Sunday, November 19, 2017

How Education Reform Ate the Democratic Party - Clintons Led the Way in Attack on Teacher Unions

This article is so good I want to print it out and eat it. Thanks to Patrick Walsh for sending this along.

Jennifer Berkshire in an in depth exposure of the Clintons' role and neo-lib Dems in leading ed deform attack on teachers and their unions, which was also chronicled as a positive by the Richard Kahlenberg book on Al Shanker (Tough Liberal), who was a Clinton partner --- instead of opposing he had the AFT/UFT work with them. [See Vera and my review in New Politics of the book where we refer to Shanker as a Ruthless Neocon].
To begin to chronicle the origin of the Democrats’ war on their own—the public school teachers and their unions that provide the troops and the dough in each new campaign cycle to elect the Democrats—is to enter murky territory. The Clintons were early adopters; tough talk against Arkansas’ teachers, then among the poorest paid in the country, was a centerpiece of Bill’s second stint as Governor of Arkansas.
.... as America ponders the mounting economic disequlibriums that gave rise to the Trump insurgency, concerned plutocrats can all agree on one key article of faith: what is holding back the poor and minority children who figure so prominently in the glossy brochures of charter school advocates is not the legacy of racist housing policy or mass incarceration or a tax system that hoovers up an ever growing share of income into the pockets of the wealthy, but schoolteachers and their unions.... Jennifer Berkshire,
This is a must read article -- for a decade we have been talking about the Clinton role in opening up the war on teachers back in Arkansas - as I said but can't say often enough, Al Shanker, head of the AFT and UFT joined them as a partner and led the way for teacher unions to walk into the world of ed deform for 30 years instead of opposing it and Randi followed along in spades -- the classic frog being boiled. Unfortunately Jennifer doesn't go the role the union played in this article. [Note to Randi haters who call her a sellout and who wish for the days of Shanker -- she was chosen by Shanker and Feldman for that very reason.]

The disappearing black teacher linked to ed deform [one third of NYC public schools have no black or Latino teachers today.]
Civil rights groups fiercely opposed the most controversial feature of the Clintons’ reform agenda—competency tests for teachers—on the grounds that Black teachers, many of whom had attended financially starved Black colleges, would disproportionately bear their brunt.
We saw the classic of ed deform was a disappearing of black teachers, many from the communities and their replacement by temp TFA white inexperienced people. In NYC alone thousands of teachers of color were fired 20 years ago over licensing issues related to the test teachers had to take. I knew some excellent teachers in my school who fell into this category.

We know ed notes readers so pissed at the Dem party role in ed deform they wouldn't vote for Hillary even though it will be proven that was also suicidal. Reason? The Dem Party centrists are being forced to back off ed deform -- witness Cuomo - even though if given a choice of him or Trump I would have a very hard time.

Here is another quote about a leading Dem:
Osborne told an interviewer that teachers unions belong in the same category with segregationist Alabama governor George Wallace. “They’re actually doing what George Wallace did, standing in the schoolhouse door, denying opportunity to poor minority kids.” To document their perfidy, Osborne cited the opposition of teachers unions in Massachusetts last year to Question Two—a ballot initiative proposing dramatic charter school expansion. Voters rejected the measure by nearly two to one—the same ratio, as it happens, by which wealthy pro-charter donors dwarfed the union spending that so upset Osborne.

Jennifer ties other leading Dems into the neoliberal deform movement

By the early 1980s, there was already a word for turning public institutions upside down: neoliberalism. Before it degenerated into a flabby insult, neoliberal referred to a self-identified brand of Democrat, ready to break with the tired of dogmas of the past. “The solutions of the thirties will not solve the problems of the eighties,” wrote Randall Rothenberg in his breathless 1984 paean to this new breed, whom he called simply The Neoliberals. His list of luminaries included the likes of Paul Tsongas, Bill Bradley, Gary Hart and Al Gore (for the record, Gore eschewed the neoliberal label in favor of something he liked to call “neopopulism”). In Rothenberg’s telling, the ascendancy of the neoliberals represented an economic repositioning of the Democratic Party that had begun during the economic crises of the 1970s. The era of big, affirmative government demanding action—desegregate those schools, clean up those polluted rivers, enforce those civil rights and labor laws—was over. It was time for fresh neo-ideas.

The link to the union capitulation is that Shanker endorsed the Nation at Risk in 1983 and unions stopped calling for lower class sizes and other real reforms -- that education can be reformed by getting more competent teachers and getting rid of so-called bad teachers -- and also -- using test scores to judge kids and teachers.

