Dear UFT Leadership
By Jia Lee
There have been several points along my 14 years as a public school special education teacher when I felt I’d had enough. Many teachers across the country are fleeing the profession, retiring as soon as possible and publicly stating why. When I presented my reasons for becoming a conscientious objector to high stakes testing before the US Senate, some may have viewed it as a risky step, but for me, it was a moment of absolute clarity. The “I Refuse” Resolution reclaims our pedagogical and professional rights and values. It is why over forty locals across New York State have passed this exact resolution. It supports the values of Teachers of Conscience and initiates a means of directly countering Governor Cuomo’s education proposals with the moral force of teachers acting as individuals and collectively in the interests of their students and themselves.
We are at an unprecedented time of policy-making in education that is being driven by those who have very little or no experience teaching. Some of us have joined grassroots groups to organize forums to educate the public about our work and why their children are more than a test score. Sadly, we must also educate the leadership of the largest and most influential local teachers union in the world. At the United Federation of Teachers Delegate Assembly on February 11, 2015, Sterling Roberson, the Vice President of Career and Technical Education stated, in opposition to the resolution, “… the union is against over-testing, but testing is important for parents to know where their child is compared to other children.” The goal and purpose of education in this day and age, we would hope, is to prepare our students to collaborate with each other to solve the immense problems our world faces. We work with beautifully diverse student populations, whose strengths and talents should never be used to compare, rank, sort and place labels based on faulty, opaque metrics.
Mr. Roberson used the term “diagnostic,” as if these tests are being used to provide some kind of useful information that would inform our instruction, or as he put it, “Tell parents where their children are.” Where has he been? Teachers no longer have access to the tests, and scores arrive at the end of the year. We no longer have the ability to know how our students answered, let alone have the ability to engage in any kind of meaningful dialogue around the items. They are useless for the purposes of teaching and learning. That is because they are not meant to be diagnostic. The sole purpose of the tests is to evaluate teachers. There is ample research which demonstrates that these tests are not indicators of school, teacher or student success or failure. In fact, they are indicators of students’ socioeconomic status, access to resources and other outside-of-school factors. High stakes tests are not diagnostic: they are tools for profit and managing the teaching workforce, made possible by alignment with the Common Core and a climate of rigid enforcement that is taking over our public schools.
Diagnostic exams in schools can be thought of as akin to those used in medicine. Various tools are used to assess a patient’s condition, and physicians often use more than one tool to synthesize the outcomes, in order to provide a comprehensive diagnosis that suggests a path for treatment. The information is immediate and informs professional judgement about the patient’s condition and possible ways of treating them. Imagine if the results of X-rays were not made available to doctors or their patients until months later, and the results came in the form of a 4, 3, 2 or 1. I’d hope that Sterling Roberson himself would say this type of practice is medically useless, if not dangerous.
To continue with this analogy, imagine the X-rays were then viewed by a minimally-trained temp hired by a major corporation with other financial interests in this field, which then determines the score as an indicator of the doctor’s ability to practice medicine. It is absurd, and a danger to both patient and doctor. How out of touch from what is happening in schools and classrooms has our leadership become that they refuse to acknowledge the obvious faults in their own arguments?
It is time for our union leadership to acknowledge that hundreds of thousands of teachers are in fight or flight mode. The moment of clarity for me came two years ago, when one of my most creative and hard working students suddenly scratched into her test booklet, “Dear Testing People, I hate writing because of this test.” Before she could let out another painful word, I gently pulled away her test booklet. When the extended testing time was up, I showed her the notebooks filled with stories she had written and responses to her reading that led to her typing book reviews on several major online platforms. Her test form indicated the “999” refusal. This beautiful little girl is more than a test score and always will be.
We need our union leadership to be an integral part of educating the public, so that the promise of public education, which we all know is still an aspiration, can be realized. However, it seems that they first need a lesson on the intended purposes, workings and consequences of these tests for students and teachers.
If they’re unwilling to learn, then they should step aside and let rank and file teachers speak and act for themselves and their students.
For Immediate Release:
While Governor Cuomo is Waging War Against Public Schools, Parents and Teachers Call For An End To Unjust Testing!
Public education as we know it is in mortal danger here in New York State. The anti-public education Governor Andrew Cuomo is attempting to get rid of what is left of teacher, parent and student rights with his destructive agenda for our schools.
Parents statewide are opting their children out of standardized testing, but Cuomo has rejected this call and wants to add more value to these tests by tying a majority of teacher’s evaluations to standardized exam scores.
Public school educators from all around the state stand stand firmly with parents and our students who have decided to opt-out. Instead of attacking public education, we call on Cuomo to come visit our schools, speak with children, parents, and teachers. These misguided attacks are taking away from the real issues that are harming our schools; child poverty, lack of resources, class sizes, and narrowed curriculum due to the over emphasis on standardized testing.
Unfortunately our UFT leadership does not feel the same. Our caucus, The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), raised the “I Refuse” resolution at the February 11th UFT Delegate Assembly. It calls for union opposition to standardized high stakes testing that is currently pushed by the Federal and State governments, because this testing is not being used to further instruction for children, to help children, or to support the educational needs of children. The UFT leadership voted against this resolution.
MORE also supports it because, “assessment practices that accompany Common Core State Standards – including the political manipulation of test scores – are used as justification to label and close schools, fail students, and evaluate educators”.
The speaker opposing the resolution representing our union leadership said “standardized testing is necessary” and refused to stand with parents, students, classroom teachers and over forty teacher unions from all across the state.
MORE member, public school parent and teacher, Jia Lee testified to the United States Senate that “the focus on testing has taken valuable resources and time away from programming in social studies, the arts and physical education. At my school, we no longer have a librarian and our parent association works full-time to fund needed arts programs that are not provided for in our budget.”
The use of standardized test scores to evaluate students and teachers has been proven to be invalid, as Ms. Lee stated: “The American Statistical Association has warned The Value Added Measured scores themselves have large standard errors, even when calculated using several years of data. These large standard errors make rankings unstable, even under the best scenarios for modeling. In New York State, the tests change every year, and the cut scores shift.”
The time has come for UFT leadership and Governor Cuomo to listen to class-room teachers, our students, and their parents in ending their support for the non-stop testing of our children.
About MORE: MORE is a caucus in the UFT that organizes for a member-driven union. We fight for the public schools our children deserve. “Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions!”
MORE believes that it is crucial that UFT members get involved in the fight-back against Cuomo’s proposals. Therefore, we urge members to do the following:
- Attend the district meetings (click here for locations) that the UFT is promoting to speak out against the Governor’s agenda. Although the union needs to be prodded to do much more than this we believe it is important that we have strong showings at these gatherings.
- Plan activities in your school. Every chapter is different and some are more active than others. But throughout the city members are upset and they should be asked to do something. If all you can realistically do is get members to call local legislators than we urge you to do that. If you believe you can organize a picket outside your school — or in conjunction with nearby schools — we urge you to do that. If it is possible for you to reach out to and involve the parents of your students, that will make whatever you plan even more effective.
We believe this is a very high priority for our organization over the next few months. If you would like help strategizing about how to do this, have ideas to build our fight back, or questions, please contact the steering committee (email@example.com).
MORE has endorsed the following resolution and will urge the leadership of our UFT to do the same.
Resolution to Support “The I Refuse Movement” to Oppose High Stakes Testing
WHEREAS, the purpose of education is to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives, not solely prepare that populace for college and career; and
WHEREAS, instructional and curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom professionals who understand the context and interests of their students; and
WHEREAS, the education of children should be grounded in developmentally appropriate practice; and
WHEREAS, high quality education requires adequate resources to provide a rich and varied course of instruction, individual and small group attention, and wrap-around services for students; and
WHEREAS, the state assessments are not transparent in that–teachers and parents are not allowed to view the tests and item analysis will likely not be made available; and
WHEREAS, the assessment practices that accompany Common Core State Standards – including the political manipulation of test scores – are used as justification to label and close schools, fail students, and evaluate educators; therefore be it
RESOLVED that NYSUT opposes standardized high stakes testing that is currently pushed by the Federal and State governments, because this testing is not being used to further instruction for children, to help children, or to support the educational needs of children; and be it further
RESOLVED, that NYSUT advocates for an engaged and socially relevant curriculum that is student-based and supported by research; and be it further
RESOLVED, that NYSUT will embark on internal discussions to educate and seek feedback from members regarding standardized high stakes testing and its impact on students; and be it further
RESOLVED, that NYSUT will lobby the NYS Education Department (NYSED) to eliminate the use of high stakes testing; and be it further
RESOLVED, that NYSUT will ask that all of its members have their own children refuse to take the Grade 3-8 assessments: and be it further
RESOLVED, that NYSUT will organize other members and affiliates to increase opposition to high stakes testing; and be it further
RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution will be sent to the NYSED, the Governor of NYS, and all members of the NYS legislative branch; and be it finally
RESOLVED, that after this resolution is passed by the UFT Delegates Assembly, an appropriate version will be submitted to the American Federation of Teachers for consideration at the AFT July 2015 Convention and to NYSUT for consideration at the 2015 RA.
Governor Cuomo has launched an attack on our rights. We believe the UFT needs a more aggressive response. Our union should work to activate members at the school, district, and borough level to demand equitable and adequate funding for our schools and to stop the testing madness. We believe that we have a golden opportunity to form alliances with parent organizations who are already working on these issues.
Specifically we propose that the UFT:
Organize multi-school meetings of UFT members and parents to build solidarity and plan a response
Plan local phone banks, school-based and district-wide pickets and rallies
Build toward borough and city-wide rallies
- Pass and support the “I Refuse” opt-out resolution
This approach has the potential to transform the debate about teacher quality and evaluation to one about school funding and test-driven curricula. More importantly, it can rebuild membership confidence in their union by getting members together, letting them see that they are not alone, and generating a spirit of active unionism. We will need that for this battle and for battles to come.
If you agree with this approach we invite you to join us to help spread the word and to work with us to strengthen our union.
By Mindy Rosier
I attended my first CEC75 meeting on 01/22/15 in the conference room at Tweed and overall found it to be a very informative meeting filled with concerned parents.
Superintendent Gary Hecht began this meeting because Chancellor Farina was running late from another meeting. He announced that the annual Parent Engagement events in the boroughs will begin in April and encouraged all to attend. The dates and locations for these events can be found on the D75 calendar of events.
Chancellor Farina arrived a few minutes later and began her portion by sharing that there will now be a total of 7 borough D75 offices.They will be fully staffed and all services needed can and will be assessed based on need. She will also chose their directors.
She then went on to discuss principals and how they will be dealt with. A three tier system for supervision will based on how those principals are doing and their needs. The better the principal the more autonomy they will receive.
As for schools themselves, she does not want any of them to be closed. Farina feels they need to be helped first before being made accountable.
Farina strongly feels that teachers should be trained in language learning via speech practices. She highly believes in these practices and feels all educators and their students would benefit from training. Speech services will be a mission for her.
