Saturday, February 20, 2010

Deconstructing "nimble" union leadership with the help of Scott, NYC Educator and Fiorillo

On Norm's Notes now is the way NYC Educator and ICE candidate Michael Fiorillo countered some comments made by Peter (Probably Goodman) in a recent Gotham post called "Lost in the school closing debate."

Norm's intro goes like this:
At Gotham Schools: A worthwhile insight into the UFT/AFT thinking on the role of unions as UFT shill Peter (undoubtably Goodman/Ed in the Apple) talks about "nimble" leadership — read this as "give ground because we don't have the ability or chops to fight them" — as he apologizes for all of Weingarten policies. If anyone thinks that this ideologue and Mulgrew are on different pages you are drinking the old K-aid.

In fact, the AFT/UFT cannot fight them because they run a top-down union without rank and file participation and in fact fear such participation because an active rank and file would see them for what they are and toss them out. So, keep 'em ignorant and barefoot.

Read the full post here: "NYC Educator and Fiorillo Debate UFT Shill Peter"

Michael Fiorillo is running with ICE for a HS seat on the Exec. Board, and NYC Educator has supported ICE positions for some time.

Without articulate, experienced voices like these, union managers will continue to protect their own jobs more than they protect ours.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

ICE-TJC candidate Seung Ok also speaks out on ed deform in NYC

Not a day goes by, it seems, when one of ICE-TJC's candidates in the upcoming union elections is not writing an incisive and informative essay on the state of our schools in NYC.

Here's a paper on charter schools that Seung Ok, a living environment teacher at William H. Maxwell HS Brooklyn and delegate, sent to a listserv yesterday. Ok is ICE-TJC's choice for VP for Vocational HSS.

He is pointing to the same defect in the chancellor's thinking that ICE-TJC candidate Arthur Goldstein talked about this week at Gotham. Seung asks:
"Why is it, that the charter school has significant lower special ed and ELL students than it's counterpart — when they both seemingly draw from the same community?

The answer is that charter schools in NYC are not so much a solution for closing the achievement gap but a deceptive horse and pony show for another more ambitious agenda — and that is to convince us to privatize the whole public school system."

The full text below, and click the picture above to hear Ok speak at the Jan. 16th parent conference on the closing of Maxwell HS.

There are several important reasons why charter schools not only harm public school children, but are a direct threat to public education as we know it. The harm is not ideological in nature, it is direct. I just attended the expansion hearing of KIPP into PS 195 in Harlen this Monday - and it is heartbreaking to hear that PS 195 students have class in the cafeteria. The teacher must ask the other students who are having lunch to quiet down, so instruction can happen. And if this isn't unbelievable enough, KIPP is expanding from its current grades of 5-8, to K-8.

More than a few PS 195 teachers got up to demand that KIPP teachers stop threatening charter school students with the admonishment,"Do you want to be like them?" The lesson hammered into these children every single day in that partitioned environment is one of segregation. The public school students are made to feel less, and the charter school children learn that personal advantage gained by harm to others is not only an entitlement of their talent, but a necessity.

But let's assume the above injustices to public school students were not happening, and charter schools obtained their own space - there is still a troubling aspect to the charter school movement - and that is its endgame. If the ultimate goal is to help the vast majority of minority students; and we can believe the sincerity of the billionaires and politicians who are steering this movement, than I'll support charter schools full heartedly.

The actions of these NYC charters however tell a much different tale than the benevolent words they speak. They are invading spaces of A rated schools (examples, PS 15 in Redhook Brooklyn, PS 123, and PS 195 in Harlem, etc.) If the claim is to want to help the neediest children, then why are they choosing building with A rated public schools that are successfully helping their communities. And when you see the comparisons between the two co-located schools in the same building, why is it, that the charter school has significant lower special ed and ELL students than it's counterpart - when they both seemingly draw from the same community?

The answer is that charter schools in NYC are not so much a solution for closing the achievement gap but a deceptive horse and pony show for another more ambitious agenda - and that is to convince us to privatize the whole public school system. Imagine a city where the law limiting the number of charter schools was removed. All those years of pent up frustration by privileged parents spending thousands for private schools can be released with one great sigh of relief. We will start to see mostly white charter schools arise in neighborhoods like the Upper West Side. Let's not forget how expensive real estate is in NYC. A public school building is a million dollar gift.

And a unique and surprising thing will happen. All that private money funneling into black and Latino charter schools will dry up. The money that once surprisingly made its way to Harlem and Brooklyn, will support the charter schools that the millionaires' and billionaires' children attend. There is a finite amount of private money - and it's just a matter of practicality to ration it out if charter schools litter the educational landscape; the donors must prioritize their wads of money, and human nature being what it is - they will fund their own neighborhood's charter schools than not.

