Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ex Members Who Resigned File A Lawsuit Against The UFT To Get Back Their Retroactive Pay. - Are The ATRs Next To Sue?

As I expected, some ex-members who resigned or were terminated before the age of 55 have decided to file a lawsuit to get their much deserved retroactive raises between the 2009-13 school years which was unfairly deprived by the City and the UFT in the recently negotiated contract. How any union could eliminate up to 9,000 ex members from getting the retroactive pay that they worked for is  just plain wrong. Yet, that is exactly what happened with the UFT.  It appears the UFT violated the equal protection under the law provisions in New York State, I guess time will tell if the lawsuit is successful.

While I believe the inadequate contract was a favor to the De Blasio Administration that allowed the City to establish a "city pattern" that got the City off cheaply.  However, why did the union sacrifice many of the members to satisfy the City?  Not only will 9,000 ex members who resigned. terminated, discontinued, or died not get their retroactive pay but add another 3,000+ ATRs who are now second class citizens with an expedited 3020-a process based on a vaguely worded and defined  "unprofessional behavior".  Moreover, any ATR that won their 3020-a hearings will be not offered vacancies or temporary positions by the DOE.  These 250+ educators are now known as the "untouchables".   This group, I'm told will include any ATR "U rated" in the last school year.

Hopefully, the ex members will win their lawsuit and be getting their much deserved back pay and the next lawsuit the union may have to deal with is the ATRs for their failure to properly represent them and allowed the DOE to impose different rules on them that no other Municipal unions have for their members.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Great Teachers Also Need Tenure Laws To Protect Themseleves From Vindictive Administrators.

The education reformers have redoubled their efforts in trying to eliminate teacher tenure and flush from a victory in  California, which I believe will be reversed on appeal, they and their deep pocketed benefactors (the 1%) have filed a similar lawsuit in New York State.  The premise of the lawsuit in New York State is that the state teacher tenure laws violate the constitution that requires that every student should have an adequate education. This lawsuit is just another attack by the education reformers on the teaching profession and the teacher unions. 

Interestingly, the tenure laws in New York State are more stringent than in California.  For example, it takes three full years of satisfactory ratings before tenure can be granted by the Principal.  Furthermore, the tenure decision can be extended for another year or two if the Principal and teacher agree to do so. In the last year in NYC only 56% of the teachers received tenure, while the rest were either extended or discontinued.  Moreover, the New York State teacher evaluation system will allow for a path for dismissal.  Finally,  once tenure is achieved, the teacher can still be terminated for misconduct or incompetence but gets "full due process rights" by going through a State 3020-a hearing in front of an approved arbitrator who decides the case.

Until a teacher gets tenure, the Principal can terminate a teacher "at will" and its extremely rare for an untenured teacher to win their appeal when terminated.  Chapter Leader Arthur Goldstein wrote about one such case when an untenured teacher went to bat for his students as their IEP's were being violated by the school administration and where not getting the state mandated services they needed.

When I was in the infamous "rubber room", I encountered hundreds of teachers during my stay.  The common theme was that most of the teachers were there because of problems with their principals.  I'm not saying that the teachers were blameless but in many cases the principals were told how to embellish, pervert, and distort the incidence to make it seem serious, just to get the teacher out of the school. It is only when the teacher goes in front of his or her 3020-a arbitrator can the teacher reasonably expect an impartial hearing.  If the DOE had its way, almost 100% of the teachers charged would be terminated, just like that for untenured teachers or teachers who appealed their "unsatisfactory ratings".  

If there wasn't tenure would any teacher stick their neck out and advocate for their students, report wrongdoing, or question policies that appear to hurt the academic achievement of the students?  Few would.  Does one want to go back to the "bad old days" when nepotism, cronyism, and personal likes or dislikes dictated the fate of teachers?  I think not.   One of my friends who was untenured reported Regents cheating to her administration and her satisfactory observations before the cheating report became unsatisfactory after the report and was discontinued since it appears the administration was in on the cheating (in fact SCI was called and confirmed that cheating took place and had the educator removed).  Hopefully, the State Supreme Court will find in her favor and force the DOE to give her job back.

 Nobody wants to work in an environment where any accusation by a student or administrator or the failure to take on extra responsibilities could lead to termination without "due process".  As it is, there will be a teacher shortage in five years and weakening or eliminating teacher tenure will accelerate the pace of good teachers leaving the profession.  Yes, tenure is important if school districts are to attract and retain "great teachers" and do what's best for their students by placing them first.

Friday, July 18, 2014

New York State Education Department Is Going After Teacher Licenses Under Article 83 For Non-Criminal Actions.

