Sunday, March 29, 2020

Here Is Your Budget Breakdown For the Year

"Drastic. Like nothing you have ever seen".

That was Andrew Cuomo at the end of his rant about how poorly New York State faired in the last federal stimulus package. It was a Sunday and, during the question period, he answered a few about New York State's budget. The state is facing a $15 billion budget gap, he said. The federal government will not help us, he said. Not one bit. Chuck Schumer, New York's senior senator with whom Cuomo does not get along should 'try to pass a bill that actually helps the state of New York", he said. As a consequence, the cut will be "drastic. Like nothing you have ever seen".

The reality is much less bleak but will still be very painful for all of us in the classroom.

Before this crisis began, the budget outlook was already looking bad. With a $6 billion deficit, a veil of opacity had fallen around Albany, with both houses of the legislature having failed to even have a space for the 2020-2021 bills and resolutions (See the Senate website here. And then the Assembly website here. You'll notice no bills. That's a first). So it was difficult to even see what they were up to. By in large, Cuomo had wanted to make up the state deficit but offsetting medicare costs to localities.

But then the crisis hit and tax revenues suddenly stopped rolling in. The upshot? A $15 billion deficit with no plan for filling it. Cuomo said today he had hoped this federal stimulus package would bring money to his state budget but failed to do so.

A bit of context first: The governor of New York typically has enormous budgetary powers. This is a pretty good history of gubernatorial powers in New York and those powers are vast. Typically, they are only offset by a very active legislature, who can veto his proposals with a 2/3 majority. And if the legislature doesn't act by the April 1st deadline, he has the power to enact his budget anyway, if for a short period of time.

This year, the legislature is setting up their rules so that they can vote from home . This means that the budget will be settled by the governor, the Speaker of the Assembly and the Majority Leader of the Senate. And if he doesn't like what they suggest, he can just mandate that his proposals become, in effect, the law for a certain period of time.

So this year's budget is, very much, Cuomo's show.

And he is seeking a flexible budget and a "slimmed-down spending package that his administration can adjust periodically throughout the fiscal year" (here). This means that when it comes, the pain we feel in schools and our own homes will come slow. Look for bad news at the beginning of each quarter next year -in July, October, February and April. It will come in waves.

He is is proposing to spend 41% of a $178 billion budget on education this year (here). This includes an overall 2.1% increase for NYSED (which could be more for school and district aid. That 2.1% is for all of NYSED and where, exactly, that aid goes has been kept very quiet) (here). But look for that to be adjusted as well. Typically, the state "foundational aid" is a 4% increase from the previous year. That's the number we should all be looking for to gauge how bad the cuts will feel at the beginning.

And all of that greatly effects NYC's budget. This will be de Blasio's first downturn and his past fiscal actions will greatly inform his future decisions with the city. It is important to understand that de Blasio is cheap and is stubborn. The UFT has had to find ways to pay for at least part of every single raise and every single new benefit since he has been in office. This is why we should expect that our retro checks will be paid next October.

Last year's NYC budget was $92.8 billion. Unlike the state budget, Bloomberg news classified New York City's budget as "sound" (here) as recently as last December. They reason they pointed to for this stability was the increase in property tax revenues since de Blasio has been in office. Revenue collected form property taxes are typically more reliable than sales tax revenue, so I believe that, as of December, NYC was in pretty good shape.

That didn't stop the mayor for asking for a 1.4% cut from agencies -$1.3 billion in all. I'm not sure how much the NYC Reserve Fund has, but 24 months ago, there was $1.125 billion (here). This is much akin to having a ten dollar bill in the glove box in case you run out of gas on the way home but it is probably enough to cover a 2% reduction in city spending.

And with outlets like the Post already calling for a state wide pay freeze of all government workers (here) we teachers are in for a very rough patch. How rough still depends on two things:

A) How twill he state and city politicians address the fiscal implications of this first wave of the fiscal end of the crisis? Imagine an economy that is in the process of going off of a cliff. Clearly the situation is dire. The car is going over that cliff. But the car has not yet fallen completely and no one knows how big that cliff os or how far the car mist travel before it actually hits the bottom. It is in this context that the two budgets the state (due April 1) and the city (due in June) -the ones that will determine our future as teachers- must be enacted.

B) How much worse will the fiscal out look get before it begins to improve? The light at the end of the runnel won't be the budget announcement next Wednesday. The true light at the end of the tunnel will happen on the other end of the 'curve' we're all being asked to flatten. Once we see an end in sight to the health crisis, we will all better understand how painful the 2020-2021 year will be.

I'll write more on that tomorrow.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

On the DoE's "Love" For Their Teachers And Students

This week, as the calamity of pandemic unfolded before our eyes, word began to spread of exactly how safe the city kept its teachers and students from harm during the first two weeks of March, 2020.

In a nutshell, the answer was not at all.

The first hints teachers received were from their students and former students. Anecdotal stories often reveal more facts than "reported" events or empirical scientific evidence. So when the news "reported" that 1 person and then 2 people in New York had the virus many of us, folks who had heard one student or two students had been "out sick" with "flu" had our suspicions.

I have personally heard of five teachers who have been in contact with alumni and present students whose families had been sick since March 1 and later, after the state government stepped in and began daily briefings, did test positive for the virus. That's give instances of colleagues who have second hand knowledge of family members of students or former students who had been sick with this -since March 1. (The city schools did not close until March 16 and even that was after a 150,000 teachers signed a UFT petition in 48 hours demanding the schools be closed.

And folks were terribly sick going back to March 1. So this virus was here before the city government acknowledged it in the manner they did.

We had also heard of anecdotal evidence of schools being kept open between March 16 and March 19 (the week that only adults were supposed to be in) despite positive lab results being presented to building school officials. I have personally heard of five cases in all -two schools in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn and two in Queens. These are cases where the DoE kept the school open (for days) despite medical knowledge that a staff member had tested positive.

And, although not officially documented, these instances are slowly now being reported. The latest example comes in today's Post, where a pregnant teacher who tested positive for the virus, tried and failed to get her Brooklyn school closed on March 17. 

Despite her pleas, the city Department of Education did not close the school on March 17 — 19 when the entire faculty was mandated to report for training on remote learning. What’s more, students and their parents flooded into PS 199 classrooms on March 19 to pick up books, iPads and laptops.

“All of my kids came in to get their stuff. They pretty much emptied their desks,” Iacurto, who was home sick, said she heard from colleagues.

DoE officials allowed those colleagues into that school knowing that the school had been a place of contamination. The same DoE officials allowed students into that school knowing full well that the school had been a place of contamination.

This is something you would expect from China, who retaliated against Li Wen Liang, the hero doctor who blew the whistle on this brand knew virus thus alerting the world. 

This is the extent to which we should not trust governments.

