Monday, August 31, 2020

The Great 2020 NYC Teacher Strike - Or Not - August 31 Edition - NO STRIKE RESO AT EB

Norm here - Monday August 31, 2020 - 8 PM - Phew - I've been updating all day so don't notice the meandering mess of this post. I'm sure new info will be coning in constantly.

The UFT Executive Board did not vote for a strike today - we got an inkling in an earlier report: MAYOR TALKS UFT STRIKE AT PRESSER; LAYOFFS OF CITY WORKERS ON PAUSE FOR NOW

This just in:
The UFT Executive Board gives the union leadership the authority to continue negotiations with City Hall and the DOE on a school opening plan that meets the safety criteria set forth by independent medical experts; or, if negotiations fail, to bring a strike authorization vote to the Delegate Assembly on Sept. 1 starting at 3:30.
They are going to give negotiations another day. Maybe they can get air freshioners -- you know those little Xmas tree things you put in your car. I can see someone running in at 3:29 with a deal.

Read Arthur's EB report:

Still Negotiating, but UFT Can Ask for Strike Authorization Tomorrow

So -  the Delegate Assembly will meet tomorrow and depending on ongoing talks with de Blasio, may vote on a strike reso tomorrow. 

Don't hold your breath but if there is one, with Unity Caucus control and the support of the opposition, which is salivating at the idea of a strike, these votes are a slam dunk. James Eterno's headline yesterday had the essence: ICEUFTBLOG PREDICTS OVERWHELMING SUPPORT FOR JOB ACTION AT UFT EXECUTIVE BOARD AND DA THAT MIGHT NOT SAY MUCH ABOUT WHERE THE UFT MEMBERSHIP IS AT ON THE ISSUE

But if I had to bet, I say NYET - Yes, Putin interferes in UFT affairs too.

And this just in from

The latest post from MORE which definitely wants to strike:
Contact Tracers: Reopening Schools Will Endanger NYC Communities Again - New York City Test & Trace Corps workers stand in solidarity with the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE) in their refusal to return to schools
Prematurely reopening schools will undoubtedly lead to spikes in infections across our communities, including among teachers and school staff who are tasked with in-person responsibilities. For us in the Test & Trace Corps, reopening schools could potentially lead to an increased rate of transmission that would effectively reverse the progress we have made in this City... The city’s current plan to reopen schools in early September contradicts the goals of our work: to limit the spread of COVID-19 within communities and ensure the health of all New Yorkers.
It's signed:  Anonymous NYC H&H Contact Tracers, Members of DC37
This could be one or a thousand people -- I get no names but....
I wrote about the disaster of contact tracing a few weeks ago
#EdBTTTS Back to School and Contract Tracing: Ever...

My right wing buddy Mike Antonucci always seems to be able to read between the lines and chastises the Intercept for reporting misinformation on a strike vote today citing only one MORE member as a source.
NYC Teacher Strike: Where There’s Smoke, There’s Smoke? - reached the point this morning where a reporter asked Mayor Bill de Blasio whether the city was preparing for a strike in light of the UFT meetings.
“The UFT has spoken to this over the weekend and made it clear that a strike vote is not planned,” he replied. “I’ve spoken to [UFT President] Michael Mulgrew. It’s clear to me that it’s not on the agenda for this meeting.”
I’ve been doing this long enough to know that you have to parse every official statement from a teachers union. My reading of all this is that a strike vote is not yet on the agenda, and that no specific resolution has yet been put forward. But UFT doesn’t call representative meetings for nothing. It’s pretty obvious they want to discuss immediate future strategy, and that could include authorization for a strike or other job action, which could be placed on the agenda rather quickly if that’s what the representatives want to do.
But the press has been waaaaay out in front on this. They don’t have a single source claiming to have, or to be working on, a strike authorization resolution. In fact, they have multiple denials that anything of the sort yet exists. If a strike authorization vote occurs today and tomorrow, they can pat themselves on the back for a scoop. But if I ran a story with so little to back it up, I would be criticized, and rightly so.
When  people have a dog in the race don't always look for accuracy.

I have believed for 45 years the UFT will never strike. I still haven't been proven wrong:

I wrote this Nov. 2018-  Memories of 1975
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.... 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.
So I began to waffle. Well, it's supposedly dog-food time in the guise of risking lives by the very act of going into a school, an economic depression where there is talk of cutting salaries and mass layoffs - the trifecta. Maybe there is some behind the scenes deal on the table trading some flexibility on opening schools for no layoffs.

