Sunday, February 27, 2011

Layoffs in Tomorrow's Papers

Word on the street is that Mayor4Life has sent lists to NY newspapers detailing the number of layoffs that will occur at each school, and that this information will appear in tomorrow's dailies.

Considering that seniority is still in effect, you can bet that the list will show that some schools will lose much of their staff. Bloomberg will use this to claim that minority schools will be discriminated against. He will not, of course, mention that if layoffs actually occur, more senior teachers will take their place so the experience level at those schools will actually go up.

This is just another Bloomberg tactic. Layoffs are still not needed. Cuomo even says so. The mayor admits he has found 2 billion in new revenue. This is nothing but another attempt to force an end to seniority layoffs.

UPDATE: Confirmed by the Times a few minutes ago.


Methinks Thou Doth Protest Too Little

As disgusting as it is that Obama has yet to find his comfortable shoes and join the protests in Wisconsin to save the precious collective bargaining rights of unions, it is even more unsettling that Michael Mulgrew and the UFT have been virtually invisible on this issue as well.

Let's face it--with teachers off this week in NYC, it would have been a perfect opportunity for Mulgrew to stage a massive demonstration on the steps of City Hall. We could have rallied in defense of Wisconsin public employees and shown the city how Bloomberg and Gov. Walker are cut from the same cloth.

I was waiting this week, my comfortable shoes at the ready, for an email from the UFT or my chapter leader announcing the time and place that we'd show our solidarity with our union brothers and sisters, and at the same time show NY legislators the fight they'd be in for should they try that shit here. I'd have been there in a heartbeat, as I'm sure thousands of my fellow teachers would have been.

But I got no email. Yes, there was a protest. You can read about it on the UFT website. The problem was that as far as I can tell, the leadership forgot the rather basic step of informing the membership that there was a rally. I didn't find out about it until the day after it happened, which sharply reduced my chance of getting there on time. A whopping 200 people showed up--about the same number you can get to watch a Three Card Monte game on a Manhattan street corner. It was pathetic.

So what's the deal? Why is the UFT so afraid to organize its own members to protest what's going on in Wisconsin, Rhode Island, and NYC? If this isn't a pivotal moment in union history, what is?

I'm starting to believe the UFT wants us to feel powerless, disorganized, and helpless. That's what helps them maintain an iron grip on their own power. An organized, informed, and motivated membership might not only question the ed deform movement, but the actions of the union itself. That could lead to--gasp--democracy!

Instead, the membership is encouraged to sit on our collective behinds while 2000 Providence teachers are terminated, while 70,000 Wisconsinites fight for their rights, and while Randi Weingarten once again sells us down the river by proposing an evaluation system that would terminate teachers even faster.

The Republicans and deformers are in their endgame, and we have not yet begun to fight. What the hell are we waiting for? Mr. Obama and Mr. Mulgrew--thousands of teachers and I are waiting, Dr. Scholl's insoles at the ready, for the call to action.

Where are you?


Friday, February 25, 2011

Framing the Debate: Layoffs vs. Firings

The ed deform crowd is expert at framing debates. They've effectively watered down the seniority argument to a single question: Would you rather have good, young, effective, energetic teachers get laid off, or those lazy, old, tired, absent, felonious senior teachers?

Of course, that's not what this is about at all. It about getting rid of higher paid teachers and making sure no one ever gets in enough years to earn a pension.

Let's take a look at the current contract and law. Should layoffs occur under current rules, new teachers would be hired back. Here's the relevant part of the contract (Article 17 D1):

If a Citywide excess condition causes a layoff of staff in any licensed position,
applicable provisions of law will be followed to determine the staff members to be laid off, without fault and delinquency with the understanding that said member of staff is to be placed on a preferred list for reinstatement to his/her former position.

When a few thousand more teachers leave or retire next year, as they do every year, most of the newbies would be hired back.

But does anyone out there believe that the current rules would apply to senior teachers in the event of layoffs? Suppose LIFO is trashed. Would the legislators retain the state law and contractual obligation that requires laid off teachers to be rehired? I doubt it. How on earth can they say they want to lay off "ineffective" teachers, but take them all back as soon as times get better? The answer is, they won't.

So we aren't actually talking about layoffs here. We're talking about FIRING teachers, for good. That's how Mulgrew should be framing this debate. The word "layoffs" is a code word for "firings". This plutocratic mayor wants the ability to fire anyone he wants, thus ensuring an endless, cheap workforce that will never be allowed to become vested in the pension system.

The reality of the situation is that layoffs aren't necessary at all. Cuomo and the state budget director have said so. Bloomberg himself cited soaring city revenues that added an additional 2 billion to the city's budget--more than the amount cut by the state budget. And there's a billion dollars in the capital budget for computers that could easily be used to avert layoffs.

