Wednesday, March 20, 2019

MORE Fallacies, E4E Inspire Caucus

From Ed Notes at the March Delegate Assembly:

MORE Fallacies: Beg UFT leaders to Organize and Mobilize, divide opposition and run not to win

In the current UFT election the MORE Caucus talks a lot about how much educators have won through striking in red and blue states. They point to the seminal and inspiring 2012 Chicago teacher strike and the recent strike in Los Angeles where the union leaderships organized, mobilized and prepared the membership for strikes, gaining over 90% support of the members. A keys to these strikes were alliances with community forces outside the union which MORE talks about – but only rhetorically.

Can you talk strike when you are not a serious threat to take power
What MORE won’t tell you is that the current progressive social justice oriented leadership in those cities formed broad-based caucuses and coalitions in Chicago (CORE) and LA (Union Power) to oppose the former timid top-down union leaderships and ultimately WON their elections in 2010 and 2014 respectively. If they hadn’t run to win, there would never have been strikes. The Unity Caucus leadership will NEVER strike or be pressured by the rank and file to strike. Only defeating them will lead to a union MORE envisions. And MORE is running NOT to WIN.

The way to change the UFT is to not urge the leadership to change but to present a credible threat to their overwhelming power and control by building the machinery of a massive rank and file movement with deep roots in the schools. UFT elections are only a piece of the mechanisms but they do demonstrate the ability to get support in the schools. In 2016 I helped run the MORE election campaign with a focus on winning a piece of the Ex Bd, which we did by winning the 7 high school seats. The hope at the time was to continue this building process by challenging in the middle and elementary schools. But the faction that took control of MORE blew that plan up.

Instead of following in the footsteps of CORE and Union Power, MORE has chosen an opposite approach of running not to win by refusing to unite with other progressive caucuses and independents and purging and pushing out those who resist this approach, using undemocratic methods and purposely not running divisional candidates where they could actually win. And to build an opposition, demonstrating an ability to win anything is part of the process.

A recent MORE election leaflet proclaimed: Collective Action Gets the Goods! Only a stronger base of rank-and-file teachers, counselors, paras and all education workers, knit together in a common organization that can share strategies and mobilize our coworkers can push the union leadership to alter its approach, and eventually lead the union in a different direction entirely.

I laughed out loud when I read this. As one of the founders of the MORE Caucus in 2011 I’ve watched with sadness (and some amusement) how MORE morphed from what began as an inclusive progressive big tent opposition group to Unity Caucus into an exclusive, divisive, narrow ideologically driven and fundamentally undemocratic organization that has driven out many progressive former members who way outnumber those who remain. There are even three former MOREs running on the Unity Caucus line, two of whom were elected to the UFT Ex Bd as MORE candidates in 2016 but have grown alienated with the actions of MORE. How can MORE boldly talk about knitting together rank and file UFT members when it has done the very reverse? Witness the current UFT elections where MORE’s refusal to knit together a coalition to attempt to make a dent in Unity power has led to a divided opposition where three weak caucuses are running limited election campaigns with 40-50 candidates.

I actually don’t disagree with many of the policies MORE puts forth but cannot go along with the tactics used internally and a program that not only has no chance of moving the UFT in a more progressive direction but by its divisive tactics actually has helped strengthen the control of the ruling Unity Caucus. MORE leaders talk about lack of democracy in the UFT while suspending members without due process and exhibiting a level of control that makes Unity look democratic in comparison. Instead of becoming a serious and inclusive caucus as a threat to Unity, MORE has become an ideologically driven exclusive club of self-proclaimed “activists” with loads of rhetoric but little action.

Still, I expect MORE to finish with the highest vote totals of the three running against Unity because New Action and Solidarity have their own problems. I will have more on the elections at the April 17 DA, the day the votes are counted when I will take a break from the count to hand out Ed Notes.

UFT Election: Inspire, E4E-based Caucus, new kid on the block

You might be seeing leaflets for the independent campaign of Michael Loeb, a CL in the Bronx. Michael is running under the UFT Inspire Caucus line. Educators for Excellence, funded by many ed deformers, has been viewed as an anti-union group but over the years has modified its tone and put forth a strong social justice agenda and through Mike has begun to engage in the UFT, mostly in calls for more democracy. Some teacher unions around the nation have vilified E4E, but not here. There has been some signs of cooperation between Unity and E4E. Is this a precursor of a future E4E caucus that might at some point contend with MORE for the title of THE SJ Caucus? Don’t sell such a well-funded group with full-time employees short. Mike serves on the national board of E4E and I have had some excellent conversations with him about unions and policy. He seems to have helped push E4E in a more positive direction towards unions and has been open to my criticisms. Whereas E4E used to throw me out of meetings, Mike has now invited me. Just in case, I will bring a food taster.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Rumor: Paul Egan Out at UFT - Everyone is Mum

When Paul Egan wasn't at last week's UFT Executive Board meeting we never got the latest updates on the Chelsea soccer team. Preferring Manchester United, who really cared?

We've had a lot of fun with Paul over the years. So when I received a tip Sunday night that Paul Egan, whose official title is (was?) Political Director; Director of Chapter Organizing and Development was fired, it was a bit disconcerting. It seemed pretty weird for this to happen with Monday being lobbying day in Albany. Who knows what goes on in the inner circles of the UFT?

There have been political purges in the past.
Paul was not present at lobbying day on Monday. He is an elected AFT/NYSUT delegate and it will be interesting to see if he appears on the Unity slate when ballots are sent out in a few days. If he's gone that is a clue this was not sudden. If he's on the ballot then this may be more immediate. It would be a funny time to remove Paul for not doing his job well so soon after all the bragging the UFT did about taking over the state senate with their political operation led by Paul.

