Archives For February 2013

MORE’s Campaign Video

February 28, 2013 — Leave a comment

We want to spread this video far and wide, let’s make it go viral. Take a few seconds to share the video link on Facebook, Twitter, email, blogs, forums, education news sites, and whatever other web sites you frequent.  Please encourage your friends, family  and colleagues to do the same. Let’s build MORE together!  Share this link, spread the news about a new Positive Alternative Leadership of OUR UFT!

Here is the link to copy and paste:  http://youtu.be/XusIasWTHrg

fight_back_pic

 

Stop School Closings Everywhere

On Monday, March 11th the Panel for Educational Policy  (PEP) will meet at Brooklyn Technical High School at 6 PM to vote on the closure of all 26 schools. They will also vote to replace and collocate many of the schools with charters schools. Join us at 5:00pm for a rally to oppose the senseless closing of our public schools and to support our students, parents, and educators. It is important that there is a very strong showing of support for the schools.

Check out MORE at Sheepshead Bay High School’s hearing

The Movement of Rank and File Educators of the UFT stands in solidarity with the impacted school communities and seeks to offer support in any way that we can.  The best way to fight a school closure is to organize the community, and speak out for your school. School closings can be the fate of any public school, all of us are potential ATRs. The time to take action is now!

The Mayor is ready to unilaterally close more of our schools, now is the time to ask questions and call for the immediate halt to this failed policy. Schools are places for education of course, but for our communities they are so much more. Schools have long served as the center of communities, parents gathered for many years at PA/PTA meetings, students participate in sports programs where friends and family watch from the stands, after-school programs give students the chance to expand learning outside of the classrooms, and the school yard has the been the pace where lifetime friendships have developed. We cannot allow the mayor and his rubber-stamp Panel for Education Policy committee continue to close our schools and ruin our communities.

What baffles us is how our government from the President down to Mayor has continuously told us that our banks and Wall Street firms are “Too Big to Fail”, yet they tell those same communities that your schools are too big to succeed. Why are our financial institutions bailed out with trillions of taxpayer money, but our schools are allowed to close? The economists don’t have any problem explaining to the world that allowing these gigantic institutions to fail would cause systematic destruction of our economy because all aspects are connected. Shouldn’t our government use that same philosophy for our schools, if we allow the school to be closed, aren’t we allowing the entire system to fail? Closing schools results in displaced students, teachers without classes to teach,  and communities without a center.

The city can start by keeping our schools open and then ensuring they have the same conditions as all schools have in every neighborhood. One New York City school should not have better textbooks, better labs, greater advanced technology and more after school programs than another. It’s time to equal the playing field and have all our students provided the same resources to succeed. Our government must reinvest in our public schools as they have reinvested in private banks.

We also have to deal with the socio-economic issues that our children are facing. Our students contend with academic challenges based on circumstances that they face in their daily life. MORE calls for full wrap around services  for schools that have been targeted for closing. Our bilingual students need increased individual attention and we need additional services for students with a variety of special needs. There needs to be an immediate increase in the number of guidance counselors, nurses, psychologists and social workers at our schools. The city has a large pool of excessed teachers and guidance counselors, its time to place these highly qualified professionals where they are needed most, in our most needy schools. The increase in staff will result in more services and lower class sizes for our children. The city should immediately increase funding to these schools so they can offer more robust after-school programs and weekend tutoring. Full utilization of federal and state child nutrition programs that offer healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinners are necessary for our students. This will allow our students and schools to succeed.

The Mayor, chancellor, and their rubber-stamp Panel for Education Policy, show complete disregard and disdain for the students, teachers and communities affected by this policy, inflicting unconscionable harm on them and ignoring the democratic process. School reform should involve all the stakeholders; school faculty, parents, community members, and students.

Many of the school closing decisions are based on the faulty and volatile testing data in the school progress reports, which ignore some of the most important things that happen in schools; electives, clubs, connections between teachers and students that meet students’ social and emotional needs. Charter schools are replacing schools slated to phase out.  Charters choose students by lottery. They serve far fewer ELLs and children with special needs, and counsel out students they believe won’t perform. Despite this, 80% of charter students perform the same or worse than students in public schools.