And don't forget that we have been down this road before. As recently as last year, Bloomberg threatened thousands of layoffs in an earlier bid to get rid of seniority. When he saw that he wouldn't get his way and be able to fire senior teachers at will, the layoffs suddenly went away. It will go down the same way this time as well. IF the state assembly holds firm once more, you can bet that Bloomberg will once again find a way to avert layoffs.

But if he does get his way, is there anyone who believes that Bloomberg won't fire as many senior teachers as he can get away with?

And make no mistake. These will be firings--not layoffs. Senior teachers will not be asked back--ever.

I know new teachers may not want to hear what I have to say today, and I can understand that. But I firmly believe that keeping LIFO means that Bloomberg will rethink his layoff plans. Losing LIFO means that Mayor4Life will have to power to fire anyone he wants, thus guaranteeing that not a single new teacher will ever be able to make a career out of teaching in this city.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

You Talked the Talk, Now Walk the Walk

A lot of people are asking where the hell Barack Obama is when it comes to Wisconsin and teachers. Sure, he said that the "Budget Repair Bill" supported by Gov. Walker sounded like union busting to him. Those are words, and he said them once, at the beginning of this drama. He has been strangely silent since. Our president is damn good at talking. Listen to him speak about unions while campaigning in 2007:

Great words. I want to vote for a man like that. Unfortunately, that man is nowhere to be found today.

Mr. President, we can't wait for you to find that pair of comfortable shoes. In fact, there's no need for you to picket for hours on end--teachers and other union members will do that. But if you would just go to Wisconsin and stand with the picketers for one minute--one minute--and voice this same kind of support for collective bargaining that you promised us as a candidate, you would change the game immediately.

This action doesn't require 60 votes. It doesn't force you to choose between extending the Bush tax cuts or extending unemployment benefits. So there's no excuse not to live up to your promise. All you have to do is stand up and say a few words.

And you are good at words. Now let's see some action.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Latest Negotiation Strategy--Lay Off Every Teacher

The city of Providence, RI, has issued layoff notices to ALL of its teachers.

Yes, ALL.

Of course, no city can lay off all of its teachers. So the question remains--why do this?

I think the answer is simple. Since Providence requires lay off notices to go out by March 1, this covers their asses should they decide to go after senior teachers. They are jockeying to terminate their highest paid teachers, and they are sending pink slips to everyone as a way to make sure they can do it.

If you doubt this, read the last paragraph of the CNN piece:

The city and the union will soon start negotiations on the teachers' contracts, which expire June 30. City and school district officials stressed that Tuesday's move was not related to the contract expiring.

The war on teachers rages on. Frankly, I can't even believe it. Every day brings some new horror to teachers somewhere. If politicians had gone after Osama bin Laden with the same relentless vigor with which they pursue teachers, he'd have long ago been squatting in Guantanamo Bay.

When was it decided that teachers were the enemy? When did we become the bogey man and the scapegoats for every situation in the country? Obama wants to recruit 100,000 new teachers? Is he serious? Who in their right mind would want to become a teacher in this hostile environment?

Of course, some group is always the scapegoat for society's ills. God forbid we blame the Wall Streeters and hedge fund managers who brought about this fiscal crisis. Far better to persecute teachers than prosecute the bastards who got us here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Constitution and Unions

This isn't the usual opinion piece, because I honestly don't know the answer and I am hoping someone out there can enlighten me. In light of the Wisconsin mess, I started wondering whether Governor Walker could be stopped on constitutional grounds.

I understand that there are right to work states. That's not the issue. My question is whether a state or the federal government have the right to prohibit collective bargaining.

It seems to me that the First Amendment clearly establishes the right to unionize, although, of course, unions are not mentioned by name. But the right to free speech and assembly are clearly at work here. If workers choose to assemble in order to get their voices heard, what right has anyone to deny them?

How are lobbyists different in this regard from unions? As much as I hate lobbyists, I know it is their right to create PACs and to lobby for whatever cause they choose. Surely the Republicans would invoke their first amendment rights if someone tried to take away SarahPAC's ability to raise money and lobby for their causes, however stupid some of them may be. How do Republicans justify the constitutionality of silencing unions?

If there are any experts in union history or law who can answer this question, I'd surely appreciate it.

On a related note, why can't Obama or some Democrat propose legislation making the right to collective bargaining the law of the land?