Maybe someone will contact Ed Notes with the full story. Personally I always liked Paul even if not always agreeing with his political strategy. At the AFT 2016 convention Arthur, Jonathan Halabi and I ran into him in a restaurant and had some fun. (I didn't even order the quail.) If the story is true does that mean he gets to go back to teaching after being gone for so long? I can see all those young people holding pep rallies for Chelsea.

nysut board of directors

Paul Egan

E.D. 33 (UFT)

    • Political Director & Director of Chapter Organizing & Development

      – Present 3 years 10 months
      52 Broadway, New York
    • Director of Legislation & Political Action

      6 years 2 months
      Responsible for the development and execution of our organization's government relations, inter-union relations, and electoral plans.
      Coordinate our political strategy with our state and national organizations.
      Oversee our PAC with the responsibility for our political contribution strategy, increasing voluntary contributions and ensuring compliance with city, state and federal reporting requirements.
      Design and implement plans that provide opportunities for members to engage in the political process through advocacy and the electoral process.
    • District Representative

      2 years 11 months
      Bronx, New York
    • Special Representative

      1 year 9 months
      Greater New York City Area
  • Image for Teacher


    NYC Department of Education
    10 years 5 months
    Greater New York City Area

Monday, March 18, 2019

Jackson Heights Queens Ed Forum: Ravitch, AOC, Liu, Jackson plus others

Leonie reports:  There was an amazing education forum yesterday with standing room only. Thanks to Jackson Heights People for Public Schools for organizing it. Among the wonderful speakers were Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents the district in Congress,  NY Senators Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz, who represent the district in the Legislature, as well as Senators Robert Jackson and John Liu. Among the terrific education advocates who spoke were Johanna Garcia of NYC Opt out, Maria Bautista of AQE, Carol Burris of Network for Public Education, Diane Ravitch, Kate Menken  of the NYS Association for Bilingual Education and me.
Fred and AOC- to the left (pun intended)
What would be a normal educational forum turned into a major event due to the star power of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez- and don't forget Diane Ravitch plus all the important politicians plus of course Leonie Haimson. And don't forget Fred Smith, my fellow 2019 Skinny Award winner, who always gets the money shot. I'm sorry I missed it but I spent the day doing a movie with some friends (and we actually shot the whole thing in one day.)

150 people SRO on a Saturday afternoon ed forum is not light.

Leonie has a report on her blog: Queens forum with AOC on how our schools must make every child feel like they matter

Chaz, who is not to the left, actually has some nice things to say about AOC --with the usual right wing trolls leaving comments attacking her. 
Chaz's School Daze Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) Supports NYC Public Schools - I know a hell of a lot of old white guys like me who love her work.

But I want to make special mention of the organizing group behind the event:  Jackson Heights People for Public Schools whose mission is: We work to educate the community about the public schools in Jackson Heights and to support parents and members of the community who wish to make our schools even better.

One of the founders and leaders of the group is currently a NYC high school teacher, Amanda Vender. I first met Amanda over a decade ago - I think she was working with the newspaper Indy Kids and I was distributing some of them to some people in the schools. Eventually Amanda became a middle school teacher and had kids -- I distinctly remember her bringing her few weeks old child to some forum we were running.

Someone posted on FB:
Thanks goes out to Alliance for Quality Education, NYC Opt Out, Class Size Matters, The Network for Public Education & NYS Association for Bilingual Education.
But especially to Amanda Vender & Jackson Heights People for Public Schools for pulling it all together!!!
Amanda Vender at forum
Amanda never got deeply involved in the work of union opposition politics though she was a supporter. She focused on her work as a parent and actually did local community organizing where she lived, whereas groups like MORE just talk about community organizing in theory.

She and her group are bringing a pro-public school, pro opt-out, progressive vision of education to her own community. I realized that the work inside a union opposition begins to look meaningless compared to the work Amanda and others have done in their communities. If I had done similar work in Rockaway - (and of course if I had kids I might have), I would have been much more useful than I was pushing the boulder uphill in UFT opposition politics. Maybe next life.

Amanda Vender, one of the first AOC supporters is my model for educational organizing. Amanda not only talks the talk, she walks the walk.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

School Scope: Parent Action Conference: Opt Out Yes, Charters NYET!

Published in The WAVE, March 15, 2019

School Scope: Parent Action Conference: Opt Out Yes, Charters NYET!

By Norm Scott

The annual Parent Action Conference sponsored by NYC Kids PAC, Class Size Matters and Community Education Council District 2 (CECD2) took place on March 9 at the Peck Slip School in lower Manhattan, attracting some of the leading parent activists in the city. Kids PAC is the only lobby group focusing its attention directly on the interests of the children in public schools. The opening session was a discussion with state legislators:
Alicia Hyndman, Queens NYS Assembly Democrat 29th District, Jo Anne Simon, Brooklyn NYS Assembly Democrat 52nd District, Robert Jackson, NYS Senator from Manhattan. They were asked to respond to questions on a number of issues.

They all supported parent rights to opt out of standardized tests, opposed attempts to punish schools when numbers of parents opt out and opposed lifting the cap on charters in New York City, which has been reached. There are still over 90 slots open in the rest of the state and the charter industrialized complex has been pushing to get those added to our oversaturated city. It was pointed out that Republican state legislators support charters but few if any charters exist in their districts – they love them from afar as long as those charter bucks role in – but otherwise, NIMBY. They were also asked about the upcoming renewal debate on mayoral control. They all called for more limits and oversight.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Forest Hills High School, Ben Sherman Update: parents rip principal

This story won't go away until Principal Ben Sherman is gone and buried away at a DOE safe haven for principals where he will probably end up being a mentor -- maybe he's learned - he can tell them how to treat teachers like shit without getting outed.

The UFT has finally jumped on board with an article in the NY Teacher written by Francis Lewis HS CL Arthur Goldstein: the struggles at Forest Hills High School.