As Diane Ravitch has stated:
“It is easy to close schools, disperse the students and claim victory. But no school is improved and no student is helped by closing schools. Choice policies enable schools to avoid the students who are likely to lower the school’s test scores. These kids tend to get bounced from one “bad” school to another until they drop out. In Chicago, where many schools have been closed, most students were reassigned to other low-performing schools and gained nothing from the change.
What’s more, no nation with high-performing schools is pursuing the same policies as our government. None has a program to privatize large numbers of schools, and none relies on tests of basic skills to close schools and judge teachers”

A recent update from the UFT sent out to school Chapter Leaders reads:

Teacher eval impasse will go to binding arbitration if no agreement reached by May

“Given the city’s failure to meet the state-imposed Jan. 17 deadline, which cost our schools $240 million, the governor added an amendment to his budget submission on Thursday that empowers state Education Commissioner John King to act as a binding arbitrator to settle any elements of the agreement that have not been finalized in negotiations by May 29. In that event, after reviewing position papers and hearing oral arguments by both sides in May, Commissioner King will establish New York City’s new teacher evaluation plan by June 1.”

In this same email to chapter leaders, Dr. King was referred to as

“a lifelong educator who is serious about education, who has approved more than 700 evaluation plans across New York State”

Of course, teaching for three years, receiving public funds to run  charter schools and being an appointed bureaucrat does not meet our definition of ‘life-long educator’.  But of Dr. King’s work, UFT President Mulgrew has said

“We’ve seen the kinds of plans the state has approved and we are comfortable with them because they are about helping teachers help kids”.

The fact that there is no evidence that these plans have helped teachers to help students is a point that has been made time and again. In fact, with the increased testing that will be required, this plan can have only a negative impact on our students’ education.  But that this evaluation will be imposed notwithstanding our collective bargaining rights is a point that, while we’ve made in the past, we feel we must make here again.

To be clear, the assertion of the union’s leadership that the ultimate decision will be rendered by Dr. King (and that that is OK) is deplorable to the extreme. MORE has, in the past, described this move as “Surrendering Our Collective Bargaining Rights” and has been attacked by the Unity Caucus, the caucus of Michael Mulgrew and the current union leadership, for saying so. MORE knew very well that Unity’s response (that part of Collective Bargaining is the ability to turn to an arbitrator to settle disputes between labor and management) was without merit when applied to this scenario.

We knew this for two reasons: 1.The process of arbitration depends on relying on a fair and independent arbitrator (Dr. King, who is responsible for creating much of the current education policy in New York State, is anything but a fair an independent arbitrator) 2. Any responsible union, lead by people who care about the status of their members, would seek only a fair and independent arbitration process.

The bold arrogance revealed by UFT leadership of the Unity Caucus in this Chapter Leader update leaves even us a bit  taken aback. It  does, however, afford us the opportunity to examine exactly how Unity has sold out our collective bargaining rights by taking a closer look at exactly what a fair and independent arbitrator is and detailing how Dr. King is in a position to act as anything but a fair and independent arbitrator over this issue.

Most arbitration cases between the UFT and the Department of Education, binding or otherwise, are handled by the American Association of Arbitrators. That organization was founded in 1926 and is the nation’s leading organization for settling collective bargaining disputes between labor and management. Recent UFT cases arbitrated by the AAA include the 2012 UFT/CSA victory that stopped the mayor from closing twenty-four schools and excessing half of the staff from each of the those schools and the recent UFT SESIS victory which allowed special education teachers to be paid for the forced overtime incurred during the 2011 and 2012 academic year.

It is with good reason that the UFT has turned to this organization to settle disputes in the past, as the AAA sets a very high standard for exactly who can and cannot be an arbitrator. In order to become an arbitrator on the AAA’s Labor Panel, one must be on a list called the “Roster of Neutrals”. This roster only accepts applicants who meet a very high level of standards. Among those requirements are a list of basic qualifications. Let’s review those requirements and ask whether Dr. King meets the standard of being a fair and independent arbitrator.

