From New York City Educator. NYSUT follows in the footsteps of Rahm Emanuel.


While I’m on the road for the rest of August, I will be posting other bloggers. This is from my friend, NYC Educator.

As usual, there’s big fun in Chicago. Admin wants to make teachers fund their pensions, and pick up the 7% of the pension that the city had paid, when it felt like paying it. Essentially, this becomes a 7% pay cut. It’s funny how, when contract time comes around, there are all these deals that aren’t what they seem.

For example, if you get a 5% raise, and you work 5% more, you did not get a raise. Or if you get a raise and don’t receive it for 10 years, it has considerably less value than it would if you’d gotten the money up front. Don’t believe me? Try buying a car with the 30 or 40 K NYC owes you. Let me know how that works out.

It’s pretty reprehensible that the Chicago government is treating its teachers this way. CTU President Karen Lewis says they will strike rather than accept pay cuts. This is what happens when an employer doesn’t plan properly. It blames working people rather than itself, and asks them to suck it up, even while those in high places are highly compensated.

We all know what a loathsome reptile Rahm Emanuel is. We expect this sort of nonsense from him. It’s pretty shocking, though, to see similar talk from NYSUT leadership. After all, NYSUT is a union, and ought to take very seriously the priorities of union. In fact, NYSUT leadership has no problem circumventing local presidents to ask members for COPE money even as it fails to maintain their pensions. As PJSTA President Beth Dimino puts it:

From the same legislative department run by Andy Pallota that gave NY Teachers; tier 5, tier 6, 4 year tenure, and an evaluation system based 50% on flawed HST, they want more money from each of us to further screw ourselves! 

I actually sat across from Pallota at a 2014 forum in which he would not commit to opposing reformy Andrew Cuomo. In subsequent forums, I watched him evolve his message this way and that, but it ultimately didn’t much matter. Indeed, though his Revive NYSUT slate promised they opposed Cuomo, they failed to do so in not one, but two primaries. They followed up by sitting on the fence in the election.

Now they’re threatening their employees with the very same thing Rahm is holding over the CTU.  NYC is a very large union, and all contracts are negotiated by Michael Mulgrew and his merry band. There are a whole lot of smaller locals, like PJSTA, and the PSA supports them as they negotiate. From Beth Dimino:

PSA members are the people who provide field services to our locals. They are our labor relations specialists (LRS) and they help local presidents negotiate your contract and answer the day to day questions presidents face when they deal with Administration. I’m not exaggerating when I say that without our LRSs we’d be lost! 

A lot of small local members on Facebook have taken the PSA symbol as their profile pictures.

It is a fundamental responsibility of union leadership to improve conditions for its members. Clearly there are sometimes setbacks in negotiations. But I’ve been following NYSUT pretty closely for the last few years, and the only serious pension improvement over which its presided has been for the NYSUT officers themselves, who can accrue two pensions simultaneously. So even as teacher pensions are seriously degraded, Karen Magee and Martin Messner don’t have to worry they won’t be taken care of.

As for the rest of us, we’re on our own. Worse, they have failed to set an example for governments, and are now looking to degrade the pensions of their own employees. After reviewing public documents submitted to the US Department of Labor, Harris Lirtzman, former NYC teacher and deputy New York State comptroller, attributes this to poor planning:

NYSUT funds its pension plan, largely, on a pay-as-you go basis: money comes in through member dues and employee contributions and goes right back out to pay current year pension benefits. NYSUT stays solvent only through a complex network of loans and transfers every year to and from the AFT and UFT.

I don’t know what NYSUT does with all the dues we pay it, but that’s less than encouraging. Are they indulging in some shell game with our money and expecting PSA to help pick up the tab? Are the top people, like Magee and Pallota getting big bucks while the little people suffer? Are they, in fact, expecting working people to pick up the tab for their lavish lifestyles?

That’s not what I’d call setting an example. We need to be better than the likes of Rahm and Cuomo. We need to show them that things can be done better.

For my money, NYSUT leadership is doing precisely the opposite.

Keeping retirement weird. Holding it from New Jersey to Brooklyn.


At a rest stop on I-80 we met our Logan Square neighbors, members of the Latin American Motorcycle Association.

“I’m going to post about not being able to pee from Fort Lee to Brooklyn,” I told Anne.

She told me I was ridiculous.

“I’m not going to write about Trump or pensions or Rahm. This is a serious problem for retirees too,” I insisted.

We are taking a road trip from Chicago to Brooklyn to Block Island to spend the last week of school summer with the kids and grandkids.

This week is one of my favorites of the year. We rent a house that looks out over the island. We cook dinners on our days that each of us is assigned. I am making pasta with little neck clams fresh from the local fishmonger.

