Sunday, November 22, 2009

ICE UPDATE Nov. 2009

The latest ICE leaflet.

ICE Update Nov09

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fighting for public education

"Charter schools are being used as a wedge to undermine the public school system."

That was the way Norm Scott, founding member of ICE, began his dynamite analysis of the charter school infestation at a public hearing at PS 120 on the Lower East Side last Wednesday evening.

"Charter schools are created to grow. . .

"A charter school is not a public school, I don't care what they say. If they hire a company to fix your road and give them public money, that is not a public company. It's a private company."

See the whole speech over on YouTube, and more commentary on Ednotes.

ICE's platform can be accessed through the sidebar links of this blog. Its position on charter schools is Part VII:

VII. ICE supports local neighborhood public schools and is against privatization and school closings

Diverting money to private schools through vouchers, hiring private companies to run public schools, and creating charter schools that operate on the DoE budget but free of union contracts and other restrictions that apply to public schools do great harm in polarizing our educational system and our society. Charters and schools infused with private money get preferential treatment, particularly in class size (smaller), the selection of students, and appurtenances. The DoE’s agenda to privatize the system is done through unilateral decisions and in secret. Targets for the influx of private money have been the minority areas of the city, where many large schools have been broken up into smaller ones and where public schools are being forced to absorb charters.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Unity caucus and another missed opportunity

"The UFT passed up on a real chance to influence the outcome by staying out of it," says ICE candidate James Eterno in a post on the ICE blog yesterday.

"If the unions and the Democratic Party establishment rallied behind Thompson, Bloomberg could have been defeated in this very Democratic town."

Read the rest of his comments here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Michael Fiorillo Comments at Gotham Schools

ICE's Michael Fiorillo has garnered enormous respect for his thoughtful comments at Gotham Schools on many of the educational issues of the day. Michael has been very active in numerous debates at Gotham, the most recent on the UFT contract, quality teaching and other issues on a thread based on an article written by a pro ed deformer, Tom Carroll. You can follow the thread here and chip in yourself.

Here is Fiorillo's response to Stuyvesant HS teacher Matt Polazzo's piece in today's Daily News. (Fiorillo will be a candidate for the UFT Executive Board on the ICE/TJC slate in the upcoming UFT elections this spring.)

Whatever my criticisms of the UFT, I am a union member and will fight to defend it and the contract. I also think the contract protects students as well as teachers.

The only thing that limits class size in the public schools is the contract. The only thing that provides the many, but mostly unacknowledged, benefits of having teachers remain parts of their communities for years is the seniority provisions of the contract.

This deluded and self-important teacher — ooh, he teaches at Stuyvesant! — like most other critics of the union, makes that cliched, tired reference to the “165 page contract,” as if its length is by itself proof of its dark powers. Has this innocent ever considered that the contract’s length is in direct proportion to the idiocies enacted by management over the years? Provisions in the contract are there to protect teachers from the chronic over-reaching and intrusions by administrators. Whatever professional autonomy he has is because of the contract, the people who struggled to achieve it, and those who struggle everyday to see that it remains a viable thing.

I criticize the UFT all the time, but there are many hardworking and dedicated officers and staffers there and I sympathize with their professional obligation to represent management suck-ups like Mr. Polazzo.

If Mr. Polazzo is so convinced of his specialness and untouchability, a la Ariel Sacks, he is fooling himself and endangering the rest of us. Should the UFT ever strike again, he sounds like a certain fink (aka, a union member who crosses a picket line). How surprising that Mortimer Zuckerman should give him space on the opinion page.

Fiorillo on Charter School blather
Charter apologists and propagandists are quick to respond to criticism, but it seems they can rarely be bothered to fashion a response that differs from their robotic buzz word/talking points: "Blah, blah, blah... achievement gap... blah, blah, blah, teacher quality... blah, blah, blah... civil rights movement of our time... blah, blah, blah... laboratories of innovation... blah, blah, blah ...parent choice."

Is there a chip implanted in their brains that makes them unable to respond in any way other than a recurring loop? When it comes to real debate, it seems that all that money spent on Ivy League educations has been wasted.

Also see Fiorillo guest piece at NYC Educator blog

Duncan Shoots a Brick

by special guest blogger Michael Fiorillo

ICEr CLs in Queens schools
quoted in the Post

Sunday, November 1, 2009
No school left behind

by Angela Montefinise

from the article:

The A-rated school was forced to add a 13th period to its schedule this year, and has 73 classes with more than the 34-student maximum set by the teachers’ contract, UFT rep and teacher Arthur Goldstein said.

“We’re busting at the seams,” he said. “We can’t sustain this. Eventually, the kids will suffer.”

The Department of Education is trying to help the school — it is not sending any No Child Left Behind transfers there for the next year and is aggressively verifying the addresses of students in the zoned program. It has also pledged to build new schools, adding 10,000 seats to Queens to curb overcrowding at many borough high schools.

But Goldstein and others believe there’s another solution that no one is talking about.
“I absolutely believe that they can make the other schools in the area better,” said Goldstein. “It’s their job to make the other schools better. Better options would spread students out, and everyone would be better off.”

A perfect example is Jamaica High School, a large school located less than three miles south of Francis Lewis. It received a C on its progress report, has attendance rates in the low 70 percentile and a grad rate of only 47%, stats show.

Francis Lewis received almost 13,000 applications — the most in the city — from students eager to go there. Jamaica received 1,580 applications, eight times fewer.

Meanwhile, with 1,416 kids, Jamaica is 700 students under capacity.

“I understand the DOE wants to give parents and students what they want,” said Goldstein. “But they should be focused on getting kids interested in Jamaica so they want to go there. That should be the goal.”

. . .

Jamaica social studies teacher and UFT rep James Eterno said his school “has the dedicated staff and programs” to be successful, but needs a helping hand to become more attractive to students.
“We have the space right now to lower class sizes,” he said. “If we could offer really low class sizes, personal attention, parents would send their kids here. That’s something Francis Lewis can’t offer.”

DOE spokesman Will Havemann said class size is not just tied to space, but also to the number of teachers at the school.

“Principals are free to hire new teachers to reduce their class sizes, but given the city’s financial circumstances, significantly reducing class sized may be prohibitively expensive,” he said.
Eterno called this “a frustrating cycle,” saying the school’s budget was cut because the number of students has declined.

“So we have less to work with to begin with,” he said.

Experts also suggested caps at schools like Francis Lewis High School, but Havemann said it is against DOE policy because, “We want to honor to the greatest extent possible students’ preferences.”

That, Goldstein said, cannot continue. “They keep saying yes, yes, yes to kids who want to come here, and no, no, no to things that could help Jamaica,” said Goldstein. “At some point, that has to change.”

James Eterno is running for UFT President and Arthur Goldstein will be running for a UFT Executive Board position on the ICE/TJC slate in the upcoming UFT elections.

Support the election effort by joining the ICE fundraiser Monday night. Make it a virtual party if you can't make it by sending a check made out to Independent Community of Educators (not ICE) and sending it to:
Box 1143
Jamaica, NY 11421