She feels that inclusion is an issue. It is not for everybody. She wants to make sure all of those students are getting the appropriate support and “how many kids are too many kids” needs to be properly evaluated.
Farina is a firm believer in assisted technology and she already has several pilot programs in effect.
She too stressed Parent Engagement days in the different boroughs and reiterated those dates and where they could be found.
Farina then moved on to how we must give proper training to leaders and that they must match AP’s to their students. In other words, a former elementary special education teacher turned AP, will be assigned to an elementary school.
She praised all of the new Pre-K programs and shared how they all will truly make a difference. She encouraged these young children to draw as they are future indicators on how those students will be. She wants assessment folders to contain lots of artwork. (She even went on that they will be using children’s artwork to decorate the new borough offices.)
Finally, Farina discussed that we must know about the needs of the city. She has put faith in superintendents to support and to supervise and emphasized that they WILL be held accountable.
*Opened up for questions-
I asked Farina the question about Cuomo’s plan of 50% of our evaluations based on tests. She made a face and then she kind of tap danced around the question. Farina went on about how teachers need to be evaluated. I did not appreciate her trying to change the angle of my question. I was very clear and I know she understood me so I said that evaluations were not the problem, it’s being tied to the tests that is the problem. She then went on to say that there is a think tank already formed and they “need to figure out target progress.” She concluded her “non-explanations” by saying that she hears me…. (I had discussed her response with another attendee and he felt she seemed to be skeptical about basing evaluations on computers.) Maybe it is too early to have a definitive answer but it is not too early to come up with a “what-if?” plan. I was completely dissatisfied with her response. If there is in fact a “think tank,” who is in it? Educators? Parents? Retail workers? After quickly going through a couple of more questions, she left the conference area.
The superintendent of D75, Gary Hecht then took some questions. Surprisingly, he gave a lot of great responses. A few parents brought up the Common Core with their children’s instruction. He stressed that the CC must be aligned with the capabilities of the student. Hecht gave an example that a child in gen ed in the 8th grade is different than an 8th grade student in special ed. Having an IEP “means we have to see kids differently.” “We need to look at data, look at IEP’s.” He feels that current measures are not appropriate. “They are too challenging and kids will react.” I took this as an opportunity to ask him about high stakes testing and how I feel it is wrong to subject our students to them. Hecht said he is against them because the kids suffer. He agreed with me that it is heartbreaking seeing those kids struggle like they have been. Hecht explained that since those tests come from a state level, nothing can be done right now. He believes alternate assessments would be best for them. A new commissioner will be chosen soon and a dialogue on testing will be one of the priorities. Hecht continued that IEP’s should be the determining factor of achievement and growth. He encouraged all of us to contact NYS Regent Dr. Betty Rosa. She is a former D75 principal from D6.
Hecht also said that parents, teachers, advocates, etc. must work collectively together to say what’s best for our students.
He answered a few more questions before answering one from a parent who asked about Safety Agents in schools. Hecht explained that they have been working closely with Safety Agents and Police Departments. There has been training sessions to help Safety Agents understand the needs of these D75 schools.
Although I was not happy with Farina, I saw a light of hope in Hecht. I truly hope he will not disappoint.
Jia Lee, who is a special education teacher at the Earth School in Manhattan, testified at a senate hearing on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) on January 21st. As an act of conscience, Jia joined two other teachers last year in refusing to administer high-stakes standardized tests, citing their negative impacts on students. She is a parent who has opted her own child out of testing, joining thousands of parents around the nation. Jia is a leader of MORE, UFT Chapter Leader, and an active member of our sister organization Change the Stakes.
Hearing on the Impact of NCLB’s Testing and Accountability
The Earth School, NYC
January 21, 2015
Thank you Chairman Alexander and Senator Murray for this opportunity to offer my remarks
regarding the impact of No Child Left Behind’s testing and accountability provisions on our
public school children. I thank you for your vision and for this opportunity. I have an eleven
year-old son in sixth grade, so I speak to you as both a public school parent and a teacher.
Business practices are informing education policy, so I would like to start there. The use of
competitive, performance based practices have long been assumed to motivate workers.
Microsoft, Expedia and Adobe Systems are just some of the companies who adopted stack
ranking, the now infamous practice of applying rewards, consequences and rankings based
on performance. These same business advisors informed many of our nation’s biggest
school districts, including mine. In the past few years, businesses have abandoned this
practice because they have proven to have disastrous affects on collaboration, problem
solving, and innovation. The high exodus of workers seen in these businesses are attributed
to stack ranking (Oremus, 2013). Studies, including those sponsored by the Federal
Reserve Bank , find that incentive-based practices only work for the most menial tasks that
do not require critical thinking (Ariely, et. al., 2005). What was bad for business has been
disastrous for public education, a field already plagued with recruitment and retention
challenges. Educators with valuable experience are leaving the profession in droves and
enrollment in teacher preparation programs is abysmal.
Furthermore, multiple choice, high-stakes tests have reliably padded the profits of education
corporations, draining public tax dollars but have been unreliable in measuring the diversity
of students’ capabilities and learning. The use of those same tests in evaluating teachers is,
simply put, statistically invalid. The American Statistical Association has warned “The VAM
scores themselves have large standard errors, even when calculated using several years of
data. These large standard errors make rankings unstable, even under the best scenarios
for modeling.” In New York State, the tests change every year, and the cut scores shift. The
results are norm-referenced, ensuring a stack ranking of students with approximately 50%
below the curve. We are playing a dangerous game with our children’s futures and public
education, cornerstones of our democracy. As a special and general education teacher, I
have seen these tests incite anxiety and can provide numerous examples of times when
students stated that all they accomplished throughout the year meant nothing.
I have worked in different schools, some of which, through no fault of their own, have
become increasingly data driven as opposed to student driven. I am fortunate to currently
work in a public school that was founded on the principles of whole child education, where
we, the teachers, collaborate to develop curriculum and create relevant assessments. It is
the antithesis of stack ranking.
This year, our 4th and 5th graders are immersed in a study we call Rights and
Responsibilities. Students develop questions around the origins of the United States, the
Constitution, and discuss the complex struggles and progress we have made as a nation.
My class decided to divide themselves into groups to study three different perspectives from
the colonial era – the Native people, European colonists and the African slaves. They are
the researchers, using primary and secondary sources to learn about key events, figures,
and cultural and political ideas. My integrated co-teaching class consists of students with
disabilities, or I should say, all abilities, and they work in heterogeneous groups to present
their understandings through a variety of mediums: creating art pieces, choreographing
original dance pieces, presenting timelines, developing maps, conducting process dramas,
and giving oral reports. They are learning “how” to learn, developing lifelong skills:
researching, analyzing information from multiple sources, collaborating with others and
sharing what they’ve learned in creative and thought-provoking ways. They are the
stewards of their own learning, guided by their interests and passions. I share this not as a
best practice but to emphasize the importance of fostering learning environments that value
a culture of trust, diversity, and teacher autonomy not a focus on test preparation. Teachers’
working conditions are inextricably linked to students’ learning conditions.
When parents and educators voice concerns, they have been accused of coddling. I want to
challenge that assumption. The great crime is that the focus on testing has taken valuable
resources and time away from programming in social studies, the arts and physical
education. At my school, we no longer have a librarian and our parent association works full
time to fund needed arts programs that are not provided for in our budget. We are one of
the lucky schools. What about schools where parents must work just to survive? I know
schools that no longer have money for basics such as soap for the bathrooms. There is
nothing more painful to watch or forced to be complicit to than the minimalizing that is
happening in our schools. Teachers, students and parents find themselves in a position of whether or not to push back or leave. Who is left to receive these tests and accompanying
sanctions? Who are the children receiving scripted curricula while losing recess, physical
education, music and civics lessons? It is our students from the most marginalized
communities. A current study by the Southern Education Foundation finds that more than
50% of our public school children are living in poverty, an all time high in fifty years (Layton,
2015). Black and Latino students live disproportionately at or below the poverty line, and it
is no accident that we are faced with the most segregated school system in history, with a
disproportionate number of school closures happening in the poorest communities- all at the
hands of using invalid metrics. It is what pushes me past my comfort zone and to speak out.
Last year, over 50% of the parents at our school refused to allow their children to take the
NYS Common Core aligned ELA and Math tests and we were not alone. The Latin root of
assessment is to “sit alongside.” Until we have teachers and policymakers “sitting
alongside” and getting to know our students and our classrooms in deep and meaningful
ways, we cannot fully understand the state of public education. (I sit here as the sole female in a field dominated by women-from verbal testimony) No corporate made multiple-choice test will give you that data. Last year, I decided that I am obligated and accountable
to my students and families, and that is why, as a conscientious objector, I will not
administer tests that reduce my students to a single metric and will continue to take this
position until the role of standardized assessments are put in their proper place. Along with
two other teachers at my school, we formed Teachers of Conscience, a position paper and
call to action at local levels.
We just celebrated the life of Martin Luther King Jr. In his Letter From a Birmingham Jail,
King affirms that “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” He quotes St. Augustine who said “an unjust law is no law at all.” So long as education policy continues to
be shaped by the interests of corporate profiteering and not the interests of our public
school children, we will resist these unjust testing laws. It is time to abandon faulty business
assumptions in public education. We are experiencing a historic resistance to high stakes
testing. Chicago Public Schools just voted to back away from PARCC assessments and
another state joins the nine who have already withdrawn from the assessment consortium.
Let us abandon stack ranking of our children and schools. We need future generations to
explore problems that have far more complex solutions than a multiple choice test. Let us
do the work of teaching and help us hold our state officials accountable for delivering on
funding, as promised through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
I am hopeful that we can sit alongside each other and do the hard work of answering the
questions most central to our democracy: What is the purpose of public education in a
democratic society? How can we ensure that all children receive an enriching and equitable
education? How do we support teachers and schools in carrying out their missions to
educate all? Thank you.
Jia has been a strong advocate for teachers, parents and students, especially on the testing issue in her school, in MORE and in Change the Stakes. Last year she and other teachers at her school declared themselves “teachers of conscience” a form of conscientious objection in relation to the overwhelming negative impact of high stakes testing. In a letter to NYC Chancellor Carmen Farina, they wrote:
Dear Chancellor Carmen Fariña,
We are teachers of public education in the City of New York. We are writing to distance ourselves from a set of policies that have come to be known as market-based education reform. We recognize that there has been a persistent and troubling gulf between the vision of individuals in policymaking and the work of educators, but we see you as someone who has known both positions and might therefore be understanding of our position. We find ourselves at a point in the progress of education reform in which clear acts of conscience will be necessary to preserve the integrity of public education. We can no longer implement policies that seek to transform the broad promises of public education into a narrow obsession with the ranking and sorting of children. We will not distort curriculum in order to encourage students to comply with bubble test thinking. We can no longer, in good conscience, push aside months of instruction to compete in a city-wide ritual of meaningless and academically bankrupt test preparation. We have seen clearly how these reforms undermine teachers’ love for their profession and undermine students’ intrinsic love of learning.