One more quote from Jennifer for those who don't get to the entire piece below -- something all of you should send out to everyone you work with and beyond.

Today’s Democratic school reformers—a team heavy on billionaires, pols on the move, and paid advocates for whatever stripe of fix is being sold—depict their distaste for regulation, their zeal for free market solutions as au courant thinking. They rarely acknowledge their neoliberal antecedents. The self-described radical pragmatists at the Progressive Policy Institute, for instance, got their start as Bill Clinton’s policy shop, branded as the intellectual home for New Democrats. Before its current push for charter schools, PPI flogged welfare reform. In fact, David Osborne, the man so fond of likening teacher unions to arch segregationists in the south, served as Al Gore’s point person for “reinventing government.” Today the model for Osborne’s vision for reinventing public education is post-Katrina New Orleans—where 7,500 mostly Black school employees were fired en route to creating the nation’s first nearly all-charter-school-system, wiping out a pillar of the city’s Black middle class in the process.

How Education Reform Ate the Democratic Party

The problem is that the Democrats have little to offer that’s markedly different from what DeVos is selling.

Read it all and tell me how it tastes:

Saturday, November 18, 2017

School Scope: Working With Your Hands Experiences Ignored in Schools, RTC Offers Set Building Class

Great minds must think alike - Arthur has a blog on renewal schools that touches on our schools no longer offering real training in trades - other than coding. I guess all those self-driving autos won't need repair. And there will be a roto robot to come over to clean out your drains.

My other WAVE column this week in addition to the theater stuff, School Scope, addresses vocational education, now called CTE. I go into the history of how many high schools offered so many options for students not interested in the academics. (Not to say they don't get any at all - they still had to take academic classes.) One of the few schools left intact was Aviation HS, where I hung out in my robotics years -- a real trade school leading to jobs in the airline industry. A model, in fact.

I'm excited about working with Tony Homsey when he teaches the course in basic set building. There are a lot of skills I've learned over the past 5 years of working with Tony, who seems to have an answer for everything. Just yesterday I had a problem shaving off a piece of metal I need to hold in my storm panel. In the old days I would have struggled to figure that out. I learned from Tony the value of having a grinder tool -- and the importance of wearing safety glasses. I did the job in less than a minute.

School Scope: Working With Your Hands Experiences Ignored in Schools, RTC Offers Set Building Class
By Norm Scott

Nov. 15, 2017
There used to be a time when there was a vibrant vocational ed program in NYC schools. Many high schools offered programs that had some real-life like training that led to jobs, especially for students who have no interest in going to college. Then came the ed deform movement led by both political parties which branded voc training as dead ends – that the only way forward for students was going to college. The voce ed programs were mostly destroyed in the NYC public schools by Ed Deformer supreme Michael Bloomberg and the agents he put in charge of the school system – Joel Klein and Dennis Walcott, now running the Queens libraries, an outrage in itself that this anti-educator should be in charge of a library system after his boss, Bloomberg, did everything he could to undermine the public libraries. (Yes, you anti de Blasio people, go and compare how libraries fared under both mayors.) It became a rule that non-academically oriented students were pushed into voc-ed programs and those diplomas were abolished. The reality is that a lot of students are not all that interested in academic programs.

Memo From the RTC: Final Weekend For Ever After of Rockaway Café: Let’s Talk Vocals

Only two more performances left - tonight and Sunday matinee.

Published Nov. 17, 20117 in The WAVE.
Memo From the RTC: Final Weekend For Ever After of Rockaway Café: Let’s Talk Vocals
By Norm Scott

Sometimes I wonder how anyone who lives in Rockaway and in neighboring communities somehow don’t manage to find their way to Fort Tilden to see the shows put on by the Rockaway Theatre Company, whose slogan is “Bringing Broadway to Rockaway” and has been doing so for 20 years. The current and final Rockaway Café ends this weekend and closes the season on the RTC which began last January and will begin the 2018 season with the children and teen plays this February/March, followed by adult plays May through November 2018.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Jeff Bryant: Democrat Ed Reformers BEWARE!

