Saturday, February 27, 2016

Why Are Our Copays Going Up!!???

Just this month, I wrote three long (and dense) pieces describing the healthcare crisis that NYC Employees are facing. Feel free to read it. I ended the last piece by telling readers to:

"...expect the union and the city government to come up with a common sense solution. This solution would include
  • Minor payroll deductions from everyone's paychecks (say 2% of the total cost?)
  • An increase in co-pays (because what's the point if we can't all punish the sick and the elderly)
  • A further reduction in the actual amounts that the health insurance providers pay to health care providers. .."

Well, It looks like the first attempt to offset rising healthcare costs has happened. Last night, the UFT Welfare Fund sent members and email describing a significant rise in copays for any city employee seeking healthcare. I'm pasting those increases below this post.

But before you see them, please read these three important observations:

1. This is not necessarily the last increase in our healthcare costs. The city can still call for premiums to be deducted and Emblem can still follow the practice of paying providers so little that our doctors make the decision to turn around and bill us for the difference.  Those are still two very real possibilities that will also offset the rising costs. So make sure you're aware of that. (Deductibles are still possible but I just don't want to think about that)

2. These increases are a direct result of the city's decision to pay less into the Health Insurance Premium Stabilization Fund (HISP). Direct. The unions have allowed the city to pay $153 million less into this fund this fiscal year. That difference must be made up. It is being made up through the copay increases that are posted below. This is important: We, city employees who see doctors, are paying for the mayor's healthcare savings.

3. It doesn't have to be this way, but this effects the least amount of people. In order to make up the $153 million difference, premiums of roughly $25 per paycheck would have to be deducted from each of the city's 250,000 employees. As I wrote in the past, that -avoiding payroll deductions for GHI and HIP members- is the ultimate goal of both the city and the unions (and they all share that goal together).

(JTBC: I support small payroll deduction for all employees. We are union employees, after all. We should share the boom. We should share the burden as well. That's unionism. But from a political standpoint, this 'solution' effects the least amount of people. That's Realpolitik at work in the 21st century. The ones who need the care the most -the folks who visit the doctor- will shoulder the burden).

The chart below lists the GHI changes that will take effect in the coming months:

GHI – CBP BenefitsCurrent CopayNew Copay
The following chart shows the changes affecting HIP subscribers:

HIP BenefitsCurrent CopayNew Copay
HIP Preferred Network (new)No copayNo copay
HIP Non-Preferred PhysicianNo copay$10

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Secretive Teachers

A reformer's car broke down in front of a school after hours. He knocked on the door to ask for help and, sure enough, the school was filled with teachers preparing for the following day. Despite knowing who he was, they were more than happy to help. The shared with him their food, let him use their phones to call for a tow and made him feel comfortable and welcomed as he waited for it to arrive.

As he was leaving he heard a wonderful nose. "What was that??" he asked.

"We're sorry" replied the pedagogues. "We can't tell you because you're not a teacher".

Troubled by the response, yet grateful for all of the help he had received, the reformer climbed into the tow truck and went on his way to have his car repaired.

Many years later, the reformer was driving near the same school when his car broke down again. Confident he would receive help, he knocked on the school door. Once again, the teachers opened their hearts to him, sharing their food, allowing him to use their phone to call for a tow truck and making him feel comfortable and welcomed as he waited.

When the tow truck arrived, he heard the same wonderful noise that he remembered hearing years ago. "What was that??" he asked. "Please tell me!".

Once again, the educators replied "We're very sorry but we cannot tell you because you are not a teacher".

"No, no" he responded. "You can't do this to me again. I simply must know. Isn't there any way I can find out?"

"Well" replied one of the teachers. "Go to college for four years and successfully study psychology and pedagogy. Then pass a four hour test in Liberal Arts and Sciences, followed by another in an area of content specialty and finally a last demonstrating your expertise in understanding the many facets of teaching. When that's done be a probationary teacher for four years to learn the trade. Establish real relationships with the parents of each and every student you teach. Demonstrate commitment and loyalty to your school community, commitment and loyalty to the greater community that school serves and the commitment and loyalty to the profession of teaching. .Study the results of your students and your teaching practices. Improve each and every year and make sure you know how each and every one of your students learn best. Arrive early. Stay late and graciously accept unhelpful advice from people who don't really know the job. Be aware of the bad press from the newspapers and TV, suffer ignorant comments from friends, strangers and politicians alike about how you don't have a real job and should be working harder; all while maintaining a magnanimous, teacher-like demeanor.  Do these things while working on a second college degree and make sure you earn three-quarters of the pay that people with similar educational backgrounds have. Once all of that is done, examine this student's paper, then come back here and tell us just one thing: Why doesn't Dan like to learn? Answer this question correctly, and we will gladly show you this wonderful, blissful noise".