As an act of conscience, we are declining the role of test administrators for the 2014 New York State Common Core Tests. We are acting in solidarity with countless public school teachers who have paved their own paths of resistance and spoken truthfully about the decay of their profession under market-based reforms. These acts of conscience have been necessary because we are accountable to the children we teach and our pedagogy, both of which are dishonored daily by current policies.
Read the full statement here: https://teachersofconscience.wordpress.com
The voice of the classroom teacher will be in extraordinarily capable hands in the person of Jia Lee at the national forum at the US Senate Education Committee hearing.
Now, more than ever we need a revitalized union that involves and mobilized all its members. You can do this by getting active in the upcoming UFT chapter leader and delegate elections. All schools (chapters) will have an election this spring.
Our tenure rights, pensions, our very jobs are coming under attack from politicians on both sides of the aisle and the corporate billionaires who fund them. Schools have become places of fear; teachers are scared of losing their jobs, students are afraid of tests, administrators who lack classroom experience violating our contractual rights. Teachers were once highly respected members of society who dedicated their lives to making the world a better place. Now we face attack after attack from those who have an economic interest in destroying the public education system. The plan is simple; close down our public schools, destroy unions, drive down wages, and increase their profits.
How do we fight back, how do we defend public education while advocating for the children we serve? Unions are the answer! You need to start in your school. Revitalizing your own chapter is where you start.
This is where MORE can help. We have to start from the bottom up. We have to organize ourselves, get people in our schools involved in the fight and educate parents and community members. The best way to do this is during the upcoming chapter elections.
Start with your chapter, if your chapter leader is not responsive or not interested in calling chapter meetings or seeking input from members then it is time for a change. Luckily it’s the right time, get in touch with MORE, we can set up a local meeting near you, help you run, offer support, and workshops. MORE can put you in touch with nearby UFT members who are facing the same challenges you are.
Our long time chapter leaders can advise you on best practices for winning elections and how to defeat the incumbent. MORE members can help in getting your staff involved in taking back our schools from the culture of fear. Our vision of unionism is one where UFT members in the schools work together, empower each other, get mobilized, have each others back, and then build alliances with nearby schools and communities.
No UFT member should ever be left alone! We ARE our union. Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.
Come to MORE’s January workshop to learn how to build a stronger and more active chapter.
January 24th 12:00-2:30pm
CUNY Graduate Center
365 5th Ave at 34th st NYC room 5409
Free childcare is available – please email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve.
We will be serving free pizza and soft drinks during our post workshop meet and mingle from 2:30-3:00pm.
If you can not make this workshop email: email@example.com to set up a meeting near you
This Thursday, January 8th, there will be a Public Hearing on Success Academy in District 1 at P.S.20 Anna Silver School, located a 166 Essex Street in lower Manhattan.
We need to let our voices be heard!
Join us in telling Success Academy CEOs and decision-makers that It is not acceptable for our public schools to be invaded by an entity that…
-does not educate “all” as they claim
-steals resources, and
-misinforms the media and the general public.
If space is not found within a school, we, as tax payers. should not have to fund their rent and we certainly should not have to fund their renovations.
This needs to stop, and we need you to be part of it!
Here’s what you can do…
Please RSVP on this invite and sign up for public comment at 5:30 on Thursday night at the hearing.
Print out and hand out our pamphlet on The Truth About Charters.
Also, take a moment to sign and share this petition on there being no need for Success Academy in D1.
MORE will see you there!
See our fliers here- please print and distribute
Dear Merryl Tisch, Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents:
We are a group of education leaders from across the state that have shared concerns with the direction of education policy in this state and how it ultimately affects our students. On December 18th, 2014, the Governor’s office submitted an open letter to you that outlined questions to be discussed when developing the state’s educational policy in the coming year.
The questions the Governor’s office posed relied on the state’s testing data being valid and reliable. Since there have been many questions regarding the validity and reliability of the data, we believe it is important that SED make public responses to the following questions so any discussion that occurs will be transparent. Experience has shown that when policy is formed without the input of all stakeholders, chaos ensues; furthermore, we have seen how disastrous policy can be when predicated upon incomplete and erroneous data. We believe this disconnect has led to the turbulence between the practitioners and the policy-makers for the last several years.
We believe improvements need to be made for the state to move beyond the current problematic foundation: SED needs to make clear that its underlying assumptions parallel the actual experiences of all students of the state of New York. Could you answer the following questions in a timely manner?
No previous cohort of students (K-12) had ever received instruction so heavily tied to the Common Core or standardized tests. Could such experimentation on our children create significant and systemic unintended negative consequences?
These consequences could be more devastating as this is not a localized experiment where local professionals can modify it as they see fit. This is a statewide experiment where local control has been removed and subsequently, practitioners and parents feel powerless to adjust and adapt to meet the needs of their children. Given the consistent and pervasive anecdotal reports of students’ increased stress reactions, school phobias and medications being prescribed for anxiety (especially in our elementary population), has SED been monitoring the emotional and physical health effects of this curriculum/testing initiative on our students? What has SED found in its research? If SED has not been monitoring for unintended negative consequences, why not?
Much of the discussion about schools, teaching and student outcomes assumes that the results on the State’s ELA and Math assessments are both valid and reliable. In order for the label “College and Career Ready” to have any real meaning, the data that the state produces must parallel the experience of the actual students in the school districts upon entering the college educational system. For example, if a school sends 90% of its students to four-year schools and 80% of those students graduate in four years, yet the state assessments only put the percentages of college and career ready students at 40%, whose data is considered more valid? Has SED surveyed districts to examine this discrepancy? What has SED found in its research? If SED has not been monitoring for discrepancies, why not? Doing so would provide more accurate data about college and career readiness.
The initial study that established the State’s “College and Career Readiness” benchmarks was done on students from New York City schools who were attending two-year CUNY schools. This narrowed the pool by eliminating students that went on to four-year colleges. The smaller subgroup selected makes the data very specific. It also makes it harder to extrapolate generalizations regarding all the students of our state. What steps have been taken since then to make the “college and career readiness” benchmarks a more reliable and valid measure of all our students? What has SED found in its research?
In 2013, both you and Commissioner King stressed that the low test scores were “just a baseline” and should not be overemphasized, making the exams experimental. Has new information materialized in the last year to make SED more confident that the test scores are now a more accurate reflection of the deficits in student learning as a result of teacher ineffectiveness, and not just the continued fallout that exists with the Common Core roll out? What has SED found in its research?
Last year, you followed the feedback from the Commissioner’s Forums on Common Core. In fact, you attended some of the meetings. How would you try to synthesize the feedback from parents with the desires of the Governor? Would you be willing to take the questions from the Governor’s office to the people of the State in another listening tour? If not, why not?
Thank you for your time and consideration in these matters. We look forward to an open dialogue which will help us all ensure that our school children are in fact being prepared for the 21st century and beyond and ultimately to improve education in the state of New York.
Beth Dimino, Port Jefferson Station TA, Suffolk County
Joseph Karb, Springville FA, Western NY
Michael Lillis, Lakeland Federation of Teachers, Hudson Valley
Michele Bushey, Saranac TA, North Country
Kevin Coyne, Brentwood TA, Suffolk County
Orlando Benzan, Brockport TA Rochester
Beth Chetney, Baldwinsville TA, Central NY
Megan DeLaRosa, Shenendehowa TA, Capital Region
Laura Finn- Spencer, Smithtown TA, Suffolk County
Lauren Cohen, UFT, New York City
From the Stronger Together caucus of NYSUT
By Mindy Rosier
There are many forces set to destroy public education that we must fight, but fighting this “evil” is near and dear to my heart. I received information last week that there will be a Public Hearing on Success Academy in District 1 on January 8th. I also kept seeing Eva Moskowitz in the media.
As usual, the more I read, the more angry I got. First came a link claiming the city is dawdling in their charter school plans here. So she planned a City Hall press conference which she canceled after Farina said she anticipates on accommodating up to 8 out 14 of Moskowitz’s schools, though no locations were mentioned. Farina further stated that if any of her schools could not be co-located within existing public schools, the city could seek funding for her to receive private space in the article found here. Thank you Governor Cuomo! Then a little birdie on Twitter shared this gem with me. It is of Success Academy’s 990 Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax for the period of 07/01/2012-06/30/2013. During this time period, Success Academy’s annual revenue more than doubled. Yet Moskowitz can’t afford to pay rent??? We all remember that statement don’t we?
The next day, NY Daily News Reporter Ben Chapman, who must have heard from this birdie too, put out this article. Not only does he state what I just did, he also reported that Moskowitz’s salary jumped, too. Campbell Brown put in her two cents by saying, “she is worth every penny.” What’s that saying…. “birds of a feather flock together,” it is all so true.
By last Friday, a report on Mayor de Blasio written by Juan Gonzalez from the NY Daily News came out, and it is my opinion that de Blasio made some bold statements that he needs to uphold. He should not cave in to Moskowitz or Cuomo. This article can be found here. On charter schools, “We would never take our kids out of (public) school for a political purpose, and that’s what it was,” de Blasio said. “I think anyone who helped organize those protests [against Success Academy’s not being given free space] took advantage of those kids and used them as political pawns.” The city’s cooperation “comes with some rules,” he said. “We expect (charter schools) to represent the same population as in the district they are housed, meaning just as many English-language learners, just as many special ed kids, (and) not move out kids who don’t test as well.” Finally on this issue, “there was an election,” de Blasio added. “I said what I believed in. We’re (implementing) these policies. They can protest like anyone else, but we’re following through on a vision that I put forward to the people of this city.” I know many have a problem with our mayor for so many things. I personally do not agree with everything he says or does. However, in general, I have found that it is impossible to please everyone, but we either have to make do or fight back. I choose to fight back.
So now we get to why this issue is near and dear to me, I will start by saying that I know what it is like to be in co-location with Moskowitz. Her chain of Success Academy schools began in my building eight years ago. She has gutted my District 75 school over and over. During these eight years, we lost our art room, the music room, the technology room, the science room, a library, and classrooms, so she could expand and have a block room, a karate room, and a dance room.
Moskowitz’s school has become the “haves” while my school along with another general ed. school in my building became the “have nots.”
Last year her plan, pushed through via Bloomberg and his stooges would have essentially kicked out my school. If we had lost this space, federal, state, and local laws that were put in place to PROTECT these most vulnerable children would have been violated. What about Section 504 that protects children with disabilities? Why was that was so blatantly ignored?
We fought back in every way we could, with the help of AQE, CEC3, local leaders, and elected officials and organizations. Plus, de Blasio said even before he was our mayor, and many times since, that he would not displace any special needs children.
Then came the media blitz brought to everybody by Families for Excellent Schools. They spent over $6 million with ads that were full of lies. You saw the faces of 194 students and some of their families begging not to be thrown away over and over again.