Although the reform campaign has long been marketed as a bipartisan cause, it's increasingly apparent that the better Democrats do at the polls, the worse the education reform agenda does.... Jeff Bryant
Jeff in a must read piece tells a story about Denver ed deform. Ahhh, I remember how our chief deformer in the UFT, one Randi Weingarten, raved about the Denver deforms when they were announced and even played a role.
For decades, Beltway education policy shops run by Democrats and Republicans have united in a "Washington Consensus" on common goals for public schools, including, closing schools based on results of standardized tests, using students' test scores to evaluate teachers, expanding competition from charter schools, and advocating for alternative pathways to the teaching profession such as Teach for America. For those Democrats who've been generally aligned with education policies promoted by Fordham and other Beltway influencers, it may be startling for them to learn that victories for their party at the ballot box could be interpreted as defeats for the very ideas they've long promoted.
Which means people like Corey Booker are dead to us - note how smart Cuomo is to pull away from this stuff a year ago though we will never let him forget it.

If you followed the humiliating defeat of the deformers, some linked to Democrats, in Massachusetts last year -- one of the few victories in that election -- there are stories about them rebranding themselves as reported by Leonie Haimson:
much confusing and/or deceptive rhetoric on that skimpy website, which appears to be a new  organization to battle the increased awareness that the corp reform movement is funded primarily by wealthy Wall St & corporate executives and ed tech billionaires:
Here is Jeff Bryant's piece on deform on the run -- esp Dems.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Is the UFT Delegate Assembly a Relevant Space for MORE and Other Opposition?

There is no organized push back against Unity Caucus at the UFT Delegate Assembly and hasn't been for years. If you read Mike Schirtzer's piece a few days ago (Mike Schirtzer on How Unity Caucus Votes) you can see the landscape of the DA and how Unity Caucus controls an undemocratic union.

Over the years MORE has basically neglected the UFT Delegate Assembly as a forum, which some MORE CLs and Delegates often fail to attend, and if they do, play little or no role in the proceedings. The same has been true on the whole for New Action, which often does hand out something. Though I see some people from Solidarity they too don't participate. Sometimes you do hear an independent voice raise a question.

MORE also has not produced a consistent piece of literature for the DA other than from January through June 2017 when I took on the task and we had something to hand out at each DA - either a DA newsletter or the MORE general newsletter.

In contrast, MORE and New Action have been very active at the UFT Ex Bd, a much narrower body of Unity control, since they elected 7 high school members who took office in Sept. 2016 and will serve until June 2019. Why the difference? We'll explore this issue in this post. Harry in his comment below on Mike's piece points out:
As Mike says, winning high-school seats on the Executive Board has at least allowed our allies to raise difficult questions and demand some small amount of accountability from UFT-Unity leadership and members. But this fixation with the DA is something I've never and still don't understand.
The EX Bd has been a success so far because we have the opportunity to raise resos and ask unlimited questions, which we can't do at the DA. But if Arthur didn't report back every 2 weeks this would be like the tree falling in the forest.

Is it also worth the time and effort at the DA, a monthly meeting controlled by Unity Caucus and where there is little space to take action? MORE by default is voting with its feet, not feeling the DA is a space to engage other than special occasions. This has not been a formal decision reached by MORE, which is why I say "by default". But as Harry points out there may be better ways to spend their time.

A few MORE members feel we should not abandon the DA and this year I am working with Arthur, Mike, and James to produce our own version of a DA newsletter, Another View in The UFT.

Harry left a broad comment on Mike's piece and raises a question about how much time and energy should MORE spend on the UFT Delegate Assembly given the realities.  First his points and then my response.

Harris L. has left a new comment on your post "Mike Schirtzer on How Unity Caucus Votes":
Good work, Mike.

I sometimes like to pose questions for the sake of the question--hoping that it will stir some discussion but not necessarily because I support a particular approach.

But when it comes to the DA and its usefulness, I'm reminded of MORE meetings that I attended in 2013 and 2014, when I was an active member. Many of the meetings, which could be interminable for lots of reasons, turned on long and anguished debates about resolutions to be brought to the next DA. I didn't understand the point of it all then and I still don't.

When I was a teacher at the Gautier Institute for Law and Public Policy (!)--or GILPP--in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx from 2009-2012 I never once heard of the Delegate Assembly or about anything that had happened at one and I had one of the all-time great chapter leaders, Zulma Villalba. I doubt that one in 50 teachers in Canarsie, Astoria or Tottenville has ever heard of the DA or cares about anything that happens at one.

