Archives For July 2013

The Movement of Rank and File Educators will be participating in the Summer Streets event in Manhattan on Saturday 8/3. Join us as we bike together from Downtown to Central Park on city streets only open to bikes, runners, and pedestrians. It’s a vehicle free summer bike ride.

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/summerstreets/html/route/route.shtml

Bring your friends and family for this great summer social event!

Wear you MORE shirt or anything red.

We will begin to gather at DOE Headquarters in NYC at -Tweed  (52 Chambers St., near City Hall) at 10:30 A.M.

The ride starts at 11:00 A.M. We’ll ride to Central Park on car-free streets, then back to Chambers St.

MORE will host a family happy hour at a restaurant near Tweed/Chambers St. (stay tuned for MORE info)

RSVP and share our Facebook Event too

MORE kindly reminds you to follow all traffic rules and wear a helmet.

See you there!

The following will be part of a series of posts based on our summer series forum that was presented on Thursday 7/25/2013. The purpose was to share the various perspectives on how we, an opposition caucus,  views Unity, the dominant party in power of the UFT? As potential partner, foe or something in between? There were four presentations, this is an introduction for the next three to be posted in the upcoming days. These views do not necessarily represent those of MORE, rather they are part of the diverse viewpoints that represent our membership.

[UPDATED WITH AUDIO]

By Norm Scott

Publisher of Ed Notes Online

Member of ICE, GEM, MORE

Diane Ravitch’s recent  post, My Friend Randi Weingarten garnered over 250 comments, mostly critical of Randi and some of Diane for posting this (I think it was a good thing she did),

Diane wrote:

It serves no purpose for those of us opposed to teacher-bashing and corporate reform to fight among ourselves. We must stand together so that we will one day prevail over those who want to destroy public education and the teaching profession. We can’t win if we are divided. I will do nothing to help those who pursue a strategy of divide and conquer. They want us to fight among ourselves. I won’t help them.

Peter Goodman – Ed in the Apple blog – Unity Caucus shill – retired District 22 Rep.

Unfortunately the union movement has spent too much time fighting internally rather than concentrating on their enemies…

For the past 45 years this has been the constant Unity line used to kill internal criticism and brand it anti-union.

There have been internal debates for years in ICE, GEM and MORE on this issue. How far does an opposition caucus go in criticizing the leadership? Does it risk blow back — feeding into a sense of anti-unionism, especially from the newer generation of teachers who often enter with an anti-union bias? How do you try to compete for power in the UFT without being critical? How does MORE manage to counter the so-far successful propaganda campaign by Unity over the last 2 decades that it is the mayors (Giuliani and Bloomberg) who are the problem, not the people running our union?

Julie Cavanagh sent me this question:

How do we connect our members to our union and help them to understand its importance and galvanize them to get involved– how do we overcome the disenfranchisement and disconnectedness and instead convince people our union is actually a force for good and justice locally, nationally, and globally?

We basically put forth the concept Julie is talking about in our film The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman. But I have trouble saying what Julie is talking about the union without qualifying it. How do we do the above with a union leadership that at best can be considered ineffective and at worst collusive with our enemies? I won’t get into the whys and wherefores of motivation or reasons for their actions  this time but maybe some answers will emerge later today.

Other questions that have come up:

What strategies and tactics should an opposition caucus use in relating to the union leadership? Should the opposition work with the leadership? If so, when, how and under what terms? If it’s going to be critical, what kind of tone should be maintained? If the decision is to criticize/attack the leadership, then how should it be done, while making it clear to all that The Union is always to be supported [unless it goes so far off the tracks, this is impossible morally and politically]? In other words, how can the leadership be separated from the Union in the eyes of the rank and file? And should it?

Given the power balances in the UFT do you attempt to lobby the leadership towards better policies? That’s pretty much what New Action does. They have no grassroots and they play the role of a loyal opposition — not even an opposition given that they could not win one position in an election without Unity support.

Some in MORE think that the leadership can be pressured, but instead of playing the inside New Action game, by organizing enough rank and file and the leadership will be forced to respond.

