Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Unitymustgo shares resources - if actual research were done very few K classrooms meet the 35 sqft criteria

Unitymustgo! has left a new comment on your post "United Slate Announced, Predictions for (Nov. 17) UFT Delegate Assembly -Class Size Issue - Enforcement, Enforcement, Enforcement":

Here's some info for you:
First is a memorandum of agreement between DOE and UFT
https://www.uft.org/sites/default/files/attachments/classroom-space-1998-memorandum.pdf

Here we have the new construction classroom space guidelines as per NYSED.
http://www.p12.nysed.gov/facplan/publicat/building_aid_guidelines_072804.html

Current NYC building codes. Scroll to page 166 to see school room square footages. Note pre-k and K require 35 sqft.
https://www.nyc.gov/html/dob/downloads/bldgs_code/amendement_set_1.pdf

https://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/SPACE-CRUNCH-Report-Final-OL.pdf

And this. An interesting read showing how low even 35 sqft for pre-k and K is when compared to many other states.
https://www.whitehutchinson.com/children/articles/35footmyth.shtml

I would imagine if actual research were done very few K classrooms meet the 35 sqft criteria. The ones in my school sure don't. 


Monday, November 22, 2021

DA UPDATE: Class Size Amendment Passes Over Unity Oppo, Mulgrew ballistic over retirees listening outside, UFT/Unity Staffers on payroll challenged

WTF -- 

A Delegate argues that the contract is not the right place for lower class sizes. We have a committee to negotiate. Class size should not be there in contract negotiations ... Double WTF
Above reported by Eterno LIVE BLOGGING FROM NOVEMBER DA (Mostly unedited).  
Undoubtably a Unity Caucus delegate who seems clueless that we ACTUALLY HAVE NEGOTIATED CLASS SIZE LIMITS IN THE CONTRACT.

Thank goodness there was some sanity in the house - 

A chapter leader speaks in favor of the amendment because it allows chapter leaders to enforce class sizes through the grievance process. I've been making this point:

Should UFT staffers and other Unity hacks be called out as speaking for the leadership, not the membership at DAs? They may be elected delegates in their schools but they are working for the leadership, not the people they were elected to rep. 
So, Hell yes - people making way more money than even the highest paid member should be held publicly accountable. I was so glad to see Daniel Alicea call out Unity hack non-elected District Rep Bill (Ruff Ruff) Woodruff at the Nov. 17 DA for calling the question.
Monday, November 22, 2021

What a yummy Delegate Assembly Nov. 17 was. I didn't even need to eat dinner that night. There's lots to report and I will need a few blog posts over the next few days to do it all.
 
But first take a look at an opposition slate that won in the Teamsters election: https://portside.org/2021-11-20/teamsters-united-takes-wheel . Not that I think this might happen in the UFT -
 
Class size debate
Background -- UFT leadership comes up with an nice gimmick to get class size reductions -- using pandemic health issue. But they refuse to entertain making it a contract demand, which has been the only true protection over decades, even with loopholes. Think of the outcome if the ancestors of the current leadership took the same position on class size in the 60s? You'd have whatever amount the principal decided. Like take 45 so he could decorate his office.
 
Why is the leadership opposed? Because they sell a zero sum game that any class size contract reduction will come out of salary -- like the UFT can't join with communities to fight for a funding strand for class size reduction.

And how about that Unity bogus argument that the DA, by UFT constitution the highest decision making body in the union, can't dictate terms to the hand-picked negotiating committee of hundreds picked by the leadership? We need to affirm the DA right to make demands on the suddenly sacrosanct Unity controlled negotiating committee.

I don't know who all the speakers listed in Arthur's report below are,  but I will venture a guess: anyone who spoke against the amendment asking for class size to be a contract demand is in some way associated with Unity Caucus and most in some manner on the UFT payroll or get union perks. At the very least, they are part of some Unity DA speakers bureau that plans their actions at the DA in advance. There are some reports there is even a seating chart so Mulgrew can find them. 
 
The Unity hierarchy tried very hard to kill the amendment in the days before the meeting, so they knew it was coming and made sure to have their people in place to oppose it. 
 
They lost anyway as the people on the phone voted over 60% in favor of the amendment.
 
Let's drill further: 
 
added notations [] are mine.

[UFT VP Elementary schools] Karen Alford--Supports reso to strengthen commitment to lower class size and hold DOE responsible. Can't wait. Thinks about days in overcrowded schools and classrooms, and how impossible it was to teach. We need to recognize public health challenge and look through this lens. We will make children safer. 84% could do this now. We know there are infrastructure and covid relief dollars. We don't want to trade pay for class size and we must seize this opportunity.