This past week, de Blasio asked city agencies to prepare to cut a total of $1.3 billion from their budgets. It was unclear whether he was asking them to city that from their future budget predictions (the next FY starts July 1st and his budget must be in by June 1) or form this current annual budget allotment (the city is spending this money from somewhere. It can only be from new borrowed monies or from currently allocated monies. The laws are usually pretty clear about currently allocated monies but there is no guarantee that those rules haven't been waived given the current crisis. Newly borrowed monies to spend that extra amount would have to accounted for in next year's budgets. I am personally hoping that that's the case an that next year's budget for the city will only have a $1.3 billion deficit. That would be a dream scenario.

At the same time, the federal government allocated this same amount -$1.3 billion- to New York City's government in the new stimulus plan. Certainly something is going on here. I wonder if, under the current realities, we will ever know. If you're a person who has a  concern about government overreach, this is a very dangerous time.

Throughout all of this, former UFT presidential candidate, Lydia Howrilka, of the Solidarity Caucus, has been posting pep-talk videos on her social media accounts. I am unable to embed the video on this blogging platform but here is her video from yesterday. She plans to get detailed about the budget outlook early next week.  So some of the topics she addresses are some of the same topics and issues we are all thinking about. What is important about this is that it comes at time when the governments are proving, to any critical eye, that they just can't be trusted and has created an obvious reality that we should all trust the people who work with our union more than anyone.

More updates later tomorrow. But , for now, drop me a comment: how would YOU describe the love the DoE has for its students and the respect it has for its teachers?

I would use just one word: nuts.

Friday, March 20, 2020

MASSIVE Layoffs & "Attrition" On the Way: Prepare Now

Just a quick update: I just noticed how many page views this post has received in hone hour Colleagues: Chill! Everything you are about to read is tomorrow's problem. Today's challenge is to find a way to do the best we can for our students under the circumstances If you want to read about tomorrow's problem, then please read on.  But if you're not there yet, and you are just facing today,, then stop reading now and just come back to this in a few months. Okay thanks.

I hope this title caught your attention.
Image result for be prepared
By now, you probably see that the entire state and city are shut down and that, unless you are an large airline, the national government will not be coming to anyone's rescue.

And I know you're probably home scared of the virus right now but you should also begin to think about what comes next -and what comes next is, as Norm Scott described "A dismal decade ahead" (here). So read slowly while I lay out what this means for us.

The economy has simply stopped. This is worse than ten years ago when the banking and credit markets simply stopped. This time, the entire economy has simply stopped. The doomsayers were right. The governments were simply not prepared for an emergency. Everything has simply stopped.

Tax collection has stopped as well and that is from where our salaries come.

In three month's time, state and local governments will have passed austerity budgets. Now Cuomo is pushing to get the state budget passed on time and he may actually be doing us all a favor with that. This is because the outlook will be much worse on May 1 than it will on April 1 but that is a story for another time. For now, just understand, as we move toward 20% unemployment, the state and local budgets will be terrible.

This will mean two things for New York teachers. Layoffs and Attrition.

And attrition will become a very dark and sinister policy in the months -and years- to come. More on that in a moment.

For now, it is a good idea to get prepared NOW. The first step is to understand layoffs.


Layoffs, if they happen (and I believe there is an excellent chance that they will) only happen in the following manner:

First, they layoff according to your license. So if layoffs happen, the DoE will announce which licenses are subject to the layoffs. Pay careful attention to this announcement from the UFT (not the DoE and not the press. Only the UFT will accurately tell us which licenses). Your license may be exempt! Your license may be on the chopping block!  You won't know for sure until UFT tells you.

THEN, within that license, they layoff by seniority. LIFO is the policy we have followed for decades now. This means that, within that license, if your license is even called, The LAST IN is the FIRST OUT. Again .. within that license.

Third, layoffs are city-wide. Not by your school. Just know that. You may have the lowest seniority in your school but have 15 years in the system. Under a situation like layoffs, they count the 15 years you have in the system, not the 1 year you may have in your school.  Know that. And don't believe anyone else who tells you otherwise.

What should you do?

1. Get your seniority number just as soon as you can. Each of us has a number of our seniority. If the time approaches, the DRs will have it. At that time call and nag your DR until you get it. These numbers are city-wide seniority within your license. So if you're the most senior math teacher in New York City, you will know.

2. Start saving now. Just to be safe. Even if you are not laid off, you may find yourself traveling a little further or experiencing some other cost you had not anticipated. I am on the nickel and dime plan until further notice.

3. Pay attention, but only listen to your union. If layoffs come, they will come along with a propaganda campaign the likes of which we haven't seen since the Bloomberg days. State government will lie to you. City government may lie to you. Your principal will lie to you. Only believe the word of the union during this time. Folks may not trust the union or may, like me, look upon the UFT a loving but critical lens, but the UFT was built for moments like that. They won't lie with the information you need. Not when it comes to that.


This is the policy that is so dark and sinister that it launched many many EDU blogs. This will be the true challenge every city school teacher will have to face.

Essentially, attrition means lowering the number of employees by firing them or convincing them to resign. This is where the city and the DoE will make it ugly. If the last example is any indication, it will be tough. For us in the NYCDoE, this will mean three things:

1. A rigorous enforcement of existing DoE Chancellor's Regulations. This means MORE investigators. The DoE will be hiring -investigators. Expect every single little infraction to be investigated -and be prepared for it to go to a hearing. EXPECT that your actions will be investigated. EXPECT to be sent to a 3020-A hearing. EXPECT everyone involved in that process to speak to you as if you should not be employed -as if you don't have a right to be employed. EXPECT the worst and, if it happens, you will be tough enough to get through it. It will, very much, be a "gotcha" environment.  So be prepared for that and Don't.Get.Got. (We'll all be writing more about that when the time comes).

2. Expect a tightening of existing regulations. The chancellor regs will be tightened so much as to catch as many of us as possible in some type of infraction. For example, the DoE social media policy will probably be tightened and may well become a Chancellor's Regulation. Imagine a world where the DoE updates its Chancellor's Regulation about homework (yes, there is one. Rudy Crew, I believe) and says that all teachers must grade and submit every day. Now imagine you miss a day and a week later an investigator calls you in and two months later you find yourself in a hearing. That is the type of work environment you should be prepared to drive to work in.