Some think the UFT leadership cannot really be pressured to change direction, given their history of capitulation and even when they look like they are doing something right, that is only on the surface. In fact they coopt the language of the critics (what they say) but don’t actually do anything very much different from what they’ve been doing (what they do).

Peter Lamphere will touch on many of these issues in his presentation.

  • what are the interests of the union leadership?
  • why do they act the way they do?
  • to what extent are the susceptible to pressure?
  • to what extent can we work with them?
  • comparing the UFT leadership to other union leaderships.

I hear all the time, even from newbies: if only we had Al Shanker instead of Randi/Mulgrew we would have a militant fighting union. As a 43 year activist I don’t buy that line and in fact believe that there is a direct line ideologically from Shanker, through Sandy Feldman through Randi and Mulgrew.

Ira Goldfine, my colleague from the 70s and a founder of ICE in 2003 will do a presentation going back to the late 60s through the 90s pre-Randi to show this connection. That Randi did not in fact take the union in another direction. Shanker started the give back ball rolling as far back as 1972, the last time we got a good contract.

The UFT/AFT/Unity leadership has made it easy to be critical based on their support for so much of ed deform.

Vera Pavone will present a comprehensive list focusing on the UFT capitulations over the years.

UFT Friend or Foe is too simplistic a description for what we are doing today. I’m guessing there won’t be a lot to disagree on. We hope to come out of today with a clearer sense of how MORE can navigate this territory and refine the way it addresses the  issue of when to we support/when to we criticize/when do we attack.

This is the start of a conversation and if there is interest we will do an informal follow-up.

Below find a list of items that the UFT/AFT leadership has collaborated on:

  • supporting the teacher accountability ed deform mantra – the evaluation mess
  • signing on to “we must get rid of bad teachers” as a solution
  • variations of merit pay schemes
  • mayoral control
  • common core
  • charters and co-locations
  • rating and grading schools and generation of phony statistics on graduation rates, dropouts, all resulting in….
  • Closing schools (which the UFT supported through the end of 2009 and still supports to some extent), destroying neighborhood schools, dezoning, eliminating comprehensive HS and availability of electives for the vast majority of HS students. Forcing children to travel longer distances.
  • tepid defense of reducing class size, which ed deformers disparage as a solution
  • the contract and agreements in 2005 that coupled school closings with the burgeoning population of ATRs who started off as in-house subs and ended up as the wandering unwanted. Leading to the forcing out of thousands of older and experienced teachers.
  • charter schools, co-location (the union had 2 co-located charters), unequal treatment from DOE. The growing corps of temporary, non-unionized at-will teachers.
  • the growing segregation of the student body—the wanted vs. the unwanted
  • denial of tenure to newer teachers (year after year extensions, discontinues from principals with a grudge — no rights for non-tenured and increasingly restrictive rights for tenured teachers who are now facing even the end of that protection
  • a grievance procedure in the toilet
  • multi pension tiers
By
Dan Lupkin
Special Education Teacher & UFT Delegate
P.S. 58, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
 

I think it was when Bill Thompson walked through the doors of the UFT Delegate Assembly, seconds after we rubber-stamped the Executive Board’s recommendation that the union endorse him for mayor. They had stopped even pretending we had a voice.

At that moment, I knew I couldn’t wait and watch anymore, getting the lay of the land. I needed to act.

It wasn’t out of the blue. This was the final meeting of my first year as a UFT delegate, and I had seen some deeply troubling things. Unaccountable single party rule; dissent suppressed and mocked; a small, privileged clique monopolizing the power flowing from the paychecks, voices, and votes of over a hundred thousand dues-paying members, doling out perks like a medieval lord to his vassals in exchange for their loyalty.

The UFT members I represent, like most of the education professionals I have been lucky enough to work with in various schools over the years, feel largely alienated and apathetic about their union because the leadership has made no effort to engage them. My school is a hotbed of creativity and energy—exciting educational things are happening all the time. The staff will show up for union meetings, but what do the chapter leader and I have to present to them? What has our leadership done that will capture their passion and imagination, mobilize the limitless potential of the rank and file members of the UFT? The truth is that the leadership doesn’t want them roused; informed activists are unpredictable.  Passive dues-payers are safer within the “business union” model favored by the leadership of the UFT.