Ryan Bockenthal--Very much in favor, Moves to amend. Adds resolved--We wll follow up with actions, support related state legislation, prioritize in collective bargaining, go to court if necessary. We have power and showed it by mobilizing toward strike. 

Loretta Tamborello--Rises in opposition. As we said, negotiation for contract not right place. Trying to make difference using health code. We are forming committee. Will drive us. Class size action now as we're doing. Should not be contract negotiaton.

Farah Alexander--Teachers overworked, overextended, at capacity. We want this now, before contract, don't want it mandatory item. 

Ali ?--In favor of amendment. Empowers CLs to enforce this. Can make it school issue. Policies meaningless until enforced. 

Shane McAndrew--Opposes. We have health crisis, must lower class sizes, social-emotional crisis too. Smaller class sizes will help teachers support students better. Legislative process removes pressure at bargaining table. We have our voice if it's immortalized in law. Pols will have to raise them.

Matt Driscoll--In favor of amendment. Not in conflict with reso. Just adds to it. 

Jennifer Brown--Important to fight for reduction at all levels, contractually and beforehand.

Bill Woodruff--Calls question.

Point of order--Important issue. Is delegate that just asked that on union payroll?

Mulgrew--He is elected delegate.  

Woodruff?--Audibly angry, argues you'd deny members their right to be represented.

Mulgrew--We are teacher union in largest district with greatest challenges. Please bear that in mind and be respectful toward one another. Question called. Seconded.

Vote to end debate. 

82% yes online. Debate closed.

Amendment--

61% yes online. Amendment passes, but.... 

Mulgrew calls people to stand who are for amendment. They are counted. Audible debate as sections are measured. Has no votes stand, section by section.  Mulgrew says we try to avoid this because we get through fewer resolutions. 

Amendment passes.

This was a big victory as people on the phone voted overwhelmingly for putting class size as a contract demand, vehemently opposed by the leadership, as you can see above in Arthur's report. As Unity tries to pack in person meetings, you can see a divide where in person overwhelmingly opposed the contract amendment. Remote is a problem for the leadership since they can't see how people vote - and I bet a bunch of anon Unity people voted for the amendment.

There's a lot to chew on in this short segment. Bill Woodruff  (known affectionately by some in the opposition as Ruff Ruff) is a highly paid APPOINTED NOT ELECTED district rep but also an elected delegate from the school he is assigned to where he teaches one period a day and then goes off to work on his UFT job until 6 PM - supposedly  - except I guess when he "works" for Unity Caucucs at the DA  - often as a goon this time trying to intimidate retirees outside the building (more on this below). Should District reps occupy a delegate position in a school they spend one eighth of their day in? I say HELL NO but if they were elected DR in their districts I'd entertain the argument.

Anti amendment speakers Loretta Tamborello, Farah Alexander are Unity Caucus and Shane McAndrew was associated with E4E which no matter their rhetoric, go along with Ed Deform attacks on class size as an issue. Watch some alliances between E4E and Unity in this election, even the possibility E4E runs its own slate as a Unity stalking horse to undermine United for Change. 

One of my pal bloggers took up the issue:

DOENUTS Blog: But Why Are Paid Employees Trying To End Debate

A Delegate on the phone says lower class sizes are important contractually or through other means.
A Delegate calls the question on all matters before the house.
Point of Order: This is an important issue asking if the person who spoke previously was on the union payroll. Delegate responds that he is elected and insulted that someone asked this.

A closer look into what the heck happened revels this:

Then, it starts to get crazy when DR William Woodruff calls the question to get a vote on ending the debate. Independent Delegate Daniel Alicea [(here)] shouts for a point of order on whether the person calling for the end of debate on this fundamental issue is on the UFT payroll. Woodruff is on the payroll and makes close to $200,000 per annum as a District Rep so it is a valid question if he represents his employer (the UFT) or the members in the school where he works one period a day. .....

DOENUTS' reporting is important, bur not to bury the lede of this DA: 

The most important event connected to the Nov. 17 UFT Delegate Assembly was the announcement of a united slate for the spring UFT elections -  

Jonathan has the press advisory - United for Change / UFT.  I reported the morning of the DA as the announcement was made. United Slate Announced, Predictions for (Nov. 17) UFT Delegate Assembly -Class Size Issue - Enforcement, Enforcement, Enforcement.