Over the last few years the New York State Education (NYSED) has directly or indirectly used some of the RttT funds to go after teacher licenses who were terminated in their 3020-a hearings for  "moral turpitude".  While the State always went after educators found guilty of a crime or criminal actions and removed their teaching license, it appears the State has expanded their definition of "moral turpitude" to include non-criminal actions as well in an attempt to get rid of more teachers. Lately the  Office of Teaching Initiatives has allocated more money to investigate more 3020-a termination cases that were not criminal in nature.  According to my sources, NYSED has used a portion of the increased federal funds allocated to the State  (RttT?)  to expand the State's  "good moral charterer" determination to include non-criminal actions of sexual misconduct, corporal punishment, and other non-criminal actions that lead to the teacher's termination in the 3020-a hearing process.

Moreover, the NYSED has also included educators who took a stipulation to resign or retire rather than go through their 3020-a hearing that fit into the ever broadening definition of  "moral turpitude". It appears all this is part of NYSED's attack on teachers, be it the badly flawed Teacher Evaluation System, their insistence to use high stakes testing against teachers while admitting that it's not appropriate for students, or the ever broadening of the "moral turpitude" clause of Article 83..  In fact, I know of a case of a teacher who was unjustly terminated in 2011 for corporal punishment in which she tried to restrain a violent child and never hurt the child in restraining him.   When her unfair 3020-a decision was reversed by the State Supreme Court as being "shocking to the conscience", only to be reversed again in a 2 to 1 Appellate Court decision, ahe found herself three years later subject to NYSED's punitive Article 83 regulation.

While nobody wants teachers who are a danger to the children to have a license, it appears that the NYSED is using a broad brush to label many educators as not deserving of a teacher's license and many deserving educators can no longer be a teacher simply because the NYSED has expanded the "moral turpitude" clause to include educators who are not and never have been a danger to the children and that's not fair or right for that matter.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Open Market Transfer System Is A Joke.

Once again, I have checked over ten schools in Queens that advertized for an Earth Science teacher on the Open Market Transfer System (OMTS), and didn't receive one interview.  That's right, not one interview! Maybe because I am part of the "untouchables", ATRs who survived their 3020-a hearings that the DOE doesn't want to see in the classroom.  However, in speaking to many of my teaching colleagues coming from closing schools or programs, they haven't received any interviews either!  According to Gene Mann of the UFT 4,000 teachers change jobs using the OMTS.  What Mr Mann fails to say is few of them are highly experienced and high-salaried teachers. The vast majority are untenured teachers who want to get out of poorly performing schools resulting in a destabalizing of the very schools that need a stable teaching staff.

What do we excessed teachers have in common?  Age and salary/  Most of my colleagues make $80,000 or more and are over 50 years of age.  That's right its age and salary discrimination.  Principals will not hire us because of the "fair student funding" and the bias against ATRs.  Try to get this information from the DOE and UFT and they claim ignorance and a FOIL request to the DOE was ignored since neither organization wants the truth out. Now that there is no "hiring freeze" look for the ATR pool to increase by September from the 2,400+ to as much as 3,000 as few ATRs took the inadequate buyout.

Our union betrayed the ATRs and no matter how our union spins this contract, the union is allowing the DOE to stigmatize excessed teachers and demonize those that won their 3020-a discipline hearings.   No other City union would agree to make some of their members second class citizens and allow the DOE to practice a de facto age and salary discrimination as part of the contract.  However, no other union is like ours that screws some of its members while slapping themselves on the back for an inferior contract that even DC37 beat.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Illinois Highest Court Rules Against The State's Attempt To Reduce Retiree Health Benefits.

In a groundbreaking decision that has ramifications throughout the nation, the Illinois Supreme Court, in a 6 to 1 decision ruled that the State cannot reduce retiree health benefits, once approved.  According to the state's highest court the constitutional protections trump the State's  proposed 2012 pension reform changes that the Legislature and Governor have agreed to.  The decision, written by the chief justice said the following:

The Court, led by Justice Charles Freeman, did not specifically rule on the pension reform law, but declared “it is clear” that all pension benefits, including health insurance, cannot be, as the Illinois Constitution mandates, “diminished or impaired,” which the ruling called the “plain and ordinary” meaning of the state’s Constitution.

The key here is the State's Constitutional mandates that pension benefits cannot be "diminished or impaired".  This very same clause is in New York and a dozen other State Constitutions.  Therefore, these States, including New York, will now have a precedent to follow if any of these States decide to reduce retiree pensions, including health benefits. Therefore, in 2017, when the next New York State Constitutional Convention is convened and if the State Legislature and Governor decide to tackle pension reform, it will appear that already retired State and Local government employees will not be affected, based upon the Illinois court decision.

While its possible that New York State could tackle pension reform in 2017, it appears highly unlikely that the State cannot change the Constitutional mandate that retiree benefits cannot be "diminished or impaired" based upon the Illinois Court precedent.

