Archives For social justice unionism
Teachers in St. Paul, MN are preparing for a strike authorization vote on February 24th.
The union is holding informational meetings in the lead up to the vote. If the strike is authorized, the union is required to give 10 days notice before calling a strike.
The strength and unity of the membership was evident on January 30th when “walk-ins” were organized at 55 of 62 sites with over 2500 of the city’s 3200 members participating along with parents, on one of the snowiest mornings of the year.
The St. Paul Federation of Teachers has done extensive outreach to parents and other community members for months, holding open meetings, and even open negotiation sessions, to discuss contract demands and involve teachers, parents and community members in shaping their demands. As in Chicago, the union has put forth its own blueprint for ”The Schools St. Paul’s Children Deserve.” As a result, the SPFT has gained immense support. Parents recently helped to start a Facebook page called “I Stand with SPFT” that quickly grew to 900 members. On February 18th, hundreds of teachers and community members rallied at a school board meeting and many parents provided testimony in support of the teachers’ demands.
The Saint Paul Federation of Teachers is fighting for reduced class size, increased staffing (more nurses, librarians, social workers and counselors), access to pre-k for ALL students, and less standardized testing to allow for more genuine teaching.
MORE calls on all UFT members to stand in solidarity with the St.Paul teachers and students by following their struggle and taking action.
For more information, visit the St. Paul Federation of Teacher’s website at: http://www.spft.org/
You can also follow the St. Paul Federation of Teachers on Facebook, join the “I Stand with SPFT” page and post messages of solidarity to show your support.
In addition, you can call the Superintendent and school board members of St. Paul and urge them to come to an agreement with the St. Paul Federation of Teachers to lower class sizes, increase staffing and provide universal access to Pre-K.
Finally, you can sign a petition in support of the St. Paul teachers here: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/st-paul-public-schools?source=s.fwd&r_by=4379504
MORE Member Brian Jones speaks out on behalf of parents and students, echoing MORE’s call for a socially just system in which all students have “the kind of humane, relaxed, resource-rich, joyful learning environments that wealthy children already enjoy.” Brian has taught in New York City public schools for nine years and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in urban education at the CUNY Graduate Center. He is also a parent.
You can enjoy more of Brian’s work by watching the film “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman” (co-narrated and produced with other MOREistas!)” and by reading his blog.
This is our list of demands that the UFT ought to be mobilizing the rank and file to fight for:
Improve Our Students’ Learning Conditions: Funding must be made available for Creative Arts (Music, Art, Drama, Digital Arts), Physical Education, Technology, Social Studies, English Language Arts, Science, Math, and electives. Every school shall be equipped with working computers, interactive boards, internet, heat, air conditioning, and have a fully staffed library and media center. Class size limits should be reduced by at least 10%, with no exceptions. Research has proven that students learn better with individualized attention.
Pay Raises: They reflect the importance of the work teachers do, & include full retroactive pay consistent with pattern bargaining. We shall receive 4% retroactive back-pay for the 2008/09 and 2009/10 rounds as other NYC municipal workers did, as well as a 3% raise in each subsequent year to adjust for inflation and cost of living. The money IS in the DOE budget!
Teacher Evaluation: With its unscientific use of test scores, increased testing, and additional paperwork, the new evaluation system is a disaster. This contract shall eliminate the use of test scores for teacher evaluations and reduce the amount of evaluation paperwork.
Due Process: Restore the principle of innocent until proven guilty in all reassignments with faster and fairer investigations in 3020-a hearings. An independent arbitrator jointly selected and paid for by the DOE and UFT shall judge all grievances and removals.
Equity for All Students: All schools and students should receive the same amount of services and resources regardless of the socio-economic class of the neighborhood. Public schools should not be funded by outside sources such as corporations. We must support schools in high poverty neighborhoods in order to equalize some of the advantages enjoyed by students with more financial resources. Every school shall be fully staffed with a nurse, a social worker, services available to parents, as well as afterschool and weekend programs. Each child, regardless of economic status, must be offered free breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Fair Student Assessment: Standardized tests should be only one tool used for assessing student learning and growth. Portfolios, written assignments, verbal presentations, digital presentations, and projects shall all be available options.