1. Experience.  Applicants “must have a minimum of 10 years senior-level business or professional experience” and have “hands-on knowledge about Labor Relations”. Dr. King was twenty-eight years old ten years ago and was leading Roxbury Prep Charter School in Massachusetts  As this is a non-union charter school, it cannot be said that Dr. King developed a ‘hands-on knowledge’ of Labor Relations during this time and he cannot be considered to have developed ‘senior-level’ business experience. Yet the Unity Caucus premises that he does.

In addition, the AAA demands that its applicants have “training and experience [specifically] in arbitration”. Dr. King, who attended the nation’s leading universities developed a vast amount of training in education and education policy over the course of his career, but not in labor related arbitration. Therefore, it can easily be concluded, by anyone except the Unity Caucus of the UFT, that Dr. King does not possess the training or the experience to be an arbitrator.

2. Neutrality In order to be an arbitrator, applicants must meet the AAA’s high standards of neutrality. These standards include “freedom from bias” and an ability to “evaluate legal principles”. Most specifically, arbitrators “cannot be an active advocate for labor or for management.”  Doesn’t his current status as the Commissioner of Education, a leader in the education reform movement in New York State, and his past status as founder of the UncommonSchools  network of charter schools (a charter network that hires non-unionized teachers) clearly demonstrate that he is not free from bias? Our union leadership does not seem to think so.

Let’s take a moment to examine whether or not Dr. King is an “advocate for management with regard to this matter.  He was the Deputy Commissioner of Education when the system was negotiated and debated (and ultimately ratified) by the state’s legislature in 2010. He has written all of the regulations and guidelines around the creation and implementation of this system as it will exist in the state’s 694 school districts. He has had the singular power to approve or deny the teacher evaluation agreements that have been reached between school districts and their union. And let us not forget that Dr. King was the one who insisted that a teacher not be able to earn an effective rating on the new system unless his or her students perform well on standardized tests (a system that has led to the outcry of how forty (the amount that objective measures will be worth) will equal one-hundred percent of a teacher’s rating (see here)).

What kind of union would attempt to convince their membership that the very person who has been responsible for creating, revising, approving and implementing this new evaluation system can possibly be a fair and independent arbitrator in a labor dispute?

Only the leadership of our union. Only the Unity Caucus.

Leaders of the Unity Caucus, in their zeal to accuse the Movement Of Rank and File Educators of not understanding the basic principles of collective bargaining, have failed to admit that arbitration itself hinges on the training, the experience and the non-bias of the person who is acting as the arbitrator of an issue. Why have they hidden this obvious truth? Only two possibilities can explain: 1. They do not know what fair and independent arbitration is. 2. They simply do not care.

As troubling as this is, our examination has thus far centered around one type of arbitration; the grievance arbitration. There is a basic difference between a grievance arbitration (such as the ones mentioned above) and a contractual arbitration. Grievance arbitrations, which address alleged breaches of the contract, occur quite often. However what is before us, what the UFT Chapter Leader update identified as ‘binding arbitration’, is a contractual binding arbitration; a decision that will allow major parts of our contract to be altered. The UFT has stood firm in not allowing binding arbitration to determine its contract for decades.

But, of course, this is a different UFT.

The issues over which the Unity leadership is going to allow Dr. King to ‘arbitrate’ (a role he is clearly not qualified to fill) address a broad swath of present and future working conditions for teachers across the city.  For instance, Under what circumstances can a teacher be fired for incompetence? Who, if no future agreement can be reached, will decide how teachers are evaluated after this agreement sunsets in one, or two years?  These decisions, the Unity Caucus believes, would be better left to Dr. John King; Commissioner of NYSED, than to the collective bargaining process that has been established.

But, of course, truth is that the Unity leadership knows full well what a real arbitration process is. A much more accurate (and truthful) way of describing what is about to happen is to call it out for what it is: Imposing an agreement. This is how UFT spokesman Peter Kadushin identified it:

“The UFT would prefer a negotiated settlement with the Department of Education, but … is supportive of the state imposing one if an agreement cannot be reached.”

Perhaps Mr. Kadushin should be writing the Chapter Leader updates?

