Why the UFT endorsed an architect of Tier 6 – UFT Executive Board Minutes 5/20/24


Two NAC members—myself included—and one MORE member spoke out against the UFT’s apparent endorsement of Micah Lasher, a former Bloomberg operative and charter champion who Bloomberg himself lauded as an architect of Tier 6. I wrote an article about this in greater depth here. The bottom line is that there are other candidates in the race who are viable and who have a much better claim to being friends of public education. My feeling is ‘we’ endorsed him because he is a close associate of Hochul and other establishment politicians (the endorsement is only of Lasher in name, but really it’s of the establishment itself – a nod that we are their friend).

During the debate, several Unity members spoke of the process—which took place through NYSUT. Apparently, our friends in Unity believed Lasher to be a sort of prodigal son, and no one spoke out against him at the RA when the list of endorsements was made. A note about that: one reason it’s important, in my opinion, to make sure UFT endorsements are UFT endorsements, rather than NYSUT endorsements masquerading as UFT endorsements, is that NYSUT delegates as an aggregate are very different than UFT delegates. In the UFT Executive Board, there are only 7 members who did not run with Unity Caucus out of 102 members, even though 42% of in-service teachers voted against Unity. At the Delegate Assembly, which is elected chapter by chapter, I suspect that the majority of delegates are not members of Unity Caucus. Most, indeed, are independents – regular teachers, paras, and related service professionals representing their school chapters in earnest. But at the NYSUT assembly, every delegate we send is a member of Unity Caucus. There is no proportional representation, certainly no independents, and all positions are elected at large (high school members don’t even get to elect their reps, or I’d be at the RA too). In other words, Lasher, with his history of anti-UFT activities, only got an endorsement because every NYC teacher in the room was a member of Unity. Your average non-Unity teacher would not have voted yes to Lasher. Good luck fighting for Tier 6 if we’re sitting there deciding to send our COPE dollars to elect one of its architects. We must reform the endorsement process, as, again, I argue here.

Most official UFT reports tonight were, what I’d characterize as, well…. fluff: a ‘teacher prom,’ tickets purchased for a lucky few to attend a Broadway show, etc, etc. There were two major exceptions (1) bad news from Mike Sill about lack of information on the capital plan in the DOE draft about their response to the class size reduction act, albeit with a nod to some form of organizing around this; (2) Geof Sorkin speaking about the welfare fund, justifying its trustees’ decision to prioritize prescriptions over dental by criticizing the PSC welfare fund’s prescription situation.

While PSC does have better dental reimbursement rates, Sorkin suggested they had less protections because of a lack of dentists who must take our schedule of benefits and associated copays. He also proclaimed that their prescription situation was abysmal, pointing to the UFT’s three most expensive covered prescriptions and comparing prices of $35 (UFT) to outlandish almost million-dollar figures for the PSC. I’d suggest the following: (A) in-network dentists don’t always take the prescription rates – I’ve seen them say that to give the service defined in the schedule of benefits, they’d have to use materials or procedures that they aren’t comfortable using – that they don’t do, whether they’re listed as UFT dentists or not. That’s why so many people end up with bills of several thousands of dollars for crowns that are supposed to be far less; (B) just today, I spoke to one UFT member who has had their prescriptions outright denied and has to pay for them entirely out of pocket, and another UFT member whose PSC-represented spouse has never paid outlandish costs for a prescription. Apparently, the PSC-represented spouse has better optical benefits too. The figures Sorkin listed are outlandish because they’re unusual. Look, I’m not saying PSC necessarily does everything better than the UFT – but UFT needs to do better on our dental, something all members deal with several times a year – and at far too high a price. We need to find a way to get more money into our welfare fund, and to actually use it. Though the organizing we’d need to do this is not simple, which is why the Unity-led UFT hasn’t organized it, the answer is right there in front of us: organize it or it won’t come.

Informal Minutes Follow

 Open mic: None.

Minutes – approved.


Janella Hinds: May 31st Academic High schools Award Ceremony and prom. Looking forward to tuxes, tiaras, etc. Wanna see all of it. Whether you’re coming from school or what…opportunities to celebrate…hope you all will join us.

Victoria Lee: AAPI month, scholarship month. Nice to see everyone come together. Six awards. If interesting in helping organizing, reach out to me or Seung Lee.

Mike Sill: Class size, where we’re at. DOE released its draft class size reduction act. Draft CSA/UFT – long way from signing. Issues with plan – no information on capital plan there. Need to be specific about where building schools and how many seats will be there. Nothing in plan that is a direct recommendation of the class size working group, created to circumvent in my opinion, but got more than they bargained for – underestimated our allies and the support for class size reduction in NYC. A lot more money will have to go in in future years. Not enough specifics, not enough money, and still language talking about tradeoffs. That’s gotta come out because state budget deal – language that City’s contribution toward class size reduction separate from current funding. CAT team meeting last week, great response for people signing up for the borough hearings for the contract for excellence plan. If you wanna sign up, go to the DOE website and search contracts for excellence for link to register. Can get talking point from what UFT sent out. If you missed that, send me an email, we can do it for you.

