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Victor

MORE sends its deepest condolences to our friend and fellow defender of public education, Noah Gotbaum and his family, over the death of his father, Victor.

Victor Gotbaum was among the most prominent union leaders during the glory days of public employee unionism. A great organizer and defender of worker’s interests, Victor Gotbaum led District Council 37, the umbrella organization for most unionized city employees, from 1965, when DC 37 had 35,000 members, until 1987, when it had well over 100,000.

Victor Gotbaum was a lifelong New Yorker, a WWII veteran, a precociously early opponent of the Vietnam War, and a fighter for the rights of working people. During the fiscal crisis of 1975 and after, also known as “The Banker’s Coup,” his immediate reflex was to fight the austerity being imposed on working New Yorkers, and DC 37 members demonstrated the power of working people, coming close to shutting the city down in opposition to the budget cutbacks that took almost a generation to recover from.

Victor Gotbaum understood and devoted his life to expanding the power of workers, and we will use this moment to reflect upon how we will carry on that tradition, as he did, with intelligence, passion and commitment.

Again, our deepest condolences to Noah and his family for their loss.

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September 5, 1921 – April 5, 2015

Cuomo and Mulgrew

April 1, 2015 — 9 Comments

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“The hedge-fund billionaires and Governor Cuomo haven’t gotten their way,” declared UFT President Michael Mulgrew in his official response to Cuomo’s budget deal on March 30. Unfortunately he is wrong. Tests will play a greater role in our evaluation, outside evaluators will be brought in, and it will now take a new teacher four years instead of three to reach tenure. It seems to us that they definitely “got their way”!


UFT members mobilized impressively to fight Governor Cuomo over this budget. This was a welcome development after the UFT leadership failed to rally against Bloomberg’s failed policies, charter schools, or for a good contract. Should we be thankful and praise our UFT leaders for leading a series of protests over the past few weeks, or do we shout from the mountain-top that the reason our union has suffered another defeat is that the Unity/UFT leadership has been unwilling and unable to launch the kind of sustained fight that could have prevented this latest setback? It is time to do the latter.

For years opposition caucuses have tried to pressure the union to change course and rally our members to defend our rights. From 2009-2014 we insisted that the UFT had to mobilize for a good contract. The Unity/UFT leadership’s strategy, however, was to wait for Michael Bloomberg to leave office. The result was a contract with wages that failed to keep up with inflation and belated back pay – yet to be delivered – without interest. When MORE raised resolutions calling for the UFT to stand against the use of standardized student tests for teacher evaluation, Mulgrew replied that tying our careers to such tests was a step forward for us. He even went on to tell us how we needed to be held accountable: “the days of walking into a school, getting your keys to the bathroom and being left alone are over” When MORE proposed that the union demand developmentally appropriate standards and curriculum, as an alternative to Common Core, and when we called for an end to high stakes testing, we were labeled as extremists. Not only has the union leadership conceded over and again to our enemies, but it has refused to involve rank and file members in any significant policy decisions. Now is the time to change that.

After years of not fighting back, after years of waiting out Bloomberg, after years of letting charters expand, in March 2015 the union leadership  finally turned to UFT members and asked them to mobilize. Many chapters responded with great demonstrations of solidarity, sign making, hands around schools, videos, meetings with local politicians, and support from the community. There are many more voices to be heard, however, and the UFT has yet to mobilize them. Many of our members continue to face principals who harass them on a regular basis. They have had their pedagogy reduced to checkbox rubrics, and have been forced  to become test prep machines. Their energy, enthusiasm, and confidence in their union are sapped. Many are fixated on the daily struggle for survival on the job and can’t think about the state or national context. It is hardly surprising that members in such schools were not quick to heed the UFT’s rallying cry. The actions, therefore, proved too weak and came too late. Albany legislators understood that UFT leaders had neither the desire nor the capacity to summon a wave of social protest strong enough to disrupt routine politics and pressure lawmakers to rebuff the Governor.

While grassroots parent groups are leading the opt-out movement, UFT leaders have done nothing to support them. Recent endorsements of the opt-out strategy from New York State United Teachers President Karen Magee and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten are welcome. And we hope Michael Mulgrew will soon get on board. But we need more than endorsements. Our union should commit its vast resources to help build this movement of civil disobedience to starve the testing beast that is meant to destroy us.

This week Governor Cuomo won a substantial victory. As he did after negotiating the 2014 contract, our union President dressed up a defeat as a victory. We need a union leadership that is honest with the membership and can admit that we have suffered a setback. We need a union that can engage its members in strategic discussion to develop the kind of response that can raise the political heat on politicians and stop the attacks on us. Anyone who reads the national news can see the dark clouds on the horizon. Midwestern governors, such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, have pushed legislation designed to wipe out our bargaining rights. Governor Cuomo is slowly following in their footsteps. Next year, he will undoubtedly propose more “reforms.” The only way to fight this is to revitalize our union. It’s time to make our union democratic, allow for all voices to have representation, time to get our members involved in local actions, and support the growing opt-out campaign. We also need our union to stop embracing measures like common core and the accompanying testing madness that is degrading our profession and killing whatever joy is left in our classrooms.