I've been told that the DA is an opportunity to educate and organize union leaders who may be sympathetic to the idea of a democratic and transparent UFT. How many delegates are open to any of that besides the members of MORE and the handful of others not directly affiliated with Unity? I've never been persuaded that the DA is worth all the time and energy expended by union democrats. It exists. I get that people do what they can when and where they can and that the DA is an obvious "thing" to try to penetrate. But has the last four years of resolution-submitting that I'm familiar with accomplished anything concrete? Anything that doesn't rely on simple assertions that it is an effective way to organize and educate delegates, themselves, much less actual teachers in actual schools?

Chapter outreach and organizing is a very hard and painful process that may take years to show tangible results. Does all the work put into DAs and DA resolutions detract from other, perhaps more useful but difficult work? Is it possible that monthly DAs are like the proverbial shiny objects that get dangled in front of people to mesmerize them. As Mike says, winning high-school seats on the Executive Board has at least allowed our allies to raise difficult questions and demand some small amount of accountability from UFT-Unity leadership and members. But this fixation with the DA is something I've never and still don't understand.

[One last thing, 'democratic centralism' may be the mark of the Unity caucus but I remember it being in plain display at almost every MORE meeting I ever attended--part of the reason I stopped going to MORE meetings in early 2015]. 
My response:

Harry raises some very valid points. Maybe I am just a creature of 45 years of habit -- actually, I was active at the DA in the 70s and early 80s, then a 10 year hiatus and came back in 1994 when I became chapter leader, developed Ed Notes in 1997 which attracted enough people (though a small number) to start ICE in 2004, GEM in 2009 and MORE in 2012 and have been at almost every DA since then to hand out something, either as a rep of one of the groups or as my own view in Ed Notes.

Harry's analysis is fundamentally correct. But I also think that if you are in a caucus that opposes Unity and feels the union needs to change and have been elected by your colleagues to be a CL or Del, not going to the DA is in some sense shirking your job - especially if you are a delegate and that is the only function of your job. I mean, if you don't go to DAs then resign as delegate. If we call for democracy in the union then that starts in your own school.

Educating your chapter

When I was CL I used what happened at the DA to educate the people I worked with by reporting before the DA (even asking them to tell me how they wanted me to vote on special issues -- ie contract) and after the DA on the issues that affect them -- getting their input and analyzing the actions of the leadership. So using the DA is also school-based education as a way to counter the UFT/Unity party line. Since some people supported that party line my reporting also spurred debates in my school at times.

Why bring up resolutions? 
Why not? I only remember a few instances in the early days when MORE took a lot of time at meetings. Mike and I pushed for a DA committee to take on this task and a few times Mike organized conference calls and got people out to the DA and we did pretty well on those occasions, with a lot of MORE people signing people up as school contacts. Fact is there is a group of people who are not in Unity or in the opposition and even it they remain independent they are also willing to vote with us -- but if we never give them anything to vote for or organize around we lose the opportunity to move them, even if they are a few, in our direction. In contrast at the Ex Bd meetings there are only Unity and the opposition, no independents unless we bring them to the meeting. So the organizing around the EB is about getting people to attend the pre-meetings and use the 10 minute mic time and than have Arthur blast out what happens to the world. (If Arthur ever retires from the EB even that reporting will disappear.)

Handing out literature
I also feel it essential to have a valid piece of lit to hand out before and after the meeting that relates to the type of issues being raised there and at the EB. It offers the opportunity for personal contact every month with people who get to know you, come over the chat and hopefully become regular readers of what we have to say. 

Unity by the way has people who agree with us on some issues and even if they vote against us can at least be shaken in their outright support -- plus the fact that some of them do get fed up with Unity at some point and move in our direction.

Reporting on the meeting
I don't often go up to listen to the meetings but they are an opportunity to hear where the leadership is coming from and do some analysis. Arthur does that regularly.

Here's the point --- why do Arthur and James Eterno (with two young children at home) shlep to the DA every single month while so many others don't bother?  They take the operations of the union seriously. 

Going to the DA is an element of saving our union
I wonder how MORE can take on a "Save Our Union" campaign in the atmosphere of Janus and generally ignore the one time a month that every school in the city has an opportunity to send its reps to gather with others - even if most don't even bother? To me that is a sign of MOREs exercising a theory of organizing vs the reality. 

Activists in the union need to be reporting to their colleagues on the actions of the leadership if they truly want to organize at the school level and try to expand that reporting into neighboring schools in their districts. They need to go to meetings and interact with others even if they are Unity.