Still, I don't see a strike with so many unknowns. There is  enormous suspicion and distrust of de Blasio and Carranza, their incompetence so far (which I've chronicled here), and the great anger over the decision in March that led to many deaths of DOE employees. I used the hashtag #EdBTTTS: Everything de Blasio Touches Turns to Shit. Mulgrew didn't fare very well when he supported the initial decision to keep schools open and, faced with a possible sickout, deB caved and closed schools but teachers were required to go in for training.

More unknowns:
  • Teachers with exceptions don't have to go in and they make up 25%. Will they strike?
  • What about picket lines? If there are none then walking in is easy. Thus the union has to try to make sure there is at least a few people picketing at each school. Will people who are worried not only about going into schools but getting there be willing to picket?
  • What about the portion of teachers who are OK with going in? There is a body of people who believe it is their duty no matter what to serve the kids, many for social justice reasons -- the poorest kids get the least out of remote learning, especially with parents who work and must go in.
There was a deterioration in Mulgrew's  relationship with de Blasio -- I heard a rumor in late March that they met and were heard screaming at each other. Mulgrew has paid a political price inside the UFT but he has moved the ball as he saw the ineptitude at the DOE and I did not disagree with his measured policy of letting the game come to him and it has to some extent - the CSA and parents in many districts have been pushing for a delay. Pressure to delay is building.

Parents are going nuts:
Concern and Frustration Over Lack of Detail on School Reopening Worry Southern Brooklyn Parents and Educators
“This feels like the same information we are given over and over,” a mother typed in the chatroom. “The lack of details this close to the opening - and the fact that everyday the goal posts seem to be moving - is troubling.
I have doubted there would be a strike due to the political nature of the leadership which has been anti-strike for 45 years and has conditioned the membership to fear Taylor Law penalties and is seemingly trying to switch horses in mid-stream -- mixed messages for sure. James reported earlier at ICEUFT - DAILY NEWS REPORTS CITY AND UFT ARE TALKING which has good, bad and ugly aspects since we don't know what kind of backroom deals are being made. The strike talk is most likely only a show as Mulgrew sends out mixed messages. Could they pull off a strike or are the powers that be laughing themselves silly over the very idea?

A wild card is Cuomo who punted to deB on closing schools but still holds all the cards. Is there some kind of backroom deal between him and Mulgrew to screw deB? Don't blame me for conspiracy theories - I got it directly from QAnon. The latest from Cuomo is an indication where he is heading -- and it ain't in DeB direction.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has raised a warning flag for schools that are expected to reopen in person in some capacity in less than two weeks, forewarning that clusters of COVID-19 cases that have been popping in colleges will inevitably happen to some degree when K-12 starts the new year. And the more dense an environment -- like New York City -- the riskier the proposition.
Now I have had mixed feelings since I don't have to go in. The numbers of infections look low but do we even trust how the numbers are being thrown at us? De Blasio has a one size fits all plan for every school when the numbers vary widely by zip code. Jeff Kaufman sent me this link and the poorest areas have the highest rates: 
Data Check: Recent COVID-19 Infection Rates Vary Widely By Neighborhood

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor of Education Richard Carranza recently remarked how the city is at 1-2% infection rate citywide, and how that number is going to be used to determine the reopening of the city’s public schools – currently set to open if infection rate remains below 3% citywide.
Well, NYC is a big city and a very segregated city, and while elementary school children tend to stay in their neighborhoods, middle and high-schoolers travel significant distances across neighborhoods, so I was interested to see how well we are doing on the neighborhood level in containing the virus. The city shares this data in aggregate, cumulative numbers, which are really not telling you much about what is happening week to week or month to month as people catch the virus, get tested, get well or die.
And I was texting with a chapter leader of a very large school who also suspects the numbers and he pointed me to a podcast with an interesting take:
Osterholm mocks the idea that one size fits all makes sense but de Blasio is a osfa advocate - like treating all restaurants equally - those with small spaces and those with massive rooms for indoor dining. Check out the podcast.

Leonie tweeted:
How fast are the results though? And what do they show about where and how the virus is still being transmitted?
There will NOT be a general membership vote, which I believe is the first time in the history of UFT strikes that will not happen. Therein lies a problem for the leadership - jeez, what if a strike vote fails or wins by a slim majority? In the old days there would be visits to every school to drum up support. Randi did that in 2002 with a strike vote even though we all knew it was a PR stunt.