Even those of us who have been elected to represent our schools have a negligible amount of power within the union. The Unity caucus, currently in control of the union, began as a an explosion of energy and militant action, but more than fifty years of uninterrupted  and unchecked power inevitably leads to paralysis. The ossified power structure of the union has become satisfied, conservative, and unaccountable. Measures in the Delegate Assembly pass with unanimous votes, the token opposition allowed is mocked from the dais and the floor,  and the UFT Elections show positively authoritarian margins of victory combined with turnout numbers you might expect from an off-year, unopposed local election.

Once I saw them in action, once I did my research and traced how things had come to be as they are in the UFT, how Unity had stifled or successfully co-opted all opposition and developed a model dominated by full-time staff and the Executive Board that shut out the voices of the working educators who ARE the UFT, I knew there would be no way I could feel comfortable toeing their line.

But what alternative is there in a union in which power is so closely guarded? I saw the way MORE members were marginalized and snickered at, how the decision-making apparatus of the union is, at all levels, constructed to maintain and monopolize power.  Between the mayoral endorsement and imposition of the new evaluation system, June represented a profound crisis of confidence for me. I felt our union was failing us, garnishing our paychecks with no accountability, presiding over defeat after defeat and shutting out the voices and energy of the rank and file, the only reason the UFT exists at all (something the UFT Executive Board should probably keep in mind).

I was close to despair. It was tempting to give up, go limp, quit the delegate position, stop reading the news, shut the classroom door and teach my kids as best the Department of Education will allow (I teach a high-stakes testing grade, so that’s relative).


During this time of doubt, I heard an interview on WNYC with a nun named Sister Sally Butler who has worked in a housing project in Fort Greene for 45 years. She is a fearless whistleblower, and has faced enormous hostility and push-back  from those in the Church hierarchy who have been embarrassed or inconvenienced by the horrific sexual abuse and cover-ups by priests and their superiors she has dragged into the light of day.  The interviewer asked her:

“Have you ever thought of leaving the Church?”

and Sister Sally answered:

The Church, no. The Church is mine. THEY should leave.”

The humble yet immovable strength in this answer stopped me cold: replace the word “Church” with “union”, and it became startlingly apt to my situation. I do not, in any way, seek to to compare sexual abuse by clergy to anything happening within the UFT. Nor do I want to minimize the suffering of the victims of that abuse. What made the Sister Sally interview so inspiring to me was that she has refused to give up on her mission despite impossible odds, continuing her service from within the organization, even while being undermined by the entrenched, conservative, status quo obsessed hierarchy that is meant to be supporting her. We have our union dues deducted automatically from our paychecks, there is no opting out. Even if there were, it is clear to me that the answer is NOT to run away, to shrink from our responsibilities. More than ever, we need a union to protect the interests of the teachers, the students, and the communities that are being set upon by “reformers” at all levels who want to suck public education dry and sell off the skeleton to the higher bidder.

The solution is NOT to throw up our hands and declare that Unity is just too powerful, too established, too connected to allow the UFT to become a true, democratic vehicle for the voices and aspirations of the education professionals and stakeholders of the New York City public schools.

The solution is to stand up, refuse to surrender to despair, and do the hard work it takes to mobilize the capable, passionate, brilliant educators and stakeholders in this city and beyond… and I have come to believe that MORE is the vehicle for that effort.

We have the example of Sister Sally Butler to inspire us, and recent successes in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Newark to show us that it CAN be done, that seemingly invincible foes CAN be brought to heel through nothing more than people power and the will to make things better.

MORE is happy to announce that Dan has joined our social media team and will be posting for us on Facebook.

 

Hope you are all enjoying summer, MORE is staying active -here are all the great upcoming events we have on the way:
 

Wen 7/31 MORE’S SUMMER RETREAT

An opportunity to assess our work and plan for the future.
12noon – 5pm
CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue (34th st) NYC Room 5414
Must show ID at the door
*Beverages will be provided and we will order in pizza
 
PROPOSED AGENDA:
1. How is MORE doing so far?
2. What’s our vision for the short-term and long-term future?
3. What should we prioritize this fall?
4. What structures do we need to accomplish our goals?
 
