Friday, May 29, 2020

Why is this union (UFT) different from similar big city unions (UTLA, CTU): Commentary Update

In previous posts on the coming crisis - Parts 1 Part 2 and Part 3 I was speculating about the possible impact of massive cuts and changes in the schools next year and beyond and whether that would spark a level of reaction from the members that echo 1975. And if that happened how would the union leadership respond. I'm guessing it would follow the Shanker 1975 playbook -- give a little space if there was genuine outrage from the rank and file - as opposed from small groups like MORE and other usual suspects in the opposition - and allow steam to escape - and yes if necessary go on a pre-arranged with the city few days strike - and "win" back a few things while making the case for the city- and even do what Shanker did -- lend the city money from the pension fund. The result would be less calls for the union itself to be punished while allowing the members to take the two for one hit.

I also want to point out that the AFT national and NYS NYSUT are under the control of the same political forces as the UFT. There is a still low level political divide inside the national unions with UCORE sort of repping the left - and I will be reporting on a new entity in the national scene after I chat with one of their leaders.

One thing I forgot to point out about the differences between the UFT and the UTLA/CTU - is the latter two unions' ability to organize charter schools while the UFT has pretty much failed. I leave that for mulling over for a future post.

My last post was a corollary of sorts:

UFT Update: Which Came First - the leadership or the membership? Are teachers in LA and Chicago different than NYC?

And led to some comments on Leonie's listserve. Below her and John's comments I respond. Is the illegal strike the reason alone or even if we had the right to strike would this particular UFT leadership be willing or even capable of leading a strike similar to those in LA and Chi -- where they had a level of community support.

First from Leonie:
Norm: I’m not qualified to say if conditions are better for teachers here – I’ve seen Mulgrew argue yes.

NYC class sizes may be a bit better though not great, and there’s no publicly available reliable class size data in either LA or Chicago on this.

On the other hand, the UFT class size caps that exist are more than 50 years old, negotiated by Al Shanker and I’ve seen no real push by leadership to lower them through contract negotiations since that time.

I believe teacher salaries are higher in NYC than those other two cities, but would have to check.

But there is also a law against public employees including teachers striking in NY which doesn’t exist in Chicago or LA.

Teacher strikes are legal in 12 states and not covered in statutes or case law in three.

California is among the minority of states that do permit teachers’ strikes even though most states allow collective bargaining and wage negotiations for public school teachers.
According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, as of January 2014, 35 states and the District of Columbia outlaw striking. Teacher strikes are legal in 12 states and not covered in statutes or case law in three.

Here are the states where it is illegal for teachers to strike according to this link:
From john fager
Leonie, and Hi Norm

Look at the health care benefits and the pensions. And the almost absolute job security. I don't think the Taylor Law, that forbids public employees from striking, has every resulted in teachers losing salary money. And the elections are not democratic. It is an autocracy.
My response:

John and Leonie,

The two for one penalties are very effective as a weapon that can be used not only by the city but also by the leadership to keep the members in line. The other penalties of the Taylor Law are severe attacks on the union itself - so it is a very effective double whammy,

And as Leonie points out the last time class size limits were put in was 50 years ago when the Taylor Law was enacted -- there is a connection with the fundamental loss of the right to strike with the attitude from the city that they don't have to reduce class size and would do so only at the point of a gun. This year's LA strike and to some extent the Chicago strike had a strong class size reduction component and even now don't match ours from 50 years ago --- by the way - the 67 strike was a key in the class size issue if I remember correctly.

But making strikes illegal does not stop strikes -- the first NYC strikes were illegal too as were the red state strikes.

There are fundamental differences in ideology between the leaderships of some of the other teacher movements and the UFT - as evidenced by which candidates they supported in the pres election. One of my points answers John's question - the lack of democracy (and by the way I would also question the level of true democracy in LA and Chicago if you do a deep dive) in the UFT - that in the areas where there is democracy of sorts - the elections for Chapter leaders and delegates and in the three divisions - elm, ms, hs - where retirees and non-classroom people vote -- only the high schools - with a very low vote total overall - has been 50-50 anti unity with the opposition still winning most of the time over 30 years.

My thesis in my next posting - part 4 - is that the 68 strike created an anti-teacher union mantra in liberal circles and that made any moves forward impossible in terms of taking strike action - and thus the 75 strike was a show - a lesson from the leadership to the membership that strikes are now going to be futile.

Lots to mull over.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

UFT Update: Which Came First - the leadership or the membership? Are teachers in LA and Chicago different than NYC?

I keep wondering if there is a major difference in the kinds of people who go into teaching in NYC vs Chicago and LA -- the three biggest cities. Since 2010, Chicago and then LA have elected left wing leaderships that have led strikes with the support of the overwhelming majority of members.

Here in NYC in the UFT we don't see anything even close. So is it the memberships of these cities that is different? Or is it the differences in the leadership?

In the endless back and forth we hear about the failures of the Unity Caucus leadership we hear their response: It's the members, stupid - or the stupid members.
I'm taking a short break from my posts on the 1975 crisis with Part 4 still being worked on -- I'm going back to 1968 after the weekend death of Rhody McCoy to link 68 to the failures of 75. Check them out:
People inside the UFT leadership often blame a conservative leaning centrist membership that they see as less progressive than they are and that trying to move them in a more militant direction is useless and even dangerous for them -- at one point they were resisting using Trump's name in some reso so as not to alienate the Trump backers in the UFT - of which there are surprising number - I know them on FB.

