Sunday, February 28, 2010

Note to Klein: Resign

It is time for Joel Klein to resign.

I could list the thousand things that have made him the worst chancellor in NYC history, from children left out in the middle of snowstorms to irresponsible school closings. I could point out the myriad ways he has harmed school children by applying the corporate model to school communities. But those things, as awful as they are, were for the most part poor policy decisions borne from his ignorance of education. His latest shenanigans call for no less than his resignation.

I'm talking, of course, about his dealings with Eva Moscowitz, the charter school maven who for some mysterious reason seems to have special access and influence with the chancellor. Here is what Eva said to Joel:

"We need to quickly and decisively distinguish the good guys from the bad. And yes take away resources from institutions that are harming children and give to those who are truly putting children first."

How did Klein respond to this bald-faced power/money grab? Did he defend the public school system over which he presides? Did he defend the teachers and parents and children who do their best day in and day out?

No. The evidence suggests that Klein sided with the person he perceived to be the good guy and threw the bad guys (teachers, parents, and children) under the bus.

How Klein can continue to "lead" a system he obviously loathes is beyond me.

Worse still, Eva asked Klein for more space for her charters in two specific schools: PS 241 and PS 194. Two months later, the DOE announced that those two schools would be phased out. While Klein has not admitted that he was directly influenced by Moskowitz, the timing is more than suspect. Furthermore, Klein's spokesman, David Cantor, confirmed that "The chancellor signs off on all closure decisions". In addition, Juan Gonzalez reported that "Klein had not submitted the closings to a vote of the community district education councils, as required by state law."

School closings affect hundreds, if not thousands, of students, teachers, and parents. They change the entire structure of a neighborhood. Klein did not reach out to those vital stakeholders. They, it seems, do not matter. Eva got what she wanted--that's what's important.

I agree with Eva Moscowitz on one thing: It's time to distinguish the good guys from the bad.

It's time Klein to go. The UFT should demand his immediate resignation for this latest fiasco and for everything he has done to undermine what was once the finest public school system in the country.

Note to Klein: Resign.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Joel and Eva--The Transcripts

We here at Accountable Talk take our hats off to Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News, the only reporter for the NY dailies who seems to give a damn about how the NYC school system is run. Using the Freedom of Information Act, the DN obtained 125 emails between Eva Mosowitz and Joel Klein, detailing just how much Klein favors charter schools, and Eva's schools in particular. Among other disturbing messages, Eva writes to Joel that "We need to quickly and decisively distinguish the good guys from the bad. And yes take away resources from institutions that are harming children and give to those who are truly putting children first." You'd assume that the chancellor of the public schools would object to having his schools painted as the bad guys, but he acquiesced to Eva's request. Apparently, those putting children first are people who make half a million dollars a year, like Eva, not underpaid teachers like you.

We at AT wanted to investigate this further, so our crack team (we're not drug users, but we wear really low rise jeans) filed our own Freedom of Information request in an effort to obtain chat logs between Joel and Eva, and we soon hit paydirt. Our request was delayed a few days because the chancellor and the white hat school maven apparently use pseudonyms in their communications. One warning: some of these chat logs are disturbing, mostly because they are entirely made up.

The ChancelLORD: Eva, you there bb?

Evil Eva: Yes, my lord.

The ChancelLORD: Oh baby I love when you call me lord my little mousekowitz.

Evil Eva: last names, remember?

The ChancelLORD: Of course, Eva. What are you wearing?

Evil Eva: Not so fast, my lord. Business before pleasure, K?

The ChancelLORD: I'd do anything for you, my charter cutie.

Evil Eva: I need more space for my school. Can you arrange that?

The ChancelLORD: That depends. Can you find a little space for me, too?

Evil Eva: Oh, I don't have much, Joelsy. But I might have a tight little spot for you if you do me this favor.

The ChancelLORD: Consider it done!

Evil Eva: Good boy. I'd like to use ps194 and ps241.

The ChancelLORD: Will that be enough space? I'll close them if you like!

Evil Eva: Purrrrrrr. One more thing. Can you help me raise a million dollars? Private funds hon--we need to keep it quiet.

The ChancelLORD: If you help me raise something first!

