Saturday, August 13, 2022

The Post Office & the DOE: Comparing Manufactured Crises

In my last post, I talked about manufacturing a budgetary crisis. I said I would post a quick description of the crisis in the Post Office. In short, it was manufactured by centrists and conservatives in the Senate. Once it was manufactured, though, it did its job and all but destroyed the US Postal Service. 

NOw you may think of the USPS as a broken government agency and you may conclude that it needs a good solid dose of competition or some such in order to get its act together.  However, that is exactly what the narrative wants you to think. So, unfortunately, you would be wrong. This is because the general public doesn't know that conservatives and moderates (of both parties) have been placing an undue financial burden on the US Postal Service for almost twenty years now. This is from the progressive think tank US Institute for Policy Studies ... 

In 2006, Congress passed a law that imposed extraordinary costs on the U.S. Postal Service. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) required the USPS to create a $72 billion fund to pay for the cost of its post-retirement health care costs, 75 years into the future. This burden applies to no other federal agency or private corporation.

If the costs of this retiree health care mandate were removed from the USPS financial statements, the Post Office would have reported operating profits in each of the last six years. This extraordinary mandate created a financial “crisis” that has been used to justify harmful service cuts and even calls for postal privatization. Additional cuts in service and privatization would be devastating for millions of postal workers and customers.

Each and every year, the US Post Office must make a $4.6 Billion payment to its pension system before it pays any of its other bills. That means the USPS must earn $4.6 billion from parcel deliveries and then it can begin the enormous obligation of paying salaries and filling the trucks with gas and repairing the planes and the rest of their overhead. Any organization will suffer under those circumstances. 

And, as you can see, we have an undue burden placed on our school budgets (my position is that it is undue because they have money from the federal government to pay for these budgets they are cutting. They simply refuse to spend that money). This new undue burden has the exact same effect as the budget cut does here in NYC.  The bottom line is that they both have less money in their budget. That's all that matters to them. In both cases,  they create a crisis in their budget whereas none had existed. For the post office, that led to draconian cuts to services for folks like you and me due to smaller and smaller budgets happening year after year. It led to less and less satisfaction. And it led more people to opt for the UPS store, instead of their local post office, when sending a package to Auntie or Grandma. 

They make the whole experience suck. And people make their choices accordingly.  

Again, once manufactured, the manufactured crisis does its job. It takes on a life of its own. Before long there are articles on business sites and whole websites dedicated to "saving" the Post Office. What they really want to do is privatize it. There even a step by step guide for doing just that. 

And what does the public think? It is not widely known that the post office had been handed a $72 billion financial burden. I mean folks don't know that, right?  That's not what folks talk about, is it.  They only talk about how long they had to wait in line at the post office last Saturday and how much the experience sucks eggs.  It's confusing when things are fine and then suddenly they are not fine. As a member of the public, you or I might conclude that someone made bad decisions in order to make the post office that bad. You never think that maybe things had been made to be not fine. A reasonable person would never think that great thought and care went into the actions that made the Post Office bad. A new financial burden did exactly that. Back in 2006, most of the country was concerned with the war of terror and the civil war that we had started in Iraq. Here in New York, you we couldn't board a subway without being concerned about a terror attack. Within that context, while no one was paying attention, they slipped this legislation in -and that new burden made the post office much much less than fine. 

The NY Post and the City Comptroller seem to feel the actual cuts to schools this year will really be eight percent, or average $402,456 per school.

The reductions amount to about $402,456 in cuts per individual school budget, or 8% of what principals get to spend on staff and programs, according to City Comptroller analysis.

This will have the same effect as the post office did for the post office. Joe Public ain't coming to this blog six months from now to get "the real" story and realize that his child's school budget was unnecessarily cut back in June and Joe Public isn't going to understand that the after school clubs at said school were cut because some politician wanted to shock the system. Joe Public won't ever think or believe that. But Joe Public will be mad as hell -at his child's school- for not offering after school clubs. And there will be plenty of writers for newspapers who will 'help' Joe understand this. Joe will check Google, maybe read a few articles to find out what's going on. But Joe is busy and he will quickly conclude that the schools in general suck and that maybe he would be better off signing his child up for a charter somewhere or moving to Long Island. 

And the end result will be a more privatized space. Competition has always existed in the parcel and package delivery space. But, since the post office crisis, we have seen one of the world's largest corporations, Amazon, enter the market and build an enormous fleet of planes and trucks for delivering packages. They will be larger than UPS or Fedex, its two privatized competitors, by the end of this year. That market space was created by the crisis from the Post Office.  That's how privatization looked in the postal space. 

They would like to make something similar in the education space. (Obviously. It's been that way for along time). We see lots of marketing go into charter schools, don't we? And we see a general malaise and neglect in the neighborhood school, as well, don't we?  New Yorkers, do you remember "The School of No"  stories from six years ago? The NYPost discovered and then followed the stories from a neglected primary school in Queens. Here is the story archive.  As they castigated the school principal and shared detailed stories from staff and from families, they contributed, generally, a narrative about how 'public schools' were failing due to neglect. That's all those stories really are. They're part fo a greater narrative. When parents see enough of these stories, when they see enough of this narrative, they run for the nearest charter school waiting list and hope for the best. As would I. As would you. As would anyone who loves their child and has been enveloped by a whole entire narrative that is shared in the press and reinforced by an obvious lack of services. 

Just like with the Post Office, what we are seeing is public relations campaign. They aim to hurt the schools and then turn to you and I with juicy little stories of individual neglected schools that have been hurt (by them). This will lead more busy parents to want charters. The politicians will then just go to Albany and say "look at all these parents! We need more charters!". Only at this point in the game, more charters literally means fewer public school schools. We use to have 1850 public schools in NYC. We now have between 1400 and 1600 (depending on which press outlet you read). 

And, like the Post Office, education is one of the essential pieces of the country. Education in and for every community is a principle that actually predates the republic. The Northwest Ordinance (and the Land Ordinance passed one year later) required that a school be built in every single community in the country and that that school belonged to the whole community. That law was made before the constitution. That's how vital schools are to Americans.  Once the constitution was ratified, the Postmaster General was a cabinet-level official. That's how important the Washington Administration  felt the post office was. The General of the post office was answerable only to the President of the United States himself. -and it remained that way until 1971. That's how vital the mail is in the US. These two institutions are very similar and are following a very similar paths. 

If we experience a crisis in schools in September, it will be a crisis that was created by thoughtful, experienced political and  school officials here in the NYC. 

Friday, August 12, 2022

A Manufactured Crisis

Still working on poor Dolores' story. I'll drop Part 2 soon. 

Pay careful attention. This is how a manufactured crisis is developed. This isn't how you manufacture a crisis per se (that's because the folks who are trying to manufacture this particular crisis are clumsy and clueless. They underestimated the strength of community and parent and teacher groups and, frankly, they didn't do their fiscal or demographic homework before they tried to run this play from the ol' Edreform playbook). But you and I are getting a very good look behind the curtain in real time about how to create one. This is the work of edreformers. They are running the same (boring) play as they did back in 2007-2013. It may be hard to see because the play is still in its infancy but this is how they do it. This is how they get their new charters and no bid contracts for their favorite private sector buddies and cuts to protections for educators of all backgrounds.  This is how it begins. They manufacture a crisis inside of the schools. Only "private sector" ingenuity and "workforce efficiency" will be able to save us. In the meantime, parents see the results from all the manufactured and determine to move their children to private or charter schools. 

The first major step in manufacturing a crisis is to create chaos. That's really what this struggle over budget cuts are all about; they're about creating chaos inside of 1600 NYC schools next month. And that chaos will be created. The important thing for them to do now is to confuse everybody as much as possible until the chaos is felt next Fall. 

Last week, parents and teacher won a huge victory from the NYCDOE by convincing a court to force the City of New York to restore those cuts. That immediately led me to conclude that the case would be appealed. In fact my exact thought was that 'The case is sure to be appealed and may well be overturned so this isn't over. In fact, it's not even a little over.' And by "this", I mean the basic "can we pay for some teachers?". That challenge is not even a little "over".

The other night, the appeal to that case was accepted and, by law, the decision was automatically stayed. until the full case can be considered. A stayed decision means that the cuts go back into effect until both sides can go to court. That won't happen until eight days before school starts. The Open Market transfer system will be closed by that time and the schools won't be able to fund the staff.  The Times described the effects from this it best:

The fighting has set the stage for a chaotic start to a school year ... The 2022-2023 school year was supposed to be focused on recouping [student learning] losses after the pace of learning slowed during the pandemic ... Instead, principals say the cuts are forcing them to slash teaching positions and enrichment programs they need to help students recover.

Chaos. That's really what this is all about. It's about creating chaos.

