Thursday, December 24, 2020

Fred Smith with his annual The Night Before Xmas—2020

Fred Smith has done it again for 2020 with is yearly Xmas specials. 
Here are his previous years, each with a different theme.
I first met Fred, a testing expert who used to work for the NYCBOE, when he contacted me about getting ICE members to assist in gathering data for his exposures of the evils of testing. Over the years, his involvement with groups like GEM and Change the Stakes has grown.

Fred is also a statistician for the NY Jets - don't blame him for their absence from the Super Bowl for almost 50 years.

Fred Smith convincing Jets dancers to boycott field tests - he's the one in the middle

The Night Before Xmas—2020
'Twas the night before Christmas and in the Snow House
Sat a duck-assed old fat man with botoxic spouse. 
This may be my last chance to go through the list,           
And give gifts to people who’ve made me real pissed.    
Whether I like them or hate, it’s ever the same,                 
They’re bound to go down in my endless blame game:                   
To my faithless AG and once true legal goon,                     
 Yeah, Bill Barr you left me, so come kiss my moon.
As to Mitch, the traitor, who upped and caved in,            
Here’s a carton of face masks to cover your chin;            
And for Rudolph, the red-faced, sputt’ring buffoon,                  
What would be more fitting than a golden spittoon;         
The prize for Pompeo requires some thinking,                
Backtracking on hacking without even blinking;             
And as for that Birx, as well as for Faucci,                      
A pox on both jerks for making me grouchy;                  
And to my dear friends, Pelosi and Schumer,                  
A set of false teeth and an unbenign tumor;                    
Bah, to Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett             
I’ll strip off their robes for not being my parrot;              
To NBC cable, O’Donnell and Maddow,                  
Go choke on your words and walk in the shadow;           
Which goes for Jake Tapper and for Wolf Blitzer,           
Two cups of egg nog and a cyanide spritzer;                   
The Judiciary Committee and Adam Schiff                     
A one-way train ride heading off of a cliff;                      
As for Masha, Vindman and Fiona Hill,                          
You dared utter the truth; here’s a poisonous pill;           
This thing ‘bout the virus and how many have died?                 
Qanon swears that every one of them lied;                      
I now know there are 300,000 folks hidin’;                       
No presents for the “dead” who voted for Biden;             
Of course, can’t forget those phony Obamas,                  
Who should be sent packing to some land full of llamas;               
And I have to keep waiting until two weeks hence          
To decide what determines the fate of Mike Pence;
But there's a place in my heart for Betsy DeVos;
I'd love to spend a few minutes inside her clothes.
On Ivanka, on Kayleigh, on a Stormy day,
On Kelly or any blond who'll pull my sleigh.
Loyalty to me must be undiminished;                             
One step out of line and you know you are finished,                 
‘Cept for Putin, who says I lost the election;                   
For some weird reason I can’t spurn his defection.          
But I digress, there are more who’ve sorely peeved me,                 
Who think I’m a fool and those who have grieved me:    
Including all foreign leaders, ‘cause they are foreign,      
Save for Bibi and Britain’s Elizabeth Warren.                 
I’ll give them all coal to stuff in their crotches;               
And spoiled milk to SNL which nobody watches.           
And let me see what I have for Stephen Colbert;             
Ah, it’s something set for ticking under his chair.            
Forget about pardons and exoneration,                    
Maybe I just need an extended vacation                          
Where I won’t have to pretend to read any book,              
And I’ll have full time for golf and being a crook.
Now it’s almost midnight on this Xmas Eve,                   
And it’s time to be taking my overdue leave.                     
But I’ll keep right on tweeting my message of cheer                 
To do more for America in the New Year.                           
  Fred Smith

Saturday, December 12, 2020


The de Blasio mis-leadership of the school system has put the control of the schools in the hands of one person on the table for discussion. 