Does democracy count? Not much anymore nationally and in unions (and I include caucuses). Jonathan Halabi, long-time Ex Bd member for a dozen years (but no longer) wrote to the leadership asking for a vote for reasons beyond democracy:
I understand that there is consideration of strike authorization votes at the Executive Board and the Delegate Assembly.
I also understand that there may not be a membership vote. I hope I am mistaken.  That would be a serious error.
There is the issue of democracy. but I think that is relatively minor.
But the issues of member engagement loom large. Organizing a vote increases member engagement, and member buy-in. It also provides real-time feedback from the field. Are chapter leaders organizing? Is there resistance? What are the issues? 

The activity around organizing a vote makes a strike more effective. 
For members who are already on board, it makes a smaller difference; the vote increases enthusiasm.  But for members on the fence, skipping the vote sends the message that the leaders don't trust the members, or don't care what they think. It will harden the pockets of resistance.
I don't know if support in the field is at 95%, 85%, 75%, 65% or 55%... but even at 85% we need to win more people over.
A membership vote makes us - and any potential job action - stronger. 
I hope that I was indeed mistaken - that a membership vote is planned. But if that is not the case, I would thank you to consider the matter carefully,

Jonathan Halabi
Since there won't be a membership vote and Halabi's points are valid, it makes me more inclined to doubt the leadership is going to strike. Is the leadership afraid of the outcome? In fact are they afraid of the membership itself which may be totally unpredictable?

You bet they are as the middle managers - the District Reps - mostly communicate with chapter leaders in the UFT top down structure and rely on them to pass on the views of the rank and file in the schools. They don't always get it right as even many chapter leaders don't have strong organizations in their own schools. The neglect of organizing by the UFT chickens may come home to roost as the union tries to go from zero to 60.

Strike membership votes in Chicago and LA over the past year were overwhelming in favor (over 90%). But they spent months preparing the membership with meetings and propaganda. The UFT? Until Mulgrew talked strike two weeks ago, Nada - and therein lies the rub for the UFT in managing a successful strike. But they are ramping up just in case.

Jeff Kaufman made the great point about the UFT in the 70s and now. The leadership and staff were battle hardened strike vets while the current crew have spent their time managing the membership to tamp down militancy. But I see some good signs with the energy of independent Ex Bd ex-MORE members Arthur Goldstein and Mike Schirtzer and Mindy Rosier.

Luckily for the union - and I say this with  much irony - MORE Caucus has been organizing since March - and has done a much better job than the UFT -- there were 1000 participants in the MORE strike prep meeting on Saturday with people waiting to get in, with multiple zoom meetings each week, rallies and marches.

Ironically, the virus crisis and Zoom has enormously helped MORE grow exponentially -- 1000 people were at their strike Prep meeting on Saturday with people in the waiting room. It has been hard all these years gathering people in one space in person. Zoom has been a savior for MORE organizing and they finally are implementing local district organizing which I had been screaming for from MORE's earliest days. Kudos to them. There is a rally in district 15 coming up and they've been holding district level zooms that are well attended. (A dist 13/14 [my former district[ meeting had 160 people the other day.) This represents the first big threat to Unity at the ground level that I've seen in a long time. Let's see if MORE can make hay post epidemic on broader issues.

At most the UFT has been holding meetings with chapter leaders and delegates and asking them to hold meetings in their schools -- the usual top down unmass action the UFT engages in. They are planning a week of action:

You judge if you think it will have an effect and if rank and file other than the most active participate.

If the UFT leadership doesn't strike and gets a lousy deal expect an explosion from the activist portion of the union and their supporters. 

There will supposedly be a town hall with Mulgrew on Wednesday about the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the DOE - if there is not a strike. Reports are the MOA has many flaws with massive remote class sizes. If they agreed to that, then what?

In addition to MORE and to a lesser extend Solidarity Caucus, James Eterno at the ICEUFT blog has also been a pressure point with his large readership. Eterno comments:
What is going on in the schools behind the scenes will most likely still be a  mystery after the DA. That 80-90% yes vote won't mean that much but if I am wrong and there is anything greater than a 20-25% no vote because of independents (people who don't belong to any caucus) and/or a Unity revolt, then there is likely a significant portion of the membership who are opposed to any job action. 
My antennae are detecting both enormous enthusiasm for a strike from the left wing for reasons beyond the safety issue (I will delve into the ideology behind striking in a follow-up) but they are getting a lot of support even with trepidation from people who just plain fear going into schools.

On the other hand some are telling me that there is no interest in their schools for a strike and when the union shows up they turn off, as they always have. Too many UFT spokespeople have little ability to connect with rank and file. And hearing the strike rah-rah so suddenly after 45 years of scaring people with the Taylor Law is problematical.