Karen Alford / Rashad Brown: Recently when we had the RA, got tickets for Hell’s Kitchen, an excellent show. Surprised by how many people wanted to see the show. We thought, we have to do that again. We purchased 100 tickets to see the Wiz, June 20th at 7:00 PM. Exec board will get flyer when the link is ready. Also available to do at the DA.

Geof Sorkin: Not at last DA, at pharmaceutical conference exploring weight loss drugs. Understand there was widespread discussion about dental. We’ve been looking into it. Dental is unregulated. USA Today had article about it today. We want to do something smart, efficiently, and it can’t be rushed. Many decades ago the trustees made a decision to prioritize prescriptions over dental. Little change can have big ramifications on cost, so everything needs to be incredibly measured, because more and more expensive drugs come out every year, want to provide access. I keep hearing that PSC-CUNY held as the gold standard, heard that their reimbursement rate is higher than ours, and yes – that’s true. But I don’t want to necessarily want to spend the most, I want to be competitive. But, when I heard that, I looked at their benefit structure. If you go to an in network dentist, there’s a schedule – they can’t charge you more. They don’t have that in PSC. Need to look at everything together, PSC’s prescription drugs. We have copayments, either 5, 15, or 35 for 30 day supply. Not for PSC CUNY, because they didn’t provide copayment structure – you’re paying 25-30% of the cost of the drug. That is significant. Once they pay a certain amount on you, that cost goes up. At another point, it goes up to 80%. Mavenclat (spelling?) at UFT costs 35 dollars, if no health insurance 1.2 million, paying 900,000 bucks at CUNY. Lists some other drugs (top most expensive drugs). Don’t compare us to others, we’re proud of what we do. Unity applause.

LeRoy Barr: Glad I’m covered by the UFT welfare fund.

Tom Murphy: Presidential campaign is heating up. AFT has asked us to send us to a conference. Will be sending.

Question Period

Reports from Districts:

Ilona Nanay: Group from organizers PSC and CUNY delivered a letter to TRS Board asking for divestment from Israeli securities. (Minute Writer’s note: this BDS demand, while put forth by a MORE member of the UFC-elected High School Executive Board, was not approved by New Action. New Action has members with a range of politics, and has found that actions around Israel and Palestine are divisive to our diverse membership and unfruitful to our organizing efforts; we are not a part of MORE’s BDS campaign).

Servia Silva: hiring fair, over 100 came. A lot of principals left. So many sped teachers who came. Hopefully we start with 100% compliance. This Sunday, AIDS walk, had table there, wonderful time. Raised money. Can still donate, trying to raise from over 400,000 to 500,000 dollars. Next year we’ll have a tent. Also Puerto Rican Day parade. Make sure to register so we have enough bracelets. Register early.

Aqeel Williams: UFT Muslim educators general meetings, hopefully everyone who signed up got emails. D9 going to be hosting an after work set at a comedy show at the Sangria Café. Bronx end of year block party.

Camile Eddy: D16 celebrated tenure celebrations for newly tenured teachers. 24 teachers received certificates. Last Wednesday, fourth annual career day at a high school. Breakout rooms.

Danny Rodriguez: Board member of Latino Caucus, every year we give out scholarships. Stack of these applications here. Funded by fundraiser we do, May 29th have one at spring soiree. Open bar. Do have seats. Encourage you to buy seat so you don’t forget.

Seung Lee: Happy AAPI month. Participated at Asian American parade. Some of us a contingent went to the AIDS walk first.

Names Missed:  Celebrated the 11th annual childcare provider ceremony, and other events, hundreds of people attended.

Nancy Armando: Spring conference on Saturday. Was dancing. Guest speaker was the First Lady, Jill Biden. CTE schools that were there were amazing. Everyone had a really great time.

Geof Sorkin: Saturday at the spring conference, teacher spoke about our student loan program. I graduated with almost 100,000 and have been paying for 25 years. Have paid 160,000 back and still have a balance of 74,000. Have reached out many times to many organizations until used our program. This group told me, not that I’m no longer teacher, but that the law changed recently and you might receive amnesty. A week ago I received notice that my debt was forgiven. Please contact the program.

Priscilla Castro: Last week had SRP lobby day. Tom, OTPT, Cynthia, nurse. Spoke about extreme heat in the class room, school bus  monitors, toileting and diapering, and NYCTRS transfer.

Legislative Report (none)

Special Orders of business

Karen Alford: Live in a Caribbean community. Important we highlight the efforts of Haiti – the first Caribbean island to gain independence from the Europeans. Illustrious history. At one point one of wealthiest nations, now one of poorest. DeShana wanted to tell story, but will tell later. Some of the strife, corruption. We can’t abandon this country – facing duress – facing challenges. AFT committing that there will be attention given, attention to support the unions holding on in a very tough time. Still a teachers union, nurses union, standing in support of entire public sector, especially those two committees. Many of our students of Haitian descent. Help restore to greatness that Haiti once was.


