Archives For Movement of Rank and File Educators

Each of the proposed contract changes sells out new teachers.

First, and most obviously, the new two-tired healthcare system.  Obviously, any two-tired system flies in the face of solidarity.  It began with the pension, is now leaking into healthcare, what’s next?  Differing salary schedules based on start date? It’s deplorable that we could do the same work for different benefits.  Healthcare is a human right; we all deserve access to the same quality care.

Second, and also obvious.  Raises lower than the rate of inflation are no raises at all.  The cost of living in New York (rents have increased 3.9% annually). Givebacks now set us back for the rest of our career.

Third, less obvious and maybe more scary, the new ‘psychological fitness’ screening.  Instead of supporting new teachers through their first few years, we’re going to weed-out those deemed ‘unfit’?  I can’t imagine what it would be like to spend years in school training to be a teacher, take out tens of thousands in debt for this pursuit, and then be told I’m ‘psychology unfit’.  As a trauma survivor who takes medication I find this particularly frightening.  The trauma I experienced as a child is part of what inspired me to become a teacher, and helps me connect with and support my students with similar experiences.  The idea that the experiences that led me to teaching could also be the barrier that keeps out future generations is frightening.  As an educator of color, I know this criteria will continue the whitening of our teaching force.  Not to mention that the details of this criteria are not yet released, will be created by educorporations, and are unlikely to be scientifically backed (Sound familiar? Reminds me of our value-added evaluation system).

And on evaluations- teachers rated developing and ineffective with have even more observations.  Many teachers are rated developing in their first years (which is logical, since we are still developing our craft); instead of supporting these teachers to become better teachers we are going to just add to the heat of admin fire.  That will push more people who have the potential to be great teachers out of the field- even if they’re paid a little more to teach in hard-to-staff schools in the Bronx.

On that note- did anyone ask teachers who are leaving hard-to-staff schools what would make them stay?  Maybe pay is part of the answer, but I’d guess that mentoring, class size, and support services for struggling students would be high on the list.  Where are those provisions in this new contract?

So this is the deal we’re selling to new teachers: Get your education degree, spend tens of thousands of dollars doing so, but if the system decides you’re psychologically unfit you won’t be able to get a teaching job.  If you do make it over this ambiguous hurdle, you will have crappy health care for at least the first few years, so make sure you don’t get sick while working 50+ hours a week in a room full of children.  If you’re not yet an effective teacher in your first years, instead of supporting you, they’re going to increase the intensity of the scrutiny from your direct supervisors.  Oh, and plan keep searching for new roommates every year, because your pay won’t be keeping up with that of your peers.

So what would a contract that supports new teachers look like? Quality healthcare for all and wages competitive with our peers in other fields.  Less admin scrutiny and more supportive, non-evaluative mentoring for established colleagues.  A clear path to tenure.  Debt forgiveness… the list goes on.

Don’t sell out new teachers.  We are the future of the profession.  We are the future of our union.

Cayden Betzig

Parents across the state demand that the Board of Regents act immediately to remove Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. It is time the Board of Regents exercises control over the State Education Department to stop the runaway train of anti-public school “reform” that the commissioner represents.

Last week’s 3rd-8th grade ELA testing was an epic–and avoidable–fail for the children of New York State. The problems began before the tests were even administered, continued during their administration, and will persist unless there is a radical shakeup in the leadership of the State Education Department; in the way in which information about the tests and participation in the tests is communicated to families; and in how the tests themselves are constructed, administered, and scored.

The twin disasters of this year’s botched computer-based tests and an even more flawed than usual ELA test design prove that Elia is unequal to her duties and lacks the competence to helm the education department. Our children deserve better.

Leading up to the tests, some districts sent letters to parents asking whether their children would be participating in the assessments. Others, including the state’s largest district, New York City, sent home testing “info” riddled with spin, distortion, and outright lies regarding test refusal and its consequences. Many disadvantaged communities told advocates that they did not know they had a right to refuse the tests, even though it is their children who are most likely to suffer the negative effects of school closure.

Amy Gropp Forbes, a mother active in NYC Opt Out, wrote in a letter addressed to Chancellor Betty Rosa, “I urge you to issue a formal statement that clarifies a parent’s right to refuse state testing for their children. If the state allows some parents the right to opt out of state exams, it MUST give ALL parents this right, and consequences to schools and districts across the state must be equitable.” Gropp Forbes received no reply.

