Friday, September 23, 2022

Today's Message:

 If you get a bad observation, you can make it good by just thinking about it.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

We Need Lower Class Sizes Yesterday

The NYC class size reductions can't come soon enough for me, and almost certainly won't. Right now I'm finding it particularly egregious that English Language Learners are dumped into the default of 34 per class. I have one difficult class that I've already written about, and I'm slowly identifying exactly why it has these issues. 

Yesterday I got a new student with absolutely zero knowledge of English. Hello was a mystery to him. I sat with him a few minutes, trying to help him with the very basic work we were doing, but I had 28 other students I had to keep a close eye on. Within the next two weeks, I'm sure we will hit 34. Because of nothing more sinister than random grouping, this will be a very tough class. I'll complain, but my new students will have a much tougher time of it than I will.

This year, I'm moving more slowly than I have before. One reason is this class, as it requires more time for every activity. Another, of course, is that I want to include as many kids as possible before I give an assessment. I don't see a test in the cards for these kids for another week or two. In any case, I have twenty sections right now, and the crap DOE grading program is borderline impossible to navigate.

If I were Chancellor Soaring Eagle, there are a few things I would do differently than he does. For one thing, I wouldn't place people accused of sexual improprieties in key positions. I'd fix the crappy DOE grading software. I'd also reopen all the staff cafeterias and serve actual food that people, you know, eat. But there are other obvious things that desperately need looking at.

The biggest one, of course, is class size. It hasn't been reduced in well over half a century, and hey, times change. Of course, Mayor Swagger thinks 400 kids in online classes would be just fine. His mentor, Mike Bloomberg wanted to fire half of us and leave the rest in classes of 70. I teach high school, and I'd cap class size at 25. I'd cap it at 15-20 for ELLs, particularly those just beginning. 

The NY Post and Daily News editorial boards can rant and cry, but the fact is that's the only thing I know, and the only thing many parents and experienced teachers know that really improves the quality of education. Standardized tests are crap, and judging teachers by them is an abomination. My kids have been here for five minutes, and it's outlandish to determine I'm a terrible teacher, or a good one, or even fair-to-middling, based on scores that indicate I have no idea what.

We now have in place a plan to slowly pare down class sizes. I'd love to see it work, even delayed by a year, but somehow it seems to good to be true. The CFE lawsuit, if I recall correctly, started maybe thirty years ago. Somehow NYC has managed to slip away no matter what was decided. We have to keep a close eye on all the slippery politicians that will slither past us in these coming years.

You can take this to the bank--Any politician opposing lower class sizes in Fun City does not give a golly gosh darn about the children here. There are a million of them, and the only way we can reach them is if we get time with them. We haven't got nearly enough with the ludicrous class sizes we're saddled with. 

In fact, it was only very recently that UFT made an agreement with the city that ensured far fewer oversized classes. Before there was an agreement to have superintendents oversee class sizes, I was going to hearings twice a year to grieve them. Even when we "won," there were ridiculous settlements, like you keep teaching forty kids, but you get one day a week off from your C6 assignment. That helped nothing and no one. Now, miraculously, principals who don't want superintendent problems manage to get all classes to meet the very low standard we have.

That's far from enough, though. We really need to make sure this legislation is enforced. If it isn't, we should align with parents, students, community members, and everyone else and surround City Hall with torches and pitchforks. Nothing else will do, and however soon we do it, it won't be soon enough.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Teacher Teams and Me

When teacher teams were introduced into our school, it was via an SBO. We rearranged the day to accommodate one a week during the C6 period. (We also negotiated more prep time.) I was placed on a team with three teachers who did not teach my subject. 

My teammates were not particularly outgoing, and I ended up having to write up every meeting. I was very creative. Halfway into the year, I realized I was chapter leader, the school did not own my C6, and avoided these teams for a number of years.

Last year, I was not longer CL, so I was placed on a team with four teachers who actually taught my subject. We discussed classroom issues and resolutions. It was a surprisingly good experience. I was with colleagues I respected, and we bounced ideas off of one another. It was altogether a positive practice, and I'd hoped to do it again. However, this year we were presented with the following choices. I will spare you the descriptions in favor of my own commentary. 

Hallway beautification--I want to beautify the hallways like I want a hole in my head. I shall say no more.  

Cultural Acknowledgement--While this is actually related to what I teach, it speaks of monthly events. I have no time for monthly events, as it happens. Also, as a teacher of ELLs, I acknowledge cultures almost minute to minute. I am bone weary of being lectured on this topic by monolingual people who've almost never been anywhere.

Event Promotion--This appears to entail some monthly activity that I either cannot do or promote. When I'm not in school, I'm not promoting events. And if I were, I'd want to be paid for this. 

Teacher Care--I like this concept, but once again it involves some monthly event. I'm not an event planner. (However, one of the events was a book group, and I'll get back to that.)

College and career--I can't think of anything more helpful to the colleges or career of my students than teaching them how to use, and hopefully even to love English. I'm sticking with that.

Restorative Circle Mentors--This one is open only to people in the restorative circle program. I checked it anyway, because being ineligible, I have little chance of being selected.  

Bio-Chem with Algebra Geometry--I know little to nothing about any of it. I selected it. 

Physics with Trig/ PreCalc--Also not my area. I selected it. 

AP Physics with AP/ Calc--More advanced than the last, and about the same to me. I selected it.

APUSH with AP Language--No idea what that even is, but I wish the best to those who choose it.

Phys Ed Healthy Sports Medicine--Sounds good if you're a PE teacher. 

Art/Music--Sounds good if you teach art or music. 

Freshman initiative--Help the ninth graders get involved in all the school activities I've never been involved in, and won't be now either. 

New teacher connection--I'd have liked this if it didn't say dealing with lesson plans and stuff. I think new teachers need to learn how to deal with crazy administrators, and I'm pretty certain my input would be less than welcome. 

Curriculum adjustment--I used to sign up in the summer to write curriculum for pay. I no longer do that, and I'm not interested in doing it for free either. 

Data analysis--Just kill me now. 

After having sent in the required form, I spoke to several supervisors. I suggested "Supporting English Language Learners" as a topic, and it seems like it might have legs. It would be good for me because, you know, that's what they actually pay me to do. 

I also noticed that the teacher. care thing suggested book groups. I'd love to do that, but as part of this teacher team thing we do. Right now, I'm reading Beaten Down, Worked Up by Steven Greenhouse. It's a history of American labor and it's blowing my mind. I think every UFT member should read it. I think every NYC student should read it too.  I would be more than happy to lead or participate in a group discussing it. 

I hope it works out. Otherwise, it's advanced physics for me. I'm happy to nod my head and pretend to understand it, if that's what it takes

Monday, September 19, 2022

The Perfect Plan

I'm now teaching in a brand new building, with brand new desks that kind of cluster together. I really like that arrangement, and I was quite excited about using it. I like to teach in a way that pushes student involvement as much as I possibly can. This is a big challenge when you're teaching an English class and a whole lot of kids don't speak it. 

There's also a big conflict in this sort of class--it's very natural for students to speak their own languages. If you and I, and others we know went to China, we'd probably search for opportunities to speak English. That would be counter-productive for us if our goal were learning Chinese, but hey, we're only human. Well, kids are human too, and teenagers are more social than we are.