Lamar Hughes: Support of our resolution Justice Cassandra Johnson to opening position of surrogate judge of NYS. Probate of wills, estate planning, trust proceedings, disputed claims, wrongful death settlements. Johnson has been a civil court judge. Currently sitting as NY Supreme Court judge. A ton of our members. You want someone there who know you can trust, bridge of connection.


Nick Bacon: This resolution is also about an endorsement – or reconsidering one. If you live in New York, you probably got one of these flyers (holds up a UFT endorsement postcard for District 70, sent to Bacon). You see the UFT logo, a picture of Mulgrew, and a note on our endorsement. Except unlike the last endorsement, we never approved this in a UFT committee, brought it to executive board, or discussed it at the DA, as we do for City endorsements. Now, I get that as a state endorsement, this likely went through NYSUT, but this is specifically a UFT endorsement, and while we in the UFT may have no reason not to motivate the District 70 pick, we certainly have specific reasons not to endorse the candidate picked for District 69 (Lasher). This resolution was brought to my attention by a retired UFT member who lives in Lasher’s district, and I have to tell you, I agree with him that Lasher should not be endorsed. We’re talking about someone who was a part of pro-charter organizations, who supported policies that were pro-privatization and pro-charter. We’re talking about someone who worked as a high ranking official for Bloomberg, and who Bloomberg himself credits as an architect of Tier 6. Now, I’m a member of Tier 6. Most UFT members are as well. If we’re fighting Tier 6, it doesn’t make sense to me to endorse one of its architects, and someone who has a record of being pro charter. I get that there are races where there is no good choice, and maybe you endorse someone who is better than the other candidate. But we aren’t in that situation. My understanding is that there are candidates in D69 who are viable candidates with many endorsements, who are not pro-charter or architects of tier 6 – people who value public education. I’m not advocating that we endorse anyone specific tonight – there hasn’t been a process, and I think instead we should have that process here and at the DA. Look, we made a mistake, and we can rectify mistake, even if we don’t endorse anyone in D69, we shouldn’t endorse Lasher. Thank you.

Ashley Rzonca: Speak to the process part of this, has sat on district committees as a district rep. Hard to get people to volunteer their time, but once they do, either borough rep or PAC is coming, and we talk about. By consensus that the committee whether or not someone serves the interest of our union. Will they do the work of this union, based on this consensus decision, it goes to the NYSUT and the board of directors, and it comes back to us. Just wanted to clarify.

Ed Calamia: Wanted to speak in favor of the resolution. We have processes and checks and balances. Maybe this a moment where we reconsider. Look at resume: students first chief lobby of Bloomberg, these are people who have made teachers lives worse and laughed about it – to think it’s a big joke to take things from us. This man should be driven out of public life, shouldn’t be qualified to run for dog catcher.

Name missed: Speak against, related to district. Lasher is currently in favor of public schools. Asked him questions about Tier 6 and prek/3k, he’s with us. Understand his track record…but I think he has our interests at heart now. We should endorse.

Carl Cambria: In regard to process, assure that the process was followed for that. Determined that Lasher was most viable for the UFT/NYSUT. When it went to NYSUT, some groups will pull out someone to debate it. No local from NYC that pulled out this endorsement to further debate it. Approved by quite a large margin. No further debate. A lot of what was said by previous speaker in support, and I should say I’m against this resolution, is decades old information. While relevant, we have permanent principles, things that mean something to us, things we hold dear to us. Friendships/alliances are not permanent – there when they. Address each point:

  • Is true that lasher worked for 11 months at StudentsFirstNY, say he resigned because he didn’t want to be part of that organization, over a decade ago.
  • As director of policy for Hochul, Lasher was instrumental in getting funds that we’ve been looking for. When you ask him about charter schools, he is against charter schools, for accountability of schools. Public school graduate, all of his children attend public schools. Executive member of PTA, which has opened his mind to work done each and every day – staunch supporter of teachers.
  • Funds that have been raised by individuals – one of allegations thrown out here tonight. Lasher has cut his ties, that has continued to today. But for the last decade, 2016 too. Supported Robert Jackson.

 Other candidates are just not viable. They don’t have a clear path to fundraising. As we stand here today, he is committed to our class size legislation, reforming Tier 6, if you didn’t see yesterday, put out an opinion piece about creating financial plans so that NYC workers can purchase open in all the five boroughs. Not going to dismiss the troubled past, but that’s not what this endorsement is about. Urge you all to vote against.

Rashad Brown: Motion to call the question.

Nick Bacon: point of order – there is only one person left – can that person speak?

LeRoy: you’re out of order (but offers 60 seconds to Ilona)

Ilona Nanay: Thank you for indulging us. I understand what folks are bringing up here, but I feel that permanently we have always stood for public schools – beyond being on the PTA, would love to see his actual track record on public schools. Disappointed that this is our most viable candidate – that he was a member of the Bloomberg administration, still have holdovers doing damage, to endorse such a candidate seems like a mistake.

High School Executive Board votes yes, everyone else votes no.

Nick Bacon is a co-chairperson at New Action Caucus. He is also an elected member of the UFT executive board

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