The reality was, Success Academy wanted to expand in a building that had NO free space. Moskowitz’s students were NOT getting kicked out. This was a planned move on their part and the general public had no idea what the truth actually was. Even when de Blasio did find space for Success Academy, much to our relief, Moskowitz still had to make a dig by saying the original space was still ideal.
Even months later, she still had no qualms about almost kicking out and disrupting the lives of our students and their families. She still claims she was the victim in this article. Moskowitz was quoted as saying, “they are trying to kill us.”
I will end with this, the original purpose of charter schools were to enrich the schools they co-locate with. This has NEVER happened. When asked to help out and to share their methodologies they flatly refused. While my school and the other schools in our building make do with what we have, we know that while we struggle, they have fancy bathrooms and all that extra enrichment space that our students are denied. Charter school advocates have proven to us over and over again, that what they have is never enough. They have taught their students that if you bully a school long enough, you can get your way.
By the grace of God, we are protected from Moskowitz now that we are a Community Learning School. But it doesn’t mean she won’t try again. What she did to us she has done and will do to other schools. That is why we have been and will continue to fight back.
I will be speaking up at the upcoming hearing in January along with other MORE members, and you can count on us to be at any other Success Academy Public Hearings that will no doubt come forth like the hearing in January in D14 in Brooklyn followed by this PEP in the Bronx. We need to let our voices be heard. It is not acceptable for our schools to be invaded by an entity that does not educate “all” as they claim, that steals our students’ resources, and misinforms the media and the general public. If space is not found within a school, we as taxpayers should NOT have to fund their rent and certainly not their renovations. #EnoughIsEnough! These are OUR public schools, OUR students and this lunacy needs to stop now!
Please take a moment to sign and share the following petition. By signing this petition, you are telling Moskowitz that we do not need her “Success” in the District 1 community and that you support the schools that TRULY serve our children. Also, please join MORE at the January 8th hearing by RSVP’ing to this link.
MORE wishes to express our deepest condolences and sends our warmest thoughts to the families of murdered NYPD officers Wenjian Lui and Rafael Ramos.
All murder is wrong. All murderers should be brought to justice. This is true when police officers are victims and when civilians are victims.
While we reject the language of those who would exploit this horrific event for political gain, let us work as a city and a nation, together, to create a better, peaceful, compassionate, and equitable world. Losing a loved one, because of the violent act of civilian or officer, should be something we can all agree must end.
On July 17, 2014 Eric Garner was held in a chokehold by an NYPD officer until motionless. Eric Garner died shortly after being taken away in an ambulance. The incident was captured on film, and Garner’s death was declared homicide by the medical examiner.
The police officer responsible for Eric Garner’s death was not indicted. Since the announcement of the grand jury’s decision not to indict, thousands upon thousands have marched, sat-in, blocked traffic and shut down bridges demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner and his family.
MORE, the social justice caucus of the UFT, stands with the Garner family and all the thousands calling for justice. We encourage New York City Educators to organize their coworkers and march on NYC on Dec. 13th to demand an immediate end to police brutality and justice for Eric Garner.
As educators in New York City, we work with and are part of communities that are most affected by racist policing practices in this city. We work everyday with young people that are constantly criminalized, stopped, frisked on their way to and from school and sometimes even arrested inside our school buildings. The lack of even an indictment in the Eric Garner case reflects the deep-seeded discrimination prevalent in the institutions of our justice system. Sadly, these dramatic inequities are also perpetuated in our public schools. In the last decade, Black students, who represent 33% of the student population in NYC, received 53% of suspensions, and were more likely to be suspended for minor misbehavior.i They also received 51% of suspensions for profanity and 57% of suspensions for insubordination.ii Research by the American Psychological Association found that students who are suspended in school are more likely to dropout or graduate late,iii and the likelihood of incarceration increases by more than 50% for students that drop out of high school.iv From the metal detectors that greet them at the door to the suspension policies that govern our discipline codes, the New York City public school system is, for far too many of our young people, a direct line to incarceration. The same system that daily treats students as criminals because of the color of their skin, has led to the death of innocent people like Eric Garner.
We must speak up about what happens inside our schools and in the communities of which we are part. As teachers that serve a student body that is majority students of color v, we must stand up and say that their lives matter. Black lives matter.
For this reason, we will march on Saturday with thousands of others demanding an end to racist police policies that have taken the lives of too many, and wreaked havoc on the lives of too many others. The violence and criminalization at the hands of the NYPD must end today.
There are several ways to get involved this Saturday. Please click links for more information on each event:
Justice For All March in Washington DC
Millions March in New York City (http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2014/12/09/blacklivesmatter-group-young-black-organizers-calls-march-millions-13th-dec)
Teachers Unite Full Court Press Against School PushOut (http://www.teachersunite.net/content/join-full-court-press-against-schoolpushout)
ii NYCLU. (2011). “Education interrupted: The growing use of suspensions in New York City’s public schools,” pg. 19.
iii Skiba, R., et al (2006). Are zero tolerance policies effective in the schools? A report by the American Psychological Association Task Force, p. 63
iv By The Numbers: Dropping Out of High School. Dropout Nation. Frontline. PBS
- According to NYC DOE Demographic Snapshot data for 2013, Black and Latino students combined make up nearly 70% of the NYC public school system.
By Mr. S (Brooklyn high school teacher)
After the grand jury decision was released on the Mike Brown case and following the protests that have taken place in New York, a few of the teachers decided we have to do something. Actually the decision to do something about racism began a few years ago when teaching my criminal law class a young lady broke down and began crying about how she was stopped and frisked on a regular basis. From that moment until now we have been struggling with what we can do to try to bring some racial justice to our school, our city, our world.
This past Thursday, the day after the grand jury decision in the Garner case was announced, we decided to have an after-school discussion where our students were welcome to express their feeling on recent events in Staten Island, Ferguson, and their thoughts on race relations. I sent my principal an email Wednesday night asking to have this after-school discussion. He promptly answered back “let’s have a meeting in the morning.” The meeting went well, we set norms and created some questions we would use in facilitation. I did sense some hesitancy to have this after school from my administration, understandably so. They wanted to make sure it was handled in manner that would make all our children representing various view points feel safe. Carmen Farina had written a letter on Wednesday night to principals encouraging schools to have events like the one we were planning. That letter helped tremendously in allowing this event to take place as I was able to refer to it several times in our planning session.
The principal asked me to make the announcement over the loudspeaker. We wanted to let our students know that teachers were having an open forum addressing this situation. I think the announcement was really critical. It let the entire school community, from students to school aides to other teachers, know that we were doing something to address the great injustice that had just occurred. In fact one teacher said when the words “Mike Brown and Eric Garner” came over the loudspeakers, many students look puzzled. After my announcement was over, the students in Ms. C’s class asked what this was all about. She stopped her class and began to explain what had happened. She later told me it was the perfect teachable moment and could care less if she finished her lesson on Byzantine. This was much more important. A few English and Social Studies teachers preempted their lessons through-out the day to discuss the Brown and Garner decisions.
When 3:00 came we went up to the assigned room. I was going to facilitate along with my friend Mr. G, another social studies teacher who has been very involved with all of social justice initiatives at our school. Twenty-five students walked in, a diverse group, different genders, races, and grade. Surprisingly three other teachers, one paraprofessional, the assistant principal, and the principal came as well. We made sure to greet everyone and make the atmosphere as welcoming as possible. We explained we were holding this discussion in order to have a forum where you can express yourselves, because your voice counts.
The discussion was extremely passionate, engaging, and as in any good class, I learned more from the students then they could ever learn from me. One student said she was upset that her parents were arguing with her because they did not believe either case was about race. Our African-American students explained why it was about race and some of the feelings they have in dealing with police. Some students discussed how economics played a role in this, that poor people are forced to do illegal actions in order to survive. Some of our students discussed how the justice system is not just at all. Many of students there were actually most upset that their classmates did not know what had happened. We discussed what positive steps we can take as a school community. The students said they need to be better informed and do more reading, some wanted to organize or at least attend protests, and they want to really focus our school on restorative justice. An initiative that me, the dean, the Black Student Union and their faculty advisor have been actively pursuing.
All in all, I’m not sure if we changed anything, but hopefully at the very least we empowered our students that their voices matter. They were happy to have adults in the room listening to them and answering their questions. We need to have more discussions like this in our classes and outside of them too.
Join us at the MORE Chapter Building Workshop Sat. 1/24
Is your chapter stressed out by an abusive administrator?
Is your school infected with a culture of fear emanating from the top?
Thinking about running for chapter leader or delegate?
Want help in running for re-election?
Has your school been targeted for co-location or “restructuring”?
Has your school had success in fighting back?
Come to MORE’s January workshop to learn how to build a stronger and more active chapter. Workshops on filing grievances, making allies, enforcing the contract, strategies for winning chapter elections, and fighting back against a culture of fear in your school.
MORE Chapter Building Workshop
January 24th 12:00-3:00pm
CUNY Graduate Center
365 5th Ave at 34th st NYC room 5409
Food and beverages will be served
email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more info or to set up a meeting near you
if you do not have facebook RSVP at email@example.com
November 2014 UFT Delegate Assembly Report
A resolution calling for the UFT to support the cause of students in Mexico who have “disappeared” and one calling for Time Magazine to apologize for their teacher bashing cover were passed at the November Delegate Assembly yesterday. The Mexican students had disappeared and were probably tortured and murdered. Abe Levine of the ruling Unity Caucus asked for an amendment calling for the AFT to do research on the nature of the organization we were supporting before we fully support them and the body agreed to his change before passing the resolution.
Two different resolutions failed. One was introduced by Megan Moskop who wanted the UFT to support a teacher hiring diversity petition. She wanted it placed on this month’s agenda which is not debatable and requires a 2/3 vote to be added in. Before she raised the motion, Unity’s Leroy Barr during his Staff Director’s Report commented that the UFT was doing much already through its Social and Economic Justice Committee to increase diversity in hiring. Megan did get to make a few points even though her motion was for this month’s agenda so she is just supposed to make a motion. She did not get the 2/3 vote necessary to put it on the agenda.
Another motion was raised by Marjorie Stamberg to support First Amendment rights in Ferguson Missouri. This also failed to carry. Mulgrew noted that AFT may take a position on this.
What do we say about the elections that just passed?
Low voter turnout- 28% in NY State, lowest number ever. That’s what the people who don’t like us are always pushing for. If we vote and get our people out to vote, we’re in a good place.
You all have TVs, so Mulgrew didn’t get into details.
Governor’s races are a problem.
Tons of mailers. We need to spend some time and money organzing people to actually get out to vote. Fewer mailers.
Tech bond act passed- millions of dollars to technology in NYC.
94 struggling schools in NYC
1. We want to o set up meetings jointly w/ DOE and UFT folks in schools. Farina keeps saying, and keeps getting beaten up over collaboration. When she says trust she means trust for the whole school community. Integrity. Shared responsibility. Must move from being an individual profession to a team profession. The job is too hard; we can do it better together. Successful schools should be sharing ideas. She’s been clear that the hunger games are over.