I've always supported a united front of all groups for UFT elections since I got involved in the 70s. Generally, the caucuses I've worked with have also backed united fronts and I have always argued to either run together or don't run. That was my position when I was with MORE and when they did the opposite in the 2019 election I separated. Good to see they are on board this time.

But to me the more important issue has been the level of cooperation between all elements of the opposition at the Sept. CL and Oct and Nov DA's -- more on this - the first time I've seen some of this at DAs since the early 70s.

More background here:

 And other reporting on what turned out to be a packed DA:

James' commentary: VOTES DON'T GO UNITY'S WAY AT DELEGATE ASSEMBLY; M...

UFT staffers dominating the DA is anti-democratic, as is shutting out opposition retirees from being delegates

Now, let's get back to the issue of UFT/Unity people on the union dole occupying major spaces at the Delegate Assembly, which was so blatantly obvious on Wednesday.

For the record, a group of retirees were huddled together outside listening to the DA with some mild amplification through a bull horn - we are old and the UFT leadership opposes medicare for all which would pay for our hearing aids.  In addition, the 19th floor, where we usually watch the DA, was closed. And
despite Retiree Advocate winning 30% of the vote in last spring's chapter election - roughly 7000 disenfranchised voters -we have NO representation at the DA as Unity takes winner take all for all retiree 300 delegates. This is dues taxation without representation. For the record, before the election we asked for at the very least some token representation at the DA for 5 out of 300 and Unity said NO. 

Apparently this unnerved Mulgrew enough to interrupt a great speech by Daniel Alicea on why mayoral control has been so bad and Mulgrew stopped the DA and threatened to shut it down entirely because there are supposed rules about broadcasting the DA outside the building, an LOL moment since they were broadcasting outside the building to thousands of delegates.
 
They sent 3 Unity staffer goons out to yell at us: Queens HS Dist Rep James Vasquez, Wilma Soto and Good old Bill Ruff Ruff, who raced out to yell at us after yelling at Daniel. I yelled back to show us the rule and that if there were a rule about broadcasting outside the DA, they were the ones violating the rule --
 
It is anti-democratic when unelected union bureaucrats like District Reps who teach one period a day in a school and are on the UFT payroll manage to get elected as a school delegate to supposedly represent the school but actually function as an agent of the leadership, often against the interests of the people in the schools. Delegates have a right to that information. Especially egregious is calling the question on class size issues.  

Daniel posted DOENUTS on his EONYC FB page and got this response from our old pal Leo Casey:

“With all due respect, this is an anti-democratic argument. Every delegate in the Delegate Assembly is elected by the members in their school, and every delegate has the same rights to speak and to make motions in the body. This is an argument that "I have the right to silence you" and to disenfranchise the members in your school if you are in a different caucus from me. If you don't like what a delegate says, get up and make your own speech; if you don't like a motion that a delegate makes, vote against it. That's how a democracy works....
 
...the objection is that the delegate (derided as union bureaucrat) doesn’t vote the ‘right way’ representing the ‘interests’ of the members the way that the interlocutor knows they should be represented, and so therefore, must be an anti-democratic presence in the DA. And the delegate who votes the ‘right way’ (Markens) is exempt from this stricture. What I simply end with is that a conception of democracy which can’t imagine being legitimately on the losing end of votes and elections is not a conception of democracy that I can support.

Daniel responded:  

Markens is not truly analogous as being duly elected into both his positions,imo. And the lone example in 60 years. Hard to question his legitimacy.

For the record as penned by James Eterno in 2016:

“Bruce was DR for a decade. When Bruce retired, Manhattan High Schools had the nerve to vote in another non-Unity representative Tom Dromgoole. Unity's response was to change the rules to make district representatives a position appointed by the UFT President.”
Let's close by reiterating -- 
 
If district reps were elected a case could be made for them to be delegates. In fact, I would support their being delegates because they would be one level removed from total adherence to the dictates of the leadership. 
==========

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

United Slate Announced, Predictions for (Nov. 17) UFT Delegate Assembly -Class Size Issue - Enforcement, Enforcement, Enforcement


RANK-AND-FILE MEMBERS OF THE UFT FORM UMBRELLA SLATE TO CHALLENGE THE CURRENT RULING LEADERS OF THE UNION IN SPRING 2022 UFT ELECTIONS

The joint slate will be announced at the UFT's Delegate Assembly at 52 Broadway on November 17th at 4:30 PM. Coalition activists at the delegate hall will speak about the new coalition.