Imagine a school that has to cut two teacher and two counselor positions. Now imagine that the lawsuit is won on or after August 29. Sure, the money may be returned, but those teachers and counselors who had to be excessed will already be gone. And that school will have some folks who don't understand it or its children in those positions instead. See? Chaos. Now imagine that the lawsuit is not won. With no money returned for staff, a large amount of schools are forced schools excess their staff, the district's reserve (ATR) pool swells to significant proportions, Tweed places those same educators as one-year ATRs in "schools where they are needed".  The whole thing becomes a fancy way of creating forced transfers -with no rhyme, no rhythm and no leadership involved. All parents will see is something like "sub" listed on their child's schedule -and they will see that "sub" for three or four whole weeks until a teacher's name finally appears. When that name comes and they call to ask the school about it, the school will have little information to share (because they didn't pick that teacher either).  The parent looks around for a different school. 

At this point in the process,  it doesn't matter whether the cuts are restored or not. Chaos will visit many many schools next Fall regardless of the outcome. That was the whole goal in the first place.  

The public at large won't be aware of all of this flim flam during the summer months.  As the public watches their school cancel clubs or those amazing after school events that attracted so many people, they will conclude that the system, like so many other systems in this city, must be broken. They will see no money going to their child and the Edreformers will use sophisticated contrivances to communicate to them that it is all because they have to spend that money on the ATR pool of teachers.  That's all they will say. 

Adams is banking on the political winds turning more in his favor next Fall. He is not too far off from the truth. If this city continues to be depicted as burning for the next four months, he will have all the support he needs. The Taliban spent more than a decade making Afghanistan unsafe and, when they came to power, they made the streets safe. (NPR). Once those winds have turned, Adams (and Banks) will make the case that the DOE is hopeless and needs "help". 

They will, of course, have a solution. You may laugh now here in August, but the sad truth is that solution will be more drastic cuts and fewer available services for children (some to be replaced by private entities) -oh, and a vilification of seniority for teachers (because of this blasted fairness thing with the ATR pool). That solution will include putting more pressure on the classroom teacher and forcing some teachers out. They are working to achieve a bonafide crisis. We will suddenly hear about how great the bulletin boards are over at Success Academy or how they all keep detailed reading logs over at New Visions and that we should all do what they do over at New Visions and Success Academy. Fewer work and seniority protections in the contract, you see. 

They want fewer work and seniority protections in the contract because they don't want the UFT to have that kind of influence. 

In addition to that, they want more money to dole out to their private contractor friends with no bid contracts. Do you remember ARIS? It cost $81 million. It failed. In fact, it never worked. It was built by a private contractor. Are you old enough to remember HSST? That system was purchased from a vendor. We now use something called STARS for student data, report cards, scheduling and data gathering. They were for free because they were done by the next administration in-house. They didn't cost close to one hundred million dollars. 

They also want more charter schools. The chaos they are creating will turn so many parents off that demand for charter schools to go through the roof! And that will force the politicians over in Albany to raise the cap and create more charters (which will further destabilize the system (which is exactly what their strategic goal is). 

Both of these are examples of the movement toward privatization which they love so much. Like the USPS, they want schools to be more private. 

The response regarding the Stay from Class Size Matters is important to note here:

This will further delay the “chaos” that the City repeatedly cited in its brief, and prevent principals, teachers, and parents from knowing what their school budgets will look like until the appeal is heard on August 29, 2022. In the meantime, we urge the City Council and the Mayor to negotiate and implement a budget modification to immediately restore these damaging cuts because our public school children deserve a safe and productive return to school in the fall, which our Mayor appears bent on denying.

Chaos. Many seem to agree we are walking into chaos next year. It won't be felt until just after school starts. This is because the final basic budgetary allocation won't be known to schools until well after Labor Day. But chaos is what we are in store for. And that's all part of the plan.

Tomorrow, I want to compare this with the manufactured crisis in the US Post Office and point out some similarities. 

Monday, August 8, 2022

Dolores' Dreams II -The Monster

We'll tell this story in four parts. This is part 1. 

  1. The Monster
  2. Workplace Abuse
  3. New Principal
  4. Form III

It was obvious. From distance, anyone who watched her could see that she was dreaming. Her eyes were closed. Her bag was zipped shut and propped on the chair next to her. Her legs and feet, both stretched out in front of her torso, weren't moving and her arms were folded in tight over her chest. Most noticeably, Dolores' eyes were strenuously bouncing around inside of their lids without hesitation. It was obvious to anyone who paid attention that she was in the rapid eye movement phase of sleep  Sleep. Dolores had fallen asleep and was dreaming. From a distance, anyone could see.

But that's not how it felt to her! To Dolores, the most vivid dream anyone could imagine, looked, felt, sounded and smelled as though it were actually happening to her. One minute can feel like an hour or more when a person was asleep the way Dolores was asleep, and any observer could tell that every minute of her nap felt much more like an hour to her. As far as Dolores was concerned, she was in real time experiencing real life.  To the outside world, Ms. Dolores Polonius was just a math teacher catching a quick nap on her lunch break before heading back to teach her last two classes for the day. But Dolores was in a completely different reality than the outside world. 

Within her dream, she found herself caught in a moment from her past. It, this same moment, had been replaying itself over and over again since the moment she closed her eyes.  It was the moment she said yes. She never should have said yes. 

This man was six foot two inches tall and weighed two-hundred and forty pounds. He yelled and screamed at classroom teachers (in a school) as though he were on a street corner in Brooklyn in the 70's getting ready for a fist fight. He always made it a point to tower over his victims as he was yelling at them just to make sure they were physically intimidated and trembling as he did. Know this, reader: If any other part of Dolores' Dream were fiction, this man and his deeds were pure fact. Dolores knew it. Even she, in her midday haze, was lucid enough to be aware of these as she dreamed: 

That he got away with committing breathtaking abuses inside of a New York City public school; that he did this with the full support of the entire NYCDOE apparatus, and did so for well over two decades.  This man had suspended a para (paraeducator) for twenty long days without pay on an accusation which he knew to be (and bragged, in trusted quarters, that it was) completely false. This man intimidated five gym teachers into not applying to be the school football coach -just so that he (for ten thousand dollars per year) could be the school football coach. This man would stand at a victim's' classroom doorway and smile at his victims as they were teaching and, if a victim tried pretending the monster wasn't there,  would bellow their name so that the whole lesson would stop and every face in the room were looking over at him -but he would just continue to stare at his victim and smile for an extended period of time until that familiar crestfallen pall of fear would cover his victim's face, and confirm, for him that he had gotten his prey. 

He would perform his abuses on infirmed older male teachers and on little old lady teachers alike. He would perform them on insecure newer teachers and on school aides who had little job protections. Anyone with a small height and small frame were particular targets for him, but he would attack and abuse anyone, really, as long as they were weak. As long as they were someone with whom he felt strong; and as long as he could drum up at least a few people who would agree and laugh with him as he performed his abuses (because that too made him feel strong. Monsters seek only to feel strong). This man would inflict his hurt and emotional pain and public humiliations on subordinate teachers because it pleased him and he would do it whenever he was given an excuse to do so. That is who he was.    

But for seven years, Assistant Principal José Abuelo -the most vulgar, cruel and brutal example of an school official that New York City had ever produced- did not abuse Dolores Polonius. No sir. 

Dolores noticed that he only picked on weak looking people, so she took an approach whereby she would give a strong "hello" every day and then avoid him as best as she possibly could. She knew he was an abuser. So she made it a point to not look weak anywhere near him. It was a simply plan but it worked well for Dolores for seven years -and it seemed as though it was going to go on working. 


Toward the end of his career, however, Mr. Abuelo found himself infatuated with a newer, younger female teacher and he was trying his best (as best as his best could be at least) to do his part to advance her career. It was during this time [] that he tried to get her the job of school Activities Director. 

The general topic of the young female teacher, however,  had become problematic. There developed a whole flock of younger educators who eventually took to following her everywhere she went. They came to listen and adhere to almost anything she had to say and, eventually, began doing everything she wanted them to do.  

Unbeknownst to Mr. Abuelo, she came to use her power base of young teachers to engage in rumors and damaging whisper campaigns about many of her colleagues and supervisors (including about Mr. Abuelo himself). She liked to call investigations on teachers. She would send her flock out for any tid bit of information about any teacher or student (which they would provide without ever realizing they were getting somebody into trouble) and would then arrange for the investigators to come. Sometimes this was done with The Monster's help. Sometimes it was not. 

She landed one teacher in a 3020-A hearing, saw to it that he was humiliated in the newspapers, and charged a $10,000 fine from a hearing officer. And why? Because he did not understand the new rules around his midterm exam. They taught the same courses, you see. And he had a nicer looking program than he did. She landed another one in investigation on his second day of ever being a teacher (a student had kicked in a computer screen while this young teacher was trying to get his bearings in the first lesson of his career. She found another student in his class, convinced the student to say he hadn't felt safe during that moment and called the investigators with the assertion that "students feel unsafe".  That actually happened too.)  There were more examples but this is how this young female teacher rolled. Something was out of balance with her and everyone saw it

Everyone, that is, except Mr. Abuelo. 

The principal saw her for what she was and saw her as a threat to his staff. But, like the rest of the school, the principal too sought to avoid any unnecessary confrontation with Mr. Abuelo too.  Mr. Abuelo had just so happened to take down one or two principals during his career and the current principal would not be placed in that position. So, as an alternative course,  the principal quietly stepped in and asked Dolores to apply for the position instead. "You will get it. I don't want to give it to her.". 