Thank you for registering for "REIMAGINE: OUR CITY SCHOOLS (1) - December TONYC Meet-up".
Please submit any questions to: 

Date Time: Dec 13, 2020 08:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)


Sunday night this will be a fascinating event organized by Teachers of NYC. 



James Eterno is supporting the event Sunday night:


Teachers of NYC are a group to watch. They are holding a Zoom event on Sunday evening on ending mayoral control of NYC schools. Note that Mike Schirtzer, the one UFT Executive Board member not afraid to ask tough questions to UFT President Mulgrew, will be on the panel as will Class Size Matters' Director Leonie Haimson. I will be attending and so should you if you are able.

Yes, Teachers of NYC [not a caucus] is worth keeping an eye on as they bring a rank and file perspective to the table.  The panel includes current and former parent activists Leonie Haimson and Kaliris Salas-Ramirez, Kim Watkins chair of Community Education Council 3 (upper west side), UFT Ex Bd member Mike Schirtzer and two people I am not familiar with, Shamel Lawrence and Dr. Shawn Ruks. 


Our opposition to mayoral control from 20 years ago while the UFT leadership supported it

From the earliest days of rumors of mayoral control taking over our schools in the year 2000 we as Ed Notes have been opposed. 

Education Notes Summer 2001- {when Giuliani was mayor and demanding mayoral control}

Education Notes Editorial:
Do Not Give This Mayor (or any Mayor) Control Over The School System

The plan put forth by our union leaders to give the Mayor effective control of the school system by allowing him to appoint 6 out of 11 members from an expanded Board of Education (to be chosen from a blue ribbon panel headed by the state education commissioner) puts us on a very dangerous path. Naturally, Mayor Giuliani, proving once again he is an ignoranus (see next page for a formal definition), immediately trashed the plan. The arguments put forth at the June 4 [2001] Exec. Bd. meeting focused on the issue of making the Mayor accountable and creating common ground for providing resources to the schools. Results in other cities with Mayoral control were cited. It was also surmised that this plan would be a way to take some of the testing pressure off classroom teachers.

Ed. Notes contends that more pressure will be placed on classroom teachers as Mayors use test scores in their elec- tion campaigns. Given the choice, will these politicians put enough resources into classrooms to help children really learn? Or will they take the politically expedient way out by calling for more tests and more blame on teachers when children don’t produce? Allowing politi- cal forces to control what we teach and how we teach is already taking place. Mayoral control will only make the situation worse. We should be calling for the professionalization of teaching, which should give teach- ers more control over the schools, not less.

The UFT was prepared to give freack'n Rudolph Giuliani control of the schools and they rushed to hand it over to Bloomberg. I warned the UFT leadership. Now you should note that the recent Mulgrew calls for modification of mayoral control is not far off the June, 2001 plan.

The late George Schmidt when he read the piece above issued a warning to the teachers in the UFT about mayoral control which I printed in the April 2002 after Bloomberg had become mayor and the UFT leadership seemed relieved at his replacing Giuliani - which goes to show you anti_Trumpers - lunacy is often followed by competent lunacy as Bloomberg laid waste to the school system. The Chicago Unity like union leadership also didn't oppose mayoral control and paid the price in the 2001 union elections where the PACT caucus won but then lost barely in 2004. However, that experience for young activists led them to form CORE in 2008 and they won in 2010 and have held power since then. George was heavily involved in both wins, using his widely read Substance newspaper (the model for Ed Notes) to great effect.

I reprinted George's article in that same Ed Notes, Fall, 2002. George was in NYC the summer of 2002 and visited me and a few people I called together to give details on his experiences. This item is from the Fall, 2002 edition.

George Schmidt Visits Rockaway

George Schmidt, founder and editor of the independent education newsletter Substance for the past 27 years and a major source of information on events in the Chicago school system, met with a group of NYC teachers at the Ed. Notes palatial estate this summer in Rockaway Beach. It was George’s first return to Rockaway since he went out on a date to Rockaway Playland in the 60’s.