 

The above just came out and I will comment tomorrow. At the risk of burying the lede:

Reduce class size by 30% and all teachers except the very incompetent (and they love to use the relatively few examples to affect all teachers) would rise in effectiveness by whatever way you judge. I prefer ability to impact on the most children in a positive way.... Norm at Ed Notes, Oct. 24 2010

This bill would require each classroom in a school of the city school district of the city of New York provide 35 square feet of net floor area per child by September 2024, with no less than one-third of schools complying with such targets by September 2022, and no less than two-thirds of schools complying with such targets by September 2023... City Council

Do I think the United Slate for the UFT elections and the Unity push for class size are connected? HELL YES!
 
Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, 8 AM
 
With the sudden interest by UFT leadership in a non-enforceable version of class size reduction, we see the spring UFT election season in full operation as a way to take away a major item the opposition groups running in the election might raise. 
 
As I pointed out over the years, unless it is in the contract, it has no real teeth. 
 
If not for the 50 year old contract class size restrictions, it would be Katie bar the door when principals want to use school money to furnish their office or hire more APs by raising class size. And the 2018 contract did make class size issues more enforceable.

There seemed to be lots of back-stage maneuvering going on over this issue but untangling that Gordian Knot is a job for Houdini. Even though I don't think contacting politicians generally has a big effect, I am not against doing it as a chapter leader sent out this but framing this as a health issue has an impact.
I spent the morning making this doc to facilitate outreach to electeds in support of City Council bill 2374. Please share widely, and encourage your members to call their reps.

First, check out the bill in question (if you'd like).
Then, find out who represents you.
But we need real teeth, which I don't see. 
 
I don't have the patience to go through the leadership sponsored reso on class size for today's DA but I know it will not contain a call for negotiations in the contract. And all sorts of actions for the members to take in pushing for the bill. Hey, if class size is a health issue, make it a priority for contract negotiations. Mulgrew maintains the fiction that the DA can't dictate to the Negotiating committee, which will grow to the thoudands
 
What will be their reaction if class size doesn't get reduced? It's a gamble of sorts. If they actually get some reductions - remember, the pandemic has changed the equation on class size -- it was always a health issue in some ways but now it's a major health issue. Do you remember Mulgrew going along with the 3 foot distance? He flips like a fish on a dock.

Yesterday, I reported (Class Size and Healthcare Inside/Outside Action at by coalition of UFT activists) on the upcoming action inside and outside the UFT Delegate Assembly. I'm taking a 3:15 ferry hoping to get there by 4:30. What would a DA be without me handing out something or other? We expect to stay around until 6PM to support delegates on the way out.
  • Mulgrew talks/filibusters for almost an hour.
  • Question period with Unity plants being favored for pre-planned questions.Ten Minute New Motion period:  A guaranteed Unity plant motion to kill time and limit time for oppo voices. One guess?

Or else put at top of agenda for Regular Motion period as a way to shunt a mayoral control reso that has been in the agenda for 5 months aside. Ooops -- 6 o'clock - out of time.

Key motion for Mulgrew: Unity sponsored Class size at the city council but never in contract motion. Let's be clear - we support a city council attempt to reduce class size but that is never enough as we found out when the early 90s reduction for grades 1-3 was taken away by Bloomberg, who didn't think class size was important, ten years later. By the way -- the next Mayor also doesn't think class size is important: Eric Adams and class size
Adams said at a Citizens Budget Commission forum in February. “You could have one great teacher that’s in one of our specialized high schools to teach three to 400 students who are struggling in math, with the skillful way that they’re able to teach.”
I hear things for the UFT on this reso is not resonating in the Adams camp. Mulgrew used three napkins wiping egg off his face.
 
Attempt to amend with contract will be avoided at all costs. Unity wants to rail against putting class size in contract but doesn't want an actual vote against. Though for my money why not vote it up and then just dump class size in actual negotiations? What we are calling for is for a serious attempt to separate a special money category devoted to class size. I don't think it realistic to ask for 14 in a class but at least drop the numbers by two or three in each category.
 
There was a Mulgrew zoom Monday:
CLASS SIZE FORUM LIVE BLOGGING - I logged on when Michael Mulgrew was talking about class size. Emily James is also on from UFT. The third person is Mark Treyger, the Education Chair, City Council

Class size the UFT route with weak enforcement vs contract protection

For the past 50 years many of us have pushed the UFT to reduce class size in the contract but they have refused to do so, claiming the money would come out of our salaries. But so does toilet paper money. We can wipe with dollar bills.

Imagine of we didn't even have the current 50 year old protections even with the loopholes. When budget issues come up they would pump 45 in your classes. Only the contract keeps them to the limits, as they must budget for those numbers. A sucky grievance procedure gave them a lot of leeway to violate the rules, but the 2019 at least tightened up enforcement - but enforcement of the high numbers to start with.