Sat. 8/3 MORE Bikes NYC
Join us as we bike together from Downtown to Central Park on city streets only open to bikes, runners, and pedestrians.
Bring your friends and family for this great summer social event!
We will begin to gather at DOE-Tweed (52 Chambers St., near City Hall) at 10:30 A.M.
The ride starts at 11:00 A.M. We’ll ride to Central Park on car-free streets, then back to Chambers St.
MORE will host a family happy hour at a restaurant near Tweed/Chambers St. (stay tuned for MORE info)
 
Upcoming Summer Series events at Local 138
Video of our 1st summer series on high stakes testing and a preview of this one can be found at here

Check out our summer series facebook event page and a full description of every summer series here

 
Thurs. 8/8 How Do We Fight For a New Contract:Strategies for gaining a new contract that benefits our educators, students, and parents. 
 
Thurs. 8/22 The First Days of School-How to Build an Active Chapter: Organizing and mobilizing your school to fight back against abusive administrators and profit driven reform.

This new school year will be the first time that teachers in NYC will be evaluated using the evaluation system imposed by State Education Commissioner John King. Under the new system every teacher will receive a score ranging from 0 to 100 and this number will determine if the teacher is deemed Highly Effective, Effective, Developing or Ineffective.

One of the most shocking parts of the new system is that teachers who are measured ineffective on the test-based component of the evaluation must be labeled ineffective overall, no matter what they receive from their principal based on the observation of their teaching (see the King decision, p. 37 and p. 38).

The test-based component, 40% of teachers evaluations, outweighs the observation component, which is 60%.

Here’s how this fuzzy math works out:

Continue Reading…

MORE kicked off the summer series by taking a look at the effects of high stakes testing in our schools. Parents from Change the Stakes joined us to discuss why a growing parent movement against the high stakes nature of these tests is mounting not just in NYC but statewide and nationally. We discuss HST and its use as a vehicle for enabling destructive policies such as school closures and ranking and sorting students that leads to the school to prison pipeline. The socioeconomic and racial disparity in these policies has been downplayed and must be brought to light. This was a great opportunity to discuss teacher and parent concerns as well as ways in which we can support each other and build a movement towards enabling schools that our students deserve.

The video is an hour and a half extracted from about 3 hours. Breakout groups are not included. Thanks to Jia, John, Janine, Marissa and Gloria.

 
https://vimeo.com/70236696

Commentary below by Norm Scott

Frankly, for all you UFT election freaks. I consider events like this way more important for MORE to do than run in elections — because the first stage of organizing and mobilizing is education ourselves and others who may not be aware of the full impact of high stakes testing which is behind all the assaults on public education, teachers and their unions.

I want to point out that MORE is more than a caucus just running in an election and then going away for 3 years. MORE is committed to engaging in open discussions that do not seem to take place in many places inside the union as part of the “educate, organize, mobilize” theme.

This was the first in our summer series of 4.

Coming next July 25: UFT Leadership, Friend or Foe – an analysis of the somewhat delicate relationship between a minority caucus with the leadership. How far do you go without helping the anti-union enemies? See the current amazing debate on Diane Ravitch blog which has generated well over 200 comments. Thanks Diane. http://dianeravitch.net/2013/07/10/my-friend-randi-weingarten/

I extracted Michael Fiorillo’s response to internal attacks from teachers on the union which i posted at ednotes:

Fiorillo: Better Randi than no union at all

I made this point:

The fundamental nature of the lack of democracy internally is a bigger threat to the life of the union than the external – in the long run.

Unless the UFT/AFT starts thinking about democratizing – I won’t go into the gory details — they will find more and more calls for things like desertification coming from the ed deform plants in the teacher corps and even some dedicated unionists who have had enough. When our people on our side start calling for the right not to pay dues or for the union right of dues checkoff to be taken away we are in dangerous territory. The lack of interest in voting in the UFT is a warning. (In Chicago 60% of the teachers voted – and retirees do not vote.)

[Note Peter Goodman's response that the UFT is forming a committee to study the issue -- one of the big jokes that will lead to things like "more robo calls" more ads on TV, etc. -- like we don't really need to change anything structurally, just nudge people - discounting that the Unity Caucus Ch ldrs held bagel parties to encourage the vote but Unity suffered a major drop in votes.]

