Archives For April 2015

Who Controls the UFT?

April 30, 2015 — 5 Comments
By Michael Fiorillo, Teacher, Newcomers HS
MORE Steering Committee 
To most teachers, often overwhelmed by ever-increasing demands that have little or nothing to do with providing the best education for their students, the UFT seems remote from their daily experience. Beyond welfare fund services, when they think about the Union at all, it is often in terms of hefty dues deductions. Rarely so they think the union fighting for them, and with good reason: it rarely does other than little pantomimes of fighting back.Teachers less and less see the Union as a vehicle for improving their lives at an ever more demanding job where they are increasingly less secure and respected. Higher salaried senior teachers often feel they have a target on their backs. New teachers see achieving tenure as an ever-receding mirage – as an obstacle course as they engage in a 3, 4, or more year endurance contest with their principal and/or local Superintendent. And if they get past that will they survive long enough to get a pension? The silence and impotence of the Union is apparent. How often do we hear exasperated, demoralized teachers asking, “Where is the Union?”The Union often feels like a distant and largely irrelevant force because of the inbred, anti-Democratic practices of an ever-more indifferent leadership, which often seems complicit with the dysfunction and outrages we daily face in the schools. The UFT’s ruling faction, Unity Caucus, has been in power for over half a century, and suffers from most of the ills of too much power held over too long a time: out-of-touch, unwilling to consider new ideas, and often identifying more with management and so-called “education reformers” than with their own members.What is Unity Caucus?
Caucuses are the political parties that seek to govern the union. Unity caucus has had sole, unlimited policy-making control since the UFT was founded in the early 60’s. The UFT has had opposition caucuses vying for political power over the years, but Unity has structured the UFT in a way to assure them complete control and the creation of an entrenched political machine that has passively accepted, and sometimes actively collaborated with, policies inimical to teachers and students.

The lack of union democracy has very tangible consequences for teachers. Lately, virtually all of those consequences have been negative, and have correlated with declining participation from the rank and file. Less than 20% of active teachers voted in the last election and 52% of those who did vote were retirees. Unity has so rigged the election process, every single member of the 101 member UFT Executive Board is Unity endorsed.

Members must commit to a loyalty oath to ALWAYS support whatever dictates come down from the leadership and NEVER speak against them publicly. Hundred of chapter leaders are Unity Caucus members and if it comes down to supporting the interests of the teachers who elected them or the union leadership most Unity chapter leaders will force feed policies from the top to their members, thus putting the needs of the caucus over their colleagues.

Teachers who attempt to go above a Unity chapter leader to the borough or district reps are stonewalled since these reps have been appointed by the leadership since the UFT ended elections of District Reps in 2002, thus bringing Unity’s centralized, top-down governance to both the school, district and borough levels.

Other than a few exceptions, getting even part-time work at the Union is conditional on Unity Caucus membership, a powerful incentive for closely-policed conformity.

There are many reasons for the scapegoating, disrespect and attacks that public school teachers have been suffering for a generation. One of the reasons they’ve been so successful is that the Union leadership’s continuing anti-democratic practice has made it rigid and sclerotic, dangerously dependent on “friends in high places” – especially since their most important friend, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, was recently indicted – and unwilling to tap into the knowledge and energy of its rank and file. Unity Caucus is so wedded to decades of power, so scared of the membership and intent on managing it instead of representing it, that they risk the destruction of the Union itself along with the mission of public education as we know it.

It follows that the survival of public education and teacher unions themselves are bound up with issues of union democracy. The continued entrenchment of the Unity Caucus Machine virtually guarantees the continuing success of attacks on teachers, their benefits, working conditions and dignity. If we are serious about saving public education and the teaching profession, then we must be serious about taking back our Union from the out-of-touch Unity Caucus Machine that controls it.

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The School Renewal Program rolled out last November was designed to support “low performing” schools. Since then, a disproportionate number have been the targets of charter co-location proposals. While some have already been approved, more are on the way. This Wednesday three charter school co-location proposals targeting Renewal Schools will be put to a vote by the Panel for Educational Policy. This opportunism on behalf of charter operators is not only shameful but it defeats the promise of The School Renewal Program. Show your support for public schools and demand the PEP vote NO on all charter co-location proposals!