2- Automotive & Boys and Girls: special cases
UFT Submitted a plan a while ago, but it was rejected. It is clear that SED was going to close the schools. Long hours to come to agreement. We feel this is a good plan for how to move forward without closing the schools. (Will not close until we first try to help them.) These two schools have never been treated fairly. They have huge numbers of of high need kids. Now we have a planning committee. Change in conditions of work environment now. Plan will include more work time including at least one week during the summer. Teachers from these schools must reapply for their positions before a personnel committee, 50% will be chosen by UFT. (if dispute, it is taken to Mulgrew and Farina). We want to show people that this is how it should work.
Note: During Question period Mulgrew added “teachers that are not hired at these two schools will be placed at another school for one year, for five successive years.”
(Editorial- Mulgrew says people displaced from these two schools won’t become ATRS but annual placement for ATRs is precisely how ATRs were used before the infamous 2011 rotation agreement when the UFT inexplicably agreed to weekly movements from school to school. Then again, it is indefensible that the UFT agreed to give up preferred placement when schools close in the infamous 2005 contract. No real gain here, just easing the loss a bit.)
Please see more on how this is similar to the original ATR plan by Randi Weingarten here
Aris and Amplify
Contracts have been cancelled for both.
Motion to dismiss California copycat case to end tenure in NYS filed by us in late October. Should hear an answer by November 28.
Consultation and Paperwork Committees
Every school needs a Consultation Committee. Must bring up school-wide issues during the contractually mandated monthly consultation meetings with the principal. The newly empowered Superintendents can help resolve problems if we have raised them at the school level first. The same applies to paperwork. We need to bring the issues up at the school level first.
Arbitration on Arrears for Retirees
Last night the arbitrator ruled that there would be arrears paid to those UFT members who retired between 2009 and June 2014. Intent was for everyone to get the money up front (Editorial: That’s already not happening). We will work with arbitrator to make everyone whole. $60 million in a $5 billion contract should not be difficult to fix. Lucky we had a clause to reopen this if there was a problem.
Leroy Barr Staff Director’s Report.
The next DA is December 17; he also announced other upcoming events with special emphasis placed on the UFT committee that helps the homeless.
Question: What is being done about principals who make our members’ jobs more difficult?
Answer: Superintendents are now in place who will oversee like the law says they should. Since Superintendents serve at the pleasure of the Chancellor, none would dare do much under Bloomberg but now they are empowered under Farina. Superintendents are now educators. 15 have been replaced. Farina says there needs to be trust. Principals must respect staff. Fixing accountability system is next.
Question: Can administration dictate binders that call for everything including what colors they should have be submitted?
Answer: No, this is an example of something that should be worked out in consultation and if it can’t be resolved, then take it up with the District Representative.
Question: Aren’t we creating new ATRS in Automotive and Boys and Girls?
Answer: People have to reapply for their jobs because we changed the working conditions by adding a mandatory week of work in the summer. Persons not rehired will be placed in schools for a year if they cannot find a new position.
Question: A principal says there is no money in the budget for supplies. Is this a proper excuse for not having supplies?
Answer: File a grievance under Article 7R. The School Leadership Team is required to discuss the budget. Schools have to decide how to use their money. Administrator per session has been abused in recent years.
Question: There is a leaky roof at Clara Barton High School that is leaking into an electrical box. Isn’t this a dangerous situation where we should walk out?
Answer: We are informing the School Construction Authority immediately. This is a dangerous situation and we will do what it takes to ensure safety of the school.
Writers: James Eterno, Megan Moskop, Mike Schirtzer
Commentary may or may not represent the official positions of the MORE caucus
Charter schools continue to receive a windfall to the tune of tens of millions of potential dollars in free space, either in a public school or in a city-subsidized private space, more per pupil funding than public schools, and an essentially unfettered ability to expand at the expense of existing public schools. The charter school giveaways are nothing short of a death sentence for the sustainability of New York City’s public school system
The financial burden of providing and paying for charter school space and services for co-locations will be crippling. This will be especially difficult once the cap of charter schools is reached. As of now there are currently 28 charter schools left on the cap in NYC, but there will be “more” because existing charters can expand grades without being included in the cap. The city is required to find the resources to pay. Only after $40 million is spent on private charter rent, will the state contribute to an undetermined amount of assistance. We need funding policies that will support the facilities and space needed for the approximately 93.4%of public school children learning in overcrowded and substandard facilities.
Charters schools receive MORE per pupil funding than public schools. This creates even greater inequity in our school system favoring the approximately 7.6% of NYC’s school children who currently attend charter schools. Combine that with the millions in private funding charters receive from millionaire and billionaire donors who have an interest in privatizing our education system and the goal becomes clear: undermine and dismantle every child’s right to go to the school of his or her choice. The new policy will force students to fill out an application, win a lottery, and adhere to undemocratic governance and a set of rules that leave families vulnerable to discrimination and push-out, not to mention increased segregation in an already segregated school system. We need policies that seek to create equity and increase the integration of our school system, not make it worse
The new law requiring charter space puts the expansion of public schools in New York City at risk because it encourages charter school expansion over the expansion of public schools. New York City schools have some of the highest class sizes and most overcrowding in the state. We need support to help end this crisis, not make it worse.
The financial sustainability of our school system is at risk. As more public dollars are funneled into education corporations and charter schools, fewer public dollars are available for our public schools. At a certain point, and we have heard the “tipping point” is 10% enrollment in charter schools in NYC, we will reach a financial crisis that will make it impossible to balance the funding needs for both charters and public schools, thus allowing the kind of wholesale transfer of public schools to charter operators as we have seen in New Orleans, Philadelphia, now encroaching on Camden, and state-wide in Tennessee.
Governor Cuomo not only allowed the charter school windfall to be central to this year’s budget, he was one of, if not the, architect(s). The self-proclaimed “student lobbyist” is truly a charter-hedge-funder lobbyist beholden to campaign dollars in an election year and further influenced by his national political aspirations.
Legislators from around the state, save a brave few such as state Senator Montgomery and Harlem’s Senator Perkins whose constituents have experienced the horrors and inequity of charter co-locations and expansion first hand, said precious little and took no stand in rejecting this budget.
Our Mayor, who ran on putting an end to the favor of charters at the expense of our public schools and received a clear mandate to do so by the voters in our city, was at the very least powerless to stop the giveaway and at worst raised no vocal objection, perhaps considering funding for universal Pre-K a worthy enough win, even though charters will also have the right to open Pre-K.
The true student-lobbyists, parents, students, rank-and-file educators and community members, must stand together to demand full funding and support for our public schools. We must make it clear that an investment in a system that serves ALL children that is governed by the people, not private unaccountable and non-transparent interests, is vital to the health and success of our children.
We have learned from our personal experiences that charter space support and expansion in communities results in a negative impact on the community itself, causing unnecessary strain and tension, as well as on the existing schools. But equally important, because these issues were at our doorstep, we also understand the deep systemic issues surrounding charters: the drive to privatize our public education system, the impact of charter push-out, the impact of a two-tiered system where one school is privileged over another, and the bigger picture of the undermining of public education and all that entails from worker protections, to funding, to the way children are treated.
MORE stands in solidarity with the approximately 93.4% of families who want high quality neighborhood schools for their children. We stand by our teachers involved in this fight. We cannot achieve the promise of public education if the funding, facilities and services we need to provide are at-risk. Cuomo does not stand for our children. He stands for his own political interests fueled by charter school dollars and we WILL hold him accountable!
According to www.nyccharterschools.org, this is what we are looking at; past, present, and THEIR expected future…
The future of our schools, our children, and our livelihoods are at stake! We need to fight!
* VERY IMPORTANT NOTE- Information obtained by the Teachers Diversity Committee (TDC) of NYC from Success Academy charter schools, showed that for the 2013-2014 school year, 13 out of 15 locations have a significantly higher percentage of white teachers than was the city wide average for public schools in NYC which in 2012, was 58.6%. The mandate to expand charters is increasing racial segregation of students and decreasing teacher diversity in NYC schools overall.
How you can help-
Charter-school co-location hearings: Join us as we stand together with parents, students, and fellow UFT’ers against the privatization of our schools and defend public schools that serve the local community. MORE stands against the proliferation of charter schools crowding out district schools for teachers, rooms and other resources in favor of charters that do not serve all our children. Charters are are often run by corporations as for-profits.
Contact: You can contact Lauren about upcoming hearings and PEPs. You can also contact Mindy, Patrick, and Julie to mobilize your school’s efforts to fight back.
The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE-UFT) voted unanimously at our last General Body meeting to propose that the United Federation of Teachers, instead of sitting out this gubernatorial race, endorse the pro-public education platform presented by Howie Hawkins for Governor and Brian Jones for Lieutenant Governor.
MORE prepared to present a resolution at Wednesday’s Delegate Assembly. The UFT leadership, however, did not allow this discussion. Despite being informed in advance that MORE chapter leaders and delegates intended to raise this resolution for debate and voting, UFT leadership called time on the ten-minute new motion period, thus prohibiting this conversation. In fact, though Michael Mulgrew’s President’s Report was longer than 45 minutes, there was no mention of this Governor’s race.
Though UFT and NYSUT leadership remain silent regarding the upcoming Gubernatorial race, we pledge go to the polls and vote for the only public school positive, teacher-and-student friendly candidates in this race. We encourage fellow friends of public education to join us in voting Hawkins/Jones!
Why? Here are just a few of the many reasons:
- Both Andrew Cuomo and Rob Astorino vocally support the privatization of education through the expansion of charter schools. In contrast, the Green Party ticket of Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones opposes charter schools.
- Andrew Cuomo has pushed through an expansion of testing statewide and the punitive linking of test scores to teacher evaluations. The Hawkins/Jones ticket opposes an emphasis on high stakes testing.
- Andrew Cuomo implemented a destructive tax cap that has forced massive layoffs of teachers in upstate districts.
- New York State AFL-CIO and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) have declined to endorse Cuomo because of his anti-education policies.
- Many of our Union and Education Allies have endorsed the Hawkins/Jones Ticket, including: The Buffalo Teachers Federation, Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, East Williston Teachers Association, Lakeland Federation of Teachers, Diane Ravitch, the Coalition for Public Education, the Independent Commission on Public Education and three local NYC Democratic clubs.
- Astorino and Cuomo are both millionaires while Hawkins and Jones are both union activists, Hawkins in Teamsters, Jones in the UFT and PSC.
- The Hawkins/Jones platform of a Green New Deal calls for
- equitable funding for all of our schools,
- reduced class sizes across the state,
- support for programs that promote desegregation in our schools,
- an end to zero-tolerance discipline policies driving the school-to-prison pipeline,
- and allowing schools to develop methods of assessment organic to the learning process.