So, where will Black and Latino communities find themselves - a place much worse than they were before. Their successful public schools having been decimated - closed and phased out, their struggling schools left overcrowded, and their abandoned charter schools left under funded - all destroying the gains made in the past several decades of hard earned work by so many stakeholders.

Doesn't this have a familiar ring to it? Just think back to a recent phenomenon, that of subprime mortgages. In the beginning, it was sold to America by the likes of George Bush, Newt Gingrich, and Phil Gram as a civil rights issue of getting minorities into houses. Mortgage companies made billions making loans to people that could not afford them. If anyone could go back in time and demand these loans be stopped, they would be labeled a racist, and be ridiculed.

And now these same political characters mentioned above are pushing the charter school agenda: Now they declare that education is the civil rights issue of our times. Coincidence? And in President Obama's defense, his mother sent him to the best international private schools in Hawaii and abroad - no wonder that his knowledge of public schools seems as ill formed as President Bush's. So while Obama tries to convince the nation to curtail the worse aspects of a privatized health care system, he is conversely promoting the worse aspects of privatization to the delivery of education in Chicago, and now, the country.

So the fight to defend public education against charter schools, is more than about space, teacher unions, or a lottery system; it is to stop the manipulation of Black and Latino communities as chess pieces in a game to benefit the elite classes in our society. While the struggling parents in impoverished areas are positioned to fight each other for the scraps of space and funding that has been allotted by our society, the privileged lay waiting in the sidelines until all the energy is sapped out - and the doorway to unregulated access to taxpayer money opens.

More from Seung Ok on the CREDO Sanford Charter school study:

The Credo study on NYC Charter schools is an academic sham. Here is the proof: If you click the link at the end of this email and go to the bottom of page 4, under the heading: School Level Comparisons, it notes:

"The test for New York City schools was slightly different than the test employed in CREDO’s earlier national study. Because all the NYC schools are drawn from the same education market, there was no need to control for market differences across all the schools, as was the case in the earlier national analysis.Instead, it sufficed to use simple t-tests of each pair of schools; that is, that charter school performance against the performance of its associated comparison group. The student learning gains were averaged for each school and then compared for statistical differences.""

So, this test did not control for the fact that charter schools send out invitations to level 3 and level 4 students? It doesn't control for the fact that charter schools use a self selecting lottery system versus open enrollment? It doesn't factor in class size and building overcrowding? It doesn't factor in per pupil spending? It doesn't factor in how charters release students who they feel don't measure up to their "contract" standards?

So basically, in this study's perspective, all Black and Latino students are pretty much the same. Forget that there are talented students, strugglings students, students in shelters, students with two parents, students with one parent...etc. Wow, how can Stanford University put their name to such a flimsy piece of so called "scientific" study. Any high school science student can tell you that the experiment group and the control group must control for all possible variables except the one being tested.

So, there are two possibilities here. Either Credo/Stanford University are ignorant of these "marget differences" or they are biased supporters of charter schools. Either way, shame on them.

Seung Ok - GEM, Grassroots Education Movement

Friday, February 12, 2010

Arthur Goldstein's latest post at Gotham

Running on the ICE-TJC slate for a HS Exec Bd seat is Arthur Goldstein, chapter leader at Francis Lewis HS (Queens).

In his latest column at GothamSchools, "The Kids Nobody Wants," he asks the question a lot of us are wondering about these days:

Who’s speaking up for those of us who embrace our most challenging kids? Schools taking on these kids ought to be rewarded. Under Joel Klein’s stewardship, they are dumped onto the scrap heap. The same could be said for these kids, left without neighborhood schools, and without Metrocards to get them wherever Tweed sees fit to send them.

These kids deserve better. Their neighborhoods deserve better.

You can read the full post and all of his other ones in GothamSchools at this link.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Read James Eterno on the Unity political machine that controls our union

James Eterno, ICE-UFT's candidate for president of the UFT, has written a new post over on the ICE blog.

Here's part of what he says, but go over to that link to read his whole statement.

Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew’s faction of the UFT) is the closed, invitation only group that has controlled the UFT since the sixties. They rule the UFT with a top-down corporate style system that one time AFT President David Selden said made the union function more like an insurance company rather than an organization that is part of the labor movement . . .

