Wednesday, November 30, 2016

UFT Leadership--Wake Up or Give Up

I was a little upset at the AFT's early endorsement of Hillary. I had one or two issues with candidate Clinton. But they did a "scientific survey" that asked who knows whom who knows what, and that was it.

Of course no one asked me or anyone I know, but I don't travel in the circles Randi or Mike do. I'm just a lowly teacher who talks to other lowly teachers, you know, the kind who get rated by Danielson and live with the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. Michael Mulgrew, like every UFT officer, has never experienced that, so why should he worry?

Anyway, we all know how the Hillary Project came out. We now face a GOP President, Congress, Senate, and any moment now, Supreme Court. This last detail has not escaped the attention of UFT leadership. It appears that, while Friedrichs did not prevail, some copycat will. This will make the United States of America effectively a "right to work" state.

Now "right to work" is a misnomer. Everyone has the right to work. It's just that, in a union shop, you may be required to actually pay into the group that negotiates for you. What "right to work"  really means is "right to not pay dues." It's a right to weaken union, and a right to weaken collective bargaining. In Wisconsin, it's crippled union, as was its intention.

NY State is a bastion of liberalism, more or less, and it is possible that legislation could circumvent it. Of course it's questionable whether our esteemed governor, who ran on a platform of going after unions, would support it. But it's possible with the urging of UFT and NYSUT (among others), NY State could pass legislation that says everyone must pay union dues.

The thing is, there's a bit of a timing issue here. Next year a Constitutional Convention will appear on the NY ballot, and it's imperative we defeat that. Otherwise, folks like our buddy Andrew Cuomo could open up our pensions and make us all explore cat food diets into our golden years. It would be really unfortunate if the two things were to overlap and our enemies could twist our support for union into a campaign against our pensions. Of course that may not be a problem if the Friedrichs copycat doesn't rear its head in the next 12 months.

But there's another problem, and it's more fundamental. That problem is the insidious nature of the loyalty oath powered United Federation of Teachers. We are not an activist-driven union, and in fact we are the polar opposite. A full three fourths of our membership deem it a waste of time to even vote in union elections. Most think about union only when it's time to get a pair of glasses every other year. UFT hasn't done a boots on the ground activity in over a year, and even those are mostly populated by loyalty oath signers shoring up patronage points toward keeping their trips or jobs.

So now leadership has concrete concerns about what to do if they lose the dues checkoff. Predictably, their instincts are completely off-base, trying not to alienate Donald Trump supporters in the ranks. The thinking appears to be, if we're nice to them, maybe they'll volunteer to pay dues when the time comes. That is, of course, ridiculous. It's yet another step in the direction of not taking chances, the same direction that brought us the spectacular and devastating loss of the Presidential election.

Hillary did not stand for universal health care. She did not stand for a living wage for all Americans. She did not stand for free college tuition, and even advanced the preposterous argument that such a move would subsidize the children of Donald Trump (as though they'd even consider state schools). The AFT supported these positions, and no less than President Randi Weingarten ridiculed Sanders supporters as "Bernie Bros" in tweets that stereotyped us as thugs. How primitive of us to want better lives for Americans, to want our brothers and sisters to enjoy the same rights as citizens of most non third-world countries.

UFT is but one local, but it's 28% of NYSUT and controls 33% of NYSUT votes. NYSUT is but one state, but it's the largest delegation in AFT. So make no mistake, we are the tail that wags the AFT dog. Our unwillingness to take stands, to take risks, to mobilize our ranks is deliberate. It concentrates power in the hands of the very few, and they are not gonna relinquish it any time soon. NYPD and FDNY may find the overwhelming majority of their members voluntarily pay dues, but that won't happen with us. The people who sit on the 14th floor at 52 Broadway aren't judged by Danielson and have little empathy for those of us who are.

The fact that they are too cowardly to even utter the name of Donald Trump in a resolution condemning the bigotry he's engendered just underlines how utterly out of touch they are. This bodes ill for our survival as a union. We have a President who urges us to get on social media, but can't be bothered with it himself. We have a President who doesn't bother to answer email from chapter leaders. We have a President who can't even be bothered to sit through his own Executive Board meetings. He walks in whenever he feels like it if he shows up at all. Then gives a little talk, and leaves without even listening to anyone else. How much more out of touch can you get?

If there is any chance of our surviving in a Right to Work United States of America, it's time for a sea change in our sleepy and complacent leadership. Otherwise, it's clear the only thing they value are those cushy offices on the 14th floor. I wonder if they'll be able to pay for them with a 70% drop in dues revenue.

Monday, November 28, 2016

UFT Executive Board November 28th--We Can't Risk Offending People by Mentioning Trump

Secretary Schoor welcomes us.

Open Mike

Sara Shapiro From Adult ed chapter.  Presents incident about AE consultation meeting. Mentions Ms. Mills, superintendent, who runs meeting. Says she was verbally attacked by Mills. Asks for help. Says when CL addressed issue of interruptions of classes demanding data, Ms. Mills said it was needed, and that it should be resolved amongst UFT members. Said it was also admin.

Says Mills lost control and began screaming. Says she shouted at principals it was their job. Says Mills was hostile and frightening, yelling. Says she shouted to her, “Some people should never be teachers.” Asks for help. What recourse does UFT have for this type of abusive behavior? How can we ensure there is no retaliation? What steps does UFT recommend for me? What can UFT do to ensure this not occur again? Will they officially censure Mills and report this to chancellor?

Schoor—Thank you for coming forward. We’d like to bring this up in meeting with deputy chancellors. Shapiro approves and Schoor says it’s a good first step.


Jonathan Halabi
New Action—There’s a motion, but no indication of who made it. This is highly unusual. Who made motion?

Schoor—Leadership of union.

Halabi—Why didn’t this address what was taken away? Chief effect was to remove language. Thinks there should be open discussion on this. Name of Donald Trump was removed without indication. Pretty big step. Merits discussion here.

Schoor—approval is on minutes. If you want to bring up issue in front of body, you may.

Halabi—May I amend resolution via email? Is this province of regular executive board member?

Schoor—We’re gonna vote on minutes. If you wish to debate, you may.

Minutes passed. MORE-New Action votes no

President’s Report

Mulgrew is not here.

Staff director’s report

Leroy Barr
—CL training this weekend

DA January moved to January 18th. This month 14th. Exec. Board next week.

David Garcia RosenMORE—Sad seeing how people vote and we just take Trump’s name off. Would like update on issue of mass incarceration in USA. Last time we were told what AFT did. What will UFT do? NYC students are impacted by these laws. Concerned that leadership more concerned with political correctness than being leaders. We have Pres. elect who has sworn to vigorously enforce drug laws. What is update? Why is leadership afraid to use Trump’s name?

Janella Hinds—Regarding mass incarceration, we are doing research. Many of us have viewed 13 and are doing research. We have taken specific action on Riker’s Island. We want to raise age so fewer teenagers are there and make sure students receive education. Today there was meeting with Council member Danny Drone. We are actively engaged in work around making sure our students don’t end up there and that they are treated well if they are.

Rosen—Why was Trump’s name removed?

Schoor—Union represents different people, parties, ethnicities. We have membership that voted for Trump. We didn’t change resolved, only Whereas/.

Arthur GoldsteinMORE—When are we gonna debate this?

Schoor—A little later

Schirtzer—Many members voted for Trump. We know who the ed. secretary will be. Friedrichs will come back under new name. We have to be honest, this will happen. We have to do things now. The only reason we won was because Scalia died. What are we going to do differently to better engage our members? We want union to grow.

Schoor—Loud and proud campaign.

Hinds—We had day of action to kick off our Loud and Proud campaign. Activists demonstrated support and showed solidarity. There were safety pins, posters. This work will continue. Not just about 52 giving info, but about us working to have all our voices heard.

Schoor—Mike we share your concern and will be responsive.