Is the leadership feeling some pressure from MORE and the ICE blog and was Mulgrew's move towards striking based in part on that pressure? I'd say partially but also due to this error in not calling for schools to be closed earlier in March and his lack of push back when teachers were told to go in for those extra three "training" - LOL - days the week of March 16. The number of school personnel who died not soon after is the lingering after effect.

In 1975 thousands of us massed outside the DOE headquarters at 110 Livingston Street and marched across the Brooklyn Bridge. The current leadership is in a quandary in terms of a mass march. How do you argue the dangers of  going on to school and then engage in a mass action? Well, there are answers to that - like the protests here in NYC have not led to a spike in cases and going into a school itself is indoors. Like how does de Blasio not let indoor dining open but schools are OK?

Strike Penalties are on their minds - loss of tenure is not in Taylor Law

In my 2018 article and subsequent ones I talked about the letter I received from the chancellor on Dec. 1 1975 with my penalties. Item 1 was loss of tenure for a year which I consider more onerous than two for one penalties, though these certainly curtail the idea of a long strike which allows the city to wait out the strike. I guess we lost tenure then but it didn't seem to matter. Did the DOE just toss that penalty in on their own outside the Taylor Law? There are no signs in the law about tenure. I even got an email from the chapter leader of my old school (the last time I taught there was almost 25 years ago) asking about the Taylor Law penalties, which I've written about here, here, here. In the latter piece from Nov. 23, 2018 I dug down into expectations of the UFT leadership.

There are so many balls in the air over going back to school and the potential UFT strike for full-time remote learning, trying to disentangle it all has led to such overload that I end up retreating into escapist reading and TV. But I have been getting calls and messages for some insights and have been dragged away from my reveries.  Right after I hit PUBLISH I will revert to fantasy land.

The best reporting on the UFT and DOE is coming from James Eterno at the ICEUFT blog. Check it every day.


And Arthur Goldstein at
Exposing the de Blasio and Carranza plans
Magical Blended Teachers

And Jon Halabi:

Saturday, August 29, 2020

With UFT Strike Looming, Links for The Case for and Against Opening Schools in NYC

Norm here -- Saturday, August 29, 2020, 8:30 AM, Updated 11 AM

My instinct (from a distance with no dog in the race) is to keep doing remote. But I approach this issue as not only an advocate but as a
journalist/observer.  I have been gathering just a few links for a variety of views. Consider the possibilities of layoffs - more or less depending on remote?

The UFT and the strike is a separate issue which I have to address seriously -- yes Virginia, I do have doubts about the strike and the UFT leadership ability to pull one off successfully - and the kind of trickery I suspect may be going on. (See James at the ICE blog for detailed and up to date analysis of the UFT situation). Also see the comment arguing against a strike. My Nov. 2018 post on the Taylor Law is here: 

I've already been receiving questions and critics upon the earlier posting and an adding them

First are the opinions of two people I respect enormously with differing positions. (Don't be lazy, click on through to some juicy stuff.)

Carol Burris who was principal of the year in NYS and a champion as head of Network for Public Education which has fought for so many issues we believe in. 

Rather, it is to make the case that in those few states and cities like New York, where the virus is remarkably low, we have a moral obligation to children and our nation to try.
Opening NYC schools: an educational imperative
Carol seems to have some faith in the ability of Carranza and De Blasio to pull this off without a disaster. 

Arthur Goldstein, a friend for many years and chapter leader of one of the largest schools in NYC doesn't have that faith.

How de Blasio botched public schools’ reopening
Mayor de Blasio wants to open up schools in the worst way possible. That might be why everything he’s planned has been in the very worst way. He failed to plan for September beginning in April. There’s still no school calendar. Most recently, he gave principals only four days to plan for outdoor learning and decided it might be a good idea to check every room’s ventilation two weeks before opening.
De Blasio’s hybrid plan is outlandish.

Then there is the looming Layoffs witch will have long term effects

There is some Parent frustration

What's a Book - submitted by Fred Smith

If kids don't know what a book is, will we still have to give them reading tests?


Thanks to Fred for some much needed laughs.







Sunday, August 23, 2020

Video: Back to School in NYC - or NOT - Darren Marelli

I just saw the chancellor on CBS Sunday morning national news. When asked by David Pogue who he consulted in creating his plan he replied: superintendents, parents, medical professionals, epidemiologists and later added principals. What obvious group is missing? I imagine he might add the union but even that relationship has soured.

Just one more reason teachers are willing to strike before going back. Actually showing some respect for teachers.

Darren is a social worker and a parent and husband of a teacher. Here is a video statement by him using existing footage to make his point.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

#EdBTTTS Back to School and Contract Tracing: Everything de Blasio Touches Turns to Shit

by Norm - Aug. 15, 2020
#EdBTTTS - And the number one reason for not going back to school in NYC IS: 
De Blasio sucks - at everything.  

