Sunday, May 24, 2015

UFT Election Analysis (2001): How New Action Did in the Past - Ed Notes Redux, April 2001

In 1999, 33% (10,391) of active members voted for opposition candidates. In 2001, that went down to 30% (10,474)... Marian Swerdlow 2001 election analysis in Ed Notes, April, 2001.
MORE is going to use some of its summer series to address UFT elections, past present and future.  I thought I would start getting into the debate ASAP.

Even before New Action made its dirty deal with Unity, some people had their knives out for the way NA did business. I was one of these people.

Ed Notes published a preliminary analysis by then FDR HS Delegate (now chapter leader) Marian Swerdlow of Teachers for a Just Contract in April 2001 right after the UFT elections, the last election that New Action ran independent of Unity support. And the last time they ran their own candidate for president, someone not named Weingarten or Mulgrew.
34% of the votes in the election were cast by retirees in 2001 -- in 2013 the retiree faction was up to 52% of votes cast.
Marian came back for the May 2001 edition of Ed Notes with a follow up. Both are included below, along with my own Ed Notes report card grading of New Action (Marian was kinder than I was).

(I published Marian whenever she would let me because she often had some of the sharpest analysis of the issues.) 

The opposition Caucuses (New Action and PAC) received 11,400 and 1,300 votes in 2001, slightly more than in 1999, but Marian's analysis points to an erosion of support. I believe the 01 election results and the prospect of further erosion in 2004 is what made NA susceptiblt to Randi's offer to make a deal in 2004, 7, 10 and 13 and I would bet in 16 too.

I refered to the first Serdlow article 6 years later after another New Action election sell-out to Randi and Unity Caucus - Is New Action Really a Caucus? -- in an Ed Notes Dec. 14, 2007 blog post.

Check them out, given some of the recent talk (New Action, Positioning Itself for UFT 2016 Elections and here) about the role New Action plays as a Unity stalking horse.

Anyway, back to Marian's excellent analysis - and my report card for New Action, in the April and May 2001 editions of Ed Notes.

UFT Election Analysis: How New Action Did in the Past 

April, 2001 edition of Education Notes (hard copy)

(as of April 8, 2001)

by Marian Swerdlow
UFT Delegate FDR High School
member, Teachers for a Just Contract/Class Action

The opinions expressed are those of Marian Swerdlow and do not necessarily reflect those of other members of TJC or Class Action.

Some of the results of the 2001 UFT election are now available, and we can compare them to the results in the last election in 1999.
Total number of members:
1999: 135,452 2001: 145,431
Total number of votes:
1999: 47,995 (34%) 2001: 53,385 (38%)
Votes for Weingarten (Unity):
1999: 35,596 (74.2%) 2001: 40,636 (76.6%)
Votes for Shulman (New Action):
1999: 11,366 (23.7%) 2001: 11,411 (21.1%)
Votes for Macklin (01) and Pessin (99) (PAC:
1999: 1,033 (2.1%) 2001: 1,338 (2.3%)

New Action won back all six high school executive board seats it won in the last election.

A little analysis: We can see that New Action did not lose any absolute support to either Unity or Progressive Action. In absolute numbers, Shulman lost fewer than fifty votes. What happened was that Unity gained in absolute numbers, hence its increased percentage. We may have a better idea where that increase in absolute numbers came from when we see some of the results by divisions. We also see that the membership of the union grew considerably, by about 10,000 members (around 7%). The fact that new hires continue to enter the workplace, while retirees continue to vote in union elections, accounts for some of this increase, although the information is not available to tell how much.

Some personal opinion: There is enough blame to go around for these shameful results. It may be tempting for some to blame New Action. They did run a campaign that was too brief, desultory, and unimaginative. I would argue, however, that they ran the best campaign their activist base permitted. Which leads to the question of why their activist base is so inadequate for the job of challenging Unity effectively.

New Action certainly has not strenuously reached out to attract activists. In fact, it makes it difficult for new people to get involved in New Action. They don't make it as easy as possible to contact them, they don't advertise their meetings and they don't have open meetings. They don't have activities for activists to get involved in, or to do in their chapters. The main activity they offer to activists is putting literature in mailboxes. Not the way to build leadership.

On the other hand, even if they did everything possible to attract, involve and develop activists, it is by no means clear they would be successful. The membership has grown dependent on being told what to do from above. If the leadership calls a rally at City Hall, they will show up in heartening numbers. But they have no initiative, no desire to organize themselves. They may want things to happen, but they don't want to be the ones to make them happen. That is not the fault of New Action. Nor is it patently clear New Action, or anyone, could change that. But New Action has done little or nothing to try.

New Action has approached this election, as every other, with the assumption that Unity was its best organizer, that by its failures, Unity would convince people to vote for New Action. Some New Action leaders felt that taking place as it did in our fourth month without a contract, they would increase their share of votes in this election. That did not turn out to be the case. The reason may be that the membership has grown accustomed to working without a contract: we have worked almost one-third of the last ten years under expired contracts. It is no longer something extraordinary. We have diminished expectations. I think the members accept Weingarten's argument that the best thing to do is to wait out Giuliani. The alternative is militancy, and most members don't accept that alternative.
Editor's Note, Apr. 2001 -

Ed. Note: Rumors that New Action is blaming its defeat on criticisms leveled at them by Ed. Notes have not been confirmed. We do know that they will NOT change the way they do things, no matter what the outcome of elections. See next issue for more analysis.
Some further analysis of the 2001 vote 
by Marian Swerdlow
Published in Education Notes, May 2001.

Further analysis shows that even if we look only at active members, the opposition slates lost overwhelmingly, and showed a loss of relative support.