Ashraya GuptaMORE—Asking about resolution calling for immigrant liaison at every school. Were reports of teachers saying insulting and threatening things to undocumented students. Should be ally at every school for those students and their families.

Schoor—On our agenda with deputy chancellors, who are very concerned.

Marcus McArthurMORE—I read Mayor de Blasio has received endorsements from other unions. What is our position and what mechanisms are there for members to weigh in?

Schoor—Personally, he’s been a good mayor for us. No union had contract when he took over, now most do.  We believe he will continue to be fair with labor if re-elected. Sanitation endorsed.  We look favorably. UFT controls endorsements. Asks Paul Egan to discuss this. Will first come to AdCom.

Reports from districts:

Rich Mandel—reports about 3rd annual Thanksgiving drive. Was big success. 150 children from temporary housing played games and got new winter coat, hat, scarf. Thanks for donations. Collected over 500 jackets. Delivering to schools. Also delivered ten turkeys.

Alan ?—Tenure workshop for new teachers. Superintendent was there. Plugged TDA.

Elis Ranu?—December 12th tenure workshop with superintendent.

Karen Allford—Coalition for homeless holiday party. Asks for unwrapped toys. Collecting in borough offices or will pick up in schools.

Schoor—More homeless students than ever before?

Allford—83,000 but probably more, as some families live “doubled up.”

George Altomore—While politicking goes on, our teacher’s best contribution is what it’s all about. Were two big conferences—FL committee—paid $55 each and gave own presentations. Saturday—NYC Art teachers—growing in numbers. We are union of professionals. Let’s always remember what we do best is for children we teach.

Camille Evey—DR District 16—tenure workshop, over 65 teachers with new supe. Almost zero teachers got tenure before, but now 27, with support from UFT. Praises superintendent for support.

Schoor—UFT has teacher center people at tenure workshops.

Ellie Engler—Camille and superintendent came up with model for a district. We’re trying to get it funded by DOE. People with BA in area would be invited into fellows program to get Master’s in teaching and would intern at schools with benefits, credits. salary.

Schoor—This is cooperation from new admin we didn’t get from Bloomberg. We have input, and this is indicative.

Legislative reportPaul Egan

Much discussion of football game. There will be several recounts. These numbers, though, are likely to hold up. Great every vote is counted, unlikely to change results. While we may be disgusted be Sec. of Ed., it requires Cabinet appointees to be reviewed. She never had job, married into money, made mess in Detroit. Even is she is approved, she is walking into job wounded. Many turned down by Senate.

State Senate—Simka Felder—caucus with GOP. Means GOP is in power, two races under recount. Marcelino, will probably win. Venditto going back and forth. Today, lead is now 9 for Venditto. More people stayed home than voted for candidates in national election. We have to tell people the importance of voting.

Talk about march in DC week of inauguration. Unclear whether it will happen.

Resolutions—Opposition to Constitutional convention

Mel Aaronson—urge we make this most important thing for ourselves and state for next year. Constitution says every 20 years convention is on ballot.  Last time this was voted on was 1997 and we defeated it. Can open every single law in this state at same time to group of people who will discuss every issue. In 1977 there was one with recommendations. Every one was turned down by people of state.

If we lose, next year, 2018, there will be election. Will be 200 delegates with salary and expenses. Could cost with just that, tens of millions. We have to tell people. Biggest problem for us is, in 1938, amendment added that once pension credit granted, it can never be diminished or impaired. That’s why we have tiers. We have many allies, unions, conservationists. Support for separation of church and state. Public funds, now, not used for parochial schools.

Our constitution must stand. We have best plan to supplement pensions anywhere in country. Can be changed. Urges we support this resolution.

Amemdment—we work with other orgs. and individuals to defeat.

Mike SchirtzerMORE—propose UFT launch immediate educational campaign in our chapters and workplaces about the threat that this Constitutional Convention presents. 

Paul Egan—Asks we delete word immediate. We are in contact with other groups. This is in our plans.


Vince Gatley
—Add word after UFT, “chapter leaders and delegates.”

Schirtzer—Says leadership has resources CLs and delegates don’t.

Amendments pass.

Vince Gatley—Work has to be done in schools, not on 14th floor.

Schoor—Resolved, that UFT urge CLs and delegates lead campaign to defeat Convention.


Jonathan HalabiNew Action—Moves to reconsider Respect for all people to restore language we unanimously voted on.

Schoor—You have to vote in favor to consider.

Leroy Barr—Starts discussion.

Halabi—Original language specified Trump’s abusive behavior toward women. Now says presidential election did. It is a resolution that was motivated by hostility Trump displayed toward communities, schools, immigrants. That’s why it was unanimous. Wasn’t presidential election. Can’t understand not using name.

Dolores ?
—thinks of Thanksgiving meal. This body has been body that includes everyone. Though I don’t support Trump I don’t want to alienate people.

?—Agrees, sorry, opposes Trump being there. Heated discussions in my school. Have to respect person who voted for Trump. We need all members to stand up together. We are family.

Ellen Driesen—District straddled communities—mine voted heavily toward Trump. Can’t alienate even one CL. Will lose quarter of schools.

Ashraya GuptaMORE—also knows Trump voters. Are friends. Don’t want to alienate them. But I don’t see how presidential election can do these things. Also, if we’re getting ready for fight membership must recognize what Trump said will disempower us. They need to know we see them Trump’s potential victims as friends. Hasn’t yet happened.

Vince Gagley
—proposes after words presidential election, campaign rhetoric. Can we neutralize language to get agreement?

David Garcia-Rosen- MORE--there are times in history that call for something different. When someone votes to deport my friends, incarcerate my friends, convert my friends- they can not be in my circle of love. We represent all ethnicities, Trump attacks women, muslims, immigrants, LGBT, Blacks and Latinos not the presidential election.

Maria Kallo- I get what my brothers and sisters are saying, but were need to build a family together. we need to represent all members, build family? We can’t take off the gloves and say Trump’s name to build family. we have to be united, we cant antagonize our members. We stand on the leadership’s shoulders. They are more experienced than all of us. Mike Schirtzer is my daughter and son’s teacher. we agree to disagree, but we stand united in the union. We have to pull our own ego back and do what is good for everyone.

Arthur Goldstein
--MORE--We cant risk antagonizing people - using your logic we should not have supported Hillary, you antagonized me because I’m a Bernie supporter. the Trump supporters were antagonized the entire election. By this logic we should never take sides or endorse anybody.

Struck by absurdity of not wanting to take sides after having Hillary office at 52.

We, the high school representatives,  enthusiastically supported the resolution brought to us last week. In the weeks following the election, there have been hundreds of racists, bigots and homophobes feeling emboldened and acting against our brothers and sisters all across this country. In Queens there are three incidents I know of.

I’d wager, or at least hope, that every single person in this room was part of the presidential election. We didn’t vote for swastikas in playgrounds. We didn’t vote for hijabs being torn from people’s heads. We didn’t vote for abuse of anyone based on race, religion, nationality or sexual orientation. It’s not us standing around using Nazi salutes and shouting Hail Trump.

But people who indulge in that nonsense invoke the name of the man who calls Mexicans rapists, the man who wants a blanket ban on Muslim immigration, the man who has railed against Hamilton and counting votes, but has yet to utter one word against racism, bigotry, homophobia and all the things we collectively deplore.

By refusing to mention the name of Donald Trump, we are pandering to racists, bigots, and homophobes.

I ask  name of Donald Trump be restored.

Sandy ?- Doesn’t need Trump’s name. We should place Hitler’s name. Trump is not important enough. He is a nothing.

Speaker—believes we should use Trump’s name. If we do not want to be decisive, why did we support Hillary? We endorsed her. Stein, Johnson and Clinton did not push racism.

Jackie Bennett
—supports amendment Vince brought up. Wants to clarify saying election increased hostilities.

Mike SchirtzerMORE—glad debate is happening. Jonathan’s point was everyone supported. 24 hours later was changed. We all know Trump supporters. We’re arguing not to be divisive, to antagonize. I try to have civil discourse. I have family who voted Trump, family undocumented, LGBT family. I understand we don’t want to antagonize.