So off the reformer went back to college. As requested, he was educated in the background of human psychology and pedagogical techniques. He passed each of his state exams and struggled, but successfully worked, through his probationary teaching period. He earned a required Masters' Degree, suffered all of the benighted comments traditionally shared by people who aren't part of the profession and did so while carrying the name -teacher- with honor. He arrived early each day and stayed late each night.  He learned his students, perfected his craft and did all of this at 3/4 of the pay that his friends and peers earned. And, when he knew he was ready, he took out and examined the paper he had been given years before.

Elated that he would finally learn the true nature of this wonderful, blissful noise, he ran to the school, and burst through the doors looking for the teachers -who he now knew would be there.

"Dan doesn't like to learn because he doesn't understand the vocabulary. But a few vocabulary games will build his confidence and get him engaged."

The teachers, immediately recognizing who he was, smiled from ear to ear, then silently walked him to a special room on the side of the school. They turned they key to the door and welcomed him in to the place where he, at long last, could understand the true nature and composition of this, the most wonderful noise in the world.

But he can't tell you what it is because you're not a teacher.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

MORE's New Steering Committee

Strike a chord for a democratic way of doing things. As of March 1, The MORE candidate for UFT president, Jia Lee (whom I wholeheartedly support), is not part of the leadership Steering Committee of the caucus. This means the caucus' decision making processes aren't directly connected with the candidate who we would all like to preside over the UFT.

'How can that be?' you may ask. 'Doesn't a presidential candidate call all of the shots?'Not exactly. Democracy doesn't always require a cult of personality type in order to function. Hearing all voices means that it doesn't really matter who steers the caucus: The caucus members steer it. We all know what the caucus stands for because, well, we're the ones who are standing. That's a pretty cool way to do things and it's the kind of rank-and-file driven leadership that Jia will bring to the whole UFT.

That's not the structure the UFT's Unity Caucus has. Many of those folks, as wonderful as they are, have been so left out of the leadership loop that they aren't quite sure what the caucus stands for and have surely not been able to carry an issue to their caucus for consideration. The UFT does great things but that's not a way to run a caucus and expect a union that is strong enough to do things like carry the endorsements they make to actual electoral success (the last time they picked a mayoral winner was 1989).

Anyway, I digress. Here is the list of MORE's *New* Steering Committee Members. A new one will be chosen after six months. If you want to be on it, all you have to do is join the caucus and take part in the effort.

The new committee will take over from current steering on March 1 for a six month term that will run through August 2016.

Meet the new MORE­UFT Steering Committee:

Cayden Betzig ​is a first year teacher at Eagle Academy in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Prior to beginning his lead teaching career this school year he spent five years working in NYC and DC public schools as a teacher’s aid. As a student at NYU he campaigned vigorously for educational justice. He coordinated a campaign demanding that the university prioritize financial aid over real estate expansion. He also founded the NYU Public Education Project­ a group of pre­service teachers dedicated to social justice. He is passionate about moving MORE and the UFT to be a truly democratic organization that represents all teachers­ especially teachers of color and the untenured.

Erik Forman ​is a second­ year ESL and Social Studies teacher and current Chapter Leader at the High School for Language and Innovation in the former Columbus High School building in the Bronx. He has worked as an educator for nearly a decade, teaching Adult ESL, substitute teaching, and teaching at a university in China. Before his life as an educator, Erik spent seven years participating in groundbreaking campaigns to unionize the US fast food industry with the Industrial Workers of the World. He wants to build the schools students deserve and the union teachers need.

Ashraya Gupta: UFT Delegate and Chemistry teacher at Harvest Collegiate High School, Manhattan. “We deserve a democratic union, representative of our members. For too long, teacher interests have been cast as oppositional to student interests. But our union should make it clear that our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. Let’s be the union we wish to see.”

Peter Lamphere ​Teaches math and robotics at Gregorio Luperón HS in Manhattan. During four UFT elections since 2004, he has learned the need to prioritize building a strong base and organization through our campaign. Throughout the fall he has focused on developing literature, fundraising and outreach plans, including a strong fall conference and membership drive. Also, he will continue to develop MORE’s organizing committee and the database of thousands of contacts we maintain, and contribute to local organizing in Washington Heights. He has a long record as a MORE/UFT activist, Chapter Leader and Delegate. But more important is a commitment to MORE’s social justice unionism model. This means that we can’t win against the deformers without broader support from families, communities and working people generally. We need not only parent and community support of our demands but also to support wider working class fights against budget cuts, for #BlackLivesMatter, and so on.

Janice Manning​ is currently a fifth grade Special Education Teacher in an Integrated Co Teaching Classroom at P.S. 503 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. She started her teaching career as a fourth grade teacher in Fort Worth, Texas. After teaching in Fort Worth for a year, she taught English as a foreign language in Znamenka, Ukraine as a Peace Corps Volunteer. She is passionate about working with other educators to organize ways to improve education for ALL students.

