“The high school win is a crack in the glass ceiling that keeps Unity caucus in power.”

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Statement of MORE on the successful sweep of high school executive board positions in the UFT by the MORE/New Action slate.

The Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE), is the social justice caucus of the UFT and largest force for change within the teachers union. In the 2016 elections, MORE formed a united front with New Action Caucus  to challenge Unity Caucus, the bureaucratic political machine that has dominated New York’s teachers’ union for the past 56 years. Over the past decade, Unity has led the UFT into crisis, signing off on harmful policies such as overuse of standardized testing and pay increases that fail to keep pace with inflation, while the NYC public schools have decayed. MORE advocates for a vision of social justice unionism to fight for the schools New York City’s students and teachers deserve.

NEW YORK- In an historic victory for social justice reform in the nation’s largest union local and largest school system, NYC high school teachers have created a rupture in the 56-year near-monopoly of the UFT’s Unity Caucus by electing the MORE/New Action reform slate to the union’s executive board. The victory will bring a voice for progressive change to the table in the union’s coming 2018 contract negotiations. The tri-annual election for the leadership of the UFT exposed a deep crisis in the New York City schools, with a new report from MORE demonstrating that 32% of NYC teachers are unable to make photocopies for their students when they need to, nearly one in five city educators works more than 20 hours of unpaid overtime per week, over half teach in overcrowded schools, and that behavior support, special education, ESL, and other mandated services for students are often criminally lacking.

 Marcus McArthur, newly elected to the UFT Executive Board said, “The rank and file have cast a vote for more democracy, more teacher autonomy, and more justice for our schools. I look forward to representing their voice and collaborating with my colleagues on the executive board for a better public school system in NYC.”

 Decaying working and learning conditions are generating a rank-and-file upsurge in the UFT, with vote totals evidencing a continued ebb in support for Michael Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus and a turn toward activism. MORE/New Action’s victory follows the growing national trend of social justice reformers coming to power in teachers union elections and leading strikes for critical improvements in the schools in Chicago, Los Angeles, St. Paul, Detroit, and other cities across the country in recent years.

 MORE’s Executive Board member Ashraya Gupta said, “In a year when public-sector unions were under threat, it is heartening to see a vote for a more democratic UFT. The increase in voter turnout and the win for MORE and New Action means New York City teachers are mobilizing for the schools and city we deserve.”

 Mike Schirtzer another new Executive Board member adds “For far too long the leadership of our union has been disconnected from the real problems we face in our schools. They have signed on to one anti-public education policy after another, without watching out for the best interests of our members or the students we serve.”

 Presidential candidate Jia Lee observed, “The high school win is a crack in the glass ceiling that keeps Unity caucus’ in power. Rank and file educators are galvanizing a more humane vision of our teaching conditions and our students’ learning conditions. There’s much more work to do, and I’m really looking forward to the future knowing we have principled voices on the executive board.”

 While MORE/New Action’s victory for the high school board seats will bring much-needed change to UFT leadership, machine politics continue to dominate the union. In an effort to consolidate control over the union, in 2012 Unity Caucus increased the cap on retiree votes (a group that traditionally votes for Unity, since they led the union when they were in service) from 18,000 to 23,500. In 2013, retirees cast more than half the ballots for UFT leadership, with only 17% of active members voting. In 2016, 25% of in-service members voted, contributing 28,582 ballots, while 24,464 retirees voted, mostly for Unity Caucus.

Sunday Times.

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Allen Ginsberg. Born June 3, 1926.

As in those glorious days of May ’68, now, 48 years later, all France is on the street, showing that their workers have a point of patience against capitalist greed, which has already been exceeded. The fundamental reason for these huge mobilizations, crisscrossed by hundreds of fighting melee with the gendarmes sent by the government of Francois Hollande, is a highly controversial labor reform that already in February, when it had not yet been submitted to Parliament, had He has been rejected by the unions. Hollande did not want to hear the complaint that moment, and with total disregard for the popular will put first with his usual arrogance. (Google translation) Carlos Aznarez

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Graph: Economic Policy Institute

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Here are 200 of the highest-paid chief executives in American business. The data comes from the Equilar 200 Highest-Paid CEO Rankings, which lists the compensation of the chief executives of 200 public companies with annual revenue of at least $1 billion, that filed proxies by April 30th. New York Times

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Liberals and conservatives have been arguing for years over whether high taxes drive away people with high-incomes. Do millionaires flee from high-tax states to low-tax jurisdictions, as tax-cutting lawmakers claim? Now, in the most extensive look at the question to date, a group of researchers from Stanford University and the U.S. Treasury Department have the answer: Millionaires hardly ever move from one state to another for any reason, and when they do there is little evidence that their choice is driven by taxes. Forbes

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Farima Pour-Khorshid is one of the most brilliant social justice educators I know. She teaches bilingual kindergarten in Hayward CA and is now working on her PhD in education as well as being a teacher activist and organizer with the Teachers 4 Social Justice in the Bay Area. Too often, we think of kindergarten teachers as simple caregivers, offering some hugs and some fun activities. Inevitably, kindergarten is also the level of teaching most reserved for women, with the participation of men going up as the grades rise up to college level.