3. This is also mean harassment at the job site. Expect principal to speak poorly to you. Expect to be gaslight-ed. Expect an enormous amount of letters to your file. Every single school leader will be put in a position where there will be an economic incentive in getting teachers -many of whom are high in salary- to leave their budget, either by hook or by crook -and then they will be trained on how to get you out.  Is your salary over 80,000? Expect to be micromanaged and driven insane by an admin. Do you have to drop your kids off before work? Expect to be micromanaged and driven insane by an admin. Are you outspoken? Expect to be micromanaged and driven insane by an admin. In the environment that settles -maybe in as little as 18 months- expect to be a target by your administrators. This will be a fight -to the death- for that $80,000 a year salary of yours. Don't focus on being liked. Focus on surviving with you $ in tact. And don't expect the UFT to be there for you all the time here. The Bloomberg administration showed everyone where, within the UFT, the imperfections are -and the union itself will be off fighting different battles (state attacks on LIFE will be back. Drastic cuts to state budgets will be back on the table. Crazy arguments like merit pay and new teacher evals and a brand new assault on tenure will all be fought in Albany and in Washington. At every turn, your challenge will have to be "what do I need to do to survive with my job".

That's attrition. That's the extent of it. Gotcha squads and questions about LIFO and tenure and a malaise that drops across our all district. Again.

So, today, hold your family close. Be thankful that you are one of a very few who A) gets their full pay AND B) gets to stay at home and be as safe as you can. But when this nor'easter now known as COVID-19 ends, and when they are all done with talking about "unity" and about how "we're all in this together" there will be another storm, soon to form on the horizon, and that storm will feel more like several years of a bad hurricane.

Be prepared.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

It's Time to Close the Schools

Well, it's been another week. The numbers have grown, then grown again and then jumped.

As ICE reports, Ohio -with only 5 cases of the virus- has shut down every school in the state (here). Maryland has as well. The entire city of Seattle have (finally) closed their schools.

The number of cases in New York City jumped today -and the mayor has still not made the call to close here.

For the record, I love what the mayor and governor are trying to do. Keeping schools open sets of standard of normalcy. It allows parents to go to work and allows for many teachable moments inside the schools. I have always been a fan of eating and of the idea that schools are the place to get that level of care and support -to eat- is well worth our best efforts. The guy has realy earned my respect. Cuomo (who is doing a better job than any other elected official in the entire nation) has as well. He is doing so well that he has actually earned my vote next election.

Their first approach -Community Mitigation- is new to me and is interesting. Public awareness to wash hands is great. Asking businesses to have employees work from home is great as well.

Their fall back approach -this targeted social distancing strategy where some areas close and other essential areas do not- isn't too bad either. Banning 500 or more people from gathering is a good start. Closing Broadway? Not bad either. Get people away from people and the virus will stop spreading.

That this virus is moving so fast that, so far at least, no government in the world has been able to stop it from spreading, should not have prevented them from trying these approaches.. It was a great try.

These strategies were developed by people who are a lot smarter than me. But they were developed with developing nations in mind. This is the first world. A crisis has now come here and the strategies are, as we can see, just not working.

Twenty million people live in the greater New York City Metropolitan Area. 20 million! Whether children get sick or not, the schools they attend are at the very the center of incubation in any community. This is especially true for NYC. Children may not get sick but they will carry this virus and they will pass it along to those who will get sick. This will be their parents. It will be their grandparents. It will be the person behind the counter at the corner store.

And some of those people will be their teachers.

There are around 70,000 teachers in the New York City Dept. of Education. The global death rate from this pandemic is 3.4%. What will the mayor do if the unthinkable happens and 3.4% of the teaching corps -2,380 teachers- die from this?

Oh, are you rolling your eyes? I was as well -yesterday. Three weeks ago, doctors in Italy were as well. Now, they're making their claims to the rest of the world: BE PREPARED. Italian doctors have recently learned that, during a real crisis "Every ventilator becomes like gold".
"Someone already to be intubated and go to intensive care. For others it's too late... Every ventilator becomes like gold: those in operating theatres that have now suspended their non-urgent activity become intensive care places that did not exist before"

Some facts to consider.

  • Approximately eight million people live in New York City. 
  • 3.4% of eight million is 272,000. 
  • New York City has only 26,000 hospital beds. 

These are just facts.

There are also not enough ventilators. 
Oh yeah.

Five years ago Dr. Howard Zucker -the very person in charge of handling COVID-19 right now (sitting next to the governor at every press briefing this week) published guidelines on distributing ventilators during a time of a crisis just like this. This is what he wrote  (about New York) then:

"Specifically, many more patients will require the use of ventilators than can be
accommodated with current supplies. New York State may have enough ventilators to meet the needs of patients in a moderately severe pandemic. In a severe public health emergency on the scale of the 1918 influenza pandemic, however, these ventilators would not be sufficient to meet the demand."

Would not be sufficient to meet the demand. 

I am one of the few New Yorkers who has always loved this mayor. His policies, his world view and the way he understands people who live in impoverished circumstances has been a brief breath of fresh air. His heart is truly in the right place. I have become a recent big fan of the governor as well. But schools are the most obvious place where the virus can incubate and spread. It doesn't take a pandemic scientist to figure that one out.

They have tried mitigation and the numbers have grown. They have tried targeted social distancing and the numbers have grown. They are not prepared for something like what is happening in Italy and, oh yea, no government so far -in the entire world- has gotten through this without shutting down schools and or whole parts of normal society.

And now other politicians -ones who do not listen to scientists but who listen to voters- have listened to the warnings.

It is time to close the schools in New York.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Carranza's Email Reminds Me: Don't Trust The Teller. Trust The Tale

It has been just one week since I wrote "fast moving events change peoples' mindset in a very fast way" and suggested that school's in New York may actually close for a time because of COVID-19. And in that week -in just one week- events have happened very fast indeed:

  • A number of people in the metro area have tested positive for the virus 
  • The exact number is difficult to ascertain (not only because of fast moving events but also because of the poor way the media has kept everyone up to date). The NYC DOH page for the Coronavirus lists only 4 New Yorkers  as having tested positive, with 55 tests yet to be completed. 
  • According to the Times, "More than 2,700 people are under some form of quarantine in New York City." for having been possibly exposed to the virus (4000 across the whole state)
    • There are two types of quarantines; mandated quarantine and self quarantine 
  • A health care worker who had returned from a trip to Iran via JFK tested positive for the virus. The press took great care to say that she "had not" taken public transportation from the airport. 
  • A lawyer from Westchester County, and his entire family,  tested positive positive for the virus. The press did not take great care to say he avoided public transportation. 
  • That lawyer had not traveled outside the country and we have still not been informed about how he got sick.
  • The Federal Government does have enough COVID-19 tests for all Americans and seems ill prepared
  • There is an obvious sense that the mayor, in hopes of avoiding wide-spread concern, is not sharing all information
  • The language of whether or not schools will be closed is now addressed with the essential response of "we're not there yet"

The Independent published a piece that showed the governor depicting the Westechester situation in the following way

“There are going to be hundreds [of cases] in Westchester,” the governor said. “The number of people who will be infected will continue to increase. It is going to be dozens and dozens and dozens.”

Dozens and dozens and dozens.

Those are all predictions of a politician who would rather not be facing this problem. 