Retiree votes-Weingarten: 16,067 (87.5%) ,  

Non-retiree votes -NA/PAC 2,275 (12.5%)  
Active votes- Weingarten: 24,569 (70%),  
Non-active votes- NA/PAC 10,474 (30%)  
Even among active members, Weingarten won overwhelmingly. However, 34% of the votes in the election were cast by retirees. Weingarten received almost 39.5% of her support from retir- ees. The opposition received only 17.8% of their support from retirees. 

Compared with 1999:
In 1999, 33% (10,391) of active members voted for opposition candidates.
In 2001, that went down to 30% (10,474).

The opposition lost relative support but not absolute support among active members. Weingarten gained both absolute and relative support among active members. In other words, the increase in the number of both retirees and active members voting went almost completely and entirely to Unity's benefit. 

In 2001, Weingarten received an additional 1,252 retiree votes, and an additional 3,788 votes from active members. The opposition received an additional 267 votes from retirees, and an additional 83 votes from active members. 

Marian Swerdlow, Teachers for a Just Contract
These views are Marian’s and do not necessarily represent TJC

New Action Post 2001 Election Report Card 
 by Norm Scott
Plays well with others U
It was incumbent for New Action to reach out to Progressive Action & Teachers for A Just Contract/Class Action. TJC had shown it could de- liver 75 people to demo in front of UFT headquarters. Ed. Notes started asking non New Action opposition people back in November whether they had been approached by NA about a joint election campaign. The answer was NO! I spoke to Marc Pessin of PAC in Dec. and asked if NA had contacted him about elections and he didn’t even realize there were elec- tions. Yet he was able to mount and run a campaign on such late notice. 

Regular newsletter U
A serious caucus needs a regular consistent voice that does more than have biographies of their Exec. Bd. members or have short punchy statements. Clearly, the membership needs some convincing arguments to vote an op- position into power. NA literature does not go into depth on the issues. One recent leaflet used only one side of a page and it had little more than slo- gans. When questioned about why waste an entire side of a page (Ed. Notes has to scramble for every inch) the response was: this is easier for people to reproduce for their schools. You could just see people running to their copy machines to get that one out. 

Quality of literature D
See above 

Way to run an election campaign D
No election literature out until February. The campaign should have started 2 years ago.

Level of activity of caucus: D
Where are those over 700 people who ran? Where are they at the Delegate Assembly? Where are the chapter resolutions? 

Executive Board Meetings: C
NA Exec. Bd members often seem overmatched. They try initiatives and then drop them. Their questions are often mere responses to Unity. They don’t pick up on contradictions in leadership positions which could then be used in future literature. It is frustrating to watch NA miss numerous oppor- tunities at these meetings. Witness our consistent campaign and exposure of the weaknesses of Weingarten’s position on school-wide merit pay. 

Graciousness in losing A
In a lovely leaflet distributed at the April DA, NA congratulated Weingarten on her victory and promised to work together in a spirit of Unity. I would have started the next election campaign. OK, it’s 3 years away, but I believe in early starts. I also believe in total war, no holds barred. 

Overall D
NA seems content to be the main opposition rather than forming a united front and engaging in an all-out fight against Unity. They certainly lack the militancy and activism of other groups. Not a week goes by that emails and phone calls go out from PAC announcing meetings and forums around the issue they are interested in. They have gone to court for unlicensed teachers and hold demos when needed. Yet NA considers them failures because of their low vote count. TJC pulled 75 people to a demo at UFT headquarters in Nov. and they are currently leading a fight against merit pay. And of course Ed. Notes, though not strictly an opposition party, has pushed the limits of what 1 person can do in being critical of the union leadership. 

New Action Goes CURR
The non-Unity active membership has declared New Action a CURR (Caucus Under Registration Review). In dropping from 31 to 21% of the vote in 10 years ( a 32% decline) New Action has clearly failed to meet the standards. If there is no improvement in the next election, New Action will be closed and reorganized into a debating society.

Ed. Note: Unity’s share of the vote has grown from 69% in 1991. New Action received 31% in ‘’91, 24% in ‘99, 21% in ‘’01. Despite this steady erosion, NA has made few changes in strategy or tactics. Circumstances may be beyond their control, as Marian Swerdlow pointed out in our March edition. Randy Weingarten’s incredible abilities as a politician cannot be overlooked. She has an ability to reach out to people and make them think she feels their pain (sound familiar?). And she never stops working. (NA attacks about the salary she makes were rediculous.) So what’s an opposition to do? Stay tuned for the fall edition of Ed. Notes for some ideas.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sixty One Members (and counting) from PS 8X join Stronger Together Caucus

PS 8X is joining Stronger Together---the forms, checks and the below cover letter was mailed to ST Caucus... Roseanne McCosh
What can you say about Roseanne, a former chapter leader and Unity Caucus member, and her colleagues? This is organizing 1.1 -- even the leading activists I know haven't been able to accomplish this - or even try.
Where will the ST dues money go? To support delegates' attendance at the AFT 2016 convention in Minneappolis and the NYSUT RA Assembly in New York City in 2017, when the next NYSUT election will be held (many poor locals cannot afford to cover the costs for their delegates). 
If even a fifth of the schools in NYC did what PS 8 is doing, Unity would be toast. There is something blowing in the wind as some chapter leader elections returns where Unity people who defended the contract last year have lost to MORE or independent candidates.

Here is the letter sent from PS 8 in da Bronx.