So is the leadership correct? That the teachers in NYC are not as militant or active as Chicago and LA - or is it the nature of the leadership itself that doesn't even attempt to create a more active and militant union?

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Coming Crisis to NYC Education - 1975 to 2020 - Part 3 This is not the best of times - What Will Be Won't Be

These are the worst of times, these are the even worse than WORST of times. Even Dickens would be horrified and Edgar Allen Poe would run like the dickens. [bad pun].

I can put up so many links to the ways things will go south and make 1975 look like a party, you'd spend the next month reading them. I am not just talking about layoffs, but an existential threat to most of the public school system, to the union, to salaries and maybe even pensions. Take your most horrible nightmare and double or triple it in a worst case scenario. (See links at the end of this post - if you dare.)

It's been a while since I've blogged and that is due to the amount of free time I've had. So much doing nothing that doing anything becomes work.

However, I have been busy rebuilding a fence that fell down in December. So it took me almost 5 months. As opposed to activism, you actually can see progress.
Ooops - here's my cynicism coming out.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Tributes Pour in For Blogger Chaz - Another DOE Covid Virus Loss

May 5, 2020 - The entire NYC education blogging world is saddened by the passing of Eric (Chaz the blogger) Chasanoff who we learned died earlier today, announced by his son: Many of the original NYC ed bloggers began at the same time - 2005 - I see tributes from Arthur, Jonathan and Jose Vilson has left some comments -- we all met for the first time in person at a blogger party - I think there were about 15 of us there.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

The Passing Of Chaz 1951-2020 Age 69

I am the son of Chaz and like to inform you that he passed away this afternoon from the COVID virus. My father passed in peace beside his loved ones. We are hoping to have a memorial service for him once we are able to, but for now we are going to have a small private family funeral. Thank you all for reading his blog, following him all these years, and the support you gave him. Thank you.

RIP Eric "Chaz" Chasanoff - I'm very sad to read that science teacher and blogger Eric Chasanoff has died of Covid. He was 69 years old, older than I thought. Of course that's no con...
  • Chaz - Eric Chasanoff blogged. About New York City schools. About Queens schools. About high schools. About pensions. About teaching science. About being in the A...
    4 hours ago 
    James seemed to know him best as they taught together and he fills in some of the history:
  • BLOGGER CHAZ PASSES AWAY - There is very sad news to report. Our friend, blogger and long time colleague at Jamaica High School Eric Chasanoff (Chaz) has passed away. From his blog: ... 
    I'd like to express my deepest sympathies to Eric's family. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Eric and I go back many years. He was a longtime Earth Science Teacher at Jamaica High School. Not only was he a successful teacher, Eric was also a strong union activist. He stood up for what he believed in.

    We served together for a number of years on Jamaica High School's School Leadership Team. Eric was a supporter of empowering the students and the parents. On the issue of school safety, he was able to help us establish school policies that ensured a safe building while still maintaining student rights. When it came to standing up for teachers, Eric was a staunch defender of the ability of the classroom teacher to have real autonomy in his/her classroom.

    That robust defense of teachers sometimes put him in the crosshairs of the Principal who charged him unfairly. Eric was the first teacher to win a probable cause hearing. He defended himself and other falsely accused teachers brilliantly while waiting for his 3020-a hearing to take place. At that time, he became a Queens Liaison with the UFT. When his hearing came around, it was my pleasure to go and testify on his behalf.  I was able to tell the arbitrator how after Eric was pulled from Jamaica, the Earth Science Regents scores plummeted drastically. Our friend Francine Kaalund also testified about Eric's abilities in the classroom. He moved on after he won his hearing but we stayed in touch right up through the first part of 2020.

    I encouraged him with his blog and he kept pushing me to keep this one going. We would sometimes run ideas passed each other on the phone. One idea was to have a real meeting of Absent Teacher Reserves where we could listen and talk to each other as regular teachers. We wouldn't talk down to ATRs as the UFT is often accused of doing.  Eric ran that forum in Manhattan; I mostly sat and watched. The workshop he led for ATR's was nothing like an official UFT ATR meeting. Eric ran it like a good Chapter Meeting. It was really interactive. He never once told an ATR that they were lucky to have a job.

    Both the Jamaica High School family and the blogger community have suffered a big loss with Eric's passing. Rest in peace.  
And one just added from South Bronx Peter Zucker -

Chaz' final posts are below, right on target, as usual.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The DOE Must Reduce Their Administrative Costs And Not School Budgets

There is no doubt that the DOE must reduce their administrative costs but don't be surprised if the majority of cuts come from the schools and classrooms. Susan Edelman of the New York Post wrote a very insightful article that explains where the cuts should come from.  However, look for the majority of education budget cuts to come from the schools.

The latest update (Sunday) of the covid-19 count can be found below.






Friday, April 24, 2020

The DOE Has Loopholes In The Hiring Freeze

The DOE has quietly informed principals that the hiring freeze has loopholes and they can still hire Special Education, Bilingual, and shortage areas like Math and Science.  Look for principals to hire "newbies" by falsely claiming that all the hires are either certified in those fields or in the process of attaining such certification.

As for ATRs?  Look for principals to try their hardest to carve out exceptions to the hiring freeze so as not to hire an ATR for their vacancies.  Will the union leadership make sure that principals follow the rules?  Based on past performance by our union leadership I highly doubt it since they get double keeping the ATR and the "newbie" they hire.