The motto of Ed Notes is Educate, Organize, Mobilize in that order. Participating in the DA and reporting is the Educate step. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Mike Schirtzer on How Unity Caucus Votes

Mike, with over a dozen years in the system, ruminates on his experiences with the Unity Caucus machine. He is over 30 years younger than me but I expect when he reaches my age he will still be going to UFT DAs to hand out our newsletter, Another View in The UFT - Our New DA Newsletter.

Six years ago I was nominated as a UFT delegate from my school. That means I attend the UFT Delegate Assembly with chapter leaders and delegates from around the city once a month. The job of a delegate is  to hear a report from our union president on the state of our union, public schools, and what the latest news is from our relationships with politicians. Delegates also have time to ask questions and raise resolutions about the direction our union should take. Often the UFT leadership raises resolutions that dictate the direction of our union and polices we will advocate for.  These proposals should result in vigorous discussion and debate. After-all we're deciding on the direction  of the largest teachers union in the  USA. Whatever we decide has ripple effects throughout the country. However, I learned rather quickly the debates are far from honest.

The leadership of the UFT and close to 2/3 the 700 of the delegates that go to DAs are part of an inner political party, known as Unity caucus.  The Unity caucus members follow party lines, meaning they all vote the same way, every time, no matter what!.
When I showed at my first DA and I heard a chapter leader raising a resolution that any new evaluation system the union agrees to should go the membership for an online vote. It sounded like a rational argument to me, but then speaker after speaker got up and spoke against it. Finally someone from the DA stood up and said "I call the question" which meant debate ended without ever hearing an additional speaker in favor of the resolution.

It seemed weird to me. Why were fellow delegates, fellow teachers voting against and even speaking harshly in opposition to this resolution that all my friends at my school and every other school would vote in favor of? Seems obvious we should have a say in what our union negotiates that will impact our careers. When Mulgrew called on speakers he asked them for their names and schools. They all presented themselves and then spoke against it.

The resolution was voted down. It all seemed so strange to me. In the next few months there were resolutions raised against common core, against high stakes testing,  supporting parents that opt their children out of testing, and for sports programs in all schools, all voted down. They all were resolutions that would have been voted for overwhelmingly in my school and by my friends and family that are teachers. Yet they were all voted down.

At the same time resolutions for political endorsements that should have had discussion and debate were overwhelmingly voted on and spoke in favor of by all the same people. I began to realize each month it was the same people speaking against resolutions. Each month the same people were called on to ask softball questions. Each month Mulgrew called on the same people as if he never met them before.

Soon I learned all these people are in the same party or caucus, all are required to vote the same as Mulgrew, and are required to follow the party line whatever that might be. (This is known as democratic centralism.)

If Unity said common core and test based evaluations were great, then every Unity member would say the same. When the leadership reverses itself everyone in Unity goes along with the party line.

No matter how good your argument is, no matter what our chapter members want, Unity members are required to vote what the party says. You cant change minds, your arguments don't matter because it has already been pre-determined how the members of the majority party will vote. It can become demoralizing.
Now that I have  been elected to the UFT Executive Board as one of the seven MORE/New Action High School reps (Unity has the other 93 positions), I am finding the experience of the Unity wall the same as a DA, just on a smaller scale. Out of 100 members that are supposed to be discussing and debating the position and direction of our union, 7 are left to challenge the union leadership. While there is more debate than at the DA, decisions are already made behind closed doors.

While we almost always support the leadership positions, anything we bring up is automatically opposed or amended to take the teeth out.

If our group, MORE/New Action  says the sky is blue, the Unity caucus will say it's red. When members vote as a block and cannot be convinced to change their minds that is not in the best interest of our union.

Showing up to vote as a block and not identifying yourself as a member of Unity falsely leading everyone to believe you're speaking for yourself or the people who elected you in your school when in reality you're taking the party position and no one can can convince you otherwise.

Unity Caucus, which has exercised total power over the UFT since its founding, in theory functions internally in a democratic manner. But in reality, the top leadership decides and everyone follows along. So there is little real debate internally in the caucus and a narrow point of view and agenda becomes the operating feature. This leads to bad decision making and bad policy and ultimately causes harm to the membership. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Using Test Scores Leads to Lower Teacher-Evaluation - Ed Week

NYC requires more points to be rated proficient than other districts:
teachers in Fairfax County, Va., and Philadelphia needed to earn 50 percent of the total available evaluation points to be deemed proficient. But in Miami-Dade and New York City, they needed to earn closer to 75 percent of the total points.

