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.