On the Zoom, here is the crux of how the UFT leadership undermines the case for class size as a contract demand:

Delegate from Beacon High School is excited about this campaign. Asks if the union has thought about bringing this up through our contract campaign. We are in a position of strength. We mobilized for a strike last year, and got more. Could we mobilize through contract campaign?

Mulgrew says it comes down to negotiating committee. We want to expand negotiating committee. 400 people representing 123,000 members. We want smaller class sizes, but is this the issue we want to lead on. Do we want to do it like this but in a smarter way. Every negotiating committee has discussed this. We have to think about the consequences of a strike because of the Taylor law.

 And you can see the same from Arthur's report on last night's Ex Bd meeting: NYC EducatorUFT Executive Board October 15, 2021--Class Size Resolution Passes -

Barr--Resolution to support this bill is placed on screen. Gives history of UFT work on class size. Was first point in pandemic five-point plan. Asks for motion.

George Altomari--This issue older than UFT. Teacher's Guild looked at this. We had no contract, did best we could. Class size was 55, 60. People sat on things. We had no collective bargaining or numbers. Charlie Cogen did everything possible. He analyzed laws on books, found you needed so much space for fire hazard, wasn't successful, but we had a terrific run. Won through collective bargaining. 

Anthony Harmon--Time is right, this is our opportunity, thanks union.  

Barr had to tell the fake history story on UFT action - or inaction on class size.

Ed Notes over the past 24 years has exposed the real history of the UFT and class size, but I will leave that review, including my October 2001 reso passed unanimously at the DA for all class size violations to be published in the NY Teacher, which the union only did for two years. Now it would be easy to have all current class size violations up to date on the web.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Class Size and Healthcare Inside/Outside Action at by coalition of UFT activists at Delegate Assembly - Wednesday, Nov 17, 52 Broadway at 4PM

There will be an attempt to put class size in the contract on the agenda at the DA which the leadership doesn't even want raised because of the optics of having Unity vote against it. Come out and join us. We will be there until 6PM to support delegates when they emerge.



Tuesday, November 16, 2021

There are lots of things going on around the UFT. Tomorrow's Delegate Assembly has become a rallying point for retirees over the health care issue and for delegates over their future healthcare, their health and safety during the pandemic and class size which is related to the health issue.  

There was a joint action of opposition groups at the Oct. 13 DA:

Anti-Unity forces come together for October 13 Delegate Assembly to support Retiree Rally

The very act of coming together of so many groups in October and again tomorrow for joint action at the DA has to make Unity/UFT leadership uncomfortable. A few more related posts:

Here is a post to the Retiree Advocate listserve:

Join us this Wednesday, Nov 17 outside the UFT at 4PM

The next UFT Delegate Assembly will be this coming Wednesday, Nov. 17th at 4pm at 52 Broadway.

Inside the hall, our sisters and brother Delegates will be raising two important resolutions. 

  • One is for Small Size Classes which as we all remember was not always the case in our classrooms.

  • The other one is the Healthcare Resolution which delegates attempted to get on the agenda a few months ago and they will try again. It is just as relevant and important now.

We will be outside the DA to give support and let the public know why these issues continue to be crucial.    Please join us between 4-6pm.

We especially want to be present at 6PM when the delegates exit the assembly.

We will have our Healthcare signs and our Retiree Advocate Banner.

Join us and spread the word.

We Say NO! Do Not Privatize Our Healthcare

 

Monday, November 8, 2021

EONYC Challenge: Can Class Size Issues Wake up a sleepy UFT Leadership After Ignoring the Issue for Decades?

Be it Resolved:  That the UFT will prioritize this [class size] as one of our top demands in upcoming contractual negotiations to align the contractual class size caps with the city’s 2007 state-approved C4E class size goals, including no more than 20 students per class in grades K-3; 23 students per class in grades 4-8; and 25 students in high school, to be phased in over the next four years; 
While I believe we may see some gains out of the City Council bill, we admittedly know it’s tenuous at best as shared by leadership, today.

There are also very serious and valid questions in regards to its enforcement. The specter of an entirely new city council and mayor leaves us a very small window, also, in my opinion. Even this mayor has made no commitments to smaller class size. ... Educators of NYC

If you happen to find a UFT contract laying around --- they are rarer than fossils - -- check out the current class size limits. And while at it check out a 1969 conttact, which you are more likely to find than the current one. Holy cow, the class size limits haven't changed. It must be a misprint. Or maybe not.