Mornings I bike down to Payne’s for sugared donuts that are sill warm from the fryer.

In the afternoon we will go down to the dock and drink Dark and Stormies.

We will catch crabs off the pier with the grandkids and keep them live in a bucket ’til we toss them on the pier ramp, watch them race to the water,  and those walking by will join us in cheering for the winner.

When I was young I could drive to New York in one day. Now we stop outside Cleveland.

The final leg takes about six hours.

It is 20 miles from Fort Lee on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge to Brooklyn. I like taking the GWB rather than driving through New Jersey to a tunnel because the drive down the Hudson is beautiful.

“Ah, what can ever be more stately and admirable to me than mast-hemm’d Manhattan? River and sunset and scallop-edg’d waves of flood-tide? The sea-gulls oscillating their bodies, the hay-boat in the twilight, and the belated lighter?” wrote Walt Whitman in Crossing Brooklyn by Ferry.

Over the years I have learned that once you get in line for the bridge there is nowhere to stop until you get to Brooklyn.

 I stop in Paterson, New Jersey to use the facilities.

 The problem is that at my age, when I have to use the bathroom, I need to use it now.

Because arriving in New York at 4PM there is no way to stop on the Hudson Parkway, down through lower Manhattan, crossing Canal through Chinatown, crossing the Manhattan Bridge and up Flatbush.

 And that final 20 miles in rush hour takes an hour and a half.

 It ain’t poetry which is probably why Whitman never wrote about it.

Representative Guzzardi responds to our posts about retired teachers who are too old to receive Medicare.


State Representative Will Guzzardi.

A few weeks ago I forwarded to my State Representative Will Guzzardi articles about the cases of 500 retired teachers in Illinois who, like Ms Jeri Shanahan, are retired and who are not Medicare eligible. According to the law she doesn’t qualify for Medicare because she retired too many years ago.

Both of the two state teacher unions have been unresponsive to the situation of these former teachers and union members.

It is, in my opinion, a scandal.

Today I received the following from Representative Guzzardi:

Hey there Fred,

Thanks for sending this along. I’ve seen you post about it in the past but frankly never took the time to read it and understand it fully. Now that I have, I see why you’ve continued to write about all this. I’ll talk to Rep McDermed when we’re back in session next January — if she’s going to re-introduce her bill on this issue, I’ll sign on as chief co-sponsor; if not, I’ll introduce it myself.

Good to hear from you, and hope you guys are enjoying your summer.

Talk soon,


Jersey Jazzman. Inequality in Chicago.

While on the road I will posting from other bloggers.

-By Jersey Jazzman

How much more abuse can Chicago’s schools take?

Chicago Public Schools students protested Monday the “racist and discriminatory” firing of district teachers and staff, which they said disproportionately affect low-income schools.
At a rally held outside the Thompson Center, about a dozen young protesters called for quality education and funding to be provided in all schools. The district fired 508 teachers and 521 support staff earlier this month. [emphasis mine]

Before we take a data dive, let’s acknowledge something important: every number in a staff cut represents an actual person. As Xian Barrett writes in The Progressive, the students who have developed personal connections to their teachers suffer the most when a teacher is laid off. So while I think there’s value in the analysis I present below, let’s not forget that we are talking about children and educators — real people who are going through real hell.

The layoffs took place in an atmosphere of continuing friction between the Chicago Teachers Union and district leadership, who can count on the editorial board of theChicago Tribune, among others, to lay the blame for the district’s continuing fiscal problems at the feet of the union:

The district is a candidate for bankruptcy. Chicago taxes already are rising, but CTU wants more. A CPS contract offer on the table since January is a sweet deal for educators; district CEO Forrest Claypool tells us it won’t — can’t — get sweeter.

CPS’ proposal offers teachers a generous raise and keeps paying them for added seniority and education. It does make a significant ask: Teachers would have to pay a 7 percent pension tab that CPS now pays but no longer can afford. CPS still would pick up the employer’s share of pension costs but asks employees to pay their share. Most Chicagoans, most Americans, understand that, since they too have to save for their own retirement.