Salary Equity: Teachers at the bottom of the pay scale are being paid substantially less than veteran teachers. This gap is being used against senior teachers. There shall be additional pay increases for new teachers to close this tremendous difference, without an effect on the raises of veteran teachers.
Right to Grieve Letters in the File and Ratings: All employees shall have the right to respond to accusations and demonstrate that they are inaccurate or unfair. Disciplinary red flags in files of active teachers who were not terminated in 3020-a hearings must be eliminated.
Initiatives: Too many new mandates flood our schools each year. When any new, significant education policy is agreed upon for implementation in classrooms, it shall be limited to one per academic year, be administered with a minimum of two years professional development, and be continuously reviewed by a jointly agreed upon panel of experts for effectiveness.
Revise the “Fair Student Funding” Formula: The DOE shall return to the system in which each school’s budget was charged the same, fixed amount per teacher. The current system incentivizes principals to hire inexperienced teachers. We must restore the right of an educator to transfer on the basis of seniority or to further integration.
Changes in Hiring/ATRs: Due to the lack of educators of color, students of color are implicitly taught not to identify members of their community with intellectual growth. We must stop and reverse the disproportionate disappearance of Black and Latino/a educators from the City school system. NO new hires shall be made, including Teach for America, Teaching Fellows, or any other exceptions, until all excessed staff from the ATR pool are permanently assigned to any available position they choose.
Workload for Special Educators: Assign professional educators working with special education students reasonable caseloads that will allow for all mandated services and paperwork, including work in SESIS, to be completed during the work day. Educators working with special education students shall be able to safely report any inconsistencies between the mandated services included in a student IEP and the services that the student is actually receiving.
C-6 Assignments: These shall be restored to the system prior to 2005 in which the use of that time was decided on collaboratively between the UFT Chapter and the Principal, not unilaterally imposed by the administration.
Better Pay for PT’s, OT’s, and Paraprofessionals: Experienced OT’s and PT’s are paid 38 percent less than teachers and speech therapists with the same levels of education. Paraprofessionals, some of our most important members, are not paid enough to live in the same city as the children they care for. All their salaries shall be dramatically increased and they shall be offered the same job protections as teachers.
Academic Freedom: Educators shall be responsible for decisions regarding the methods and materials used for the instruction of students. Administrators and the DOE are not in classrooms on a daily basis, and so do not understand our students’ individual needs, yet they currently have nearly unchecked power to determine how we teach.
Caseload for Guidance Counselors: These professionals are increasingly being forced to take on an overwhelming number of additional responsibilities, which often means that students who need psychological counseling are not receiving it. Our schools need to be fully staffed with the professionals who provide direct college and career guidance as well as emotional support. 250:1 is the state recommended ratio, but as NYC needs are greater than average for the state, 200 students per counselor with at least one in every school is appropriate.
Education Leadership and Iron-Clad Contract Enforcement: The C-30 panel should have the final determination of any administrative hiring. We must demand that administrators’ behaviors are consistent with promoting a respectful working/learning environment. Any administrator that is found to be routinely violating the contract at their school shall be automatically removed and face charges for permanent removal.
Tenure: There shall be a clear, explicit path to tenure negotiated between UFT and DOE, stating what is expected from new faculty in order to receive it. All denials must include a written explanation and be eligible for appeal before an independent arbitrator.
Consistent with the democratic process, this platform is a living document. This is in no particular order, all demands are of equal importance to our members, UFT educators and the communities we serve.
Saturday, January 18th 2014
If want to know more about how Movement of Rank and File Educators is mobilizing:
FOR a fair contract and a genuine voice for working educators within the UFT
AGAINST the deliberate undermining of public education and over-testing of our students, then this is your meeting.
