferson’s romantic notion that economic and social equality would be the natural order of American life and Adams’s retort that “as long as property exists, it will accumulate in individuals and families. … The snow ball will grow as it rolls.” Jefferson’s was the prevailing view at the time. Meanwhile Adams’s “prophecy,” as Ellis notes, struck most of his peers as “so bizarre and thoroughly un-American … that it served as evidence for the charge that he had obviously lost his mind.” Adams saw no way to prevent the consolidation of wealth and power by American oligarchs, but he did believe it could and must be moderated — regulated — by a strong national government....
John Adams an early version of late 19th- mid 20th century reformers?
There can be no question whose forecast was right. Jefferson’s ideal of an egalitarian, agrarian society was an anachronism before the 19th century was out, while the Gilded Age, near that century’s end, provided garish confirmation of Adams’s insight. So, of course, does the current age. Turning his attention to the present, Ellis paints a vivid if familiar picture of the redistribution of wealth to the top of the income scale, as well as the abandonment — indeed the denigration — of Adams’s belief that, in Ellis’s words, “the free market required regulation for capitalism to coexist with the egalitarian expectations of democracy.”
I loved this review, though I don't think I have the patience to read the book.

History was my favorite subject from elementary school on. There was possibly some kind of bias in the material against the Federalists and in favor of the Jefferson wing of the party because of the attitudes I emerged with by the time I left college. That the Federalists like Alexander Hamilton and John Adams were patrician bad guys and Jefferson and Madison were truer Democrats. Actually, I remember Madison being views as Jefferson's lackey in some ways. (We visited both their houses which were not far apart in Virginia.) But Madison may be the true father of our nation due to the work he did in getting the constitution passed. If not for him we might need a passport go to New Jersey.




Did Madison intend the constitution to be read like a biblical tome, ala the late Justice Scalia?
Ellis argues, the prevailing conservative doctrine of “originalism” is a pose that rests on a fiction: the idea that there is a “single source of constitutional truth back there at the founding,” easily discovered by any judge who cares to see it. As a historian, Ellis takes particular offense at the machinations made by Justice Antonin Scalia in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) — a sophist’s masterpiece of an opinion that concluded the founders sought to arm the American people without limit and without end. Though Scalia is gone, his ideology remains ascendant, while Madison’s heirs, the proponents of a “living Constitution,” are “on the permanent defensive.” History, to that end, is bastardized, sanitized and turned into talking points.
Over the decades my views have shifted because of the new information and interpretations and John Adams has continued to rise. And Madison is just a giant - though he was supposedly short.

Actually I believe the founding fathers stature in history is connected to their heights.
Washington was 6'3"
Jefferson was 6'2"
Adams was 5'7"
Madison was 5'4"

Below the fold is the entire review.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Are Green Party Defections Due to Trump's Pushing People To Democrats, Countering Some Left Analysis?

Normally, I would agree with the Jacobin election analysis. But  you'll note that all the victories were for Democrats, not Greens. Are we tacking left? If so what about the massive drop in vote totals for The Green Party in the NYS governor race?

Totals dropped from 5% to less than 2% in the election for governor of NYS between the 2014 and 2018 election - from 184,419 votes to less than 80,000 at last count. Howie Hawkins was the candidate both times - and everybody loves Howie -- but his Lt Gov was Brian Jones in 2014 and Jia Lee in 2018 - both are associated with MORE and a socialist agenda. The Green platform was a very progressive agenda -- social democracy at the very least -- the kind of agenda I would normally support.

One of the ironies of Trump is that people seem to be moving from the left and more towards the center as a better alternative to the horrible Republicans. And as an aside, thinks of how this analysis might apply inside the UFT where the MORE Caucus is tacking left in the expectation that the membership is also moving in that direction. I and a few others still around MORE who don't quite agree are taking a wait and see attitude.