Schmidt, accompanied by his 14 year old son, Danny, regaled his audience with tales of the Chicago “corporate” model of mayoral control, how school workers took back the union and shared his experiences at the AFT convention (attended by 800 Unity Caucus members at your expense) held in July in Las Vegas. George also gave us advice on how to make Ed. Notes a more viable and effective source of information for school workers in NYC. See George’s article on Mayoral control on page 5 and the stories on CTU President Debbie Lynch on pages 5 and 6.

My intro to the George piece [remember Arne Duncan was the CEO of Chicago schools for about 7 years].

Coming Soon to a School Near You: Mayoral Control

When UFT leader Randi Weingarten floated a proposal to give the mayor control of the school system in May 2001, Education Notes took strong exception, arguing that giving politicians control would only result in a system of education by the numbers in a corporate style system. Our opposition caused a breach in our relationship to the UFT leadership that has not been healed to this day. Weingarten took exception to what she perceived was an accusation that she was selling us out. We did not go that far, but we did feel that she was in favor of recentralizing the school system, thus opting for short term gains (a quick contract) while sacrificing the long term interests of school workers, whose ability to control the conditions under which they work decrease significantly under centralized control. Mayor Giulianiʼs scornful rejection of that deal delayed our contract for more than a year. It was the unionʼs behind the scenes support for giving Mayor Bloomberg control that finally got the contract done. Did Weingarten sell out our educational interests for a pot of gold? The next few years will allow people to judge for themselves. This month, we give our readers a break from our diatribes against centralized corporate style mayoral control and turn instead to surrogates.

We reprise the article George Schmidt, editor of Substance, Chicagoʼs independent educational newspaper, did for us in May which points to the lessons of Chicago over the last 7 years as a guidepost to the future of education in New York. Schmidt, accompanied by his 14 year old son, Danny, regaled his audience with tales of the Chicago “corporate” model of mayoral control, how school workers took back the union and shared his experiences at the AFT convention (attended by 800 Unity Caucus members at your expense) held in July in Las Vegas. George also gave us advice on how to make Ed. Notes a more viable and effective source of information for school workers in NYC. -- Ed Notes, Fall, 2002

Education Notes Apr./May ‘02/ 


by George Schmidt, Editor of Substance, 5132 W Berteau Chicago, IL 60641

Dear Brothers and Sisters in New York,

No teacher union should support mayoral control of the school system -- especially if the "Chicago Model" is invoked to justify that control. Chicago's version of urban school governance based on a supposed "busi- ness model" of how things should be run is actually the major form of "deregulation" aimed at the heart of public education (and the unions representing teachers and other school workers) in the urban north. More than vouchers, charters schools, or the antics of Edison Schools Inc., the "CEO model" for urban school governance is an attack on democracy, on public school teachers, and on the unions that represent the men and women who work in public schools. Despite the massive propaganda (including regular reports in The New York Times) praising Chicago's version of "School Reform," the model is based on shoddy public relations and relentless attacks on democratic public schools and democratic unions.

In 1995, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law (the Amendatory Act) which gave Chicago's mayor complete control over the governance of the school system. At the time of the legislation, the Republican Party's most con- servative wing controlled both houses of the Illinois Gen- eral Assembly and the governor's seat. Thanks to the legis- lation he wrote with the Republicans, Chicago's mayor was able to abolish the old (appointed, but with many guide- lines) school board, appoint a five-member "School Re- form Board of Trustees", and appoint a "Chief Executive Officer" to replace the credentialed superintendent of schools. The legislation also prohibited collective bargain- ing on class size, abolished tenure, and took away other rights which Chicago teachers and other union workers in the city's public schools thought had been secured forever.

