Friday, July 3, 2020

That Buyout? Probably Not Gonna Happen

In my last few posts I wrote about a possible piece of legislation that may, actually, make it through the legislature to offer an early retirement incentive for teachers. These buyout ideas are always long shots, but this bill had multiple co sponsors, was introduced in both houses on the same day and had other indications buried in the wording that made it look like a real contender to be signed by the governor.

That was all before New York City finalized and ratified its budget. 

The budget -which was rumored to carry deep cuts to schools- fixed its eyes on the NYPD and on central administration for much of the cuts to education. The only way schools were directly hit were that FSF remained flat instead of growing with inflation and the rise in teachers salaries. That hurts, there is little doubt. But the majority of cuts came from non school based services.

And the mayor indicated he would seek cuts of only $1 Billion from city employees and would work with unions in order to do so. That's steep/ But it is not so Earth shattering as to require a special law allowing employees to retire early. The final analysis of the budget seems to point to a reality that things are bad right now, but the city isn't facing the dire straights many thought it would be facing back in late May.

There are those who say these cuts will be on their way if the HEROES Act isn't passed and if it doesn't offer serious help to New York State's budget. Because of this, so the thinking goes, a buyout may well be on the way anyway. Those folks are half right. We're 1975 level trouble if that bill doesn't provide relief to the state. But, since all indications currently point to that bill making it through the Senate sometime after July 20 (when Congress reconvenes) and including relief for states. So it doesn't look like doomsday is going to happen.

On top of that, the bill I noticed itself provides for a brief 30 day window for employees to file for early retirement According to that bill, that window would open on July 30 and close in August. If that window were to be made, the bill would have to be further along than it is. Checking in A10595, it is still in the Governmental Employees Committee in the Assembly. Its partner, S8599, is still in the Rules Committee in the Senate, The bills were both introduced on June 5th. They haven't' moved out of their committee and have not even begun to be scored in any meaningful way and tomorrow is July 4th. This doesn't leave the kind of time one would think for something to go through the processes and be passed and signed then prepared for employees.

There are folks who may think 'well, they could just change that date. Bills are made from words and words can be edited at any time' and, those folks are right. That could all happen.

It's just that it doesn't look like it will. As bad as it had been, I would like to think government hasn't gotten so bad that they would force a bill like that through with almost no time for people to put in their papers. There would be an outcry from every public employee in the state if not enough notice was provided.

So, the bottom line? It just doesn't look like it's going to happen.

There is still a possibility that all employees may lose 1-2 percent percent of pay through some type of  furlough scheme. A billion dollars in savings (which is what the mayor announced he would be seeking from public employees) from among the roughly 305,700 city employees is about $3,200 per person. For a top earning teacher, that is roughly 2.5% of annual pay. So furloughs, along with some other cost saving measures, may be what plugs the budget hole that is left. Not (probably) a buyout. 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Haven't We Been Through Enough?

In my last post, I wrote how the early retirement incentive being debated in Albany. In short, the incentive would allow almost any public employee in the state to retire by the end of the summer if they have 25 years of service and are 55 years old. Anyone who qualifies would get up to a three year pension credit if the choose to retire early.

This is means that almost any public employee in New York who is 55 years old or older and has 25 years in will be able to retire with 28 years.  I ended the post writing that it didn't seem like. abad deal.

And it really isn't for most public employees. Typically, the retirement rules require 30 years of service and the bills currently before the Senate and the Assembly would shave five years off of that. That's a very good deal for most public employees.

It's a great deal for NYC Sanitation workers. A great deal for NYC Custodians. An amazing deal for  DC 37 members. It's just a great deal all around. 

It happens to be a terrible deal for one type of public employee: The New York City School Teacher. Why? Because an unusually small amount of city school teachers will qualify.

Many city school teachers, who would otherwise have qualified for the package, had already opted into another 25/55 retirement plan all the way back in 2008. That plan was a trade; the teacher union agreed to a merit pay scheme by the Bloomberg administration and, in exchange, a special 55/25 early retirement incentive was offered to all city teachers. Anyone who wanted could opt in, pay a small amount from each check (1/85%) and, by the time the reached their 25/55 threshold, could retire. Teachers have been reaching their 25/55 threshold, and have been retiring under the plan ever since. (In 2019, around 8,500 city teachers retired. Many under this plan (see page 139)).