That the BOR and SED stood by and let this situation transpire despite having been made fully aware of the inequity–a statewide NYSAPE letter writing campaign generated over 200 complaints of “misinformation and intimidation”–is inexcusable. The absence of state-issued guidance also allowed some schools and districts to intimidate potential test refusers by instituting “sit and stare” policies.

Further evidence of a dereliction of duty on the part of BOR and SED came last week during the state ELA exam. The problems far exceeded the typical complaints associated with the state’s standardized exams. In fact, the problems were so egregious that one Westchester superintendent felt compelled to apologize to his entire community for what students had to endure. Social media flooded with teacher and proctor reports of children crying from fatigue, confusion, angst, hunger, pain, and more.

“Any good teacher knows how to judge time in lessons and assessments,” stated Chris Cerrone, school board trustee from Erie County. “As soon as I saw the format when I received the instructions I knew something was wrong. Day 1 would be short. Day 2 would be too long.”

Jeanette Deutermann, founding member of NYSAPE and LI Opt Out questioned, “Who was actually responsible for the construction and final version of these assessments? SOMEONE is responsible; that someone is Elia and the Board of Regents. The worst test since the new rollout has happened on their watch. Until a more capable leader is in place, we demand that all work on the construction of future tests be suspended immediately.”

Ulster County parent, educator, and NYSAPE founding member Bianca Tanis attributed last week’s fiasco in part to the state’s adoption of untimed testing. “Both SED and members of the Board of Regents continue to ignore the egregious consequences of untimed testing, misleading the public by claiming that the tests are shorter. For many educators, administering this test was the worst day of their career. The truth is out, and it cannot be ignored.”

“Enough is enough,” declared Dr. Michael Hynes, Superintendent of Long Island’s Patchogue-Medford district. “Not only are children and educators suffering, but with this untimed policy the state is in violation of its own law, which caps testing at no more than 1% (9 hours) of instructional time. Where’s the enforcement?”

“For a decade or more, SED and its vendors have proved themselves incapable of creating valid, well-designed, non-abusive exams that can be reliably used for diagnostic purposes or to track trends in student achievement over time,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

“Since the Common Core was introduced, these problems have only gotten worse, with tests so difficult and confusing that teachers themselves are at a loss as to how the questions should be answered. A recent report from the Superintendents Roundtable revealed that the NYS exams were misaligned to excessively high benchmarks, meaning far too many students are wrongly identified as low-performing,” said Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent, educator, and BATs Executive Director.

Brooklyn public school parent and founding member of NYC Opt Out, Kemala Karmen, is calling on SED to notify every single parent of their right to refuse May’s upcoming math assessment. She added, “The state can and should halt its hellbent race towards computerized testing, for which it is clearly ill-prepared; stop farming out test construction to dubious for-profit companies; truly shorten the exams; and, most important, remove high stakes attached to the assessments.”

Here’s a compilation of observations made by parents, administrators, and teachers about the numerous problems with this year’s NYS ELA state test, and the suffering it caused students.

NYSAPE calls on the Board of Regents to stand up for equitable and authentic learning & assessments and immediately remove Commissioner Elia.

#OptOut2018 Test Refusal Letter: English & Spanish

NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state.

Dear NYC Opt Out allies,

We signed petitions. Wrote letters. Got on the bus to Albany. All to no avail.

Boycott/refusal/opt out—however you phrase it—remains the ONLY tactic that we have to force change so that ALL our children have the enriching, citizen-building public education they deserve.

The 2018 NYS ELA test is less than 4 weeks away! For opt out to be effective, we need families refusing the tests in every district and in numbers. That can only happen if we all pull together to organize and get the word out. Seriously, this is an all-hands-on-deck situation.

Can we count on you commit to one or more of the following?

1) Distribute postcards. We are especially trying to reach parents who have less access to information (whether due to language barriers or other disempowering factors) and so may not know their rights. We have 2 flavors of postcard this year, one of which is in both English & Spanish. Hand them out in person at schools, playgrounds, etc or leave a stack at a café, laundromat, library, etc. If you can do this, email janinesopp@gmail.com and write Postcard Distribution in the subject line. Indicate in your message how many cards you want and which design or designs.