Open meeting-all are welcome!
MORE 101 for the curious- find out what Social Justice Unionism is all about! Ask questions, raise your voice, join a committee.
Contract – What do UFTers want, how do we organize and fight against a bad contract proposal, what is the process for voting on a new contract?
Be sure to RSVP before Monday, January 13 to reserve childcare on-location (email@example.com)
The Commons Brooklyn
388 Atlantic Avenue btw. Hoyt and Bond St
Brooklyn, NY 11217
Directions to The Commons
Hoyt-Schermerhorn; A, C and G
Bergen Street; F
Atlantic-Pacific; B, M, Q, R, 2, 3, 4 and 5
Flatbush Avenue; LIRR
Check MTA.info before you leave, weekend travel changes due to repairs
B63 and B65
Don’t forget about our forum on High Stakes Testing on Saturday 2/1
More information here
There are 2 parking lots on Schermerhorn st btw. Hoyt and Bond for less than $10
Street and metered parking may be available
Support our brother and sister educators in Portland, Oregon in their struggle!
by Megan Moskop
M.S. 324- Patria Mirabal
Note: I am an active UFT and MORE member because I believe that our union can be a powerful voice for the teaching profession, the quality of our education system, and ultimately the quality of our society. Though I am critical of our current UFT leadership, my criticism is meant to be constructive and is directed towards the goal of building a stronger, smarter, more democratic UFT. If you’d like to get involved with the work of building a stronger union, click here to join MORE online, or come meet us at our Holiday Party this Friday (Dec 6th).
If you read my last post, you know that I came to the November 20th UFT delegate assembly ready to speak in favor of our Resolution for an End to the New Evaluation System. Despite preparation and support from my colleagues and fellow MORE members, I was nervous.
Why was I nervous? In UFT delegate assemblies, Robert’s Rules of Order (with the addition of extra Rules of Order printed on each agenda) enable completion of the planned agenda before 6pm. They also severely limit discussion. There are 15 minutes allotted for questions from delegates, and only 10 minutes for motions directed to the agenda from delegates. (The President’s report, however, does not have a time limit, and often occupies the majority of the meeting time.) I have also observed many occasions on which delegates who rise to speak are belittled or treated disrespectfully.
I knew that I would need to speak as well and as concisely as I could. So I planned, drafted, and re-drafted what I might say. To read my plan, click here.
Armed with this plan and copies of the resolution, I arrived at the delegate assembly early to pass out the resolution so that delegates could read over it before it was time to vote. UNITY, the caucus to which all the UFT leadership belongs, distributed its own flyer at the beginning of the meeting. Among other things, the flyer criticized MORE, saying that MORE in an inaccurate and deceptive way, saying that MORE “believes that principals should have complete and unchecked authority when it comes to a teacher’s evaluation.” I was shocked and insulted that the UNITY leadership thought their own delegates would accept such a spurious claim. No group of teachers would ever advocate for such a simple way of assessing our complex and valuable work, and any group of elected delegates would easily recognize such a statement as a distortion of MORE’s view.
Additionally, the flyer and the President’s report asserted that the UFT leadership was fighting “Advance. ” I wonder, where is this fight? Most teachers I know do not feel involved in, or even aware of any kind of larger resistance to “Advance.” Instead, they are stressed out about extra standardized tests, frustrated with pushing paperwork until late at night, and striving to infuse as much genuine joy as possible into common-core aligned lessons.
The teachers I know, despite being overworked and undervalued, are tough. They are warriors who show up every day ready to help their students fight for a brighter future. President Mulgrew must see things differently though, because when he asked us to rally around the “New Day, New York Dec 5th Day of Action” (which is a great call for social justice involving many unions- check out the UFT flyer here) he undermined the call to action, saying, “I know we’re tired, but…” Later, with regards to contract negotiations, the prevailing sentiment was that “our members aren’t ready for action.”