That's why each cluster tended to be one language group. The dominant language groups in my classes are Spanish and Chinese, and that's how they arranged themselves. In fact, they were largely segregated by gender as well. I tried to fix that. I'd take three kids here, and exchange them with three there, and we now have a few clusters with people who speak both languages. My hope is that they will ultimately communicate in English, but we'll see how it goes. 

I did have one interesting development. A Spanish-speaking boy was sitting with another, and they were quite talkative, completely in Spanish. I moved him to a table full of Chinese girls. He was pretty upset with me for a day or two, but Friday I noticed him trying to talk to them, and appearing to fancy himself the luckiest person on earth. So that's good, as far as I'm concerned. 

However, one of my classes really started bumming me out on Wednesday, and then on Thursday. You see, I was VERY successful in promoting dialogue. It was continual. It never stopped. However, none of it was in English, and there was general disinterest in what I was presenting. After all, why listen to some old teacher when you can discuss important stuff with your friends? I singled out a few students, and thought I might call their homes.

Of course, I had no capacity to do that. The DOE, in its infinite wisdom, had shut down Skedula and substituted its not-ready-for-prime-time whatever, something that provided me with even less info than the spectacularly failed ARIS. I did speak to administrators, and finally managed to get one to send me a list with phone numbers, but by then I had an alternate plan.

I decided to rearrange the seats in this class. No more clusters. They would sit in rows. Also, I was going with a more exercise-based curriculum, with English from level zero. I don't like to introduce this so early, because I have new kids each and every day all year. The later I do it, the more of them I manage to cover. But hey, it's important that no matter what, I be the most crazy person in the room, always. 

So I set the seats in rows, which was a pain in the neck, and will continue to be. I'll have to do it every day, for a long while at least. And I tried the new material. And it worked. This was a great relief, because the day started very badly, with the worst Wordle of all time. And actually, some of the students who bothered me the most on Thursday turned into the most active participants on Friday. Having anticipated ten phone calls (which are borderline diabolical on Fridays), I made only one. I recorded it nowhere, because that is where the DOE software allows me to do so. 

I know. I should probably do it somewhere else. When things like this come up, I always say to my AP, "They can put a letter in my file."

She always gives me a very stern look, and asks, "Do you know who actually will have to write that letter?"

So to her I say, it's recorded right here. In the future, of course, there's that LIF option.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

On the Low Standards of Eric Adams and the Post Editorial Board.

Sometimes it's infuriating to just read the papers. The extreme-right NY Post editorial board excoriated Governor Hochul for signing a bill that reduced class size in NYC for the first time in over a half-century. They ignore the fact that there was a lawsuit mandating this for years, and ask why not the whole state. 

Well why not? I'd be good with that. I guess the Post doesn't know that NYC has had the highest class sizes in the state, or close to it, for decades. 

Of course Adams opposes lower class sizes too, despite his public talk about how much he loves our schools. He, of course, is the same man who's cut funding for public schools despite the fact that he's pretty much rolling in dough like never before. 

The Post and Adams can trash Hochul as much as they wish, but she will win in a landslide, and would have even if she hadn't signed the bill. At least now people like me won't have to seek third party candidates, or vomit copiously in the voting booth.

Adams and the Post, of course, fail to see what every teacher does--that the fewer kids are in a class, the more attention those kids get. Adams wanted online classes of 400, so we know exactly how much he cares about NYC's public schoolchildren. That's surely why he had no qualms about taking 6 million dollars in cash from charter interests. Forget calling him Mayor Swagger. He's the literal Six-million Dollar Man. 

And while he can rant about having to pay for smaller classes, calling it an unfunded mandate, or trash our union, the people who actually help children, the fact is education is a service. The city is supposed to provide quality education. By refusing to provide reasonable class sizes, they've neglected their job. The fact is, if they want to pay for it, they can tax big-mouthed Michael Bloomberg and all the gazillionaires who've profited as NY has suffered. Hell, they can sell Manhattan Island (and probably would if the proceeds went to Eva Moskowitz). 

Meanwhile, as the Post editorial board is busy trashing teachers and schoolchildren, they seem not to bother reading their own paper. It looks like an ambitious principal is demanding parents pay hundreds of dollars for school supplies, even though some of them are ultimately tossed in the trash. Some schools make parents buy from vendors that jack up the prices, in what looks like a shell game.

And hey, don't get me started on insane demands from administrators, the ones every teacher in NYC knows about. Don't get me started on principals who are found unfit, and either sit in their positions forever or get promoted to do Whatever It Is They Do at Tweed. 

The fact is some of the very worst teachers ever can't hack the job. They make it their mission in life to Get Out of the Classroom, and go on to torture working teachers, make ridiculous demands, follow whatever insane regs their more advanced Out of the Classroom buds create, and end up doing absolutely nothing of value for our children. 

You won't read about this in the Post editorial page, ever. Their target is the UFT, because we're a big union, and they hate big unions. They don't care if children learn in ridiculously large classes, and they wouldn't care if teachers were picked off the street to teach for minimum wage, being fired for arbitrary and capricious reasons, as their good buddy Joel Klein demanded

If you want to improve education in NYC, you'll reduce class sizes faster, provide sufficient facilities everywhere so it can happen, and tax even the Post's owner, Rupert Murdoch to pay for it. You'll stop targeting our union. In fact, if you really care about schoolchildren, you'll encourage the creation of many other unions. That's how you will provide them with better opportunities, if you actually care to do such a thing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Chancellor's Welcome Back Letter

Dear Colleagues:
 
I am so grateful for everything you did to make the first few days of this school year such a success! As I heard from many of you, or maybe it was my subordinates as I (or they) visited schools across all five boroughs on Thursday and Friday, this was the smoothest reopening we have had in recent memory.  

Of course I wasn't chancellor at this time last year, so this is the only year I remember at all.

Thank goodness I didn’t bother speaking to a wide variety of teachers, and didn’t have to hear about how the LIE was closed, or the flooding closing other roadways, or the horrendous traffic that made it impossible for so many of you to even arrive at work on time.
 
That’s a tribute to your hard work and dedication, and it’s especially uplifting after the challenges of the past several years, the ones I can blame on my predecessors.  I really appreciate all of you who are unwilling to tell the truth to me or my subordinates, fearful of a baseless negative rating. That's thinking ahead!
 
The big payoff for all of us, of course, is seeing our students’ joyous faces as they returned, energized to be back with their classmates and educators, and having the opportunity to lift them up this school year. I really appreciate that. That’s why I’m refusing to come to the bargaining table, even though your contract expired yesterday. As you know, my salary is $349,840, so why the hell should I care whether or not you can make ends meet?
 
It was wonderful for me to see our students reconnect with their friends and teachers and to see how ready and eager they are to learn. I was also energized to feel your excitement and enthusiasm. It’s clear to me just how ready we are to reimagine the experience of our students in our schools.

By “reimagine,” I mean make changes that cost nothing in terms of money. For example, not only are we putting off your contract as long as possible, but despite the fact we’re rolling in cash. Also, we put off reducing class sizes for a year. We’re also railing against reducing class sizes at all, and vilifying Governor Hochul for signing the bill. You’d better believe if Zeldin gets in, that bill will be deader than Rudy Giuliani’s political career.
 
