By James Eterno
Chapter Leader Jamaica High School
Our monthly UFT Delegate Assembly Report
Michael Bloomberg, the anti-public education mayor, has left office after twelve years where he almost destroyed our public schools. An anti-public education, anti-worker governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo, is up for reelection later this year. On Wednesday at the UFT Delegate Assembly, I introduced a resolution for the UFT to outright reject any possible Cuomo endorsement or campaign contributions. Although I received significant applause and votes, the Unity dominated Delegate Assembly voted against a blanket repudiation of Cuomo. Here is the language of the motion:
Whereas, Governor Andrew Cuomo by supporting an unfair teacher evaluation system, an inferior Tier 6 pension and untested Common Core Standards has shown he is no friend to public education or workers; be it
Resolved, that the UFT not endorse Cuomo’s reelection nor provide him with any COPE money.
The bulk of the votes against this motion came from the center of the room where the Unity officers and many of the retirees usually are seated. The sides of the room where the rank and file is better represented seemed to show much more enthusiasm for our proposal.
The Unity people clearly were not in a very positive mood as they also voted down a motion to have a rally in support of Randi Weingarten at Times Square. The AFT President has been the recipient of some vicious attacks by the so called Center on Union Facts. One of the attacks is on a Times Square billboard. Delegate Patrick Walsh proposed the rally during the new motion period and although it was voted down, UFT President Michael Mulgrew did say Patrick should meet with Secretary Leroy Barr after the meeting and work on something so Patrick did make his point and there will probably be some kind of action.
Patrick noted to me how the attack on Randi is an attack on all AFT members. For the record I voted for the rally as did many Delegates but not enough to get a 2/3 super majority needed to put it on the agenda.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew opened by saying this is the first DA under a new mayoral administration which prompted applause.
The President then called for a moment of silence for Joseph Shannon, a UFT activist who recently passed away.
The President noted a change in the relationship between the UFT and the people at the DOE. Many of them have been apologizing to us for what they said they had to do during the Bloomberg years.
We are not under attack in Albany this year. Governor Cuomo is calling for tax breaks for banks and others but on education he is calling for a 5% increase in state education funding. The governor is also requesting a vote for $2 billion in bonds that will be used to fund technology in the schools and he wants all day Pre Kindergarten to be universally available statewide.
There is the right political climate for universal Pre-K to get passed in Albany. The problem is how to fund it. UFT stood with the unions from the NYC Central Labor Council behind Mayor Bill de Blasio to endorse de Blasio’s proposal to tax NYC residents making over $500,000 a year to pay for Pre-K. (That tax must be approved in Albany.) 72,000 young people are in grade 1 in NYC but only 30,000 slots are available for Pre-K. Besides funding, there are space questions that need to be resolved.
The Governor made a proposal for $20,000 teacher bonuses. If this turns into individual merit pay, the UFT will not support it but if it will fund the UFT’s career ladder, then we are open to it. Since the mayor rejected individual merit pay, this is a good sign.
A state task force thinks charter schools should be able to have Pre-K but we don’t want any more access for charter schools until they educate the same percentage of English Language Learners and Special Education pupils as the public schools do. They are required by law to have the same percentage of these students as the public schools have.
The UFT is watching the Detroit bankruptcy situation closely.
AFT President Randi Weingarten is under attack from the “Center on Union Facts” which has a billboard in Times Square and radio ads out against our national president. Randi has come out against Value Added Testing to judge teachers because it doesn’t work. Mulgrew prefers the growth model.
Mellissa Maark Viverito was elected as the new City Council Speaker. She went with the UFT to Cincinnati years before she was looking for the speaker’s position to learn about how community schools worked. We think she will be more favorable to us than the last Council Speaker. There are now six UFT members on the City Council. We hope to get a UFT person to chair the Education Committee.
Carmen Farina (sorry but could someone show me how to put a ~ over a letter) is the new Chancellor. She has 22 years of teaching experience. We asked for an educator to be Chancellor after thirteen years of non-educators running the system and we are happy to have her in the position to clean up the mess at Tweed. DOE needs changes and requires a take charge person which Carmen is.