- To learn more, Read their letter to teachers here, and spread the word using the voter guide below.
|MORE/UFT Caucus Pro-Education Positions||Hawkins/ Jones (Green)||Cuomo(Dem.)||Astorino(Rep.)|
|Against the Expansion of Charter Schools||✓|
|Against High Stakes Testing, Against APPR (New teacher evals) / Supports Parents & Students’ Right to Opt Out of High Stakes Tests||✓||✓|
|Against Common Core?||✓||✓|
|Union member or Millionaire Candidates?||Union||Millionaire||Millionaire|
|Fight corporate ed deform by rescinding NY’s Race to the Top application and replacing NYSED commissioner John King||✓||✓|
|Tax Top 5% and Eliminate State Property Tax Cap to Fund Schools||✓|
|Supports unionism, social movements and a $15/hr minimum wage||✓|
Don’t sit this election out, vote for a real change in Education Policy! Vote Hawkins/Jones!
For those of you who have paraprofessionals in the classroom, we must recognize that they are the backbone support in our schools. They help with lesson implementation, classroom management, follow agreed upon roles with the classroom and more. It is important for us educators to foster and improve our relationships with paraprofessionals. We need to listen to them as well. Hear what they have to say to help our classrooms run more efficiently. Finally, we need to respect paraprofessionals for what they do for our students and for us everyday. They are so much more than simply crisis management. This is a team effort and we need our classrooms to be run this way.
How We Can Help:
-Do you have a Para Leader in your school?
If not, you can encourage an exemplary
paraprofessional to take on this role. A Para
Leader can help with staff relationships
and offer support in your school. You can
contact the UFT to help with this position.
We would love for paraprofessionals to
become members and attend our meetings.
They too have a voice and they should use it. I
am sure they could offer plenty of suggestions
to help build better relationships amongst staff,
and offer helpful techniques to aid with
-Help paraprofessional voices to be heard-
We would also love to have paraprofessionals
write for our blogs and to be active within our
We can also start up a Paraprofessional committee for support
and open dialog as to how to build better relationships in our
RESOLUTION FOR THE UFT TO ENDORSE HOWIE HAWKINS FOR GOVERNOR & BRIAN JONES FOR LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR - Please raise for THIS MONTH’S AGENDA
Whereas, both New York State gubernatorial candidates Andrew Cuomo and Rob Astorino vocally support the privatization of education through the expansion of charter schools, and the Green Party ticket of Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones oppose charter schools, and
Whereas, Andrew Cuomo has pushed through an expansion of testing statewide and the punitive linking of test scores to teacher evaluations, while the Hawkins/Jones ticket opposes an emphasis on testing, and
Whereas, Andrew Cuomo implemented a destructive tax cap that has forced massive layoffs of teachers in upstate districts, and
Whereas, the New York State AFL-CIO and the New York State United Teachers have declined to endorse Cuomo because of his anti-education policies, and
Whereas the Buffalo Teachers Federation, Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, East Williston Teachers Association, Lakeland Federation of Teachers, Diane Ravitch, the Coalition for Public Education, the Independent Commission on Public Education and three local NYC Democratic clubs have all endorsed the Hawkins/Jones ticket, and
Whereas, the Hawkins/Jones platform of a Green New Deal calls for equitable funding for all of our schools, reduced class sizes across the state, support for programs that promote desegregation in our schools, an end to zero-tolerance discipline policies driving the school-to-prison pipeline, and allowing schools to develop methods of assessment organic to the learning process, and
Whereas, Astorino and Cuomo are both millionaires while Hawkins and Jones are both union activists, Hawkins in Teamsters, Jones in the UFT and PSC, therefore be it,
Resolved, the United Federation of Teachers endorses Howie Hawkins for Governor of New York State and Brian Jones for Lieutenant Governor. Be it further
Resolved, the UFT, through COPE, inform its members of this endorsement, the contrasts between the candidates on key education issues, and mobilize its members to support the Hawkins/Jones campaign.
Resolution for Full Union Representation for ATRs Please raise for NEXT MONTH’S AGENDA
Whereas, federal labor law requires that policy making bodies within a union be democratically elected with each member entitled to a vote, and
Whereas, Absent Teacher Reserves (ATRs) are not entitled to vote in Chapter Elections unless they happen to be working in a school that has a Chapter Election during a particular week that the ATR is working in a school, and
Whereas, unions can set up reasonable rules as to who can run for office, but it is not reasonable that ATRs including Leave Replacement Teachers and Provisional Teachers cannot run or serve as Delegates or Chapter Leaders simply because they belong to no Chapter, and
Whereas, the ATR position has now been embedded in the UFT contract in Section 16 of the 2014 Memorandum of Agreement, therefore be it
Resolved, that the UFT will immediately create a Functional Chapter to represent the interests of ATRs, Leave Replacement Teachers and Provisional Teachers.
MORE member John Giambalvo writes with School Network Leader Nathan Dudley about the implications for teachers and students to policy changes regarding school Quality Reviews. To say Quality Reviews need to change may be a bit of an understatement and we credit John for finding common ground with Mr. Dudley so that a conversation about those changes can begin.
“Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s recalibration of New York City’s school grading system was met with much fanfare last week. While the changes to school Progress Reports received most of the attention, the chancellor also announced changes to Quality Reviews—the intensive process by which schools are evaluated every year or two.
Fariña probably knew these changes wouldn’t grab as many headlines as the shift from A-F grades. But she may know, and we believe, that those changes could be a real game-changer for city schools.
Why? No two words cause as much anxiety for city school leaders and teachers as “Quality Review.” The influential reviews are the closest things to a standardized assessment that a school gets. The evaluators comb through classrooms; talk to teachers, students, and parents; examine data over two days; and then evaluate the school using a strict rubric.
In some schools, the preparation for the review and the review itself have been disruptive to teaching and learning. And in many cases, reviewers provided little …” (Read more at Chalkbeat.org)
The Tenure Debate: A New York City Public Educator Perspective
by Marcus Brandon McArthur
This is a personal statement by a member of MORE. It may or may not represent the official view of the MORE caucus.
The state of policy debate around improving public schools in the U.S. continues to disappoint. Discussions on how to improve the system continue to be dominated by monied interests purporting to be the bearers of the 21st century “Civil Rights” torch. Much of their analysis on the state of public education is simply political noise and a carefully crafted public relations campaign that blankets public education in a cloak of comprehensive failure. In particular, the tenure protection for teachers, has been squarely in the crosshairs of their policy agenda. The debate on tenure has been nefariously framed by focusing exclusively on the caricatured imaginary “bad teacher” that looms large for many Americans. The phrase “bad teachers” is mentioned so often we are led to believe that 98% of teachers are deemed ineffective each year, not the 2% that actually are. The ruling in the recent Vergara v. California case, which effectively eliminates tenure for public school teachers in California, has spurned a wave of copycat lawsuits seeking the same fate in other states, most prominently, New York. These lawsuits are carefully marketed as being initiated on behalf of poor black and brown children and all those “good teachers” whose profession is debased because of the proliferation of “bad teachers” that have an irrevocable “job for life”.
UFT members in need of assistance please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: (347) 766-7319
Contact us if you need support to:
– mobilize your union chapter
– run in the 2015 UFT Chapter Leader elections
– challenge tenure denial
– report contract violations
– deal with an abusive administration
– fight against infringements of members’ and/or students’ rights
– file grievances
– fight back against forced charter co-locations
You will be able to consult with one of our experienced chapter leaders. MORE can also help set up a meeting near your school. In the past, we have organized one-to-one phone calls, local happy hours, lunch meetings, study groups, and after-school diner meetings.
Contact MORE Local Educator Support in full confidentiality.
Black and Latino educators in New York who took the LAST exam and were denied employment, dismissed or demoted as a consequence between 1995 -2004 are eligible for back pay and benefits. The notice below was sent out to all those currently identified as eligible. It is estimated that between 8,000 -15,000 are eligible. The Gulino v BOE case was dragged out for 20 years by the BOE/DOE. Continue Reading…
Our last summer series event of 2014 is Wednesday 8/20/14
Dark Horse Pub
17 Murray St NYC
UFT 101: Why Does Our Teachers’ Union Matter?
Are you entering the teaching profession or new to NYC schools? Are you wondering what the teacher union is all about and what it means to you and your students? Is it something you should be active in? Do educators, parents and students share common interests? Can unions be vehicles for social justice? Meet with new and veteran teachers to discuss these questions and more in this introduction to teacher unionism.
This promises to be a fun, interactive meeting where you can meet educators that are just coming into the school system, some going into their second year, and experienced educators too!
Save the date, our first general meeting of the new school year will be Saturday Sept. 13th in Manhattan. Check back here for more information on this and meetings/happy hours in neighborhoods across NYC.
by Julie Cavanagh, special education teacher and ChapterLeader at Public School 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and MORE candidate for President of the UFT. Originally printed in The New York Daily News on August 15, 2014.
Four years ago, a group tied to testing and publishing companies, and bankrolled with Bill and Melinda Gates’ money, brought us the Common Core Learning Standards.
Cash-strapped states that wanted to win federal Race to the Top dollars had to adopt the standards, and more than 40 states, including New York, did so.
Last year, our students were assessed for the first time according to the new standards. State Education Department officials predicted a steep drop, and scores plummeted. This year, small gains were predicted, and that’s what happened, to the astonishment of no one.
Predictions are easy to make when you define what constitutes proficiency.
There will be an attempt from all factions to spin the results: The state will say the reform agenda is working, the city will argue the scores show the need for pre-K, and charter schools will claim they show their importance as high-quality alternatives.
Let’s get off the hamster wheel.
The truth is, these tests were designed to create a narrative of failure, and the trends are not so different from those we saw on the old tests: we are failing our children with special needs, our English language learners, our children who live in poverty, and a disproportionate number of black and Latino pupils.
It is no surprise that the results mirror the struggles and deep flaws in our society. Of course, the goal was never to actually fix our schools — there are no profits in doing that. There are no profits in providing small class sizes, experienced educators and services like counseling, tutoring and family support — proven reforms that would benefit all students.
Instead, the focus is on unproven standards and the tests that supposedly measure our student’s competency — written by the very people who profit from their use.
So it’s June 20th (“Regents’ Week” in New York high schools) and I’m having coffee with the most wonderfully kind teacher of my school. We’re in his classroom, talking about our wives, when he starts giving me some awesome advice about marriage. He has this beautiful baritone voice and speaks in this fabulously slow, deliberate manner so, as is my habit when I listen to his wisdom, I lean my head into my right hand and just take it all in.
At that moment -I mean at that very moment- I feel some type of bump thing under my ear. My colleague’s voice fades just a bit as I begin to concentrate my attention on this area just under my ear. I pick up my head up and touch it with the tips of my two fingers and quickly conclude that I have a lump.