If UFT members are tired, we are tired of being forced to implement poorly planned dictates that mean more paper work, more time testing, and less time focused on our students. We are tired of being told to do stupid things, but we are ready to fight them. We need our union to lead us in the fight for a system in which we can focus on what we love—teaching our students.
President Mulgrew and I agree that Advance gets in the way of our teaching. He called advance a “paperwork disaster” created by “the people who hate us” (referring to the corporate interests that usually bash teachers). When I stood to raise our resolution, I adjusted my planned words to echo these ideas, and to include many of the thoughts above. Recording is not allowed in the delegate assembly, so I’m not sure exactly what words I used, but my main idea remained the same.
“Advance” reinforces the corporate notion that our teaching, and our children, are standardizable products to be quantifiably measured. We must fight for the collaborative creation of a teacher evaluation system that empowers teachers, not testing companies, not administrators, and not bureaucrats. We deserve that smart system, and so do our students.
After I spoke, Janella Hines, one of the UFT Vice-Presidents, spoke against our resolution. Debate was over, as per the rules of the Delegate Assembly*, and there was a vote as to whether or not a debate and vote on our resolution would be added to the agenda for next month. Since votes are not counted in UFT meetings (problematic!), we don’t know exactly what the totals were (I’ve heard estimates at 30-70 and 40-60), but a “visual majority” did not support adding our resolution to the next agenda.
Perhaps the majority of the UFT delegate assembly isn’t ready to fight Advance, but are you?
If so, join MORE’s campaign to reject “Advance!” Help us push the UFT leadership to be more democratic and inclusive of rank-and-file teacher input, and lend your expertise towards fighting what Diane Ravitch calls the “corporate education deform movement.” Continue this conversation with your colleagues, sign our petition, come to a meeting, contact us, or come celebrate with us at our holiday party this Friday!
*A side-note on the use of parliamentary procedure:
When I asked President Mulgrew about our rules of order after the meeting, he advised me to start researching. I’ll continue my research, but my first google search resulted in the following key points from the website www.robertsrules.org:
“Complementary is the right of at least a strong minority to require the majority to be deliberate- to act according to its considered judgment AFTER a full and fair “working through” of the issues involved. Robert’s Rules provides for constructive and democratic meetings, to help, not hinder, the business of the assembly.”
Though a “for” and “against” position on our resolution (as per UFT rules) was presented during the meeting, I don’t believe this constitutes a full and fair “working through, ” and I think that this rushed treatment is all too often the case with important topics in the delegate assembly.
Furthermore, the website states that, “Under no circumstances should “undue strictness” be allowed to intimidate members or limit full participation.” I know I’m not the only delegate who feels intimidated by speaking. As for full participation, it is already decidedly limited when only 15 percent of our membership voted in the 2012 UFT elections, and the Union Hall doesn’t even have enough space to hold close to the 3, 406 elected delegates.
UNITY DOMINATED UFT DELEGATE ASSEMBLY VOTES FOR MINOR TWEAKS IN THE TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEM WHILE MORE CAUCUS CALLS FOR REPEAL OF EVALUATION LAW
Most of the Unity dominated Delegate Assembly, including a huge group of retirees who do not have to work under the new system, agreed with the President that evaluations only need to be tweaked but there was strong support for MORE’s position to scrap the whole system among the Delegates.
As usual, President Michael Mulgrew ignored Roberts’ Rules of Order in conducting debate. No speakers were permitted to oppose a Unity Caucus resolution reinforced the UFT’s support for the evaluation law. However, the UFT is calling for a moratorium on using the results of high stakes tests for teacher evaluations until alterations to the local portion of the Measures of Student Learning portion of the system can be worked out in contract negotiations. The Unity sponsored resolution was on the regular agenda. It was introduced a few minutes after Delegate Megan Moskop from MORE introduced a resolution for next month during the new motion period calling for the UFT to support legislation to scrap the entire teacher evaluation law.
