Archive for February, 2016

Get Test Scores Out of Teacher Evaluation

New Action urges: no test scores in teacher evaluation. Unity responds by not letting members vote.

At the January 11, 2016 UFT Executive Board meeting, New Action urged opposition to the use of test scores to evaluate teachers, and urged that we use the four year moratorium to lobby for a change in New York State Education Law to remove student test scores from teacher evaluation in New York State.

A Unity leader moved to table, and it was in fact tabled, on a caucus-line vote.

The difference is that we asked to take a stand against using tests to rate teachers, but Michael Mulgrew and Unity only want to delay using the tests, claiming against all evidence that it will be possible, four years down the road, to fairly rate teachers based on test scores. They want a pause (they have it), but they still favor rating teachers based on tests.

New Action continues to oppose rating teachers based on tests.

New Action explains: We can no longer run with Mulgrew/Unity

Since the early 1980’s, New Action/UFT was the main opposition to Unity Caucus. In 1985, New Action leader, Michael Shulman, won the UFT High School Vice-Presidency, and served until 1987. New Action continued in opposition until early 2004. Perhaps our greatest achievement was making pay parity the number one issue.

The Bipartisan Years

In the Fall of 2002, the UFT came under siege by the Bloomberg administration. The attack by Bloomberg was part of the “education reformers” full- scale assault on teachers and their unions. In NYC, this followed years of attacks by the Giulliani administration (remember his threat to “blow up” the Board of Education). Recognizing the greater threat to our union and the “blame the teachers” atmosphere pervading the country and NYC, New Action decided to form a bipartisan relationship with then UFT President Randi Weingarten.

New Action/UFT had five basic demands before entering into this new relationship:

  1. Unity must establish an Organizing Committee composed of Unity, New Action members and independents to go into schools to build stronger chapters.
  2. Unity had to agree to establish a bipartisan Action Committee to build for actions in defense of members and to organize campaigns against the wave of anti-union policies on the local and national level.
  3. Unity agreed to establish an Economic and Social Justice Committee.
  4. New Action secured a promise by President Weingarten to investigate undemocratic internal union issues.
  5. Unity agreed to cross-endorse 8 New Action seats on the UFT Executive Board where we could bring up resolutions in defense of educators. In exchange, New Action endorsed Randi Weingarten for UFT President.

We, at all times, remained independent and willing to criticize the UFT leadership. The committees were established. However, Weingarten reneged on her promise on union democracy. But New Action continued the relationship.

There were many accomplishments during those years.

  • New Action and Unity teams of retirees (the Organizing Committee) helped Chapter Leaders and staff in over 230 schools.
  • Establishment of the PINI (Principals in Need of Improvement) program which exposed abusive administrators and listed 41 steps to get rid of them.
  • The establishment of a UFT Social and Economic Justice Committee led to support for the NYS Dream Act, defense of the Puerto Rican Teachers Union, union action addressing the “disappearing teachers of color” and most recently, a powerful move to combat climate change: the divestment of pension funds from fossil fuels.
  • Resolutions brought up by New Action at the UFT Exec Board including the Campaign to Defeat Bush for President that sent scores of UFT members into battleground states, an end to Stop and Frisk, which led to a powerful march, etc.

Bipartisanship Falls Apart

  • UFT leaders, going back to Weingarten, refused to send bipartisan Organizing Teams into schools where they were needed unless DR’s requested them. Mulgrew/Unity refused to mandate Organizing Teams be sent into schools where new chapter leaders needed assistance.
  • In 2010, Mulgrew/Unity agreed to President Obama’s Race to the Top that tied teacher ratings to standardized tests. New Action/UFT immediately opposed that decision. In fact, since we distributed a leaflet “A Train Wreck Waiting to Happen” New Action has issued 14 pieces attacking Race to the Top.
  • In 2014, Mulgrew/Unity ended the Principals in Need of Improvement program.
  • In April 2015, The UFT Executive Board tabled a New Action Resolution to restore the selection of UFT District Reps back to an election by Chapter Leaders.
  • In the spring of 2015, President Mulgrew and Unity Caucus decided to end the successful Organizing Committee.

There were an increasing number of other areas of disagreement including Mulgrew/Unity‘s failures to place ATR’s based on seniority, to repair the grievance machinery, to mobilize educators at the schools, and to protect unjustly fired probationers.

Why MORE?