Mulgrew acknowledged that she moved out 80% of the teachers in her school when she was the Principal but he defended that by saying she had a vision for the school and she helped people who were not happy with direction she was taking the school in to find other positions.
Carmen was the best person on the list of people who were up for the job. She will analyze the DOE to figure out changes that need to be made. She didn’t have to do this as she was happily retired. She is the right person at the right time.
For the new administration’s first act concerning the schools, they made the right decision on the snow day. Mayor de Blasio called Mulgrew (unlike Bloomberg) before closing schools. We have 183 school days this year on the calendar; we need 180 so we can have two more snow days without having to get our shovels out to keep schools open or lose days off.
Many lawsuits are out there including co-location cases. Hopefully, we will sit down and have a civil conversation with the new administration about settling the cases.
We intend to make changes in the evaluation system through contract negotiations. In order for them to be implemented in September, we need to have a contract ratified by the end of this school year in June.
State and Federal school accountability measures are recognized by statute but city measures are not. Bloomberg hired over 700 lawyers and accountability people. These jobs can be eliminated and it would free up some money for our contract. $460 million state aid increase this year is not going to the NYC schools but going to the central DOE. The Principal evaluations are tied to the city accountability system so they will have to fix that in their contract.
Staff Director’s Report
Staff Director Leroy Barr gave dates for various meetings and events including the next DA which will be on February 5.
Question: Randi said she would give up Absent Teacher Reserves over her dead body and Mulgrew declared he would not let them be fired. Is that still the position?
Mulgrew Answer: We are not selling out the ATRs. We could have had a contract a couple of years back if we were willing to do that. Bloomberg wanted to make us at will employees. We didn’t go through all of what we went through the last few years to give up on this issue now.
Question: Some teachers are not being observed at all. Should we push administration to observe them?
Answer: If administration is not doing the observations, they are not interested in it and they might be waiting for the system to change.
Question: Teachers are getting one less observation if they do a literacy bundle. Is that ok?
Answer: It violates the law but if you can work something like that out with the Principal, well some people like to do paperwork. Teachers have to get over their fear of having administrators in their rooms.
Question: Governor Christie wants to extend the school year and school day and reduce pensions in NJ. Will that be a problem
Answer: Christie is having a tough time lately. When someone says they want to extend the day and year, ask them point blank why they want to do it? If they just don’t want to have their kids around, tell them we will take $2 an hour for 32 kids and we will all make $150,000 a year.
Question: What is the new administration’s position on data collection?
Answer: That is a state issue. It is dangerous to give student information to Joel Klein and Rupert Murdoch. InBloom (data collection company) said they would be careful. There are problems in Albany. State Education Commissioner John King has been in the news lately. UFT supports standards but is not happy with rollout of Common Core. UFT reps in NYSUT will soon be voting on a no confidence vote on John King. Bloomberg is gone so we have to move onto other issues.
Question: Retroactive pay in new contract?
Answer: President will not discuss the issue in public.
See the top of the report..
Special Order of Business
There was a resolution calling for the Department of Education to have a Lab Specialist in every secondary school. This passed unanimously I believe but only after there was some back and forth between Joan Heymont and the Chair as Joan was cut off when she was speaking and she answered back that there were many women who do not like the way Mulgrew treats them at DA’s.
The next resolution was to support universal Pre-Kindergarten through increasing taxes on the wealthy in NYC. This also passed unanimously I believe but not before someone offered an amendment saying the curriculum must be developmentally appropriate. Another amendment to make Pre-K and Kindergarten mandatory was defeated. (I voted against this amendment but for the other amendment and the resolution.)
Finally, there was a resolution for a campaign to win a good contract that asks us to receive texts and emails and to educate our members on the importance of receiving a good contract. Mulgrew reverted to his old form by not calling on a speaker opposed (I am not sure if there were people who wanted to oppose this so I didn’t object. In retrospect, I probably should have called a point of order.) but someone called the question to end debate before anyone had a chance to amend the resolution to call for possible actions to achieve a contract.
After the meeting, I went back to Queens to attend the Community Board 8 meeting where a resolution passed unanimously to try to save Jamaica High School. I arrived home very late but I will put up more on this cause later.