With a UFT election coming, the UFT leadership shows off its political skills by getting politians to help us with class size - until other politicians take it away.

The actual only way to formalize class size limitsit through the contract, but that is a place you will not see the UFT go until the day far along in the future when of ny some chance a progressive gtoup tosses incompetent and inept Unity Caucus bums out of office.

Here is a report from James on ICEUFT on a new initiative, not by the Unity Caucus leaders but by a rank and file teacher. 

EDUCATORS OF NYC CHALLENGES UFT LEADERSHIP ON LOWER CLASS SIZES

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Eterno on WBAI with Daniel - UFT History part 3 - the Randi years - Saturday - Today -1PM

Episode Summary

Daniel sat with James Eterno, a longtime dissident leader within the United Federation of Teachers, to discuss our third and final episode "Inside UFT Politics and History: How the Nation's Most Powerful Union Impacts NYC Public Schools (Part 3). Our final installment covered the years 1995 to the present. Topics included the roles of UFT Presidents of Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew within the union's contractual positions in their collective bargaining with the cities' mayors.

Episode Notes

Visit Eterno's blog at:  http://iceuftblog.blogspot.com/

Listen: https://talk-out-of-school.simplecast.com/episodes/inside-uft-politics-and-history-how-the-nations-most-powerful-union-impacts-nyc-public-schools-part-3-with-james-eterno-wlxAdv1C 

James's pretty much came on the scene when Randi did. His emergence also coincided with my own reemergence in the UFT after a decade of inactivity due to buying a house and going to grad school. I never thought I would come back but fell into the chaprer leadership in my school in 1994 and that brought be back into the fray. Originally I was supposed to be on with James but have a Bat Mitzvah -- and besides you know I talk too much so now James who is always so polite will not have to deal with me jumping around all over the place.

James was a CL for 22 years and served on the UFT Ex Bd from 1995-2004 with New Action and 2004-7 with ICE. James was also part of the original MORE and ran for HSVP in 2016 and garnered more hs teacher votes than the current UFT HS VP Janella Hinds -- but at large voting you know -- pre-1994 and James would have been VP. Since he retired he has been mentoring many people on union issues.

James also saw his school get closed down, helped lead a fight against the 2005 contract and lots of other stuff.

JAMES ETERNO FEATURED ON TALK OUT OF SCHOOL SATURDAY AT 1:00 PM ON WBAI

My shameless plug alert blog post.

This is from teacher radio host Daniel Alicea, founder of Educators of NYC.



 

Friday, November 5, 2021

Guy Falkes Day Anniversary -- Nov. 5, 1605

I didn't know much about Guy Falkes and the Gunpowder Plot - a Carholic attempt to take England back - the equivalent of 9/11 for England. And it came oh so close to succeeding.

Yes I was a history major with 27 credits towards a Masters but every day I learn so much about what I didn't learn. 

I loved the movie V is for Vendetta (2006). The fact that Guy Falkes has become a symbol of anarchy (the plot was probably backed by the Pope - so no anarchy there - shows how symbols can get twisted. We saw Guy Falkes masks on Jan. 6.

And then a few years ago I began to read James Shapiro's books on Shakespeare and this one dealth with the remarkable output - King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra --- over a year which just happened to coincide with the Plot.

The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606

Paperback The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 Book

Censorship laws didn't allow writers to comment about current events, thus forcing Shakespeare into using historical events to delve into current events without getting chopped. Here's a clip from the book blurb - defintely brings the real world events into how they influenced art.
The foiled Gunpowder Plot would have blown up the king and royal family along with the nation's political and religious leadership. The aborted plot renewed anti-Catholic sentiment and laid bare divisions in the kingdom. It was against this background that Shakespeare finished Lear , a play about a divided kingdom, then wrote a tragedy that turned on the murder of a Scottish king, Macbeth . He ended this astonishing year with a third masterpiece no less steeped in current events and concerns: Antony and Cleopatra . "Exciting and sometimes revelatory, in The Year of Lear, James Shapiro takes a closer look at the political and social turmoil that contributed to the creation of three supreme masterpieces" ( The Washington Post ). He places them in the context of their times, while also allowing us greater insight into how Shakespeare was personally touched by such events as a terrible outbreak of plague and growing religious divisions. "His great gift is to make the plays seem at once more comprehensible and more staggering" ( The New York Review of Books ). For anyone interested in Shakespeare, this is an indispensable book.
Here's another link:

https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/discover/blogs-and-features/2014/11/05/the-gunpowder-plot-and-shakespeares-macbeth/

Shakespeare’s ‘Scottish Play’ was probably written in 1606, just three years after King  James I (VI of Scotland) was crowned as Elizabeth I’s successor, and so undoubtedly seems to be paying homage to the succession of the Scottish King to the English throne.