May 21, 2015

Dear ST Caucus Leaders:

Enclosed you will find sixty-one membership forms and checks from teachers who work at PS 8 in the Bronx. We are still collecting forms and money and will hopefully have some more to send as we continue to reach out to the staff in our school. Some teachers contributed more than the $10 membership fee. Use the money as you see fit.

We are all members of the United Federation of Teachers and NYSUT. We thank you for your earnest support and your willingness to stand up for NY teachers despite the fact that Unity-Caucus-controlled NYSUT and UFT leadership are working against you.

We are not blind to the failures of our union leadership. Nor are we blind to the fact that they willingly fail us in order to serve their self-interests.

We serve no masters but we will support any caucus or group within our union(s) who are like minded.

We are independent thinkers whose allegiance is to truth, fairness and transparency. We believe we do not have to hide behind children while fighting for our dignity.

We reject the premise that the best interests of teachers are diametrically opposed to the best interests of the children we teach. We believe it is time to demand the respect we deserve and to challenge those who attack us with their lies, manipulation and obfuscation as well as challenge those within our own union(s) who have allowed for these continued attacks on their watch. We appreciate that a group of unsung heroes has our back, and we sincerely thank you for it.

Yours in solidarity,

Roseanne McCosh – PS 8 UFT Delegate and NYSUT Member

Cynthia Pacelli – UFT Chapter Leader and NYSUT Member

Lori Matta – UFT Delegate and NYSUT Member

Cc: Michael Mulgrew – UFT President

Karen Magee – NYSUT President

Ken Derstine on Attack on PubEd in Philadelphia Election and Randi Visit, Followed by Her Appearance in NYC at Oppi Conference With Deformers Wendy Kopp Et al

Also elected as a Democratic nominee to a City Council-at-Large seat was Helen Gym. Gym is a founder of Parents United for Public Education and has been one of the leaders of those campaigning for defense of Philadelphia’s public schools. On the day of the election, the head of Boys’ Latin charter sent out an email urging people not to vote for Helen Gym because “she hates us.”.... Ken Derstine
We love Helen Gym who has been a freedom fighter against ed deform and her election is a positive for public education, or what is left of it in Philadelphia.

Ken, a member of the MORE-like WE Caucus in Philly, does his usual bang up job or research, the heart of which is a chronicle of the attempted destruction of public education in Philadelphia and the impotent response of the union. I'm only posting the Randi part. Go to his blog for the entire post, Common Sense in Philadephia.
On Friday, May 15th, four days before the election, a rally for Helen Gym was held at the School District headquarters. It is apparent that there was not much interest in getting parents and teachers out to the rally since it was held at 10:30 a.m. Joining this photo op of politicians and labor leaders who had endorsed Helen Gym was American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. Reporters were told she had flown in from Los Angeles, after international travel, just to be at the rally.

Weingarten gave her usual stump speech with much fist pumping and effusive praise for Helen Gym as the Superwoman we have been waiting for. As usual, it was much “sound and fury signifying nothing.” There is no way that one Councilwoman, no matter how gifted, can stop the privatization onslaught. While a seat in City Council will give Helen Gym a powerful platform to fight for public schools, it will be within a Democratic Party which places priority on the interests of real estate developers, corporate interests such as Comcast, the Chamber of  Commerce, and the banking community, not the common good.

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan has not proposed any trade union fight against the attacks. His response to both the privatization of substitute teaching and nursing is that the PFT would be "pursuing every option available to stop the privatization of our public schools." This is his weak-kneed response to the balkanization of the Philadelphia School District despite his acknowledgement that privatization has been prepared by the Boston Consulting Group for several years. For details see “Who is killing Philly schools?” 5/2/12 and “Who’s Still Killing Philly Schools?” 5/22/2013 by Daniel Denvir in the Philadelphia City Paper.
For all her bluster, Weingarten does not want a mobilization of the Philadelphia labor movement as those seen in 1973 and again in 1981 when teacher strikes were ended after the threat of a general strike by the city labor movement.

Glaringly missing from her bombast was any mention of the Opt Out movement against standardized testing being led by parents across the country. Weingarten is a supporter of the Gates Foundation promotion of annual standardized testing and the Common Core.

Immediately after the rally, Ms. Weingarten rushed off to New York City where she joined Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, officials from the Gates Foundation and other educational technology enthusiasts at the Oppi Learning Festival 2015. The program says “Oppi Festival is a unique learning event which allows all education key stakeholder groups from around the world to come together, share ideas and experiences, tackle challenges and form new partnerships.

Ms. Weingarten was part of the welcoming ceremony where she had a conversation about Global Kids. Missing from the speakers were American K-12 teachers or educators from the academic world of higher education who have decades of experience with American education. NYC teachers were invited to be in the audience to learn how they to could collaborate with corporate education.

Weingarten returned to Philadelphia Tuesday to campaign for Kenney and Gym and to join the victory celebration at Helen Gym’s campaign headquarters.

On May 9thMs. Weingarten appeared on HuffPost Live. Using the standardized testing crisis as a smoke screen, she attempted to rescue the Common Core, heavily funded by the Gates Foundation, from parent and teacher opposition to it.