That brings me to the education reformers who are spearheading the assault on educator pensions and teacher tenure laws.  All these education reform groups want to eliminate pensions and replace it with an inferior 401k/403b plan or none at all.  Furthermore, when one looks at charter schools, which is what the education reform groups strongly support and believe all schools should end up to be, almost all of them have inferior pension plans, some don't have matching contributions and a few don't even offer a pension plan!  In the education reform playbook its not about educator job security and pensions but how to maximize profits for their hedge fund allies who fund their groups and the charter schools. In fact, long-serving teachers is not what they want.  High teacher turnover, and making the teaching profession a transitional job is their goal and teacher tenure laws and adequate pension benefits is contrary to that goal.  Consequently, look for the education reform groups  to continue to attack teacher "due process rights" and compensation in the form of pensions and health benefits.

Friday, July 11, 2014

One Third Of New York City Public Schools Found To Be Overcrowded. Just Another Nail In The Coffin Of Mayor Bloomberg's Education Legacy.

An audit by the City Comptroller found that an astounding 33% of New York City public schools were overcrowded and that Tweed used "fuzzy math" and creative bookkeeping to falsely claim that these overcrowded schools were within capacity.  The audit clearly points out the shenanigans the DOE used to shoehorn students into inadequate spaces and co-locate charter schools into existing buildings. Some of the most startling findings in the Comptroller's audit was.

First, the deliberate shrinking of regular classroom space from 600 to 500 square feet by the now discontinued and discredited Office of Portfolio Management to hide overcrowding.

Second, the slashing of specialty rooms such as music, art, and science labs from 1,000 to 500 square feet and special education rooms from 770 to 500  square feet to give the false impression of adequate space being available.

Third, enrichment rooms for subjects like dance, drama, and computer courses were included as classroom space in the classroom utilization report known as  the "blue book", to make it seem that there was more space per student then there really was.

Finally, many guidance and social work staff were crammed into closet-like spaces to give the false appearance of adequate classroom space.

Why did the Bloomberg Administration fudge the numbers?  How else can they ensure that charter schools and his favored small schools can be squeezed into an existing public school building?  Who needs a dance studio, a band room, or a Science lab when it can be downsized into cramped classrooms and make it appear the school is not overcrowded.   Moreover, who cares if Tweed included trailers, most of them over a decade old and some with mold as part of the equation?  An article by Juan Gonzales is a must read as he discusses many of the problems found in the audit.

Just like the graduation rate, the utilization rate used in the DOE's "blue book" is bogus and uses "fuzzy math"  to falsely show figures that served the purpose of the DOE and not that of the students who suffered from it.

While Mayor Bill de Blasio is starting to address this issue, it will take many years to change the culture at Tweed and he really needs to put Chancellor Carmen Farina back into retirement and hire a competent educator to be Chancellor who will really clean house of the Bloomberg ideology that permeates throughout the senior management at the DOE..

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

How Bad Is Our Contract? Just Compare It To The DC37 Pact?

We all know that the UFT negotiated a bad contract with the City that included inadequate raises, a "caste system" for ATRs, and no retroactive pay for members who resign, are terminated, or die, making the contract more like an annuity.  However, as other unions are now settling with the City, their terms appear to be more favorable than the UFT negotiated.   Just compare our contract with DC37's contract.

In September, our union inexplicably agreed to a meager raise of 2%, plus an equally miniscule .14% of retroactive pay, for a total raise of 2.14% until May  2015.  By contrast DC37 will get three 1% raises starting from 2011 and a 1.5% raise in September 2014 for a total of 4.5% and since the 1% raises go back to 2011, the compounded raises will be 0.5% for an effective increase of of 5%.  That's right the DC37 pact will more than double the UFT negotiated raise for the fall checks! Furthermore, they also will receive a $1,000 bonus and that is significant  since the average DC37 members makes half what a UFT member makes in salary.

Another thing, the DC37 pact does not have eighteen months of "zeros" as the UFT pact does and while the UFT agreed to sacrifice some of its members (ATRs) the DC37 pact does no such thing.  In fact, the contract throws open the chance of the DC37 members to get more money if they can come up with cost savings, similar to what the Sanitation union received when they went from a three man to a two man truck.

Finally,  the DC37 pact will allow the union to receive all their retroactive pay quickly and not have it deferred as far back as 2020 as the UFT pact does.  In addition, the DC 37 raise occur eighteen months ahead of the UFT raises and the City gave DC37 an extra 0.52% from March to July of 2017.  No annuity for DC37 as it is for the UFT. Everybody gets the raises!

Pay Raise............................UFT.........................DC37

2011................................... 0%..........................1%

Total...................................10% ....................10.52% +

Decide for yourself what you think of the wonderful UFT contract now?