We are off to a bright and flying start, and as I wrote to you last week, I look forward to working alongside you every day to reach higher heights, to breach brigher brights, and freach frier frights.

Always remember, I’m your good friend, and there’s just about nothing I would do for you.

Soaring high,
 
David C. Banks
NYC Schools Chancellor

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Pleasantville Lives (in my school)

I teach beginning ESL, usually. That means all the students who've just arrived end up in my classes. It's a challenging job in that I do not, in fact, speak all languages. I have to find ways to make kids open up. 

It's not always easy. Sometimes students have been pretty much taught all their lives to see shutting the hell up, always, as a sign of great virtue. Alas, I don't share that philosophy, and that's a good thing. My classes would be drop dead tedious if I did. 

I'm a longtime advocate for class size reduction, and I will address that on this page shortly. But my morning class only has six people in it. That is not necessarily a bad number. However, at 8:10 this AM, my class had zero students. One walked in at that time, and I told her she should be earlier, but I wouldn't mark her late since she was the first one here. She seemed happy with that. I marked everyone else absent and started the class. For me, one can be too small a class. Zero, definitely too small.

Two more girls walked in five minutes later. While I was happy they showed, I told them they really should have been here fifteen minutes ago. They both got really excited, and started talking very quickly in Spanish. One of them took charge, and explained to me they were both stopped at the door for their clothing. They both pulled up their shirts and showed me two or three inches of bare midriff. 

Had they come to class like that, I would not even have noticed, let alone objected. Were they my daughters, I wouldn't be worried about this. I see girls dressed like this each and every day. I have seen teachers dress like this, and I don't find that objectionable. The fact is we teachers don't have a dress code, and if anyone found my clothing objectionable, I'd file a grievance. 

I have seen girls come in in halter tops with their cutoffs split up to their beltloops. I wouldn't let my daughter go to school like that. In fact, as chapter leader, I repped a handful of people who got called into the principal's office for commenting on the clothing of young women. While I did my job and supported the members, I privately wondered who we were to be telling young women they should dress like this or that. If the girl with the halter top came to my class, I'd do my best to ignore her and say absolutely nothing. I don't need being dragged into the principal's office and getting a letter in my file.

I suppose with a schoolwide dress policy things are different. Still, Chancellor's reg A-421 isn't about what you say, but rather how the person feels when you say it. Verbal abuse may include any or all of the following:

  • Language that tends to cause fear or physical or mental distress;
  • Language that includes words denoting racial, ethnic, religious, gender, disability, or sexual orientation which tends to cause fear or physical or mental distress;
  • Language that tends to threaten physical harm; and
  • Language that tends to belittle or subject students to ridicule.

I'd argue my two young students did not feel good at all about being told their dress was improper, that being newcomers it constituted even more mental distress than it would on someone born here, and that whatever the administrators told them merits letters to file. They certainly could have felt not only mental distress, but also belittled. Of course, when the administrators in charge of interpreting this regulation are also in charge of enforcing it, they're unlikely to place themselves up on charges. This notwithstanding, that would not even be my main argument.

My main argument would be this is not 1950, we are not, in fact, in Pleasantville, and that this policy is ridiculous. My students are not doing anything objectionable. They are not dressed in any particular extreme, and they ought not to lose time where they could be learning English so that they can be forced to wear sweatshirts on an 81-degree day. THAT, in fact, is what they were dressed for. 

The older I get, the less tolerance I have for all things stupid. 

Friday, September 09, 2022

Unedited First Draft of Chancellor's Letter

 

Dear Colleagues:

Good morning and welcome to the new school year! I hope everyone had a great summer. I spent it in my luxurious office, making calls to Very Important People. None of them were teachers! And you won’t be hearing from me anytime soon.

Thank you for all that you do for the children and families of the New York City public schools…and for your work this week to get ready to welcome them back. I know you weren’t paid for most of it, but hey, I make $349,840, so it’s no skin off my apple.

It’s been 36 years since my first opening day as a teacher—in a fourth-grade classroom at P.S. 167 in Brooklyn, and boy am I glad to have gotten the hell out of there. I still feel the same excitement and get the same butterflies every year on this day, but I’m pretty frigging happy not to be in crumbling trailers doing the actual work. Seeing the bright faces of our young people and feeling the brilliance of their promise and potential is so joyful and uplifting. You’d almost think it wasn’t me denying them sufficient funds or further delaying reasonable class sizes!

From my first day as Chancellor, I’ve been tremendously energized by the opportunity to team up with you and our entire city to reimagine how we can strengthen support of our schools, tighten the partnership with our families, and lift our students to a limitless future. Man, that was a long sentence. I hope there aren’t any English teachers reading this!

It’s my joy to be in my perfectly isolated, perfectly ventilated air-conditioned office and see how you inspire, care for, and educate our children. Every day I thank the Lord that I get to sit here and pontificate while you do the actual work. It’s my expectation that, together, we rise to become the best school district in the nation. If that happens, you’d better believe I’ll take all the credit and do my very best not to invest one thin dime in your contract, which expires next week.

I look forward to photo ops alongside you every day to reach higher heights. Hopefully, we’ll hover happily hunting highest heights. And if you think you’ll receive one iota of support from me, I want to know exactly what you are high on.

Thank you for your work and your dedication. Enjoy my crappy grading system. Together, let’s make it a great school year for our kids. If that happens, I’ll take all the credit, along with the mayor, blessed be his name for hiring my brother. If it doesn’t work, I’ll blame you all over the press, and seek those classes of 400 Mayor Adams wants. Sure it will be terrible, but think of all the money we can invest in redecorating my office. 

I have a vision, bro.

Soaring high,

David

Thursday, September 08, 2022

New DOE System Makes Skedula Look Like Perfection

I'm here, day one, in a new building. I'm pretty proud of the new building because I personally got the ball rolling on it about six years ago with a lot of help from UFT. Yesterday, the AC wasn't working, but someone managed to fix it today. I've thus far been unable to get the tech to work in the room, but I expect someone will help me with that by my next class.

The main issue I have, though, is with the DOE grading/ attendance system. I have multiple sections in each of my classes, with long incomprehensible labels. With Skedula, I was able to put sections together, and four of them could be, for example, Period 1. That way, I could understand what I was doing. I was also able to very quickly grade small homework assignments for completion rather than mastery. With four sections of QWE45HJ117-45, it's not so easy. I can't do quick grading at all. 

At this point, I'd rather go back to a paper book, make an alphabetized list, and leave it at that. There is no way, in fact, I can grade at all without doing all sorts of jumping back and forth. This is too much work, and too much tedium. I don't know about you, but I have no patience for unnecessary nonsense. It's especially galling that the geniuses at Tweed find this somehow satisfactory. If I thought they were competent enough, I'd say they were sabotaging us. 

Then there's the attendance. Yesterday, I was able to see my students, albeit in bits and pieces. I could see this section and that, but it was very tough to see if it was QWE45HJ117-45 or QWE45HJ117-46. Then of course, I have to differentiate QWE45HJ117-45 from QWE45HJ118-45. It required jumping back and forth, up and down, and in fact I gave up before actually seeing who was in my classes.