Friday, February 18, 2011

An Asshat By Any Other Name

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE the name Asshats4Education when discussing the scabs at E4E. I think Reality-Based Educator should be inducted into the Ed Bloggers Hall of Fame for coining it, and it has been my privilege to run with the name. It thrills me to no end to see them referred to as A$E all over the blogosphere. Still, there's something dissatisfying about the name.

It doesn't capture their essence. They are asshats, to be sure; I don't think anyone can deny that. But the phrase misses why they are so adroit at wearing their buttocks as head gear. Sure, they are greedy, pretentious bastards who want to take down the union, but it's more than that. I couldn't figure it out until I went back and reread some things from our old pals Ruben Brosbe and Michelle Costa, both proud wearers of fanny fedoras. That's when it hit me.

Read Ruben's post again
(at your own risk; those with nervous issues and stomach problems should seek medical advice before reading). What struck me about it is that he spent much of the time whining about himself and his issues. It was all about him. "I suck! My data sucks! I'm being picked on! Me me ME!" Sure, he threw the obligatory "I must improve for the children!" gag at the end, but that was a personal pity party just like the one he shared with the New York Post when his TDR numbers bit the big one.

You might say that you can't blame ol' Rube for feeling a bit self-absorbed after discovering that he isn't the only one who thinks his teaching stinks on ice. Maybe. But what was really telling were the comments. Teachers--real teachers who do this job for decades and not as a farce or a resume filler--actually rallied to Ruben's aid. They offered him advice, consolations, and words of encouragement. That is what teachers--real teachers--do. That is NOT what Ruben is doing. Rather than support his fellow teachers he is happily throwing them under the bus. For Ruben, it's all about "ME".

Pivot over to Michelle Costa, a young lady who also sports a buttocks beret. Not only did she pen a rather facile article denouncing her fellow teachers, she helped craft the now infamous A$E layoff recommendations (I use the word craft advisedly, as in, "I have to go craft a dump"). Read her drivel, if you can stomach it. She also likes the word "I" a lot. She tells us that she didn't become a teacher for the money, or the vacations--she did it for the kids (as opposed to the rest of us hammock swinging, check collecting vermin). She then goes on to tell us how senior teachers should be laid off in favor of wonderful, idealistic souls like her. She says these things despite that fact that she comes from an F rated school, and there is zero evidence that she can teach.

And again, despite her self-infatuation, she was defended in the comments by a real teacher--a colleague who would most likely lose his own job due to his union activism should her plans ever be realized. For him, it's about US--the union. For Michelle, it's all about her.

That, in the final analysis, is what good teaching is about. We do it for the kids, not for ourselves. Sydney and Evan ran away from teaching as soon as a Gates funded opportunity to stab their colleagues in the back came along. How long will it be before Ruben and Michelle do the same?

These E4E people are all about themselves. They aren't in it for anything noble, such as public education, or equal opportunity, or anything else. They are in it for "ME".

Therefore, I proposed that we start calling them ME4ME. That would be a more accurate description of what these asshats are all about.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

GothamSchools Takes Sides, Ever So Innocently

If you had any doubt about whether Gotham Schools, the allegedly down-the-middle school news site, has an agenda, your doubts should be over. Take a look at this morning's Rise and Shine links.
In them, you will find four--count 'em--FOUR links to articles and opinion pieces in the New York Post alone that condemn teacher seniority. If that wasn't enough, they link to Daily News and Wall Street Journal articles that are basically the same trash, although not as blatant as the teacher-bashing Post.

Before you say "Oh, that's just a coincidence" take a look at what GS omitted. There was a piece in the NY Times yesterday that connected all the dots and $$$ between the anti-seniority players. It showed the ties between the Mayor4life, the Asshats4Education, "Chancellor" Black, DFER, and ERN. See also Reality Based Educator's excellent analysis of the piece.

So why didn't Gotham Schools consider that Times piece newsworthy, but found space for SIX anti-seniority, anti-teacher pieces from the billionaire-run tabloids?

You can connect the dots and $$$ on that one.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Saturday, February 12, 2011

New UFT Ad: Thumbs Up or Down?

Personally, I'm giving Mulgrew a thumbs up on this one. I think it hits the right notes and give people a few simple ideas to think about. The deform movement has been masterful at controlling the discussion; I think this ad helps take some of that back. Billionaires not paying taxes, class sizes exploding, the snowstorm fiasco reminding people how much they hate Bloomie--good stuff. What do you think?

(UPDATE: I deleted the video as it was slowing this site down something awful. You can see the video here.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Cavalcade of AssHats

Just when you thought no one could take the crown of Asshattery away from Ruben Brosbe, up pops a contender extraordinaire. Her name is Michelle Costa, and she is an A4E who works at Aspirations Diploma Plus High School. I give her name and school in the interests of the free flow of information, not so you can send her nasty emails at her DOE address or call her scab when she walks by. Those things would be wrong.