The total lack of trust teachers for sure - and many parents have in him and his clones at the DOE. No one trusts the entire bureaucracy at DOE for their lies and misinformation and total incompetence in so many areas going back, oh, let's say to the earliest days of the Bloomberg years, followed by the management styles of Farina and Carranza.
Politico: New York City school reopening faces resistance
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that based on a survey sent to public school parents, about 75% want to send their kids back to school in September. The other 25% explicitly backed remote learning only. Some parents and teachers disputed the meaning behind those numbers. De Blasio also announced that every school will have a certified nurse on-site. However, the reopening plan still faces opposition by unions representing both teachers and administrators, who are asking to delay the start of in-person school – which is currently Sept. 10 – until at least the end of September. Union leaders say school staff don’t have enough time to prepare under the current timeline and still lack guidance on the details of reopening. The New York State Nurses Association joined the call, saying that schools statewide should postpone any return to classrooms. But their concerns are not stopping de Blasio, who said he is still moving ahead with reopening on Sept. 10, while schools Chancellor Richard Carranza continues to say the city isn’t moving too quickly.
When I heard the numbers being reported that 85% of the teachers wanted to go back I laughed out loud just from watching the social media. These distorted numbers as reported by them is a perfect indication of why they are not trusted on anything. Like do we believe there will be adequate cleaning or PPE or real enforcement of any rules?  Leonie reported.
NYC mayor said 700,000 students are ready to come back to school this fall. Really? There is some strong opposition to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plans.

So, I've been thinking a lot about the going back to school issue, at times torn between both sides for a variety of reasons, which I won't get deep into right now --- you can read all the issues on Arthur's and James' blogs and on facebook. I expect to do a deeper dive. Down below I focus on the contact tracing issue as an example.

I've seen a lot of attacks on Mulgrew for not being militant enough. I reserve judgement as he escalates his criticism as part of the political game he is playing. I do not object to his waiting for the game to come to him. But if you think a strike is in the offing I see no way - unless Unity Caucus itself revolts. But I'll get into that in a separate post.

I've been collecting article after article on just how disorganized the De Blasio admin has been to the point I've lost track and in fact been overwhelmed by the info coming in.

[One offtopic example of how things are screwed up are reports coming in from friends who come into JFK and breeze right through without questions. Quarantine my ass.]

I actually started writing this piece two weeks ago when I read a NYT article on contact tracing which is supposed to be part of the going back to school issue.

I posted this from a NYC teacher
Decoded and Explained - The NYC DOE Reopening Plan - 109 pages of smoke and mirrors - Anonymous NYC Teacher 

And Leonie posted this:
Mayor De Blasio Pledges A Nurse In Every School, But UFT President Says He’ll Fight Reopening If Stringent Safety Isn’t Met – CBS New York
Mulgrew is putting the blame on de Blasio, who, he said, didn’t focus on the problem of school reopening until last month. His message? “We’ve yet to see you actually get your job done. So let’s see you do your job,” he said.
Here I focus on the contact tracing program:
City Praises Contact-Tracing Program. Workers Call Rollout a ‘Disaster.’ programs have presented an array of challenges to government officials everywhere, including difficulties hiring many workers, privacy issues and faulty technology, like apps. And New York City’s seems to have been especially plagued by problems.
some contact tracers described the program’s first six weeks as poorly run and disorganized, leaving them frustrated and fearful that their work would not have much of an impact.

They spoke of a confusing training regimen and priorities, and of newly hired supervisors who were unable to provide guidance. They said computer problems had sometimes caused patient records to disappear. And they said their performances were being tracked by call-center-style “adherence scores” that monitor the length of coffee breaks but did not account for how well tracers were building trust with clients.
Some also bristled at what they described as crackdowns on workers talking to one another.
“It reminds me of an Amazon warehouse or something, where we are judged more on call volume or case volume than the quality of conversations,” one newly hired contact tracer, a public health graduate student, said in an interview.
“To me, it seems like they hired all of us just to say we have 3,000 contact tracers so we can start opening up again, and they don’t really care about the program metrics or whether it’s a successful program,” she said.
Perfect expression of the kind of management those who work for the DOE have been seeing for years.