But within that time, in November 1605, the Gunpowder Plot had been discovered: the plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament, kill James, and replace him with a Catholic monarch failed, and the plotters were tortured and horribly executed. The impact of the event was so dramatic, we still remember it today on Bonfire Night (‘Remember, Remember, the fifth of November, Gunpowder, Treason and Plot’, goes the traditional rhyme…), so we can only imagine the enormity of the event for Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

 It is often said Macbeth is a comment on the Gunpowder Plot, so why, and how are the two connected? Firstly, many of Macbeth’s themes resonate with the attempted revolt: it’s a play about treason, the overthrow of a King, and the downfall of his murderers. Even more importantly, King James was commonly believed to be descended from Banquho the thane of Lochquhaber, the historical counterpart of Shakespeare’s Banquo, the friend who Macbeth betrays and has murdered. With this in mind the witches’ prophesy that Banquo’s ancestors will be kings takes on a new meaning: it is referring to Banquo’s ancestor James Stuart, King of Scotland and England. By extension, it has been suggested that the escape of Fleance, Banquo’s son, from Macbeth’s murder plot is designed to echo James’s own escape from the Gunpowder Plot and to subtly compliment the House of Stuart as legitimate and truly-descended rulers.

And one more from Garrison Keillor's Writers Almanac

Today is Guy Fawkes Day in Britain, also known as Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night. On this night in 1605 Guy Fawkes was arrested while guarding a secret stash of explosives beneath the House of Lords. Fawkes was a member of the Gunpowder Plot, a plan hatched by a group of provincial English Catholics who plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament and assassinate the Protestant king, James I, and replace him with a Catholic head of state. In the aftermath of Fawkes’s arrest and the discovery of his accomplices, King James encouraged his subjects to celebrate his “survival by divine intervention” by setting off fireworks, lighting bonfires, and burning the traitors in effigy. During his interrogation Fawkes told the Lords that his intention was “to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains.” Fawkes and his 12 co-conspirators were tortured and beheaded in front of cheering crowds.

The celebration became an annual event which, over the years, grew to include effigies of everyone from the pope to Margaret Thatcher.

In turn-of-the-century-Britain children constructed effigies of Guy Fawkes and trundled them around villages in wheelbarrows, demanding a “penny for the Guy,” much like trick or treating in the U.S. Fawkes’s distinctive, curling mustache, pointed beard, and oversized smile became a popular mask for children. Masks were given out for free each autumn with the purchase of a comic book.

Once considered a notorious traitor, Fawkes is now seen as a revolutionary hero, with his mask becoming a well-known cultural symbol for anarchy worldwide. The online hacktivist group known as Anonymous uses the mask as their symbol. In Alan Moore’s comic book V for Vendetta (1982) and the film version (2006) the character of Vendetta wears the Fawkes mask and blows up Parliament. During the 2011 protests in Wisconsin the masks were worn by protesters in the crowd, as they were during the Occupy protests on Wall Street and in Argentina. In response to the use of Guy Fawkes masks during possibly unlawful activity, Canada has banned the wearing of masks during riotous or unlawful assembly. With some exceptions, an indictable offence in Canada is one that is subject to a fine of greater than $5,000 or imprisonment of more than six months.

And in the Harry Potter book series, the character of Albus Dumbledore has a phoenix named Fawkes.

 

Medicare Expert: 3 Reasons to Avoid Enrolling in Medicare Advantage - Newsweek

I was sent this article which makes some points I wasn't aware of. The interesting point he makes concerns the choice to take the new Medicare Advantage plan with the expectation that if you don't like it you can change back to traditional Medicare next year. But in doing that you also have to get back into the medigap senior plan. I'm not sure that will be that simple. If you have certain health issues that have arisen, will you automatically get back into senior care at $191 a month or will they try to impose a surcharge?I don't trust that process due to the so far incompetent performance of the new company.


Right now in the UFT those over 65 have Medicare for 80% and a medigap plan called emblem senior care for the other 20%. It is automatic. When Medicare covers, so does medigap. And for UFT members that has been free - until Jan. 1 when if we want to keep what we have it will cost us $191 a month each. But you have to engage in an opt out process to stay in the old plan --purposely backwards and the process of opting out to stay in what we currently have is being handled by the new privatized company which has an incentive to not let you opt out. Ooooh, sorry, we don't have any paperwork to prove you opted out.