School Scope: Sports, Elections and Education - Norm in The Wave

School Scope:  Sports, Elections and Education
By Norm Scott

Election Day
I went into the booth intending to vote for de Blasio but decided at the last moment to vote for the Green Party candidate. I would have voted Green for City Council but there was no Green candidate.

South Bronx Asks a Few Questions of the UFT Leadership

Peter Zucker wants to know why the UFT won't put as serious an effort into fighting for the membership as it did on Proposition 1.
Mazel Tov UFT!!

Why can't the UFT put the time and effort into doing away with the fair student funding which is keeping many qualified teachers from permanent positions?

Why can't the UFT put the time and effort into fixing the ATR problem?

Why can't the UFT put the time and effort into exposing abusive principals?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Another View in The UFT - Our New DA Newsletter

  • If APPR Is So Great, Why Do People Want Out? By Arthur Goldstein, CL Francis Lewis HS,
  • What We Do at the UFT Executive Board By Mike Schirtzer, Delegate Leon Goldstein HS, UFT Ex Bd, MORE/UFT
  • High School Teacher Emily James Makes The Case For Paid Maternity Leave
  •   Unity Caucus/UFT Leaders vote down resolution to reduce the 4 observations the UFT agreed to down to the 2 in the rest of NY State
  •   Mulgrew To Delegate Assembly: These Are Best Of Times For NYC Public Schools By James Eterno, Delegate, MORE/UFT, ICE
  • Chalkbeat: Lack of Knowledge, Lack of Experience By Jonathan Halabi, CL School of American Studies, UFT Ex Bd, New Action/UFT
  • Tottenville HS Teachers Castigate Principal Scarmato; 

Email me for pdf if you want to share with your colleagues.

I like standing at the DA handing out something I consider relevant and something that over time people may want to read even if they disagree. I enjoy the interaction with people, some of whom I've known for decades. But I also like to hand out content I am comfortable with and also that I think is relevant. At times I go back to my own production of Ed Notes. But I've been looking to partner with people who can continue the project when I decide to hang up my spikes. Thus----

Arthur Goldstein, Mike Schirtzer, UFT Ex Bd members, James Eterno and I, all members of MORE, have begun a newsletter, "Another View in the UFT", aimed at attendees at the Delegate Assembly. The 5-700 people who attend DAs regularly are not the average UFT members. They have committed their time and energy to taking a more activist role in the union, whether they are in the ruling Unity Caucus, opposition groups or independents. Thus we all have something in common even when we disagree.

Most of the content will be abridged versions of the issues covered on our blogs but also some additional content. Newsletters will be timely and often last minute based on breaking news. Content will be aimed at  informing chapter leaders and delegates of issues that have come up at DAs and UFT Exec Bd meetings.

Over the past 20 years I have been at most DAs handing something out - Education Notes, ICE lit, GEM lit and less often MORE lit, which has been very spotty over the years despite the fact I have urged people in MORE to establish a regular publication at the DA. I have pretty much given up preaching that message. Unity puts out a piece of worthless trash each month and most months New Action has something to give out, which over the past two years has been getting better and better. The DA, no matter how lame it may be, is still the 10 times a year where people from the schools get to gather and even though probably 60-70% are Unity and a handful are opposition there are still a 100-150 independents. The Oct and Nov DA has no new motions, which was very frustrating to see. Many of use even when we were in ICE used the time to push into issues being neglected. The spotty presence of MORE as an organization and the MORE CLs and Del who don't bother attending DAs over the years has been a serious concern to the older ICE members and some of the newer activists.

In Ed Notes publications, I focused very often on the foibles of the union leadership. When MORE has lit to hand out I often do it but find it devoid of the analysis of the action of the leadership, which I believe an opposition party must take on if it is to be taken seriously. MORE wants to put forth more of a positive alternative. Some MORE's feel there is a need for a more critical piece of lit about the Unity Caucus control of the union. Thus this new limited edition newsletter --- if any readers want it for their school email me and I will send a pdf.

The problem with MORE Lit is often an unwillingness to take on the union leadership or even mention Unity Caucus. MORE often has bigger ideas it wants to emphasize and wants to avoid coming off as negative. Like take its "Save Our Union" campaign which a minority in MORE feel is better left to the leadership because it puts MORE in the ticklish position of trying to be an opposition and critic - in theory - while in essence urging people to back the Unity party in power. (Some MORE people did show up to hand out a Save Our Union leaflet yesterday.)

