Monday, January 16, 2012

Walking the Walk, MLK Style

I've read a few pieces today concerning Martin Luther King, Jr. One that struck me was by Paul Krugman, who asserted that King would be disappointed if he were alive today. Despite the huge strides we've made in race relations in the past half century, including electing a black president, Krugman believes King would be appalled at the class system that has emerged in its place. I agree.

King would also, I believe, be disappointed in the performance of the first black president. Obama channeled King in 2007 when he said, "If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself — I’ll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America."

The difference, of course, is that King actually put on those shoes and stood up for unionism, fairness, and the American worker. He was in Memphis, Tennessee on April 3, 1968 to fight for union rights despite the fact that his life was being threatened. He made his last speech that day, his famous "I've Been To the Mountaintop" speech that presaged his death. He was assassinated the next day.

Meanwhile, Obama is still looking for his shoes. I hope he finds them, because he will never fill those that Dr. King left behind.

If you haven't already, head on over to NYC Educator's blog to read his excellent piece on King and the current state of education in America.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Edwize or EdFoolish?

First of all, happy new year to all of you. Sorry for my extended absence, but I needed a period of calm, away from ruminations about the DOE and UFT and A4E and all the other acrimonious acronyms out there.

To show you how Zen-like I was becoming, I hopped over to Edwize a week or so ago and noticed something I hadn't before.  On their blogroll of NYC Teachers, I was conspicuously absent. That didn't bother me much, as this blog has been no friend of the Unity Caucus that runs the UFT with an iron fist. What did bother me, however, is who they did include. Listed there, plain as day, is the blog Is Our Children Learning?, which is written by none other that Asshats4Education's erstwhile Blog Monkey (TM) and Defender of the Faith, Ruben Brosbe. Yet, so Zen was I, that I decided not to blog about this slight. Until today.

You see, I received an email this morning, as many of you may have (if you haven't received it, I copied it in its entirety below this post). It's being sent through chapter leaders at the direction of Leo Casey--yes, the same Leo who pontificates on Edwize. It appears that Asshats4Education has somehow gotten hold of the DOE email addresses of the teachers who work at the 33 so-called "transformation" schools--the ones who would lose funding should the talks for a new evaluation system continue to stall--and asked them to sign a petition to force the UFT to come to terms with the DOE. In other words, the Asshats have used the DOE email system to solicit support for their union busting activities.

This bugs me because Leo Casey is the guy who actually gave legitimacy to A4E by being on a panel with them during the recent LIFO discussions. Michael Mulgrew likewise met with these clowns, giving them street cred amongst younger teachers who don't know who A4E is (and often, don't know who Mulgrew is).

If the UFT is so shocked and angered by this attempt to sway its members, then they're out to lunch. Not only have Leo and Michael met with them, but Randi Weingarten invited Bill Gates to be the keynote speaker at the AFT convention a while back--the very same Bill Gates who helps fund A4E. Hey UFT honchos--if you lie down with dogs, you're going to get fleas.

You can read for yourself below how outraged Leo is that the A4E crowd would do such a thing, yet they continue to lend legitimacy to that organization by meeting with them and by actually promoting the blog of their moronic mouthpiece, Ruben Brosbe.

Leo, if you want us to believe that you are not in league with A4E, first stop meeting with them. Then, get up off your ass and remove Ruben Brosbe's blog from your blogroll. You're spitting in the face of all the dedicated UFT members like me by giving a platform to someone who would destroy all the things the UFT has worked for.

A number of Chapter Leaders, Delegates and Master Teachers in the 33 Transformation and Restart Schools have contacted us concerning a solicitation from Brian Erickson, who identifies himself as the Outreach Director of Educators for Excellence (E4E). The solicitation comes in the form of an email headed “URGENT: Funding Cuts to [Your School].” It states that “the School Improvement Grant funding from the state is in jeopardy,” and says this is “because the DOE and UFT cannot agree on teacher evaluations.” The solicitation goes on to say that unnamed teachers in the 33 Transformation and Restart Schools “have written an open letter to Chancellor Walcott and President Mulgrew to urge them to come to an agreement and allow the SIG funding to be restored” and that E4E is “helping them to get the word out.” It concludes by asking the recipient to sign an e-mail petition supporting this letter.

This solicitation is deliberately misleading.

You should know that Educators for Excellence was one of the prominent signatories on a recent public letter to Governor Cuomo sponsored by Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), the organization created by Wall Street hedge fund managers to pursue their anti-public education and anti-union policy agenda.  That letter asked the Governor to sponsor legislation along the lines sought by Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott to impose their version of a teacher evaluation system on your schools. Among the other signers was Students First, the organization created and run by former Washington DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

Far from being a disinterested bystander concerned only about funding cuts to schools, E4E has constantly been on the side of Mayor Bloomberg and the DoE in educational matters.  Last year E4E supported legislation that would have eroded seniority protections and encouraged the Mayor to proceed with thousands of teacher layoffs. It was only the UFT’s successful campaign to preserve seniority rights that prevented Bloomberg from acting on his plans, as he himself publicly conceded.

Rather than relying on its membership, E4Es funding comes primarily from corporate foundations, particularly the Gates Foundation, which supports Bloomberg’s and the DoE’s policy agenda.

And this solicitation is being sent – quite improperly – to DoE e-mail addresses. How did E4E obtain those e-mail addresses?

We think that it is important for you to be in possession of all the facts surrounding this solicitation. It is particularly important that you understand why Bloomberg, Walcott, DFER and E4E are intent upon forcing their system of teacher evaluation upon us. When the DoE officials walked out of negotiations with the UFT on December 30th, they gave as their reason an unwillingness to agree with the UFT’s proposal to have an independent hearing officer decide the appeals of Ineffective ratings – the equivalent of Unsatisfactory ratings in the current system. The DoE has insisted upon maintaining the current Unsatisfactory rating appeals system, where hearing officers are DoE employees and appeals are automatically denied at a rate of 99.5%. For the UFT, that is a charade of an appeals system and a mockery of due process and fairness.

After the DoE walked out of negotiations, UFT President Mulgrew offered to submit the issue of appeals to binding arbitration. Chancellor Walcott refused that offer and said publicly that the DoE had no intention of returning to negotiations. It is now clear that Bloomberg’s and Walcott’s never intended to enter into good faith negotiations with the UFT, but to seek legislation that would allow them to impose on the teachers in your schools their version of a teacher evaluation system. The solicitation from E4E is designed to support that Bloomberg-Walcott effort.

Leo Casey
Vice President, Academic High Schools
United Federation of Teachers
52 Broadway, 14th Floor
New York, New York 10004