The 2008 deal wasn't made to all public employees. It was only offered to school teachers of New York City. 

Gov. Eliot Spitzer is poised to approve a deal that would sweeten retirement incentives for New York City teachers, a move that their union and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg support but that budget watchdog groups say is financially risky.
Because Mr. Bloomberg has agreed to the measure, which would allow teachers to retire five years earlier than they can now and still receive full pension benefits, Mr. Spitzer is likely to sign it, according to an administration official who did not want to be identified because no final determination had been made.

And because of this, city school teachers will benefit least from the incentive that is currently being debated in Albany (see my last post here for a link to the bills in both houses of the legislature). 

So when I said 'not a bad deal', I was wrong. This is a pretty bad deal for New York City teachers.

Haven't we been through enough? The Post -The NY Post- has even caught on to how bad city teachers have been hurt over the past few months, noting that teachers haven't even been informed of how many of us were exposed to COVID back in March. City teachers had to petition to even have our schools closed in the middle of the month and almost everyone I know does not trust in the processes of the city school system to adhere to CDC guidelines next Fall. Now they face a retirement incentive that will incentivize precisely (or very very close) to no one who teaches in New York City.

Friday, June 26, 2020

--->Early Retirement Bills Are Now Taking Shape in Albany<--

Last post, I wrote about the possibility of a buyout so teachers could retire early. These buyout plans are now taking shape in Albany, with one particular plan looking like it has lots of support from both houses.

The Assembly has had bills around for months, some since last year. Many of these had been recently dusted off due to the crisis but, up until recently, the Senate had only one -a paltry looking bill that did nothing for Tier II employees.

These days, nothing that we see on the New York Senate or Assembly website are very trustworthy. Albany has become very opaque and the governor's achievement of emergency powers has accelerated this "behind closed doors" trend. So it is important understand that, due the extreme secrecy in Albany, none of these bills may amount to a hill or beans (which I think is nuts and should anger everyone, but ..  I digress).

Having said that, the recent addition of new bills has all the markings of a serious piece of legislation. In the Assembly, the bill is A10595. It's matching bill in the Senate is S8599 . The Assembly version has been re-published on the Senate website here. The bill as it appears in both houses was introduced on the same day (June 5) and have multiple cosponsors. (In the legislative world, these are significant markers that bill has some juice to it).

The bill offers an Early Retirement Incentive to almost every public employee in the state (as long as the employer chooses to offer it) who is ... 55 years of age or older and (that's *and* everybody. Not *or) has 25 years of service in the retirement system.

For those folks .. folks who make the 55/25 threshold, the state would offer up to three years of pension credit (1/12 of credit for every year served up to three years).

So, if you make the threshold .. if you're 55 and have 25 years in, you may be able to retire with no penalty and with 28 of service in. This is a no brainer for some people who fit the bill.

I said almost. Looks to me like employees of CUNY are explicitly exempt. Take a look for yourself.

3 years credit

Not a bad deal.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Teacher Buyout! ... ?

Buckle up.

Cuomo's departure from his daily COVID briefings allows him and the state's top leaders to focus on the other pressing issues of government. Those issues include long overdue social justice, finding a way to grow the economy after the COVID collapse and finding ways to plug to the $61 Billion dollar hole in the state budget. The governor still has huge emergency powers at his disposal and will probably decide each and every item associated with these challenges himself (and he'll be doing it behind closed doors and away from the press).

One such item that must be decided? A buyout: An Early Retirement Incentive for NYS, and in particular, NYC  teachers. The UFT president indicated that every single public employees union in New York City has asked for an early retirement incentive this year in order to help balance the New York budget and avoid any layoffs (retirement shifts a teacher's salary burden from the budget to the pension system, thus alleviating the burden on the budget). Early retirement is absolutely not a guarantee and almost any talk about it would be a little distracting. But a quick look back into history, just to review how both of those incentives looked, is definitely worth a. little time.

(I used the NY Times website to look these up. You may need to be logged in to view these links).

Two Buyouts

There were two early retirement incentives during the 1990s. One was offered in 1991 and another in 1995. These could serve as pretty good points of reference because both came as a result of enormous city and state governments budget deficits similar to what the city and state are facing today.


