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By Mike Schirtzer

Teacher and UFT Delegate: Leon M. Goldstein High School

 

Like most classroom teachers, I didn’t attend last weekend’s AFT convention. In fact, few working teachers knew it was going on, or had reason to care. Our delegates represented none of what we believe in and nothing that happened there will make any difference in our classroom. There was no call for Arne Duncan’s resignation, no resolution for a repeal of the Common Core Standards, and no new strategies for increasing union mobilization or supporting our students. Actually nothing of consequence was achieved. Members will go back to their respective locals and continue the same methods: Chicago Teachers Unions (CTU) will the lead the fight against so called reform that hurts our children and profession, while the AFT/UFT leadership will go back to a style of unionism that ensures that none of my friends become any more engaged in union activities. Continue Reading…

Congratulations for those who have accepted nominations for the new MORE Steering Committee which takes office for a 6 month term starting on August 1. 
 
The current steering committee has proposed, that rather than having an election to choose 9 out of these 11 (or 10?) qualified candidates, that we simply accept all of them as new member of the steering committee.  This decision will be ratified at the MORE Retreat this coming week on Thursday, July 17 (11am-5pm, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 5th Ave. @ 34th st., 6 to 33rd, D,F,M,N,R to Herald Square).


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.

 

On Wednesday July 16th 2014 we are hosting a summer series panel and open discussion on the history of groups that have competed for power and influence within the UFT. We will also examine the implications for MORE. More event Information here

Below are readings and video lectures from union/UFT historians on the background of the founding of UFT and Unity caucus, the ruling party of our union.

Suggested Readings

Democracy & Politics in the UFT, 1976 Edition

Democracy and Politics in the UFT is being reprinted in its original with no changes in order to provide a snapshot of the state of the UFT and education circa 1976 and how one opposition group approached these issues.Thanks to Vera Pavone, Ira Goldfine and Norm Scott for creating an online version of the pamphlet they produced almost 40 years ago.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/233191682/Democracy-Politics-in-the-UFT-1976-Ed

UFT/Unity Caucus Early History from “City Unions”

This chapter on the founding of the UFT and how Shanker consolidated power from the book “City Unions”. There is a lot of insight into how Unity has controlled the UFT since its inception.

 

http://www.scribd.com/doc/158371024/City-Unions-chapter-8

 

 

Here we have a series of videos about the history of our union, it’s founding, some discussions on past caucuses and dissident groups, and the relationship between non-Unity activists and the union leadership.

Historical roots of the UFT presented by Michael Fiorillo and Peter Lamphere at the State of the Union conference (Feb. 4. 2012).

Michael: Teacher unions up to 1968 (22 minutes): https://vimeo.com/45094559

Peter: Post 1968 (15 minutes):  https://vimeo.com/45094560

Both videos plus the Q&A (1 hour):  https://vimeo.com/45094713

UFT Friend or Foe- from 2013 Summer Series- How non-Unity Chapter leaders and activists relate to UFT leadership

Norm Scott: http://morecaucusnyc.org/2013/07/27/uft-friend-or-foe-event/

Vera Pavone http://morecaucusnyc.org/2013/08/14/uftaft-leadership-friend-or-foe-series-vera-pavone/

Ira Goldfine http://morecaucusnyc.org/2013/08/14/uftaft-leadership-friend-or-foe-series-ira-goldfine/

Peter Lamphere http://morecaucusnyc.org/2013/08/14/uftaft-leadership-friend-or-foe-series-peter-lamphere/

MORE Summer Series 2012- UFT Caucus History Since 1968 

Norm Scott http://vimeo.com/45705700

Michael Fiorillo http://vimeo.com/45698849

 

Join the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE) for Summer Series 2014. Discussions exploring the past, present and future of teacher unionism. All are welcome!

Wednesdays 4:00pm-7:00pm
The Dark Horse
17 Murray St. NYC
Near City Hall, Chambers St, WTC

July 16th
Who Runs the UFT? Why Are There Alternatives? A Historical Perspective 1960-2014

The UFT formed in 1960 as a merger of several organizations. By 1964 the Unity caucus emerged as the ruling party of the UFT, which they remain to this day. Throughout the union’s history various dissident groups and caucuses have contested this dominance. At different times these groups merged, ran joint slates, or disbanded. We will discuss why these groups formed and their differing visions and strategies. How is MORE related to this history? What can we learn from it?