This morning, in my period one class, I passed around an attendance sheet. Then there was an announcement. Please take attendance, but if you can't, go to the office and get it on paper. Oh my gosh. Time to check QWE45HJ117-45 and QWE45HJ117-46. Also QWE45HJ117-47 and QWE45HJ117-48. But I was lucky.

When I went to look for QWE45HJ117-45, I got a message, "No data found." This meant I would have to go for paper. So I went into the building, waited on a long line, and got my paper copies. Then I spent 5 or 10 minutes sorting them by period rather than alphabetically, or however they were sorted. I then copied the whole pile so I'd be able to know who my students are without entering the diabolical app that works only when it sees fit, which thus far is never.

Mayor Adams? Chancellor Banks? This teacher rates you Ineffective. 

And that's being generous.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

DOE Promotes Nelson (While We Watch)

Just when you think things can't get any worse, Chancellor Banks, perhaps suffering from geranium in cranium syndrome, finds one of the very worst principals in NYC (that's saying something), and promotes her. That would be Namita Dwarka of Bryant High School. Dwarka has been repeatedly accused of grade-fraud, social promotion, and other Big Fun things that, if you were accused, you'd find yourself facing dismissal charges. 

For years Dwarka has lingered about, like a stench you just can't wash or spray away. I've gotten messages and emails, heard stories, but nothing seemed to happen. Now something has, and if you didn't think Mayor Eric Swagger was Bloomberg 2.0, let this be your wakeup call. He took six million dollars from the charter lobby, and you can consider Dwarka's promotion a small down payment on what he owes back. 

I'm told that Dwarka managed to raise test scores via whatever methods. I'm also told that teachers there are rated lower than anywhere else, and that they're regularly terrorized. The Bryant chapter leader is quoted in the Post article:

Teachers were “intimidated by the tone” of emails they received from supervisors. When asked to “provide support,” Lignou wrote, “what they hear is ‘We want you to pass this student.'” In a common practice citywide, teachers would give failing students a few last-ditch assignments to pass them “with much less work than what they required in class.”

Certainly this is one way to bring scores up. Of course, fudging the data doesn't ultimately change much, and doesn't always work well. Teachers who participate have often faced awful repercussions, and prosecutors actually used RICO statutes to go after 11 teachers in Atlanta. So when your insane principal asks you to do whatever you have to in order to pass kids, you have to weigh the inconvenience of the principal harassing you against the real possibility of that racketeering conviction. Oh, and principals can be charged too (though less likely under Mayor Swagger).

We share the guilt here. UFT has never fully embraced the discriminatory, unreliable nature and miserable quality of standardized testing. There is the assumption, among reformies like Bloomberg, Swagger, and Soaring High, that teachers are all lying crooks who will simply pass everyone if there are not tools like Regents exams standing in their path. Therefore, we must use only those tests only to judge them. The irony is that those same reformies, when placed in leadership positions, will use every means at their disposal to juke the stats. This is Campbell's Law at work.

I recall distinctly when Mike Bloomberg was crowing about increased test scores, and how his unique genius made that possible. Diane Ravitch compared them to unchanging NAEP scores and determined the tests were dumbed down. Bloombergians ridiculed her. Until, of course, a few years later, when overwhelming evidence proved Ravitch correct. Then, the tests were, ridiculously, aligned to the NAEP. Of course, the results were twisted to indicate that UFT teachers were some sort of collective antichrist. I don't recall who it was who said that standardized testing measures nothing better than zip code or home size, but I certainly agree. 

And, giving credit where credit is due, let's face it--It was an egregious error for us to endorse Mayor Eric Swagger. Sure, he was a shoo-in once he won the Democratic primary. Sure, it was possible, on some astral plane, that he would ignore the suitcases of cash that came pouring in from Eva's BFFs during the primary. But it was highly unlikely, and a bad bet at best. 

This mayor has said no city worker gets raises without production increases. Evidently, inflation doesn't affect his world, what with that free mansion and all those gala luncheons. In a time of unprecedented prosperity, he's cut public school budgets. And he's fought tooth and nail against any measure to lower class sizes. Now he can talk all day about test scores, and promote those who finagle them by hook or by crook. We all know that our kids need more role models, more attention, and that the only way to give it is to lower class sizes. Just how bad is this mayor? He would happily fire us all, sell all the school properties, and have kids learn on Zoom in classes of 400.  Even Bloomberg only advocated for classes of 70

What can we do about this? For one thing, we have to be more visible. Why on earth was it not the United Federation of Teachers bringing the lawsuit to reverse budget cuts? And why, once it appeared, did we not join it? Could we have been worried that Swagger would be mad at us? Given the promotion of Dwarka, one can only conclude that he already hates us and everything we stand for. What, exactly, have we got to lose? His offer of zero-percent raises? Every teacher and UFT member in the city can tell him exactly what he can do with that. 

It should be us out there asking the mayor questions as he walks our streets, hiding behind all those men in suits. It should be us forcing him to answer questions. So far, I've seen him walk away in full Donald Trump mode, ask those who bother him to pray, and calling them, us, again in Trump mode, clowns. 

So be it. We are many, and we should make this mayor see clown cars everywhere. They should, in fact, haunt him right up to the crack of dawn each and every morning when he crawls into his coffin to sleep.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Medicare Mess Multiplies

I've been observing the bungled NYC Medicare deal for months now, and I'm no happier about it now than I was when I first heard about it. There was a plan, to be administered by Emblem Health, to save money for unions. Staying in standard Medicare would have cost 200 a month per member. 

I read a lot of negative stories about that. They may or may not have been correct, but we'll never know. This plan is effectively dead, and Emblem Health has pulled out of the equation altogether. But the spectre of privatization isn't gone, and the necessity to cut costs somehow seems to remain. NYC workers may soon pay health care premiums for the first time ever. 

The city is in court trying to roll back the lawsuit that prevented the privatized Medicare plan, and we'll see where that goes. Since Mayor Swagger shows no inclination whatsoever to support those of us who keep the city going, it's doubtful we'll be getting any aid from him. It's going to be very tricky to find a solution that works for us, and the people responsible for filing this lawsuit appear to be concerned only with themselves. Don't believe me? Here's a quote from the President of the group that brought the lawsuit:

“The unions shouldn’t be taking this out on current retirees. Their changes should be effectuated on active employees or future retirees,” Pizzitola added.

So, evidently, they should get theirs, and screw the rest of us. This is a little upsetting to me personally as I've chosen to stay in service longer than I really needed to. I could be a retiree, along with her, but now my active and future benefits should be reduced while hers ought to stay the same. No one wants reduced benefits. 

I was not too uncomfortable with Emblem Health administering a city plan. I had cancer around 15 years ago, and they were very good about granting me whatever tests my doctors requested. I'm a lot less sanguine about Aetna, which now that Emblem has walked away, is the next contender to administer the plan. I think they administer our dental plan, and they haven't been helpful at all when I've had issues. I wouldn't be happy to be dumped into a plan they administer. 