2) Help organize a press conference. The Department of Education has been pressuring administrators and feeding the public flat-out lies in a deliberate effort to squelch opt out. So we’re joining with students to push back and to demand that the city respect parent and student rights. Our student-centered press conference is tentatively scheduled for 4 PM on either Thurs March 22 or Tues March 27 (depending on availability of the City Hall steps). Please email  kemala@nycpublic.org (Subject: Press Conference) right away if you can help with this.

Who we need:

  • Spanish speakers. More and more Spanish-speaking parents are interested in opt out. If you are able to help organize or translate, please contact us.
  • kid speakers (possible topics: what opt out has meant to them, learning in a test-prep-heavy environment, learning in a non-test-prep-heavy environment, attending a school where test score-based closure is imminent, the experience of testing days, how their family found out about opt out, etc)
  • point person to be a liaison with student organizers
  • elected officials point person (getting quotes, requesting and facilitating their appearance at presser)
  • press release/media alert (writing and sending)
  • social media pushers (do any or all: create memes, FB event, social media blasts—in conjunction with students)
  • day-of media (shooting video, taking photographs, etc)
  • your body! (check NYC Opt Out on Facebook or optoutnyc.com/events for details once we confirm a date)

3) Be a speaker/presenter at community meetings. We are being asked to send speakers to various parent meetings throughout the city.  Some of you have lead meetings before. Others have not, but you can learn! (If at all possible, we would try to have you buddy up with someone who is more experienced.) If you are willing and able to assist as a parent speaker, please email janinesopp@gmail.com (Subject: Parent Speaker)

Please do your best to pitch in to the full extent you’re able. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, join our Facebook group and use (and share!) our newly redesigned website, optoutnyc.com. Both are incredible resources!

Special thanks to Amy Gropp Forbes for all her hard work on the website redesign and to Ilana Greenberg for another attention-grabbing postcard design.

During the week of February 5th-9th, in schools across the country, educators are taking part in a National Black Lives Matter Week of Action. The week of action has three central demands: 1) to end zero tolerance discipline policies and implement restorative justice, 2) to hire more Black teachers, and 3) to mandate Black history and ethnic studies be taught throughout the K-12 curriculum.

The Black Lives Matter Week of Action is part of a long history of teachers standing up for what is right, in our classrooms, in our schools, and in our communities. Most teacher unions agree: The Chicago Teachers Union, the New Jersey Education Association, the United Teachers Los Angeles, the Seattle Education Association and the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association are among the growing list of teachers unions that have voted to support this crucial and timely week of anti-racist action in schools. The National Education Association’s Human & Civil Rights Department has even developed a website for teachers to share stories and resources.

Yet at the United Federation of Teachers Delegates Assembly on January 17, 2018, the largest teachers’ local in the country, at the leadership’s suggestion and after only five minutes of debate, voted against supporting the NYC Black Lives Matter Week of Action. Delivering the union leadership’s rationale against the resolution, LeRoy Barr, the Assistant Secretary of the UFT and the chair of the ruling Unity caucus, called Black Lives Matter a “divisive” issue. He argued that with the anticipated Supreme Court ruling on Janus v. AFSCME, which will likely allow public sector workers to receive union representation and benefits without paying union dues, it is crucial to remain “united.”

But united in support of what? The Black Lives Matter week of action is about uniting to support students by implementing restorative justice, hiring Black teachers, and teaching Black history and ethnic studies. These are basic anti-racist demands that any organization of educators should get behind. Furthermore, most of the students we teach and the families we serve in NYC are Black and Latino. No doubt they can unite behind these demands. This week of action is just one of the ways educators can build greater solidarity with the communities we serve. Far from being divisive, this is about unifying and strengthening our union and the communities we serve.

If, in the face of the attack on collective bargaining that Janus represents, we are in fact divided, it is because we have failed to engage and organize the union’s membership. The privatization of schools has disproportionately hurt the careers of Black teachers. As a union, we should know that an injury to one is literally an injury to all. A union that can’t support a movement to make “Black Lives Matter” won’t be able to build the solidarity necessary to overcome Janus and other right-wing attacks on working people.