But to know Pour-Khorshid, who her kids call “Ms. Farima,” is to know a powerhouse educator. She remembers her own schooling as frustrating. She was the kid who got in trouble, who was caught talking too often. She says, “Now teaching allows me to become the teacher I wish I would have had for my first experience in school. No child should ever hate school, and much less in kindergarten.” Rick Ayers

Halabi looks at the UFT election numbers.

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UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

-Jonathan Halabi blogs at JD2718

  1. We won the high schools. This was the race worth watching (no one knew the result in advance). Margin was just over 200 votes…
  2. Look at this….

In 2004, ICE/TJC had 1,239 elementary votes, NAC had 556, combined 1,795.
In 2007, ICE/TJC had 1,337 elementary votes, NAC had 562, combined 1,899.
In 2010, ICE/TJC had 703 elementary votes, NAC had 978, combined 1,681.
In 2013, MORE had 1,140 elementary votes, NAC had 534, combined 1,674.
In 2016, MORE/NAC had 2,306.
Together, we got the best result in over a decade.

In 2004, ICE/TJC had 422 middle school votes, NAC had 311, combined 733.
In 2007, ICE/TJC had 444 middle school votes, NAC had 273, combined 717.
In 2010, ICE/TJC had 248 middle school votes, NAC had 421, combined 669.
In 2013, MORE had 398 middle school votes, NAC had 161, combined 559.
In 2016, MORE/NAC had 882.
Together, we got the best result in over a decade.

In 2004, ICE/TJC had 1,417 high school votes, NAC had 700, combined 2,117.
In 2007, ICE/TJC had 1,524 high school  votes, NAC had 521, combined 2,045.
In 2010, ICE/TJC had 1,369 high school  votes, NAC had 774, combined 2,143.
In 2013, MORE had 1,430 high school  votes, NAC had 452, combined 1,882.
In 2016, MORE/NAC had 2,275.
Together, we got the best result in over a decade.

In 2004, ICE/TJC had 990 functional votes, NAC had 512, combined 1,502.
In 2007, ICE/TJC had 1,032 functional votes, NAC had 548, combined 1,580.
In 2010, ICE/TJC had 703 functional votes, NAC had 708, combined 1,411.
In 2013, MORE had 1,140 functional votes, NAC had 951, combined 2,091.
In 2016, MORE/NAC had 2,232.
Together, we got the best result in over a decade.

Keeping retirement weird. Stewart-Warner and looking for Richard Slowinski.

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Our friends of over 40 years are leaving Chicago to be near their kids in California.

I have known them since we were organizing together at Stewart-Warner, a factory on the north side of Chicago making oil gauges for cars.

When I worked at Stewart-Warner the union was the IBEW. What a corrupt outfit they were. Years later they were thrown out and replaced by the progressive UE as their collective bargaining representative.

That didn’t last long. A few years later the castle-like factory closed, was torn down and replaced by expensive condominiums. They saved the clock from the factory tower and placed it in a mini-park among the condos.

I tell people that when I moved to Chicago in 1973 every neighborhood had a factory, a bar, a church and a neighborhood school.

I don’t want to romanticize the Chicago of the past. It has always been a hard-scrabble town, racist, corrupt and violent. If you weren’t rich.

But the city of Rahm Emanuel is a city that has closed neighborhood schools. The factories that populated every neighborhood are gone as well. As are the union jobs with union wages. As are over 200,000 African Americans whose families came to Chicago during the Great Migration. Over the past two decades they have left our city and the region.

Last weekend we were saying our goodbyes to our departing long-time friends and Anne snapped a picture of an original print they own of the Stewart-Warner factory.

Another friend had found the print at a garage sale or something and had given it to them as a gift.

I loved it. I offered to take it off their hands so they wouldn’t have to move it to California. But, no deal.

The print is signed by Richard Slowinski.

Anne did a Google search and could not find an artist by the name of Richard Slowinski.

There is a Ronald Slowinski.

He is an abstract painter who in the 50s worked with a group of Chicago artists that organized the Wells Street Gallery.