The Chicago system immediately went into an orgy of union busting, privatization, and teacher bashing. In July 1995, Mayor Daley appointed his former budget director (Paul G. Vallas) as Chief Executive Officer of the school system. Vallas, a career bureaucrat with no private sector experience, had no teaching experience and no other cre- dentials to run the newly deregulated school system. Presi- dent of the School Board went to Gery Chico, a lawyer who had most recently been the Chief of Staff for the mayor.

The key to the "success" of the Chicago "CEO Model" was control of public relations. From the very beginning of the Vallas administration, a careful campaign of slander and disinformation was launched against the unions repre- senting those who worked in the public schools. Thanks to a sweetheart contract with the leaders of the Chicago Teach- ers Union, by the fall of 1995, the mayor's propaganda people made the false claim that the new "CEO" (Paul G. Vallas) had ended what was claimed to be a $1 billion "deficit." The "deficit" had actually been created on paper by inflating estimated expenses and deflating estimated revenues. Within a year after taking over the school system, the mayor then announced that test scores had begun to go "up."

Deregulation in Chicago's schools was based on the same types of manipulation of numbers that served the execu- tives of Enron (and other crooked corporations) so well in the private sector during the "" and stock bubble manias of the late 1990s. The manipulation of financial information (the budget "deficit" claim) and test score information ("trending up" was what Chicago's school administration called the test score reports during the same years the stock market bubble was being in- flated) reduced the integrity of the school board's finan- cial and educational data to a shambles. But that was no problem in the short term, because Chicago-based Arthur Andersen was doing for the financial data (through the annual audit of the ending financial statements) and many educational programs (through multi-million dollar "consultancies" to "audit" everything from pre school pro- grams to some high school academic programs) the same jobs it was doing during the same years for Enron (and before that for Chicago-based Sunbeam and Waste Man- agement, both of which cooked their books and cheated their shareholders and workers years before Enron did).

For the union to support the rampant teacher bashing and union busting that comes with mayoral takeovers like Chicago's the union leadership has to be willing to be- come a company union. The company is City Hall.

By January 1999, the mayor's team at the Chicago school board had busted several of the union's that represented Chicago school employees and was ready to attack the heart of teacher rights: tenure. In February 1999, after safely getting a new contract from the leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union (after a highly questionable referendum), the school board fired 137 tenured teachers, exercising its new power to terminate even those with tenure. When the union lead- ership challenged the firing in federal court, the school board, supposedly run by our friends from City Hall, not only used its own $8 million le- gal department but paid hundreds of thou- sands of dollars to the blue chip law firm of Jenner and Block to defeat the union's federal court challenge to the abolition of tenure for Chicago teachers. (To date, Jenner and Block has been paid more than $1 million to defend the school board against the union's challenge in the main federal case, Shegog et al v. Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees).

Throughout the entire attack on union and teacher rights, the union leadership refused to criticize the City Hall school "team" that was undermining the unions and slandering teachers and other school workers on an almost daily basis.

Critics within the union grew in size and strength during the six years (July 1995 through June 2001) that Paul G. Vallas served as Mayor Richard M. Daley's handpicked "CEO" of Chicago's vast public school system. On May 18, 2001, the members of the 36,000-member Chicago Teachers Union got their first change to vote on a referendum on the mayor's takeover. Paul Vallas, the school system's CEO, endorsed Chicago Teachers Union presi- dent Thomas Reece, an incumbent with a war chest on more than $200,000 and control of every one of the more than 40 jobs at the CTU's headquarters. The Chicago Sun-Times (circulation 500,000 daily) told Chicago's teachers to vote for Tom Reece and his "team."

When the results of the election were announced on May 25 af- ter a hand-count of the paper ballots, the opposition slate from the Pro Active Chicago Teachers and School Workers (PACT) caucus had won the election with 57 percent of the vote to Reece's 43 percent. On the day they voted, all five of the PACT candi- dates for city-wide union office were teaching in their schools (or, in the case of Maureen Callaghan, candidate for treasurer, working in the school office where she served as secretary). Deborah Lynch (now CTU president), Howard Heath (now CTU vice president), Jacqueline Price Ward (now CTU recording sec- retary), James Alexander (now CTU financial secretary) and Maureen Callaghan (now CTU treasurer) all had to clean out their classrooms (or desks) before they reported to the down- town offices of the Chicago Teachers Union on July 1, 2001, to begin leading one of the largest locals in the American Federa- tion of Teachers.