Kevin Prosen​ is chapter leader at I.S. 230 in Jackson Heights, Queens. He campaigned as part of MORE’s slate for the executive board in the 2013 UFT elections, and has organized mass grievance campaigns at his school involving up to 35 members of his chapter. He has been active in the MORE chapter organizing committee and has been organizing outreach to other chapter leaders in the city. His writings on UFT issues have appeared in Jacobin and Socialist Worker.

Roberta Reid, a native New Yorker, presently resides in the Bronx. She made a mid-life career change, returning to study and complete her Bachelor of Art degree at Lehman College of the City of New York to go into the Education Profession. Her service with the Department of Education of the City of New York commenced in 1991 as a Common Branch teacher, first, at CS 198, then at the Mohegan School, both schools in District 12 in the Bronx. In 2008, she ran unsuccessfully for Chapter Leader at CS67, Bronx. Roberta's career covered a span of 22.5 years until her retirement in June 2014. In May 2015, she made a first time run for the Delegate Assembly of the UFT Retired Teacher Chapter as an independent, garnering an impressive 151 votes.  She has always viewed social justice and equity as vital components of what the profession represents. 

Mindy Rosier ​is a native New Yorker who graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with a B.A. in Psychology and Elementary Education and Fordham University with an M.S. Ed in Early Childhood Special Education. She has been a teacher for 17 years, including 3 years at the NY Foundling Hospital and currently 8 years with the Department of Education in a District 75 school. After seeing the hardships that her school has endured and after researching the education system itself, she became active to promote an improvement in the quality of education for all children.

Mike Schirtzer:​ UFT Delegate and Social Studies teacher at Leon M. Goldstein High School, Brooklyn: “We Need New Leadership!” “Classroom teachers need a voice in our union and we will be that voice on the UFT Executive Board. Our leadership negotiated a poor contract, worse than other city unions. Micromanagement, Danielson, and 1% raises with delayed retro is not what teachers want or need.” 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


I had read on the excellent NYCEducator blog yesterday that Alan Singer had noted how the teacher in question from the Success debacle wasn't even certified. I couldn't believe it, so I looked it up. Sure enough, she's not licensed to teach in New York (look it up for yourself here).

The teacher comes from Indiana, so I looked it up. She's not certified there, either. Apparently, this lady has never possessed a teaching credential in her life. Wow.

For me, the big takeaway from all this isn't from the pattern abuse (you can plainly see the children weren't surprised and the teaching aide had seen this behavior before) and it isn't from the fact that this class was in the middle of an intense math lesson after the sun had gone down (Yeah, that 'calm down chair'? It's in front of a window and you can plainly tell this incident took place at night. yuk).

For me, the big takeaway is that this was done by a person not credentialed to teach anywhere in the US. I have to believe that a licensed teacher would not have done this. So I Dropped this comment on Ravitch earlier today:

Now that the initial news of the video itself is passing, is it a good time to start addressing the shocking realization that Ms. Dial was not certified to teach in New York State? Isn’t that a real a takeaway here? (As she hails from Indiana, it may be a good time to point out that no one named Charlotte Dial is certified to teach in that state either). That, to me, is shocking as I always just presumed charter teachers possessed the same professional qualifications as public school teachers. It raises three questions that I don’t think have ever been addressed (and probably should):

1) Are all charter school teachers not required to be licensed to teach?
2) Given the assertions from charters that they ‘perform’ better than public schools, what does this lack of certification from among their teaching corps say about the allegations of the need to improve teacher prep programs on every college campus across the country? If uncertified teachers are doing ‘so well’ then why invest so much money in teacher prep programs?
3) What it that say about charter schools that they do not even require their teachers to be certified? How does that mesh the claim of high standards and high achievement?
I think these are fair questions.
It does raise questions about why the ed deformers are pushing for tougher teacher prep programs and about whether the charter sector can really claim higher standards if they don't even require the minimum requirement for teachers. No one responded to those two questions.

But I did get this response re the first question from a commenter named Sharon in NYS:

New York State allows charter schools to hire up to 30% of non-certified individuals to teach. 100% of teachers in New York State PUBLIC schools must be certified.

 Can this be true? Can close to one third of charter teachers not be real teachers? I'm not a big charter fan, but I haven't expressed real concerns about them in the past because I always felt that, for parents who send their children to charters,  the benefits outweighed all of the criticisms (I'm a parent, so I tend to want to not attack the choices that other parents make for their children).

But if close to 1/3 of charter teachers aren't certified, then I think there is a real danger for students. Uncertified teachers will not respect the traditions of our profession as much as certified teachers will. Uncertified teachers will not benefit from the high, intense training that certified teachers have undergone in order to be certified.