I wrote back in March that there may be a negative side to this lawsuit. And indeed, there are possibilities we could see our dental, vision and hearing benefits rolled back. We could see premiums spike, effectively rolling back our compensation in highly inflationary times. It's going to be hard to find a good solution to this issue, and it's going to verge on impossible to find one that satisfies all parties.

I don't have one. It's unfortunate the rollout of this plan was so poorly planned and thought out. It's unfortunate that the MLC didn't even see fit to recruit doctors before rolling out this plan. It's also unfortunate that the people who brought the lawsuit now contend only they should be held harmless while the rest of us should pay. 

The only real solution to this is single payer, pulling our unions out of the health care business altogether, and taking care of all Americans the way most countries take care of their citizens. Given the abysmal state of American politics, that's not happening anytime soon. 

I don't envy the MLC right now, but I certainly hope they think things out better than they did when they engineered the disastrous rollout of the now-failed Medicare Advantage plan.

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Beware of Swagger Bearing Gifts

It's clear to me that Mayor Eric Adams doesn't give a golly gosh darn about public schools. The Mayor is all about being photographed in the right places, tweeting about how wonderful he is, and hurling juvenile insults at anyone who dares question his divine judgment. He called people who criticized his school budget cuts "clowns," and continues to remind me of Donald Trump in more ways than I wish to consider.

Now, facing a lawsuit that has thus far halted his draconian cuts to education, the mayor is graciously allowing schools to use stimulus funds to pay teacher salaries. Don't get me started on why schools ought not to be responsible for salaries in the first place. Since they are (another great innovation from Mike Bloomberg), it may be helpful to some schools struggling to retain staff. Of course, as the article points out, said staff may already have found other placement. I'd be happy to leave a place that deemed me expendable enough to get rid of me, and I've no doubt others feel the same.

This mayor does not act to help schools. Altruism is not his thing, unless it involves the police, who do no wrong ever in Adams world. This may help him a little in his PR war, which, from everything I read, he's winning nowhere but the NY Post editorial page. They'll say, see, we've allowed them to use these funds for this, and therefore our decision to cut funds when we're rolling in dough is not so bad after all.

The first thing, though, that came to my mind when I read this, had nothing to do with school budgets. It had everything to do with contract negotiation. Don't doubt for a minute that Chancellor Soaring High, after making videos about just how much he appreciates teachers, will say oopzie, the federal funds have run out, so we have no money to fund raises for teachers. 

Now sure, you'll say, they are a bunch of bumbling idiots, blathering about this and that, and haven't got the capacity to plan for anything. That's true, but Adams took six million dollars from a charter PAC, and deteriorating public schools are a good thing for Eva Moskowitz. And what's good for Moskowitz is good for Adams' campaign war chest. Maybe, in a few years, someone not insane will not only oppose him, but also persuade New Yorkers that she isn't insane. Stranger things have happened.

Maybe he's got Moskowitz people telling him what to do. They didn't give him six million bucks just for the fun of it, and there's more where that came from. There are reasons they didn't just pump them directly into Moskowitz Test Prep Factories. These people abhor public schools, and we be perfectly content allowing our children to roam the streets like the kids in Salaam Bombay

So as we face an expiring contract and a mayor who's already stated he has no plans to offer raises for anything but productivity increases, expect them to say, hey, we had this money, but we won't have it next year. Expect Chancellor Soaring High to say gee, you guys are heroes, but we can't offer you enough money to buy a hero sandwich, let alone housing in one of the most expensive sectors in the country.

If rich people didn't have to pay taxes for public schools, they'd have even more money they don't need. That's what Mayor Swagger is all about, and it's on us to trust him as far as we can throw him. (Also, if you're planning to throw him, please post the video.) Let's not trust this latest phony move from this particular phony leader.

Monday, August 01, 2022

Let's Stop Trashing ATRs

Given Mayor Swagger's unwillingness to pony up and, you know, pay for education, schools are facing tough choices. Hundreds of teachers have been dumped into the ATR pool as a result. 

Why are people ATRs? Frequently, it's a result of being in the wrong place at the right time. Your school budget is cut, there are to be fewer bodies there, and yours is one of them. 

Today's Post attests to that. Where are new ATRs coming from?

About one in five teachers still without school placements were new hires last school year. Less than half were on probation at the end of the month.

This suggests that they were cut in reverse seniority order, as specified by our contract. There are plenty of reformies out there who'd like to change that, so principals or Tweedies could get rid of anyone they felt like. This is typified by Joel Klein's public demand to dismiss teachers on arbitrary and capricious grounds. We cannot afford that. 

I've seen many members get letters in file just because the principal felt like issuing them, and I know one who just ran to another school based on the fact she deemed she had no future in the one where she was, unjustly, given a letter and, even more unjustly, denied a per-session position.  Imagine if they could just dump you for being a pain in the ass. (Under that scenario, I'd have been working at Kinko's for the last ten years, and no one has suggested I'm a bad teacher in decades.)  

What's upsetting is the stereotype of the ATR as a bad teacher. Even more upsetting, the anonymous young teacher interviewed by the post perpetuates it:

“People are ATRs for different reasons,” said the Staten Island teacher, including those let go for ineffectiveness or misconduct, not enrollment losses. “We’ve gotten ATRs who got fired from their position for a reason. I’m not one of them, but now I’m grouped into that category.”

No ATR has been fired, full stop. Teachers who are fired do not become ATRs. What they become, in fact, is unemployed. I know a little bit about excessing. I was excessed from Lehman High School in 1985. I found a job teaching music. out of license, at JFK, and was there a year and a half before being excessed again. I then found a job teaching ESL at Newtown, was excessed again, and found another at John Adams.

I never became an ATR. I was just out of a job. I went to the hiring halls, and was told they could do nothing for me. One secretary brought be to a room full of people sitting in folding chairs. She told me those teachers were tenured, and that she had to place every single one of them before she even thought about placing me. 

The same teacher quoted above explains her situation:

“No one’s calling back,” she said. “I don’t understand. I’m rated well, my principal would say very nice things about me if they call.”

“I can’t prepare, but that’s what I spend my summers doing. Not to be able to plan for next year, and they’re just going to throw me into a position possibly, is ridiculous,” she added.

I certainly understand her frustration. I was in her position more than once, and each time was faced not only with those issue, but also the issue of losing my salary, health insurance, and place of residence. I didn't even have the option of scapegoating ATRs. As much as being an ATR sucks, losing your livelihood is a whole lot worse.

What I did was this--I put on a suit, sneaked past security, and walked into every school and department office that I though might hire me, a known quantity, as opposed to some person sitting around a hiring hall and waiting. That worked for me every time. 

Being able to keep my job without weeks of stalking administrators would have made me grateful. What really doesn't work for me is trashing ATR teachers. I'd feel even more awkward about it if I happened to be one. My job is to teach students from all over the world, and one thing I've learned in this job is that no stereotype is accurate, ever. 

We need to support our brother and sister ATRs. It's not their fault they're stuck in that pool. It's the fault of Mayor Swagger and Chancellor Soaring High. They deserve our wrath, our scorn, and our active protest, just for a start.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Time for UFT to Dump Walgreen's

It's convenient to go to a local pharmacy and get a 90-day prescription. For UFT members, if you have a Walgreen's near you, you can do that. You could also get a 30-day prescription somewhere else, and mail to Express Scripts for a 90-day supply. For me, that's not too much trouble. 