Wasn’t Hillary who attacked my students, called them rapists and drug dealers. My students can’t sleep at night. We are the only thing between attacks on our kids. They want to make our kids data and money. We’re here because we love our kids. We have to tell people who voted for Trump they did something wrong. They are family. But I have to say to my students looking at deportation that Trump is problem.

Leroy Barr—You can’t make amendment of something not on the floor. Asks for motion to reconsider. We failed to engage members enough to understand dangers before them, damages to their way of life. We couldn’t get people to understand no vote was vote for Trump.
How do we get our members to table, to front lines in battle that is looming? If we don’t do that we will fail again. The education never stops. Can’t educate someone when you shut them down. In our passion we have to get members back to table, to understand dangers that lie ahead. They are not engaged. We need everyone. We have to vote up motion to reconsider.

Schoor—Motion to reconsider needs majority vote.

Halabi—discussion on motion? Thanks Leroy for opening debate, and thanks for vigorous debate. In spirit of compromise, we should support Vince’s amendment.

Schoor—We should add words campaign rhetoric.

Mike SchirtzerMORE--Moves to put Trump’s name back.

Schoor—motion fails, we are adjourned.

Special thanks to Mike Schirtzer for helping with the notes while I waited on line to speak. 

Trump---I'M Not Wrong. YOU'RE Wrong!

Have you ever met a person who is always right? A person who clings to whatever he or she says no matter what? I have. These people are really difficult to get along with. They're utterly inflexible, and cannot be persuaded by evidence.

Now perhaps we all have elements of this in ourselves. We are fiercely protective of our children, for example. We believe what we believe. Maybe we are religious. Maybe we believe in teaching or writing a certain way. Perhaps we have life-long beliefs and they're hard to shake. Maybe we belong to a fraternity or club and believe strongly in what it does.

But I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about someone who makes factual errors and denies them utterly. We all do stupid things sometimes. If I do something stupid and get caught on it, my instinct is to say I'm sorry. I'm sorry I threw that cheeseburger at you. I was momentarily angry and it won't happen again. But another person might react differently. I'm glad I threw the cheeseburger at you and I'm gonna throw another one tomorrow.

People like that are dangerous. You can't really depend on them for anything because they can't see clearly. Everything they say is clouded. Everything is filtered through a thought process that tells them they can never be wrong. So their judgment is always at question. Thus, when the President-elect of the United States tweets something like this, it's cause for concern:

There is, in fact, no evidence whatsoever to support this contention. It's been reported by various right-wing websites and commentators, but it's based on nothing. President-elect Donald Trump, however, cannot bear the thought that more people voted for his opponent than him. It would make him a "loser," as he likes to label people, and that simply does not conform with his worldview.

So here is the President-elect of the United States, contending that the election he won is rigged, as he so frequently suggested as a candidate. Does that mean we should have a recount? A do-over? Apparently not:

Trump is upset that anyone would dare question his victory. He needs to not only condemn the effort, but also to attack his opponents. Any criticism of him is unacceptable. A person with this sort of temperament who becomes President of a country that values free speech is bound for perpetual disappointment. I can't recall a President in my lifetime who wasn't subject to withering criticism on a regular basis.

More upsetting is the possibility that such a juvenile personality will be in charge of diplomacy for the United States of America. A person like this could easily start wars to settle personal vendettas. Why not? It's not as though he or his children would be on any battlefield.

Personally I do not believe Donald Trump can or will get through a single term as President. The GOP surely doesn't like him either. After all, who could personally like anyone like that? Maybe a mom. I don't know. My friend Fred Klonsky suggested to me that this was yet another ploy to divert attention from some thing or other that Trump had done. But the fact is this tweet falls right in line with the sort of nonsense Trump's been saying and doing for years. A guy who places his name in huge gold letters all over the world has a big ego. And honestly, it's unseemly for the President of the United States to portray himself as a narcissistic, self-serving, juvenile. Even if it's a ploy it isn't a smart one.

I think we will soon see President Pence, with the same abysmal policies, but fewer insane and delusional tweets. It's not really good news, but at least Pence will think twice over starting nuclear was over some preposterous imaginary slight.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Selective Outrage of Union Leadership

I don't know exactly what to say when I see Unity up in arms over Betty DeVos. They have a point about how bad she is, but I'm not sure they're the ideal people to deliver this message. Of course there are some pretty strong arguments against her.

I mean sure she's a billionaire. Sure she's never attended a public school, and sure she hasn't sent her kids to any either. Sure she's married into the Amway family, and sure her brother runs Blackwater. In fact, she's never even held a job before. Is this a good place to start out? President-elect Donald Trump says she's good enough for him.

But is she radical? Well, UFT Unity certainly seems to think so:

That doesn't sound very good at all. But I know the guy who wrote the blog they feature, and he does indeed oppose "school choice." He's not an apologist for charters, and he was pretty disappointed that Hillary (who told the AFT convention that we could "learn from public charter schools") was. I guess UFT Unity didn't read his withering commentary on Hillary Clinton. He didn't vote for her. In fact, I offered to swap my NY Hillary Clinton vote for his PA Jill Stein vote, but it was a no go.

In any case, UFT Unity wasn't finished with Betty De Vos. I have to admit I was a little surprised when they got not only personal, but outright sexist:

You see how that works? Because she's a woman, she must know about lipstick. And nothing else. Isn't that just a laugh riot? Over at 52 Broadway someone deemed this an absolutely devastating put-down, and it must be, because surely only the very best minds in the UFT write their social media for them. Remind you of anyone? Don't all raise your hands at once.(It looks like they've deleted that tweet. Thanks for reading the blog, UFT Unity.)

On the other hand, how can we effectively deplore half truths, ad hominem and sexist statements when we freely indulge in them ourselves?

Of course, UFT Unity isn't alone in tweeting sexism. Now I'm used to their superficial and juvenile approach to argument. My friends and I have been on the receiving end of it since 2005, when we shocked them by objecting to the contract that brought us the Absent Teacher Reserve, among other things.

Since I've been chapter leader, several Unity Caucus UFT employees have seen fit to instruct me what to believe. They're shocked when I tell them I'll do as I like, and argue right up to the point when I ask, "What are you gonna do, expel me from Unity?" They're accustomed to absolute fealty from loyalty oath signers, and they're unaccustomed to hearing about when their patronage employees behave in counter-productive and idiotic fashion.

Remarkably, though, that's not their worst offense here. What they fail to notice is that we ourselves have enabled a whole lot of this "school choice" nonsense. In fact, Betsy DeVos herself has supported vouchers for years. When she was unable to get voters to approve, she turned her attention to charters. That's pretty much par for the reformy course. And we, the AFT, NYSUT, and the UFT jumped right on board the charter bandwagon. In fact, UFT not only opened and colocated our own charters, but also brought the execrable Green Dot and its founder Steve Barr to New York.

We are not nearly as credible as we should be when we speak against school choice. Vouchers are simply the next step. We think if we give the reformies Czechoslavakia they won't turn around and invade Poland. But of course we are blind to the lessons of history. We are intent on learning nothing and keeping up the status quo no matter what. We need a "seat at the table" so you can have the ATR. We give up the right to grieve letters to file. We give up on seniority placement. OK you can rate and fire us based on test scores. We'll defend Common Core even if it means punching our own members' faces out. And oh, sure, we support mayoral control and charter schools.

Even when we select a presidential candidate we don't want to be too demanding. Let's not go for that old guy who wants healthcare and college education for all. Who needs a living wage? Let's get behind good old reliable More of the Same. How can we go wrong?

In fact our path of appeasement has gone spectacularly wrong, and we have crocodiles in our living room. Should we just pretend they aren't there and hope they don't make their way up to the 14th floor? Can crocodiles learn to use elevators?