So not only has the spread of the virus into the city moved fast, government's responses have moved fast as well. 4000 people across the state into some type of quarantine (either 'self quarantine' or 'imposed quarantine').  Grim predictions. 

This is al in just seven days. 

Of all the systems put in place across all of the institutions in the entire country, I trust NYC's systems the most. After all, look at what happened: FOUR people came down with the virus this week and the city removed more than 2700 people, folks who could possibly contaminate others, from the population. That's fairly impressive and I can't see any other city (or state) in the nation that has moved as fast.

But when I see officials saying things that are so obviously not realistic, the one of these institutions, my employer, falls under more than a bit of suspicion. Schools are the most likely place for a virus to spread. They, besides the subway and buses, are the front lines here and this is where the defense should be at its best. 

Yet when Carranza sent his email out to school staff it was complete with assumptions that just don't pass the smell test. My red flag went up in the first paragraph:

At this time, it is important to listen to facts and not respond to fear ... 

This was a week where facts were not in full supply. Just a review of unanswered questions can show that Carranza's assumptions about how well the government is communicating were wrong. Who are the other 55 people currently being tested? How did the Westchester lawyer arrive and go home to work? Where did he shop? How were those 2700 quarantined persons identified? Were they all related to folks who had the virus? Can anyone say that *only* those who came in contact with these sick people were quarantined? Or were other people quarantined? Where do we self report if we think we may have come in contact with the virus? These are all questions that I heard others ask this week and no answer to these questions -to the concerned questions all relating to Could I get sick?- the electeds and appointed officials had no word to address.

And when folks who have no facts to address specific concerns scold me, and tell me 'listen to facts' -facts which a great many feel are limited- then that raises a suspicion. How can you tell a bunch of concerned people who don't have the facts they need to not respond to fear? The answer is easy: Your assumptions about what the government is telling people are wrong.

The Chancellor's assumptions about something else -his custodial staff- are wrong as well. In his email, he wrote us a list of things that he claims are being done to help schools not become incubators for the virus.

Measures taken in schools and other DOE sites include:

§  Increasing deep cleanings to two times per week, disinfecting surface areas with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-approved cleaning disinfectant;

  • Increasing deep cleanings in schools to two times per week, disinfecting surface areas;
  • Ensuring that all 1,800 schools have adequate hygiene and cleaning materials so that bathrooms are continuously stocked with soap and paper towels;

The mayor even asked anyone who saw a bathroom with no soap to call 311 so they can 'rain hell' on that school.  I like my school leader and custodian. I don't want hell to rain on them. At the same time, a simple review of my school -the very next morning- showed the same cleaninless levels in the bathrooms (not with soap in the dispensers and had did not look as though they had been the previous evening). When I heard from some others in different schools, from different boroughs!- I heard some of the same observations. The "deep cleaning" and "soap" promise did not pass the "my experiences" test. And the reasons for this are because you don't just snap your fingers and have bathrooms in over 1800 schools cleaned.

Carranza is the guy who will look a group of parents right in the eye and say things the way he sees it. And whether you like him or don't like him, there aren't many who can say he isn't credible. They can say many things but not credible isn't one of the criticisms I have heard.  I find this chancellor to be exceedingly credible. And yet wrong assumptions make a person look like they're just not.

Most concerning of all were his assumptions about school experiences. I read this part his email and laughed, for a moment, out loud (of course that moment ended as soon as I realized how concerning this actually is). The chancellor said that the DoE was

Strongly encouraging students to take time for handwashing, especially before meals; monitoring this and making changes as needed to ensure students have the time

A typical cafeteria holds 100 students. There is, usually, one bathroom for each gender near each cafeteria. So how long does it take for 100 students to wash their hands before their 45 minute lunch period? What measures are you taking to strongly encourage this to happen? With your building staff spread so thin that many schools cannot properly monitor a cafeteria, how, exactly, do you intend to monitor hand washing? Were you going to delegate that to an already underpaid school aide? An already overburdened dean? Or counselor? How was this system made? When was it piloted or tested? What, exactly, are you talking about when you say you're going to have 1.1. million children wash their hands before lunch time? Are you saying that you've just thought of this? Or are you saying that someone had a plan for this years and years ago, while all of my colleagues caught colds or the flu or red or whatever other ailment visits the poor classroom teacher? Are a few of the questions that popped into my own mind after reading that. 

I don't feel like the chancellor's assumptions about the surrounding supports are spot on either. Many people won't remember this but, ten years ago, during a similar scare for H1N1, the DoE sent hand sanitizer to every single school in the city. These dispensers were hung, and filled, and students were told, by staff (who had been told by their supervisors who had been told in a Principal's Weekly to do it) sanitize your hands whenever you're in the hallways. Now. This isn't being done. 

And I like this Chancellor! And I think he and his boss are leading the best systems to help slow the spread of this virus in the entire nation! And, who knows, maybe they will be able to do this for one more month (before the warm weather hits and all of this starts to pass until next year) but reading that email and realizing that almost all of this man's assumptions are not correct, made me think of famous advice from poet DH Lawrence. 'Don't trust the teller. Trust the tale"

So far in New York, the tale is showing that state and city governments are doing as best as any government has so far (my opinion). But the bullshit is slowly beginning to pile up and I'm also seeing quotes like "we're not there yet" with regard to closing schools and predictions like "hundreds. Dozens and dozens and dozens" with regard to one county so that tale is also a bit foreboding. 

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Coronavirus: The Chances that NYC May Close Schools

Four days ago, I would have thought a post like this to be ridiculous.  Coronavirus is not, afterall, nearly as deadly as the Flu. 80% of patients who have the virus report only mild symptoms before getting on with their lives. The SARS outbreak, ten years ago, led NYC schools only to issue hand sanitizer to every school. Most of all, the press making a big deal about it seem only to be a desperate attempt at selling more papers through shocking and scaring readers and viewers and, when you looked at where the virus was a real danger, it was only in nations on the other side of the world with poor leadership.  was only in nations on the other side of the world and New York has strict protocols in place for people entering and leaving the nation.

Then three days ago, the NYSE began to slide and news reports indicated investor fears (from the virus) had lead to it.

Then two days ago, Japan closed schools for one month (here). Surface level news readers were shocked because, after all, closing schools for a whole month seems drastic. But more thoughtful news viewers were shocked to learn that schools were not closed because of health concerns but because of economic concerns, which the Times reporting the government is "is under pressure to act decisively to preserve the Tokyo Olympics."

They don't want to lose the economic dollars. So they closed schools -for a month!. Wow.

And then., yesterday, Fox 5 reported "NYSE could close trading floor in coronavirus contingency".