But I won't set foot in Walgreen's until they stop allowing the people to work there to deny us contraception based on their personal beliefs. If I were vehemently opposed to contraception, I'd decline to work in a place that enabled it. In Walgreen's, instead, they're allowing their employees the freedom to decline sales of birth control pills and condoms to customers. 

Imagine some kid deciding to humiliate someone because of personal beliefs. Imagine some kid doing so just for the hell of it, to exercise the little bit of power this job enables. Either way, Walgreen's is good with it.

There are a lot of jokes and skits about people buying condoms, and how awkward they feel. They buy 500 other things and the clerk asks over the PA for a price check on the condoms, humiliating the already nervous customer. You need not be a nervous customer to feel embarrassed when an 18-year-old clerk says, no, you can't have your condoms because I don't personally believe you should have protected sex. Likely as not, these are the same people who support abortion bans, so they've got you one way or the other. 

Walgreen's, of course, is free to humiliate customers looking to live their lives, and in fact looking to prevent abortions. But I won't set foot in one until they end the policy.

UFT has a partnership with Walgreen's. This is problematic. If we continue to do business with them, we are tacitly supporting their odious policy. Walgreen's, for my money, is not the best judge of what UFT members should and should not do about their reproductive choices. In fact, leaving it to the whim of their employees is an even worse decision. They're saying it's not their responsibility, but rather that of the individual employee. I don't want to be treated like that by Walgreen's or their employees, so I can't differentiate.

If Walgreen's really cared about its employees, it would encourage them to unionize and collectively bargain. It would make sure they had full health benefits. It would offer them a prescription plan as good or better than ours. It would offer them better terms than its competitors. Instead, it indulges the whims of those who wish to express moral superiority to those of us who make the bad choice of keeping them in business. That's unacceptable. 

We need to let Walgreen's know that it is there to serve us. If it chooses to allow employees to insult and humiliate customers, it does not deserve our business. We should cut our partnership until and unless it stops indulging the worst instincts of the fanatical ideologues in its employ. 

Unless they come to their senses, let's cut them off and work to replace them with a partner that respects not only our needs, but also those of all Americans. If I wanted to go somewhere and be insulted, I'd go to frigging Tweed and talk to Chancellor Soaring High.

Thursday, July 07, 2022

CRT, LGBTQ, BLM, and UFT

We're all the same, you know. Remember, when your favorite MAGA commentator is trashing whatever it is we're all supposed to hate this week, that we're likely as not on next week's menu. 

I've got a love-hate relationship with the Post. They have one of the very best education reporters I've ever seen in Sue Edelman. She's relentlessly curious and inquisitive, and doesn't hesitate to speak to real live teachers to get information she wouldn't hear from the Tweedies. 

NY Times education reporters, even when they deign to step off their pedestals, can't be bothered looking for points of view that diverge from their own. Truth be told, their point of view is not much different from that of the Post, despite all the talk about their being "liberal."

Naturally, Chalkbeat highlighted this Post editorial. Though it appears evidence free, they deemed it worthy of mention in their morning round up. The Post is delighted that Adams got two more years of mayoral control, but regrets that it wasn't four. Nowhere in this piece do they give any reason for extending it, or any evidence whatsoever that mayoral control helps anyone (let alone city kids, who merit only one cursory mention).

The Post seems to assume we all just know that mayoral control is a good thing. And I suppose, had you been relying on that particular page for info, you'd buy that. The Post complains control is being watered down by extension of the PEP, and I can only infer that it's a bad thing. Of course, having been to PEP meetings, it's very clear to me that the PEP has been a rubber stamp for the mayor, and that public comments meant absolutely nothing at these meetings. 

Actually, though the headline involves mayoral control, that's not really the topic. The main topic is the perfidy of the United Federation of Teachers (and if you're wondering who that is, it's us). The Assembly are "pawns of the teachers union." That's why they're extending the PEP and giving Adams only two years, evidently. Also, Hochul is terrible for having gone along with this. The Post gives her no credit at all for failing to sign the class size bill, which they hate, and urges us to vote for her Republican opponent. 

Take a look at this:

Fact is, the UFT has always hated mayoral control. It fought against it when it was first proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2002 — and whenever its renewal came up.

The fact, I'm sorry to say, is that UFT has repeatedly supported mayoral control. I think that's a huge mistake, and I wrote against it in the Daily News back in 2009. Diane Ravitch, in The Death and Life of the Great American School System, goes into chapter and verse about how mayoral control is a favored tool of billionaires to thwart all that messy democracy that people who don't own the NY Post seem to like. It's a terrible system, and it's at its very worst in New York City, where it's amounted to mayoral dictatorship. Hopefully, it will be improved by PEP expansion, but only time will tell. 

As for class size reduction, the Post just hates it. Not only that, but as usual, they give no real reason, except that it's somehow good for the UFT. Anything that makes us happy is awful, a waste of money. Bigger classes mean fewer expenses, and fewer expenses means more money in the pockets of Rupert Murdoch. (In fairness, he's going through a divorce, so he may need the extra odd billion here and there.)

It's really disappointing that such a poorly thought out piece of crap like this passes for an editorial. If you assume that class size is meaningless, mayoral control is good, and working teachers are bad, it's just fine. However, the writers of this piece didn't bother providing evidence for any of that. Were I to write such a piece, I couldn't get it published anywhere.

That's why guys like Murdoch buy their own newspapers, and cable networks, and Supreme Court Justices. That's why they fight so hard for boogiemen to vilify. Otherwise there would be something akin to democracy, and who who wants that?  Remember, when you hear them talk about CRT, and trans people, and whatever other boogeymen they come up with, we're right there on their list of scapegoats, wherever and whenever it becomes convenient. In fact, someone on Murdoch's Fox just called us "the KKK with summers off."

I'm not at all surprised to see bigots projecting their racism on us, and there's a lot of precedent for authoritarians going after teachers. It's happening here and now, and this is just the beginning. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Chancellor Sends Us His Summer Message

Dear Colleagues,

As we wrap up the school year, I want to take a moment to say thank you and congratulations to everyone at the DOE who made this school year a success, particularly myself and the various family members I've gotten on the NYC gravy train. From all of us, let me say it certainly beats working.

I’ve only been Chancellor for six months but in that short period of time, we’ve accomplished a lot together. We’ve gotten billions of dollars from the feds, and still managed to cut the budgets of your schools by millions of dollars. We’ve managed to confound not only the City Council, but also the State Assembly and Senate in their efforts to reduce class sizes. Instead of seeing your class sizes go down, you’ll almost certainly watch them explode next year. No skin off my apple, since I'll be sitting in my office, doing Whatever.

We successfully navigated the Omicron surge, and cleverly managed to drop the mask mandate despite the most contagious strain yet. Sure, some of you got COVID even if you masked every day, but I never got it. Now the mayor did. Let me ask you this question—the mayor says when he has swagger, the city has swagger. Therefore, if the mayor has COVID, does the city has COVID? (Just a joke, Eric. Keep that 350K a year coming, and please don’t fire my brother.)