After all these years, we're still asking the wrong questions altogether.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

This year I'm thankful for my family as always, and also for our little dog Julio. I've successfully lobbied for him to come to our Thanksgiving with us, and to get his share of turkey. I'm absolutely sure he will like it more than I do.

I'm thankful for a job I love, for waking up each and every morning excited for a new day. I'm thankful for the opportunity to help and support children. I'm thankful to be part of a profession that really puts children first, as opposed to paying lip service.  I'm thankful to live in a country where I can freely answer the demagogues who pretend to do otherwise.

I'm thankful for public schools that serve all children and thankful to work in one that is supportive of all kids no matter where they come from. I'm thankful for the dedication of my colleagues, and also for administrators that aren't crazy. They help make our work possible. I'm thankful to the amazing kids I teach who come from every corner of this earth, the kids who surprise me and make me laugh every day with their unexpected thoughts and quirkiness.

I'm thankful for the activists in MORE and New Action who stand for public education, who stand for what's right and reject blind faith in a machine that's failed us spectacularly of late. I'm thankful for people who do what's right even if it means personal sacrifice. I'm thankful for the reasonable members of Unity Caucus who take the time to see the whole picture.

I'm thankful to my brothers and sisters at Francis Lewis High School who do me the honor of allowing me to represent them. I'm thankful to Patrick Sullivan for talking me into standing for chapter leader though it seemed like an insane amount of work for little reward. I'm thankful for learning, rather late in life, that I thrive on such an insane job. (I should have known that from years of teaching, I suppose.) I'm thankful to everyone who's supported me in that job, both in and out of UFT.

I'm very grateful to city high school teachers, who elected us to represent them at the UFT Executive Board, cracking the window a little in the monolithic loyalty-oath bound leadership. I think I speak for all seven of us when I say what a great honor it is you have chosen us to speak for you. I am continually impressed by my fellow high school Executive Board members, some of whom I've known for a very short time. We have only just begun.

I'm thankful for NYSUT members like Beth Dimino and Brian St. Pierre, who showed me a very different vision of union than any I'd ever seen in UFT. I'm thankful to them and my friends in MORE who gave me the opportunity to run in a statewide election and see that there were a whole lot of teachers whose activism was celebrated rather than penalized by union presidents. I'm thankful to Norm Scott for dragging me to an AFT convention where I watched each and every UFT rep being told how to vote by some guy at a lectern rather than rank and file. 

I'm thankful for each and every person who takes a little time daily to read this little blog. I'm thankful for the amazing internet that makes not only this, but other social media possible. I'm thankful to parents like Jeanette Deutermann and Leonie Haimson who look at education, see what's best for kids, and work to attain it. I'm grateful to thinkers like Carol Burris and Diane Ravitch who cut straight through all the noise and nonsense and speak logic to it.

This is a tough time, but we are tough people. We chose this work, we chose these children, and we will stand up for them each and every day. We will not lie down and allow demagogues to walk over us. We will speak truth to power and education to privatizers. We will advocate for the best education for our children and students no matter what nonsense comes from Washington and Albany.

I'm ready to fight for American children no matter what foul winds blow from DC and Albany. We don't just teach history. We make it and I'm absolutely thankful to play some small part in it.

Finally, I'm thankful for each and every one of you who will join me in that struggle.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Danielson's Guide to a Highly Effective Thanksgiving

Full disclosure--found on the internet, unattributed. 

Ineffective: You don't know how to cook a turkey. You serve a chicken instead. Half your family doesn't show because they are unmotivated by your invitation, which was issued at the last minute via facebook. The other half turn on the football game and fall asleep. Your aunt tells your uncle where to stick the drumstick and a brawl erupts. Food is served on paper plates in front of the TV. You watch the game, and root for the Redskins.

Developing: You set the alarm, but don't get up and the turkey is undercooked. 3 children are laughing while you say grace. 4 of your nephews refuse to watch the game with the rest of the family because you have failed to offer differentiated game choices. Conversation during dinner is marked by family members mumbling under their breath at your Aunt Rose, who confuses the Mayflower with the Titanic after her third Martini. Only the drunk guests thank you on the way out. Your team loses the game.

Effective: The turkey is heated to the right temperature. All the guests, whom you have invited by formal written correspondence, arrive on time with their assigned dish to pass. Your nephew sneaks near the desert dish, but quickly walks away when you mention that it is being saved until after dinner. You share a meal in which all family members speak respectfully in turn as they share their thoughts on the meaning of Thanksgiving. All foods served at the table can be traced historically to the time of the Pilgrims. You watch the game as a family, cheer in unison for your team. They win.

Highly Effective
: The turkey, which has been growing free range in your back yard, comes in your house and jumps in the oven. The guests, who wrote to ask you please be invited to your house, show early with foods to fit all dietary and cultural needs. You watch the game on tape, but only as an video prompt for your family discussion of man's inhumanity to man. Your family plays six degrees of Sir Francis Bacon and is thus able to resolve, once and for all, the issue of whether Oswald acted alone.

Originally posted November 28, 2013

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

1972 Is Not the Time to Criticize Leadership, and It's Always 1972

At this time, we can't criticize leadership. For goodness sake, Donald Trump is President-elect, and is planning all kinds of bad stuff.

No, at this time, we can't be indulging in what Randi Weingarten and Leo Casey call a "circular firing squad." This is no time to be assigning blame. Now is the time for all good unionists to come together and do whatever the hell we are told. Because in a democratic union, everyone must learn the vital skill of sitting down, shutting up, and swallowing the Unity party line. In fact, UFT's "Team High School,"which includes absolutely no elected representation from high schools, is offering important courses taught by patronage employees who certainly know all the ins and outs of these important rules. I know this because I go to the DA and other patronage employees hand me flyers to distribute.

Because when we're facing an enemy like Donald Trump,  Who Shall Not Be Named, it's time for us to all stand together. We need to give up all those petty partisan battles and simply do whatever it is that leadership says. In these times, we cannot afford to show disunity. We need to get together and contribute to COPE, because if we don't, patronage employees like this one would have to scrap by on a miserable teacher salary. How can we expect her to do such a thing?

It's kind of like another time, when we were heavily involved in the Presidential election. Then it was time we all stood together, because we needed to elect Hillary Clinton President. Those of us who supported Bernie Sanders needed to come to our senses, because everyone remembered what happened when we ran McGovern in 1972. That was a Big Mistake, getting behind someone who opposed the Vietnam War. We learned from that mistakes and made sure to not get behind someone who wanted universal health care, a living wage, a college for all. Too bad no one noticed it wasn't 1972 anymore, but this is no time to criticize leadership.

In any case, when Hillary won the primary, it was time to give up all that divisive nonsense, jump on the bandwagon, and make phone calls. This was a time for us to stand together. After all, the AFT had done a scientific survey that said we liked Hillary better than Bernie anyway. Sure we never saw the survey, we never had a vote in it, we never had a vote in AFT, and we never knew who was surveyed, but it was best we stood together.

Before that, we faced Governor Cuomo, who was our sworn enemy. Of course we hadn't opposed him in the Working Families Primary, and we hadn't opposed him in the Democratic Primary. In fact, we didn't even oppose him in the general election. Nonetheless, when we face an enemy like that we need to stand together as one. We can't be bickering amongst ourselves. After all, he was going to pass an APPR law based on junk science. Of course UFT President Michael Mulgrew took part in writing it, so we stood together and supported it.

And then when Cuomo said the law wasn't strong enough, we needed to stand together in opposition. Except it turned out that, when it got passed anyway, Michael Mulgrew, for reasons that have always eluded me, thanked the Assembly for doing so. Of course, at that time, we had to come together and not criticize leadership.We can't afford disunity at times like these.

And before Cuomo, there was Bloomberg, who was very bad. We had to stand together against him, because with an adversary like that, we had to stand together with leadership. After we endorsed a number of Democratic primary candidates, Bloomberg won. We failed to oppose him when he ran again, and we failed to oppose him when he defied the twice-voiced will of the people for term limits. But we were under assault and this was no time to speak against union leadership.