Ms. Dolores Polonius was not happy about the circumstances of her being asked. Her presence had been requested because the principal had wanted to keep the peace, not because he felt she possessed any particular skill that he wanted to employ at his school. That was a major disappointment for her.  Adding to this was the flat fact that, at her age, she wasn't particularly interested in being an Activities Director. That was a job for young teachers who needed to earn their stripes, had no life outside of work and possessed boundless energy to get stuff done. She wasn't young.  She had her masters and 30 above and, since she had earned her stripes years ago. She thought her days of organizing the Spring Dance and watching over school clubs were far far behind her.  But she knew that peace of mind came at a price at her school and, though she felt this price to be a bit steep, she was willing to pay She owed almost everything to her principal -and had so for several years now. This is why she just loved the guy. There were also a few experimental programs that she felt may benefit the kids at her school. She'd have to make sure Mr. Abuelo didn't see her as weak, and she would be dodging a terrible young teacher who would have every reason to target her, but she figured she could do it. How bad could it be? So she agreed. 

She had no idea. 

But that was it.  That was the moment she was reliving in her dream as she napped on her last little respite of the work day. The moment she agreed. The moment she said yes. The moment that she and that monster, José Abuelo, set their courses for collision. 

She should never have said yes. 

And then she heard something. She couldn't identify it at first, because it was so muffled. But, as the sound came slowly into focus, she recognized it as the voices of two giggling students sneaking out of their favorite teacher's classroom next door to her. "Such great kids", she murmured to herself. "I teach them soon". This was all followed, of course, by the sound of a teacher calling 'please don't leave until the bell rings. Come away from the door, please'. And then, finally, the sound. The bell. 

The bell. 

Dolores Polonius woke up in a flash. Before her eyes had fully opened, she had grabbed her bag, her coffee and checked for her classroom keys. And, as it slowly dawned on her that the lunch break had ended, she frowned at the thought of allowing herself to ever come into contact with The Monster. Dolores Polonius, however, always gets her Monster and she decided then and there to relive the entire ordeal during her next available lunch break nap. Not just her mistakes. 

Thursday, August 4, 2022

The Cuts Get Cut -For Now

For perhaps the first time in New York City history, a judge overturned just part of a City Council approved law that pertained to the Education Department's budget. 

That's how much pushback team "Get Stuff Done" is going to have to deal with on matters involving education.

While an official court order is not expected to be issued until Friday, Judge Lyle Frank indicated that he will side with the two teachers and two parents who filed a lawsuit last month, which sought to invalidate the education department budget and force the City Council to take another vote. 

The lawsuit claimed the city did not follow the proper protocols before the council voted on the final budget, which included hundreds of millions in cuts to city schools 

The judge sad he's was going to write all this nonsense up and publish it tomorrow; that, by in large, the city had to spend the same amount that it had spent last year (in other words, with no cuts). The case is sure to be appealed and may well be overturned so this isn't over. In fact, it's not even a little over. 

A few takeaways:

1. City Hall made a rookie mistake. They won't make it again. Part of the city's defense was that it was allowed to use 'emergency authorization' to bypass PEP approval and make the cuts.  City lawyers detailed how 'emergency authorization' had been used for the past several years to pass budgets. It is this City Hall's first time ushering a budget through approval and, as it turns out, they forgot to cite a valid reason when they submitted for emergency authorization. Let's be honest. That's a rookie mistake. They won't make the same kind of mistake next time. Our side got lucky. 

2. City Hall Can (still) Use Emergency Authorization Anytime It Wants? What was the point of reforming the mayoral control law last Spring? I thought we all supported it because we wanted to ensure a more independent voice inside the PEP (including a voice from parents and community organizers and students and educators like). The law was changed to lessen the mayor's voice and power. What I didn't know until today's hearing was that all of those efforts used to reform the mayoral control law can be simply negated if someone submits a damn form that says "Emergency Authorization" on it.  

🍩 It's like a Thanos Snap. They submit that form and "SNAP" all that voice and passion from the communities and activist groups represented on the PEP is gone. 🍩

Shouldn't this be priority for any community based or parent or educator activist in this city. This tool -Emergency Authorization- takes away our voice. It is a legal tool that was used to negate the voices of people who aren't part of City Hall and who aren't part of Tweed. If, like the mayor says, we have to 'get back to normal', then we need to start with taking away the Emergency Authorization tool. 

3. No one know the total enrollment The DOE sites one number. The IBO cites another. The New York Post relied on IBO's number. Exactly nobody has relied on or used the DOE's number. Today, Chalkbeat New York cited a third number, and that citation was supported by a tweet from a person (a tweet!! A tweet was used as evidence to support a claim of how many students are enrolled in NYC public schools). This is a mess. It's the whole cause for budget cuts that are bound to last for years and it is impossible for a person to find an accurate, reliable number. I am not sure if the lower student enrolment is a real crisis or not, but the chaos surrounding an accurate number of enrolled students indicates that folks sure are acting like it's a crisis. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

"Let Them Eat Cake!" The DOE 'Restores' Just $62,500 To Schools

The NYCDOE is under a lot of pressure over budget cuts this week! Facing that pressure, they have "released" some funds that they are required to do under Federal Law. This is (no doubt) because they want to look like they are playing nice and "working" with their 'partners' in schools. 

Don't forget, they are awaiting a final court decision regarding the budget cuts they intend to inflict on schools. That decision will be rendered on Thursday, August 4th. As that is happening, the DOE is also locked in closed door negotiations with the City Council over whether (and how much) of the school budgets will be restored. Those negotiations are ongoing but I have heard nothing about them. 

And, through all of that,  they are facing an unexpectedly motivated pushback from community members and stakeholders, many of whom who are organizing a rally on Thursday in front of the courthouse in hopes of restoring their cuts to students.

That is a lot of pressure! So it would make sense that the DOE would at least make it look like they are giving ground on some issues. 

So, last night, the NYCDOE's 1st Deputy Chancellor sent an email out to principals claiming to have "released" crucial funds to help schools. He identified the amount funds being released as $100 Million. 

Does that sound like a lot? I think the 1st Deputy would like you to believe it is. Use some basic math, however, and you may see that it isn't. 

With 1600 schools across New York City, $100m is an average of just $62,500 per school. That's the ground they gave. They gave $62.500 per school (average).  

$62,500 will pay only the salary portion of one first year teacher. Principals are responsible to pay closer to $83,000 for that same first year teacher because of added "fringe" expenses). 

$62,500 will pay for exactly one experienced paraprofessional. 

$62,500 will pay for exactly 1.7 substitute teachers. These are teachers who are paid $199.27 per day. 

$62,500 will pay for a few school aides. 

And that is on average. These funds aren't being distributed to all schools. Only certain schools, with a certain population of student, will receive a portion of these funds. 

They took four teachers and one guidance counselor from my school. It looks like they are giving back a few subs and some school aides. 


Cake. Let them eat cake. 

The DC's email from last night is below ...

A follow up email sent to schools from another official is here ... 

"Good morning All
Yesterday at 7:27 pm  you received an email from the first Deputy Chancellor Dan Weisberg about the 2022-2023 budget updates.
What does this mean:
The Academic Recovery money( Sam 31)  you received in June can now be used on teacher positions."

(yes. It takes two Tweed officials to send an email. No bloat there, right!?)

And a follow up "School Allocation Memo" was shared with principals as well. I am sharing only that portion that provides details as to where the money will be going:

Allocation Methodology

With a goal to maximize equity, the methodology is designed to target schools that serve high proportions of students in foster care, students in shelter, students in temporary housing (STH), students who are English Language Learners (ELL), newcomer and long-term ELLs, students with interrupted/inconsistent formal education (SIFE), students with disabilities (SWD), and students with economic need (ENI).

Schools receive a weight for students in the above categories at variable weights. Schools serving K-5 students also receive additional funding specifically for K-5 students with economic need, also at a variable weight. These weights are different at each school and are based on the concentrations of needs found at each school. For example, a school with 55% students with economic need and 36% English Language Learners will receive a weight of 1.55 for each student with economic need, and 1.36 for each English Language Learner.

Due to the different types of programs in District 79, and their distinct structures and needs, the Superintendent modified the allocation methodology for their programs to account for the characteristics of their students, such as incarcerated youth and programs with large numbers of over-age under-credited pupils. These changes will also enable funding to be distributed in a way that helps address breakage due their programs being multi-sited.

The $125M is then allocated evenly per weighted capita; however, schools will receive a minimum of $25,000 and no school will receive more than $200,000. The allocation methodology only applies to K-12 students and is the same for all schools. Twenty percent of the funding ($25M) is allocated for arts and enrichment programming as described below.

Funding for District 79 Alternative Schools and Programs is indicated on the allocation tables.



Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Dodging the DOEnuts ...

Last week was fairly consequential for the NYCDOE.  They seemed to have gotten caught lying about student enrollment. They then lost the first round of a lawsuit. The NYPost simpy stopped using their enrollment data in publishing their own articles and then they got caught cheating when they froze all schools out of the Galaxy system. That's a rough week. 