We’ve refused to cooperate with potential lifeguards, resulting in a dire shortage. We are instead embarking upon a drowning awareness campaign. That way, while you’re drowning, you’ll understand completely what’s happening to you right up until you drown. We’ve defunding public schools at the highest rate since the great recession. We’ve raised rents on stabilized apartments by the highest level since Bloomberg.

We announced key initiatives such as the expansion of Gifted & Talented programs, which may or may not mean something, given budget cuts. We made you sit through training on dyslexia, because that’s what the mayor has. If your students have some other learning disability, too bad for them. Let them elect a frigging mayor who shares it. We also made you sit through an insipid online seminar about online privacy, because when and if it’s violated, we intend to blame you. We’ll say, hey, we offered the training, so it’s not our job, man.

All of these accomplishments are the result of your hard work!

In a school system as large as ours, each and every one of you plays a vital role in ensuring that our students are well supported and thriving academically and socially. And you better believe when we max out class size, that’s gonna be one hell of a task! Good thing we’ve weaseled our way out of both city and state efforts to reduce class sizes, and can save tons of money by slashing your budgets. In fact, in our surveys, when we asked what parents most wanted for their kids, it was reasonable class sizes. Well, screw them and the subway trains they rode in on.

I feel enormous gratitude to be working alongside such smart and passionate people. If it were not for you, people like me would have to do this work, as opposed to sitting in comfortable offices at Tweed counting my blessings and paper clips I will look for your guidance and feedback, and believe me, I will give it valuable lip service at every opportunity.

Have a safe and fun summer. The best is yet to come as we advance toward the 2022-23 school year! Wait until you see what surprises the mayor and I have in store for you, UFT!

Soaring high,

Mister Chancellor David C. Banks

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Jumaane Williams for Governor


I'd been prepared to vote for Kathy Hochul in the primary right up until she failed to sign the class size bill that passed both the Assembly and the Senate. I was going to overlook the fact that she was Cuomo's number two, that she supported the tax cap on non-city schools, that she supported tax credits for those donating to private schools, and her preposterous assumption that charters would somehow reduce the overcrowding in public schools.

In fact, given the opportunity to help us do a better job, Hochul has thus far failed to take the only action I know of that would certainly help children. She's clearly concerned more with money than education. Spending 1.4 billion on a stadium to ultimately enrich some billionaire is fine with her. But our kids are not a priority. No wonder she supported a four-year unconditional extension of mayoral control for Eric Swagger Adams.

Jumaane Williams will support better education for city students. He'll support housing for those of us who actually need it, as opposed to gazillionaires looking to build stadiums. He'll stand up for people regardless of how much cash they have. 

Next Tuesday, in the Democratic Primary, vote for Jumaane Williams, vote to support our schools, communities and jobs, and vote for real change.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Exams and Me (and You)

Yesterday I read the oral part for the Spanish LOTE exam. (I'm not the best in Spanish, but I'm certified to teach it, and that's good enough for NY State.) This was not a difficult task for me, but I recall hesitating at one word, reading it wrong once, and then correcting myself the second time. A native speaker I know told me he thought some passages seemed like they went through Google Translate.

You may or may not be familiar with the crap that comes from Google Translate. Chinese, for example, doesn't have the same structure as English. I often read things that come through there, though, and parts of speech are wrong, syntax is wrong, usage is wrong, and sometimes passages are barely coherent. Sometimes they aren't coherent at all. Spanish is closer to English in some respects, but as I tell my students--Spanish is Spanish. English is English. That's how I explain differences that don't, at first blush, appear logical. 

Logic doesn't necessarily apply to language. Prepositions, for example, are fairly arbitrary, and don't make sense from one language to the next. Advanced speakers often make prepositional errors. English spelling is not logical at all. It seems natural to us, but it isn't. Spanish, for example, is almost completely phonetic. What you see is what you get. 

As illogical as language is, though, it's a distant second to our testing system. The mandate that we cannot grade our own students is offensive, counterproductive, and stupid. The assumption is that we will boost the grades of our own students so as to make ourselves look better. That may be a good assumption in schools where teachers are pressured to pass everyone no matter what. However, the issue in schools like that is corrupt administration. There's a longstanding tradition in New York City to never, ever address that (unless you're Sue Edelman). Even the very worst principals are simply reassigned to Tweed to sit around and do Whatever It Is they do there. 

The assumption that I will be biased toward my students, or you to yours, suggests that I am corrupt and unfit (as are you). Well, if that's the case, why the hell did they hire us in the first place? If we are inclined to pass people for no reason, we are of no earthly use to our students or school system. I've just looked at my final grades, and it turns out that kids who failed all the tests, kids who cut rather than take them, and kids who failed to do any work failed my classes. Why, then, would I be so desperate to pass them on some standardized test?

Now I know a lot of my colleagues are more than happy to get paid for grading, something we used to do as part of our job. I can't say I miss traveling to other schools to grade the exams of students I've never seen, or negotiate grades with people I've never met. Wouldn't it be better, though, if the city took all that money and devoted it to something worthwhile, like class size reduction? Isn't that one of the only things we know to actually improve education? And how do ostensible leaders like the mayor and chancellor get up in public and claim to care about schoolchildren when they aren't willing to devote money to improving education? Is scapegoating teachers and acceptable substitute? I don't think so.

Back to testing, we haven't really examined the question of why they're taking standardized tests at all. Wouldn't it be more reasonable for me to test them on what I actually taught them, as opposed to whatever the Board of Regents happened to pull out of their collective behinds? I am not an expert on all the standardized tests, but I've given some serious consideration  to the English Regents exams, and it's a piece of crap that measures neither reading, writing, or any English ability I can discern. Despite the absence of the name, all it really tests is Common Coriness, a skill in which I can discern no highly practical application.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The Chancellor Explains NYC Education Budget Cuts

Dear Subordinates:

There's been a lot of talk about the budget. Lots of people are suggesting that we're taking the federal money and using it to cut our part of the school budget. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The fact is we are set to receive $160 million in federal funds, and we're cutting the budget by $375 million. I had one of my assistants do the math, and that means we're only cutting by 215 million, which is hardly anything at all. 

Instead, we're focusing on real improvements. We will embrace data driven policies through the experiential based learning process. We will exploit diverse capacity through the collaborative process. We will seize integrated curriculum within the Zone of Proximity. We will orchestrate student-centered scaffolding with synergistic effects. Now who could ask for more than that? Class size reduction won't achieve any of those things.

Think about it. How many Manhattan penthouses could you buy for 215 million? 50? 100? Do you really think that 50-100 penthouses would provide enough space for us to accommodate the schoolchildren of New York City? And that doesn't even account for the maintenance fees, which would be astronomical. With this kind of money, we could buy some really nice penthouses, and use them for Very Important city employees, like me and my brother, for example. With all those ethics concerns about Phil, it wasn't easy for me to score him this Deputy Mayor gig. And I'm not at all sure about a penthouse with his credit rating. But I digress. 

There's a lot of talk about reducing class sizes in NYC. In fact, the Assembly and Senate just passed a bill requiring it. I can't begin to tell you how disturbing and unfair that is. This lawsuit has been making the rounds since 2001. Now sure it's been affirmed over and over again, but the fact is it's 2022. How unfair is it that our illustrious mayor, the Honorable Eric Adams, should have to deal with it when neither Rudy Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg, nor Bill de Blasio had to do it? 