Note here how the tracing program was moved:
According to her resignation letter, Dr. Oxiris Barbot decided to leave largely because Mayor de Blasio snubbed the Health Department in launching the city's contact tracing program. He gave it to the public hospital system, the Health and Hospitals Corporation, instead.
if the city's economy is ever going to recover, and people are going to get their jobs and their rent money back, people exposed to the virus need to be traced and isolated right away so a case at a workplace doesn't become an outbreak at a workplace, forcing everyone to get laid off again, how well this is done matters a lot.
how is Mayor de Blasio's decision to do contact tracing without the health department at the center of it working out?
And here's the NYT piece:

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

It's The Taxes Stupid - The Retiree Advocate

It's The Taxes Stupid - The Retiree Advocate 
Aug. 12, 2020

Tax cuts for the wealthy expands the wealth gap and deficits enormously while doing little to boost the economy. 

(I'm a member of Retiree Advocate/UFT, a group of retirees with a history of opposing the Unity Caucus in the UFT)

Tax cuts for the wealthy expands the wealth gap and deficits enormously while doing little to boost the economy.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Decoded and Explained - The NYC DOE Reopening Plan - 109 pages of smoke and mirrors - Anonymous NYC Teacher

Trapping kids inside with 10 or 12 others with no airflow sounds like a recipe COVID soup!  ...I won't accept this as a "plan" for sending my daughter back, nor do I accept it as a teacher.....anon.
I received this over the transom from a NYC teacher friend who is staying
anonymous after having been persecuted by certain criminal supervisors, the very type of people we are supposed to trust to manage safe schools. The pushback from teachers and other school employees is related to two decades of dishonesty and mistrust and this plan only serves to embellish on that history with outright distortions. Note the mention of ventilation - an LOL moment for many teachers.

A Closer Look - The NYC DOE Reopening Plan Decoded Explained

I was excited when New York state governor, Andrew Cuomo, announced that all districts in the state were required to have a school reopening plan. I was looking forward to seeing what the plan was! I mean, we, the parents, needed to make a decision about the school year on August 7th, with no other information except the hybrid model for physical versus online learning. We're a month out from the start of school.

A mere days after Cuomo's announcement, the New York City Department of Education published a well-formatted plan with a table of contents! Since I had to work for two years without a classroom ceiling (the roofers hung thick contractor bags over the open roof, and water/snow would pool in the bags and drain out of a tear onto the floor, speaking of safety), I thought this was an astounding turnaround in efficiency for such a bloated agency!

Well, no. It turns out that New York City's so-called schools reopening "plan"  was 109 pages of smoke and mirrors. The DOE apparently believes that codifying the outsourcing of responsibility to the parents, and reducing their own duties to "precautions" such as educating families about the importance of mandatory home temperature checks (thermometers can be provided - how helpful!), passes as a measure of confidence. And safety measures, if underscoring hand washing and social distancing can be even be considered "safety" at this juncture or just survival, only represent a fraction of the plan. For example, this is everything under the heading, "Ventilation":
"NYCDOE’s Division of School Facilities (DSF) performed an HVAC survey to determine deferred maintenance needs. DSF is performing required HVAC maintenance (including windows) and filter changes. DSF and the SCA are working together on systems that require capital-level repairs. NYCDOE is continuing to perform maintenance and modify operations to maximize the supply of outdoor air for ventilation to the greatest extent possible."
Let me translate that. The first two sentences are fairly straightforward. A bunch of bureaucrats, DSF, who work in an air conditioned office building, sent out a survey to maintenance staff asking them where they are on their to-do list in terms of HVAC. These same bureaucrats are telling maintenance departments to perform repairs on windows and filters, and ostensibly other to-do's under the heading HVAC.

Here's where we need to start breaking things down a bit more finely. The pencil pushers keeping tabs on school maintenance are pairing up with the bureaucrats from the School Construction Authority. The SCA is in charge of taking a physical building, such the Franklin K. Lane brick and mortar, phasing out the school, displacing students but more importantly teachers, and creating more "schools" to address overcrowding by dividing the large former population of the school with smaller groups of students, attending different "schools". In other words, they don't physically construct schools. They reduce the number of students that you can house in a building because you need administration and staff for all the new schools. So, the third sentence from the "plan" is saying that DSF and SCA are joining forces for an interdepartmental project!

And now the fuzziness really creeps in. These two groups of office workers will make a list of things that need to be done that will require money. Really. That's what the fourth sentence says; it's specifying the project that the two groups of bureaucrats are going to be working on. And, to conclude, the closing sentence is saying that the whole DOE system is still fixing things and changing things in order to get some air inside, if they can.

I love this plan! Trapping kids inside with 10 or 12 others with no airflow sounds like a recipe COVID soup! There are still classrooms without AC! This example paragraph is found on page 36, under the trending coronavirus topic, "Lead". The language used requires either 20 years experience inside the DOE, or 20 hours of careful scrutiny. This is their plan!