And then there was Giuliani, who said teachers "stink" and didn't want to give teachers raises. I wasn't really active in union matters back then, but I assume that was also a bad time to criticize union leadership.

The only problem is, really, that union leadership locks itself up at 52 Broadway, hears nothing but the voices of loyalty oath signers, and sends them out to represent us no matter how outlandishly unqualified they may be.

Is it any wonder we find ourselves on the losing end of so many crucial elections?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Dubious Advantages of Advantage Care

On Friday night my daughter complained of pain in her leg. She had done some sort of spectacular jump to get somewhere, and it somehow caught up with her. She thought she may have hurt herself somehow, and wanted to go to an urgent care. I decided to try out the Advantage Care facility even though it was about 15 minutes away from our home. Why not save fifty bucks?

So we drove over there, and it turned out to be in the second floor of an office building. There was no sign outside. I was glad we'd looked up the address. We had to get out of the car and look into the windows to even find it, but we did.

We walked into a room full of people waiting. It was pretty dark, but it reminded me very much of an ER. I got the same sense of impending dread I get in ERs, to wit, how many hours am I gonna be stuck here? The receptionist informed us that we would have to wait until all those people were seen before we'd be seen. She also told us they didn't have an x-ray machine, which is pretty much standard in every other urgent care facility I'd ever entered.

My daughter started asking questions, and the woman became exasperated and referred her to the nurse. The nurse was pretty friendly, and took my daughter to a room in the back, after which she came out and informed me that they couldn't help her very much and if we wanted their lack of help we'd have to wait a pretty long time for it.  The nurse again mentioned we'd have to wait for all those people.

I said let's go, and my daughter looked up nearby urgent care facilities on her phone. We found a CityMD facility, they had an X-ray machine, and we followed the GPS over there. It took about five minutes. We walked into a bright and clean facility, with several friendly receptionists. True, we had to fill out some paperwork. We also had to wait about five more minutes before she was seen.

But the doctor spent a lot of time with her. On the negative side, we had to actually pay the fifty bucks. But I got the distinct sense that you get what you pay for. The Advantage Care facility is not convenient to where we live. Were it more urgent, we couldn't have taken the time to go there. Is it worth waiting hours to save fifty bucks? Well, if they haven't got the tools for the job, it certainly isn't.

I'm not independently wealthy or anything, but I don't want to sit around for hours waiting for a doctor I don't even know. It's better than sitting around at an emergency room waiting for the same thing, I suppose. But if I can avoid that by paying, I will. Would you want to sit in a room full of people and wait to save fifty bucks?

NYPD is still paying fifteen bucks for a co-pay at urgent care. I saw a note to that effect behind the desk at CityMD. Of course, they haven't got crack negotiators like Michael Mulgrew and all the smart people he's always talking about working for them. I've been to events where UFT employees get up and tell us how lucky we are to have higher co-pays. You see, no money is deducted from our paychecks. Somehow, it's a great advantage to have the money deducted directly from our pockets.

But thanks to UFT leadership, we now have the right to seek insufficient care with long waits at lower prices.  Unless, of course, we live in the Bronx. People in the Bronx have to drive to other boroughs if they want to wait on long lines for poorly-equipped urgent care.

But there's always a silver lining. You can rest assured the UFT employees who preach to us about what a great deal the increased co-pays are make a whole lot more in salary than we do. So there's that. But there are also a few more years before Mulgrew keeps his promise to save all that money on health care, so co-pays can go up more, choices can become fewer, and the big claim that nothing more is deducted from our paycheck can go up in smoke pretty much any time.

This is what we gave up in exchange for getting what NYPD got in 2009, except we get it eleven years later. Oh, and for adding on the lowest pattern bargain I've seen in my life. You can be sure our brother and sister unionists will be thanking us for many years to come.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Safe Place for Demogogues

US President-elect Donald Trump likes to grab women "by the pussy." He likes to walk up to them and kiss them without their consent. When he engages in criminal fraud, he doesn't think he should be judged by anyone of Mexican descent. He also wants to keep Muslims out of the country because they just don't measure up to his character standards.

However, he's horrified that anyone would speak to the Vice-President elect in public. After all, in Donald Trump's version of a democracy no one should criticize leaders. It doesn't matter that Pence thinks that sexual orientation is some sort of disease and is therefore curable. It doesn't matter that the last time we heard of Pence before the election he was all over the news defending the anti-LGBT legislation he'd championed in his state, and was pretending it wasn't discriminatory.  Trump is protective of the guy who was about to lose his gubernatorial bid and jumped on the campaign to save his political ass.

It's funny to hear Trump, who literally lives in a golden penthouse, who doesn't want to live in the
White House because it's a step down, talking about safe places. I've had my mind on safe places for some time now. I work with kids from other countries, kids who wonder whether the President-elect is gonna tear them from their homes and families. I hear stories, every day, about students crying to their counselors, to their teachers, that they were born here and their parents weren't. Or vice-versa. I have friends afraid for the welfare of their children. Are they safe here?

And it's not just them. What about Muslims, Jews, blacks, the disabled, and everyone else who some Trump supporters deem unworthy of human dignity? (And let's not forget the relatively new addition of Dominicans to the list.) You now see stories everywhere of swastikas painted on parks and walls. You see stories of students harassing Muslims, stripping women of hijabs, and even trying to pass laws against them.

What is Donald Trump worried about? He's worried about one white guy sitting in a thousand-dollar seat in a Broadway theater. And what sort of abuse, aside from asking the audience to stop booing, did this audacious actor heap on poor Mike Pence?

“We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights,” he said. “We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

What an unforgivable thing to say. How horrible that an actor would ask a politician to work on behalf of the people. Who the hell does he think he is, speaking his mind in a so-called democracy? Didn't Donald Trump get fewer votes than his opponent fair and square? After all, Mike Pence has important work to do, and he hasn't got time to protect the planet, our children or our parents. How is he going to do the important work of marginalizing the LGBT community if he upholds American values and works on behalf of "all of us?" And does that include Mexicans and Muslims? Women?

That's not what Trump and Pence are all about. Actually, for them, this Hamilton nonsense is like a gift from above.

That's what this is really about. Who wants America to talk about the Huckster-in-Chief actually admitting to fraud and paying for it? Better to get out in front of this Hamilton thing and take a firm stand against the First Amendment. After all, people who support that probably didn't vote for Trump anyway.

So let's get American all riled up and have Trump supporters boycott a play that's sold out for years and that most Americans can't even afford to go to. Yeah, that's the thousand-dollar ticket. The Huckster-in-Chief pulls the wool over our sleepy eyes once again, and doesn't even have to pay 25 million to do it.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Presidential Election

by Fred Klonsky

Fred Klonsky is a former teacher and union president from Chicago. He is a current retiree, education activist, artist and blogger.  Fred does my favorite political cartoons, with a focus on education, and drew the portrait featured here. From the "I wish I'd thought of that" department, Fred looked at the blog I posted here yesterday, and ran with it. 

UFT leadership decided it was a bad idea to say that "President-elect Donald Trump" made outrageous and controversial statements and decided to attribute them to "The Presidential Election" instead. I thought it was absurd, but Fred took it to another level altogether.

Here is "Not Naming Names" from Fred's blog:

Like many, I was surprised when they declared The Presidential Election the winner over Hillary Clinton. All the polls had predicted that Hillary would beat The Presidential Election by 3 to 6 percentage points.

Both Clinton and The Presidential Election were higly unpopular and many Democrats and Republicans were unhappy with the choices of Clinton and The Presidential Election.

It appears that in the final days, most of the undecided voters broke in favor of The Presidential Election.

This in spite of all that The Presidential Election has done and said during the campaign.

The Presidential Election has promised to deport millions of immigrants.

The Presidential Election has described women in the most degrading terms.