Eterno at the increasingly disturbing ICEUFT blog (due to the numbing comments) gives Arthur and the UFT grudging credit for finally putting up an article on a school with a lousy principal. Arthur has been up front on his blog in posting about FHHS. NYCEducator is the most widely read and respected blog not only locally, but nationally.

I had to put up this comment:
Forest Hills HS teachers contacted bloggers like James, Arthur and myself and we put up their views. The little dig at Arthur as a "former dissident" and the claiming of credit here is disingenuous. And when they came to the Ex Bd meeting last spring they were supported by Arthur, Mike and Jonathan from New Action. Arthur has taken on this fight as much as anyone and asked follow up questions on Monday at the Ex Bd. We complain when the NY Teacher doesn't cover but when it does it is reported begrudgingly. There are clear signs that the UFT did work behind the scenes in this case - they never do enough - but there would have been no massive vote of no confidence without their working behind the scenes. Our job along with Arthur and Mike is to keep the pressure on whether publicly or behind the scenes.
Some teachers at the school came to we bloggers late last spring and we encouraged them to come to the UFT Ex Bd meeting and some did -- that always seems to wake up the union leadership. 

But let's give credit where credit is due - Sue Edelman from the NY Post - her articles exposing principals have had more impact than any blog.

Clearly if you read the NY Post article, the DOE will jump over hoop after hoop without removing Sherman. 

I have a contact on the PTA who has slammed Sherman.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Tony Thurmond - A Lesson on Democrat Backstabbing - UPDATE - Tony Calls Diane

Here's a quick update on this post from Diane:

California: Tony Thurmond Called Me

I'm impressed that he called her.
The conversation is interesting in that Tony never says how the task force came to be chosen - and I'm going to venture a guess that Gov Gavin Newsom is the culprit and Tony is covering for him. Which emphasizes the point -- too many Dems are still ed deformers even hiding in plain sight.
UPDATE: In response to posting this on listserves I received the following from Diane confirming that Newsom packed the committee with charter people:
A contact who works in the State Capitol in Sacramento contacted me last night to say that Tony Thurmond did not name the committee: Gavin Newsom did.  --- Diane
Back to the original post:

Monday, March 11, 2019

TWTW: KidsPac, Face to Face With T. Rex - and I Didn't Bang a Gong

The Week That Was -- The past week was busy and intense.

Saturday - Mar. 2 -- the big Bernie rally at Brooklyn College after my early morning yoga class. It was good to be back on campus where I spent so many years - tuition free as an undergrad. How could we afford it then but not now? Bernie's speech was excellent.

Sunday, Mar. 3 - My 74th birthday. The day began with the Frank Caiati acting class at the Rockaway Theater, followed by heading into the city for a matinee of Kiss Me Kate, followed by dinner at a Greek restaurant nearby on 7th Ave and 57th St.

Monday - A free day of reading and hanging out.

Tuesday - Media event at the Museum of Natural History for the preview of T. Rex which included a panel with the curators, spending time at the exhibit - seeing those cute feathers on the baby T.Rex. Followed by a private one hour tour upstairs where they prepare the fossils. Always my favorite museum and the dinosaur area was a must see for everyone of my classes. I took each class there 3 or 4 times a year -- I never tried to see the entire place in one shot - I focused each time on a different area. They had worksheets for the dinosaurs and had to look for specific displays -- not the heaviest lifting but it provided some focus. I learned this time how much new info there is on dinosaurs.

Sunday, March 10, 2019


I was at KidsPac/Class Size Matters all day parent conference Saturday and John Liu was there - he was my choice for Mayor in 2014. Good to have him back. I have some video of him which I will put up later. There is a move to reform mayoral control - not end it. Lui was asked how he would deal with the charter lobby attempts to tie mayoral control to lifting the charter cap. He said he's heard nothing so far. The NYC cap is full but there are still over 90 slots open around the state and the charter people want to be able to make those available to NYC. Every charter costs the UFT jobs - and dues. So expect them to fight tooth and nail on this one and the good will towards charters is fading fast.

Albany, NY - The Senate Majority announced today that they will hold a public hearing on school governance and mayoral control in New York City. Senator John Liu, Chair of the Senate’s NYC Education Committee, will lead this hearing, to ensure that legislative activity in 2019 addresses the needs of New York City students. 

“Schools are the most important priority of state and local government, and how they are governed and operated are of the highest public interest.” Said Senator John Liu, Chair of the Senate's NYC Education Committee. “Our hearing seeks to engage all stakeholders in the city to inform the way forward, including any changes that should be enacted."

The hearing will be on Friday, March 15th, at 10:00AM, in the Senate Hearing Room, 250 Broadway, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10007.

If you would like to testify at the hearing, please RSVP to

Follow on Twitter at
New York State Senate | | 518-455-2415

Saturday, March 9, 2019

School Scope: Teacher Strikes, Amazon and Unions, Public Advocate By Norm Scott

Published March 8, 2019 in The WAVE -

School Scope: Teacher Strikes, Amazon and Unions, Public Advocate

Recently West Virginia teachers went on strike, closing down all but one county. Diane Ravitch reported: “thousands of West Virginia teachers and school workers walked off the job to kill a privatization bill reputedly written in retaliation for last year’s historic nine-day teachers strike. Only hours into the Tuesday-Wednesday walkout, the state’s House of Delegates voted 53 to 45 to indefinitely table Senate Bill 451, which had linked a teacher pay raise to the gutting of job security and a first-time legalization for West Virginia of charters and private school vouchers.” WV teachers refused to be bribed and the legislators blinked. And Kentucky teachers engaged in wildcat sickout actions. Both states are red Trump territory.