The Unity machine is one of the last huge political machines to remain potent in the US. Here is how it works. The leadership (Mulgrew, Randi Weingarten or whoever) dispenses patronage to its followers in exchange for complete loyalty. If a UFT member wants a free trip to AFT and NYSUT conventions or a UFT job, one has to join Unity Caucus or their wholly owned subsidiary since 2003, New Action. Unity makes a big pitch for newly elected chapter leaders to join them. After someone is accepted to the caucus, they have to drum up 100 signatures to get on the ballot for the UFT election to win those free trips to conventions.

A friend informed me that the leadership is asking that Unity members submit an officer petition along with their own petition. Therefore, the Unity faithful will circulate a petition for Mulgrew along with their personal one. They are able to link themselves with Mulgrew so he gets school level recognition and support. In return, he dispenses the patronage. The system works very well for Unity and it explains why so many of the Unity believers were at the DA in January. . . .

This breeds cynicism and mistrust among the rank and file in the schools as when the Unity crowd sold the awful giveback laden 2005 Contract (longer day, extra small group class, return to cafeteria and hall patrol, loss of ability to grieve letters in file, loss of seniority rights which created the ATR situation and more). Most UFT members respond by not voting in UFT elections. This is a mistake. . .

ICE stands for a democratic union with an involved membership. We will go back to union basics if elected. Our people running for office have proven track records of activating their chapters. If we had the resources of the UFT at our disposal, we know we could activate the members throughout this city. Our public relations campaign on day 1 will be much more hard hitting. No more cartoon commercials; we will show the public the protests that have been occurring at closing schools. Elected officials and PEP members will also be held accountable for what they are doing to us.

This election is too important to sit out. Please join our campaign.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Michael Fiorillo on Duncan's Katrina statement

Teacher, historian, activist, and chapter leader Michael Fiorillo, who is running with ICE-TJC for one of the six HS seats on the Executive Board in the coming election, writes frequently about NYC schools and the state of our labor union.

His perspective on current school events is not only informative but essential reading.

The following paragraphs are in response to a post at GothamSchools after Sect'y of Education Arne Duncan remarked that Katrina was the "best thing" for the New Orleans school system.

This despicable statement by Duncan represents a common motif among Democrats and Republicans alike, and validates Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine thesis, namely, that ruling elites create or opportunistically use crises to implement policies that would otherwise be blocked. In the case of New Orleans, it’s the wholesale privatization of the school system, with the schools being turned over to large charter school chains. Teach For America — closely affiliated with KIPP — is the Human Resources Division and employment agency for this hostile takeover.

Right after Katrina, Republican House member Richard Baker from Baton Rouge said, “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.” (Huffington Post, 9/12/05) Apparently, God favors privatization and separate-and-unequal schools, which is the current model in New Orleans, NYC and every large urban school system.

Where were these people when the urban schools were suffering from decades of neglect and under-investment? They certainly weren’t teaching in them, or sending their children to them. Why are they only now proclaiming their “passion” for education, which is based solely on their lust to dominate and control them, driven by an agenda that, PR rhetoric aside, is about their will to power and profit?

The privatization of the schools is the lead-in the the privatization of Social Security, which will be forced on the American people in the name of “deficit reduction” and “fiscal responsibility.” While working and middle class Americans will see the loss and privatization of the public domain and the public interest, Finance will continue to be be allowed to capture an ever-increasing percentage of the national income, and will continue to loot the nations patrimonial wealth. They will do this by demanding and receiving ever higher “rents” from consumers and the productive economy, by means of interest, fees, royalties, actual rents, use of eminent domain for private interests, and privatization. If you research the private interests that are funding ed deform, these rentiers are who you will find.

Obama, who received most of his campaign contributions from Finance, is the Trojan Horse brought in to bring this about; it’s Nixon Goes to China in reverse, with a purported “liberal” elected to do what a Republican never could get away with. It’s his job to impose the structural adjustment policies that the IMF has used to dominate developing countries undergoing debt crises over the past thirty years: shrinking the public sector, privatization of resources and public services (note that he just announced the privatization of the space program), elimination of subsidies that support domestic production and social welfare, etc.

Disregard Obama’s faux-populist rhetoric of recent weeks: it’s little more than a shift in his overall marketing campaign, called for by internal polls, focus groups, and his team’s failure to hit their sales targets in Massachusetts. After all, he was named Marketer of the Year in 2008 by Advertising Age magazine, and is referred to by his own people as “Brand Obama.”

While the Democrats traditional political base is frozen by cynical slogans of “hope” and “change,” Wall Street is going to smash and grab what’s left of the country.

Unless we stop them, starting here and now.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

UFT election back stories

The following post is reproduced in its entirety from Ednotes.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

UFT Election Back Stories

Gotham Schools' Anna Philips has a report on the upcoming UFT elections (ballots go out March 7 and must be returned by April 6 - count is April 7 and is open to UFT members). I left a comment.