In 1991, an early retirement incentive was offered to any teacher who was 55 years old *or* had 30 years of experience. Those folks (and only those folks) were able to get three years of retirement credit added to their pension. Teachers had just 4 weeks -between June 5th to July 5th-  to decide to retire by September. Here's what the Times wrote about it back then:

"Under the retirement plan, teachers who are at least 55 years old or have at least 30 years of service who choose to retire by July 5 can have a maximum of three extra years of service added to their pensions.
... A 55-year-old elementary school teacher who worked for 25 years would, upon retirement, normally get 50 percent of her last year's salary plus 1.7 percent more for each year of service beyond her 20th. Thus her pension would amount to 58.5 percent of her last year's salary...
With the incentive, the teacher would get credit for three more years at 1.7 percent a year -- a total of to 63.6 percent of her final year's salary."

That buyout eventually lead "... 4,200 teachers and 700 principals and supervisors ..." to retire early -about 8% of the teaching corps and just over 12% of the money used to pay teachers (because, don't forget, old teachers cost more to pay). It led to some teaching vacancies the following Fall.

But it's worth noting that this also led to an increase in the number of school leaders who were women and who were persons of color and, to that end, represented a very real turning point in the process of who led city schools. Eventually, the city did hire roughly 2000 new teachers for the Fall and that helped to create a younger teaching corps for the city. (A younger teaching corps in our time of 2020 would almost certainly guarantee the creation of a more diverse teaching corps; more folks who are persons of color and less folks who are white). 

The 1995 buyout was open to anyone who was over 50 and had at least 10 years of experience

"Under the plan, retirees get an extra month of service credit for each year they have worked, up to a maximum of three years. A teacher who had worked for 24 years could take the incentive and walk away with two extra years of credit toward the pension [retiring with 26 years of service toward their pension]. So far, those who have are taking early retirement are typically 55 or older, make about $60,000 and have at least 20 years of experience, board officials said."
While open to anyone over 50, the buyout was really geared toward anyone who was older than 55 and had at least 25 years in the system. It just didn't make much sense for very many others to take advantage of. The 1995 buyout agreement came along with a guarantee of no layoffs for three years and it's estimated that around 3,200 teachers took it. We have a much younger teaching corps in 2020. It would be interesting to see if something like this would work.

There are other issues to think about as well. Both incentives came during a budget climate that left both city schools and the teacher union with deep scars that lasted for more almost a decade.

Also; both buyouts saw teachers who did not qualify for the incentive return to a very difficult environment in schools. With no budget money beyond basic salaries and very little opportunities for the children they teach beyond regular classes (which, themselves, were badly underfunded), the following school years held little prospect for anything beyond the bare minimum of educating. I don't suffer bare minimum very well and many teachers who work well into the night don't either.

In both cases, the teachers who were left also faced the very real possibility of painful layoffs. In order to avoid layoffs in 1991, teachers voted to take a pay cut of 1.5% of their salaries, in the form of  a loan, to help the system balance its budget. That money was to be paid back in later years. In 1995, the UFT negotiated a no layoff agreement for three years, but then negotiated a contract for 0% wage increases and faced a near insurrection from among their members as a result. All that for no layoffs (and, in 1991, for the guarantee that the buyout would be supported by the head of the NYC school system).

And there was other fallout. In 1995 (a year that was, surely, a mess for city schools), the UFT was left with a large portion of angry teachers who, not qualifying for the buyout offer, became more active within the union. Many of those teachers organized a "vote no" campaign against that 0% contract -and won. At the end of the day, the budget woes caused the largest (by number) and longest (by years) anti-leadership movement in the teacher union's history. That movement has still not settled down to this day. That's how deep the damage was in 1995.

So, if a buyout is offered in 2020 -and it may not be offered at all- it may resemble either of these incentives. Would either of these work for you? Neither of them work for me.

If you were you around during the 1991 or 1995 incentives and feel like I missed something, drop a comment and let me know. I'll update in the main section.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Schirtzer: Our North Is Democracy

Engraved Compass - You Are My True North - Gpb26012 - PetLoveGift
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Every week, I keep up on the UFT through Arthur's blog. He posts his Executive Board notes. on Mondays. This week, something caught my eye. Teacher unionists and friend of the ol' doenuts blog, Mike Schirtzer, who has been working fairly closely with the people in the union lately, rose to urge the UFT to stay democratic.