The wave of strikes continued in blue-state Cal ifornia with a week long strike in Oakland which ended with an 11% salary increase, 3% bonus at ratification, lower class sizes with phased-in class size reductions, 5-month pause in school closures, lower caseloads for special education teachers and counselors, the school board will vote to push the state for a charter school moratorium. The Oakland education system has been dominated by the anti-public school/pro-charter reformists funded by billionaires, often supported by Democratic Party politicians. Don’t think the history of support for phony reforms won’t come back to bite Dems in the upcoming battles. The new left in the party seems to understand the impact of the attacks on teachers, their unions, neighborhood schools and public education which has led to a shift within the party, though I haven’t seen very many signs from our local Dems – yet.

Congratulations to Republican Eric Ulrich for his 2nd place showing in the Public Advocate race with almost 20% of the vote. As a Republican who is a Trump critic, and since 90% of Republicans support Trump, that puts Eric far out of the mainstream of his fellow party members who fundamentally support a lying, racist, cheating con-man, to quote his own former lawyer. Eric despite winning Queens and Staten Island, has a touch road as a Republican in this city.

Eric benefitted from the favorable press he received over being the only supporter of the Amazon deal. His ads talked about supporting unions but since Amazon is blatantly anti-union, squaring that circle seems like a stretch. I found it sort of ironic given how many in Rockaway are horrified at the homeless shelters while also supporting Amazon but aren’t making the connection between the even more outrageous homeless situation in Seattle, home of Amazon, than we have here. Support Amazon here so we can have even more shelters.

The NY Times, which took a pro-Amazon position, has also reported accurately on some of the actions Amazon has taken around the country when asked to pay their fair share of taxes: they renege on their deals and move the jobs. Why any politician would trust Amazon is beyond me. Union opposition has led the way in keeping the anti-union Walmart out of the city. Compare Amazon and Walmart to the pro-union Costco, where so many of us head to like lemmings. Costco is one of the highest rated places to work and the shopping experience reflects that.

The headline in The WAVE was: Locals ‘shocked’ by Ulrich Loss. Those locals must be smok’n something. Jumaane Williams’ margin of victory was 33% against a cast of thousands of Democratic candidates. Other Dem candidates turned their guns on Jumaane, a sign he was a clear favorite. Don’t forget his 47% with little money against Cuomo’s candidate for Lt. Governor in last September’s primary. He is a grad of Brooklyn Tech and Brooklyn College. I voted for Jumaane, whose career I’ve been following for years. Friends who live in central Brooklyn rave about him for his humanity, activism, and practical politics as one of the more effective City Councilmen. Just ask Eric, who was so gracious towards Jumaane – we might see them head to head in November. Lew Simon was outraged at the outcome and went on to attack fellow Democrat Jumaane Williams as not willing to stand up to de Blasio. Lew must have missed this headline in local papers: Jumaane Williams, a thorn for Bill de Blasio? The tenant activist turned Brooklyn councilman has become the public advocate - Bill de Blasio might be concerned.

Next week: Feeling the Bern(ie) at Brooklyn College.

Norm is a constant thorn at his blog at

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Jeff Bryant - Denver Teachers’ Strike Was a Rejection of Education ‘Reform’

Teachers in the school district that was supposed to be the model for education reform just rebelled—and won.
by , February 21, 2019

Jeff Bryant has been a major journalist exposing the holes in ed deform. Here's his take on the Denver strike against their merit pay system, which Randi Weingarten originally praised a decade ago.

Denver Teachers’ Strike Was a Rejection of Education ‘Reform’

Forest Hills HS Update - Supt Juan Mendez Pulled

Arthur has been on the case on the Forest Hills HS drama -- keeping it up front - and we know that this is a way to keep the UFT leadership's feet to the fire -- and the DOE too - they don't act until there's public exposure. One thing we know - even if Sherman is removed he will find a safe haven in the DOE bureaucracy and might emerge one day to run another school when memories fade.

The Ben and Juan Show--Episode 1 "Too Little Too Late at Forest Hills"

We received this from someone at the school:
Sherman - from The Chief

Dear Forest Hills High School Family:
Chancellor Carranza is committed to providing students and staff at Forest Hills High School the resources and support they need to succeed. The Chancellor and I have heard you clearly, and want you to know that we are working with the entire school community to build a strong and supportive environment.  
Effective immediately, Dr. Sean Davenport will serve as supervising superintendent until further notice, overseeing daily operations at Forest Hills High School. Forest Hills Principal Benjamin Sherman will report directly to Dr. Davenport, who will report directly to me. Dr. Davenport is a proven leader with over a decade of experience as principal, and I know he will be a strong partner who will work closely with students, staff and families. 
As your Executive Superintendent, I will work with Dr. Davenport and Mr. Sherman to ensure that Forest Hills is living up to the highest standards of excellence and achievement.  
Dr. Davenport and I will be on campus Monday at Forest Hills High School to meet with staff. As always, feel free to contact myself or my team with any additional questions. 
Dr. Andre Spencer
Executive Superintendent

A comment [edited]: You can quote me as a history teacher.

Why are they keeping this man on?  The fact that he needs one-on-one supervision speaks to his incompetence.  How can the faculty agree to serve under a man who has credible allegations of lewd, sexual behavior with students and staff?  The only way to return to our former high status is with a change at the top.

Article in The Chief

Forest Hills Too High? Teachers Say Principal Lets School Go to Pot

Amazon Was Never Going to Create 25,000 Jobs in Queens

Really good look at the fault lines of the Amazon deal.


Amazon Was Never Going to Create 25,000 Jobs in Queens

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Class Size Matters/KidsPac Parent Action conference on Saturday Mar. 9

Come spend the day with fellow parent activists, hear from state legislators, and help create an Action Agenda to improve our schools!