The union-initiated forums we had over the last several weeks and the local action committees that were formed need to continue and grow. A brief injection of mobilization wasn’t enough to stop Cuomo this time, but if we use it as a starting point to infuse life back into our union we stand a better chance of preventing the next round of attacks. Let’s organize and campaign for real reform, such as smaller classes, wrap around services, and diverse assessments designed by teachers and used to diagnose students, not to intimidate teachers.

Last spring UFT leaders showed up to chapters to sell us a contract. They must do the same when administrators are ruining our schools and when chapter leaders are not doing their jobs. We need organizers to help members stand together and defend themselves, and to support those members who want to bring a union back to a demoralized faculty. When members in one school are under attack from an abusive principal the UFT needs to reach out to members in surrounding schools and involve them in the effort to defend their colleagues. Such actions can put meaning back into the ages old union motto, “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

Michael Mulgrew can continue to hurl epithets at the Governor. But he and his supporters share in the blame. MORE’s vision of unionism is an organization that can inspire members with confidence, encourage more of them to become active, and organize the kind of broad fightback that can reverse the attacks on teacher unionism and public education. The Unity/UFT model of unionism features militant-sounding leaders who talk tough, but rely on their ability to make backroom deals with local and state legislators. That model just failed again. Lets join together and take back our union, before it is too late.

As you may know, a determined group of teachers at John Dewey High School have blown the whistle on Principal Kathleen Elvin.

Since her arrival at Dewey in March 2012, Elvin’s  brutal and mercenary  policies have involved blatant and virulent harassment —–mainly directed against 55 plus teachers.

Simultaneously, Elvin oversees corrupt and fraudulent Credit Recovery and Project Graduation programs designed to pass through and ultimately send to graduation hundreds of students—in the process, establishing for Dewey bogus school statistics and for Elvin, financial remuneration!

During the past week alone, Elvin’s sickening practices have been exposed by the CBS Evening News, WPIX and the The New York Post.

On Wednesday, March 25th 2015, CBS News Chief Political Correspondent, Marcia Kramer brought the issue of Kathleen Elvin at Dewey directly to the attention of Mayor DeBlasio and Chancellor Farina during a meeting at Brooklyn Automotive High School.

Regrettably, the Mayor and Farina seem poised to cover up this scandal. The effect of such a policy would be disastrous for the teachers and students of John Dewey!

At this critical time, your help is greatly needed to maintain public pressure and hopefully hasten the departure of Elvin and her cronies from Dewey, restoring in the process, a desperately needed measure of decency and integrity to a once proud and respected NYC High School!

Please utilize your blogs to the fullest possible extent showing your solidarity and support for integrity, public education and the efforts of a truly courageous and dedicated group of teachers!

MORE calls on the Mayor and Chancellor to immediately remove the principal as they conduct their investigation. The C-30 panel should have the final decision on new administration.

#ProtectOurSchools Rally

March 30, 2015 — 1 Comment

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UFT members, parents, and supporters of public schools all around New York State took part in rallies, protests and  forums, created wonderful signs, reached out to the press and used social media to spread our love for public schools. These actions culminated in a rally at Governor Cuomo’s Manhattan office with thousands of people demanding that the Governor work with us, not against us.

MORE believes these actions should be the start, not the end, of a mass mobilization of educators and parents to have our voices heard. Too many decisions have been made without our input. This needs to change now!

Our due process tenure rights are under attack as is the very concept of being in a union. We must continue to build actions alongside parents, students, and the communities we serve to show our strength.

MORE was well represented at the Rally To Protect Our Schools on March 28 with Mindy Rosier, Jia Lee, and Patrick Walsh all featured as speakers.

Mindy Rosier – Jeremy Dudley – Teachers

http://youtu.be/bhHlmaCD21E

Jia Lee – Teacher

http://youtu.be/gyFpIuJWxIQ

Patrick Walsh

http://youtu.be/JwSrN_nT3EA


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Lauren Cohen, co-chapter leader from P.S. 321 in Brooklyn, raised a resolution on behalf of MORE in opposition of standardized testing and supporting parent’s right to opt-out. It also called for our union to take in active role in defending teachers who are conscientious objectors, an end to test based evaluations, and to educate our members on opt-out (full text below). UFT leadership from Unity caucus controls the Delegate Assembly and voted down our resolution, but most independent chapter leaders and delegates voted for it. The vote was so close, they had to count a second time.