I have no qualms about going after the union leadership and am withholding a blanket "Stay in the Union" pending some signs from the leadership of democratization. I am in my 51st year of UFT membership (and will remain a member) and over decades have seen too much on how the ruling party operates. Some of the younger MOREs may need a few more decades of seeing how they operate before they get riled up like me.

Howie Schoor's response to my speech (see Arthur's report) at the EB meeting the other day where I called on the UFT leadership to be held accountable for he failures to challenge awful principals more aggressively and for the climate of fear in so many schools was that they are held accountable every three years in the UFT elections.

I was already off the mic  -- I wondered how many teachers at Port Richmond and Flushing and Tottenville HS feel that way --- just wait until post Janus.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Emily James Took Action on Paid Parental Leave and Shook the Tree

After New York City teachers push for paid family leave, union takes up the fight... Chalkbeat
Who cannot love what Emily James has accomplished with her over 80,000 signatures on her parental leave petition? She forced the UFT leadership to take notice. How this came about is worth sharing. Last year a MORE member had a baby and when she found out about the conditions for new mothers she began a petition with MORE and others which garnered 3000 signatures. MORE decided to take up the issue and did - for a short time - and then went on to the myriad of other issues that arise.

That Emily was able to get so many signatures on her own, even without taking the Labor Notes training, "Secrets of a Successful Organizer" which so many MORE people rave about (I have taken it a few times and remain a skeptic), opened up a few eyes.

Mike Schirtzer, MORE's UFT Ex Bd member, got in touch with Emily and asked if she wanted to raise it before the leadership at an Ex Bd meeting. She said she had no idea there was such a thing as an Ex Bd and that regular people could go speak there.

She agreed and since the press was talking to her, reports appeared in Politico and on Chalkbeat the morning of the meeting. Arrangements were made for some of us to meet up with Emily before the meeting to lay out the landscape. We told her not to expect Mulgrew to be there as he doesn't waste is precious time coming to the first 10 minutes to hear regular members' concerns.

But lo and behold, there was Mulgrew to listen to Emily and meet with her. And stay in touch with her and get her involved in the UFT effort to move the ball on this issue. In the meantime some people in MORE tried to get Emily to come to a MORE meeting where the parental control issue would be a MORE campaign. She as also contacted by another caucus. She declined. Some of us in MORE feel Mike did the job MORE can do of getting Emily a forum and then laid back. But this incident does show the value of having MORE and New Action people on the Ex Bd even if only 7 out of 100.

All this is pretty funny since Emily doesn't need tiny caucuses that showed they couldn't deliver on this issue before she did her thing and now she at least has the caucus in power on the case, even if we don't trust them to really deliver on this. But at least she is still in the game.

One of our fave reporters, former teacher Lindsay Christ has a report on NY1, as does Chalkbeat.

After New York City teachers push for paid family leave, union takes up the fight

Memo From the RTC: Rockaway Café Rocks – Three Down, Seven to Go

Memo from the RTC:  Rockaway Café Rocks – Three Down, Seven to Go
By Norm Scott

The theme for the Rockaway Theatre Company’s 20th Anniversary celebration of Rockaway Café is “Then and Now.” The program guide states: “You are about to see a song and dance review containing tunes performed in previous Cafés in a mash up with numbers brand new to our stage, but related to the oldies.”

Where do I start? A cast of forty doing forty two songs, many with choreographed dance or little skits to enhance the stories they tell, some with scenery and stagecraft and a bonus of numerous videos to go along with the stories they tell. How does one manage all this mayhem? Maybe it takes former teachers like Director John Gilleece and Producer Susan Jasper to handle such a massive project that took months in the making. John is more than a director. He is also a teacher of theater and a teacher of how to behave like a professional in the theater. The cast and crew may be volunteers but it is clear that they all behave no differently than they would if they were on the Broadway stage.

I warned you in the last two weeks that the dance numbers would blow people away and they have. So let me go no further than mentioning the amazing choreographers: Nicola DePierro-Nellen, Gabrielle Mangano and Catherine Leib who have done the bulk of RTC choreography over the years. Their experience has taken the dance numbers in Café to a new level. I’d like to tell you which numbers to give special attention to but they are all so good I can’t choose. This time they are joined by Madiha Corning and Thomasina Ryszetnyk, with the ballet sequence in Jose Velez’ rendition of “Rose in Spanish Harlem” performed and choreographed by Dana Mongelli, an RTC favorite whom we first met as an RTC newcomer in acting class a year ago. Dana, a La Guardia HS graduate, performed professionally for a spell and shows it in her every move.