Schirtzer--Understand reasons for motion, but we're in uncharted waters. We need to set compass north, proceed with caution. Our north is democracy. Thankful for UFT,. Let's not sacrifice what we do. Points of order can be messy and time-consuming, but we will get to the other side stronger. Best to do is start a process with emails and a clearing house. Even with the struggles facing us, we have to keep democracy in place.

This caught me as kind of odd. So I called Mike. He didn't pick up but I called around some other friends and, as it turns out, the union had put some changes into the processes of how they meet, speak, debate and vote on some of their public resos. The crisis has been tough on getting those type of things done.

The changes are detailed and, frankly, boring, but are related to changing from Robert's Rules of Order to something that may work better with the tech that is at people's disposal. Apparently, the tech can't support things like adding amendments or speakers for or against so the UFT had to make some changes.

This didn't rub fans of democracy very well (I actually can't blame them either) Challenging times are challenging exactly because doing things the right way s exceedingly difficult --during challenging times. Schirtzer's suggestion of finding other ways to set up a process of handling amendments and the like reflected a commitment to Democracy that he must have felt needed to be pointed out.

From what I heard, Schirtzer (who, I hear, was granted the floor by the Staff VP! pretty impressive stuff right there) basically said "Democracy is who we are. I'm here  on EB because of who we are and we need to find ways to remain ourselves". That took guts! And Schirtzer has plenty of those.

"We're in uncharted waters. Let's keep our compasses facing true north. Our North is Democracy". That needs to be said a lot more. It's comforting to know that one of the only places I have seen it said is over at the UFT.

Way to go, Schirtzer.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

For Chaz

One week ago, he was writing about how the DoE needed to reduce administrative costs, instead of school budgets.

Six years ago, he took the time to graciously endorse endorse me for a city-wide elected position with the union.

And over ten years ago, after being handed ridiculous accusations by a principal and spending far too long in the rubber room, he started to write one of the most widely-read EDU blogs in the city.

A villain to some, but an outright hero to many, Chaz blazed a trail for finding, then calling out malfeasance anywhere he could in the DoE. And, despite many retaliations, and an almost permanent assignment to the ATR (teachers' version of "traffic duty) his voice was a source of consistency that spoke clearly and did not mince words:  The shit-show that occurs in city schools is not the fault of teachers but the result of a system plagued by largess and terrible leaders who had no business leading places where children could learn.

You didn't have to know Chaz to be inspired by his acts. The positions he took on his blog had the effect of making almost any reader brave enough to stand and to articulate that the narrative being pushed -that all of the failures of children since the turn of the century were because of teachers- was complete bullshit. His writing made you feel brave enough to say in any arena.

Outspoken from the start, and forthright to his core, the blogger Chaz never backed away from asserting what he felt was right.

The EDU bloggers in New York City are a very small community of educators. We're all classroom teachers. not one of us is a guidance counselor or a school admin or any one of those fancy programmers. We've all spent multiple decades actually teaching. And, because we all work so hard, we see how small of a voice the actual teachers in this system have. We all approach that voice in different ways. Arthur does it with pure intelligence. Norm does it by documenting, over four decades, the comings and goings of the DoE's teacher union. Patrick, my favorite, uses a command of the language of such a high caliber that I have never seen before. I try to use Horatian Satire. Chaz' style of blogging was to call it all out. Chaz was the guy who would find a terrible caricature of whichever depart of ed figure or policy he was redressing and call it out for what it was. It didn't matter to him if he had said that the principal selection process was terrible. If he found an example of a terrible principal (and there were many) Chaz would remind you.

I understand he was an outspoken man, one who had the tenacity to stand by his convictions no matter the professional cost. I was glad to learn that he had retired and had mastered the complexities of the retirement system in the same manner he had mastered the complexities of the DoE. I was shocked to read today that he had passed. The selfish loss I feel as a blogger is far outweighed by the loss that I know all teachers have just experienced. We are just at the moment where we (teachers) really needed a voice like his -calling out BS whenever he saw it and never apologizing for it.