My colleague’s voice fades almost completely away now as I feel all around this lump. It’s about 3/4 inch in diameter, comes up about 1/2 an inch off of the side of my face and is planted right there under my ear. There is nothing on the other side, nothing under my neck and nothing anywhere else. I can no longer hear a word coming from my colleague. I see a face and a moving mouth but no sound comes out. All I can think about it is ‘wtf is this lump?’. It doesn’t hurt, doesn’t feel sore and isn’t accompanied by any fever or discomfort. The skin around it is not brown or discolored. It doesn’t feel like a huge zit and doesn’t hurt when I press on it. Yet there it is.
One month, five doctor appointments, an X-Ray and an MRI later and I am informed that I have a tumor in my right salivary gland. I didn’t even know I had one of those. I’m also told that there is no certainty as to whether it is cancerous or benign (although, I’m told, it’s probably benign). Finally, I’m informed that I’ll need surgery to fix this broken gland of mine.
And just like that, I am tossed into the merry Go ‘Round that is our American Healthcare System.
I dont suppose my ride will be a long one. I have recently seen this happen to someone close and the full cycle of death by cancer is a vicious one. There are endless appointments, countless doctors who you see but don’t know, as well as more trips for procedures, surgeries and/or scary tests than you can, or care to, count. And then there are the drugs -endless amounts of drugs. They have drugs to drain your fluids and drugs to fill you with them. They have drugs to poison you and drugs to make you feel better after having been poisoned. There are drugs to make you sleep, drugs to wake you up, drugs to make you eat and drugs to make you stop vomiting when you’ve eaten too much after injecting the poison. Witnessing these things was one thing. But by mid-July, after just 20 minutes with my head shoved into an MRI machine, I came to realize the full scope of what I suddenly hoped I was not in store for. If it’s bad -I mean if it’s really really bad- I’ll begin this slow process where I’ll first stop being myself, then stop being able to work and finally stop being anything at all. If it’s more than what it probably it is (because it probably is just a benign tumor), I will have to consider how to navigate the terrain through these lenses.
I don’t mention this because I think it matters much for an Edu blog. Nor do I mention it because I think this extreme possibility will happen to me (again, odds are that it won’t). I certainly don’t mention it for attention or sympathy. I only bring it up because I’d like you to see the landscape from my perspective as I begin talking about my job protections.
You see, at this point in the summer, it looks as though the surgery will take place sometime after the start of the coming school year. This means that I will probably have to miss at least a few days of work. My license is not in a shortage area. ‘High School Social Studies Teacher’ is a dream job, you see. The fact of the matter is that there are ten guys who are just as smart (and five who are just as handsome) who could quickly move in and do what I do for literally half of what it costs to pay my salary and the healthcare benefits that will probably save me.
I also need to say that I have seen school leaders move to get rid of teachers for something like missing work in order to address needed health issues before. I haven’t seen this once or twice mind you (although I haven’t seen it “a lot” or “often” either), but I have seen it enough over my thirteen years in the classroom to have clear recollections of being thankful for my good health on more than one occasion. And I’ve seen it enough to count myself grateful that I do not currently work under such school leaders. Those observations make me feel grateful for having the job protection of tenure.
I know what the process for a ruthless principal is to get rid of someone with sudden health issues. A principal I worked for between 2001 and 2005, and another I worked for for one semester in 2008 both followed it well. Before the health issues, the teacher is a fine and productive teacher. Suddenly, the health issues arrive and the teacher is not able to wait until the summer to take care of it. Soon after, the administrators share concerns about the teaching practices of this teacher. Before you know it, administrators and their lackies, label this person as a ‘bad teacher’. From there, it’s a quick ride out. I’ve witnessed three teachers be forced into an early retirement, one forced into a resignation from the system altogether and just this year, heard that another was forced into a medical pension that she did not wish to take.
The principals didn’t force these teachers into these positions on the grounds that they were sick. Of course, that would be reprehensible. Rather, they forced my colleagues into these positions because they were ‘bad’ at what they did. Of course, the rub is that they were only labelled ‘bad’after they became sick. Any dimwit can tell you that that’s how things work in the real world.
I make this point because just yesterday, Whoopi Goldberg jumped on the bandwagon of ‘fire the bad teachers’. I have to admit that, at face value, it is an honorable bandwagon to jump on. No one, and that includes me, wants a bad teacher teaching. A slightly closer look will reveal that Ms. Goldberg is embracing a specific form of commentary -one that happens to be called the “Bad Teacher Narrative”. That’s the commentary that chooses to discuss only the bad apples that populate our classrooms and no others. It’s a useful narrative, in that focusing on the bad apples allows people to take hard earned privileges away from all of us. Julie Cavanaugh, the lady who ran for president of my union last time around once mentioned that “The ‘bad teacher’ narrative as a way of explaining what’s wrong with our school system gets really old,”. Looks like she was wrong. It’s not old for Ms. Goldberg. On her show yesterday, Whoopi seemed to imply that tenure for all teachers should be removed simply because a few of us (anywhere between 1% – 3% according to testimony during the Vergara Case) may be bad. Of course, she doesn’t consider how any one of us can arrive at the label of being bad. Some of us, like my colleagues under a ruthless principal, can be fine, but then become bad suspiciously after becoming sick. Others can befall this label for other reasons that are nothing short of dishonest and corrupt. Whoopi didn’t seem to address this. No one who embraces the ‘Bad Teacher Narrative” ever seems to address this.
At this point, I would like to point out that, should Campbell Brown’s lawsuit designed to repeal teacher tenure in New York State be successful, I, along with the ‘bad teachers’, will be an ‘at-will’ employee until the New York State Legislature acts. This may stand in opposition to some things you have read in the past. The fact, however, is that New York’s Civil Service laws do not apply to teachers and will not kick in as some sort of magical backstop should Brown’s suit be successful. If she wins, teachers throughout the state will be “at-will” until some type of new laws are passed in the legislature. That is a fact.
And it leads me to an important point. That without tenure, I’d have a lot more to worry about this year than just this damn tumor.
This post was written by a New York City High School teacher who wishes to remain anonymous.
MORE’s 3rd Annual Summer Series: Discuss, Debate, Educate! Session III
Join us for a discussion with Annie Tan, CORE Activist, Marilena Marchetti, former CORE member during the CTU strike, and Lauren Cohen of MORE (bios below).
Wednesday, August 13th, 4pm-7pm
The Dark Horse, 17 Murray St. NYC
Near City Hall, Chambers St, WTC, $5 Drafts & Well Drinks
How to Jump-Start Your Union: Lessons from the Chicago Teachers, a Labor Notes book, available from MORE $15 solidarity price,
Strike for America, by Micah Utrecht available in hard copy or ebook from: versobooks.com/books/1569-strike-for-america
For a short introductions, please check out “Uncommon Core,” by Micah Utrecht at jacobinmag.com/2014/03/uncommon-core-chicago-teachers-union/ or “Creating a New Model of a Social Union: CORE and the Chicago Teachers Union” by Robert Barlett at monthlyreview.org/2013/06/01/creating-a-new-model-of-a-social-union/
Also, take a look at: http://monthlyreview.org/2013/06/01/the-chicago-teachers-strike-and-beyond/
Our 2nd event of the 2014 Summer Series on Wednesday 7/30 features a discussion on the new contract. More information below and here.
A preview of the contract and our discussion by John Elfrank-Dana, Chapter Leader of Murray Bergtraum High School:
The attacks on tenure today have nothing to do with improving teaching and learning. They are designed to undermine teachers’ unions with the goal of silencing educators’ voices. We firmly believe that in order for public education to succeed, teachers must have tenure, a protection that allows educators to stand with parents, for children.
Tenure is nothing more than due process, fair hearings with an independent arbitrator where evidence can be presented in order to protect oneself from false accusations. This ensures experienced educators have job security and encourages academic freedom. These are protections all workers should have. Tenure not only empowers teachers to advocate for children and public education, but also prevents educators from becoming “at will” employees and therefore positively impacts retention of experienced educators, which research shows is a significant factor for improving student achievement and adult outcomes. Tenure also unapologetically protects teachers not only from arbitrary firing, but from being replaced by less experienced and therefore less expensive teachers as well as potential cronyism.
Megan Behrent has taught English at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn for 15 years. She has been a UFT delegate for FDR since 2007. In the Delegate Assembly, she has raised resolutions to support the rights of ATRs, to fight school closings/turnarounds, and to show solidarity with other unions. She is a founding member of MORE and active in the National Network of Social Justice Educators. As an education activist, she has appeared on the Melissa Harris Parry show on MSNBC and written for diverse publications including Socialist Worker, New Politics, Labor Notes and the Harvard Education Review.
Lauren Cohen entered teaching through the NYC Teaching Fellows in 2005 as a mid-year replacement for a K-2 self-contained special education teacher at a high-needs school in Harlem. She taught there for two more full school years. She spent the next 5 years at a Title 1 school in the East Village where she gained a reputation among her colleagues for speaking out against administrative mandates that were detrimental to student learning (such as canceling extended day enrichment programs in favor of test prep aligned to faulty and inaccurate Acuity results). She currently teaches at P.S. 321 in Park Slope, where the privileges available to her current students have only strengthened her resolve to fight for a more equitable system on behalf of the students she left behind. For the past two years, Lauren has worked with parents, teachers, and others in Change the Stakes, fighting against the use of standardized tests to punish schools, teachers, and students. She attended her first MORE meeting in the spring of 2012 and was thrilled to meet so many like-minded educators. She ran on the MORE slate for Elementary Executive Board in the UFT election, and she now serves as the chapter delegate for P.S. 321.
Francesca Gomes is an 8th Grade Humanities (ELA and Social Studies) Teacher at New Voices MS 443 in District 15. She has been a member of the UFT for 13 years, and the only UFT Delegate for her school for the last five years. She led the “Vote No” campaign at her school beginning on the first day after the 2014 contract proposal was announced. Originally a member of Teachers for a Just Contract, she then became a member of the Independent Caucus of Educators, and is proud to have been a member of MORE since its early days.
Janice Manning is currently a fifth grade Special Education Teacher in an Integrated Co-Teaching Classroom at P.S. 503 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. This is her 10th year teaching in New York City Public Schools. She started her teaching career as a fourth grade teacher in Fort Worth, Texas. After teaching in Fort Worth for a year, she taught English as a foreign language in Znamenka, Ukraine as a Peace Corps Volunteer. She began attending MORE meetings in January of this year and is passionate about working with other educators to organize ways to improve education for ALL students.
Megan Moskop is a current member of the steering committee. She is a Special Education teacher and UFT delegate at M.S. 324 in Washington Heights, where she began teaching in 2009 through Teach for America. Megan was raised by educators in North Carolina, and her first “real” teaching job was in Malta as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. In addition to her work MORE, she serves as Learning Labs Director for the Manhattan Young Democrats, and she is a member of Teachers Unite. Deeply thankful for and inspired by her own teachers and students, Megan is committed to the improvement of learning and working conditions in schools everywhere, starting here.