The victory of PACT in the May 2001 CTU election was an over- whelming vote of no confidence in the union leadership that had allowed the once powerful Chicago Teachers Union to become a company union under the domination of Chicago's City Hall. The victory of Deborah Lynch Walsh (who dropped the "Walsh" from her last name recently) and the other members of the PACT slate (including 40 of the 45 
members of the CTU executive board, was a victory for the rank-and-file and for the secret ballot and democratic unionism. The betrayal of the teachers and other union members in Chi- cago by the former union ad- ministration was decisively re- pudiated on May 18 in what was the most exciting union election in recent Chicago memory.

The hard work began immediately. The new leadership of the CTU is rebuilding a coalition of more than a dozen unions representing those who work in Chicago's public schools -- from janitors and school engineers to truck drivers and lunch- room workers. With an eye towards the negotiations for a contract which expires on August 31, 2003, Deborah Lynch and her colleagues in the union leadership have been mobi- lizing their union membership in unprecedented ways.

On March 19, the Illinois AFL-CIO's candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor, former congressman Rod Blagojevich, thanked the unions for the support which carried him to victory in a hard-fought three-way race for the nomination against former Chicago schools CEO Paul G. Vallas. A signal issue during the debates and in the pri- mary race was Vallas's union busting record as schools CEO. Democrats and the members of Illinois unions are optimis- tic that the Democratic Party can retake the governor's of- fice in Illinois for the first time since Jimmy Carter was Presi- dent of the United States.

On March 23, for example, the union leadership concluded the third of a series of three two-day leadership training con- ferences that involved all of the more than 800 elected del- egates representing the union's 36,000 active duty and re- tired members, teacher and career service.

Not only has the election of Deborah Lynch provided a re- pudiation of the politics of union busting and teacher bash- ing in Chicago's public schools, but it has begun to lead to an unprecedented era of mobilization and hope among a for- merly demoralized membership of the once mighty union. With every step the Chicago Teachers Union takes towards getting its strength back after years of convalescence in the isolation ward of company unionism, teachers and other union members add their voices, votes and hard work to the massive job of rebuilding the city's public schools after years of mismanagement by the political cronies of City Hall.


Thursday, December 10, 2020

FAIR Exposes NYT Ed Reporter Eliza Shapiro Bias on school closings (and what else?)

 Eliza Shapiro on Twitter

Eliza Shapiro on Twitter (12/7/20) takes on “the very lefty Chicago teachers union.”

Shapiro takes it to the next level, though. On Twitter, she editorializes beyond what appears in her published articles, as she cherry-picks pro-reopen quotes (8/7/20), parrots executive power (8/12/20), blames pesky safety protocols on union action (9/27/20), framing unions that oppose reopening as extremist outliers (12/7/20) and frames all problems as hindrances to the ultimate goal of reopening as soon as possible (8/9/20). When Shapiro (12/2/20) appeared to apologize on behalf of the mayor for racial disparities in reopening, the anti–high-stakes testing group NYC Opt Out responded: “We desperately need journalists who will scrutinize and challenge claims made by people in power, not cling to them even when they’re proven to be utterly false.”    FAIR

The NYT has generally had biased coverage of education issues with an anti-union slant and over the years we’ve tangled with the revolving doors of Ed reporters, many of whom have moved on to bigger things. Eliza Shapiro came to the NYT from Politico. Her use of sources from the fringe anti union neoliberal E4E, supported financially by the Ed deform crowd (you will not see Shapiro report that info) has grated on activists.

Ari Paul digs deep into her coverage on the school closing issue.