And in between those two gravities is a man, himself with a family and a life to be concerned with,  who helped teachers with his strong and far reaching voice for well over a decade.

The essayist Thomas Lynch once wrote, "The facts of life and death remain the same. We live and die, we love and grieve, we breed and disappear. And between those existential gravities, we search for meaning, save our memories, leave a record for those who will remember us.”

Eric "Chaz" Chasenoff left quite a record and many of us will remember him because of it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

The Passing Of Chaz 1951-2020 Age 69

I am the son of Chaz and like to inform you that he passed away this afternoon from the COVID virus. My father passed in peace beside his loved ones. We are hoping to have a memorial service for him once we are able to, but for now we are going to have a small private family funeral. Thank you all for reading his blog, following him all these years, and the support you gave him. Thank you.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Cuomo Freeze Pay for all City Employees. Nothing Left To Stop de Blasio From Doing the Same

Over and over again during this crisis, the most important news has broken in the middle of the night after everyone has stopped paying attention.

First was the decision to close schools (made on the evening of Saturday 3/14). Just yesterday was the decision that all high school students who ever passed a course and failed the regents -ever- will be given regents credit as long as they "were going to" take the regents in June.

And now, Andrew Cuomo has frozen the pay of most all employees paid by the state (including employees from the powerful Law Enforcement lobby, which is rare. They carry a lot of weight in Albany)

... two major unions say they were informed of the pay deferral late Wednesday and said they were told it will impact other unions as well. They were told the deferral will be at least 90 days, though there is no guaranteed end date.
They were expecting a 2% raise for many of their members by the end of the month. The largest public-employee union, the Civil Service Employees Association, criticized the decision.

At least the unions themselves had a sharp elbowed response for the press

“It’s inexcusable to require our workers to literally face death to ensure the state keeps running and then turn around and deny those very workers their much-deserved raise in this time of crisis,” said CSEA president Mary Sullivan.

Last week, de Blasio took -not froze, but took- the remaining budgets of all NYC schools. For a great many 'Title I" schools this was over 40% of their annual budget. For 75% or higher "Title I" schools, this was closer to 45% or 50% of their total annual budget (the 'mid yea adjustment for Title I schools is huge). Insiders from the DOE tell me they were preparing for this for a week or two before it happened and were surprised that it never registered as anything more than a blip in the press. They, of course, blamed the union.

And this has been constant from the  non union managerial class of the city for almost 2 weeks now. The unions -with their work rules and their required pay agreements- are the ones making it very hard for the city to do its business during these trying times. That's not a quote. It's just the trope that I am hearing repeated over and over again in text messages and through social media.

NYS Teachers' pay raise (our first real raise in several years) was scheduled to go into effect next month. I can't recall how many public employee unions there are in the city, but I imagine they were due for scheduled salary increases as well over the course of this and next fiscal year. It's a good bet to rethink whether that is going to happen.

There is no law on the books to stop de Blasio from freezing pay. He has already demonstrated that he can alter a union contract and, in fact, has done so when he "decided" to give UFT members four days of CAR time in exchange for working four holidays without discussion.  There is no law on the books to to stop him from freezing pay either.

And with the terrible calamity unfolding -of what is clearly the biggest cataclysm since World War II- right here in the Big Apple, UFT members would be well served to not consider the context and not the act when it happens. In other words, don't complain. That's our money. Those are our raises. But this is one time this unionist believes it is much better to count our blessings rather than die on this hill. We should go back to get what's ours after this crisis subsides.

That's just my two cents. You're free to disagree with me. But I am much more interested in figuring out how to safely navigate a super market this weekend than I am in digging a foxhole about that raise (I can't believe I just write that ... strange times ...)

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The DoENut of the week: Stop Fighting This Battle. Your Weapon Is No Longer Approved

Once upon a time,  there was this general who was in command of the largest army in the land. 

Although enormous, and very powerful, the general feared criticism from anyone at all and he never truly bothered to train anyone in his army. Instead, he sent his officers take their battalions to the parade ground every day. And every day his officers would lead that army as they marched up and down the parade grounds. And that was their existence! They would march on rainy days and they would march on sunny days. They would march on hot days and on cold days. Whole years -whole decades- would go by and this army would know only marching from left to right.

