Tuesday, January 12, 2016

NY UFT Union Report

Report-back from the UFT delegate Assembly,  
By Marjorie Stamberg
December 16, 2015 * 

UFT President Mike Mulgrew

·          The main issue was the new ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act), which President Obama signed last week.  And the New York State task force report which came out the same day.  It marks Cuomo’s total 180° on teacher evals and Common Core.  This could mark the turning point in the national war against teachers and public education.  Butcrucially, the feds and the state have NOT stopped the high-stakes standardized testing mania that passes for so-called education in this country.  The struggle continues.   

·        (UFT President) Mulgrew was there in Washington when Obama signed the ESSA act on December 10, along with Randi Weingarten.  At the Delegate Assembly, we got his “takeaway” on this, which no surprise, was total support. 

·         There was a resolution on “Delinking Testing from Evaluation” handed out by New Action caucus (now in an election bloc with the MORE), but it wasn’t put on the floor.

·         We handed out a flyer: “Common Core Down the Tubes? Don’t Count on It” from Class Struggle Education Workers.  It is attached here.

President’s Report

President Mulgrew first reported on other issues:

·         On January 11, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Freidrichs v California Teachers Association case.  As I’ve reported, this is aimed at busting and bankrupting teachers unions across the country.  It is part of the rightwing anti-union “right to work” campaign.

·         Renewal Schools and School Closings: The UFT now has a “School Visit” App which documents where the UFT visited a school  They’ve visited the 96 renewal schools over 600 times. Carmen Fariña does not have a policy of closing schools; the ones being closed are because they are too small to be viable.

·         ICT programs – they are not being implemented and used correctly.  These classes are part of some IEP requirements.

·         Breakfast in the classroom.  This is a pilot program which was started because 70 percent of breakfast meals were being thrown away.  So they are giving the kids breakfast in the classroom. But they have been serving pancakes that are still frozen or breakfasts which are beyond the expiration date.  They have to stop doing this.

·         The kids need breakfast, and lunch and it has to be done right.   The New York Teacher had a front-page story that 8 percent of students in NYC are in some kind of transitional housing.  That is an enormous number (I calculate that if there are 1,000,000 students, that means 80,000 kids are without stable housing, and are living in shelters or group homes or on the streets!)

·         Los Angeles teachers: UFT will have a motion supporting these teachers.  Eli Broad, the wealthy entrepreneur and ed deformer is trying to privatize the schools in L.A.   It is rumored he just bought the Los Angeles Times and wants to use it for his privatization propaganda.

·         Chicago teachers:  They just took a strike authorization vote, and we have a motion supporting them.

·         Success Academies:   Eva Moskowitz is now calling for a shorter school day, saying it’s too hard on staff and kids.  Hello? 

The New ESSA

·         The turnaround in Washington, Mulgrew said, was apparent when you hear Obama talking against the national test obsession and how it has to stop, and how teachers have to be given respect.  [Hey, wasn’t there a guy named Arne Duncan and his other White House pal, Rahm Emanuel, who with Obama’s approval, went a long way towards destroying public education in this country?]

·          Mulgrew’s line was that we in the UFT couldn’t do anything until the federal government moved; now there is a changed political climate so a lot is happening federally and state-wide.  Obama’s Race to the Top threatened to block funds for any schools that didn’t go along with Common Core and the teacher evals.  Mulgrew justified the fact that we went along with this because he didn’t want the kids of NYC to lose Title 1 funding for needy children.  (Would that have happened to the largest school district in the country? Seems unlikely.)

According to Mulgrew the new law is good because of three things:  it keeps the Title One funding, it says the feds cannot mandate teacher evals being tied to student test scores; it changes requirements so there are “points” of accountability for art and music and other programs that were sliced off under NCLB.

[My note – Common Core was brought down by a right-left bloc between the right wing and the teachers’ unions.  Nationally the strongest force was the right-wingers who wanted “states’ rights” to teach all their reactionary stuff like wack-a-doodle “intelligent design” creationist theory and climate denial.   In New York State, it was different.  The op out movement representing mainly the influential suburban schools on Long Island and Westchester were a huge force in the utterly justified campaign which forced the Cuomo turn-around.  Not so much in NYC where only 2 percent of parents participated.

New York State Regents

The regents voted a four-year freeze on factoring student test scores into teacher evaluations. They also voted a four-year freeze on using results of the students’ Common Core tests.  It might be extended to five years, Mulgrew said.   This will give teachers a chance to participate in drafting developmentally appropriate standards including for IEPs and ELLs.

He said we couldn’t do much about it now, because nothing is going to happen in Albany until after the presidential elections.  Why? Nobody in Albany wants to talk to each other. The Albany legislature is now being called “the prison pipeline.”

Mulgrew finished his report reminding us how a year ago at the Delegate Assembly (December 2014) he was telling us to get prepared, because it was “war” against Cuomo.  What a turnaround.

Holes in the Presentation

There were big holes in this presentation, which were picked up later in the Q&A, and other discussion.  

·         Big Hole One:   There is a moratorium on Common Core, but what about the local measures and the local tests.  They are still in place.  

·         Big Hole Two:  There is a New York State law that says teacher evals are linked to student performance on standardized tests.   So how are they going to get around this one?  This was pointed out by Delegate James Eterno.  Eterno said he was disturbed that UFT will try to do very little in Albany in the next period.  This came up in the discussion on the redrafted motion on Buffalo receivership.

·         Big Hole Three: the April 2016 tests.   These tests are Common Core, and are still on the docket to be given, even though they allegedly won’t count for anything.  They are lame-duck tests.  Class Struggle Education Workers is advocating that the union take the lead, along with parents and students, to carry out a massive boycott of the April tests, to drive the coffin nails into Common Core, and to stop the standardized testing abuse, who’s only purpose is to drive up the profits of the tests.

That’s it for now.

*As one of your UFT delegates I report-back on the monthly meetings.  These reports are "my take" on the meeting. For official minutes, let me know and I'll send them along to you.

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