Now, with a cast of forty there is no way I can talk about everyone in this short space. Actually, I only get to see snatches of the show from either backstage or peering through the curtains at the back of the theater, so I don’t get to see everyone. However, at the risk of offending some people who put their hearts and souls into the show, I will mention a few people in this article and get to some others next week.

A friend, who is a theater critic and saw the show Saturday night, took special note of the astounding Erech Holder-Hetmeyer, a vast talent (and not too long ago a student at Murrow HS) who is a dominating figure on stage. Erech has been asked to do so much in this show – and of course delivers, whether it is singing a ballad (“Slip Sliding Away”), delivering a hard rock version of “Psycho Killer”, or performing duets “Uptown Funk” with Anthony Melendez or “You’re All I Need to Get By” with the lovely Maria Francesconi-Schirripa. People I know who have seen Erech in The Producers or La Cage are surprised to find he is learning to be an electrician instead of starring on Broadway.

Also asked to take a leading role is Maria Francesconi-Schirripa, another triple threat singer, dancer and actor, who is clearly someone who could have been on Broadway. Maria, an RTC fave, who, while taking time off to raise a family, has played Sister Sarah, a soprano lead in Guys and Dolls and performed a dynamic solo as Valerie in A Chorus Line, blows it all out in Café. Watching her every move on state is worth more than the price of admission. 

I can write ten columns about the cast but I’m pretty much out of space and I have a dozen more talented people to talk about. Look for more about them next week.

Performances are Nov. 3, 4, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18 at 8PM and Nov. 5, 12, 19 at 2 PM. Tickets are $20, $15 for seniors. Call RTC Hotline: 718-374-6400 or
Norm is practicing his dance steps for the 30th anniversary of Rockaway Cafe when he will be 82. Meanwhile he is also practicing writing in his other WAVE column, School Scope, and daily at his blog,

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Ángel González - 20 Federation of Teachers of Puerto Rico - FMPR arrested for civil disobediance

From our old pal Angel who resides in Puerto Rico.

Angel Gonzalez shared Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico's live video to the group: A Call to Action on Puerto Rico. - 20 Federation of Teachers of Puerto Rico FMPR are currently arrested in San Juan for acting in civil disobedience (our constitutional right). We sat in the lobby of Secty of Education's office, Julia Keleher.

We Demand: 1) open all schools that principals and community have prepared to open. 2) Repair schools (damaged by the hurricanes)so that they open. 3) No dismissals of transitory teachers 4) keep the integrity of our community schools 5) no charter privatization of our public schools. No New Orleans charter-privatization of Puerto Rico public education. Respect the union and labor rights of teachers. Stop the profiteering off of our children and teachers back. No to a new WhiteFish criminal robbery scandal using our public schools.

Monday, November 6, 2017

UFT Brags About "Success" at Tottenville HS While Principal Joseph Scarmato Runs Amuck

Is the UFT going through the motions telling members to file grievances while the abuse from the principal just continues?.. James Eterno, ICE blog
Yes, yes, yes -- the UFT is going through the motions. Tell people to file grievances but then don't protect them from retaliation for doing so.

I wonder how many people at Tottenville HS think these are the best of times and will be willing to pay dues post Janus? Are these the best of times for Tottenville HS as Mulgrew declared for the system as a whole at the DA (MULGREW TO DELEGATE ASSEMBLY: THESE ARE BEST OF TIMES...?)

After hearing the horror stories about Tottenville HS (Staten Island) at last week's UFT Ex Bd meeting - including the removal of the current chapter leader to a rubber room - how funny to read this report from James Eterno:


James has a link to a posted testimony I posted but I removed it after that teacher received some heavy blow back from people at the school due to their fears of retaliation.

When the teachers asked the UFT/Unity leadership to support them by going after Joseph Scarmato publicly, they flat out refused, telling us about all the times they visited the school -- they win some grievances which are pot shots in what should be total war.

One thing we learned last year was that when parents get involved as at Townsend Harris and CPE1, principals can be removed. The job of the UFT in defending their members is to stop the principal and if necessary to go public and stop playing footsie. And then go after the Superintendent for not controlling the principal.

I heard from some people that the reluctance of the UFT to take on Scarmato may be due to his connections to the Staten Island political machine where he may have an angel protecting him and the UFT doesn't want to step on those toes.