To bolster her credentials for promoting the Common Core, she made much of her teaching experience as the basis for supporting Common Core. This has been her practice of late: to deflect questions about why she continues to promote Common Core and take attention from her alliance with the Gates Foundation. At an appearance at a forum of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute on June 28, 2014, Ms. Weingarten went on for several minutes about her teaching experience.
Norm Scott of Ed Notes Online, who was in the NYC United Federation of Teachers when Weingarten became its President, said of her credentials recently: 

Randi has distorted the reality of her teaching experience, often by parsing the language to give an impression that she taught for 6 years when in fact she taught full time for only 6 months at Clara Barton HS in Brooklyn. The rest of the time she taught a few classes a day before going off to her other job at the union - a unique arrangement not exactly available to the average teacher. (My guess is that once Shanker came down with life-threatening cancer around 1989 or 90, he and Sandra Feldman, then UFT president, had to decide on succession and Randi, a fairly recent arrival at the UFT, was chosen over people who had worked for the UFT since its inception, leading to some resentment.) Since Randi was a lawyer - she was the UFT counsel - with no teaching credentials, they had to scramble to get her certified and find her a "teaching" part-time gig before she could claim the mantle of UFT president. They found her a "safe" school near her home. Clara Barton, across the street from Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, was a vocational school focused on nurse and health care worker training, a school that attracted a number of girls. Unity Caucus member Leo Casey was the chapter leader and would cover Randi's back when needed. Everyone in the school knew they were getting a "celebrity" staff member who would one day be the president of the union. By never having taught in real conditions like her constituents, Randi never had a sense of what it was really like.

As is the case many times in history, young people who have their whole lives in front of them and want a say in what kind of world they will live in, are unencumbered by past practices and political connections. On May 12th, hundreds of Philadelphia High School students Opted Out by not attending school at the beginning of the Pennsylvania Keystone standardized tests. Some administrators threatened the students with being denied the right to participate in the Prom or walk in their graduation.
A Philadelphia teacher was suspended for four days without pay for informing parents about Opting Out when asked.

Philadelphia high school student Giancarlos Rodriquez on The Rick Smith Show on why students opted out of the PA Keystone test.
A parent from Kensington High School talks on The Rick Smith Show about the suspension of her daughter for a week for organizing a walkout to Opt Out of PA Keystone Exams.
A Philadelphia teacher shares what it’s like to subject students to hours of standardized testing and what it is doing to his students.

On May 19th, Election Day, the Caucus of Working Educators in the PFT held workshops at Central High School about various issues in education today. This video has excerpts from the Opt Out session which shows the testing crisis that is deepening in Pennsylvania.

The young people Opting Out are showing what must be done to stop the privatization onslaught. Only such acts of civil disobedience, combined with a mass mobilization against corporate education reform, can change the trajectory of events. Out of this mass mobilization a political movement must be developed which declares independence from the two-party system and develops a program for the needs of the 99%.

More on questions about Randi Weingarten’s teaching experience:
Public Lives; Hoping to Continue Education as Union Head | New York Times – January 20, 1998
How long did Weingarten teach? | Linking and thinking on education – July 14, 2011
Did AFT's Randi Weingarten last much more than “10 minutes in a classroom?” | Whitney Tilson’s School Reform Blog – July 21, 2011
An Open Exchange with AFT President Randi Weingarten | Mercedes Schneider @ The Chalk Face – November 4, 2013
 Here is the link to the entire piece, which Ken opens with one of my fave historical figures:
This sacrifice of common sense is the certain badge which distinguishes slavery from freedom; for when men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.          Thomas Paine

Common Sense in Philadelphia

Friday, May 22, 2015

Haimson on Farina DOE: Shameful; DOE shows yet again their disrespect for parents by opposing open meetings for SLTs

Farina clearly believes in unfettered principal power.
Just found out that DOE is  appealing Judge Moulton’s authoritative decision that SLT meetings must be subject to open meetings law – presumably the DOE will be making the same legally baseless argument that they can be closed meetings because SLT’s only have “advisory” powers. Yet again, DOE officials are revealing their profound disrespect for parent input and the public’s right to know, and showing that their rhetoric about “collaboration” with parents is a sham. For more on this case, see here; ...  Leonie Haimson
The more things change the more they stay the same as Farina more and more morphs into Joel Klein. But then again, she sat next to Klein for years and defended his policies. We should also point out the profound disrespect for teachers who also serve on School Based Leadership teams.

Labor Notes and EIA's Antonucci on Hawaii "Stolen" Union Election

Three days after the board meeting, in an email to union members explaining the decision, the board majority claimed that “many” members said they hadn’t received email or paper ballots, and that there’d been possible ethics violations about where in schools the campaign materials were put. - Labor Notes
In the new math in Hawaii, many = about a dozen.

For us the important thing is that the challengers - the winners of the election -- are MORE kindred spirit. Believe me - if MORE were ever to get close to winning an election - or practically any piece of the election in the UFT -- I have no doubt similar stuff would happen. The only reason Unity doesn't steal elections is that so far they don't have to.

The incumbents who lost - and I assume would be Randi supporters in the AFT -- are using the same kind of phony crap Unity used in 1985 when Unity claimed irregularities in the one VP (HS) vote they lost - and managed to end up getting a new election 8 months later - which they lost even worse -- but they kept the opposition out of office for a long time. And then they regrouped to win that VP position back in 1987 - and changed the constitution in 1993 to take the power away from the high school teachers so the opposition never wins another VP position.

In Hawaii from reports below, about a dozen teachers didn't get ballots - which apparently were sent out to them after the complaint - and the people in power are using that to toss out the results:

As reported in Labor Notes:

Stolen Election? Reformers in Hawaii Fight to Take Office

Remember the Hawaii teachers who in 2012 led a statewide work-to-rule campaign against low pay? This spring they won the top three spots in the Hawaii State Teachers Association—but the union’s board of directors is refusing to let them take office.
The board has kept the vote results secret, citing vague irregularities—and ordered a new election.
Teachers Corey Rosenlee, Justin Hughey, and Amy Perruso ran for president, vice president, and secretary-treasurer of the 13,000-member statewide local. They were backed by a reform caucus, Hawaii Teachers for Change.
Votes were cast April 13-24, and the results were supposed to be certified May 4. But board members delayed announcing the outcomes—claiming they were waiting for runoff results for the vice presidency, since no candidate for that post had won a majority.
The union’s elections committee certified the tallies. But after the May 15 runoff, the board voted not to certify results for any post.
- See more at:

Mike Antonucci, who comes from the right/libertarian wing but is a great reporter did a great job in putting general info together.  Check out his site for the videos.