Now this general had plenty of money. So when the troops' boots began to be worn, it was nothing to the general to just simply buy more. When their uniforms became tattered, the general would just simply order more uniforms. And when the troops began to complain that they, were not being used to their full potential (this was an army, after all, that had never actually been asked to do anything but march in unison!), the general became frustrated and used his money to hire more officers. 

These officers were used to "supervise" the troops such that, when any one soldier raised any concern at all, the officer would simply swoop in to "supervise" the soldier into submission. And that's how that army ran.

Before long, the general was employing twelve officers for every soldier. And he treated those officers very well! No matter how incompetent or harmful an officer would be to a troop or to the principles of army life, rare was the occasion when the general would actually fire one of his beloved officers. 

"Anything to get those god forsaken' troops to march up and down that parade ground the general once said. And march up and down the parade ground they did. 

One day, a terrible event occurred. Suddenly that army, which had never been asked to do anything but march in the correct order of steps, was pushed into battle. Mortified at the realization that his splendid army had never really learned how to use their weapons, the general called on his beloved officers to provide training for them. 

He gave them four days.

And in that four days that ol' army showed what it was made of and learned how to use all of the weapons that the general had given them.

And, although he gave them only three, the army trained with all of its focus and energy to learn how to use these tools. And those tools were crazy! The "Elektrisches Notenbuch", effective only in keeping the enemy (laziness) at bay, the troublesome "", known for its motto "I'm Feeling Lucky" but infamous for only being a band aid and a brand new weapon, the "Fàngdà" designed to bring troops close with one another in the theatre of battle -so close, in fact, that the troops themselves felt uncomfortable using it.

But they were an army and this was a war and these troops were ready -completely ready- to do their part. They t had a mission. They had four day to prepare and they were going to be ready!

And then just twelve days into the war, the general told them to stop using the Fàngdà. There was no explanation of words but the soldiers had learned that the weapon was known for flashing when the soldier least expected it. War or no war, that general wasn't going to get sued for flashing. So one night, late on a Friday, the general sent word: The Fàngdà was no longer to be used.

Starting? Well, right now of course! This is how the general's army rolled!

Instead, the army was  to use a new weapon, one that was not identified and in which no one was trained. And this time, the army had just two days to figure it out -without training and without assistance, because all of the general's beloved officers had gone home.

Four Days in April

Folks who are my age know that this teacher/blogger right here has, on and off, been active in defense of children and of their teachers for more than ten years now.

I have written about teachers being persecuted for expressing their views.

I have written about teachers being fired for doing things like using mouthwash.

I written about teachers being rolled into an overflowing rubber room because they tried to engage a quiet student.

I named this blog DoEnuts for a reason. That reason is rooted in how the city treats its teachers when it really matters; when it really counts.

In a word; it's nuts.

And I have written, rather respectfully, about the harm and damage the previous mayor had caused teachers and students.

But I have never once written, nor did I thought I would ever have to write, about teachers who were sent to their deaths, in the pursuit of their duties -as teachers-  because of a decision made by a mayor of the City of New York.


As I write this, I have counted two of our colleagues who were killed by this COVID19 disaster. My friend Emily James informs me that this number is incorrect. She say five is more accurate. I understand that one of these teachers, in the same borough I teach, was very  popular and was widely loved by his students. His death must leave a great many children and parents feeling a deep loss.

Yet this loss was never once mentioned by our mayor. And this silence has spoken volumes about how much his city cares about teachers.

To be clear, this teacher from Queens did not catch the virus in a supermarket or at a playground in late February or in his own bathroom. These notions are ridiculous. This colleague, and those like him, became sick after being ordered to report to work -ordered to report to a school during a time when more than ten people were not allowed to not gather park. He was ordered along with 1.4 million other human beings who were told to go to school. And he reported.

How many students across New York City had transmitted the disease by then?

To how many adults was that disease transmitted by then?

We will never know.

And the reason we will never know is because the governments of New York will never bother to ask these questions. And the government in Washington is too fucked to address them. These amazing Health Care workers -who either live or have come to New York to help the sick- are the true heroes in this moment of our history. Because of them, and their efforts and the true cost they are paying, I have held off on expressing my anger about the peril that I and, and the 300,000 other city employees had been placed in during those cold wintery days of early March.