Panel for Educational Policy Meeting
WED April 29th @ 6pm
M.S. 131 
100 Hester Street, Manhattan
New York, NY 10002
Opportunism in Charter Schools  (1)

ATR Petition to Print Out for Distribution

ATRs have been prime staff casualties of school closures, which are driven largely by high-stakes test scores; the Bloomberg-era Fair Funding Formula continues to be a disincentive against principals’ hiring ATRs; the position state in itself is illegitimate and unacceptable: the ATR status is created simply to break tenure and seniority; as ATRs are overwhelmingly over the age of 45, the placing of teachers in this position is age discrimination;

Absent Teacher Reserve teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, and other excessed NYC DOE employees are denied the right to representatives from within their own ranks; they can only vote for chapter representatives if they happen to be working in a school with an election during their rotation assignment; Denying ATRs their own representatives violates the principle of no dues without representation.

Whereas, the ATR position has now been embedded in the UFT contract in Section 16 of the 2014 DOE-UFT contract, therefore be it Resolved, that the UFT will immediately create a Functional Chapter to represent the interests of ATRs, Leave Replacement Teachers and Provisional Teachers, with borough-level proportionality.

We UFT members ask president Mulgrew for his pledge to create these chapters.

ENDORSED BY: Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE)

Please mail petitions by June 8, 2015 to: P.O. Box 150150, Kew Gardens, NY 11415

 

***Press Conference***
Our School Community Matters! VOTE NO on the Success Academy Co-Location at JHS145x Educational Complex
Friday April 24, 3:30 
Bronx Borough President’s Office 
851 Grand Concourse, at 161 Street 

CALL 311 TODAY to demand a change of location for the co-location vote regarding the Bronx schools at 1000 Teller Ave
.

It’s no secret that embattled Success Academy charter schools CEO Eva Moskowitz loves standardized testing. In a recent op-ed she wrote, “Tests aren’t perfect but something’s rotten in Denmark (or the Bronx) when a school has a 90 percent failure rate. Not having this data is as foolish as not installing a smoke detector.” One would hope Eva isn’t referring to the English Language Learners (ELL), Special Education students and Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE) who predictably score lower on standardized tests (and just so happen to be routinely barred from attending her Success Academies) as “rotten.” Regardless, she considers them displaceable. A proposal to co-locate grades 3 through 5 of her Success Academy Bronx 3 charter school on the site of three district middle schools at 1000 Teller Ave. is pending approval and the community is mobilizing to prevent it.

Moskowitz wants to move into the building because it is considered “under-enrolled.” That’s for two reasons: 1) the school included a fifth grade class up until two years ago when the district suddenly eliminated it; and 2) the formula that determines a building’s capacity does not take into account the lower capacity of special education classrooms protected by law to contain no more than 12 students at a time whereas general education classrooms are allowed up to 30. According to Jim Donohue, an 8th grade English teacher at Arturo Toscanini (MS145), there are no unused classrooms in the entire school. Should the proposal go through, 17 classrooms would be lost and their occupants displaced.

On April 16th a public hearing before the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) was held to gather community feedback on the proposed co-location. The auditorium at 1000 Teller Ave., home of Bronx middle schools Arturo Toscanini, the Urban Science Academy and New Millennium Business Academy, was packed with over 600 parents, teachers, students and community members. The overbearing orange of Success Academy t-shirts overwhelmed the crowd, yet the opposition was palpable. One student who spoke against the proposal said, “Why is Success Academy trying to invade our community when their schools have 2,500 empty seats? You are trying to break our community. You are taking away our main privilege – our space – which we need.”

Many people echoed that sentiment and directed comments to Ms. Moskowitz and Governor Andrew Cuomo, neither of whom were in attendance. One student declared, “This school is my school. Buh-bye. Leave.”

Sadly, the comment of a retired employee whose wife attended the school rings true: “This community has never gotten any respect.” Subsequent to losing a chunk of it’s student body, 1000 Teller Ave. was designated a Renewal School on account of low standardized test scores and lack of adequate operating funds. Twenty-six percent of the student body are ELLs, ten percent are in Special Education and 40 students receive SIFE programming. These populations typically do not fare well on biased standardized tests. According to the NYC DOE websiteRenewal Schools are supposed to be “accountable” for improving test scores or they will face “consequences.” It seems like engaging an entire school community in a Hunger Games-like fight for space during the weeks of high stakes testing and potentially forcing them to reorganize and re-establish their school community next school year is being set up to fail. Ostensibly, Renewal School status entitles struggling schools to needed supports. Taking away space, a resource closely linked to academic outcomes,  is working at cross purposes. If 1000 Teller Ave. can’t raise test scores under these circumstances they could face being closed and replaced. Ms. Moskowitz’s bold plans are indeed upsetting the challenging Renewal School process while positioning her to benefit from the fallout. Her actions give lie to the claim that she is driven by the interests of students, especially this city’s most disadvantaged.