Here is Mike's text:
A Pu Pu Platter of Hawaii Union Election Stories
Posted: 22 May 2015 11:09 AM PDT
It all hit the fan yesterday in the Aloha State as the challengers in the recent Hawaii State Teachers Association elections went to the press to make their case. Each of the media outlets had its own details and takes on the situation.
The Honolulu Star Advertiser story gave us information about the vacated results:
Rosenlee said he won the top post along with his running mates, King Kamehameha III Elementary teacher Justin Hughey for vice president and Mililani High teacher Amy Perusso for secretary-treasurer. Rosenlee said he and Perusso each won their races outright by more than 150 votes, noting that only 26 percent of members voted. Hughey, meanwhile, won a runoff election against current HSTA Secretary-treasurer Colleen Pasco, but Rosenlee said the union hasn’t released that vote count.
It is significant that the challengers all won, but a 150-vote margin among 3,300 ballots cast is still pretty close.
Honolulu Civil Beat reports the challengers may file for an injunction against any new election. They also claim HSTA’s allegations of voting irregularities lack evidence.
When asked by email why the union is not releasing more specifics on the number of teachers who complained about missing ballots or why the election issues weren’t addressed before holding the runoff, Okabe said only “it is an internal matter.”
Rosenlee — who was present at the board meeting and voted in favor of certifying the election — and his running mates argue that the “only verified claim” involved complaints from approximately a dozen teachers who said they did not receive a ballot.
“In each instance, it was acknowledged that HSTA staff had promptly rectified the situation by providing a ballot and the member was able to cast a vote,” their press release said.
“Despite being requested to do so, HSTA has refused to release any information regarding any of these allegations,” the release said. “The manner in which these concerns about the election were raised and considered violated the HSTA’s Bylaws.”
At a press conference Thursday evening, Hughey said that the company hired to conduct the election sent a letter to the union saying it stood by the election results.
The HSTA Board of Directors is responsible for certifying election results but, as Labor Notes reports, some of the board members who voted on the certification were candidates, and voted after knowing the results. This is reportedly a violation of the union’s bylaws.
The KHON-TV broadcast presented the official HSTA line and gave short shrift to the challengers.
Hawaii News Now went in the other direction, focusing on the challenger’s charges, and offering the HSTA position as a sidebar.
It’s hard to imagine that this will end well for the HSTA incumbents, even if a new election goes forward, but we will keep you updated as circumstances warrant.

Norm in The Wave: The Education Tax Credit Bill Endorses Public Theft

Submitted for publication in the May 22, 2015 edition - I may have missed deadline so it might be in next week.

The Education Tax Credit Bill Endorses Public Theft
By Norm Scott

I wasn’t going to write something this week but am so agitated by the outrage of the  proposal to give people who send their kids to private and religious school a giveaway of public funds that could actually be used to support public schools I was driven out of bed. I am especially pissed at our elected officials who support this bill who send their own kids to private or religious schools and thus stand to gain financially from this bill. The are the very same people who when challenged, repeat the false mantra “I support public schools” while doing the exact opposite. I include support for charter schools in my condemnation of our elected betrayers of the public schools. Let’s apply this logic. I don’t like the days my sanitation is collected. Give me a tax credit to hire a private carting firm. You’d laugh – and you should laugh at the tax credit idea, which will sound a death knell to public school for all but the poor.

My friend Harris Lirtzman sent this letter to his State Assemblyman:
"Dear ______. 

Isn’t possible that the Legislature has already done sufficient and irreparable damage to the public education system that if the Assembly agrees to the Governor’s and State Senate’s proposal for tax credits and more charter schools that we might just as well close our public school systems? I’m aware of the horrific statement that some member made that has been used to label all Democratic Assembly members as part of a laughable crew of Keystone Kop legislators--that you're all members of the Heavy Hearts Club for botching the original round of education 'reform' agenda proposed by the Governor. Please stop with the damage you’ve already done. Please do not, in any, way, shape or manner give in to the Senate's and Governor’s demands for the tax break and expanded charter cap. Just adjourn and go home before you all do any more damage to public education this session.”

NYSUT, the state teachers union,  is running 10 days of ads on Cuomo's Private School Tax Credit Program. From Capitol Confidential:

A tax credit to incentivize donations to education is being knocked by the state teachers union as “a shell game allowing corporations and the super rich to divert tax dollars to elite private schools.” In a new radio ad, New York State United Teachers is challenging a renewed push by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to get an Education Investment Tax Credit passed before the end of the legislative session. The union contends the credit, as proposed by the governor, is a giveaway to the rich that will benefit only private schools. The 60-second ad features Mr. Moneybags, a fictional fat cat who says the credit is “a scheme designed to favor us ‘zillionaires’ and our exclusive schools.” “So let me get this straight: The rich will get millions of dollars in tax breaks, cutting the resources that could go to all kids?” a narrator asks incredulously.