The Presidential Election acted as a demagogue in calling for law and order and appealed to the worst kinds of racism and white supremacy.

The outcome of the election makes me leery of making predictions about how it will be possible for  The Presidential Election to keep the promises that The Presidential Election made to working people.

Can The Presidential Election bring back a lost industrial base, the loss of which is structural.
And what about the basically anti-democratic forces and individuals that The Presidential Election has surrounded himself with?

People like the international racist conspirator, Steve Bannon, seem to have the ear of The Presidential Election.

I think it is important that we name names and call them out.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

He Who Shall Not Be Named (by UFT Leadership)

Below is the text to a UFT Resolution we discussed at the Executive Board meeting last Monday. I feel funny writing this, since all of us, the high school reps, enthusiastically approved it as it appeared to us. However, by the next day leadership had decided to modify it, taking the very measured approach that brought us what I'll call the Hillary Clinton disaster.

Who knows how much money and time UFT invested in that event? They actually had a campaign office at 52 Broadway. Now perhaps you remember Hillary Clinton. She ran for the US Presidency on a platform that included no universal health care, no living wage, support for what she called "public charter schools," and public and private ridicule of Bernie Sanders, who promised a move to actually improve things. She managed to elicit so many collective yawns from people who supported Barack Obama that they stayed home and didn't bother to vote.

What you see below the post is a resolution that targets "the presidential election" where it used to target "President-elect Donald J. Trump." The obvious implication is that leadership, after wholeheartedly endorsing Hillary Clinton, is fraidy-scared to directly criticize the new American Bigot-in-Chief. And from where I stand, that means we are pandering to bigots, racists and anti-Semites.

Now perhaps I'm being hasty here. It's entirely possible that UFT leadership has taken the same approach Harry Potter's wizarding community took to Lord Voldemort. Perhaps UFT leadership collectively refuses to utter the name Donald J. Trump, calling him, "He Who Shall Not Be Named." I haven't seen clarification.

But there are Trump voters in our midst. I know some. UFT has decided not only that they would be offended if we were to name their candidate, but also that they are too stupid to notice "the presidential election" is code for "Donald Trump."

Even if they are not, however, "the presidential election" did not say that Mexicans were drug-dealers and rapists. It did not say we ought to ban Muslims from the country. In fact, it did not even advocate grabbing women "by the pussy," or walking up to them and kissing them whether or not they consented. It was not "the presidential election" who appointed a white supremacist anti-Semite to a federal position.

Not to belabor the obvious, but I'm an English teacher and can't help myself. The presidential election happens to be a process. It's a pretty flawed process, in fact, one in which the person who gets the most votes loses. Be that as it may, people make decisions, and the person who made every single decision I've referenced was President-elect Donald J. Trump. Failing to label him as such is disingenuous and cowardly. We can do better.

Now surely UFT leadership disagrees. They are worried they might offend Donald Trump voters. Here's the thing--they offend Donald Trump voters by merely existing. A few weeks ago, I was approached at 52 Broadway by a teacher who wanted to know how to get out of being a member. I told him there was probably some form he could fill out. He then said he specifically didn't want to pay union dues. I told him to vote for Donald Trump. He said he would. I'm not sure why the UFT is worried about offending him. First chance he gets, he will stop supporting us, as will the majority of current members when queried as to whether or not they wish to pay over a thousand bucks a year.

We can continue to be afraid of our own shadows. We can continue to recruit people to work for the union based on loyalty oath rather than competence. We can continue to stand for little and hope for the best.

Or we can build an activist union of people who really wish to improve things for working people. For me, the choice is clear. For leadership, which proposed this change in the shadows with no input whatsoever from elected NYC high school representatives, things are muddy. It will almost certainly pass 95-7.

I'm tired of wallowing in the mud. What about you?

Resolution Calling for Respect for All People

(Changes are italicized and bold)

WHEREAS, the presidential election targeted communities on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion, and displayed abusive behavior toward women, has threatened the nation’s promise that all people are worthy of respect; and

WHEREAS, the presidential election has outlined an education agenda overtly hostile to public schools and teachers, promising to prioritize vouchers and charter schools at the expense of public schools ; and

WHEREAS, the recently-concluded presidential election has returned open racism, homophobia and misogyny to the forefront of national politics and featured incendiary rhetoric with little precedent in modern history; and

WHEREAS, in the aftermath of the election, our communities have suffered hate-motivated violence and vandalism at a pace exceeding the wave of Islamophobic incidents in the wake of the September 11 attacks ; and

WHEREAS, this divisive political atmosphere has given rise to fear and anxiety among students and inflamed racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom ; and

WHEREAS, people are upset and feel that government has failed them, there’s no reason to give into a climate of fear; and

WHEREAS, the UFT remains committed to creating a safe and supportive environment as well as stamping out bias-based bullying and harassment in all its forms by providing training for compliance with the Dignity for All Students Act and by operating the Building Respect, Acceptance and Voice through Education campaign, which includes an anti-bullying hotline, fairs and presentations in schools; and

WHEREAS, the New York City Department of Education Respect for All campaign considers harassment and discriminatory behavior, physical injury or threat of injury, harassment, teasing, taunting, peer rejection or exclusion to humiliate or isolate a person to be a violation of Chancellor’s Regulations A-831, A-832 and A-443, and the Student Code of Conduct; and

WHEREAS, the Dignity for All Students Act approved in September, 2010, by the New York State Legislature contains the following provisions:

•             A policy that specifically prohibits discrimination and harassment in public schools based on actual or perceived race, national origin, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, sexual or physical or mental disability, with procedures to ensure that the policy will be implemented and enforced;

•             Training of administrators, teachers, other school related professionals and students on how to deal with diversity in schools and address incidents of harassment and discrimination when they arise;

•             Documentation and data collection to determine just how prevalent the problem of harassment is in New York’s public schools and where the needs are most profound;

•             Funding to implement the principles above in a way that avoids unfunded mandates for school districts; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the UFT affirms that public education is critical to the future of this country; that all communities inside our school communities deserve respect and dignity; and that workers have a right to unionize and be treated fairly; and that the UFT will aggressively fight the erosion of these core values; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT calls upon every school to launch a series of actions to defend our communities and our schools and affirm our values, beginning on Monday, November 21, with a Day of Action; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT calls upon every school to form an action committee to plan and execute these actions; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT will partner with and encourage the DOE to support the expansion of the Respect for All initiative, so that school communities serve as sites where all students and staff are safe from acts of discrimination because of ongoing positive and developmentally appropriate behavior and speech in and out of the classroom; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT urges the DOE to require time during the school day for educators to engage in conversations and activities that will support learning communities that celebrate diversity while ensuring tolerance, respect and positive conflict resolution, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT will urge the DOE to present professional learning to develop our abilities to design and implement learning activities during which differences are respected and celebrated.   

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Demcracy for USA and UFT Too

There's a national movement to thwart and override the insidious Electoral College. So far ten states have signed on. If enough states to make an electoral majority agree, it will go into effect. Once they hit 270 votes, these states will automatically pledge their electors to whoever wins the popular vote. Thus, the choice of the people will be President of the United States.

Now some may say this would favor the Democrats, who've been burned twice in sixteen years. But GW Bush came close to winning the national vote and losing the election term two. Our current President-elect believed that Romney had won the national vote and lost the election, and had a tweet storm over the awful injustice he'd felt that represented.

In fact, in another he called for revolution. Alas, in 2016, after the same thing happened, he felt somewhat differently.

You see how that works? Now I look at AFT President Randi Weingarten, who's looking at the popular vote rather than the Electoral College:

And with that, I see a lot of talk about something Randi and Leo Casey call a "circular firing squad." Essentially, this seems to mean that we are criticizing union leadership rather than Donald Trump. Randi called it, "the first thing all of you want to do." I'm curious who, "all of you" are, and why that's different from the blatantly stereotypical, "you people" remarks you hear every now and again.