Note the framing here: the funding of Chicago’s schools is an issue of teacher compensation, which is negotiated by the CTU. And the union just doesn’t understand how “sweet” of a deal they’ve been offered (of course, that “sweet” deal only apples to the teachers who haven’t been laid off). Sure, the teachers have to take a pay cut to fund their own pensions… but The Trib knows there really isn’t any other choice:

“Reality can’t be altered,” [Chicago schools CEO Forrest] Claypool tells us. “The reality is we do not have more to give than was offered in January. … There is not a dollar surplus to this budget.” Unless, he adds, the union wants to “cut classrooms and jeopardize not only teacher jobs but more important, the academic progress of our kids.”
Teachers who strike wouldn’t only jeopardize the education of their students, they would set a lousy example for the children: When what you want is impossible, toss a tantrum. [emphasis mine]

See, more money for Chicago’s schools is “impossible” — I mean, everyone knows that, right? Clearly, Chicago’s schools have all they could ever need to provide an adequate and equitable education for the city’s children! Everybody just needs to sacrifice a bit more — and by “everyone,” The Trib means Chicago’s teachers — and only the teachers — who have to understand the gravy train just can’t keep chugging along…

When you look at the issue of school funding through the lens of teacher pay, it’s easy to ignore some inconvenient facts. Here’s one: when Bruce Baker* and the good folks at the Education Law Center put together a list of America’s most fiscally disadvantaged school districts, they found: “Chicago and Philadelphia are, year after year, the two most fiscally disadvantaged large urban districts in the nation.

This is the story that The Trib, and everyone else who tut-tuts at the CTU, will not tell you:Chicago’s schools, which serve proportionally many more at-risk students than their neighboring districts, are chronically underfunded. This reality, more than any perceived greed on behalf of Chicago’s teachers, is what drives the fiscal “crisis” the district faces today.

Let’s go to the data.

Minority investors and pension funding.

biss raoul

Illinois State Senators Kwame Raoul and Dan Biss.

According to a report in this morning’s Crain’s, my Teacher Retirement System and other state and city pension systems have made some progress in hiring minority firms to manage our investments.

Illinois pensions have boosted investments with women- and minority-owned money managers in the 13 years since the General Assembly began tracking allocations, but the job isn’t done, policymakers say.

At its annual hearing on the topic last week, members of the Illinois Special Committee on Pension Investments lauded the state’s leadership on the effort, but also grilled pension executives and their consultants about seeking and hiring more diverse financial advisers.

Illinois and City of Chicago pension funds report annually to the committee on a long list of questions regarding the ethnicity and gender of the members of their own staffs and boards as well as money managers they hire to invest pension dollars for teachers, firemen, and thousands of other state and city workers. The thrust is that holding pensions accountable for their hiring and airing their performance publicly will advance more diverse choices.

Sen. Kwame Raoul, who co-chaired the hearing on Aug. 11 and 12 in Chicago, says he’s pleased with progress, but stops short of saying he’s satisfied. “I don’t want to send the message that we’ve arrived,” the Democrat from Chicago said after the hearing.

Though state law doesn’t dictate percentages, it encourages pension investments with women and minority-owned firms.

The Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System, the state’s largest pension, had allocated $7.86 billion to women- and minority-owned businesses as of the end of June, more than twice as much as the $3.27 billion in 2009 (when the recession was weighing down assets generally). It reached a peak last year of $7.93 billion, and dropped off this year because one firm was purchased by another that wasn’t minority-owned, TRS said.

Those assets last year and this year represent 17 percent to 18 percent of the $43.8 billion that TRS oversees. That was above the TRS goal of 16 percent, but still inadequate from the point of view of Sen. Daniel Biss, a Democrat from the North Shore.

“That’s a real problem,” he said during the hearing, offering a “blunt” interpretation that the lion’s share of assets being managed by white men smacked of a “boys club” and “institutionalized racism.” He said the public pensions had the opportunity to “push back against those patterns.”

Other pensions, including the Illinois State Board of Investments, the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund and the Chicago Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund, also presented data from thick reports that listed firms in various ethnic and gender categories.

There is no reason that Senators Raoul and Biss should be satisfied with the pace of diversifying investors responsible for our retirement investments. If we are going to have a system where my retirement income depends on investments on Wall Street, then I agree with Senator Biss that it shouldn’t be a white “boys club.”

Here is the irony.

Our pension system is only 41% funded. Although investment returns the last two years have been weak, that is the state of the investment market. Illinois’s pension investment returns are no worse and even a little better than those of other states.

It is the failure of the Illinois legislature over decades and decades to fully fund our pension systems that has created the current hundred billion dollar plus liability. That is money unpaid and still owed.

It is Senators Raoul and Biss  that were among those that voted to cut pension benefits instead of fully funding the system. It is the refusal to address the issue of revenue that continues the unfunded liability.

“Nothing from nothing leaves nothing,” Billy Preston sang.

Imagine handing over a fully funded pension fund to an even more diverse group of investment managers.

Random thoughts. About Trump, the man and the Movement.


I like Michael Moore well enough. I thought his latest movie, Where to Invade Next, was clever.