And the ACLU has jumped into the fray:
“The governor and the Catholic archbishop are joining forces to push taxpayer money for parochial schools. Not in New York, right? Wrong. Just this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Cardinal Timothy Dolan toured the state to push their top legislative priority – enormous tax credits to people and corporations that give money to private and religious schools. Tell them NO WAY! New Yorkers will not accept this brazen attempt to transfer precious public tax dollars to private and religious schools. With just five weeks to go in the legislative session, the governor and the Catholic Church are pulling out all the stops to get their tax credit scheme passed. New Yorkers of all stripes need to come together and push back. Tell lawmakers they can't steal money from New York’s public school students to fund private and religious schools. Funding for public schools has been slashed for years and our kids are the ones who are getting hurt. New York's public schools can't afford this financial hit ... and neither can our Constitution. Government funding of religious schools violates the separation of church and state. Contact Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders — tell them to protect free public education in New York and say no to public assistance to private and parochial schools.”

Let’s not leave out the Jewish school lobby either. Believe it or not, there is also a bill up to force us to pay for security for any religious school that requests it. Just imagine how much more money will be drained from public school to private school interests?

Why not make up your own religion and get on the gravy train? The religion of Norm. I just wish I had some kids to use to get my mitts on some of those tax credits. Any chance for a bill giving my a tax credit for sending my cats to obedience school?

Norm spouts his venom daily on

Thursday, May 21, 2015

New Action, Positioning Itself for UFT 2016 Election Sellout to Unity, Favors "Democracy" - When it Doesn't Affect Seats on UFT Exec Bd

[New Action] want[s] democracy except where it interferes with their keeping seats on the Exec. Board. Unfortunately democracy is not something we grant when it serves us, and deny when it doesn't. I would be happy to work toward democracy with New Action. The very best thing New Action could do would be to ally with MORE and work toward democracy across the board.... NYC Educator, New Action Takes a Position on Semi-Democracy

When Mike Schirtzer sent around a piece from New Action (I didn't even know they had a functioning blog) last night on how they support democracy, I laughed out loud -- louder than at anything I saw on Letterman's last show, which I was watching at the time.

More from Arthur Goldstein-
New Action is now embracing democracy, and rejecting the winner take all mode that shuts out the activists who speak their minds rather than that of Big Brother, Randi Weingarten, or whoever the hell it is that makes the calamitous decisions that have led us to the lowest point in teacher morale I've ever seen. They've taken the same position this blog has taken for years--that high schools ought to select the high school VPs, that NYSUT and AFT reps ought to represent everyone, not just those who sign oaths to vote as told, and that chapter leaders ought to select the District Reps who will support them.
Some facts on how New Action, working with Unity, subverts democracy in the UFT by keeping MORE, which got more votes than New Action in the last election, off the Exec Bd while New Action gets 10 seats via also have those 10 candidates run on the Unity slate. All they have to do in exchange is run Mulgrew (and Weingarten before him) as their presidential candidate.

For instance, MORE received almost 40% of the High School Ex Bd votes in the 2013 election -- 1335 and New Action around 700. Unity got around 1590. Do the math. 

MORE got NO high school seats on the Exec Bd while New Action and Unity split the 7 HS seats between them.

If New Action were not a dishonest organization, putting up a phony piece on how they are for democracy, since they supposedly believe in proportional representation for AFT/NYSUT delegates, they should offer to turn over 40% of the high school ex bd seats to MORE.

Or better yet, let New Action renounce its deal with Unity and rejoin the world of the opposition.

Arthur agrees:
I would be happy to work toward democracy with New Action. The very best thing New Action could do would be to ally with MORE and work toward democracy across the board. Our union has been unsuccessful in mobilizing membership, fighting apathy and cynicism, and that's why the overwhelming majority of members don't find it worth their while to even vote in union elections. 

It's time for leadership to stop building brick walls around opposition voices. I will help with that, if they choose. And if New Action wants to genuinely work toward that, I'll help with that too.
Despite the hectoring from New Action pal Francesco Portelos who has built his house of cards on an alliance with New Action, MORE has made it clear. It will work with New Action in partnership when they stop working in partnership with Michael Mulgrew and Unity Caucus.

Old Jokes: From Ed Notes - Jan 6, 1999

From 1997-2002, Ed Notes was directed at the members of the UFT Delegate Assembly. At that time, email and computers were just catching on and sending jokes around was the big thing. Since many people in the room didn't seem to have the same access, my reprints proved very popular. At the May 2015 DA one of the Unity delegates reminded me of how much people enjoyed those jokes and also the content. He doesn't read blogs and always urges me to bring Ed Notes back to the DA.

I lost most of the hard copies on the Sandy Storm and have been sporadically checking out some of the archives. I will pop stuff up at various times. This is from the Jan. 6, 2009 edition.
Deep Thoughts....from the internet (unattributed)
 A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops.  On my desk, I have a work station...

If Fed Ex and UPS were to merge, would they call it Fed UP?

I believe five out of four people have trouble with fractions.

If quitters never win, and winners never quit, what fool came up with,  “Quit while you’re ahead”?

Do Lipton employees take coffee breaks?

What hair color do they put on the driver’s licenses of bald men?

Women should put pictures of missing husbands on beer cans.

People seem to read the Bible a whole lot more  as they get older . . . they are cramming for  their  finals.

Why do they put pictures of criminals up in the Post Office? What are  we supposed to do . . . write to these men? Why don’t they just put their pictures on the postage stamps so the mailmen could look for them while they delivered the mail?

Never agree to plastic surgery if the doctor’s office is full of portraits by Picasso.

How much deeper would oceans be if sponges didn’t live there?

VENI, VEDI, VISA: I came, I saw, I did a little shopping.

If it’s true that we are here to help others, then what exactly are the  OTHERS here for?

STRESSED spelled backwards is DESSERTS.

