Friday, November 30, 2018

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

Last weekend to see the show.

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 25, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 23, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deja Vu all over again.

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

Monday, November 19, 2018

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

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

Here is the Chief article.

Forsake 7.5% Raise by Big Margin

Occupational, Physical Therapists Veto UFT Pact to Protest Pay Disparity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 18, 2018

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

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

And this:

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

Diane Ravitch reports:

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

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

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

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

The cast of Pippin (partial)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tickets may be purchased the web.

Friday, November 16, 2018

UFT Caucus and Election History: 1962 - Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.