Evil Eva: mmmmm...I hope you're UP for it.

The ChancelLORD: Oh I am! I had my head shined this morning just like you like it!

Evil Eva: You tease! I wish I could be there to buff it for you. And speaking of buff...I'm in it.

There was much more, but frankly we threw up in our mouths a little bit just reading it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Contract Demands

As much as I despise Klein and Bloomberg, you have to give them some credit for knowing how to negotiate. They ask for the moon and the stars, and when they get just the moon, they're pretty happy. The UFT generally begs for scraps from the table like a starving dog.

Take the current negotiations. The city has asked for the right to suspend teachers without cause and without pay, cutting our sick days in half, changing the salary structure, ending seniority by changing the ATR rules, and so on. And the UFT asked for...what? A "substantial" raise? How much is substantial? In these economic times, a lot of people see the 4% the city budgeted for us as as pretty substantial. Even the 2% looks good to people who are out of work.

By now, our UFT leaders should have learned from BloomKlein and put a list of demands on the table that PERB would have to consider in their decision. Here's what I would have asked for:

  • Teacher's Choice should be increased to $2o00 per teacher to reflect what teachers actually need to make their classrooms work. In addition, each teacher would receive a copy machine and an unlimited supply of paper and toner.

  • A 14% salary increase, which includes the 4% pattern plus 5 per cent for each of the years we took zeros when the city lied about its financial crisis.

  • Teachers should retain their 10 sick days per year. In addition, teachers would get two extra days for every documented day they stayed home due to a disease they contracted at schools, such as flu, the common cold, or lice.

  • If a teacher has tenure and is made an ATR or placed in the rubber room for incompetence, a principal must pay $10,000 from his own pocket to a charity of the teacher's choosing. If the teacher is found incompetent, the principal who granted the teacher tenure would pay. If the teacher is found competent, the principal who filed charges would pay.

  • Randi Weingarten would be officially declared a fluke, and all programs negotiated by her would be declared a do-over.

  • Five snow days would be built into the school year. If the days aren't used, school would end a week earlier.

  • 37.5 minutes would be reduced to 3.75 minutes.

  • Seniority would be strictly enforced, by gunpoint if necessary.

  • Teachers would be subject to a new Three Smacks and You're Out rule. Each teacher would be allowed to smack two students of his or her choosing every year, or be allowed to choose a hefty gym teacher to do substitute-smacking. On the third smack, you'd be subject to the same old corporal punishment rules as before. Blood-letting would be strictly forbidden, of course, unless the child was being a real asshole.

Of course, these are just suggestions, the kind of ask-for-the-moon-and-stars type negotiating the city has used so successfully. I'd be willing to give any or all of them up for a contract that paid teachers well and showed us some respect. Well, to be honest, I'd really like at least a one-smack rule, because there's a kid in 815 who's really getting on my nerves. But you know what I mean.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Case for Seniority

There's been much discussion lately about layoffs given the current state of the economy, and that has led to much discussion about ignoring seniority and giving the boot to senior teachers. When I read articles like the one by Barbara Maritinez in the Wall Street Journal, I am mystified by the intellectual laziness of the reporting. It's no surprise, really, as politicians spout the same old lame arguments as to why "last in, first out" is the wrong way to go, and reporters tend to echo those sound bites. If you'll excuse me being serious for a change, I'd like to examine the logic, or lack thereof, of the anti-seniority arguments. Here are the ones presented in Martinez's piece:

Argument 1: Many effective and talented teachers who have been hired in recent years will lose their jobs. This argument is wrong on several fronts. First, even in the most terrible budget crunch, the majority of teachers laid off will be first or second year teachers. While certainly many of them may develop into effective teachers, almost none of them are, and I mean no disparagment when I say that. New teachers struggle. I did, and so did every other teacher I know. A new teacher's lack of experience makes them less effective than good veteran teachers. Research has shown that it takes about five years before a teacher really starts to come into his or her own. Second, this argument carries the implication that these "new and effective" teachers are better than veteran teachers, and there is no evidence whatsoever to support that. I am a veteran who works with many new teachers in my department, and they constantly come to me for advice and lessons. So not only are veterans good, but they tend to make new teachers better in a collaborative environment. Third, we already lose almost half the new teachers we hire in NY before they reach that critical fifth year. If school systems really cared about retaining new teachers for their talent rather than for their relative cost, they would stop pressuring and underpaying them. In truth, school systems seem to like the "churn" of newbies, because it keeps overall salaries down, lowers health care costs, and reduces the number of teachers who will eventually be eligible for pensions.