Leon Golub was a member of the group.

The folk singer Odetta had an apartment upstairs from the gallery.

But who is Richard Slowinski?

If you know, send me a note.

“Teachers now have a real voice in the United Federation of Teachers, and that voice will not be silenced.”

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AFT President Randi Weingarten and her UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

-Arthur Goldstein posted on his blog NYC Educator

I’m sure Michael Mulgrew is happy to hold on to his job for another three years, and I congratulate him on his victory. I’m not at all sure he will be happy to see MORE/ New Action on the UFT Executive Board. And I’m sure that a lot of Unity members are not happy at all.

But the smart ones ought to know better. We are activists, and we are the real deal. If you don’t believe that, why have we decided to forgo the easy route? It would be a whole lot easier, and a whole lot less time-consuming to just join Unity. We could be up for union jobs and go to conventions. What’s better than that?

What’s better than that is an activist union. What’s better than that is being represented by people who do this work every day. What’s better than that is having people who have experienced the Danielson thing speaking for us. The last time Michael Mulgrew was judged by the Danielson rubric was never. And that’s not a dig, but a fact.

Now you may say, hey, NYC Educator, that may be true but there are hundreds of chapter leaders and teachers who go to these conventions. They’re working in schools and they know what’s going on. And you’re right. But what difference does it make what they know if they’ve actually signed an oath to do whatever the Unity Caucus tells them to?

Change is hard. But a union needs to work for its members. And that involves moving out of the comfort zone from time to time. You can’t move forward if you live in an echo chamber filled with people sworn to utter only good news. And from my vantage point, close to the ground, I see teachers suffering under the weight of idiotic rules and laws that leadership has consistently supported. I see an unfair and unreasonable evaluation system, easily manipulated by crazy supervisors. I see teachers crushed under the weight of ridiculous mandates that help neither them nor their students.

Michael Mulgrew doesn’t see that, because he has an army of people sworn to report that this is the best of all possible worlds on a daily basis. Michael Mulgrew can believe that the Open Market transfer system is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but who’s gonna remind him of the thousands of teachers trapped in the ATR, living without hope of a classroom, and looking forward only to the light at the end of the tunnel–retirement. Who’s gonna remind him of the teachers discontinued for no good reason, their careers and futures ruined? Who’s gonna remind him of what working teachers feel each and every day of their lives?

We are, of course. And whatever Unity stalwarts may believe otherwise, this can and will only strengthen our union. Even with this small crack of light in the Unity Cone of Silence, only one out of four working UFT members found it worth the time to return their ballots. We are teachers. We are role models. Are we fostering a generation that believes voting to be a waste of time?

We can do better, and we need to show membership that we will do better. There needs to be some sliver of truth facing our leadership, and for now, that is us. We will endeavor to work together to improve our union and the education of the 1.1 million students we serve. We will reach across the aisle and try to cooperate.

Is that how Unity wants to do things? Only time will tell. But real teachers now have a real voice in the United Federation of Teachers, and that voice will not be silenced.

 

Union democracy: compare and contrast.

When the votes were counted yesterday the MORE/New Action challenge to UFT President Michael Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus won the high school seats on the union’s executive board.

This was a great win for union democracy.

Here is Michael Mulgrew, President of the UFT and leader of the entrenched Unity Caucus:

Here is Marcus McArthur who won a high school seat yesterday:

See the difference?

Random thoughts. $25,000 a year health care tax.

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Last summer we were in Holland and met a high school teacher, Janni. She’s a single mother of two daughters and lives in the city of Utrecht.

Her children’s education is free through the university as is her health care. Taxes on income are high, but graduated. The rich pay much more than Janni does.  But even Janni pays more in taxes than the average high school teacher in the U.S..

If you don’t count the $25,000 a year the average U.S. family pays for health care.

The average total cost of health care for the typical family of four will top $25,000 this year.

That projection — from the annual Milliman Medical Index — includes the average cost of health insurance paid by employers and employees, as well as deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses for the most common type of health plan.

The total cost — $25,826 this year — may prompt disbelief. But few people realize what their employer spends to provide health benefits or the potential cost of deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses if someone in a family has a serious illness or even a series of relatively minor mishaps.

“A lot of people are sheltered from the true cost of health care, despite the fact that they are paying more than in the past,” said Scott Weltz, a principal and consulting actuary who works out of Milliman’s office in Brookfield.

They are paying much more: The Milliman Medical Index has more than tripled since its first year in 2001.

The index is no more than a gauge, and actual costs vary. Most people, for instance, are fortunate enough not to have high out-of-pocket costs in a given year.