We do not want our union to surrender our rights of collective bargaining –not to SED, nor the courts nor the governor. Like teachers in Chicago and Seattle, we believe that educators have the power to organize and to fight. The Unity leadership may tergiversate over this issue until the cows come home. But we see their actions for what they are and the Movement of Rank and File Educators believe that teachers do not have to surrender. In fact, it is the last thing that we should do.

Our forum on Dignity and Democracy in Education featuring Lois Weiner (find her book here), Francesco Portelos and Harris Lirtzman was a big success. Below is the collection of live-tweets from the event. Feel free to check it out.

Get Out The VOTE!

February 19, 2013 — 1 Comment

get out the vote

We need your help to get out the vote. Too many of our UFT sisters and brothers do not vote in our union election, we’re going to change that. The only way to keep our union democratic is for all our voices to be heard. MORE has created a bunch of ideas for you to share with your colleagues about a MORE positive vision for new union leadership.

1.  Put MORE Election fliers in the mailboxes of your
coworkers.  Choose 3 people to follow up with later in the week.  Ask
them what they thought of the flier, MORE’s ideas, the union in
general.

2.  Choose a school close by and deliver MORE election fliers. Get in touch with us and we’ll arrange to meet with ones we have already printed more@morecaucusnyc.org
During the election season, any UFT member can enter any public school
during your non-school hours to pass out election information.  Ask to
put the fliers in teachers’ mailboxes.  Make sure to take this document with you which states as per the DOE chancellor that any UFT member may freely distribute union election material

3.  Happy Hour!!! We all know those teacher spots. . . you walk in on
a Friday afternoon at about 4:00 and it’s just packed with teachers
happy about the weekend.  Grab a friend and some fliers and drop on
by! Let us know at media@morecaucusnyc.org we’ll publicize it for you on our facebook, twitter, upcoming events tab on our site and mailing lists

4.  Like MORE’s  Facebook page and send it out to other
teacher friends.  Put a VOTE MORE post on your page and encourage
friends to do the same.  Everyone’s got at least a handful of teachers
in their 500+ Facebook friend list!

5. Tell all your friends to follow our MORE blog, anytime the site is updated with a new article or event they will be notified via email. Go to morecaucusnyc.org click FOLLOW on the left side of page

6. Do you tweet- follow us on Twitter, tweet at us, we’ll retweet you. Share with us your favorite hashtags- we like #RealLeadership #RealReform #MOREUFT

7.  Invite a MORE member to come talk with your staff about the
elections, our union, and MORE. contact media@morecaucusnyc.org

8. Organize a breakfast, lunch, or after-school  meeting with a few co-workers that you know
are interested in union or social justice issues.  Discuss our platform, our mission, and some of the articles we publish on our site . Form a book club-we suggest; education and union scholar  Lois Weiner and of course the great pro-public school advocate Diane Ravitch

9.  Come to one of MORE’s upcoming general meetings and forums. Bring a
fellow educator. Check HERE for upcoming events

10.  Get ready to phone bank!  MORE has a large list of members and
contacts that we want to call and remind to vote in the election.
Group phone banks are scheduled for the first week of April after
break.  You can also make calls on your own.  If you’re willing to
help out, please contact more@morecaucusnyc.org

11. Volunteer to help out, much of the work can be done from the comfort of your own home with just your computer. We need volunteers to help with our weekly email updates, write articles for our blog, update our social media with relevant articles, links, and upcoming events and proof-readers/editors are always welcome. Contact media@morecaucusnyc.org

futureofourschools
A PUBLIC FORUM ON NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

“Dignity and Democracy in Education:

Blowing the Whistle on the Culture of Fear and Corruption in NYC Public Schools”

 New York, NY — New York City teachers are under siege.   In schools across the city… usually in hushed tones… teachers talk about their contractual rights  —  rights hard-earned over many years of service: tenure; fair, objective and honest performance evaluations; the freedom to openly discuss educational issues without fear of retaliation. They worry that these rights are being gradually eroded or simply given away. After 10 years of living with a hostile, anti-union, and anti-teacher Department of Education, some educators have decided to confront this mentality head-on.

WHAT:  A Public Forum on New York City Public Schools.