This week is proving to be just as consequential. On Thursday, a court will decide whether the DOE and NYC ignored legislative rules when they cut school budgets. A small group of protesters are planning an anti-NYCDOE rally outside the courthouse on the same day in support of ending the budget cuts. On Monday, the Comptroller of NYC released a report indicating that the city has (and is refusing to spend) $4.4 Billion and that was covered in the press on Tuesday. And throughout this whole week, negotiations to restore the cuts continue with the City Council. This is a rough week for them as well. 

At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts to schools with virtually none cut from the central bureaucracy down at the Tweed Courthouse and their several dozen "Satellite" locations.

The leaders of our school district want to cut money for schools (the NYCDOE is considered one school district in New York State) in the face of all common sense. In their zeal to get what they want, team "Get Stuff Done" has looked clumsy, ill-informed on the most basic of issues and ill prepared to proceed should they lose. They showed their true colors last week. It ain't very pretty and they have another week to get through. 

Below are just a few of the doenuts that spilled out last week and a few for this week as well. 

🍩 #1 

The first one came after a parent discovered that the DOE was fudging their student enrollment numbers for next year. City Hall and Tweed are trying to convince the public that the city has lost 240,000 students.  This is big. If you want to take money from schools in NYC, you will have to convince the public that tons and tons of students have left. This parent discovered (through data analysis) that they haven't left. The DOE simply ignored four major groups of students when they calculated. The parent discovered the students from D75, D79, as well as all pre-K students (including 3K and 4K) were simply not counted in data that was released to the public. The parent used data to conclude otherwise and shared that in a series of tweets. I wrote it up into a blog post so you can read about it in its correct context.  You can catch up on that story here. 

🍩 #2 

The New York Post then published a piece that didn't even bother to use enrollment numbers shared by the DOE, opting instead to side with IBO data. That data shows only 73,000 students have left city-run schools. I had to stop what I was doing to write about that one as well. You can read it here. Register is down by 6.7% this year. In admin school, the professors teach the students all about budgeting. There is a whole course about it.  One thing that is taught is that student enrollment goes through ebbs and flows. In any one given year, a school district can lose or gain 3%-8% of their enrollment register.  It's part of the game. 6.7%  register loss is nothing to sneeze at. But it is nothing to cause panic over either. 

I shouldn't divert from the main point, though: The New York Post did not feel comfortable enough to publish basic enrollment data provided by an agency of the New York City government. Let that sink in, please.  It is an indication of exactly how little the press has come to trust the city hall  and the NYCDOE.

That would have been enough for one week during the summer. But the doenuts just kept on coming! 

🍩 #3 is going to take a minute to explain...

A parent group had sued the DOE for enacting budget cuts that were not passed by the DOE's governing committee -the PEP. The lawsuit led to a temporary restraining order (TRO) instructing the DOE to restore funding levels until a full decision could be rendered. 

The department responded to the TRO by (read carefully now) freezing the software that principals use to pay their bills! That was their response. They froze the Galaxy software and stopped all of that machinery from operating. They just stopped it all.  This happened during summer school and on the day that secretaries were to enter per session (which is how summer school teachers are paid). 

In their explanation to principals as to why Galaxy had been frozen, they cited advice from DOE lawyers. This prompted the lawyers who were on the other side of the lawsuit to quickly to respond with a press release, saying "There is no crisis except what has been manufactured by the City's lawyers". The statement goes on to and, in fact, ends with a very harsh accusation:

"The TRO explicitly states that the DOE is enjoined from making any further cuts and spending at levels other than at the prior year's levels ... What they are doing by freezing galaxy budgetentirelyurely aimed at creating havoc for principals where non should exist." 

That is one heck of an accusation to make but it is where that discussion stands. It is a very weird juxtaposition all around. 

Now I can't say that I disagree with the broad strokes of the new mayor and chancellor are trying to do: The Department of Education has become a $36 Billion beast that is beyond any one person or group's control. This city agency, aptly located in New York's very symbol of graft and corruption, is just too darn big. Nothing this size, save for the US military, can be managed well. There is only one thing to do with a beast this big: You have to starve it. You have to slash. You have to cut. You have to take money away and then make the beast beg for its money back. You have to starve that beast at every turn. 

Clumsily, however, they attempted to starve schools -and schools are not the beast. 

And when faced with a TRO, they sought to punish school budgets, not the beast. Clumsy.

Adding to their clumsiness, someone down there at Tweed was caught lying about enrollment numbers. Maybe they figured that the public wouldn't pay much attention during the summer months? I just don't know. But someone down there probably figured they could get away with under counting students (by 240,000). Whether they are able to get over on the inaccuracy remains to be seen.  But it too was someone's very clumsy move. 

Also unraveled is the amount of cuts schools are facing! The city insists it is cutting only $215. One repoidentifiedied $312 million. The mayor's own executive budget identified $306 million as the number. Then they were seen attempting to cut closer to $375 million. Brad Landers' report identified closer to $469 million being cut (see here). These type of inconsistencies aren't the result of any evil tactic. These are just clumsy moves. 

And between now and Thursday, City Hall is still in negotiations with the City Council to have this budget issue resolved through legislative means. That's right. It may not even come down to the court decision in Thursday. This whole thing could be settled, between the mayor and the city council, before then.  An agreement such as this may render any court decision useless. 

Look for a resolution that splits the difference. 

Whether it comes from a court decision or an agreement between the mayor and city council, the name of the game is going to be compromise. He's the mayor. He's the chancellor. This is what they want. That will count for something. But, given that they have understated their student enrollment (by about a quarter million) and have overstated the amount of money they are looking to cut (but about another quarter million), look for the final agreement to be tilted toward the mayor and chancellor. 

So where are? Taken as a whole, City Hall / Tweed were less than honest with how much they wanted to cut (They announced $215 million vs the almost $500 million that has now been published!). They were less than honest with why they wanted to cut the budget (They claimed 760,000 lost students when the number seems closer to 73,000). The press is steering clear from their data out of mistrust and they have eroded the trust that was given them by school based officials (they were supposed to end the chaos. Not add to it). Whatever the budgets are for next year, it will be the result of Tweed/City Hall being told what to do (either from a court or from an agreement). They don't have a good track record of doing things that they are told to do so I expect any agreement that is reached this week to be ignored just as soon as they are politically able to do so. None of this disqualifies them from being educators of the year but they aren't disqualified from earning a doenut of the year either). 

This coming year is already going to be a mess. To be clear, schools will suffer from whatever staff shortages or issues that have manifested over this summer for the entity of next year. So to a large extent, much of the damage has already been done  -and that seems to be exactly what they want. 

But why? I can't avoid offering some commentary over my next two posts. In one, I'll have to talk about how the DOE has weaponized budget and staff in the past. And, in another, I'll have to talk about an odd sort of Lemon Dance that the NYCDOE has played with ineffective administrators for decades. The lemons are dancing as we speak. They are dancing from Borough Support Centers straight to a school near you and I think it's a good time to talk about that. It has everything to do with the budget cuts that schools are facing.  So stay tuned.

Friday, July 29, 2022

New "Lost Student" Number Cited by NYPost: Only 73,000

Yesterday, I wrote about a New York City parent who discovered that City Hall and the DOE greatly overstated the actual drop in enrolled students in city schools. In short, City Hall and the DOE wanted to cut school budgets so much next year that they pretended the city had lost 760,000 children when, in fact, they had not. 

Almost everyone in the press allowed them to share this mistruth with little or no fact checking. 


Today,  The NY Post published an article about how the DOE is now fighting for the budget cuts they want so much (the ones that will hurt children and school staff next year) by appealling a court order blocking the cuts. 

As part of the story, Post reporter Cayla Bamberger cited just 73,000 as the accurate number of students the city has lost since the start of the pandemic

The budget cuts come as the public schools — including 3K and preK, as well as charter schools — have lost 73,000 students since the start of the pandemic, according to data from the city’s Independent Budget Office.

That's right. A journalist didn't even bother using NYCDOE's data. She used IBO data instead. The numbers the IBO published are more than ten times lower than the number the mayor and the chancellor say. 

To be clear, a loss of 73,000 students is significant. This represents an approximate 6.7% loss in student enrollment in New York City (from 1.1 million).  But in his Executive Budget last February, the mayor proposed cuts closer to 10% and the #312 million mentioned today is higher number than that -and all of it is scheduled to come from school budgets. All of it. 

Don't forget, the mayor and chancellor are cutting the DOE budget by just 1% overall but all of those cuts, (totalling $312-$375 million) are coming only from school budgets. No cuts to Tweed. No cuts to supes. No cuts to central. Only cuts to schools. 

And they have such a problem with the truth that the New York Post won't even use the numbers they are claiming. Let that sink in.

That the papers will no longer publish data provided by the NYCDOE should be evidence enough that the DOE in New York is broken and can no longer be trusted.  But you tell me if the cuts n your school seem reflective of a 6% loss in student enrollment. And then fell free to tell me whether you think your school budget was the place to cut. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Data Review: City Hall Lied. Enrollment Is Not Declining.