But it makes clear the total cost of health care spending for the typical family.

“It is shocking — it’s heart stopping,” said Paul Hughes-Cromwick, co-director of the Center for Sustainable Health Spending at Altarum Institute, a nonprofit research and consulting organization in Ann Arbor, Mich.

That’s especially true when compared with the median U.S. income of $83,414 for a family of four in 2014.

The Milliman Medical Index tracks only people who get health insurance through an employer. Total health care spending is even higher, largely because it includes people over 65, who have higher health care expenses.

That’s a health care tax and it’s a tax that weighs most heavily on the poor and those who can least afford it.

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Anne and I greeting President Obama. Wakarusa, Indiana. 2009.

Friday’s school funding and special education legislative update. Five days to go.

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-Bev Johns

Senate Bill 231 (passed the Senate, now in the House) would change the school funding formulas, but provide NO money. It would change the law, but is NOT an appropriation bill. (But the bill may be dead for this Spring – see below.)

House Bill 3190 (passed Senate Executive Committee, needs to be voted on by both the Senate and the House) would combine SB 231 for ONLY the 2016-2017 school year with the Evidence Based plan for the 2017-2018 school year and later years.

It would change the laws (TWICE in 2 years), but provides NO money as it is NOT an appropriation bill.

Senate Bill 2048 (passed the House, now in the Senate) provides MONEY as it IS an APPROPRIATION bill. It gives $378 MILLION to Chicago Public Schools, provides more money to poorer schools through a new $700 million Equity Grant, $75 million more for Early Childhood programs, and current funding for almost all other school programs (including $9,000 for each special education teacher, each school psychologist, each school nurse, each school social worker who work with students with IEPs).

TODAY, Jim Broadway in the Illinois School News Service, states:

[Speaker] Madigan had the bill [SB 231] assigned to the Executive Committee (which he controls tightly) back on May 16, and has now decided that the committee will actually hear it – on May 31, the last day of the legislative session. By then, time will be up. The bill could not possibly come to a final action vote this spring.

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SB 231 is a Formula Block Grant for special education.

It bases funding NOT on the number of special ed students which varies tremendously among school districts, but instead on the Statewide AVERAGE. A school district would receive exactly the same amount of money if it had 5 percent of its students in special education OR 12 percent. That makes it a Block Grant as it also is just a funding formula that does NOT require that the money be spent on special education. SB 231 ELIMINATES

the State law tying $9,000 in funding to the hiring of each special ed teacher and other professionals.  

WHAT WOULD HB 3190 EVIDENCE BASED DO TO SPECIAL ED?

The Evidence Based plan is the proposal of the Illinois School Superintendents and other Administrator groups.

The detailed EVIDENCE-BASED plan for special education, as presented to ISBE and to Rep. Currie’s education task force, is based on the VERMONT STUDY 2015.

(As for SB 231, the EVIDENCE BASED plan is just funding: it does NOT require the hiring of a special education teacher.) 

Every child in the general education classroom, taught by the general ed teacher as in Vermont?

Some want special education to largely disappear, and for general ed and the general ed teacher to do it all.

Vermont is the leading State for full inclusion of all (or almost all) students with disabilities in the general education classroom full-time.

136 schools in Vermont report having ZERO special ed teachers, while 49 of the 136 schools report having special ed aides (and this is based on actual services in a school: several other schools reported having 1/2 of a special ed teacher). 

For special education, the EVIDENCE BASED plan to change school  funding in Illinois is based on the same VERMONT STUDY 2015.

As stated on Page 405 of House Bill 3190 under “Special education investments”:

1.0 position per 141 students for services for students with mild and moderate disabilities.

0.5 teacher aides per 141 students.

1.0 psychologist per 1,000 students.

And the RESEARCH BASED source for this?  VERMONT.

It would be hard to find a State more different from Illinois than Vermont.

PLEASE IMMEDIATELY CONTACT YOUR STATE SENATOR AND STATE REPRESENTATIVE,

doing it again if you have already done it, saying:

PLEASE WORK TO MAKE SURE THAT $9,000 FOR EACH SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER REMAINS LAW IN ANY SCHOOL FUNDING CHANGE BILL.   DIRECT AND DEDICATED FUNDING IS CRITICAL TO ASSURE THAT STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES HAVE THE SPECIALLY TRAINED TEACHERS THEY SO NEED.

Say that both Senate Bill 231 and the EVIDENCE BASED plan in House Bill 3190 eliminate direct funding of special ed teachers and replace it with Block Grants that can be spent for ANY purpose.

Find out who your State Senator and State Representative are:

http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/