About this Event

Co-sponsored by Class Size Matters, NYC Kids PAC and Community Education Council District 2, this year's Parent Action Conference will feature:
  • A panel of State legislators who will answer parents' questions and respond to our concerns
Workshops on the following topics:
  • Special education (a session in English and another in Spanish)
  • High-stakes testing
  • Charter schools and the need for more accountability
  • Class size and school overcrowding
  • School integration
  • Student privacy
  • Civic engagement and how to run for office.
  • In the afternoon, we will show the documentary Tested that follows NYC public middle school students as they try to get into a specialized high school.

Did opt-out land some New York City schools (CPE1, PS 15) on the state’s struggling list? Carranza says yes -Chalkbeat

Leonie is on the case as two core "movement" schools are now on the list - CPE1 and Julie Cavanagh's school, PS 15 -- both schools were core with the opt-out movement (and MORE when MORE was a real caucus instead of an insider's club. ) 
The city’s Department of Education disagreed, and appealed on behalf of two schools that were identified among the lowest performing in the state and which have high opt-out rates: Central Park East I, where 80 percent of students sat out at least one test, and P.S. 15 Patrick F Daly, where 26 percent of students sat out a test. Officials did not provide copies of the city’s appeals or the state education department’s response to them.

It’s not clear whether those two schools would have been identified as struggling if their opt-out rates had been lower. In a letter to parents, Central Park East principal Gabriel Feldberg argued that the school’s opt-out rate had torpedoed the school on the state’s rankings, noting that the schools reading scores among students who took the exams beat the city average.
“Students who don’t take the exam are counted as scoring at the lowest level,” he wrote.
This story has a lot of relevance to so many issues. A key is that Caranza is challenging state commish Elia - who by the way has always been a UFT/NYSUT/AFT darling - Randi and crew endorsed her over many progressives' objections when she became state commish -- and I remember how at the 2010 AFT Seattle convention how there was a lovefest for Elia and Bill Gates over their joint venture when she was Supt in Hillsborough, Fl. -

Contradicting , says 2 NYC schools were put on struggling list just b/c of high opt out rates - CPE1 & PS 15. He also said he appealed the ratings but Commissioner Elia turned him down.
Here Leonie points out how 1/3 of the schools were moved off the list based on appeal but this time Elia refused Caranza's request -- was it that Farina was so anti-optout?
17 hours ago
Commissioner Elia's decisions to move schools off the list is a black box. About 1/3 of schools on CSI (struggling) list in NYC were moved off the list through a Commissioner's appeal.
Politico linked to Chalkbeat
OPT-OUT FACTORED INTO STRUGGLING SCHOOLS LIST — Chalkbeat's Alex Zimmerman: "...Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza is now publicly challenging the state's narrative, arguing that at least two of the 124 city schools labeled as struggling were identified specifically because students opted out of state exams." Read more here.

Suit: Non-Union college professors demand retroactive repayment of dues -Times Union

If they win, this could have a serious impact on the UFT. I know some are thinking we must bury stories like this so as not to encourage some of those idiots posting opt-out comments on the ICE blog - or is it just one idiot? Go ahead and try to leave an idiot comment - make my day.

New York professors' union is target of class action lawsuit

Plaintiffs seek to recoup fees no longer allowed after Supreme Court's Janus decision 
ALBANY — New York’s major teachers’ unions are defending against a class action lawsuit in which college professors who were not union members are demanding retroactive repayment of dues-like fees in the wake of last June’s U.S. Supreme Court Janus decision.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Jack Gerson - OEA Strike: Balance Sheet, Lessons, and What Next?

Big NO vote in Oakland - 42% - and Jack Gerson takes apart the agreement, pointing to the dampening influence of state (and probably national) union leaders who are so tied to the Democratic Party.

I saw this headline: Oakland teachers' union declares total victory after seven-day strike - 
42% - 832 out of 2000 did not think so. Not total.

OEA Strike: Balance Sheet, Lessons, and What Next?
By Jack Gerson, retired Oakland teacher and former executive board and bargaining team member

On Friday (March 1), the bargaining teams of the Oakland school district (OUSD) and the Oakland teacher union (OEA) reached a tentative agreement that received a mixed reception by OEA members. Yesterday (March 3), after several hours of heated debate, OEA members voted to ratify the agreement, 1141 to 832, or 58% for, 42% against. That’s an unusually big “no” vote on a contract recommended by a union leadership which had just organized a spirited strike that shut down Oakland schools for seven school day. At cluster meetings and at OEA’s Representative Council (delegate assembly) on Saturday (March 2), bitter accusations were made by teachers who thought the agreement was far less than the union could win by continuing to strike.

Why this division? Despite the union leadership hailing the agreement as "historic", it is far from that. There were several complaints:

OEA had demanded no school closures (earlier this year, OUSD announced plans to close 15 schools and consolidate nine others). The OEA leadership said this was a critical demand. But in the tentative agreement, they settle for a 5 month "pause" in school closures. That's not worth much: the pause will end at the beginning of August, in time for OUSD to close schools before next school year starts. It will be much harder to fight those school closures in the summer, with teachers and students on vacation, than it is right now during the strike. And if the schools are closed, we can expect the available school properties to be disposed of: some to charter schools, some to real estate speculators who will drive housing costs still higher -- more teachers leaving Oakland, more homelessness. Many teachers spoke out against the “pause”.

School nurses said that their overwhelming need was for OUSD to lower their workload and hire more nurses. But the tentative agreement provided no change in nurses’ workload – just cash bonuses which the nurses had repeatedly told the union’s bargaining team they didn’t want to settle for. Several nurses told the Saturday meetings that “We were thrown under the bus.”

OEA had demanded a reduction of maximum counselor workload to 250 students (From the current 600). But they agreed to 550 next year and 500 the following year. Every little bit helps, but this will only help a little bit.

OEA had demanded a reduction of class size maximums by 4 per class in high needs schools (about half of Oakland schools) and by 2 elsewhere. But in the tentative agreement, they settle for 2 in high needs schools and 1 elsewhere phased in over three years -- better than nothing, but far less than what's needed, as many teachers said.