After all, who gives a damn about 76,000 city teachers who dutifully reported to work, and perhaps got sick, because an elected official had invoked all of his powers to make sure they reported? And who cares if this happened because the same mayor kept using those powers until he was -finally- relieved of them by way of  petition?

No one. That's who. No one cares about something like that during a time like this.

No one except those teachers and their families and their colleagues. That's who.

Look, calling out a man for sending teachers to their grave is not wrong. And sending teachers into an environment where they could become sick and die will never ever be right. And that's not satire; that's just the plain truth of it.

Regular readers here know that I carry three plaques on my wall for teaching. One is as a runner up in Big Apple Teacher awards (yep. Made it to the final "final" round). Another, the Cohen Award, is granted only by teachers of my license area to others who they deem worthy (yay!). My first plaque, however (and the one I'm most proud of), is for bringing the principles of my religion into the daily practices of my teaching. Not my actual religion, mind you. But the principles behind that religion. Among those principles are things like acceptance. But also hope, compassion, mutual struggle. Those types of things. It was granted to me after the recommendation of a good friend and fellow blogger over at the Raging Horse Blog).

And part of the principles of my faith is understanding events through a greater context. After all, context matters. Context counts. Context works in helping us understand. Context clarifies and cuts through the malaise to help capture the true substance of an act or an event. Context is the crucial component in truly understanding. Without it, we are lost. And with it, we all understand.

So I ask you: What is the true context of this moment in history for NYC teachers?


I would like to thank New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for granting me four whole days in my Cumulative Absence Reserve (CAR) in exchange for working during the most important  days of the year in my faith. My faith has held me together during this crisis. I suppose I am glad that I received a few days off in exchange for being close to that faith. So, thank you.

I'll be working on those days, Mr. Mayor. And I will bring with me the responsibilities associated with my calling to public service as I do.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Mulgrew: We WILL Be Compensated (in some way) For "Working" During Spring Break

I dialed into a UFT Town Hall call today. I'm actually still on the call now but wanted to blog this first: 

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said there will be a compensation package of some sort for working through Spring Break. This may not mean money (it could be days or pension time or take some other shape or form) but we will, of course, be compensated.  Mulgrew said he brought this up with the powers that be and that the powers at acknowledged, absolutely. that that "conversation has to take place at some point". So, that 2% (ish) that we'd be losing for teaching Spring Break will happens. 

This leaves only one question: Who's up for doing their part to support during this time? 

Me. I'm up for it. Are you?

Of course you are ;) ... 

A few other highlights from the first few minutes of the call: 

Anyone who takes a religious day during this time, won't be charged for a sub and go move beyond the three days in needs be. 

I joined during the nurse's report. I missed her name and hospital. I broke down when she said "we had to get a truck because our morgue was not built for this many bodies". That really brought it home for me. I'm going to donate 2% of my annual pay to the UFT Disaster Relief Fund, which helps among others, the Health Care Providers who are grinding this out in the hospitals. You should too. 

We're in for years ... years .. worth of terrible budgets. For some of us, this will last for the rest of our careers. Just be ready for it. 

Randi articulated best: "The economy just stopped". That really hit home. 

The budget is flat from last year. This is really good!! The state is looking for a $5 billion reduction in their spending but, somehow, education has been able to hold the same amount as last year. That's no reduction in EDU spending. That's really good news. 

Mulgrew also made clear: The UFT will be fighting to "hold schools harmless" and will be pushing to make sure those cuts come from the DoE central. That's good news, too. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

(Thanos Snap) We Just Lost Spring Break and 2% of Our Annual Pay

Ladies and Gentleman:

The fight to maintain our Spring Break is over.

We lost.

Word came down through the UFT this evening: The rumors are true. We are being compelled to work through Spring Break.  And it's not the DoE or Trump who is making us. It is everybody's hero, Andrew Cuomo. He and he alone has done this.

I once wrote that Andrew Cuomo was proof of why teachers need a strong union to protect them. And while, I have to admit I have been impressed with the job Cuomo's has done as much as anyone, the simple truth is once a Cuomo, always a Cuomo. This decision means an effective reduction of 2% in our for this year. He just erased our raises.

And I realize he is a man on a mission. And I understand that mission is my mission. But having us teach through that week as we support parents and students through this is free labor. No one else in society right now is being asked to perform free labor.