"The New York Stock Exchange is preparing for the possible escalation of the novel coronavirus crisis that might include closing the trading floor in Lower Manhattan, according to Fox Business.
Should the outbreak of COVID-19 escalate into a global pandemic, as is expected, then markets and firms are concerned that traders and other employees might not be able to get to work."
I do think this is just may be just click bait. The NY Daily News had a similar headline which they change after only four hours of being online (The original headline the had was "NYSE preparing for the possibility of closing the floor due to coronavirus crisis: report" was later changed to "Amid stock market jitters, NYSE ‘carefully monitoring the spread’ of CONVID-19’. Something like switch the headline after publication only happens after someone in the news room had second thoughts. That's a clear sign a clickbait).

What isn't clickbait is the fact that CNN also reported yesterday that WHO seems to think the the risk of the spread is "very high" (here).

These represent very fast moving events. Fast moving events change peoples' mindset in a very fast way. I remember the economic meltdown over ten years ago. Those were fast moving events as well. It took just four days (and the collapse of an investment bank) to change the mindsets of everyone in New York (and  the world). I wonder how long may it be before everyone's mindset changes again?

After all, last Tuesday, I thought even talking about this to be ridiculous. But that was before a whole nation shut their schools -for a month- because they were worried about the economy. I give NYC a 4 in ten chance that schools will close for at least one week.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

America's Dad

First, they said that Bernie Sanders made people's skin crawl. Yet his poll numbers grew. Then they took half of his ideology, Democratic Socialist, and accused him of being a socialist. Yet, somehow, his poll numbers grew. Then they said that his ideas were a thing only for third world countries. Yet his poll numbers grew. And when they said he couldn't win, his poll numbers grew and when they tried to pretend his win in Iowa (by 6,000 votes) wasn't a win his poll numbers grew. They grew after New Hampshire. They grew after the Bloomberg debate (and he wasn't event the main story of that debate) and they grew after he won dominated the Nevada Caucus.

Nowadays, when Amercia's Dad wins, his poll umbers grow. When it looks like he may not win, his poll numbers grow. When he's seen being attacked, his poll numbers grow and when he is seen as being embraced with love his poll numbers grow again. This smells like momentum.

And the momentum is saying one thing: That the unlikely may actually happen: That guy ... the one up the block from you ... your friend's dad ... the one who rarely combs his hair and is strangely comfortable in his own skin ... the one who has no shame in consistently saying the same damn thing every time he sees you .. that one ... the one who puts everything in terms of 'right or wrong' ...  the one about whom you're never quite sure whether he likes you, hates you or just doesn't remember who you are ... yet the one who you know will be there for you if you ever need a hand because he's kind of like your dad, too ...  that guy ... that dad ... may well become the DNC candidate for president.

(And if you're not a fan, then that's OK. You've got your own opinions, but if you are a fan, then it feels just, I don't know, glorious. Kind of like watching your own dad being proven right after he notices you were overcharged at the grocery store and drags you in to cause a scene to get your money back. Sure, it's uncomfortable for a while but it damn sure feels good to get your money back and thank god dad was there anyway.)

Back here in New York, the UFT continues to be the largest political action group in New York State, period. It's last three presidents have gone on to preside over the AFT and it's politics are the politics of many urban locals, from El Paso to Philadelphia, spread across the United States. It matters.

And through most of 2019, the word from UFT to its members about the POTUS election was "we're neutral". The word to the insiders was a slightly different, "we're neutral, but ... " and when looked carefully at their actions, it looked very much they were kind of angling toward supporting Biden. "Sanders is someone they will never support" is something you heard over and over again from informed members within the New York teacher union.  That made sense. Hillary Clinton runs the Democratic Party and she is very close with AFT President Randi Weingarten.

But earlier this week, when the AFT effectively disqualified support for four candidates and suggested that members focus on just three, the crack squad here at NYCDoE-nuts noticed that Mike Bloomberg's name wasn't there.

First, the fact that AFT cut Bloomberg out of possible candidates to ask members to support -while his poll numbers were climbing- is the final proof I'll ever need that the critics are wrong: The UFT/AFT is not that desperate for a seat at the table. Kudos to them for that.

And with Five Thirty Eight reporting just today that the most likely scenario isn't a brokered convention but one in which Sanders triumphs, the one scenario that UFT folks  may have to make the one choice they did not want to make: Back Sanders or sit out the election and risk a Trump victory.

There is little doubt that at least parts of the DNC will just sit it out if he becomes the nominee. But what will organizations like the UFT and the AFT do if this happens? Will they follow the DNC establishment folks who choose not to phone bank or donate or stuff envelopes? Or will they turn their back on dad and let mom's rich, ugly disrespectful new boyfriend stay in the house for another four years? That's a pretty big question.  Many organizations correctly see a Trump reelection, and the re-alignment of working class voters with the nation's conservative party, as an existential threat to their existence. Will it be worth it to stay with the DNC establishment? Or is will it be time to break away.

One thing's for sure: If the DNC is the grocery store clerk who just overcharged you, it looks like America's Dad is making his way over to the counter right now -and he doesn't look one bit intimidated about the conversation he's about begin.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Bloomberg's Billions: Why Some NYC Teachers Are Experiencing Collective PTSD

It is its own sub on Reddit.  NY Magazine has used it Left (and right) Wing Haven the Seattle Sun Times has used itIt trends, every so often, on TwitterAnd now, Sunday's NYTimes has embraced it.

From "Blood-Soaked Mayor Bloomberg Announces Homelessness
No Longer A Problem In New York City" in The Onion
The term "Bloomberg's Billions" is quickly becoming synonymous with the wealth and power exhibited by the one percent in America.

More specifically,  the term is being used as a metaphor with how wealth yields power in the United States today  (through, according to today's Times, charitable donations to organizations which also wield political power).

Most folks point to his extreme use and defense of Stop and Frisk (a white-washed term the press has used to describe what the UN has identified as a Human Rights Violation). Others defer to his embrace of charter schools and his anti-union reputation -including his record as NYC mayor.

But teachers -not the teacher union, but teachers themselves, ones who worked and lived in the city during the Bloomberg years- recall something far more dark and sinister when confronted with the term -and those folks have to deal with a fair amount of PTSD because of it.

It's not his 2005 contract which removed rights for teachers and which helped start this EDU blog that caused this PTSD. And it's not his 2007 "Gotcha Squad" which sought out to match teachers with violations in order to fire them. That move filled the rubber rooms and helped lead to the creation of this NYC EDU blog. But that's not what causes PTSD either. It isn't even the accepted fact that many of us have still not been made whole by receiving the pay raises which we should have received in 2009. That is not the true nature of our collective PTSD.

Teachers who lived through and survived Bloomberg know full well what he actually achieved: Bloomberg erased the institutional memory of the NYCBOE and, because of this, its union, the UFT. It is as though the system that existed, including workplace protections and a concentration on the whole-child, before 2002 has been erased from the chalkboard. Any remnants of the way things were have long since been swept away. They will take decades to fully restore. And that is at the root of the collective "Oh, my God" that is swirling around more senior classrooms throughout New York City.