When Megan raised the MORE resolution, Mulgrew had no choice but to allow her to speak on its behalf as it she had obtained the floor. In Megan’s speech, she emphasized how using high stakes tests to evaluate teachers is a huge step back for the teaching profession, our members and the students. Megan skillfully pointed to some of the points made by Mulgrew in his Presidents’ Report about how misuse of standardized testing and education profiteering is bad for kids as well as teachers.
MORE also had excellent literature in support of this resolution which noted that the UFT had a task force report in 2007 that completely opposed using high stakes tests in any way shape or form to evaluate teachers. MORE also was highly critical of the Danielson observation system in the resolution saying it “subjects teachers to a cookie-cutter observation system that limits professional autonomy and reduces teaching to a series of numbered scores.” Megan received energized applause when she concluded her remarks by saying teachers need a voice and that the entire 3012c law needs to be repealed.
When Megan finished speaking, UFT Vice President Janella Hinds rose to defend the evaluation system law. Janella said that MORE misunderstood the new system as it rates teachers based on multiple measures which the UFT likes. This was also emphasized in the Unity Caucus literature that was handed out before the meeting. Janella argued that the new system took the power to rate teachers negatively out of the exclusive hands of principals. She added that we do not want to go back to the old system where ratings were exclusively the purview of principals. In addition, Janella objected to the criticism of the Danielson framework which she claimed was not part of the evaluation law. She also disagreed that tenure was weakened under the evaluation law as she pointed out that each teacher rated ineffective would be visited by an independent validator the following year.
Janella also said that the problem was not so much the law as the Department of Education’s inept implementation of the law and that is why the UFT filed 17 grievances against the DOE on evaluations. She closed by saying that how her students do on the Regents is a very important part of what she does and that MORE is trying to organize through fear which is not good. Her remarks were politely, if not enthusiastically, received.
When a Delegate raises a resolution for the following month during the new motion period, one speaker is allowed both for and against the motion and then it is voted on. The Unity majority voted against trying to repeal the evaluation law.
Instead, they had their own resolution on the regular agenda that was introduced by Staff Director Leroy Barr several minutes later. Leroy stated that even though the new evaluation system isn’t working, we can’t go back to the old system because we favor multiple measures to evaluate teachers. He added how we have to fix what is broken in the new system by changing the way the local 20% of teacher ratings are measured. He argued how we should be judged by student work including projects, group work and homework. The Unity resolution is also calling for a moratorium on using standardized tests to evaluate teachers.
Next up after Leroy was a Unity Delegate who told us that we have to stop worrying about being observed. He claimed he wanted more observations. (A big Unity theme of the day was that the observations have to be for support and to improve teaching).
At this point Mulgrew did his usual abuse of parliamentary procedure as someone called for debate to be closed. Anyone who can read knows that Roberts’ Rules, the dictionary and common decency all tell you that it isn’t debate until both sides are heard. According to brother Mulgrew, it is up to the body to decide if the minority should be heard so he allowed the Unity majority, including the large bloc of retirees who don’t have to worry about evaluations, to close debate. The vote to tweak the evaluation system was largely in favor. (I voted no. Some Delegates who supported MORE’s call to repeal the evaluation law also voted for Unity’s resolution to tweak it. I guess something is better than nothing.)
There was another motion that called for an end to high stakes testing for grades Pre K to 2. This was motivated illegally by Mulgrew from the chair and then by Vice President Karen Alford. Mulgrew stated that both State Education Commissioner John King and Chancellor Dennis Walcott told him they were against standardized testing for pre K to grade 2 but Mulgrew went on to say that 36 schools were giving bubble tests to kids of this age and that he talked to a teacher who reported that some of these students could not even hold a pencil.
When the two officers completed their speeches, Mulgrew called on a Delegate who asked if tests to see how well English Language Learners understand the language would be included in this resolution. Mulgrew did not know which prompted a retiree to move that the motion be tabled. A motion to table is not debatable but since this was a Unity person who made the motion to table a Unity resolution, there was real confusion in the room.