We have to rebuild our union from the bottom-up and educate ourselves and each other about the problems we face and the steps we can take together to confront them. Grassroots collective actions in our schools—such as the Black Lives Matter Week of Action—can be part of this process. We invite teachers across New York City to join us and other teachers around the country by taking part in February’s Black Lives Matter week of action as a first step to building a school system where Black Lives Matter.

NYC Black Lives Matter Week of Action Organizing Committee
Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE) Steering Committee
New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCORE)

We are asking UFT members and members of the community that support our statement to sign on as an individual. We will release the names of everyone who has signed on after February’s week of action to show the broad support this statement has and encourage UFT leaders and members to support the week of action in the future. If you’d like to sign on as an individual please fill out this form.

The Movement of Rank and File Educators is proud to welcome fellow educators from Oaxaca, Mexico to New York City.

The Oaxacan teachers union has been at the center of a broad-based movement for educational and social justice in Mexico.  Last year Oaxaca was the center of violent clashes and police repression as teachers mobilized to resist neoliberal education reforms.  They have long been campaigning against privatization, police repression, corruption among the union leadership.  The organization now finds itself at the forefront of mobilizations for earthquake relief.

We will hear a presentation about the struggles of Oaxaca’s teachers, the situation after the recent earthquakes, and the movement for educational justice in Mexico.  We will be raising funds for local earthquake relief.

This is a public event, all are welcome.
Monday, October 23rd 5:30-7:30
CUNY Graduate Center
Room 5414
New York 10016
ID Needed to Enter

Our Guests:

Rene Gonzalez Pizarro is a member of the Oaxaca teachers union and former delegate to the general assembly. He is a researcher at Oaxaca’s center for indigenous languages (CEDELIO) and a co-founder of the artist collective Colectivo Zape. He writes about the struggle for education in Mexico and his street art is featured in several books about the Oaxaca uprising in 2006.

Afsaneh Moradian is a former UFT member, educator, writer, and is finishing her Phd in Education. Her dissertation is on the Oaxaca teachers union’s opposition to neoliberal education reform.

"MOREUFT Oaxaca Teachers"Oaxaca Teacher Flyer Final Draft

Dan Lupkin
UFT Chapter Leader
PS 58 – Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

What is a union for? Why do we belong to one? In these times of looming national “Right to Work” laws that are likely to impede or cripple the ability of labor unions to sustain themselves financially, it seems like a relevant question to ask ourselves. Is a union for Meet the President dinners? Patronage jobs in exchange for political loyalty? Social media campaigns? What are we getting in exchange for the hard-earned dues we pay to the UFT?

Protecting members from abuse by management is a core function, if not THE core function, of a labor union. If a chapter leader or delegate speaking out and organizing against an abusive administrator is subject to retaliation with impunity, what chance is there for a rank-and-file member to actually exercise their contractual rights? The abuse of staff, students, and parents that has been going on, unchecked, at Central Park East 1, an elementary school in East Harlem, is indicative of a union local decayed to the point of paralysis, and so out of touch with its membership and their concerns that it is approaching complete irrelevance.

Continue Reading…

MORE-UFT stands in support of A628/S579, a bill to help workers collect stolen wages.

As educators and school workers in the New York City public school system, we see the devastating impact that long hours and low wages have on our students’ families and their lives. When parents have to work long hours for low wages, our students sometimes have to go without necessities — adequate meals, warm coats in the winter, even permanent housing. Many children must take greater responsibility in the home for taking care of younger siblings or the elderly and disabled. This can lead to missing school, lack of rest, anxiety, depression, and makes participation in school communities harder. If parents are not even paid wages owed these problems are compounded.

As unionists and members of the United Federation of Teachers we find it outrageous that employers can get away with failing to pay workers wages they are legally owed. If there is no enforced floor in legal working conditions, inequality will increase and working and living conditions for all working people will deteriorate.

As unionists, educators, workers and residents of New York, we will not sit by while exploitative employers refuse to pay people for work they have done. If scofflaw employers can get away with hiding or transferring assets to avoid paying these stolen wages, then workers cannot collect the money they are owed, even if they win an award in court.  A628/S579, Securing Wages Earned Against Theft (“SWEAT”) brings New York law up to the same standard as other states that provide legal tools so that workers can make sure their employers will pay them once they are awarded a judgment in court.

Sincerely,
The Movement of Rank and File Educators-United Federation of Teachers
MORE-UFT

"Pass the SWEAT Bill Now"