Edit 1: Thanks to the commenter who pointed out that the parent I mention here doesn't have 30k followers. I've edited 

Edit 2: I published a follow up to this here. Seems the New York Post stopped believing the DOE. 

A New York City school parent with 30,000 Twitter followers has discovered the truth about the "declining enrollment" in New York City schools: It's not really declining. 

Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks have been bragging about how we serve less children than we once did. This "fact" has been the cornerstone of their efforts to cut hundreds of millions of dollars straight from NYC classrooms next year. 

 Enrollment. however, has not declined to 760,000 students in New York City as they have claimed:

At the end of the 2021–2022 school year, there were 1,058,888 students in those schools/grades, not 760,000 1/5

The discovery was made by anonymous Twitter user Tim Positive (@PositiveSubway). The series of tweets came with something that no one has been interested in these days: Actual data. Sharing that data led a DailyNews journalist to respond and change (though ever so slightly) her original claim. It has led to nothing else. 

And what those data show is telling.  Enrollment numbers that were shared by the Adams administration failed to include 3k student and Pre-K students, although they have always been included in the past. The data also show that the Chancellor and Mayor decided NOT to include some of our most vulnerable students from D75 and Alternative Schools (D79). They simply ignored those students and the press, of course, has let them get away with it. 

The city reached their non-factual number of 760,000 only after ignoring nearly one-quarter of a million children in core groups that have always been counted in the past.  

Thaty' right, baby. Tweed and City Hall juked the numbers. And they are getting away with it. 


Peeling away the lies and mistruths coming from these leaders has been a challenge since the administration began. The city once claimed they were cutting only $215 million from schools. The press reported. When the city was caught trying to cut an actual $375 million from schools, The press barely mentioned.  The mayor's own executive budget from the winter describes $306 Million in cuts to "pedagogical personnel" (those are cuts made directly to the classroom). This was never reported by the press either (because, obviously, reading takes too much time away from education reporters these days). 

And, as if discovering the correct amount of cuts was not enough dishonesty, they have now been caught (by a parent) lying about the justification for those cuts; The claim that we serve less students. That too, as it turns out, has been a lie. This revelation proves that they are hiding large numbers of students from their register in order to justify to the public the cuts they have made to classrooms. Here is a quick look, as well as brief summary, of the students City Hall and Tweed no longer count as their own.

District 75 (D75) serves our most vulnerable special education students. It is (by far) the best functioning district in the entire NYCDOE and has sent tens of thousands of children into functioning, rewarding lives as adults.  According to data this parent has shared, these students were not counted as enrolled in the NYCDOE. They told the public we lost those students. 

District 79 (D79) are our alternative school students. These students were not able to fit into a cookie cutter mold of NYC high schools. For decades, D79 has provided an alternative path for them. I have personally taught D79 students who have gone on to jobs in finance with Blackrock and  jobs in software with Facebook. The parent of at least one celebrity had sent their child to my D79 classroom. She was very satisfied. These students, too, are now excluded from being counted by the mayor and chancellor in their enrollment numbers, according to data provided by the parent. 

D79 and D75 schools have not been closed, mind you. The students simply no longer count. (As a reminder, in a surprise move, the chancellor fired the superintendent to D79 just last month in favor of someone who was closer to the chancellor. Perhaps, moving the older more experienced supe out of the way was related to this oversight). 

As if pretending our D75 and alternative students in D79 don't exist weren't enough, the mayor and chancellor have also decided not to count 3k and pre-k students in their enrollment -a departure from policy of previous years. These students have been included in the total register since Pre-k and then 3K were created. That they are not now is the result of a decision that has been made by a change in politics, not facts. 

The tweets are supported by data in the form of screen shots and links. I have examined them and, by in large, the data passes muster. The city is lying. There are almost 250,000 students who are being left off of the official count. That is one quarter of a million students. . 

This isn't declining enrollment. It's a shell game; played by two or more dishonest men who's goals include hurting children and school staff. Review the data for yourself. Feel free to check my facts by dropping a comment. I will update if needed. 

The first tweet of the thread is embedded below. Links to the whole thread can be found here. But the bottom line can be found in the original tweet: "1,058,888 students in those schools/grades, not 760,000". 

From 1.1 million to 1.05 million. That's closer to the truth. 


Thursday, May 19, 2022

The UFT Official Election Results.

 The official results from the union election are in. You can download them here. 

I'm proud of Camille Eterno. She really understands how collective action can be used to influence policy and workplace rules and how to keep public education public. I hope we hear more from her in the future. 

Also happy the Schirtzer got reelected and excited to see how Lydia will add to that mix. I trust she will know when to stay with the UFC and action and policy and when to stand out on her own. Her and Schirtzer may well make an effective combination.   Much to feel sad about some great union names not being elected. That's always a bummer. But I was also excited to see so many new leftists from the MORE caucus show a good solid voting base. I hope their voices continue to come more front of that caucus. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

This Is Not A Bomb Track

When I first started teaching, the Global History Regents would test students about Japan's economy.

But then Japan lost a whole decade of economic progress --and they stopped testing students about it. 

Shortly thereafter, they started testing students about Aung San Suu Kyi; the politician-turned-activist-turned-politician from Myanmar who stood up to the military dictatorship there and bravely negotiated a democratic government with them.

But then Aung San Suu Kyi supported the military as they committed genocide against the Rohingya minority (one which included 43,000 deaths and at at least 700,000 displaced persons) --and they stopped testing students about her. 

The Global History Regents has been testing students about Globalization for some time now. Globalization is obvious to you and I. It produces the products we buy. It provides the services we use. It keeps prices cheap and it allows up to go on relatively inexpensive vacations. 

Like many things, Globalization follows its ebbs and flows. We go through long periods of history where the world becomes more economically interdependent. Right now, we are going through a period where that dependency has shrunk, at least a bit. The many pauses in manufacturing in China (here) and the the international container ship backup (here) as well as the war in Ukraine (here) and the ongoing effects of COVID (this is but one example) have revealed, for corporations, a major weakness of interdependence during these new times: You just can't make a profit if you have nothing to sell because it's stuck on a boat. You can't get rich if the factories in China aren't open. And you can't make shareholders happy in the middle of a wide-spread international wheat shortage (which has the potential to effect many countries (many of which produce our 'stuff'!)). The data in the chart, showing that Globalization is in a bit of a 'retreat' only validates what makes perfect sense to everyone who pays attention; we are too interconnected given the present challenges we face. It only makes sense that the corporations and governments untwine, a bit, and become less interdependent; at least a little. 

And that sense is backed up by some blaring evidence. The signs that we are becoming less interdependent are everywhere. Wolfspeed, a semi-conductor producer, recently announced a new manufacturing plant to be opened here in New York (here). Intel is opening a manufacturing facility back here in the US as well (here).  These decisions are not confined to just one industry. Ford has announced it is moving some of its car production back the US from Mexico. Tesla is actually hiring at the factory that produces Model Y cars in Texas (here). We are beginning a transition. Some work is coming home. 

Will they stop testing students on the basics of Globalization, now that the fundamental structures of it are changing? 

All of the above information about the Ford and Tesla and Intel and Wolfspeed is knowledge that, if taught, might lead an inquisitive student to go look the possibility of getting hired. If the Global Regents were to test it, administrators all across the city would freak out and teachers in every classroom from Red Hook to Arthur Avenue and in between would teach it. But, like testing students on Aung San Suu Kyi or on Japan's economy, I expect the Global history regents to eventually just stop testing students about Globalization altogether. That's what they tend to do when the topics become a little too sticky. Besides, teaching any information that could lead to a job opportunity isn't exactly what the Global History people in NYS do. It's outside of their professional scope and, therefore, outside of my professional scope. 


One time, the Global History Regents asked students to consider the impacts of the road upon which Globalization travels; free trade. Specifically, they tested students on the point of view of one group that has been affected by Globalization; women union activists from a manufacturing plant in northern Mexico.

Chew on this doenut for a second, okay? Fifteen year old students in New York had to read a part of a speech to determine what topic a woman union activist from another country was talking about when she gave as speech about how terrible working conditions were (she was talking about workers rights and health in northern Mexico under NAFTA). In order to, someday, graduate high school, my students first had to answer this question. They have not been asked to understand their perspective in their world of the greater NYC Metropolitan area.  

The standards (upon which all of my curriculum is built) do not require me to teach my fifteen year old students how Globalization may have affected them in a negative way. I am not required to teach them that the once easy-to-get factory jobs in New York (and around the US) went away a long time ago and that they have to engage in even more job training after they graduate (either in college or a career training program) if they don't want to live a life of first-world poverty. Exactly no one is required to teach them that, here in the US,  there really was a time when a seventeen year old could land one of those jobs and have enough money to pay the rent and enjoy their youth without living in their parents' house.  I don't think I am suppose to tell them that it is technically easier for a poor high school student in China to break into the middle class than it is for a poor high school student in the US to break into the middle class, either. 

That's a very narrow statement, of course. My students have tons more opportunities in front of them, if they are able to make it in our first-world success game. But, in order to consider 17 year olds' perspective,  I think it is a statement that's worth making. (It's true, by the way. China produces more cars than our entire nation consumes and almost all of them are small, EVs intended to be purchased with a factory level wage. The most popular is around $8,000 USD. This is because tons more people can afford them because they are now in the middle class. But that's just an aside).  