In late summer, 2015, New Action decided to form an alliance with MORE because our policy positions were similar. Like New Action, MORE had taken principled positions against standardized tests and tying teacher rating decisions to those tests. Both caucuses supported the Opt –Out movement. Like New Action, MORE supports mobilizing the membership to fight for improvements on contractual rights and working conditions. And like New Action, MORE embraces social justice issues.

In the upcoming UFT citywide elections held this spring 2016, New Action urges UFT members to help take back our union and run with New Action. We urge all members, in service and retiree, to vote the New Action/MORE slate for a leadership that will fight for all members’ rights.

Overmanaged, Underappreciated, Stonewalled and Harassed

New Action/UFT congratulates the schools and Chapter Leaders working with collaborative, member friendly principals. Unfortunately, Chancellor Farina’s call to principals to work collaboratively with their staff is not being followed at many schools. At the January 2016 Delegate Assembly a Chapter Leader asked UFT President Mulgrew how we should deal with non-collaborative principals who respond to concerns with the phrase “I’ll have to check with Legal.” The principal inevitably responds by saying “No.” The response? Raise the concern through the District Rep to the Superintendent.

Since September 2015, New Action has received reports that some principals have:

  • Mandated detailed lesson plans with “multiple points of entry”
  • Done “drive-by” “check list” observations
  • Mandated curriculum maps from teachers to be done on their own time
  • Refused to give the Galaxy budget to Chapter Leaders
  • Targeted older teachers
  • Refused to sign off on professional development if it exceeded 50 hours
  • Refused to give Highly Effective ratings to anyone who is “not collaborative” (doesn’t agree to everything the principal wants)
  • Refused to hire subs, claiming no money

Why do Mulgrew/Unity refuse to forcefully address these issues? Why do we hear these complaints from our members over and over again? We need a UFT leadership that doesn’t bury its head in the sand, but rather acts directly to stop these demoralizing practices.

Join the MORE/New Action Campaign:

Combat Abusive Administrators

End “Drive By” and “Test Score” Teacher Evaluation

Protect ATRs and Probationers

Fight for Union Democracy

Let’s start mobilizing for the next contract

Support Jia Lee, Opt Out Leader, for UFT President

MORE-New Action Election logo idea 2 (5) (2)

To join the campaign, or to to distribute New Action literature, or to join New Action:

e-mail:  new.action.uft@gmail.com   –   or write:  PO Box 180574 North Richmond Hill, NY 11418

30 Years Ago Today: Our Pension Funds and The Fight for Divestment

From the Frontlines #2
By Michael Shulman

Thursday, January 9, 1986 was the first day I took office as the elected Vice President for Academic High Schools. Although I was elected in the spring of 1985, the Unity led UFT under the leadership of Albert Shanker refused to allow me to take my rightful place. The election was contested, by the incumbent, and a Committee to Investigate the Election Challenge was formed.

After 6 months (and $15,000 dollars in legal fees) I and the New Action Coalition that supported me agreed to go to a second election that I won decisively.

Back to January 1986. On Monday, January 27th two interesting issues came up at my first Ad Com meeting (the officers of the union). Seated to Sandra Feldman’s immediate left, I stated that I wanted to begin with a statement of principle. I refused to accept the double pension that union officers, district reps and other staff received. At first there was stunned silence. An officer and leading member of Unity (who I won’t name since she passed away many years ago) asked me, “Mike, what’s wrong with union leaders being in the vanguard?” I responded, “Let’s have that discussion after we win additional pension monies for our members who work beyond their work day doing per session.” It’s ironic that many years later the UFT did win the additional pension benefit. Of course, by then I was no longer in office and missed having that discussion.

The second topic occurred between Sandra Feldman and myself that day. Back in 1984, the Teacher Action Caucus, which I was a member of, initiated a postcard campaign to call on our three Teacher Members of the Retirement Board to push for divestment of our pension funds from companies doing business with the apartheid regime of South Africa (reported in the November 2015 leaflet put out by New Action/UFT). UFT President Feldman looked at me and asked, “Michael, what are these postcards about?” As incredulous as the question was I knew she knew what it was about.”

But my response was serious and I put forward what the members were asking for.

That postcard campaign was instructive. Of course the anti-apartheid fight began long before 1984 and much of the trade union movement was already on board in this fight to divest. But that initiative by a small group of UFT’ers none-the-less played a big role in moving our union. A short time after this meeting, the UFT members of the Teachers Retirement system did, in fact, put forth the case for divestment of our pension funds. Although it took two years to come to pass our UFT made its contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle. The rest is history.