First of all, all those ex-mayors are losers, except Mike Bloomberg, who staunchly supports Eric Adams. Now Mike could have simply financed the class size reductions himself, but he chose not to. And it's common sense that Bloomberg must know something, or else why would he have all that money? Consider all those school shootings. You hate them, right? Me too. And Mike Bloomberg compared teacher unions to the NRA. The union is quite clearly a special interest group advancing the needs of teachers, as opposed to the needs of Mike Bloomberg. 

Bloomberg also says the reason schools are failing is because your union insisted on staying out long after schools were safe. And as I've said publicly, we need to increase the quality of teachers before we can talk about reducing class sizes. And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Former US Education Secretary Arne Duncan thinks so too. Mr. Duncan is extraordinarily qualified to make this statement. For one thing, he's never been an actual teacher, so he isn't prejudiced. For another, he's very tall, and is pretty good at basketball. How many teachers can say that? How tall are your union leaders? Think about it. 

Duncan boldly made the heroic statement that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to education in New Orleans. First, lots of troublesome students died. Some moved away, saving valuable public education money, which ultimately went into private hands, thus boosting the economy. Also, it completely wiped out those nasty teacher unions. New Orleans is now a city of charter schools, and well-heeled private citizens are finally making some real scratch from education out there. We could do the same here. 

Honestly, why should we reduce class sizes when so many of you suck so much? Just consider Eric Adams' thoughtful suggestion that we do online classes of 400. Sure, you would lose your jobs, but the city would be well-served. And just think, if we dump you, all those other teachers will have 2,000 papers to grade every day. You will be on easy street, with an economy-boosting non-union gig at Target. You'll get the loan of a cool red shirt and won't have to grade any papers at all. 

When you consider everything, having all online instruction would mean a whole lot of prime real estate wasted on public schools would become available, and perhaps Important People could score more penthouses. And wouldn't our city really be better off with more penthouses? Penthouses contribute to the economy. School buildings are nothing but a drain of resources, like all those teacher cafeterias Mike Bloomberg wisely closed. 

So stick with me, folks, and ask Governor Kathy Hochul not to sign that nasty class size bill. If it doesn't become law, we can move ahead with our plans to offer zero-percent raises to all city employees, streamline our work force by getting rid of dregs such as yourself, and move on to make this a city of people who carry Platinum cards. It's the patriotic thing to do.

Ask yourself this--do you love your country, or do you want smaller classes for hundreds of thousands of kids who don't even pay taxes?

The answer is simple.

Soaring High,

Mister Chancellor David C. Banks

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Chancellor on Class Size

Dear UFT members: 

It's me again, your old pal, Chancellor David C. Banks (although I much prefer to be called MISTER Chancellor David C. Banks). My job is very important, and that's why I get paid $364, 000 (plus expenses of course). Gala luncheons don't come cheap, as you know. Or maybe you don't, what with being in schools that don't even have teacher cafeterias anymore. But I digress.

Today I want to talk about class size. Of course Mayor Adams and I want our students to have smaller class sizes, but we don't want to rush into things. After all, it was only 60 years ago that we capped class size because you, the UFT, gave up money to cap it. And we're fine with reducing class sizes if you pay for it. Here's the thing, though--It appears the state wants us to pay for it. We have a lot of expenses. There's my salary, for one. There's my brother's job, and with his record, it wasn't easy to find him one, let alone a plum gig like this one.

And you all know that since we dumped Skedula, it's on us to create a new system. Have no doubt we will spare no expense to develop it. Surely it will cost at least 95 million dollars, just like ARIS, which we introduced as the very bestest thing on earth and then dumped unceremoniously. Sure that was a complete waste of money, and sure, we're the guys who left little children freezing and stranded on street corners when our no-bid contract company failed to deliver, but hey, just trust me, okay?

Of course we would love to make class sizes lower. We simply don't want to pay for it. Now I know you have arguments. For one thing, there are 675 public school districts, and we have worked our way up to 663 in class size. There are TWELVE districts that have EVEN LARGER class sizes, and you should be GRATEFUL we aren't LAST. But NOOOO. You complain, blah, blah, blah, and want me to take money that could go to my salary, or additional neptism beyond little bro, any use it to HELP kids I haven't even MET.

Then there's all of you going on about academic research that suggests smaller class sizes benefit students. Some of you even say it's common sense that if students get more attention from teachers it benefits them. Well, I'll tell you three things. First, common sense is the least common of all the senses. Second, Mike Bloomberg says a good teacher could teach 70 kids at a time, and he'd have fired half of you to make that happen if only you weren't unionized. (And Bloomberg must know something, otherwise why would he have all that money?) Mayor Eric Adams suggests we could have one teacher teach 400 kids at a time on Zoom. Now there's a way to save money, but no, you greedy UFT teachers are still blabbering about class sizes. 

Now some of you think we have more space since we've gone from 1.1 million students to 850,000, and argue that's common sense. But we simply cannot afford to be guided by common sense. We have priorities. Sure, The total five-year cost for additional teachers — $1 billion — is less than one percent of the city’s current $100 billion annual budget. But there are so many other things we could spend that money on. How about a catering service here at Tweed, for example. Do you think we like having to have our secretaries call restaurants? How much could we save on our expense accounts if we had an in house chef?

Now I know that you, as teachers, think you know stuff. But the fact is that the highest paid among you only makes about a third of my salary. That makes me roughly three times smarter than you are. Therefore, you should listen to me. 

It's clear if we have to devote not only the $7.6 billion in additional federal support that has come to our schools, but also the $1.3 billion in state funds through Gov. Hochul’s commitment to fully fund foundation aid to class size reduction, we will be unable to grant the sort of corporate raises around here that Make America Great. Look, Eva Moskowitz is pulling in almost a million a year while I sit here working for chicken feed. And let me tell you, the charter folks who gave Mayor Adams at least six million bucks for his campaign are gonna be PISSED if this comes to pass. Their class sizes could go through the roof, if we can even find them a roof after taking care of those frigging public school kids.

So please, guys, give up the ghost already. It's not profitable for us to pour our extra billions into facilities for school children that don't even turn a profit. This is the American way. That's why all your school cafeterias are closed and you're all eating in your cars. Hey, your car is pretty nice, isn't it? Nicer than that nasty old cafeteria, right? Nicer than those streets we fail to maintain.

So please, call your union leaders and tell them to just stop all this class size nonsense. You know that rather than admit we have all this extra money we'll cry poverty and say we need to fire the social workers and nurses we've finally placed in schools after decades of neglect, don't you? Then we'll say it's your fault, and the New York Post will run an editorial saying you all suck.

You don't want that, do you? Remember, I'm the guy who made a video during teacher appreciation week. What more are you going to want? Please get used to your overcrowded schools and classes, and stop your bellyaching. This job is a calling, and your working conditions ought not to matter at all, even if they are your students' learning conditions.

And that's just one reason you're never gonna catch my ass in a frigging classroom. 

Soaring high,

Chancellor David C. Banks