This notwithstanding, I am bone weary of being told to sit down and shut up by union leadership. I've been hearing that from them since 2005, when I took exception to the contract that created the ATR. This is hardly the way we invite dialogue or involve members. To her credit, Randi offered to meet with us over this. I'm happy to do that, and hopefully it will happen.

Nonetheless, the proper response to dissenting voices in union is not shutting them down. It's ridiculous to surround yourself with loyalty oath signers and expect what they tell you is reflective of what membership thinks and feels.  They will say and act as told. I've had Unity members tell me it was good that the burden of proof was on teachers at 3020a, because that way they could own it. It's pretty outrageous that people paid to represent us would actively advocate for us being guilty until proven innocent. I've watched UFT employees tell chapter leaders how lucky they are not to have to live on a teacher salary. I've had members report getting very bad advice from UFT pension consultants, and seen no consequence for that.

But when you represent us based on loyalty rather than competence, that's the kind of thinking you promote. If Randi does indeed meet with us, we will advocate for representative democracy within the union. UFT has some pretty odd rules that shut out the voice of high school teachers and chapter leaders, just to name a few, and we have got precisely zero voice in NYSUT, NEA, and AFT.

We'll soon see if they want to do something about that, or if they'd rather continue with the same sort of rules that made Donald Trump President of the United States.

Monday, November 14, 2016

UFT Executive Board November 14

Secretary Schoor--Minutes approved, 6:04

President’s report:

Mulgrew is not here.

Staff Director’s report:

Leroy Barr—Middle school luncheon, giving away clothes to homeless children on Saturday.
CL Training this weekend, Next EB two weeks from today, wishes us happy Thanksgiving.


Mike SchirtzerMORE—Humanities and Arts a few teachers are under attack. Have filed grievances. DR doing all he can but principal drowning them in paperwork. Teacher well rated for 19 years rated ineffective for speaking against curriculum writing, bulletin boards, massive email.

Howie Schoor—Asks for exact details

Rona Freiser—Working very closely with members, paperwork filed, DR going to school tomorrow. Very much on top of this.

—new paperwork process, and CL can go on, over 100 paperwork complaints. Exactly these issues. We need to know about them. Met with DOE this morning, deputy chancellor told all supes to resolve bulletin board issues.

Ashraya Gupta
MORE—asks about resolution passed last year, in light of election results Wondering about resolution about immigrant liaison. What have we done and can we get someonee appointed at each school?

Leroy Barr
—will check with DOE, we have a resolution coming tonight to stand with immigrant students and all people being disenfranchised. We want a stand up day of action. We will not allow this city to tolerate this rhetoric.

Jonathan HalabiNew Action—Last year there was a resolution that we begin the process of divesting TRS funds from fossil fuels. Funding has been held up by Stringer, I hear. What can we do?

Debbie Penny
—In process of divesting from fossil fuel.

Reports from districts—

Legislative ReportPaul Egan

Were also state elections, which went as badly as presidential. Once out of NYC, Westchester Rockland blue, beyond that red. Nassau county also went badly. However Venditto is behind. Will be maybe a month. We must turn out members against constitutional convention. I will be scaremongering because it is a scary prospect.

6:18 Mulgrew walks in
, waits for Egan to finish.

President’s report

Says he was downstairs with speech teachers, talking about SESIS and medicaid billing. Says Trump is president-elect. Will be call for state authority and less federal. Read Mike Pence education platform, half of which is about prayer in school. Happy governor and mayor talking about protection. We have to go there as a state.

Regulations about school accountability not done because John King obstructs. We are having discussions city, state and fed, but no one knows what’s going to happen.

Election based on worst of humanity and people fed up with govt. Spoke with DOE and with people nationally. We can do this better than most because we love this diversity. We want to say what we stand for, that we welcome people into our city, people with different ideas, different faith, we stand proudly by them. NYC is a safe place.

Clearly a lot of anger. We have a long road. They have all 3 branches. Will move quickly. We will work w partners, adhere to core beliefs. We have to come up with plan our system will be driving. We can combat bad policy by making sure schools work.

We’ve had bad incidents, but teachers, us, took care of it. If one place should be safe it’s the school.

6:29 Mulgrew leaves.

Arthur Goldstein--MORE--(I had to wait because I wanted to project the picture I ran here earlier.) My classes are going to see Wicked on Wednesday and we were talking about The Wizard of Oz character. I asked the kids if they knew of anyone else who looked really important but was really not and they all said Donald Trump, even though they'd only been here a short time. I spoke of the picture and how it addressed the needs of my kids, and how we only needed to add LGBT to it. (Janella Hinds had distributed a resolution which seemed to address my concerns, but I was unable to read it as I was furiously taking notes.)

Schorr—Upset there were no questions about ATRs. There are about 1100 ATRs. 110 were picked up under new program.

Kuljit AhluwaliaNew Action--Is there any way to find out how many years they have in system?

Arthur Goldstein--MORE--Does it include provisionally placed ATRs?

Schoor--Not sure, will see if he can find out.

Janella Hinds—We have had lots of conversations about implications of election. Members have spoken that it’s important for union to stand up for members and each other. We are not only standing in support of our students. We want to create safe spaces in schools, workplaces, and communities. This resolution asks all members to create safe spaces.

Next Monday is a day of action. We need to stand in solidarity with communities. Might look different in different places in city. We have to stand against discrimination and in support of encouragement. Asks we support reso.

Leroy Barr—Rises to add a whereas—people feel govt. has failed ,in divisive political atmosphere, no reason to give into a climate of fear.

Says a lot of rhetoric has caused a lot of people to feel fear, that govt. failed, but we ought not to give in to this climate. We know how to stand up and fight back. We will overcome this too.

Ashraya Gupta
MORE—Speaks to amend. Wants to include, sexual orientation, gender identity to communities Trump targets. Adds homophobia to Trump’s racism and misogyny in other whereas.

Passed unanimously.

Barr’s amendment also passed unanimously

Main resolution. (I've asked for an electronic copy and will post this.)

Passed unanimously.

Election results for Exec. Board functional chapter opening:

Nancy Barr 64 votes Norm Scott 10.

Sandy March—Reports on Retired Teacher Chapter. Teachers wanted to know why UFT didn’t tell them constitutional convention was on ballot. Couldn’t find out who started it. DR told her her mother was working polls in Douglaston and retirees said she failed to give them proper ballot. Said daughter didn’t say she had to vote no, so it wasn’t on ballot. If we can get rest of state out, NYC will be at polls.

—Asking schools to send pictures of what goes on in schools.

No Direct Political Talk in Classrooms, Says the Chancellor

I really struggled with the results of Tuesday's election. I'm in shock, actually. Robert de Niro says he feels as he did after 9/11, and so do I.

On Wednesday, I didn't know what to do. I simply gave the class I planned to give. I couldn't think about it. In fact, I didn't even think about the DA I'd planned to go to. I understand even Mulgrew was unable to go through with his usual filibuster and actually allowed people to express themselves.

In my car, going home, I cried. How can my country make a choice like this one? How can we spit in the faces of the children I serve? How can we tell working people they can just go to hell? How can we elect a repulsive purveyor of snake oil to the highest office in the land?

And yet we did.

Shaun King posted the graphic at left on Twitter. He said it came from a Chicago school somewhere. I fell in love with it. Some time on Wednesday, I asked that my school reproduce it so I could hang it my classroom. That request was denied on the basis that it was too direct a repudiation of President-elect Donald Trump.

On Thursday, I put it on a flash drive and displayed it on the LED screen in front of my room. I read it to my students. I told them no one in my classroom was a threat to them. I told them they were in a safe place. I read each of the little notes and told them no one would contradict anything they said. I never mentioned Donald Trump, but my students did, repeatedly, and they knew exactly why I was saying this.

Chancellor Fariña declared there would be no overt political talk in class. To a degree, I understand that. It's not my place to tell kids who I voted for. It's not my place to tell them who to vote for either. I would never do such a thing. But I knew they would ask me anyway.