And, as I reflect, it occurs to me that I was never required to teach them the protests against Globalization in Seattle in the 1990s (here) and I was never tasked to attend a PD to understand exactly why blue-collar, non highly-educated service workers over in the UK were furious that Globalization wasn't working for them and absolutely wanted out of the EU just as soon as possible.  (Heck, I'm not even sure if I should be teaching them Brexit. Should I be teaching Brexit?). 

I want to be teaching my students how to open a bank account or do their taxes. But the law does not permit a legitimate fifteen year old high school student, who is engaged in legitimate study, to have a bank account. And the law does not require them, even in nominal form, to pay any taxes. They would like to know how to write a check. I would like to teach them that no one writes checks anymore but here's how to use debit card or bank card in an great way to pay your bills. I used to (decades ago) teach them how to do stay within a household budget. But then they all stopped moving out, because the last of the jobs that had been there had finally gone. I'd like to teach them how to invest now (while they are still young and have time to grow a real portfolio); but they are not allowed. 

And I am not allowed, either. Before my students can do any of these things, they first must demonstrate to the world that they can be an educated citizen or resident by working and being over eighteen. They are told that, in order to have a job, they would be better off with a high school diploma. And, in order to obtain that, they must pass this test. (That's where I come in. I spend a whole year of their life teaching them about Japan's miraculous economy, about Aung San Suu Kyi, ('just incase she pops up on a regents again')  and about how Globalization is visible in NAFTA and the EU and the WTO and IMF and World Bank. I am required to teach them about NAFTA and the World Bank and about Aung San Suu Kyi, but I can't teach them how to open up a bank account or how to find a job at Tesla. I do this for salary, you see (for a good salary, by the way). So I do it.  And, if they pass this test, then they can do those and other things which we have not at all trained them for either. 

And I'm not sure how many of them will ever work with NAFTA or the World Bank or will ever become an international activist who will allow their military to crack down on a Muslim minority by killing 43,000 and displacing 700,000. I am not sure how many will open up a business or ever visit Japan. I suspect less than 1% will follow a career path that requires them to engage in these topics. And they won't be prepared to pay rent on a store front or open an Amazon FBA account, or how to apply for a business loan or to go to have a general understanding of the amazing background of the peoples who are living right there in their neighborhood or on their block. I'm on a train that, somewhere along the line, went right off the rails. But, dammit, those kids are going to learn about Aung and Japan and NAFTA and the EU and the WTO and IMF and the World Bank. 

This, of course, isn't new. 1992 was thirty years ago. And that's when Rage dropped these lyrics; 'The teacher stands in front of the class, But the lesson plan he can't recall, The student's eyes don't perceive the lies, Bouncing off every fucking wall, His composure is well kept, I guess he fears playing the fool, The complacent students sit and listen to some of that, [Bull__] that he learned in school, What about that, the system?'  

I love that group, by the way! I came into teaching to rage against the same machine! I think the Global History Regents people did, too although I cannot often tell. But we do now all just shut up, pay our mortgages and buy nice things with the salaries we earn and then go home. 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Dolores' Dreams -I

It was obvious. From distance, anyone who watched her could see that she was dreaming. Her eyes were closed. Her bag was zipped up shut and propped on the chair next to her. Her legs and feet, both stretched out in front of her torso, weren't moving and her arms were folded in tight over her chest. Most noticeably, Dolores' eyes were strenuously bouncing around inside of their lids without hesitation. It was obvious to anyone who paid attention that she was in the rapid eye movement phase of sleep. Sleep. She had fallen asleep. From a distance, anyone could see.

But that's now how it felt to her. To Dolores, the most vivid dream anyone could imagine, looked, felt, sounded and smelled as though it were actually happening to her.  It felt real and, as far as Dolores was concerned, she was really living it. To the outside world, Dolores Polonius was just catching a quick nap on her lunch break before heading back to teach her last two classes for the day. But Dolores was in a completely different reality than the outside world.  

She was on the subway heading to work. She was concerned about her safety during her morning (or was that afternoon?) commute. It was ,fuzzy, you know? Like a dream. But she left so early each day and returned so late that whole months went by where her entire commute ended in the dark. And riding the subway in the dark had long since become a concern for Dolores Polonius. She just didn't feel safe. And none of the other teachers at work did, either. So she forgave herself for being confused.  

And then, in a flash, she was in the hallway just outside of her classroom.  There was a kerfuffle of some sort and she had to address it. Her high school students (though typically polite and respectful), had taken to laughing at the mere suggestion of facing any consequences for poor actions at school. This all boiled over when they laughed at Ms Polonius when she asked them to please move along or to keep it down because she was teaching. Ms. Polonius wasn't the type to be laughed at. She was the nice teacher. But when they laughed, she pointed her index finger straight up toward their chests and gave them the biggest, boldest "Hey!!" that a five-foot-one-inch woman could possibly give. 

"Hey!!", she pursed, as her eyes bobbed around inside of their lids. There was a brief moment of silence in the hallway just outside of Dolores' classroom. And then the group of students burst out into laughter and told her to get back into her room.  

And then, in a flash, she was all alone. It was just her, in a dark room. Sitting. Thinking. Reflecting. And it occurred to her that, for the first time in her career, there were students who refused to work in her class. There were students who refused to respond to the counselors or deans and who declined to attempt any effort at all to exceed or to even pass. She wasn't a judgemental teacher. She had just never seen any student simply decline to do work for her, let alone whole groups of students. This was new. They no longer cared about the zeros that they would get for not completing class assignments. Just last week she had been greeted with a jovial student who jokingly refused to do any work."What's the point, miss? They're just going to make you pass me anyway!". 

To Dolores Polonius, this was all spectacularly peculiar. From a distance, one could see her murmur "powerful dream" under her breath, as though reassuring herself that this wasn't really happening. 

It was widely understood by the students that teachers would be harrassed, bullied, terrorized, observed by multiple administrators or worse if they issued a failing grade for students who refused to do any work in class. All of this was intentionally done, according to the widely held understanding,  in front of the students so that the students could see what happens to a teacher who issues more than just a few failing grades. It was an issue over which some students felt sympathy and other students felt a sense of buyer's remorse so severe that they cared not to think about it. But it was widely understood and quite widely held by students all across the city. And that was the reality within which Dolores had to teach. 

I mean, who would think you could go to a school, not do much for four years, watch your teachers get intimidated if they failed you and then walk out with a NYC diploma? Clearly! Dolores was dreaming! 🍩 But, within that dream, was the reality that she alone had to navigate. 

And yet it felt so real! It almost felt as though a high school aged student could face no consequence for anything at all, unless one became violent toward another person (and even then, it was only a standard ("principal") or extra strength ("superintendent") suspension). For Dolores Polonius, it just felt so real.  

And then she heard something. She couldn't identify it at first, because it was so muffled. But, as the sound came slowly into focus, she recognized it as the voices of two giggling students sneaking out of their favorite teacher's classroom next door to her. "Such great kids", she murmured to herself. "I teach them soon". This was all followed, of course, by the sound of a teacher calling 'please don't leave until the bell rings. Come away from the door, please'. And then, finally, the sound. The bell. 

The bell. 

Dolores Polonius woke up in a flash. Before her eyes had fully opened, she had grabbed her bag, her coffee and checked for her classroom keys. And, as it slowly dawned on her that the lunch break had ended, she smiled at the thought of having just two of her favorite classes to teach before being able to launch out into the warm Spring afternoon. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Behind The Scenes: Commentary On Both Campaigns

This is just a quick commentary on both campaigns as I observed them throughout the election. 

It's been a campaign of declining horizons for the UFC. What started as an idea to unite all of the teachers in the city who weren't too happy with Unity, quickly moved into a working group that would consider uniting all of the left teachers in the city who weren't too happy with Unity. That, somehow grew into a campaign tailored to all of the already activated teachers on the left who weren't too happy with Unity but were, at least, paying attention. At the end of the day, people from all of the groups who ran oppo for years wound up running this campaign. The new blood that had come into the process had come only through those same old faces and had been along for the ride through the same old tricks. The only difference from years past is that, for 2022, they were all on the same page. That is still not too shabby and it was more than enough to shake Unity out of its slumber for this election. 

In the Fall, the UFC truly had a chance to win a majority of working teachers. That would have put the leaders of the UFC in a very strong position over the next three years. A majority of working teachers would have allowed them to heavily influence union policy until the next election cycle. That would have been historic.  Given the many missteps (some, stemming from mean spirited internal moves made over the course of the campaign, and others which wound up playing right into Unity's "We Do the Work" strategy),  that outcome will not happen. But, like any Confederate solider who was at Gettysburg the moment before the battle began, there was once was a moment where all that and more was possible.  

Unity, on the other hand, used this election to organize its caucus like it has never done before. Before this election, the Unity caucus was a big, sprawling group of people who seemed more concerned with their small 'team' (or piece of turf) than they seemed to be with the union as a whole. Many of these people didn't know one another. Many more seemed almost preoccupied about brandishing their own career reputation, or settling internal caucus disputes, then they were with the union as a whole. 