Argument #2 (This one made by Joel Klein): Because newer teachers earn less than veterans, more teachers will end up losing their jobs. While this is true mathematically, let's take the argument to its logical conclusion. The cheapest teachers are the ones with the least experience and the least education. So the teacher who has one day of experience should be retained, according to this argument, while a third year mathematics teacher with a master's degree plus thirty additional credits should be laid off (in NYC, there is a 15 thousand dollar difference between these two teachers). So this argument assumes that we should retain the least experienced and least educated teachers. Would any parent want to send their child to a school system in which experience and education are punished? Would any prospective teacher want to come to a system in which they would be treated as expendible after just a few years and much hard work?

Argument #3 (Made by Tim Daly, head of the New Teachers Project): You will lose teachers you invested a lot in. Haven't we invested a lot in senior teachers, as well? Haven't senior teachers invested a lot of their lives, dedication, and education into serving children? Every effective school I've ever been in got that way because they built a community of teachers who have a common interest in improving that school. You build that interest by giving people a reason to stay, not by threatening their jobs with every economic crisis. And truth be told, how much money has really been invested in new teachers anyway? Last I heard at my own school, we had at least 50 applicants for a vacancy. While some schools are most likely harder to staff, it's usually because they're more challenging schools. We can devote our energies to improving those schools so they become inviting places to work, or we can throw the least experienced teachers in to educate the most needy students, as Tim Daly would have us do. Which makes more sense?

Argument #4: Quality new teachers will be laid off while poor performing veterans will be retained. Yes, there are some poor performing veterans out there. There are also quite a few poor performing new teachers. By laying off veterans, it is virtually guaranteed that even the worst new teachers will be retained because they are far cheaper and because the layoffs will necessitate keeping those low-priced bodies in the classroom.

Argument #5: Layoffs are necessary in the first place. This, of course, is the biggest lie of all. I'm no expert on education spending, but even I know that useless projects drain the education coffers more than enough to pay for any layoffs. ATRs and the rubber rooms alone have cost the city more than 130 million dollars, and that cost is set to keep rising with the closing of 19 schools. Those 19 will probably end up being 60 small schools, with 60 principals and 60 custodians and 60 secretaries. We pour money into charter schools and pay people like Eva Moskowitz nearly half a million dollars a year to run them. We set up systems like ARIS that cost 80 million that have been riddled with problems that render them virtually useless. We have had seemingly endless reorganizations of the city system, each of which takes money away from classrooms. The 700 million dollars the city gained to reduce class sizes has seeminly vanished while class sizes have grown. And while this is going on, the mayor rewards his campaign staff with six figure government jobs while pointing to a looming fiscal calamity.

In my view, this whole layoff argument is nothing more than a blatant implementation of the shock doctrine, in which politicians look for, or in some cases manufacture, a crisis in order to push through their political agendas. Klein, Bloomberg, and other education deformers have long seen the end of seniority as the holy grail of their education policies, and they see the current economic crisis as a means of implementing those policies.

Good public schools have always been a mix of talented senior teachers and eager new ones. Bloomberg, Rhee, Duncan and company would like to do away with all that, and educate your children on the cheap in the guise of education reform and in the name of saving money. Don't let them do it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why can't I have students like this?

I'd have gladly taken a week's detention if I had thought of this as a kid. I don't know how the teacher kept a straight face.
Thanks to HuffPo for posting this.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hoist Klein by his own Petard

Klein's latest diatribe against teachers appears in today's New York Post. In it, Klein calls for rubber room teachers to go without pay and health benefits while their cases are adjudicated (Thanks to Chaz for blogging about this--I had missed it myself). You can read my response to the piece in the comments section of the Post beneath the article. I urge you all to respond as well.