And, I have to be honest, I don't mind doing my small part here.  I know! I know! I realize it sounds corny and I know my audience here! But bare with me here ....

...  I just don't feel like I mind doing my part to help all of the parents and children I teach through this....

So if that means I teach (or virtual teach or whatever they call this) during this break, then OK. I'll roll with it. I've dealt with/lived through Giuliani and Bloomberg and Klein and the meltdown and more asinine building administrators than I can possibly count. . I'll deal with this too. I'll work through that break (it's actually only 4/13 - 4/17. We still have April 8th and April 9th off). And I'll represent my school my city and my profession well.
But that five days is still worth 2% of my annual pay.  Yours too. That contract is still property. Yours too. And Andrew "Thanos" Cuomo is going to have to work that 2% out somewhere down the line when this crisis has ended. No other profession in the United States would simply sit by and allow 2% of yearly salary to be taken from us by one man. And I want that 2% pay.

Quick Post Script

I have to add ...  if his father had done this to me this, I would not have minded at all! In fact, I may have been fine with it!! When I once wrote (about his father) that" I was a poor twelve year old boy who had been left behind ... when Mario Cuomo spoke at the 1984 Democratic National Convention" What I meant to convey was that that guy inspired me!

This one? meh. Andrew Cuomo is a bully. But he has a point. I want my 2% but readers of this blog know that I grew up a poor kid who now gets to teach Title I children (who are amazing) and I just don't want to leave them behind now. And so  Mr. Cuomo ... I'm in.

But you're holding that paper, sir.

Monday, March 30, 2020

In Surprise Move, the DoE Freezes School Budgets

Multiple folks have been touching base with me today that school based spending on books. equipment, purchase orders and most overtime has been frozen for the year by the NYCDoE. This is obviously in response to the budget calamity that the COVID19 crisis is brining on. But it is also an omen of terrible pain to come. 

Schools had just received their mid-year adjustments in the final days of January. In some cases, this is almost 50% of their overall school budgets.

That's between 30% and 50% of school budgets that were simply frozen.

It is important to watch that money.

Many things can happen with it. Typically, monies that schools do not spend are carried over until the next next. Up until at least 2015 (the last year I was full time blogging and keeping up with my contacts) this carry over money was not counted in the following year's budget. If the carryover rule is still in effect for this, and the DoE had intended to force schools to save their funds for next year, the they should be applauded.

But never forget, this is the same school system that once required that every school use one particular form, and then charged schools to purchase the forms from their facilities.

And in the Department of Education of New York,  it's Tweed first and students second.

This is why it is important to watch that money. If it is held in school budgets in order to ease the pain for next year, then freezing the budgets were a good thing. But if it is going to be taken out of schools accounts and go right back to "central" to help pay for the staff at "central", then the act borders on criminal. I would not be surprised at all if the DoE took this money from schools and then also performed those drastic cuts that Cuomo has warned about.

And none of this is being discussed right now in NYC. If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there here it ...

That money could have been used to purchase software or hardware to make is easy on students. Instead, without warning or public announcement, the DoE froze it.

Fighting a war doesn't mean you tie the hands of your army and steal from residents you should be serving.

Meanwhile, NYSUT is already beginning to fight back against the obvious trouble that is coming down the pike. This email was just sent out to their political members last night (Thanks to the Solidarity member who shared this).

The.UFT.Needs.To.Begin.This.Work.As.Well. Now.Before it may be too late.

Urgent Call to Action:

As you may know, the governor recently announced that school districts should be prepared to make cuts to their budgets to account for lost revenue from the state.  If nothing else, this pandemic has highlighted the vital role that our schools play in our communities.  Now, more than ever, it is important that we prevent these dramatic cuts!  Furthermore, there is simply no need to make cuts.  The passage of the federal stimulus package infused 2 billion dollars to our state for public education stabilization!
We need your help to make sure legislators stand up in conference to prevent these cuts and save the future of our children’s education!  Make sure you call the Senators and Assemblymembers from your region.  You can find a link to call them along with a script here:
Additionally, last night NYSUT launched a television ad regarding this issue.  Please watch and share widely!  You can view the ad here:Thank you so much for your advocacy and commitment to our union!
Stay safe and stay healthy

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.