Uncertified teachers may even commit to a pattern of abusive behavior without fully understanding the consequences it poses for children. There is a reason we are required to possess a minimum amount of certification. That reason was on full display in that video, if even evident only from its blaring absence.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Another Blogging Voice Goes Silent

Scanning the Chalkbeat Twiter feed lead me to this sad piece of news. The victim who was killed in a homeless shelter two weeks ago had been an award winning New York City DoE Librarian and an Edu-blogger. That's super sad.

Chalkbeat found a few notable excerpts from his blog, Education on the Plate, that I'm just going to drop below this post.

I'm not sure what leads teachers to teach. And heck if I know what leads some to blog. I've been doing it on and off for a few years and my job, and life are hard enough without having to deal with doenuts. Despite this, every Edu blog I've ever read has left me with an insight into teaching and being  a teacher that I didn't previously have.

I wished I had read this guy's work back in 2013. I think the search for my own voice as classroom teacher may have ended a lot quicker. The full Chalkbeat post is here.

Here are a few excerpts from some of [Deven] Black’s notable writing:
Telling his principal that he was underutilized
“I reminded him that I did a lot of different things before becoming a teacher and I carry a diverse set of skills he could take advantage of and gave him suggestions on how I might be more useful to him and the school.
I could write grants … I could plan and do PD … I could create, or facilitate students creating a webpage for the school … I could produce an online school magazine. I could, I could, I could.
On his first year as a school librarian
“I reorganized all the books in the library, twice. I began automating the library, a process of putting barcodes on all the books and scanning them into our now online catalog … Five unpaid Saturdays were spent in 7-hour long training sessions to learn more about my job, I won a small technology grant.
I’ve got a lot more work to do. I need to improve my teaching, redecorate the library and try to find the money for a renovation … I also need to purchase books, magazines and databases with the twin foci of providing quality recreational reading options and better aligning the collection to our curriculum.”
On a proposal to add four weeks to the school year
“I often tell my students that if the approach they’re taking to solve a problem isn’t working they should try something else; that doing more of what isn’t working in the first place and expecting a different result is a form of insanity.”
On teacher evaluations based on test scores
“We should have done what we claim to do best: teach … We could have taught the lesson about how one test on one day does not necessarily – okay, doesn’t at all – show what any one student or any large group of students know, don’t know and are or are notcapable of doing.”

Monday, February 8, 2016

The NYC Teacher Healthcare Crisis: Part 3; The Road Ahead

Part 1: Great Insurance
Part 3: The Road Ahead

More than eighty percent of all city employees pay nothing from their paychecks for their (Great!) health insurance. Since 1983, employees have been on the verge of paying in order to help offset the rising costs the city's healthcare plans. While an endless amount of schemes have prevented this from happening, they were at the end of the day just schemes. Now, as Obamacare brings us all to a Tipping Point, it looks as though the city and the unions are pulling their fingers from the dam and walking away from any attempt to stop the inevitable from happening: Having employees pay for at least part of their insurance premiums from their cash paychecks.  This would equate to a reduction in pay and it would most certainly be coupled with a reduction in the services we currently receive from the plans.

Read on for the hows and the whys

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The NYC Teacher Healthcare Crisis: Part 2, 'Toward the Tipping Point'

This is the second of three parts about the problem with health insurance that city employees are (all) about to face. This is some fairly wonky stuff but I'm convinced that, unless there is a shift in policy, we will all be paying -a lot- for our healthcare. 

Part 1: Great Insurance
Part 3: The Road Ahead

My last post, detailing how great our insurance is, ended on the somewhat gloomy note of the  Cadillac Tax, a tax of 40% of the health insurance premiums which will cost more than 10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for family coverage in 2018.

It is important that we start this discussion with that reminder. This is because avoiding the Cadillac Tax is in the best interest of every single NYC employee and of the city government. Middle class city employees don't want insurance that doesn't cover anything. But if the city, as employer, winds up paying an excise for each employee, then that's just what will happen.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The NYC Teacher Healthcare Crisis: Part 1, 'Great Insurance!'

This is the first of three parts about the problem with health insurance that city employees are (all) about to face. This is some fairly wonky stuff but I'm convinced that, unless there is a shift in policy, we will all be paying -a lot- for our healthcare. 

Part 1 is about how great our great insurance is.
Part 2 about how the city has tried, and failed, to slow the increase in healthcare costs to its employees.
Part 3 is about what we, as employees lost (and will soon lose) for that failure.

Teachers in New York City enjoy some of the very best healthcare in the State of New York. Teachers here (and most other New York City employees) can choose from more than twenty (when you take the prescription riders into account) different options of health coverage (see here). Some of these choices require deductions to be made from our salary but these deductions are small when compared with teachers from other districts throughout the state.  And the deductions are just plan tiny when compared with any employee working in the private sector.