However, last week he predicted that Trump was going to be elected president.

This week, with Trump poll numbers tanking and doing a 360 by dumping Paul Manafort and hiring some Breitbart executives to run the campaign – along with the serial sexual stalker Roger Ailes doing consulting work – Moore writes that Trump never wanted to be president in the first place.

It is hard to keep track.

In spite of the polls, Trump and his campaign keep pointing to their large rallies and enthusiastic crowds.

I see them too.

All that is missing are the white sheets and hoods.

At a time when even self-described liberal Democrats are dismissing the fight against segregated schools as “old battles,” Trump’s large pep rallies for white supremacy should cause no complacency.

It’s not enough to beat Trump. He must be beaten good. It’s not just the man. It’s the movement.

What is an example of complacency? Take the case of the National Education Associations nearly complete inaction on the 2015 Representative Assembly’s call for a campaign against the Confederate flag.

The Trump movement will be with us whether it is Clinton or the unlikely prospect of Trump in the White House next January.


I hate racial segregation. It’s in my DNA.

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Back in 1896 the United States Supreme Court ruled that when it came to race in America, separate but equal was the law of the land.

Apartheid was legal in this country until the Court overturned Plessy v. Ferguson in 1954.

The named plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education was Oliver Brown.

Brown’s daughter Linda was in third grade at the time. She had to walk six blocks to her school bus stop to ride to her segregated black school one mile away. Linda Brown’s nearest school was a white school. It was seven blocks from her home.

Linda Brown:

… well. like I say, we lived in an integrated neighborhood and I had all of these playmates of different nationalities. And so when I found out that day that I might be able to go to their school, I was just thrilled, you know. And I remember walking over to Sumner school with my dad that day and going up the steps of the school and the school looked so big to a smaller child. And I remember going inside and my dad spoke with someone and then he went into the inner office with the principal and they left me out … to sit outside with the secretary. And while he was in the inner office, I could hear voices and hear his voice raised, you know, as the conversation went on. And then he immediately came out of the office, took me by the hand and we walked home from the school. I just couldn’t understand what was happening because I was so sure that I was going to go to school with Mona and Guinevere, Wanda, and all of my playmates.

Former Arne Duncan advisor and now Eli Broad funded ed reformer Peter Cunningham complain that the fight against desegregation is too hard and too costly. Better to return to accept the notion of separate but equal. More than accept it, they suggest it as a policy.

My brother took this on yesterday.

Peter Cunningham’s latest apologia for school segregation, in U.S. News & World Report, is basically a defense of current reform policies that have been shown to re-segregate schools. It represents more than just the opinion of a lone education gadfly. Cunningham is paid millions to speak for some of the most powerful and wealthiest among those who influence national ed policy.

It’s run up the flag pole at a time when corporate-style “reform” has come under attack from civil rights groups and teacher unions, and appear to be losing their cachet, even within the Democratic Party establishment.

Cunningham tries to come off as a tormented soul, torn between his personal and “pragmatic” side, the latter arguing that ending poverty and integration are just too “politically difficult and financially expensive” and therefore, instead of spending hundreds of billions more to reduce poverty and reduce segregation, we should just “double down on our efforts to improve schools.”

At a recent DFER-sponsored forum at the DNC, Cunningham laid out his anti-deseg line in an obvious attempt to influence Clinton’s education agenda. He answered a question about school integration this way: “Maybe the fight’s not worth it. It’s a good thing; we all think integration is good. But it’s been a long fight, we’ve had middling success. At the same time, we have lots and lots of schools filled with kids of one race, one background, that are doing great. 

There nothing original in Cunningham’s comments. If they strike you as a throwback to Plessy v. Ferguson and the separate-but-equal doctrine, you’re definitely on to something. As we learned back then, when it comes to schooling, separate is never equal. Following the Brown v. Board decision in 1954, the difficulty and protracted nature of the struggle against de factosegregation and poverty has caused some to throw in the towel.

Cunningham is basically echoing the call of his boss at the D.O.E., former Sec. of Education Arne Duncan. It was he who tried to put the kibosh on a Justice Dept. civil right suit against the state of Louisiana, which would have blocked expansion of the state’s school voucher system.

Peter Cunningham does not just speak for himself. He represents the corporate school reform movement and those in Obama’s Department of education – and perhaps Hillary’s too.

Last week Cunningham lashed out claiming our lack of appreciation for the work Arne Duncan had done to improve teacher salaries and pensions had something to do with my brother’s DNA and mine.

Talking about our DNA.

Promoting separate but equal schools.

I don’t think I’m missing anything here.

Do you?