Listen, coming up with something this visible and important is not easy. I don't understand the veneer of command and control, when they obviously have neither. Sometimes, it's okay to say, we don't have this under control, and we need your constructive input and patience. Here's what we've been doing, but New York is a big city, with a myriad of needs and experiences, and it takes a while to address everything. When you issue a decree from on high, with no chance for dialogue, it causes dissent and nowadays, we don't need any more anger and confusion. We, the people, need to set the priorities and come up with solutions. I won't accept this as a "plan" for sending my daughter back, nor do I accept it as a teacher.

I also want to go on the record to say that Mayor Di Blasio and Chancellor Carranza are misreading that highly publicized figure, 75% of parents opt for in-person. Yes, that's true. I'm one of them. And I am almost 100% certain that we will, in the end, opt out.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Cuomo Unleashed: Is New York Going Back to the 1970s? Commentary on Budget and Pandemic

Norm here - my usual optimistic self - Aug. 3, 2020 --
(Holy Crap - it's August - time to get out the winter clothes.)

With the issue of going back to school at the top of the heap, the budget crisis has dropped to 2nd or 3rd place. Ross Barkan's important commentary (in yellow) on Cuomo and the budget caught my eye and is an interesting read () --  my comments in black):
Last week, NY1 reported that Cuomo had quietly nominated three close allies to the Financial Control Board.....
The FCB  took over our finances in the 70s for a decade and dictated cuts that keeps politicians out of it--- that keeps De Blasio out of it so whatever
deals with the UFT would be off.
Cuomo is currently laying the trap for severe cuts in the coming months, tying all the state’s hopes of salvation to federal aid. It’s a deeply cynical ploy; like the 1970s, there is a Republican administration in Washington hostile to New York.... 
Oh boy is he. I bet charters get their dough. Can he cut AND support the safety measures needed to open schools? I'm betting not. He won't risk taking NY backwards on the virus - he's making his political bones on not letting the monster back in.

I can imagine some day care system but risk opening schools?

But if teachers get their wish and he doesn't open schools - taking away the argument for more personnel to run safe schools - watch the ax come down hard. At the end of the pandemic, with people leaving the city and others the public schools and finding alternatives to day care  --- well I would bet on lots of those small schools disappearing or getting consolidated. The idea of 1800 schools has always been ridiculous. All those principals retiring? No problem -- cut to 1000 schools.

(Could they try to split people by offering some bonuses to teachers who volunteer to go in? Or that some teachers will take it? Don't be shocked at anything.)
A reasonable executive, in the interim, would seek to keep New York afloat without resorting to self-destructive austerity measures. But that does not describe Andrew Cuomo. His budget director, former State Senate Republican staffer Robert Mujica, is effectively the most powerful man in the state outside of Cuomo, tasked with detailing whatever deep cuts to localities the governor deems fit. It’s only a matter of time, after Republicans snub New York, that Mujica begins telling the state legislature how much public school, hospital, transportation, and social service aid will disappear. Thanks to new powers won when the state budget was passed in April, Cuomo is permitted to make rolling cuts throughout 2020 as revenue dries up.
I'm back.
Back in May I wrote about the 1975 financial crisis and its impact over a decade or more with a particular emphasis on how public education suffered an overwhelming hit with 13,000 layoffs even after a teacher strike despite the Taylor Law (we all paid two for one fines and technically lost tenure for a year). The Coming Crisis to NYC Education - 1975 to 2020 - Part 3 This is not the best of times - What Will Be Won't Be - Part 3
My focus at that time was on the economic impact rather than on the pandemic impact. Now that issue in a potential strike has taken precedence over budget cuts (though they go together) with teachers around the nation talking strike if they are forced to go in under unsafe conditions.

I wrote about that the other day:
Is the National Day of Action for Safe Schools (Aug. 3) a Precursor to a Nationwide Teacher Strike?

James touches on the strike issue on the 

While the back to school story plays out daily with teachers and many parents making it clear they do not want to go back into schools and everyone giving the blended learning idea an F, lots of other issues get put on the table that have long term negative impact on public ed.
  • Parents forming private pods outside the public schools -- home schooling on steroids.