MORE is committed to find a way to counter these anti-union calls while fighting for internal democratization.

Shame on New Action for giving up the fight for a democratic union, something that was high on their agenda until 2003 when Randi bought them off.

For those not familiar: MORE got around 5000 votes in the last election and gets no Exec Bd seats or any the 800 delegates to the AFT convention while New Action which got significant less votes than MORE in every division gets 10 Exec Bd seats (out of 101) as a reward for endorsing Mulgrew.

Given that only 18% of the working teachers voted, what does this say to those people who did bother to vote for MORE?

Read the Results of MORE’s Mayoral Race Survey!
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 The fight to protect and strengthen public education and our unions did not begin with Mayor Bloomberg and it will not end with him. The upcoming Mayoral election in New York City may provide an opportunity to create a shift in local education policy, polices that for the last ten years have devastated our schools and our profession.  The UFT has endorsed a candidate for the New York City Democratic Party’s nomination for mayor, Bill Thompson.

The real strength of our union lies in its ability to use collective action to advance the goals of our members. Working with politicians can be part of a union’s strategy, but cannot substitute for genuine grassroots organizing. Union members need to understand how the current political system works and be prepared to take advantage of opportunities it might present for working people and unions to advance their goals. Elections can be one of those opportunities. However, there is a well-established pattern of campaign promises that evaporate in office. Furthermore, despite their rhetoric, both of the main political parties are deeply implicated in the privatization of our public schools and the attacks on teacher unions. For these reasons, stakeholders who deeply care about public education need to be informed and have a voice concerning New York City’s upcoming mayoral election.

We cannot protect public education without an educated and organized rank and file whose voice and feedback is not only valued by our union, but drives our union.  If we do not find a way to seek and hear our members’ input and involve them in the in the major decisions facing our union, then our union’s advocacy will always be seen as “the UFT”, as opposed to an extension of our collective power.

Because of this, we must have a process to decide if we should endorse and which candidate we endorse that is inclusive and provides an opportunity to collect input from all of our members. This kind of democracy and transparency is essential in order to build a member-driven union.  The UFT leadership has not provided a mechanism to gather authentic and broad-based feedback.  Our union leaders should not make executive decisions about important issues such as a mayoral endorsement or a teacher evaluation system, without a more inclusive process.  Our members deserve a voice and a vote.  The mayoral endorsement, while brought to the delegate assembly, was a decision pre-packaged and ready-made: signs were pre-printed and Mr. Thompson was waiting backstage.  This illusion of democratic process undermines the strength of our union and disconnects our members from fully engaging in the important work of our union, effectively weakening the potential of our collective power and action.

MORE wants to know what UFT members actually think about the upcoming Mayoral race.  Please take the time to fill our survey below and stay tuned for follow up reporting and action in the fall.

Together we can build a better union!

Take MORE’s Mayoral Race Survey: http://tinyurl.com/MayorSurvey

Here is a quick overview of where some of the Mayoral Candidates stand on important education issues:

de Blasio Lhota Liu Quinn Thompson Weiner
Believes in ending Mayoral Control and has put forth a vision for democratic governance of our schools. No No No*has agreed to give up some appointed PEP seats No No No
Believes there must be a change to current policing policies in our schools that moves authority over school safety officers from the NYPD and to school communities. No No Yes No Yes No
Has publicly committed to reducing class size. Yes No Yes Yes Yes No
Believes charter schools should not be given space in public school buildings and/or believes in a moratorium on charter school co-locations and/or has called for current co-located charters to pay rent. Yes No Yes No No No
Believes in a moratorium on school closings and/or has stated that school closings as a policy is flawed. Yes No Yes No Yes Unclear
Believes teacher evaluation should be tied to student test scores and/or supports merit-based pay for teachers. No public statement Yes Not as currently implemented No Doesn’t want to “take anything off the table” No public statement
Has publicly stated he/she will provide a new contract with retroactive pay for municipal union members who have worked without a contract. No No Yes No No No

 

Click here to RSVP by Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/kt3x2yp

WHAT? Picket demanding an immediate, rapid and unbiased investigation by the Chancellor’s office into allegations that a Queens Principal called African American teachers she was firing “big lipped,” “nappy haired,” and “gorillas.”