I often vote for the Green Party but hesitated to do so this time due to my sense that we are stuck in a two party system and with the Republicans being the party of Trump, it is not easy to brand the Democrats as being little different.

I got a dose of this first hand from a close family member who despises Cuomo almost as much as Trump but voted straight Democratic line as a way to register her protest against Trump.

So, given the option of voting Green or voting for the despised Cuomo despite his tacking left, my sense if that many people felt the same way.

Now the left press doesn't seem to agree. Here are some links to a Jacobin analysis:

  • Last night's elections were an important repudiation of Trump — and another confirmation that voters will embrace left-wing policies over watered-down centrism, explains Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor.
  • By running to the right, Democrats insist on losing twice: at the polls and in constructing an inspiring agenda. Bold left-wing politics are our only hope for long-term, substantive victory.
  • When it comes to beating Trump, baby steps are not enough. America’s decades-long shift to the right won’t be undone with Democratic Party liberalism.
Normally, I would agree with the Jacobin analysis. But if you read some of it you'll note that all the victories were for Democrats, not Greens.

But right now I am thinking I want an FDR New Deal, which has been being undermined by the Republicans, aided by the Clinton/Obama Democratic neo-liberal wing of the party. If people hadn't jumped into the despised (on the left) Democratic Party, there would be no victories.

Rather than jumping into left-wing parties, I'm feeling that we are at a stage that requires many people to work in the Democratic Party even when some elements are not of a perfect political flavor. Like can the party exist within the two poles of Connor Lamb and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

I'm willing to give it a try. But I also want to note that AOC has come under severe attack from the left-wing ideologues, so expect them to keep attacking the Democratic Party but when it suits them to brag about victories over Trump by the Dems.

I have the sense that it is time to join my UFT brethren in working in the Democratic Party, pushing for a progressive program. Not a radical program, but progressive. I just may start going to UFT Retiree chapter meetings and look at some options -- and let me note I hate canvassing and calling from phone banks but may have to bite the bullet.

I couldn't mark the ballot box for Cuomo but also couldn't vote Green. Someone reminded me that former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who at one time wanted to challenge Cuomo in the primary, was also on the ballot and I want to encourage diversity inside the Dems, so I voted for her.

But there is some good news for the Greens, as evidenced in this article from a Syracuse newspaper.

Howie Hawkins wins enough votes to keep Green Party status in NY

Candidates for New York governor Stephanie Miner, Larry Sharpe and Howie Hawkins speak during the 2018 Global Citizen Festival in New York City.  (Photo by Theo Wargo)

Candidates for New York governor Stephanie Miner, Larry Sharpe and Howie Hawkins speak during the 2018 Global Citizen Festival in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo)

Syracuse's Howie Hawkins has succeeded in his attempt to keep the Green Party's status as an official party in New York state.
With 83 percent of the vote counted, Hawkins had won 79,640 votes. That was less than 2 percent of the vote against the winner Gov. Andrew Cuomo and challengers Republican Marc Molinaro, Libertarian Larry Sharpe and Stephanie Miner, who ran on a new party called the Serve America Movement.
Sharpe has also won enough votes to give the Libertarian Party a line for the next four years. Miner was behind in her effort to win a ballot line for the SAM party.
Although he has not won office in more than 20 tries, Hawkins has been a powerhouse for the Green Party's ballot placement.
Candidates who win at least 50,000 votes in the race for governor win an automatic ballot line for the party for the next four years. It means candidates who run on the Green Party line for all state and local races can collect fewer signatures than independent party candidates. It also means Hawkins appeared fourth on the ballot this year.

The Green Party appeared fourth on the ballot in NY thanks to Hawkins' strong showing four years ago in the race for governor.

Hawkins inched the Greens into recognized party placement in 2010 with 59,906 votes. With a higher ballot line, Hawkins won 184,419 votes in 2014, according to the NYS Board of Elections.
The Green Party boasts that it has successfully won a ballot line three terms in a row by running its own candidates rather than cross-endorsing major-party candidates.