Monday evening, while Ms. Moskowitz entertained guests at a Spring benefit that earned her 9.3 million dollars, a collection of public officials and NYC DOE administrators were seen touring 1000 Teller Ave.  A vote on the proposed co-location is scheduled for April 29th but to Jim Donohue, it feels as though the deal is done.

Mr. Donohue’s speech before the April 16th panel captured both the widely felt sense of community pride and the madness of pitting children against each other:

I’ve been here for 16 years, and they will have to drag me out of here to get me to leave, because I love my job. I love my co-workers, I love my principal, I love my assistant principal….but most of all, I love my students. They would tell you what I just said was “mad corny” but it’s true. I know that you folks from the Success Academy love your jobs, and your co-workers and your students, and I’m not here to attack you, or your school, or Ms. Moskowitz.

I admire your passion, and you’ve brought a lot of adorable kids here tonight. But I’d like you to imagine something. Imagine a warm April evening like this one 5 years from now. Imagine 8 busloads of people wearing GREEN shirts pull up in front of the SUCCESS ACADEMY COMPLEX, former home of public school MS 145.  (we’ll be out of your hair by then). What do these green-shirted people want? They want 15 of your classrooms. Maybe, like I did tonight, you overhear one of the green-shirted folks say to a child “These Success Academy people want to deny you an education!” What are you going to do? Will you agree with them? Success Academy teachers- will you quietly pack up your classrooms and move, as (incredibly)  I’m expected to do?

 

 

 

 

By Mindy Rosier

me and august 2

I broke out my dressy clothes, some earrings, and my red lipstick for last night’s fundraiser for Eva Moskowitz. I was not a guest. As a mere teacher, I could not afford to attend the Third Annual Spring Benefit that began at 6:30 pm. Cocktails and dinner were served and of course you needed to dress to the nines. Since Cuomo was busy puffing away on cigars in Cuba, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries from Brooklyn took over as the keynote speaker. Other guests included Eli Broad, Campbell Brown, Katie Couric, Daniel S. Loeb, even our ole school  chancellor Joel Klein. Seats started at $1,250.00 and tables began at $15,000.00. I wasn’t there to party, I was there to make some noise.

I got there early with some of my dapperly dressed friends. About 5 of us, including fellow MOREista August, walked over to Cipriani on 42nd Street holding some cleverly informative flyers. We handed them out to the guests. What was great about this action, was that this flyer was in the Success Academy colors. Guests thought that we were the welcoming committee and gladly took them. They thanked us and smiled, even the stepford wives like teachers. After about 20 or so minutes, more than 50 loud protesters arrived onto the scene, circling around the front entrance. These protesters were from several advocacy groups such as NYCC, Citizen Action, Strong Economy for All Coalition, VOCAL, AQE, as well as the amazing Hedge Clippers. These Hedge Clippers work to uncover the influences that hedge funds and billionaires use to sway government and politics in order to bolster their own power and wealth. Their most recent post was quite timely, posted early yesterday morning.  Hedge Fund Hypocrisy: The Double Standard of Success Academy is a great article that you all should read. “Success Academy doesn’t attract just handfuls of hedge fund managers – more like hordes.” They included a list of “over 50 hedge fund managers and hedge fund spouses who have notable ties to Success Academy. Though the hedge fund industry’s affinity for Success Academy is well known, this is the first time such a list has been published.”

Back to the protest…

For approximately 45 minutes we chanted and did mic checks in front of Cipriani. When we first got there, there was a small protest “pen” off to the side. This little pen was completely ignored. There were four or five police officers keeping an eye on us and when it was obvious that we were not going away, they moved the “pen” around us already in action. This space was considerably larger than what they had originally planned for. The police officers didn’t seem to mind us protesters, but the guests visibly did. I believe the only reason why the “pen” was moved, was because those guests did not want to walk past or through us. Also, during this time, we still had a couple of others continue giving out those flyers to those scragglers. I would so love to post this incredible flyer, but was advised that I shouldn’t by the authors, whose decision not to post I will respect. It stated some of Success Academy’s proud “solutions” with counter information….you know, the truth.