 

Resolution Opposing Standardized Testing

WHEREAS, the volume of mandated standardized testing to which students are subjected in the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) has increased many times over in recent years, and

WHEREAS, the results of such tests cannot be used for diagnostics or remediation or other educational purposes, and

WHEREAS, such testing generates results that are used for high-stakes decision-making regarding both students, teachers, and schools

WHEREAS, such tests fail to measure the most important qualities schools should seek to develop in students, such as relationship-building, character, ethical development, critical thinking, persistence, imagination, insight, and collaboration, amongst others, and

WHEREAS, as a result, many students who develop these valued but unmeasured qualities, but who have extreme difficulty with standardized and other paper-and-pencil tests, experience these tests as stressful to the point of abuse, and

WHEREAS, the increasing focus on such testing causes severe distortions of schooling, inflicting trauma on many students and changing schools into test-prep factories

WHEREAS, the 2007 UFT task force on testing found that “The use of data from student test scores on standardized tests to evaluate teachers may appear simple,… but it is wrong” and The American Statistical Association  warned that “Value Added Measure scores themselves have large standard errors”

WHEREAS there is nationwide opposition to the developmentally inappropriate Common Core standards and, as education historian and professor Diane Ravitch said, “They are being imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time.”

THEREFORE, BE IT

RESOLVED, that the UFT declare its opposition to the use of state- or federal-mandated standardized tests for the purposes of making grade promotion, graduation, teacher evaluation, or other high-stakes decisions regarding students or teachers, and

RESOLVED, that UFT supports the right of parents and guardians to choose to opt-out their children from any or all state- or federally-mandated testing, and supports the right of teachers to discuss freely with parents and guardians their rights and responsibilities with respect to such testing, all without any negative consequences from NYC DOE, and

RESOLVED, that UFT will fully support and protect members and others who may suffer any negative consequences as a result of speaking about their views of such testing or about the rights and obligations of parents and guardians with respect to such testing

RESOLVED, that UFT will use its organizational capacity to inform members in every chapter about the right of parents/guardians to opt-out their children from state or federal mandated testing and will take an active role in producing and distributing opt-out literature using materials from changethestakes.wordpress.com, coreteachers.org, and NYSAPE.org, including sample parent opt-out letters.

RESOLVED, that UFT will fully support and, if necessary, defend members who are conscientious objectors to administering standardized assessments

RESOLVED, that UFT will demand an immediate halt to all Common Core based testing, curriculum and standards, until it has been properly field tested

And be it further RESOLVED, that the UFT will continue to mobilize members and parents to achieve these goals through actions such as rallies, forums, and school-based protests.

 

by James Eterno

Former Chapter Leader

Jamaica High School

One of the agenda items at the UFT Executive Board meeting for Monday, March 23 is a resolution to adopt a guide and bylaws for Chapter Elections (see below).  Chapter Leader and Delegate elections are scheduled this spring for the United Federation of Teachers.

In putting out its election guide, the UFT has once again given the cold shoulder to Absent Teacher Reserves and Leave Replacement Teachers, a huge group that includes way over a thousand teachers who belong to no UFT Chapter.  As a Leave Replacement Teacher, I am one of these teachers without a permanent home. We are being disenfranchised in reality, if not on paper, as the new procedures will allow ATR’s to vote and run for office in the school they are assigned to in the first week of May (see below).  This is patently absurd.  We might not even be in that school when it holds its Chapter Election in May or June.

Last month I filed a complaint with the Federal Department of Labor that the UFT is violating federal labor law by not allowing us a reasonable opportunity to serve in the highest policy making body of the union: the Delegate Assembly.  Part of the DOL complaint says the following:

The Landrum Griffin federal regulations say this concerning eligibility to be candidates for union office:  “Every member in good standing is eligible to be a candidate and to hold office subject to reasonable qualifications in the union’s constitution and bylaws that area uniformly imposed.”  Why should being an ATR cause us to lose any chance of being elected to the UFT’s highest policy making body: The Delegate Assembly?  Teachers who are filling in as Leave Replacements or those covering vacancies provisionally also belong to no Chapter and cannot run for Chapter Leader or Delegate.  This is unconscionable.

The union’s response is to say that we can run for office in the school we are assigned to in the first week of May.  It would be as if a person took a business trip to Hawaii for a week, a month or a few months and was told she/he could vote in Hawaii’s election and could run for Governor of Hawaii.

Continue Reading…

Join us on Saturday, March 28th at Noon at 633 Third Avenue at 41st Street (outside Cuomo’s Manhattan office) 

Bring your kids, bring your colleagues, bring your neighbors, and bring your friends!  Spread the word far and wide!

It’s time to do what we do best: make our voices heard in support of public education!

This Saturday, we will join thousands of students, parents, teachers, community members, and education leaders from across the city and state. Together, we’ll stand up on behalf of our kids, our schools, and each other!

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Sign up for the event via Facebook HERE, then invite everyone.