OEA had demanded a 12% pay increase over three years: 3% retroactive to the start of the 2017-8 school year, another 4% retroactive to the start of the 2018-9 school year, and another 5% for the 2019-20 school year. But they agreed to 11% over four plus years, starting January 1, 2019. And since the last 2.5% increase won’t take effect until the last day of year 4, it’s essentially an increase for the following year – so this is 11% over five years, or 2.2% per year, well below the cost of living increases. The original demands were meager enough: Oakland teachers are the lowest paid in Alameda County, an area where housing costs and overall cost of living are among the highest in the country. The proposed increases in the tentative agreement will be less than inflation, which will do nothing to help young teachers to make end meets, and so the exodus of teachers out of Oakland will continue.

OEA had made solidarity with other school worker unions a main theme. Indeed, on Friday OEA called for a picket with community members and SEIU Local 1021 (representing OUSD classified workers) to block the school board from meeting and adopting a budget which would cut over 140 jobs, mainly of SEIU members. But at about 2pm, OEA President Keith Brown told the pickets “We have a TA! We Won!” and urged them to disperse. The optics of this are very bad and were not lost on SEIU members. One wrote on Facebook:

As a SEIU member who has been picketing in the rain or shine for the past seven strike days, I feel betrayed. I feel used… I thought our collective goal Friday was to shut down the Board Meeting.”

Fortunately, several hundred OEA members ignored the leadership’s request and stayed to picket with SEIU and community until after 6pm, when the school board meeting was cancelled. It’s critical to not let the school board play divide and conquer, pretending that they have to cut SEIU workers and student support programs to pay for the OEA contract. The attempt to disperse the pickets on Friday played into the school board’s hands. That needs to be corrected. It’s important that OEA leadership makes clear that it unambiguously stands with all OUSD workers and stands fully in solidarity and support with them. Those cuts need not happen: much of the money is already there, and more can be found by cutting down on OUSD’s outrageous shoveling of revenue to private contracts and to redundant and overpaid top administrators.

[Breaking News: Today (Monday, March 4), hundreds of students and several teachers called in sick to protest at an emergency school board meeting called during school hours to try to minimize student and school worker presence. Despite impassioned speeches from scores of students and several teachers and other school workers, and over the protest of virtually all of those present, the school board voted to make $22 million in cuts: to school libraries; to restorative justice programs; to the Asian Pacific Islander support program; to the foster youth program; and to lay off well over 100 classified school workers.]

On balance: It’s important to acknowledge that Keith Brown and his team were able to lead a spirited strike supported and carried out by over 90% of OEA members. In contrast, OEA’s punishing 27-day strike in 1996 was beset by divisions within the union and within the community, as some charged that it deprived black students of essential schooling. None of that this time – the union was unified throughout the strike, and it had substantial support from students, parents, and community.

And it’s not helpful to characterize the contract as “a sellout”, nor to say that the bargaining team or the officers are “sellouts.” I believe them when they say that they’re convinced that this was the best deal that could be had at this time. I believe them, but I don’t agree with them.

Why not?

First, I think that the leadership was heavily influenced by their state parent, the California Teacher Association (CTA). CTA is overly legalistic and cautious, and it is closely tied to the state Democratic Party. Under CTA’s influence, the leadership team was far less transparent during the strike than it should have been. Decisions were made by a small group consisting largely of OEA’s officers and CTA staffers, with even the union executive board members telling me that even the executive board was out of the loop. One lesson is: more transparency is needed, and especially needed is an elected strike committee to work directly with the officers, the executive board and, as often as possible, Rep Council and picket captains.

Second, and related, I think that there was a reluctance to aggressively confront corporate targets physically with militant actions. To overcome the intransigence of the corporate-funded and controlled school board, it’s necessary to convince corporate Oakland that the union is prepared to see that there’s no business as usual. Hesitancy to do that was evident in the reluctance of the OEA leadership to vigorously pursue a proposal to rally and picket at the Port of Oakland, which could and should have occurred several days ago and would have had the support of dockworkers (ILWU Local 34 had already voted its support). Instead, CTA staff and OEA officers expressed fears that the union would be legally liable if it picketed at the port (it wouldn’t: the park and roads at the port are public property, picketing there is legal and that right has been exercised numerous times, including more than once by OEA). Finally, last Thursday (February 28), Rep Council voted overwhelmingly to picket at the port on March 5 (tomorrow). It’s no accident that OUSD improved its offer and rushed to settle when they did: one big reason was to preempt the port action. Had OEA not settled on Friday, and especially if it followed the Port action with militant rallies and sit-ins aimed at the big real estate and financial interests in downtown Oakland, I think that the corporate masters would have told state and city politicians to cough up some money, and told their school board puppets to settle up.

The union leadership repeatedly credited OEA's militant and spirited picket lines and mass rallies with what they proclaim as an historic win. But then they turn around and say that the meager tentative agreement is "the best that can be won at this time" because, they claim, support was beginning to ebb. I saw little evidence of that: thousands of teachers turned out to picket, march and rally on rainy days all week. I think that there's another reason: the union leadership is for the most part close to liberal Democrats like state superintendent of schools Tony Thurmond, who stepped in late this week to mediate the dispute and broker the deal. Thurmond and other Democrats represent corporate interests and the state, both of which wanted an end to this disruptive strike. I am sure that they pressed the OEA leadership directly as well as indirectly (through their influence with community activists and with CTA, OEA's statewide parent union).

It’s important to move forward now: to do what wasn’t done during the strike – a complete end to the school closures; a full moratorium on charter school growth; restore all the cut programs and all the jobs that were cut; take the spirit that dominated the strike and rekindle it into a militant movement that confronts corporate Oakland – at the Port, in the City Center, at all the seats of corporate power. Confront them, and demand that the priorities be set straight: Adequate funding for quality public education and for essential social services, not for privatization and corporate profit.