Michelle wrote a piece in The Brooklyn Paper telling us that senior teachers should be fired before her (not in so many words, but you'll get the drift). She starts off by telling us that she did not get into teaching for the money or vacation, but for the kids. This, she seems to believe, separates her from other teachers, who only took the job so they could collect vast wealth that they could use to hobnob with Mayor4Life in Bermuda every weekend. Her technique of telling us what she is not is actually quite good--I taught that opening technique to my 8th graders last week, so we know she on top of her writing game.

She spews much of the usual A4E drivel--let's get rid of U rated teachers and ATRs, and then find a way to get rid of ineffective teachers, who Ms. Costa can apparently identify in her own building by osmosis or something. Not much new here.

I took the liberty of looking up some data on Ms. Costa (A4E people LOVE data) and I have one question: Why is it that people who can't teach their way out of a soggy lunch bag are always the ones who call for senior teachers to be fired? First we had Michelle Rhee, who claimed she moved her students from the 13th to the 90th percentile, when she clearly did no such thing. Then we have our old pal Ruben, who scored a pitiful 41% on his TDR report when compared with other brand new teachers. Now Ms. Costa steps up to the plate and calls for getting rid of teachers based on quality when her own school just scored an F on the city's report card. See for yourself.

Now, you may say that Ms. Costa can't be directly blamed for her school's pitiful scores, but there are only 261 students there, so she must have taught quite a number of them herself. And reform people, such as Rhee, Duncan, and Obama, whose water Ms. Costa gleefully carries, are clearly in favor of firing all the teachers in a failing schools and replacing them en masse. They did this in Central Falls, RI and they'd do it again if they could get away with it.

In all fairness, I'm sure Ms. Costa considers herself a wonderful teacher in spite of the dismal failure of her school and her students. Nevertheless, her school was rated F, and we'd have to say based upon that that her own rating should be unsatisfactory. Her combined rating, therefore, earns her a big F-U.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Black and Blues

Here's a new song, "Cathie Black", sung to the tune of "Paint it Black" by the Rolling Stones.

I'm your new "chancellor" and they call me Cathie Black.
I'm not an educator, just a corporate hack.
I'm here to lay you off and take your rights away,
U rated? ATRs? You'd better start to pray!

I see a high school and I want to see it shuttered,
The PEP will side with me, they know where their bread's buttered.
I'll shut down schools while doing crosswords on my phone,
Or check out sex positions while you bitch and moan!

Class overcrowding seems to me a real no-brainer.
Just put a condom on your paramour's John Boehner.
I'll steal your perks, your rights, your pensions, and the like,
Then belt some champagne down with my friend Mayor Mike!

If you want changes then I think that you should know,
I'm little more than a blond Joel Klein 2.0.
You say you want to take your old school system back?
You have no "Sophie's Choice"; you're stuck with Cathie Black!

(Fade to chorus, with band singing "Booooo" while Cathie sings "Ohhhhh!)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Just Sayin'

Ruben and Reubens. Coincidence? You decide.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Best and Brightest???

Our old pal, Ruben Brosbe, has penned another blog entry calling for senior teachers to be laid off while he gets a raise. He says that this is the only way to recruit and keep "the best and brightest", among which Ruben presumably ranks himself.

But what does the DATA say? After all, data is god to Ruben and his A4E (Asshats4Educators) crew.

Ruben himself admits to dismal results on his Teacher Data Report, claiming a 41 percentile in ELA and and a 38 percentile in math. And that itself is misleading. Let's remember that teachers with 1-3 years of data are compared to each other, and not to veteran teachers. Had Ruben been compared to the veterans he excoriates, his scores would almost certainly been much lower.

Now consider his school. You can look at the results for the 4th grade, which Ruben teaches, for yourself. They dropped 17 percentage points in ELA, and a whopping 18% in math last year. Certainly Ruben must share some of the blame here considering his value-added (?) data.

So is Ruben one of the best and brightest? Certainly the data would say no. Of course, there may be extenuating circumstances. Perhaps he teaches in a high poverty school. Maybe there are homeless or abused kids in his class. It could be that the parents are largely uninvolved in the education of their children.

But as Ruben would be the first to tell you, having a great teacher in front of the class is the most important thing. A great teacher should be able to overcome all these hurdles. Children with no food? No problem! Great teachers can work miracles!

Unfortunately, the data gods have not smiled on Ruben. His numbers are lousy and there are no miracles in sight. If he really believes the best and brightest should be in the classroom, he should step down now and make some room for them.