They all know one another now! So far as I see, each person inside the Unity Caucus sees the purpose of their work in a whole new light. As a group, they seem more organized in thought and in word than I have ever seen before. And they have been forced to be more reflective of who they are when they speak about these issues. They don't attack regular members anymore on social media. They sound like professionals when they add a comment. They avoid that demeaning tone that Unity had become known for. They're better. Their "all-in" approach has made them better and this election has been a blessing in disguise for them (and, by extension, the rest of us). 

And, as they are in better shape, so too is the UFC. The United Federation of Teachers is not a union of teachers of the left and the UFC is a group made up of teachers and teacher supporters of the left. Despite this, they are a united left. That's important for the rest of us. They have a long history and knowledge base of taking to the streets that they all employed this year. The new found cooperation led them to learn from each other, share each others' ideas and approaches and benefit from a sort of cultural diffusion from which the left does not typically benefit.  They now know how to launch a media campaign now and they  (caucuses who made up the slate) are all in a position to organize and bring more to their respective causes. If they were smart (and they are at least smart enough to read this blog), they would start organizing forums and other gatherings around their issues now -before the campaign becomes too forgotten  and while so many are still paying attention to them. 

I doubt whether that will happen, though. They are, after all, of the left and the left is notorious for not staying together for very long. I have already written that they will probably get 'about as far as the next few stops on the subway'. That could give them up to one good solid year of being on the same page and helping one another. If they could 1) Stick to their points of unity, they will see  2) a growth in their numbers, then they'll 3) become more powerful. 

Alas, the old way of doing things, which are rooted in suspicion, had prevailed in the final construct of their organization. They yelled for more voices, yet they organized their group around a small council of older ("wiser"?) members some representing their caucus and some representing just themselves. That part didn't feel very new.  Though brimming with energy and brilliance and motivation, the younger voices inside MORE have still not come to understand that the caucus is controlled by four or five of the same people (and some of those people have blown up joint slates in the past). But this group almost didn't happen and it did and that greatly matters. 

(Side note: Someone needs to do a history of the UFT oppo groups. Only oppo is too scared to do it, because then they'd have to admit to some of the things they do.)

Looking out in the distance, the UFC's future is very questionable. If the younger real organizers can't figure out a way to work around the older voices who cause damage, then the entire UFC may well be a memory by the time the next election rolls around. And, while there are other members (like the entire group over at ICE UFT) who hold all of the institutional memory and who understand how to be helpful to newer activists instead of competing against them, the truth is there are about 4 or 6 people from the UFC slate who could help the cause by stepping aside starting now and allow the younger voices to take it from here. Sadly, if those key members don't decide that it is time to hang it up, then the UFC will not have a fighting chance to make any difference at all in three years time, because the UFC will no longer exist. 

But Unity has never been in better shape than they are right now. And that fact, along with a newly formed oppo group challenging them at every legitimate turn, will be good for working teachers. 

Monday, May 9, 2022

My Picks For The UFT Election

What a campaign. Now that it's over (polls closed today) it's time to write about it. Despite the toxic ugliness that marked the opening rounds of the event, the election it was a bonafide wasterhsed event for both oppo and the ruling Unity caucus. 

It won't wind up having a direct effect on regular classroom teachers across across this the city, but the way the UFT represents members, as well as the way opposition caucus reach out to work with members is going to be guided, in part, by the experiences and the lessons of this 2022 election. Unity will continue to improve and the oppo groups may well be able to work together (more on that in another post).  

So here is how I think the vote count will go:

Majority of members This is a no brainer. Unity will win the election as a whole. This will mean that all of their VPs and "at-large" candidates will win.  This margin will narrow from 2019 but will still send a clear message as to who the winner is. Oppo will cry that "margin of victory matters!". It doesn't. And it won't. Unity will continue to reach out to work with oppo anyway. And oppo will continue to work with Unity for almost every opportunity it has. 

Retirees Unity. They lost a few votes because of the Medicare issue but not as many as folks think. Unity will win. These folks have whole careers behind them and fresh memories of events like the 1975 strike. They stuck with their union through layoffs,  0-0 raises under Giuliani and the Bloomberg attacks on teachers and on teaching. One little mis explanation of their medical benefits will not cost a majority of them to switch their vote. Unity wins retirees. Again, oppo will claim that margin of victory matters here. But those same groups won't do a thing to build relationships with groups of retirees. There will be strategy for organizing  retirees because that's not the way oppo does things. So this vote will, literally, just be an indicator for how many retirees are pissed at Unity. Again, short term embarrassment for Unity but the oppo groups are not in any position to pose a long term threat to Unity's solid retiree base. 

Majority of working teachers This was briefly up for grabs at the beginning of the campaign. It is, of course, a fairly distant improbability for the UFC now. Unity will win a majority of working teachers. Most will come from elementary and middle schools. But a larger margin than most folks think will come from the high school division.  

Majority of non-teacher members Unity. That's all there is to it. This has always been a stronghold for Unity and will continue to be so .

Paras (because Paras deserve their own category, in this space). Unity. As long as the union takes care of its paras, the paras will take care of the Unity Caucus. Also, please continue to take care of our paras. Fewer of them will vote to for Unity, but look for them to vote Unity. Opposition leaders who are able to build relationships with para educators do so on a basis of world-view. It's nice for leftists to connect and work with other leftists. The moderates and conservatives have kept the left separate for far too long.  But that's not what a majority of paras want andso the majority of paras will stick with Unity. 

Elementary Schools There was once hope that this division could have been taken. Many elementary school teachers are conservative and moderate and, while more will vote with opposition this year, Unity will stay win a majority (although the margin will only be between 10-25 percentage points).  

Middle Schools This may well wind up being the biggest disappointment of the campaign for the UFC. There was once real hope (and a whole strategy in place) for making sure they won middle schools. The odds of an opposition group winning middle schools had never been higher and, if it would have happened, it would have made history. The ultimate composition of the UFC (which require all groups to be in consensus with every major move the UFC made) sent this goal to the back burner. They were replaced by goals that were more related to the formation of the group and it's candidates. All sides needed to know they believed in the same issues. So those issue had to be addressed and resolved. The ads, though beautifully produced, didn't help attract new eyes and the campaign in general seemed to loose site of winning Middle Schools as a campaign priority. The results will speak for themselves and Unity will win (by between 5 and 20 percentage points). There will, though, be enough in the middle school vote so that both sides and claim a bit of victory. If the UFC can continue to organize in middle schools, they may be able to make progress.  

High Schools Whenever there has been an organized opposition, the Unity caucus has lost the high school vote. This has been true for every single election I have heard. This year's election presented the classic scenario of Unity losing the high school vote again. They still may well loose it. But all of that changed when the city's biggest blogger and most famous teacher, Arthur Goldstein, decided to announce that he was running again with Unity. That changed again when Arthur put, in public, the reasons why (Unity gets stuff done. The opponents have a less than professional and less than healthy history where working with others is concerned. And more).  When Unity lost in 2016, it was because Arthur's chapter, the biggest in his borough, urged members to vote for MORE. That chapter has not voted against the Unity Caucus since.  I don't believe they will this time around, either.  This is a person who has been this city's most vocal defender of teachers since 2005 (since many of them were, themselves, in school). The name and the blog both command too much respect for Arthur Goldstein's announcement to be dismissed. 

And Arthur is not the exception. He's the rule. The Unity Caucus has been organizing in high schools all across the city over the past three years. Nobody has written about that. But it is the case. I think the UFC will win more votes than the last few elections. Of course. But I Unity surprise a few folks here. At the end of the day, Unity will capture more votes as well. And almost all of the new votes will be Unity. They have newer participating members in the borough of Queens and I don't think the UFC understands that just yet.  That has to be factored in as well.  

What also must be factored in is that this division goes with the weather. Sometimes, Unity wins more than 2500 votes (as in 2010) and sometimes, they get 1000 less (earning only in the range of 1500 in 2013). It does follow cycles but these cycles aren't very predictable. I correctly called a big Unity win last time. Were it not for Arthur, and for the organizing in Queens school in general (and in high school in particular), I would be calling. a big (big) UFC win this time. As it stands, Unity has turned high schools into a real fight -and I don't think the UFC is up to the task. 

But still there is this golden rule: Whenever there has been an organized opposition, the Unity caucus has lost the high school vote.  This is definitely too close for me to call. Whoever wins, high schools will be won by less than 500-750 votes. I do not know which group will win it. I guess why they count the ballots. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The Endorsements (Part 2: Unity)

For the Unity Caucus, this campaign has been a real watershed. Before this season, Unity was a sprawling organization filled with people who really weren't very well connected with one another -and they weren't very disciplined. Whereas some understood the subtleties involved in the internal politics of the union, there were others who did not and were so direct as to look like a bull trampling through a china shop. They could not communicate the medical coverage transition for retirees in any way that made any sense. Small groups of loyalists would devise "talking points" all on their own and attend online Zoom meetings with the specific intent of redirecting (ie controlling) the conversation. Unity members would share harsh tones with members, both online and in-person when they disagreed -and almost none of it was sanctioned by the 14th floor.  There were whole swaths of Unity who were not in any meaningful contact with other whole swaths of the same caucus -and it showed. When they acted, they weren't always on the same page. When they spoke, they didn't always strike the same tone. They were a disorganized mess. They looked weak and any politically minded unionist could clearly sense that weakness and smell electoral blood in the water.  This was a group that was ripe for defeat. 