AOC: Backlash from the Middle While Dem Neo-liberal Makes Case for Left

The policies [DeLong] supports depend on a responsible center-right partner to succeed. They’re premised on the understanding that at least a faction of the Republican Party would be willing to support market-friendly ideas like Obamacare or a cap-and-trade system for climate change. This is no longer the case, if it ever were.
“Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy,” DeLong notes. “And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they fucking did not.”
The result, he argues, is the nature of the Democratic Party needs to shift..... Bernie Sanders news: a Clinton-era Democrat makes the case for the left - VOX

When a politician -- or, really, anyone -- becomes a star overnight, there's an inevitable backlash that grows in opposition to the rise. And less than three months into her first term in Congress, the AOC backlash has begun in earnest.
The spark came last week when, in a closed-door meeting of House Democrats, Ocasio-Cortez warned colleagues that if they continued to vote with Republicans on procedural motions in the chamber they could wind up "on a list" of incumbents ripe for a liberal primary challenge.....The AOC backlash begins - CNNPolitics
Two interesting and contrasting articles.

I get so many great articles on the listserves. (By the way, MORE has killed most of its listserves or is moderating them to keep evil thoughts out of the hands of its members.) Abby, my buddy from Newark sends a great trove of stuff. Here are two articles from counter points of view.

First a neo-liberal, market-based Democrat makes some interesting points about why the left needs to take over the main theme of the party. Why? Because Dem neo-liberals like Obama and Clinton require some level of cooperation from the liberal wing of the other party - and that wing of the Republicans has been decimated.

And then the backlash from Democrats against AOC. And though I like a lot about her, I am finding it a bit too much at times. A long-time leftist friend of mine is convinced she is flying too close to the sun and ego will triumph and lead to crash and burn which will ultimately harm the movement. I can see it in some of the comments from liberal and left friends -- older women in many cases who are annoyed at what they see a level of arrogance.

People compare AOC and Bernie - Bernie doesn't attack people. He tries to win them over. The threats to primary people who are in areas where they are hanging by a thread is a threat to getting rid of Republicans. Even if the party tacks left, if it becomes a tea party type of party and pushes out center Dems, we will see a possible center new party -- neo-liberal with social justice themes -- sort of like the rise of the Republican Party in the 1850s -- anti-slavery, pro-business.

I see a major difference between AOC and Bernie in their approach. Lumping them together is missing some level of differentiation.

Read both articles.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Memo from the RTC: A Movie Starring Rockaway Raised Actress

 Published in The WAVE - March 1, 2019

Memo from the RTC: A Movie Starring Rockaway Raised Actress
By Norm Scott

Last Saturday, February 23, was a day of movie making at the RTC as an independent film company used the theater for a movie about a famous Latina singer and needed an audience for a sequence featuring a Latin band. About 50 extras showed up, me included (of course, they had food). The lead actress and director is a native of Rockaway with a wide background of credits but I am not yet at liberty to go into more detail.

I had heard that being part of a film can be tedious due to set up times and take after take, but this being my first time as an extra and somewhat of a frustrated film maker, I was fascinated by the process and the sophisticated equipment -- the 60G camera had me drooling. The Tony Homsey construction crew had just about completed the set for the upcoming opening at the end of March of “A Comedy of Tenors” and I was wondering how they would deal with that. They just dropped a massive gold cloth cover, closed the curtains part way and made a lot of use of the fog machine and lighting to get the atmosphere. I hung out from 1 until after 8 PM when my lust for a chicken parm sandwich from Ciro’s got the better of me. When they say being part of a film can be like watching grass grow, they are not kidding.

When I went back Sunday morning for Frank Caiati’s acting class, some of the film crew were there still packing up. They used a lot of stuff for that one day of filming. Everyone at the RTC knows how talented Frank is as a director, actor, scenic designer to name a few. But to get the full flavor it takes spending some time in his acting class and seeing him dissect each line of a scene for meaning and infusing the actors with logical choices. He has paired us up and each pair is doing about 5 minutes from a play they choose. In one scene a young woman playing a student engages in a confrontation with a professor who she feels has wronged her. Her complaint has led to his being denied tenure and ruining his career. Frank would take what seemed to be throw away lines and weaponized them trying to bring out natural anger in someone who clearly doesn’t relish getting angry. “what do you want,” he keeps asking? And if they aren’t sure he offers them choices. Fascinating stuff and the essence of why acting can be such an intellectual exercise – as long as people are willing to put emotional skin in the game. Our pair is doing a scene from the Odd Couple where my amazingly dressed partner is taking the Oscar slob role while I the ultimate slob is taking neat freak Felix. That will take some real acting.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Feeling the Bern at Brooklyn College

Bernie arrested in Chicago civil rights demo
I always love visiting my old campus where I met my wife and spent many years getting an undergrad (1962-66), part of a grad degree in history (66-68) and an MA in computer science (1984-1988) and teaching there for 3 semesters (88-90). Yesterday I was joined by about 13,000 others supporting Bernie Sanders' triumphant return to the school where he spent his freshman year.

The crowd was mostly young and white. Very interesting considering the black population that exists in Brooklyn. Like the people who voted for Jumaane Williams for Public Advocate were not going to a Bernie rally even if it was nearby.

But the message Bernie was putting out was clearly aimed at these people, with key speakers being Nina Turner and Shaun King who stressed Bernie's history of civil rights activism.

My post on FB led to a lot of comments and back and forth - worth noting below the fold.

Leonie asked why the enormous adoration and some of us tried to answer.