In order to illustrate my point, let me ask you a few questions. What happens to students and to teachers when we give a principal too much power? In what ways do we redress that principal? What happens when metrics, ones which many simply do not understand, are used to determine the worthiness of continued employment? What happens to a union that must divert resources to explain these metrics to its members? When actually happens when the overwhelming majority of a workforce -whole school communities across five boroughs- report to an underpaid job each day with no real job protections? What goes on inside those school communities? Is there a balance that takes place? Or are teachers forced to work for free every day, as was the case with Maspeth High School just three years ago?

Were you able to answer these questions? If you're answer was no, then you must understand; teachers just one generation ago were.

Check Facebook's Teacher Chat and you'll find an entire generation of educators just now learning the answers to these questions -just now beginning to build back the institutional memory that this one man successfully erased. But there was once a time when these were readily available in any teacher lunch room and through virtually any chapter leader in the city. These answers helped new teachers understand the lay of the land and helped older educators pass the torch of 'how to get by'. This is just a small part of the effect of erasing our collective institutional memory. And this is what causes PTSD for many more seasoned teachers.

It's not one or two parts of the whole. It is the gestalt; the sum total of the whole which many of us did not fully at first fully understand and had to, slowly, piece together for ourselves, then deal with. We see that happening again and we don't want it to.

Within the walls of 52 Broadway, headquarters of the UFT, it is generally understood that teachers during the definitive 1968 teacher strike were part of our greatest generation of UFTers. After all, these were the folks who built the union. They assembled at Randall's Island (by the tens of thousands) every August to demand a fair contract. These were the ones who walked out -and stayed out- in order to assert the basic due process protections that you and (currently on payroll) enjoy today. These were the ones who fought for decent pay, decent benefits and decent hours -and they are the ones who won.

Yet much of what they accomplished has been forgotten. This is why the final story may well reveal the current corps of city teachers to be the UFT's greatest generation.

These folks now -the ones who, through social media or through the demonstrating or attending meetings, or even harmless union bowling events- are the ones who are rebuilding (almost brick by brick) the institutional memory that Bloomberg's Billions were able to erase. They are the ones surrounding untenured employees and preventing them from being mistreated in the work place. They are the ones just now beginning to speak up or to speak out during staff meetings in defense of the profession (which is just another way of saying in defense of our students against really stupid policies). These are the folks who question almost everything they hear from a supervisor and are brave enough to speak up about it.

This is probably why this generation of teachers are the ones who really are rewriting that playbook and who find themselves tackling challenges (such as what it means organize around an issue or to just simply stand together through a difficult time) when so much effort is devoted to dividing them. These are the ones who are forced to, sometimes, speak up against their own supervisors on behalf of students, even though they're still not sure if the've committed original sin by doing so or have scored one for the students. With almost no one around to tell them that they have scored one for the students, they make these stands out of almost pure gut instinct.  Bloomberg's Billions has given this generation of teachers the short straw in this manner and his billions are, even now, compelling them to do things akin to walking up to the headmaster and making that age old plea; 'please sir, may I have some more?' without having one single notion of what may happen to them as a result.

The "greatest generation" had an active union behind them. These folks have only their wits and a general sense of what is right and wrong. These are folks who have inherited Bloomberg's real legacy and they're the ones who find themselves rebuilding that institutional history which his billions helped take away.

Just to be clear: I'm not speaking of my generation of teachers (folks who probably read this blog). My generation of teachers got their asses kicked. We were the ones who were fired or were fined or had their schools close around them or had to deal with stereotypes that exist as a result of the ATR.  We were the ones who faced retaliations of all kind for speaking out, even a little. We are the generation who were castigated in the press and were investigated for simply speaking (or missing eleven days of work (true story) or passing gas (again; true story) or raising a question during SLT (most famously, a true story) and were powerless to stop it. We were the ones who heard stories from the rubber rooms and hid away out of fear. We were the ones who read in the papers what Bloomberg's money did to teacher David Pakter (who was almost fired for bringing plants for his new school, who spoke out against the attempt, and who soon found that Bloomberg's Billions had planted a false story in the New York Post falsely accusing him of sexual abuse (he had not committed this act. It was a political hit job, only done on a school teacher (again, true story. That actually happened.  Pakter's lawsuit against the Post for $10 million dollars was still in court documents last time I checked).

The general point I'm making is not only accurate but important to assert: The current veteran teachers, the ones like me, were the ones who totally lost to his billions and we're the ones who are now in a process of quietly working our way toward a pension. We are far from any greatest generation of UFTers. Mr. Bloomberg's money made damn well sure of that.

And, as part of that process, some of us try to take some time to remind people and to warn them, sometimes with every breath we take, that a Mike Bloomberg presidency would be just as much of a disaster for anyone in the working class or in the professional service class, as it was for teachers in the 2000s in New York City. And if it looks like older teachers are losing their minds, it's just because we're experiencing a heavy case of PTSD as we watch this man buy his way into another round of political relevance.  We want for him to not matter anymore. Yet his money ensures that he does.

 It's almost like a mission  -to remind folks that this same man who, during the very week the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans were ruined, paid a sympathy call to  the HQ of Goldman Sachs to make sure that the bankers knew he had their back.

He is currently running 3rd place in the overall polls for the presidential primaries. So it is a good time to jot down some thoughts: Mike Bloomberg sucks. His billions can come after me again (they know who I am) but he sucks. He sucks for working class. He sucks for teachers. He sucks for people of color. He sucks for anyone except the ultra rich and the people who spend all of their time wanting to be the ultra rich. He will cut Social Security. He will cut Medicare. He will continue to allow retail workers in this country to work for substandard pay and require welfare benefits just to survive -and then he will cut their benefits.  He will cut all entitlements that he can, will increase military spending, will reduce taxes for high earning professional class, while balancing that increasing taxes for regular folks and he will declare victory while doing it.

Because it will be a victory. It just won't be ours. This is the truth that Bloomberg's Billions is seeking (successfully) to obfuscate. Older teachers know it (the way old dogs can feel in their bones when it's about to rain) and we simply can't believe we're watching this happen.


Sunday, February 9, 2020

55/25: A (Long) History and (Short) Possible Future

Ah, the NYS budget season. The most interesting drama packed time of the entire year! Ain't New York State politics something? 

Who could forget last season's *almost* legalization of Marijuana? Or the season before that, which gave us our new (new) teacher evaluation system? Or the one I wrote about way back in 2012 which, again, addressed a then pending teacher evaluation system through a mayoral announcement that no city unions would be offered a contract (good crazy time under Mike Bloomberg. Good, crazy times.)? My personal favorite is the 2015 season. That was a doozy. It one gave us (yet another) teacher evaluation deal and allowed us to all watch, popcorn in hand, as the governor dethroned a long time New York State Pol   (Mr. Silver; we still miss you).