But, as Yogi Berra once said; 'It ain't over till it's over'. Somewhere along the line, the Unity Caucus woke up and most certainly rose to the meet the challenge they were facing. 

By the time the official season got underway, they had all been tightly organized under one slogan, "We Do The Work". Suddenly, they were celebrating their members with videos and in visual banners shared all over social media. And, when they spoke via social media, they had their rank and file members -their superstars from the classroom- do most of the talking. Those superstars stole the show. When the UFC lodged a complaint that a paid Unity member was putting leaflets in mailboxes during "work time" the new Unity showed its true colors: It had been another member, an unpaid superstar teacher, who had volunteered her time to do it. The wins kept coming for Unity: A Moderator of one of NYC's largest Facebook NYC  teacher groups came out in favor of Unity. The city's most beloved edu blogger came out in favor of Unity. And, to a person, every single Unity loyalist was speaking from a position of good; of defending good work and of celebrating good solid members who work with them. That's all you heard from Unity after it pulled itself together. 

At the beginning of this campaign, Unity looked like the 1962 Mets. By the end, they resembled 1927 Yankees.  If they lose any divisions this year, it will be because of the early hole they found themselves in. It won't be because they didn't pull themselves together. That crew pulled themselves together plenty.  I have never seen the Unity Caucus more together than they are right now and if this election were in May instead of April, they would almost certainly clean the UFC's clock. As it stands, I think they'll pull out a victory (but more on that in another post). 

And my picks reflect that togetherness and singularity of effort and mindset. 

LeRoy Barr gets my endorsement for Staff Secretary. 100%. The Staff Secretary is the person who helps run the day-to-day operations of the union. He has helped build the Unity Caucus into what it is today and he has reached out to oppo for years hoping to be able to engage in some good work with them.  He has an even tone. He considers all sides in any discussion and he knows the membership. He is an excellent leader of professionals. 

Speaking as a progressive rank and file teacher, LeRoy has invited me to the table just so he could hear what I had to say. This blog is not a space for attacking and is usually a space devoid of all negativity. But leadership spots are important and this is matter of being inclusive. In 2018, it was his opponent from oppo who employed false accusations about my personal integrity and purged me as well as several others from her caucus. The reasons for this were later described in an internal ISO document: I and my colleagues were not far left enough for them. The actual phrase used in the internal document for ISO's national convention was "far right" (and they were very relieved to have gotten those 'far right' voices out of their caucus). Like I said, this is not personal. It is a simple matter of being inclusive. One leader has proven that he is and one leader has displayed the opposite. It's just that simple. I'm voting for LeRoy (and, frankly, I have only a benign fear of being purged from the UFT if he loses. Nothing a little swig of wine can't handle).

Janella Hinds gets my endorsement for VP of academic high schools. Janella is a transformative leader. Simply transformative. She has both style and grace and leads in a kind and supportive manner. Her tone is never harsh and her staff have always been just a phone call away from offering whatever help I needed. Her opponent once attacked her (in the past) and her response was purely her: She exuded her usual positive approach and tried to engage him in discourse. She apologized for not having his support and invited him to share a better path forward for her future Zoom meetings. Pure class. Janella is pure class. And my understanding is that she still teaches (Janella teaches in a place where good teaching greatly matters on an urgent day-today level) and is still loved at all of her colleagues and students. It's Janella and her team for the win. The whole union needs to lead in the manner that her and her team lead. 

Speaking as a progressive rank and file teacher, under Janella I have been asked to edit resolutions that would help teachers and have been called for quick brainstorm sessions from time to time. It is in her DNA to involve rank and file members. That's why I endorse her. Her opponent has been a member of the opposition for years. He has attacked me on Twitter, has implied that I am not a real teacher and has literally told me to shut up when I contributed to a discussion (that's here, if you're interested. I disagreed with him attacking someone else and that's what I got in return). Like I said, this blog is not a space for attacking and is usually a space devoid of all negativity. But past is usually prologue and the experiences I have had with her opponent (which are shared here with no malice and with no spite whatsoever) does shed light on the type of leadership we might expect with a UFC victory in that spot.  Please know, I would not be the only teacher to experience this level of pedantic abuse if her opponent were to win. Word has it her opponent recently filed a formal complaint about this blog with the union because I used the UFT's logo in a few of my posts. I think that's what we would expect with a regime change in academic high schools.  It's actually nothing personal. I just prefer the other path. Look, folks pick up their own unique styles along the way. Her opponent is a hard charger with a  'take no prisoners' approach. Janella is a once-in-a generation transformative leader who has a 21st Century style and skills. I'm not endorsing Janella because she has never attacked me and has worked with me whenever possible.   I am endorsing her because she is the type of leader who will never attack a regular teacher and will work with regular teachers whenever possible. That's what we want from our leadership. That's what people like me want from the real teachers of this union. A win for Janella would ensure that kindness and tone matter to teachers. 

Amy Arundell is a candidate for the UFT Executive Board this year. I would have gladly petitioned for her in my school but she had more than enough support without me (of course). But that's how much I endorse her. I think we all know Amy's contributions to the union at this point. She answers questions on Facebook groups. She connects with members whenever possible. She keeps her victories and struggles quiet and tries more than anyone else to connect with as many members as possible. But this is all because she believes in building and growing chapters and teachers and because she believes in the dignity of a professional saying "thank you for your feedback. I like my bulletin board the way it is" to an abusive administrator (she has said these words in the past. But I am asserting to you that she deeply believes in every sentiment behind those words and isn't slow to work toward it). Amy Arundell is a walking, talking theory of action.  In my opinion, she is the best organizer the UFT has, period. The work (of building) that she has done in Queens will, I think, add to the amount of votes that the Unity caucus will win this year (more on that later in the week when I publish my picks for who will win).  But, for now, it's Amy. 

Mindy Rosier - Mindy was once an oppo person herself! She now runs with Unity and has never been more widely respected (and, frankly, loved) than she is now. To know Mindy is to love Mindy. We like that about our union leaders. We like trusting the members of our Executive Board and we like being able to depend on their kindness. But that kindness should not be mistaken for anything less than toughness. Mindy hast taken on Eva in her own school. She has taken on the governor at his own Manhattan office.  She is a Bernie Sanders delegate with a gentle presence but she is every bit a fighter.  Mindy is the bomb; period. Find Mindy's name on the ballot. Vote for Mindy. 

Arthur Goldstein - Has been defending teachers since 2005 -since before I was ever active. I'll have more to write about Arthur later in the week but since being a member of the  Executive Board, he has connected hundreds of teachers to their union and has established a forum for thousands more to understand just what the heck is happening in their union. Arthur Goldstein on EB will be a plus for working teachers, just as his blog, his many newspaper column articles and his presence has been in the past. This is a no brainer. 

Mike Schirtzer - In a surprise to absolutely no one, the doenuts blog endorses Mikey no-shirt. I won't say more than I already have, but Mike is true teachers' teacher -and a complete ham. He has proven his expertise to me about the contract on more than one occasion and we all know how he has helped teachers in the past. People call him "Mr. UFT" because that's all he thinks and talks about. He has brought winning issues and winning people into the union and has ensured that they are part of it. When he speaks, he speaks as though unionism is cool and you feel as though you are the uncool one for not recognizing how cool unionism is. Mike is a force of nature and, as he continues to refine his leadership style and approach, I hope to see his name and his work find a more prominent place inside of the UFT.  Find Mike's name. Vote for Mike. 

Mike Solo - I have met Mike Solo exactly once in my life -for all of five minutes- but many of us know his story. As a chapter at John Dewey High School, Mike Solo pushed back hard against an abusive principal. I won't tell the whole story here but his actions were adroit, smart, brave and, ultimately victorious. Most importantly, this is the person who ensured that you and I will never have to record, keep and track data about our DO NOWs and Exit Tickets. That, to my understanding, was his fight and that precedent (which protects us all today) stemmed from his work when he was under direct assult. I know this person only by reputation. I am running to find his name so I can vote for him. Some would try to convince you to not vote for individual people on the ballot and just close your eyes and "check the box". But the things that protect us are the product of the effort of individual people who, under attack. fought back and, in their victory, protected us all. I choose to honor Mike Solo this year and I'm going to give thanks for his work by directly voting for him and for people like him.  

I have one edit from my last post: Sally Bean is running against Mike Sill for UFT assistant Secretary. I like Mike Sill but Sally Bean is a brilliant bundle for smart positive energy. I realize this is Unity's part, but the doenuts blog endorses Sally Bean or UFT Assistant Secretary. How great is she? She is so great I endorse her over one of the coolest people in Unity. She's that great. Find Sally's name. Vote for Sally.