My old fraternity brother who is active in Dem politics in Texas raised the issue of winnability:

Allen Kaplan All well and nice... one real problem: He can’t win the general election. After New England, the Mid Atlantic, the West Coast and Illinois, where does he win? The answer is nowhere. He loses the entire South, the Rust Belt, the Midwest, the Rockies, the Southwest. Game, set, Match. We better nominate someone who can win.
I am thinking the rust belt - Bernie did win Michigan over Hillary. My bigger question about winning is age and being Jewish. 

I am not a totally committed Bernie supporter -- Beating Trump is primary and if I think Allen is right I may move off to the center somewhere. Actually, I don't know where I stand - confusion reigns.

Here is my post on FB and the comments.
  • Over flow Bernie rally at Brooklyn college. I graduated from this spot in 1966.

Oakland Strike Settled - This contract caps a historic seven-day strike that united a community to save public education in Oakland

New agreement: district will lower class sizes caps in K to 23 students; 1st-3rd grade to 26 ; 4th-5th gr to 29 & HS core subjects to 31; & by 2021 by another student. (All these caps lower than current contract hasn't changed in 50 yrs


Some highlights of the 4-year tentative agreement include:

* Experienced teachers stay in the classroom. 11% salary increase, 3% bonus at ratification

* Lower class sizes. Phased-in class size reductions at all schools

* School closures. 5-month pause in any school closures

* More student supports. Lower caseloads for special education teachers and counselors

* A charter cap. The school board will vote to push the state for a charter school moratorium
------ As reported on Diane Ravitch blog: Oakland Settlement: The Union’s View
While some are emphasizing what looks like a massive salary increase compared to what the UFT won recently, the victory for the Oakland teachers seems to be bigger than the sum of its parts. Now I'm sure that some groups will not be happy and may start calling this a sellout - well, because anything less than ever asked for becomes a sellout. Key - remember this is a strike in an urban blue state.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Kentucky One-Day Wildcat Sickout - Some want to continue

Teacher actions are heating up - Kentucky wildcatting sickouts. Here are two reports from not exactly union friendly sources.

Mike Antonucci:

Kentucky Wildcat Group Has Its Own Wildcat Group

Teachers in a handful of Kentucky school districts held a sickout yesterday to protest a proposed bill that would change the composition of the state teacher pension board.
The sickout was not sanctioned by the Kentucky Education Association, the union for most state teachers, making it a “wildcat” job action.

Friday, March 1, 2019

School Scope: Waves of Teacher Strikes Push Back Against Ed Deform, Yeshiva Mis-Education

Published in The WAVE, March 1, 2019

School Scope: Waves of Teacher Strikes Push Back Against Ed Deform, Yeshiva Mis-Education
By Norm Scott

Teachers around the nation have gone wild. Last year we saw strikes in Trump red state territory, mostly over low pay. This year strikes have spread to blue state urban areas. While pay has been an issue, the strikes have pushed back against the privatization movement led by the billionaire club disguised as phony education reform (deform, in my parlance). Key points are: putting schools in control of either a mayor or an elected school board controlled by the billionaires, high stakes testing, anti-union charter schools used to destabilize neighborhood schools, merit pay schemes, squeezing and diverting resources from public schools. All these issues have been on the table in: Chicago (charter school teachers held the first charter strike in the nation), Los Angeles (charters were made an issue), Denver (merit pay) and the latest in Oakland – with a wide range of issues. FINALLY! Here in NYC, our UFT pushback against charters and attempts to organize charter school teachers has not been very successful. The chances of seeing a strike here in NYC are not very high due to the heavy two for one Taylor law penalties, the relatively high salaries and a union that plays ball on both sides of the fence. (By the way, a recent ad in The WAVE by Erich Ulrich said he supported unions. Not if he also supports charters.) Here in NYC, the major complaint I hear from UFT members is over incompetent, abusive, lunatic supervisors. Speaking of which….

Forest Hills HS Teachers 195-21 No-Confidence Vote in Principal
FHHS is one of the relatively few comprehensive high schools left in the city after the destruction of most of these schools under the Bloomberg/Joel Klein administration (with money provided by Bill Gates). The school has generally had a good reputation. Since Principal Ben Sherman took over, there has been a lot of controversy. Sherman also was controversial at his previous school. When 90% of the staff speak we have to listen. Sherman wasn’t helped by the Sue Edelman piece on last Sunday’s front page of the NY Post declaring that he allowed students to openly smoke pot in the schools. Even our absent mayor, speaking from Iowa in his dumb presidential quest, condemned smoking pot in schools, a sign that Sherman may not last long as principal. But I would bet he gets buried somewhere in the DOE bureaucracy (imagine the fate of a teacher who faced similar charges). The key villain here is long-time Queens high school Superintendent Juan Mendez who played a major role when Beach Channel HS (and probably Far Rockaway HS too) were closed down, thus killing our only local comprehensive high schools. My ednotesonline blog has covered the FHHS story extensively, so head over if you want to know more.

Local Councilmen Ulrich and Richards Support Ultra-Ortho Yeshivas Cheating Students of Education
A group of former ultra-orthodox students who found themselves woefully unprepared for the workplace have spent years pushing the NYC DOE and the NY State Ed Dept. to establish firmer rules for these schools which take public money to teach secular subjects but ignore regulations. (YAFFED – After years of trying to gain entrance into these schools (four are still refusing), the State Ed Dept. has issues new rules requiring these yeshivas to adhere to rules providing for a fundamental secular education. But Richards and Ulrich, our local City Councilmen, were among 28 Councilmembers signing a letter protesting the new rules, complaining they were too stringent, clearly pandering to the ultra-orthodox communities which often vote as a block. And Assemblywoman Stacey Pfeffer Amato published similar complaints in The WAVE a few months ago. Sad! Sad that our electeds would support the misuse of public funds.

Norm has also covered the Yeshiva/Yaffed story at his blog at, now in its 13th year.