WHEN? 12 noon, Monday July 8th.

WHERE? In front of Chancellor Walcott’s offices at DOE Headquarters in Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers St., Manhattan (4/5/6/N to City Hall)

ENDORSEMENTS:  Teachers and staff from PAIHS Elmhurst and around the city, Councilwoman Jullissa Ferreras, Assemblyman Francisco Moya, Kevin Powell and BK Nation, United Federation of Teachers (UFT), Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE). [List of endorsements in formation]. 


CONTACT: 
Peter Lamphere, peter.lamphere@gmail.com
Kevin Powell, kevin@kevinpowell.net

WHY? Pan American International High School will be without any African American teachers next year, because two teachers have been fired after a Queens Principal, Minerva Zanca, made racist comments about them in closed-door meetings with her assistant principal.  The third African American teacher is leaving the school because of severe budget cuts to her hugely successful Theater program which were racially motivated.

We demand that there is a full investigation into these allegations and, if they are substantiated, that the DOE hold the principal accountable to its zero-tolerance policy against discrimination.  We also demand that the discontinuances of the personnel involved (Teachers John Flanagan and Heather Hightower and AP Anthony Riccardo) be reversed.

Local Councilmember Julissa Ferreras says “The allegations brought against Ms. Zanca are very serious and concern me deeply. As a representative of an extremely diverse district, I cannot and will not stand for this type of behavior.”
 
Kevin Powell, president of BK Nation, adds “It is not only important to have high standards for our public school teachers but we must also support the good ones, like these teachers, who are completely dedicated to their young people. I find it unacceptable that a principal can engage in this kind of conduct without any repercussions. We are not going to stop until due justice and process is served here.”
See media coverage on WNYC and PIX11 News for more details. 


¿DÓNDE? En frente de la oficina del Rector de Educación, Dennis Walcott. 52 Chambers St., Manhattan, la sede del Departamento de Educación  (Trenes 4/5/6/N a City Hall).


PATROCINIOS: Los maestros de varios lugares alrededor de la ciudad y facultad del colegio Pan American International High School, Concejal Julissa Ferreras, Asambleísta Francisco Moya, Kevin Powell y BK Nation, Federación Unida de Maestros (UFT), Movimiento del Educadores del Base (MORE) [Lista de endosos en formación]


CONTACTA: 
Peter Lamphere, peter.lamphere@gmail.com
Kevin Powell, kevin@kevinpowell.net


¿POR QUÉ? El año escolar entrante, Pan American International High School quedará sin maestros afro-americanos porque dos maestros fueron despedidos después de que la directora, Minerva Zanca, hizo algunos comentarios racistas tras las puertas privadas de su oficina con Anthony Riccardo, su vicedirector. Una tercera afro-americana también se aparta de su posición como directora de teatro porque ha sufrido demasiadas cortas a su presupuesto a mano de Zanca, que fueron motivadas por razones raciales.

Estamos exigiendo que haya una investigación a fondo en cuanto a estas alegaciones y, en caso de que salgan verdaderas, que el Departamento de Educación ejerza su política de no tolerancia contra discriminación. También exigimos que las descontinuaciones de los dos maestros, John Flanagan y Heather Hightower, y el vicedirector, Anthony Riccardo se inviertan.

La Consejal local Julissa Ferreras dice “Las acusaciones presentadas contra la Sra. Zanca son muy graves y me preocupan profundamente. Como representante de un distrito muy diverso, no puedo y no voy a permitir este tipo de comportamiento.”

Kevin Powell, el presidente de BK Nation, asegura que, “No solo es importante tener estándares altos para nuestros maestros de escuelas públicas, sino también hay que apoyar a los buenos maestros, como estos, que son completamente dedicados a sus estudiantes. Lo considero inaceptable que una directora pueda participar en este tipo de conducta sin consecuencias. No vamos a dejar de luchar hasta que la justicia apropiada y el proceso adecuado se hayan realizado. 
Vean la cobertura de los medios de comunicación en WNYC y Noticias PIX11 para más detalles.