Unity people didn’t know what to do so Mulgrew once again ignored Roberts’ Rules by dismissing the voices yelling out that a motion to table is not debatable, as he allowed Leroy Barr to speak against the motion to table. The UFT’s parliamentarian said nothing. After hearing from Leroy, the Unity majority killed the motion to table and supported the ban on standardized testing for our youngest kids. (I voted for the ban for the record.)
MORE CAUCUS OF UFT LAUNCHES TAX-EXEMPT FUND WITH VISION OF A GRASSROOTS NYC TEACHERS UNION: “UNITED WITH PARENTS AND STUDENTS, DEFENDING QUALITY PUBLIC EDUCATION FOR ALL”
NYC Educators Defense Fund Will Press UFT Leadership to Stand with Students and Teachers, Break Ties with Corporate ‘Privatizers and Profiteers’
NYCEDF Founding Donation Provided by Harris Lirtzman, Former Teacher and Whistleblower Who Stood Up for Students with Disabilities
New York – The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), known as ‘the social justice caucus’ of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), announced today the formation of a new tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, the New York City Educators Defense Fund (NYCEDF), with the support of an initial contribution of $12,500 by a former public school teacher, Harris Lirtzman. NYCEDF will help MORE achieve its vision of a transformed and fully empowered UFT that “organizes and educates members to resist all efforts to deprive them of their rights and to stop the corporate education ‘reform’ agenda.”
By forming NYCEDF, MORE and its allies intend to increase grassroots support for a fair contract and to organize effective opposition to the new teacher evaluation system imposed on city teachers by State Education Commissioner John King and the high-stakes testing regime that has been so detrimental to the City’s public schools and students.
“The groundswell against the so-called ‘education reform’ agenda is rapidly gaining strength here in the City and across the country. Educators now understand what a truly democratic and revitalized teachers union, working arm in arm with parents and students, can do to protect public education in New York City,” Kit Wainer public school teacher and MORE member, said. “Our hope is that NYCEDF can be a catalyst for the sort of change that will make the UFT a real leader in the fight on behalf of city teachers and the public school system.”
Mr. Lirtzman was the New York State deputy comptroller for administration from 2003 to 2007 and became a NYC public school teacher at 54. He taught mathematics to students with disabilities at a high school in the Soundview section of the Bronx from 2009 to 2012. Mr. Lirtzman became aware of serious violations of federal law and state regulation concerning students with disabilities in his school and warned his principal about them, with no response. After being stonewalled by the NYC Department of Education, he refused to be silenced and took his case to the State Education Department (NYSED) and the US Department of Education. NYSED sustained the most serious of his allegations and placed the school and its principal under state supervision for six months to ensure that a wide-ranging compliance plan was fully implemented.
Mr. Lirtzman, who has since retired, is now an ardent supporter and friend of MORE. His donation provides money to pay for the costs of setting up and operating NYCEDF and to support its ongoing advocacy and education efforts.
“I am proud to be a member of MORE.” Mr. Lirtzman said. “The city’s teachers have been unfairly attacked for the last few years by corporate voices of something called ‘education reform.’ What these people really want to do is destroy public education and the union that represents City teachers, who work under impossible conditions every day to educate our children. I hope that NYCEDF can become a powerful advocate on behalf of public education in NYC and force the UFT to become the strong and democratic union that it should be.”
Marissa Torres, teacher and founding member of MORE, expressed the gratitude and enthusiasm felt by members of her caucus at the formation of NYCEDF. “Harris Lirtzman put his job on the line to defend the most vulnerable and marginalized students in the system,” Torres said. “His fierce determination and commitment to justice add fuel to our fire and give people hope. Now, because of his generous gift to NYCEDF, we can take our movement to a new level. We are honored and grateful for his support.”
For information on the fund or how to donate please email firstname.lastname@example.org