The chancellor also proposes expedited hearings. The UFT has supported quicker resolution to rubber room cases, and I am sure most teachers would agree with such a move. Speedier hearings would be welcome, but will never happen under Klein, as conditions in the reassignment center cause teachers to resign without having to hold those nasty hearings. Also, Klein wants cases heard by administrative judges who would be beholden to the city, rather than independent arbitrators.

Is it a coincidence that the Post has published at least three articles (that I know of) exoriating reassigned teachers, immediately followed by Klein's Valentine's Day screed? If the Post had any journalistic integrity, they'd report the news rather than try to help Klein circumvent state due process law.

If Klein is so hot for this idea, I say let's allow him to be the test case. Klein was given a failing grade by about 90% of teachers in a UFT survey, and parents are completely disenfranchised by his dictatorial policies. Let's charge him with incompetence, take away his pay and benefits, subject him to humiliation in the Post, and then let him see if he can prove that he's competent to hold the office of chancellor. My guess is he can't.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Joel Klein Honors New Teachers!

In an email today, Joel Klein laid out his plan to make tenure more difficult to achieve. His three part plan includes: Rigorous review, Transparency, and Accountabilty. To boil it down for you, he proposed using test data, having principals talk to new teachers about how their test data isn't good enough, and having principals evaluate test data.

Klein claims that new teachers will not be evaluated on test data alone. That would be insufficient, he says. Now let's all try really hard to imagine the scenario in which a teacher with promise but below average test scores will be granted tenure. No, I can't imagine it either.

In exchange for this new review, which is most likely against state law and the spirit of the contract, Klein promises to "do more to honor the achievement of earning tenure." In Kleinspeak, he means that he considers evaluating teachers by test scores to be an honor. How he will do more is anyone's guess. Perhaps he will honor new teachers whose student portfolios are thicker than the Queens white pages, or whose TANs have their own gravitational pull. I also suspect learning to kiss the ass of your principal will become one of the biggest honors of all. If you can give your principal a prostate exam with your nose, tenure is yours.

For the record, I am not, in theory, opposed to making tenure a more challenging process. New teachers should be of the highest quality we can find, and those who can't cut it should be fired. Still, it's pretty easy to see who's cutting the mustard and who is not. And judging new teachers on test data that even the state of NY, who make the tests, have said is faulty borders on lunacy.

Let's face it--this isn't an honor, it's a power grab. Probably a third of new teachers leave of their own accord before three years are up. Of those that remain, Klein wants to get rid of anyone who doesn't meet his standards, whatever those may be. I get the feeling that few will make it, and Mayor4Life and his stooge will get what they have always wanted: a transient, temporary work force of young healthy people who will demand little in the way of health care, who will command the lowest salaries, and who will contribute to the retirement system with little hope of ever making it more than three years.

Oh yeah. And they won't dare ask for help from that pesky union for fear of their jobs. Don't you feel honored?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Citizen Klein--Gone at 63

Joel Irwin Klein, Chancellor of the NYC public schools since 2002, who had long suffered from heart problems during his entire reign as education's top dog, finally succumbed to his health issues. He was 63.

Most of the city, as well as Klein's casual acquaintences, were shocked by the news. Klein's closest intimates and advisors, however, saw the end coming. "There was something different about him in the last few days, so I knew something was wrong," said several members of the Panel for Educational Policy, in unison. "One day, he was rubbing his hands together in sadistic glee, preparing to close 19 schools. That was the Joel we knew. Then on Monday he came to Tweed whistling. That was the beginning of the end."

Mayor Bloomberg concurred. "It was obvious his heart problem had gotten the best of him. I think I actually saw him grin this morning. When he told me that he was planning to close the schools tomorrow for a snow day, I knew the end was drawing near."

Klein was rushed to Bellevue hospital and given an electrocardiogram. That test revealed what few at Tweed had ever suspected--that the chancellor had a heart.

"It wasn't much of a heartbeat," said Dr. Lance Boyle, ER physician. "But it was there. We had to take action."

According to Boyle, physicians tried desperately to save the ailing chancellor. "We did everything that medical science could do. At one point, we even considered driving a stake through his heart, but it was just too teensy. The beat persisted, and eventually we just had to accept the fact that he was human."

It was rumored as he lay on the hospital gurney, his heart monitor showing the merest glimpe of movement beyone a flatline. Klein smiled faintly and whispered, "Rosebud." Then, he announced that the schools would be closed.