Medicare Expert: 3 Reasons to Avoid Enrolling in Medicare Advantage

There are legitimate reasons to consider the plans, but certain nuances are also a huge part of the conversation.

Justin Brock , President, Medicare Gurus

https://www.newsweek.com/medicare-expert-3-reasons-avoid-enrolling-medicare-advantage-1642841

 After personally talking to thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, I've seen just about everything you can imagine. And some of the craziest things I have seen have involved Medicare Advantage plans. There is a feeding frenzy around Medicare Advantage right now, and it's clouded with both private equity-backed and publicly traded companies flooding the market with inexperienced agents and misleading advertisements. It gets worse every year in the fall due to the surge in advertising around this topic. Hopefully in this article, I can help clear up some of the confusion. Keep in mind I'm not saying Medicare Advantage should never be considered as an option — but in my experience, it is all too often pushed as a one-size-fits-all solution by people who have not been properly trained.

First of all, it is very important to establish some basics around what Medicare Advantage is. Over a decade ago, Medicare Part C was approved as an option for beneficiaries. The fact that it is considered a part of Medicare makes it extra confusing. Medicare has four parts. Parts A and B make up traditional Medicare. This is the public option of Medicare where the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) administers claim approval for beneficiaries. Part D is the stand-alone drug coverage. For most of my clients, I recommend having Parts A and B with a Part D plan, and a Medigap plan to cover some holes in Parts A and B. The alternative option is to choose Part C, which often bundles the other three parts together and is administered by a private company. When this happens, the private company gets to make decisions about your claims approvals instead of CMS.

Now, this alone is not necessarily a dealbreaker, but it's something that many salespeople do not talk about when selling the plans. These Part C plans normally have a maximum out of pocket that is between $3,500 $7,500, and a $0 premium. This can make them an appealing way to protect yourself against unforeseen out-of-pocket without having to pay a premium. However, there are a few more nuances to the plans that should be considered.

Provider Considerations

Medicare Advantage plans have a network of providers. These provider networks have vastly improved recently, but they can still cause issues. HMOs are health maintenance organizations, and PPOs are preferred provider organizations. These are the two most common types of Part C plan networks. Many agents sell PPOs as an indicator that you can use any provider, whether in or out of the PPO. However, if you go out of the PPO, watch for higher costs and an elevated maximum out of pocket. Also, the provider may refuse to file the plan, which means you'll have to file your own claims. We have seen this happen with one of the nation's largest Medicare Advantage carriers for the last three years. Again, this is not a reason to completely avoid the plans, but it is something to be aware of. Many call centers will tell people that these providers and hospitals are "in network" because it is a PPO and they think it'll pay them. This is very inaccurate and can cause a ton of issues for beneficiaries down the road.

Medigap Open Enrollment

Medigap is often referred to as the alternative to Medicare Advantage. When someone is more than six months away from their 65th birthday or their Part B effective date, they have to answer health questions to get a Medigap plan. When someone first turns 65 or enrolls in Part B, they can get a Medigap plan without answering health questions. Many people decide to try the Medicare Advantage option first because they want to test it while they're healthy. They like it for two or three years while they're not having to use it much, but then they get sick and experience higher out-of-pocket costs and perhaps some issues with claims. Then they go to an agent and ask to be moved to a Medigap plan. Now that health issues have arisen, this can be very difficult. It might be impossible to get through underwriting, or sometimes the best case is that it is costly.

Skilled Nursing Care

Historically, there are very few issues with skilled nursing care when billing original Medicare. Most of the hysteria about Medicare Advantage online comes from people involved with the billing process of rehabilitation services, assisted living, skilled nursing, etc. Medicare Advantage requires them to get prior authorization and continue to prove that someone needs extended care. Interestingly, they use the same requirements as Medicare to make sure the condition requires continued custodial care, but CMS as an organization is paid for by taxpayers and seems to be less strict on enforcing these standards. My experience suggests that private Medicare Advantage companies seem to sometimes be too harsh in their claims denials on these scenarios. This creates a real issue when someone is in a very vulnerable state. Often the person making decisions for the insured isn't the one paying for things — they're just dealing with getting the care necessary for their sibling or parent. This can make the rhetoric around these plans highly divisive.

Now that we have gone over these three reasons, please understand there's legitimate reason to still consider the plans, but these nuances are also a huge part of the conversation. Consider using a local experienced agent to help with decisions.