Nonetheless, on Monday, I wore a tie a little bit like the one on the right. You wouldn't notice what was on it unless you looked closely. When the kids asked me who I was voting for, I showed them the tie. I told them that a donkey represented Democrats, and an elephant represented Republicans. They didn't know that. They looked at my tie and said, "Oh, you're voting for Hillary." I was glad they asked, because I needed them to know I would not vote for someone who hated them and everything they stood for, to wit, the American dream.

I also needed them to know that I stood against all the bigoted and xenophobic statements our President-elect made. I'm sorry, Chancellor Fariña, but I'm a teacher, and unlike Donald Trump, I stand for basic decency. My classroom rule, really my only one, is, "We will treat one another with respect."

Donald Trump failed to treat a wide swath of people with respect. He's a hateful, vicious bully. There are all sorts of anti-bullying campaigns that go in in city schools, and I fail to see why Donald Trump should get a pass simply for having lied his way to the Presidency. So I specifically repudiated a whole group of his insidious statements. I also added LGBT to my group, and told my kids that we would not tolerate slurs to gay people in my classroom. Even my kids seem to expect a pass on that. They won't get one.

For tonight, I've asked that the UFT Executive Board either make a poster like the one above left, or give me the means to project it from my flash drive. I'm going to ask that UFT do a campaign of tolerance that specifically rejects the vicious and disgusting statements of our President-elect. I'm going to ask that UFT campaign for respect for all, specifically in response to Trump's bigoted and hateful appeals otherwise.

And Chancellor, Fariña, if you don't like what I did in my classroom, I invite you to place a letter in my file. It will be a virtual badge of honor. I'll frame it and treasure it always.

Friday, November 11, 2016


We endorsed Hillary Clinton early. We didn't bother having a real vote, but chose rather to use a poll, initiated by AFT leadership. Now everyone I knew was sure Hillary would get the endorsement, and she did. Not one person I know was surveyed. The AFT claimed it was scientific, but shared no details as to why.

I voted for Hillary, eventually, but I really loved Bernie Sanders. Now Bernie wasn't perfect, particularly regarding my main issue, education, but it looked like he cared about us in general. Who's not tired of dealing with co-pays and all that nonsense? A family member of mine was hospitalized last year, and we're still dealing with bills, payments that were made and not recorded, and various threats to ruin our credit over bills we'd be happy to pay, if only we knew they hadn't already been paid. Who wants Americans to go bankrupt over catastrophic medical emergencies?

Obamacare is not bad in that my daughter is covered until 26, and people can no longer be denied insurance due to pre-existing conditions. But alas, the recalcitrant GOP wants to see it fail, and refuses to cooperate with the President to improve it. The solution is not a little adjustment, but rather a single-payer system that covers all Americans. Obama did the best he could, and now what little progress he made will be reversed. It doesn't matter that his program is essentially what the GOP offered to President Clinton.

People wanted hope and change, and they still do. We chose Barack Obama because that's what he represented. Hillary never embraced that mantle. She represented More of the Same. That was her brand. For months, on Facebook, people for whom I'd previously had great respect insinuated I was a wild-eyed lunatic. They called us "Bernie Bros," like we were a bunch of witless thugs. They posted nasty and stereotypical stories. We were a bunch of crazies because we wanted affordable college and a living wage.

Hillary was the safe alternative. She didn't look wild. She'd been around forever. She'd done this and that. Decades ago, she worked with some organization or other that helped children. Most importantly, she and Randi Weingarten had been BFFs forever. So the organization to which you and I pay dues but have no vote, the organization which has no representation whatsoever elected from NYC high schools, has spoken. You all love Hillary, it decided.

But we didn't. I didn't. I voted for her because her opponent was a vile worm. But I wasn't enthusiastic at all. The whole no enthusiasm thing is what got Donald Trump to be President. Now we've seen bad decisions before. Weingarten presided over the election that gave us Bloomberg, going from one candidate to the next like musical chairs. She then failed to endorse against him term 3, leaving Bill Thompson so far in the lurch that he later told the Daily News the city couldn't afford teacher raises.

Then UFT endorsed Thompson against a surging Bill de Blasio. It was certainly easy for me to support de Blasio against a guy who'd publicly declared that teachers shouldn't get the raises NYPD and FDNY got. But you always wonder whether de Blasio would've treated us better if we'd been with him from the start. Would we be waiting until 2020 for money our brothers and sisters got in 2009 if we'd chosen correctly? Who knows?

More recently, someone in UFT told me that the early choice for Hillary was a wise one because she'd owe us. OK, I thought, and I actually went to make calls for her. But the circuits were overloaded or something and I got turned away. Maybe it was a sign. But we screwed up again. The American people, like me, are hungry for someone who will devote something more than lip service to our urgent needs. Con man Donald Trump persuaded enough people in the heartland that he was better at that than Clinton.

And millions who came out for Obama took a nap while Donald Trump took the Presidency. Maybe building brick walls around union activists motivated by more than patronage is not the way to go after all.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

No DA Report for November

Yesterday I thought almost all day about President Donald Trump and what that means. I thought about all my friends who he hates, and figured he probably hates me too. But his hatred only goes to the end of his nose because I'm not entirely sure he sees anything beyond that. The United States is just another Trump property, and doubtless he'll post that name in big letters somewhere.

I just drove straight home and didn't realize I'd missed the DA until I got here. So I apologize to those waiting to hear what happened. (If you want to know, read this.) Here's the thing, though. The UFT was part and parcel of the AFT early endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Randi figured that an early endorsement would probably get us some consideration from the Hillary administration, and I suppose she was right. The only problem is that there won't be one.

I was upset that the AFT nominated Hillary. Of course the AFT did a poll of some sort. They called it scientific. That it picked Randi's BFF Hillary is neither here nor there. The important thing is neither I nor anyone I know was contacted. I was included in some sort of phone call, but the first person who commented happened to be some guy who wrote a slash and burn piece about me for NY State Unity. The fix is in, I thought, and indeed it was.

So now that we backed an ultra-establishment candidate rather than the inspired and inspiring Bernie Sanders, this is what we get. Maybe tip-toeing around universal health care wasn't the way to go after all. We can never have it, we can maybe have it, we can have this part of it but not that, we can improve it, blah, blah blah. Maybe hedging on free college for all Americans wasn't the best idea either. Living wage? Meh. Who cares about that?

Gee, you know, maybe it wasn't a good idea to nominate someone who collected zillions of dollars for making speeches on Wall Street. Maybe the notion of demonizing Sanders supporters as wild-eyed lunatics wasn't an effective plan. Maybe nominating a middle of the road nebbish for VP rather than Sanders or Warren wasn't the best idea either. Maybe it would've been a good idea, if you yourself can't electrify audiences, to find someone who could.

Now I know hindsight is 20/20. I voted for Hillary with extremely low expectations. I thought she'd be better than Donald Trump but I honestly didn't trust her to do education any better than Barack Obama. The one thing, though, was the Supreme Court. We kind of dodged a bullet last year when Scalia passed.

But Scalia is the Trump model. He will appoint some right-wing lunatic to the court, and we will become a right-to-work nation. UFT will maybe not be able to send 800 loyalty oath signers to vote the way they are told. Maybe they'll have to cut it down. That will be problematic, as patronage recipients tend not to be all that loyal when they're no longer recipients of patronage.

So maybe UFT will, as Mulgrew's alluded to, push some state regulation. This is pretty touchy, since we're concurrently fighting the Constitutional Convention that will be proposed. So we now have to fight the right to work law and the Constitutional Convention at the same time, and if we pass something protecting dues checkoff, then maybe people will resent us for it.

I don't know everything. But I do know our early endorsement of Hillary Clinton has proven to be an abysmal failure. I'm glad I didn't go to the DA for one reason and one reason only--if I had to listen to him say how smart the political minds of the AFT were one more time, I'd surely have vomited on the shoes of the unfortunate person next to me.