There will be no funeral for Mr. Klein, but those wishing to pay their first respects are urged to build a bald headed snowman tomorrow in his honor. The chancellor's loved ones asked that they not be identified, as being a loved one of Joel Klein was difficult enough.

Friday, February 5, 2010

March for Millionaires!!!

I'm tired of all you teachers out there whining about how you want your 4% raises and your stupid health care. Is that all you can think about--feeding yourself and your family? There are bigger fish to fry. Do you realize that there are wealthy people out there whose bonuses have been cut? Yes! It's true! Just because Wall Street types and bankers nearly ran this economy into the ground with their reckless behavior, Obama wants to limit their bonuses. Can you imagine?

Well, Mayor4Life Bloomberg is not going to sit still for that! No-sir-ee! We need bankers to get those bonuses, because when the rich get more money, they spend it on things like yachts, which helps the economy. And if that weren't enough, they pay taxes on the portion of their bonuses that they haven't managed to stash away in Swiss bank accounts, which also keeps the economy humming. If the government gave money to common scum like you and me, we'd just do something stupid with it, like pay for our children to go to the doctor or keep our houses from being foreclosed on, which doesn't help the economy at all.

Bloomberg is going to be pro-active on this. He always is when it comes to defending the rich--that's the kind of guy he is. The last time the rich were threatened with--gasp!--a tax increase, Bloomberg went on the radio and declared, "We love the rich people!" This time, facing an even bigger threat in the form of reduced bonuses, Bloomberg has offered to personally give every rich person a handjob.

But even the prospect of a happy ending from Bloomberg may not be enough to satisfy the wealthy. Bloomy knows this, so he's calling upon his municipal workers to get out there and pitch in. "Cops, firefighters, teachers, all municipal workers should be down (in Washington) screaming, 'Pay Wall Street people more!'"

And who can argue with that? Let's get out there and March for Millionaires!

I know some of you are saying, "Why should I? What's in it for me?" Well, I can't promise that Bloomy will give you the same handjob as the wealthy, but I can guarantee you he'll be more than happy to service you in other ways during the upcoming labor negotiations. Be sure to bring the lube.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dr. King Bites Bloomberg in the Ass

In this case, Bloomberg's ass being Joel Klein.

If you recall, Bloomberg recently hijacked some of Dr. King's words as a means to try to bully the state into creating more charter schools. "A right delayed is a right denied," Bloomy told us, ignoring the fact that Dr. King would have proudly supported unionism and the concept of good public schools for everyone, not just the kids creamed off the top for schools run by education hacks like Eva Moscowitz. Dr. King would have been appalled that students are crammed into classes while Eva makes 400K a year under the proud eye of the billionaire mayor.
Mayor4Life sent his stooge Klein out to smear residents of the rubber rooms, and Klein chose to villify Alan Rosenfeld in an article in the Post, a rag run by fellow billionaire Murdoch. It appears that Rosenfeld was charged 10 years ago, and according to the ICE blog, charges were largely dropped against him, with the only penalty being a week suspension. Because he was initially charged with making lewd comments, Joel Klein decided that he was not fit to return to the classroom, and Rosenfeld has languished there ever since.

I'm 100% behind my fellow blogger NYC Educator when he says that if Rosenfeld is guilty, he should be bounced out on his ass. The problem is that he was found guilty of a minor offense, was given a punishment, and that should have been the end of the story. Instead, he has been in the rubber room for 10 years, collecting a salary for not teaching.
Klein is using this as a PR tool to say that we should fire all RR teachers. But the fact is that Rosenfeld was apparently given his day in court, most of the charges against him were thrown out, and he paid a small price for the infraction they felt they could make stick.

If Klein or the DOE had evidence against this man, they should have used it 7 years ago to get him out of the system. If they had no evidence against him, as it appears they did not, he should have been returned to the classroom. But for Klein sentence him to an interminable stretch in the RR in unconscionable.

Under state law, Rosenfeld had rights, and his rights have been delayed. And as BloomKlein should know, a right delayed is a right denied. And in this case, unlike Bloomberg's bogus charter school analogy, the phrase actually fits.