The reason Randi got 74% in her first election was that New Action, the main opposition at the time, was still a force and able to pull a quarter of the votes. Now they have sunk to below 10%, with many of those coming from retirees.

For a comparison of voting patterns over the lst few elections, see a spreadsheet we prepared 3 years ago.

You will note that Randi's % dropped in 2007, but her vote total really dropped from 42,000 to 35,000 between 2004 and 2007 while the number of retirees voting for Unity remained constant at over 18,000 votes. Can it be that half if Unity's votes come from retirees? It's late and my eyes are bleary. But here's the skinny on the HS vote.

Elaborating on the high school executive board seats and why they are up for contention:
First of all, our 6 great candidates.

From ICE
Arthur Goldstein, CL of Francis Lewis HS, who you all know very well from his writings on Gotham. [See his latest post here.]

Michael Fiorillo, former CL and current delegate from Newcomers HS who has also commented very astutely on many issues at Gotham.

John Lawhead, CL of Tilden, a soon to be closed school. John used to be at Bushwick HS which also was closed, so he is an expert on the politics of closing schools. He is also has been an expert on the high stakes testing issue for many years and has taught many of us in ICE the implications of the high stakes testing game.
From TJC
Kit Wainer, CL from Leon Goldstein HS, who headed the ICE-TJC slate in 2007. Kit has been a long-time activist and is one of the founders of TJC.

Marian Swerdlow, FDR HS, also a long-time activist in UFT politics and a former delegate.

Peter Lamphere, CL of Bronx HS of Science, who has been active for many years.

Some facts about this particular piece of the election

These 6 high school seats have been Unity's problem for over 20 years (the high school vote always split around 50/50), as they consistently lost them to the opposition, which used to be New Action.

But in 2003/4 New Action started making deals with Randi - they wouldn't run against her if she wouldn't run Unity candidates for these 6 seats, thus ceding them to New Action. Many New Action members also got part-time jobs at the UFT.

This dirty deal led to the formation of ICE (many from the Education Notes circle) for the 2004 elections and an alliance with TJC, which had been around for a decade but had never run in an election before 2003. Both groups had a lot to learn and had to build a new infrastructure from scratch.

With Unity not running candidates for these seats, the direct confrontation with New Action led to ICE-TJC winning those seats, which placed people like Jeff Kaufman and James Eterno (who has been on the EB as a New Action rep but left them over the Unity deal) on the EB. As someone who had been attending the EB meetings for a while, they brought a breath of fresh air to the meetings over their 3 years on the board, forcing Unity to address many issues, including the rubber room (Kaufman's short trip to the RR as an Ex Bd member made some headlines and his experience there and support for his colleagues, plus his legal background, brought many issues into the light.) Their voices were loud and strong in fighting the disastrous 2005 contract.

In order to still these voices, in 2007 Unity guaranteed New Action 3 of the HS EB seats by co-endorsing - which means a Unity vote counted for New Action- and took 3 seats for themselves. ICE-TJC got 36% of the vote and could not top the combined New Action (12%) / Unity (51%) totals, though ICE-TJC outpolled New Action in every division of the union except retirees. (Since New Action sold out their vote totals have dropped consistently amongst working teachers from the mid 20% to single digits in 2007). To make it clearer. New Action got 3 HS EB seats while getting only 521 votes while ICE-TJC received over 1500 votes and got no seats. UFT democracy inaction.

You can see a vote comparison of the 2004 and 2007 elections at

New Action also received 5 additional EB seats for a total of 8 as a reward for keeping the independent voices of ICE-TJC off the Board.

We assume that a similar deal will be in operation in this election. If ICE-TJC can increase its vote in the HS to 50%, not an impossibility given the conditions, then the 6 people mentioned above, although an extreme minority out of 89 EB seats, would serve on the Board and give voice to a large group of disenfranchised teachers, paras, secretaries, etc.

And it would further drive a stake through the heart of New Action's bogus claims to be an opposition. If they lose, will it threaten their jobs at the UFT? Probably not, but if you detect an air of desperation on the part of New Action, you know why. Unity will probably offer a similar deal like last time and hand them additional seats in order to make phony claims of bi-partisanship. If ICE-TJC does win these seats, just watch New Action EB members line up on most votes with Unity.

Unlike ICE/GEM people, New Action has been absent from the line of fire of closing schools and charter school invasions (they supported the UFT charter school invasion of 2 public schools in East NY). Will the rank and file be aware of these differences? While the word has been out about New Action to some areas of the UFT, we theorize that a batch of New Action votes come from people who still believe they are the old New Action.