  • The idea being argued by some teachers that Zoom type learning can really work -- that's like sending a message that ultimately we are non-essential and giving distance learning a big boost - and remember, if they can do this without school buildings they can save enormous money - and maybe pay fewer teachers a lot of money to take on bigger loads. (Reminds me of my idea years ago to use Yankee Stadium and the jumbo scoreboard and have Class sizes of 50,000.)
Now, things are somewhat different with the left winning so many seats in the state legislature. Ross comments: will up to the emboldened left in New York to mobilize against Cuomo’s worst intentions and resist another replay of 1970s neoliberalism. Cuomo is more committed to the program than Carey ever was, and the competence of those around him—Cuomo aides are rewarded far more for sycophancy than any native ability—is much more questionable. 
Is there a resurgent left in the UFT? Or will Mulgrew get a message of militancy that goes beyond rhetoric? James feels he is feeling the pressure and moving away from support for the de Blasio/ Caranza plan. A key issue is lack of trust of the DOE and the UFT leaders by many members. Mulgrew could capture the moment if he has the chops. I'm not confident he does.

I have lots more to say ---- so come back soon - or subscribe to this blog (upper left hand corner) and get updates every time I upchuck an article.

Read Ross below:

Is New York Going Back to the 1970s?

Nearly a half century later, there are disturbing echoes of a decade that almost doomed New York City. But there are real differences too.

Teachers, Parents, Students to Rally Outside Tweed and UFT HQ to Protest Unsafe School Reopening

Good morning,

I thought you would be interested in this rally and march led by school staff, parents and students, happening today at 5 pm outside UFT headquarters and Tweed DOE offices. This is part of a national day of action against unsafe, unfunded school reopening. In addition to MORE, 20 additional groups are joining and we expect a big turnout.

Please let me know if you have any questions,


Press Contacts:
Liat Olenick

Teachers, Parents, Students to Rally Outside Tweed and UFT HQ to Protest Unsafe School Reopening 

New York, New York:  Today, the MORE-UFT Caucus as well as parents, students and advocacy organizations including the Alliance for Quality Education, Rise and Resist and Coalition for Educational Justice will join school communities taking action across the country to march and rally to push back against the insufficient, unsafe, underfunded hybrid reopening plan being put forth by the UFT, the Chancellor and the Mayor. Those who cannot join the rally and march in person will be taking action from home to prevent an unsafe reopening. 

“The science is clear. COVID is airborne indoors, especially in poorly ventilated, crowded classrooms Here in New York City, more than 20,000 people have already died from COVID-- mostly Black and Latinx New Yorkers. Returning to school buildings while COVID continues to spread across the country will put more Black and Latinx New Yorkers at even greater risk,” said teacher Andrew Worthington. “ We demand no new cases for 14 days, all health and safety measures implemented including consistent rapid testing, contact tracing, safe public transit and community input.”
‘Our schools were underfunded before COVID hit. Now they face new budget cuts because the Governor refuses to tax the rich, and the Mayor refused to substantially divest from the NYPD. In order to reopen safely we need more funding for teachers, nurses, social workers, counselors and supplies and New Yorkers need financial relief,” said Tajh Sutton, CEC14 President and Teens Take Charge Program Manager. “Forcing school buildings to reopen without additional funding will put staff in the untenable position of having to enforce high stakes public health guidelines without adequate resources which could further put our Black and Brown students at risk of being criminalized.” 

“The DOE, the Mayor and the Governor have consistently left parents, teachers and students out of decisions about reopening. They have refused to consider our creative ideas, hear our feedback on remote learning or transparently answer basic questions,” said Marilena Marchetti. “We demand that stakeholders are fully empowered and included in planning for both school reopening and for equitable remote learning that includes opportunities for outdoor learning and therapeutic service delivery for prioritized student populations.” 

What: March and rally to stop and unsafe school reopening as part of a national day of action. 
When: Monday, August 3rd, 5:00 p.m.- 7:00 p.m. 
Where: The March will start at UFT Headquarters at 52 Broadway and end at DOE offices at Tweed Courthouse. 
Who: Movement of Rank & File Educators(MORE-UFT), Parents Supporting Parents NY, PoliFem, DC 37 Progressive Caucus, Justice Center en el Barrio, Rise and Resist, Revolting Lesbians, Alliance for Quality Education NYC, Ya-Ya Network, Black Lives Matter School Week of Action NYC, A Call to Action on Puerto Rico, Workers World Party, New York Boricua Resistance, Peoples Power Assemblies NYC, NYC Coalition for Educational Justice, BATALA, Young People of Color Incorporated, Freedom For all, Dynamic Therapy Intervention, NYC Democratic Socialists of America 23. Party for Socialism and Liberation, Community Education Council 14



Sunday, August 2, 2020

NYCDOE Covid School Safety Model

Created by Darren Marelli an old pal from the Grassroots education Movement days - and major player on the film
Another brilliant piece of work.