Oh, the drama.
Oh, the calamity.
Oh, New York.

The scoop
This year's budget may bring back an oldie but goodie: The non-incentive-retirement-incentive. Teacher should read the papers  and their UFT email updates in the coming weeks. We may be hearing about another 55/25.

You should probably know the history of this first

In 2007, while contending with a very powerful mayor, New York City teachers were offered a stunning and seemingly generous "early retirement incentive". In exchange for allowing some teachers to submit to merit pay based on test scores, the mayor backed a plan in Albany that would allow all teachers to retire up to 5 years early (here). In exchange for paying 1.85% more toward their pension, teachers would be able to retire with a pension worth 50% of their pay (the usual rate for 25 years of service, and 10% less than it would be if a teacher had served all 30 years). All educators needed to do was sign on the dotted line and wait unit they were old to reap the benefits.

The "merit pay" part of the plan never really worked out and was very soon forgotten. At the time of the deal, Diane Ravitch told the Daily News, "The union ate the city's lunch, ...The bonus can stop ... The pension goes on forever." She was right. That's probably why the retirement incentive part of the plan -nicknamed "55/25"- quickly became the stuff legend for NYC teachers.

The news hit teacher break rooms like a wave. Colleagues tripped over themselves -and each other- in order to sign up for the chance to retire 5 years earlier than they had planned.   Every city teacher who drew breath was told by their union "this option will never be offered again. Ever. Take the deal". Most teachers, without fully understanding the details, did -and they considered themselves lucky to do it. Those who didn't, or those who became teachers after the six-month window had closed, openly complained that they had been robbed. I've seen 22 year olds in their second year of teaching complain about this and insist that the deal should be offered again. It is that popular. It is that missed.

More sober voices, like James Eterno at ICE, divided teachers into three categories from the deal, winners, no gainers and big losers. Teachers who had not yet been hired were the big losers:

Under the new system they will have to pay 4.85% for the first ten years and 1.85% thereafter but they will not be permitted to retire at 55 with 25 years of service ... Instead, the new agreement says they have to complete 27 years and be at least 55. This is why we are calling this provision a de-facto Tier V and this is how the city wins.

He was right. In future years, at the very next economic downturn, in fact, a Tier V and later a Tier VI was introduced. They both called for more money all were both that Mike Bloomberg had ever hoped and advocated for. Those teachers eventually were hired and have been complaining ever since that their retirement deal is terrible and that they, too, should be offered a 25/55.


And Now?

The idea of 55/25 itself hasn't died in the hearts of the politicians. Not one bit. Our counterparts in the suburbs had a similar deal offered to them in 2010 with a 60 day window and pending district approval. See this legal notice update which refers to that offer.

25/55 deals were proposed in the New York Senate in 2015/16 and again in 2017/18.  And then. just last Spring, a 25/55 bill actually passed the legislature (see here).

So it comes as no surprise to me that a Facebook user's recent post to a teacher chat group mentioned that a similar 25/55 deal may be in the works for this year. It makes perfect sense that a deal may be offered during this budget cycle.

This year's budget headline is Deficit. Deficit and maybe legal Marijuana. That's it. The state government says it will be $6 Billion dollars short in its tax collections and it has some serious decision making to do.  The governor, the most powerful in my life, has stated that the deficit comes from Medicare bills that were offset by Washington DC. His plan is to offset those costs by sticking localities with the bill and it will probably work. Over the years, the governor's people have been elected as the leaders of many of these localities andso, despite Mike Mulgrew's attempt for it to not happen to his locality: NYC. I think Cuomo's influence on the local leaders will be more than enough to make it happen and to offset much of that deficit to counties.

But this will leave suburban localities in quite a jam. As Spring unfolds, local municipalities, including cities, counties, towns, hamlets (and in some scenarios even school districts) will be facing their own budget woes.

And could they possibly make up those woes? Hmm...

 Teachers who are on active duty are paid form their respective general budgets. In NYC, this is tax allocation money. Teachers who are given "incentive" to retire are paid from their respective retirement systems, thus alleviating any potential budget stress within the municipalities. And, gee, politicians have been trying to arrange another 25/55 deal for almost ten years. hmm ...

It just makes sense that a deal like this may be on the way back for this year.

Is it a good deal? 

Pffft. I don't know. I'm going to go grade some papers after I'm done writing this. Go hire a money person and ask them. All I can tell you is that the retirement system will probably be in a good enough shape to handle another 25/55 deal. Currently, the NYC TRS is in relatively good health. As of last Spring, it had $76 million on hand. That's one cool million more than it had the year before (check page 28) and that includes all of the pensions it currently has to pay, so it's not like the TRS in. NYC will l have trouble affording it.

But if it is offered, it will be a gimmick to fix a budget by offsetting certain costs related to public employees. Plain and simple. I don't ever think that's a good deal. I also won't call it an incentive. The only thing the last deal did was lift an early retirement penalty -and even at that the penalty was only lifted in exchange for 1.85% of our paycheck. I don't call that incentive. I call that bail money.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Sheer Power of the Stop, Jot & Share

This one is about how to stay current with teaching practices.

Any teacher working under the Danielson rubric knows well the challenges of hitting those points on Danielson 3D. Apparently, if we're not "assessing throughout the entire lesson", we're just not good, real teachers.

I'm a high school social studies teacher. For us, it's almost all content and skills during the class. For years, I have received the worst advice imaginable from admins about how to approach this assessment issue.  I mean, I can understand it through the lens of a math teacher or a phys-ed teacher, but through a history teacher? History classes don't work this way. So it has always been understood that fulfilling this Danielson 3D requirement will require the breaking of the integrity of how a social studies class runs and functions.

I consider myself to be an avid protector of my profession and I do not understand this need to be always assessing everything everywhere. Upton Sinclair once wrote the exact opposite of how I feel here. "It's difficult", he said, "to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understanding it". Well, my salary depends on me understanding this assessing thing, so I'll damn well understand it as best as I can!!

And this is where the "Stop, Jot & Share" has really saved me!