You never really learn to swear until you learn to drive.

Clones are people two.

If a man says something in the woods and there are no women there, is  he  still wrong?

Go ahead and take risks....just be sure that everything will turn out OK

No one ever says “It’s only a game,” when their team is winning.

As I said before, I never repeat myself!

If you can’t be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.
Ever wonder what the speed of lightning would be if it didn’t zigzag?

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

Think “honk” if you’re telepathic.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

School Board Elections vs Mayoral Control? Time to Dig Deeper

With today's 3 year renewal of mayoral control, here are some thoughts.
Now that de Blasio has backed off so much of the resistance to ed deform he promised, there is more willingness to give him this extension. But he is still hated by the deformers. Lots of people are thinking he is a one-term mayor - imagine Eva in charge - deformers would extent that for life.

Some of our allies (our friends in Chicago and some here pushing a "People's Board") have seized upon school board elections as the alternative to handing total control over to a mayor/czar. I'm not so sure it is worth investing resources into citywide school board elections that turn into battlegrounds between charter/privatization interests loaded with bucks and the teacher unions have to put their precious resources into countering them - see the Ravitch piece below on the LA elections.

I believe a better solution is to decentralize the system to the greatest possible extent - down to the smallest community built on 1 neighborhood HS, a few middle schools and the elementary schools that feed them-- roughly a 15 unit cluster in terms of governance and basic decision making, especially on the hiring of principals. The deformers want to destroy the neighborhood school concept so as to break fealty to that idea and the local public schools so they can take over these institutions. Even the old k-8 32 district community control system, with all its bosses and corruption issues, would never have allowed Eva and other charters into the door. So the destruction of that system - and the use of negative propaganda to assist -- was an essential first step in the privatization scheme. Even if there were bosses and dictators, at least they were confined to small areas - and more centralized oversight would address those issues. I still think those basic district political units are still useful - and they still exist.

Though anti-deformers have been holding their own in races around the nation, we should question if that is the model we want to push. Even an elected school board is still central control. As Diane points out, the turn-out is low because the local communities don't have a stake -- just like UFT election turnout is low because most people don't have a stake. I realize the turnout for our old local school board elections was also very low -- but there were some extenuating reasons. I say, let's look at what was right and wrong with the pre-Bloomberg system and fix it.

The Los Angeles School Board Race: Charters 1, Public Schools 1

As early returns indicated, Bennett Kayer lost his seat on the Los Angeles school board to charter founder Ref Rodriguez and charter supporter Tamar Galatzan lost her seat to retired public school educator Scott Schmerelson. It was a very low turnout election, as usual (sadly). The president of the school board, Dr. Richard Vladovic, was re-elected. The board will remain divided over the continued privatization of the public schools. Los Angeles already has more students in charter schools than any other city. The charter industry had hoped to gain decisive control of the board to continue its expansion.
The battle continues. The billionaires dropped a few million into the L.A. race, principally to defeat Kayser. They succeeded. They probably didn't count on losing Galatzan or they would have spent a few more million to shore up that seat.

Union News Update from PJSTA - Buffalo, Hawaii and NY State

While Rumore has shown to be a Unity Caucus supporter at the state level, Stronger Together member Kevin Gibson won re-election on the BTF’s executive committee.  He was joined by Teresa Leatherbarrow, a member of the same Renew slate that Gibson ran on, and Sean Crowley, writer of the always entertaining B-LoEdScene blog. 
Momentum is building for the Stronger Together Caucus in NYSUT to challenge the absolute Unity Caucus control of the state and national (AFT) teacher union. MORE from its small outpost here in NYC, the belly of the Unity beast, is working with groups statewide and nationally to provide support. Note the report on Buffalo, where despite Revile NYSUT supporter Phil Rumore's re-election, Stronger Together people won a slice of the Exec Bd. This PJSTA report refers to James Eterno's excellent piece on the ICE blog regarding my debate with Schirtzer over MORE's running in the 2016 election, where he pretty much prevailed.

One of our bones of contention is that the only slice of the UFT Exec Bd MORE could win are the 7 high school seats and keeping MORE or any real opposition off the Board and out of those seats is the heart of the dirty deal between Unity and New Action. It's an old trick for people in power to run a trick 3rd party like New Action to split the vote and keep a phony in-house "loyal" opposition. My position is that even if MORE won 7 out of 100 Ex Bd seats - which New Action used to do as a legitimate opposition in 91, 95, 97, 99, 01 -- so what? It's like deja vu all over again. But the yutes in MORE must go through the process before turning into total cynics like me.

Mike Schirtzer produced a fabulous leaflet for today's DA elucidating the differences between MORE and Unity. I'll publish it later for those who want to download and share in your school. Call it the first shot in the 2016 election that Mike (and others) insist MORE has to run.