Other Summer Series Events

July 30th
Life Under the New UFT Contract

August 13th
Lessons from the Chicago Teachers’ Union- Featuring Guest Speakers from Chicago

August 20th
UFT 101: Why Does Our Teachers’ Union Matter?

twitter.com/morecaucusnyc
morecaucusnyc.org
more@morecaucusnyc.org
press inquiries media@morecaucusnyc.org

 

 

By Norm Scott and Mike Schirtzer

The calls have been coming in from parents and childcare-takers all over the city who are beginning to realize how the new contract will change their lives as the school day gets readjusted in many schools.

They tell us there is growing outrage as word spreads. And since parents are being told that teachers are supposed to vote on School Based Options (SBO’s) in the schools, some parents are placing the blame squarely on the teachers and the UFT – even more so than on the DOE and the principals, who often just plain lie to the parents, saying that teachers voted that way. The truth is Chancellor Farina has mandated 80 minutes of Professional Development (PD) a week or 100 minutes should a school choose to deviate from the default schedule. Teachers and administration have no choice of offering any extended time (what was called tutoring, student mentoring, 37.5, or Academic Intervention Services depending on your school). The new built in Parent Engagement time can not be used for tutoring either.
In one case, the UFT district represnattive  told parents the entire district was using the default model of 8AM start time and 2:20 end time so the teachers can get their PD in by 4PM. Parents do not care about PD, neither do most teachers. There wasn’t a teacher anywhere begging for more PD in a new contract. Most PDs will be focused on Common Core, Danielson, MOSL, or other failed initiatives.  PD’s throughout the city very rarely focus on good pedagogical practices nor are they led by experienced teachers. Thanks to the Bloomberg/Klein era most new administrators who are leading these PDs have less than 5 years class-room experience, how can we expect them to lead effective PD’s? Instead teachers will be forced to write curriculum and units based on the untested, unproven, developmentally inappropriate standards. Other PDs will be focused on aligning lessons with the check box rubrics created by Charleotte Danielson and her 6 months of teaching. None of this will have a positive impact on the students we teach

Let me say this as I have been and will continue to do: When the UFT goes along with the Farina (and most ed deformers) mantra that the key to improving education is Professional Development, they accept the “teacher blame” argument. Of course everyone can improve — and the best PD is watching others teach — but blanket PD is like expecting a gourmet meal at McDonalds.

Then there are stories where the chapter leader didn’t even offer teachers the option of an SBO and just did what the principal wanted. So the teachers feel betrayed too — but it is really their fault — maybe a lesson for those who have their heads in the sand.

At the June 11, 2014 Delegate Assembly, Mulgrew spoke about the Vergara decision. How important it was to work with parents and how proud he was of the work the UFT was doing with parents. If the Unity/UFT leadership didn’t have a tin ear they would have figured out a way to get some parent leaders, at the very least, involved in proposed negotiations. But they didn’t even get regular teachers involved, so this is the spillover of closed door contract negotiations.  Parents accustomed to extended days will now being paying for childcare out of their pockets. Students and their parents who can not afford to pay for extra help or small group instruction are now being left out in the cold. This is clearly not a way of winning over parents to be on the side of the UFT.

Parents feel they have been totally shut out of the process. I wonder where they’ll stand when we see Vergara, coming soon, to New York?

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

Disappointment

June 3, 2014 — 25 Comments

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.

Continue Reading…

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.

Continue Reading…

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.

http://youtu.be/FUxQ83X2Xso

Brian Jones: http://youtu.be/idKinnd042c

How Teachers Are Fighting to Change One of the Most Segregated School Districts in the Country

Michelle Chen on May 21, 2014 – 1:36PM ET

Occupy Education is challenging school policies
Occupy Education is challenging the policies that systematically leave disadvantaged kids behind (Credit: ChealkbeatNY/Flickr)

http://m.thenation.com/blog/179957-how-teachers-are-fighting-change-one-most-segregated-school-districts-country

 

Vote No

By Kevin Prosen

Chapter Leader I.S.30

This letter first appeared here in Jacobin

A Letter to New York City’s School Teachers

Continue Reading…