Pamela Garcia, parent and member of NYCC gave a powerful mic check and led commanding chants. Others did a mic check too. I was given the floor after one of those guests made a comment putting us protesters down for not seeing how incredible Success Academy is. I responded back to her, “you can tell that to my special needs students who were almost kicked out by her last year.” That prompted a Hedge Clipper to get me going. I don’t need a mic or any other kind of amplifier. I still proudly have my booming Brooklyn voice.

We concluded our protest chanting, “we’ll be back.” We most definitely will……

Overall, this was one of my favorite protests. I am proud to have stood by so many from different organizations and the wonderful people in them. Even though some of our messages might be slightly different, we still had common ground and united we spoke up and out….AND loudly at that!

Earlier this morning, a dear friend sent me this article by Eliza Shapiro from Capitol NY which is behind a pay wall. It is about last night’s event and how much money Miss Eva took in. Her oh so generous friends made her empire over $9 million richer. How nice for her!

Even earlier this morning, I checked out the feed of Success Academy on Twitter and I found the posts appalling. Here are some of those gems….

“We have not just closed the education gap. We’ve reversed it.” – @MoskowitzEva #RedefiningPossible #InsideSuccess

and another….Founder @MoskowitzEva to guests: “Visit our schools and become an ambassador for #edreform.” #RedefiningPossible

and another… “I stand here because I unequivocally support quality public ed & that’s what @MoskowitzEva & SA provide.” –@RepJeffries #RedefiningPossible,

then there is this one…”City govt & union bosses are institutionalizing failure. We will unapologetically back you up while you fight for kids.” – @campbell_brown

let’s not forget.. “You push these kids because their path is tougher and they have to be stronger.” – @campbell_brown #RedefiningPossible

and finally there is this….”If we want fewer people in prison it starts with reforming education.” – @DanLoeb #RedefiningPossible Yes, because Mr. Loeb knows exactly how to fix this problem. Easy to say when you are worth how much???

Last night was one of many protests that I have gone to in the name of saving public education. It will also be far from my last. As long as there are Evas in this would determined to destroy my beloved profession and bust up unions, I will stand loud and proud for my kids, because they do not deserve anything less.

success me

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.

victor 2

September 5, 1921 – April 5, 2015

To the Public School Families and Educators of New York-

I would like to thank the many of you who have gone way out of their way to stand up for our schools, for their children’s educators, and for public education in New York. Governor Cuomo’s attacks have galvanized parents , students, and educators across the state, and have united in us in solidarity to protect our schools. So many of you have volunteered your time, attended rallies, spoken with your friends in person and through social media, signed letters and petitions, contacted elected officials, opted your children out of the state tests, and otherwise demonstrated your resistance to the data-obsessed, privatization-oriented corporate “school reform” agenda typified by Cuomo’s budget proposals.

I must make clear, though, that this is no time to declare victory or let up on the pressure; the budget that passed is a brutal one for public education in NY, different from Cuomo’s original proposals in only minor and cosmetic ways, though the Times and our the deeply compromised UFT leadership suggest otherwise. The funding secured, though it represents an increase, STILL does not satisfy the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. The teacher evaluation system, though technically kicked down the road a bit to high stakes testing advocate Meryl Tisch and other like-minded bureaucrats at the State education department, is already pretty well established at this point, and it is everything we feared as far as escalating the testing regime, disempowering and demeaning educators (including principals), and almost certainly exacerbating the looming teacher shortage. Raising the charter cap (some would say the true heart of Cuomo’s proposals because charters are the main interest of his most ardent financial backers, hedge fund managers) has also been delayed for a few months, another fight soon to come. The Assembly Democrats who we thought had our backs threw us under the bus.

That is not to say that we shouldn’t take stock and appreciate how far we have come; we have mobilized in a way that is unprecedented, with staff, parents, and students uniting to stand up for the kids and for public education in solidarity across the state in the face of a concerted divide-and-conquer strategy (now being further utilized to attempt to placate parents in wealthy districts where opt-out rates and other forms of parental resistance are high). But we cannot allow ourselves to think that we have won and sink into complacency; the enemies of public education have struck a significant blow here, and though the changes will not be visible in the halls of our schools immediately, it will not take long before we see the effects, among the most visible of which is likely to be the high teacher turnover which is so harmful to a school, whether caused by getting fired for having the wrong kind of students or simply becoming demoralized by being made scapegoats for society’s ills. If we truly believe that the children and educators of New York are more than a score, this must be only the beginning of our resistance to Cuomo’s depredations.

Sincerely,

Dan Lupkin
Technology Coordinator/UFT Chapter Leader
PS 58, The Carroll School
Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, N.Y.