From our pals in Port Jefferson Station:

Some Union News

Phil Rumore won re-election in Buffalo.
Some interesting teacher union tidbits coming in this week…
  • One of the largest NYSUT locals, the Buffalo Teachers Federation, concluded a contested election for it’s leadership.  President Phil Rumore, won re-election with 707 votes.  Challengers Pat Foster and Marc Bruno had 344 and 299 votes respectively.  What is interesting is that Rumore had about 52% of the vote.  Had he not received 51% or more a runoff would have been forced between he and Foster.  Had Bruno supporters decided to back the other challenger in Foster there could have been a real threat to Rumore.  Some rumors suggest Rumore would have retired rather than try to win in the runoff.
  • While Rumore has shown to be a Unity Caucus supporter at the state level, Stronger Together member Kevin Gibson won re-election on the BTF’s executive committee.  He was joined by Teresa Leatherbarrow, a member of the same Renew slate that Gibson ran on, and Sean Crowley, writer of the always entertaining B-LoEdScene blog.  How this election impacts things at the NYSUT and AFT levels remains to be seen.
  • Out in Hawaii, a slate of opposition candidates called Hawaii Teachers for Change challenged for the leadership of their statewide union.  After they won the president and secretary treasurer seats, the incumbents voted not to certify the election yet have failed to provide any reason for doing so, other than citing “irregularities.”  It’s the old “If you lose, just keep having elections until you win!” trick.  Norm Scott says that it reminds him of the UFT circa 1985.
  • The above mentioned Scott and Mike Schirtzer, both of MORE, held a debate in a Manhattan diner over whether or not it was worth it for MORE to run a slate of candidates in the 2016 UFT elections.  My favorite part was also James Eterno’s…
via ICEUFT Blog
It was a healthy exchange of ideas but the best part of the evening for me was passing the application sheets around and having almost everyone there fill out the form and pay the fee to join the new statewide opposition to Michael Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus called Stronger Together.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Fred Smith: Everyone Should Opt Out of Field Tests Where Pearson Uses Your Kids as Guinea Pigs

In his letter below to parents, Fred issues a call to opt out.

Let the deformers try to see these rocks as being important --- they count for nothing but a waste of time. Fred is on the case, as always. June 7, 2012 we held a rally in front of the Pearson offices with hundreds of people and Janine Sopp had a bill for the costs of using child labor - I think it was $35 million. Still waiting for Pearson to pay.

Here are some ed notes archives from June, 2012 and some pics:

Republished from NYC Parents blog, May 19, 2015:

The field tests are coming! The field tests are coming! Opt out says testing expert Fred Smith

Dear parents,
I just wanted to call your attention to the stand-alone field tests that are coming in June.  This is the fourth year in a row that SED and Pearson have followed this questionable approach.  And each year they do it without informing parents about the field tests.
The list of schools is hereChange the Stakes also has information about the 1,013 schools and grades that have been targeted to give the ELA and math field tests.  The window for administering the tests is from June 1 through June 10.   Some schools have been tapped to give the tests on two grade levels. I have projected that 135,000 children are targeted to be guinea pigs in this sample of schools. A sample opt out letter is here.
Please remember that taking the tests is not mandated.  There is absolutely no requirement for kids to take them--and they have proven to be a flawed way to develop the Core-aligned exams that children have had to endure since 2012.  The CtS web site also provides information about the nature of the field tests and why children should not take them.
The key to putting an end to this practice is to insist that parents be made aware of the tests and asked to fill out a consent form if they want their children to participate.  But, to date, both Albany (SED) and Chancellor Farina have not notified parents about this field testing scheme and have not sought their permission.  Continuation of the stand-alone field tests has depended on keeping parents in the dark.
We must spread the word to all parents, especially those whose children are in a targeted school, that the tests are coming, and parents have the right to reject them.  It is a safe and responsible step to take along the path to greater parental involvement and empowerment.
Best, Fred Smith

Video: Choose to Refuse Rap - As Mulgrew Argues for "Better" Tests

  • JP Lee Clearly, he is suggesting that the state spend more money on more expensive tests, which will direct money away from the schools and into the pockets of testing and other ed corporations. I don't have the words...
While Mulgrew argues for "better" standardized high stakes tests in his Daily News piece, the resistance continues. But watch out for that punch in the face.
Mulgrew... Being dragged behind the movement kicking and screaming. Mike, our kids deserve better assessment than standardized tests, not better tests. My union president, ladies and gentlemen!

  • Denis Ian More civil disobedience is the answer. There's no effective response to that.
    Like · Reply · 2 · 9 hrs
  • Tim Farley My guess is opt out will be near 100% next year.
    Like · Reply · 2 · 9 hrs
  • Valerie Dicaprio His newfound concern for the needs of our children is disingenuous. He's still plugging away for CC.
    Like · Reply · 5 · 9 hrs
  • Denis Ian We're just getting started ... and we have the election year energy to rush us along. It seems it's always a good time for usually deaf politicians to prick their ears ... and pay closer attention to those who elect them rather than bribe them.
    Like · Reply · 4 · 9 hrs
  • Loy Gross Is this punch-you-in-the-face dude? Can I punch him in the face?
    Like · Reply · 5 · 9 hrs
  • Valerie Dicaprio Only if I can push him "in the dirt" when you're done.
    Like · Reply · 4 · 9 hrs
  • Denis Ian Yes, ladies ... this is the guy you wanna slap-silly.
    Like · Reply · 5 · 9 hrs
  • Loy Gross And then we'll both stomp on him. Sounds like a plan.
    Like · Reply · 3 · 9 hrs
  • Valerie Dicaprio Yes. Lucy, you got it. Love, Ethel
    Like · Reply · 3 · 9 hrs
  • Dawn Marie He's an ass period . How the heck did he become president of UFT ??!!I'd love to see him and Weingarten ousted .
    Like · Reply · 9 · 9 hrs
  • JP Lee Clearly, he is suggesting that the state spend more money on more expensive tests, which will direct money away from the schools and into the pockets of testing and other ed corporations. I don't have the words...
    Like · Reply · 4 · 9 hrs
  • Denis Ian Perhaps the unions think the testing corporations will be their new bed-mates ... as they seem to have been betrayed by the politicians they so lovingly lathered their money on ... to no avail any longer.
  • Stacey Kahn He's full of it.
Teachers union leaders support of national testing is going to force more and more parents to homeschool or organize schools of their own.