WHEN:   Saturday, February 23, 3:00-5:00pm

WHERE: CUNY Graduate Center; 365 5th Avenue; New York, NY 10016 Room 5414 (34TH ST MIDTOWN)

WHY: MORE believes that teachers can’t teach — nor can they advocate effectively for students — in the existing culture of fear.

This forum will include a panel of accomplished educators who have bravely chosen to confront the Department of Education directly on these issues. They will tell their own stories — stories that involve putting their own careers in jeopardy by publicly advocating for their students and suffering vicious reprisals from the system as a consequence.

Together we will consider how to push back against the culture of fear; how to challenge hostile work environments;  the role of the UFT and union chapters in fighting for freedom of speech and freedom of thought; ways we can all work together to protect our rights on the job.

WHO: The Movement of  Rank & File Educators (MORE) – The Social Justice Caucus of the United Federation of Teachers is sponsoring this event.

Panelists include:

Lois Weiner, Ed.D. Scholar-Activist, Author of “The Future of Our Schools: Teacher Unions and Social Justice” & Professor of Education at New Jersey City University

http://www.loisweiner.org

Francesco Portelos – S.T.E.M. Teacher, UFT Chapter Leader & whistleblower , “rubber roomed” for exposing alleged financial corruption of school administration

http://protectportelos.org

Harris Lirtzman – Former Special Education/Mathematics Teacher charged with “employee misconduct” after reporting misadministration of his school’s special-education program

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/07/nyregion/state-backs-up-accusation-by-harris-lirtzman-bronx-teacher-on-special-education-gotham.html

Moderated by:

Brian Jones – Teacher and Co-Narrator of the film “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman”, MORE’s  Candidate for UFT Secretary

http://brianpjones.tumblr.com

 

Educators are facing unprecedented attacks on our profession and our schools. 

We have worked over three years now without a contract and with no transparency in the negotiation process.

Approximately half of our colleagues leave the schools after five years. In New York City, our anti-union mayor trumpets the denial of tenure to 55% probationary teachers. Abusive principals use tools like the Danielson Rubric to harass teachers. Educators struggle every day under the burden of data binders and prep for high stakes tests that are used against students and teachers, turning a joyful vocation into drudgery.

Our union’s leadership has failed to organize a serious defense of our working conditions.  The Movement of Rank and File Educators stands ready to provide new leadership to mobilize and involve our membership in a fight to make teaching a job worth having again.

MORE Fight-Back for Improved Working Conditions

Tenure – Mobilize our chapters in defense of untenured teachers. Negotiate to restore the right to grieve letters in our files. Improve due process and whistleblower protections.

Evaluations – Reject any new evaluation system based on junk-science “Value Added Models,” high-stakes testing, or arbitrary, cookie-cutter rubrics that demean the art of teaching.

Job Security – Restore seniority transfer rights, preferred placement transfers, and SBO transfers.  Place all ATRs in open jobs before making any further new hires.

Paperwork – Create rank and file committees in our schools to rigorously enforce article 8-I in our contract that should prevent the DOE from asking teachers to write entirely new curricula, complete excessive paperwork, and engage in mindless data-gathering.

Class Size Reductions – Create smaller class sizes for more effective teaching to engage our students.

LESS Top-Down Bureaucracy

A Member-Driven Union – Member input and approval in important decisions like the evaluations deal.

Union Democracy – Delegate Assemblies and Chapter Leader meetings should be working bodies that decide on actions to help defend schools under attack; fighting closures, forced co-locations, and abusive administrators.

Chapter Organizing – District organizers should be elected, not appointed and should organize schools that lack a UFT presence.  They should also mobilize and support existing union chapters against attacks at the school level.

Accountability – Union leaders’ pay should not be more than that of rank-and-file teachers.  End the second pension for union bureaucrats.


MORE (Movement of Rank and File Educators) is the Social Justice Caucus of the UFT- New York City’s Teachers union. We are a positive alternative to the current union leadership.
http://morecaucusnyc.org /  

To join our MORE-Discussion GoogleGroup list email more@morecaucusnyc.org

Follow us on Twitter @MOREcaucusNYC
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