Most of my lessons are workshop model in nature. Everyone has their own way and approach to creating a good lesson. Although I employ a variety of ways to use my time with students, the Workshop Model is my personal go-to (what's yours?). Typically, my mini-lesson lasts for 12 or so minutes and I use that time to introduce  the concept or topic for the day.  So, each day, at the end of my mini lesson, I use this technique. I throw up a quick questions assessing whether they were paying attention and understood what I went over in the mini-lesson and I A) Stop the lesson B) askt hem to write an answer in one sentence, then make them C) share that answer with people around them (for me, this means people in their group). When there is an AP in the room, I'll grab a clipboard or something and look like I'm keeping a detailed record (I'm not. I just look that way), but most times, I'm just eaves dropping on the kid who I wasn't quite sure about (you know, that one who was talking or sleeping or just staring out into space during the mini-lesson). Just enough to make sure they get it. If they don't, I'll intervene. If they do (and they usually do. This isn't high stakes. It's school), I'll grab my coffee and enjoy my little 3-5 minute break.
Best of all? It's got one of those wonderful, best selling little reformy names on it to make it look like something the reformy P may actually like. You can just hear it roll off your tongue, can't you? Stop Jot Share.

Problem solved.

It's actually a pretty effective technique you can use in any part of your lesson. You can read more about it here. 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Teachers in NYC Now Make More Money Than Teachers in the Suburbs

A few years ago, a friend got sick and tired of the commute into her Brooklyn school from Long Island. She found work as a teacher in one of the districts out here and has been there ever since.

You would think that she makes more money out in this fancy Long Island school district. But when I  once teased her about it, she was quick to correct me. Her NYC job was paying $89,000 at the time she had left. Her new district would honor only some of her time. She started at around $62,000.

To her surprise, the $62,000 wasn't the only hit she took. She now pays 6.5% of each check toward her healthcare. Her plan, as she describes is, isn't quite as good as GHI but is ok for her and her daughter. At the time of her interview, she was told that she would pay 6.5% of the healthcare cost. But my friend is very meticulous and she examined each of her first six paychecks from this district. and she learned that she was actually paying 6.5% of every paycheck. This brought her annual salary down toward $57,000 after healthcare (whereas she had been earning $89,000).

It is still a good trade for her. Some folks just can't take the commute from the burbs and the idea of living and working out there, as a teacher, was too good to pass up.

I had a conversation with another friend -a 32 year veteran teacher in one of the higher paying suburban districts out on the Long Island. His pay is $137,000 before his coaching salary. He also pays 6.5% of his overall salary for his healthcare. This brings his pay down to $135,000 (healthcare comes off of his base salary, not his differential). He makes more if his teams goes to the playoffs.

(many suburban school districts do not offer "per session". Instead, their BoE approves a position for jobs like a coach in their budget and allocates a differential to pay the entire position.  His salary is $144,000 with his differential.

You hear, virtually all the time, how suburban districts pay more money than NYC districts. But do they, really? In many instances, city teachers actually make more than teachers in the suburbs. We also work less than suburban teachers do and, in many cases, our school buildings are much more modern.

That old trope from our parents' generation of Ronald Reagan and Huey Lewis is just not accurate.  If you take a careful look at the overall and pay, and carefully define the term "compensation", then compare the city to the suburban districts, the facts may actually surprise you.

(Disclaimer: Everyone likes to point to "the rich" districts, as though that is the only type of district in the Suburbs. That's just not true. For this post, I'm working off of direct knowledge of two middle of the road districts from my county, Suffolk. But, once you disregard the wildly overpriced rich districts, this is the accurate picture). 

Let's look at my second friend and compare his overall compensation with a teacher at top salary in NYC.   NYC teachers top pay is currently 124,909 (128,862 in 2021).  So, off the bat, it seems this suburban teacher is making more -$15,138 more to be precise.

But when you factor in the 6.5% he pays in healthcare, his actual salary is just 128,000. That's how much his healthcare affects his pay. The difference between he and a top earning teacher in NYCDoE district is now just $7,000.

We have to take a look at how our benefits affect our pay as well. If you use any of the Emblem plans, you pay just a small copay with every visit. Nothing is deducted from our paycheck. The City of New York pays 100% our monthly contributions for us. This is another part of our deferred compensation. We are not paid the money in cash each week, but we enjoy the benefit as part of our compensation package. When I was a kid, folks used to call these fringe benefits -benefits that come along with the job but aren't pat of the actual salary.  There is a way to determine how much our deferred compensation for medical care really is. The amount comes each year  along with our W2. Another statement, one that indicates how much was paid on our behalf through the UFT Welfare fund, comes in the mail. For me, this total amount was $35,000 last year. That is a whopping sum of money. This is what the City of New York reported to the IRS so it is as accurate a number as we are ever going to have.

And when you factor this deferred compensation for medical coverage, the top earning teacher's actual pay last year for a New York City teacher was really $156,862.  Once you factor in this medical cost, the total compensation package for a top earning teacher is now more than my friend's by about $28,000 per year.

It gets better during retirement. Retirees in many districts must continue paying into their healthcare systems. Not so in our case. One of the best factors of choosing to teach in New York City is that, once we're vested, our medical coverage is provided.

Now when we retire, my friend and I will still not make the same percentage of our salary. In both cases, our Tier IV pensions will be 60% of the average of our three highest earning years after 30 years of service, For him, this amount will be higher. If his team does not make the playoffs, and he receives no other raises, his 60% will be based off of his pay and differential; a total of $141,000. That's $84,000 per year. Not too bad! A top NYC teacher would expect to receive just $73,000 per year. That's an $11,000 difference (no other penalties or beneficiaries are being addressed here. Let's just assume we both take the most amount of pension).

Yet teachers in the city of two other sources of retirement that teachers in the suburbs do not. The first is the Annuity Savings Accumulation Fund, or ASAF. If you haven't heard about this annuity, then head over to Chaz' School Daze (who writes extensively about our retirement benefits) and read up on it. It's a small annuity the city pays into on our behalf:

The ASAF is created for each teacher that has completed step 8b of the salary scale.  Every year the DOE gives $400 to the teacher's ASAF and the City chips in by crediting the total account balance with an annual interest rate of 5%.

Chaz writes that, at retirement, many folks can expect to take between $1,300 and $2,000 more per year in retirement. So the $73,000 that a city teacher make then becomes $74,3000.

At this point, we have to talk about the difference in annuities. Our annuity (TDA or 403B savings account) is money that we save and is paid to us in addition to our pension. We pay taxes on this money only when we withdraw at retirement. All districts, including the city, offer an annuity. But our annuity is run by actuaries who work for the fund and the suburban district annuities are run by for-profit banks. The result? I benefit from an amazing 7% compounded interest contribution year annually (deposited every month). When retirement happens, a city teacher can ("and should") withdraw only the interest of his or her annuity. Every other district in the state of New York is not eligible for this and, in most cases, withdraw their actual balance to help compensate. My retirement package will be closer -a lot closer- to that magic 100% amount.

So when you factor super low cost medical coverage, and two annuities (each of which pays more than the suburbs) you see that the $11,000 extra my buddy makes isn't exactly worth it.

You can debate me if you want. But the pay is close. The buildings are new. The retirement outlook is better. It's clear to me we make more money that a typical teacher in the suburbs.