Francesco Portelos is an engineer turned middle school STEM teacher. Over the last two years he has become a very strong advocate for educators and students. His advocacy did not come without sacrifice. After speaking up, he became a target and was removed from his teaching position. This did not stop Francesco. He ran and won the UFT Chapter Leader position in his school even though he is forbidden from entering the building. He has been successfully mobilizing and supporting his chapter and many other educators who read about his fight and seek his guidance from around the city and around the country. His objective is use his knowledge, leadership skills and out-of-the-box thinking to bring MORE to a point where they are successfully filling the great void left by our UFT Leaders. Read more at www.educatorfightsback.org Follow on Twitter: @MrPortelos
Kevin Prosen is chapter leader at I.S. 230 in Jackson Heights, Queens. He campaigned as part of MORE’s slate for the executive board in last year’s elections, and has organized mass grievance campaigns at his school involving up to 35 members of his chapter. He has been active in the MORE chapter organizing committee this year and has been organizing outreach to other chapter leaders in the city. His writings on UFT issues have appeared inJacobin andSocialist Worker.
Mindy Rosier is a native New Yorker who graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with a B.A. in Psychology and Elementary Education and Fordham University with an M.S. Ed in Early Childhood Special Education. She has been a teacher for 17 years, including 3 years at the NY Foundling Hospital and currently 8 years with the Department of Education in a District 75 school.After seeing the hardships that her school has endured and after researching the education system itself, she became active to promote an improvement in the quality of education for all children.
Mike Schirtzer is a lifelong Brooklynite, graduate of the NYC public schools and CUNY, teacher and UFT Delegate. Teaching has always been and still is his lifelong dream and his work here in MORE is just a continuation of fulfilling the goal of being the best teacher he can be! He has planned and mobilized several events, forums, and ran for UFT & NYSUT office as MORE. He was on the original planning committee, first steering committee, and organized MORE’s social media, press, contract campaign, and South Brooklyn groups.
Patrick Walsh a three-time elected UFT chapter who believes that the only force that can save our profession from the predators is our union and the only force that can save our union from itself is us.
by John Giambalvo
Judge Rolf M. Treu’s decision in the case of Vergara vs. California is, by most accounts, the decision that shocked the education world. This week, the judge rendered illegal three sections of California education law.
Taken together, those sections afforded some public school teachers of that state the courtesy of due process before being terminated. Each of the sections, the one governing the procedures for granting tenure (here), dismissing tenured teachers and laying them off from their jobs (both here), had exempted teachers with tenure from California’s law of firing employees “at-will”. With regard to teacher tenure, the judge ruled that the two year time frame the law gave for teachers to earn tenure was much too short. The judge went on to say that California’s “Dismissal Sections” were “tortuous” and granted “uber due process” procedures to teachers -protections that other state employees did not enjoy. “LIFO”, decided the judge, prevented the “junior gifted [teacher]” from keeping his job during times of layoffs while the “grossly ineffective one” remained in the classroom. That, said the judge, violated the state constitution’s “Equal Protection” clause as well and it had to go.
If allowed to stand, the results from this lawsuit, which is sure to be replicated in states across the nation, will expose any teacher in California to be fired in much the same way as “at-will” employees are: With no chance for an impartial hearing (unless the teacher decides to sue in court) and with little to no notice at all (here).
Treu’s conclusion, that teachers have too many workplace protections, is ironic. This is because he is not exactly an “at-will” employee himself. Judges in California enjoy some of the most stringent job protections of any employee in the nation. Superior Court Judges are elected to six year terms. Treu was elected in 2001 (here) and has been reelected twice since. Unless faced with an actual opponent, he will be automatically reelected at the end of every term without his name even appearing on a ballot (here and here). Given that the judge’s wife is a donor and former staffer of Republican Congressman Gary Miller (read his “Thank You” to her on the official Congressional Record here), I doubt that anyone will be challenging him anytime soon. And, being as only three judges in the entire state have lost reelection since the Great Depression (here), I doubt that his chances of losing that election would ever be a concern.
You will be happy to know the judge’s job is also well protected if he ever finds himself in hot water. In the state of California, judges can only be removed through their own “tortuous” process called a recall vote (see here). If someone ever wants him fired, they must first collect vast amount of signatures from concerned citizens all across his district. They must then win a general vote. As of 2008, no California judge had ever been recalled (here again). These protections are in full force whether the judge is highly effective or ‘grossly ineffective’.
Talk about uber due process!
Of course, anywhere from 1%-3% of any professional from any profession may be ‘grossly ineffective’ at what they do. This is true for my profession as it is for his. In his decision, the judge briefly examined the damage that ‘grossly ineffective’ teachers may cause if left in the classroom. Let’s briefly examine the damage that ‘grossly ineffective’ justices from his state may cause if allowed to stay on the bench. There are 2,287 judges in California (here), the extrapolated number of ‘grossly ineffective’ judges may range from 23 to 68. Now there are 38 million people who live in California. That’s one judge for approximately every 16,615 people. You may be surprised to learn that just 23 bad judges from California have the potential of adversely effecting the lives of 382,145 people. 68 bad judges can negatively effect the lives of 1,129,820! If we’re only considering how bad judges may adversely effect the lives of school children, (California has 9,240,219 school aged children (here) or one judge for every 4,040 children), then 23 ‘grossly ineffective’ judges can hurt 92,920 students in that state and 68 ‘grossly ineffective’ judges can hurt a whopping 274,720! I don’t think too many people could refute an assertion that this large amount of bad judges may have, to paraphrase judge Treu, “a direct, real, appreciable, and negative impact on a significant number of California students, now and well into the future for as long as said [judges] hold their positions…”. And yet the judge continues to enjoy stringent workplace protections.
In fact, everyone who was involved in the presentation and decision of the Vergara case had some type of job protection above and beyond the “at-will” status that the rest of Californians have.
The Lawyers who argued the case have their protections. They are only prevented from practicing their craft if they are disbarred. California has it’s own special court, called the State Bar Court of California, just for making these decisions (here). That court boasts that attorneys who practice in California do so in “the only state in the nation with independent professional judges dedicated to ruling on attorney discipline cases”. That’s a nice protection!
The court reporter and clerk, as well as the officers who ensured the safety and security for all involved in the Vergara case, have special job protections too. They are considered “court employees” and their due process includes “a system of progressive discipline and termination “for cause” rather than “at will” employment” (here).
A progressive discipline process is something that tenured teachers in California do not have. Neither do they have their own ‘special court’ to determine whether or not they should be removed.
The fact that anywhere between 1% and 3% of any of these professionals may be ‘grossly ineffective’ at what they do has not stopped the entire state judicial system from insulating its employees from an “at will” termination process. They offer these protections knowing full well that the ‘grossly ineffective’ professional may adversely effect a large number of the many people who come in contact their profession each day. I am not sure why this is the case, but I suspect the reasoning has something to do with protecting the other 97%-99% of these dedicated public servants from unfair dismissals. One thing is for sure. They do not feel that their state’s “at will” termination process for employees is fair to them.
I actually feel the same way! Not only is the work they do important to our society, but it is also important to them, as people. Those job protections allow the men and women in that system to provide for themselves and for their families with security as they pursue their own version of the American Dream. That, in itself, is an important right. FDR felt exactly the same way. “We have come to a clear realization” he said way back 1944, “that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence” (see here and read carefully!).
One way to ensure the economic security and independence of Americans is to afford them the simple workplace protection of due process.
Due process itself is as American as Apple Pie. It is enshrined in the US Constitution as a basic political right. FDR made the observation that “As our nation has grown in size and stature … political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness”. In other words, he said political rights were no longer enough.
“At will” employment laws create the potential for Americans to have that equality taken from them simply because another person feels like doing it. The laws expose people to capricious, even ‘grossly ineffective’ supervisors and place employees on a less even playing field with employers than they already are. The US is the only wealthy nation on Earth that still subscribes to the “Employment At Will Doctrine (here)” (here) and many nations, like Germany (cited only because it is the richest nation in Europe (here)), have laws that specifically spell out the type of due process every employee should have when faced with possible termination (here).
That’s why, instead of taking due process rights away from teachers, the better thing to do is to just give them to everyone else. Let’s not make judge Treu and his colleagues, nor me and my colleagues, the exception. Instead, let’s work to make that standard -that no person can have their job taken from him or her simply because another person “wills” it- the rule. Let’s not make this a rule just for teachers or just for judges, but for every person in California and beyond.
Our job as teachers, however, is incredibly important. No less than the future of an entire generation of Americans depends on the work we do in our classrooms each and every day. So let’s resolve to not leave ourselves in a position where we have to win an entire election just to remove one person who isn’t very good at what he does. By all means, let’s go after the 1% to 3% of ‘grossly ineffective’ workers -everywhere. But let’s allow a person who has been accused of not being effective the simple courtesy, the dignity, of defending him or herself before someone else decides he or she should be terminated.
And, once that standard has been established, let’s start with Judge Rolf M. Treu
by James Eterno, Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School
[The following is a compilation of two different reports, originally posted at the ICE blog, about Wednesday’s DA]
For the first time in almost five years, UFT members finally have a contract. But almost one quarter of the membership (23%) voted against the deal. Most of the members with whom we spoke who approved this contract only did so because they felt it was the best our union could do. We disagree, this contract does not provide the same pay raises that other municipal labor unions received in 2009 and some of those unions are already stating they will reject these terms if offered. We believe our union can and should do much better than this.
by Megan Behrent – Delegate, FDR High School, Brooklyn
As ballots wait to be counted at the American Arbitration Association, much of the media as well as the union leadership anticipate the vast majority of UFT members will vote “yes” to ratify the contract proposal. If that is the case, Mulgrew and the Unity caucus will be quick to declare victory for their “historic” contract.
But regardless of the final count, we need to look beneath the surface of the vote to understand what it reveals about the state of our union. Over the past few weeks, MORE has been part of a groundswell “Vote No” campaign, but rank and file anger was much broader and deeper than those active in any caucus.
When MORE members reached out to the union leadership about observing the count of the contract ratification ballots, Leroy Barr the UFT assistant secretary and chair of Unity Caucus (the caucus of Michael Mulgrew), offered one observer per caucus of the UFT contract vote.
You should not have to be in a caucus to observe the count. We demanded the vote be open to all UFT members. Members of MORE are not special, we are all UFT. Although the Unity and New Action caucuses both support Michael Mulgrew we see no reason why they should receive special treatment either. MORE refused to send a special representative. Anyone who attends from MORE does so a a UFT member, not a caucus member, Every UFT member must be allowed to observe this critical vote.
In response to our efforts, the UFT leadership has offered to allow as many members who wish to observe the count. See the details below. We hope that they will advertise this information at UFT.org and in their weekly email to chapter leaders, as we requested. Continue Reading…
New York’s branch of the movement has been led by the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE), a rank-and-file reform caucus in the United Federation of Teachers, together with other education advocates and community and labor organizations…. The Nation
See Videos of all speakers at the rally.
Video of Rosie Frascella from MORE/NYCORE – featured in the article.
Brian Jones: http://youtu.be/idKinnd042c