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Archive for January, 2009

Obama as Everyman

Even before its launch, the Obama presidency is larger than life. There’s no arguing its symbolism is the bearer of its own legacy. The world’s nations, regardless of their histories or systems of government, have put their ancestral loathings on hold and are sharing the exhilaration. It’s like the whole planet is an athlete high on endorphins. It is spectacular for Americans especially as we have by this election distanced ourselves just a step from the morally felonious exclusions of the past. By our votes we have repented the bonds of history. Let’s luxuriate in what our nation has overcome and work to ensure that Obama’s victory is not a token, novelty, or fluke of history but rather will make perfectly plausible the election of other racial and other minorities in the future. More »

Obama and the Shadows of Lincoln, FDR and JFK: Children, Families and Teachers Eagerly Look to the New President

[Editor’s note: Peter Goodman blogs at Ed in the Apple where this post originally appeared.]

I can’t think of a more anticipated moment than Barack Obama’s inauguration speech … I reread Lincoln’s Second Inaugural:

… fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

More »

Change You Can Link To

A redesigned WhiteHouse.gov has launched, including a new blog.

A New Day for our Nation — and Our Schools

[Editor’s note: This “What Matters Most” column appeared in the New York Times on Sunday, Jan. 18.]

There is no doubt that we, as a nation, are facing huge challenges as we begin this New Year. Still, I cannot help feeling a tremendous sense of optimism about our collective ability to confront the challenges we face, rethink how we solve problems and truly usher in a new, brighter era in American life. Sometimes difficult times bring out our best selves and our best ideas — a willingness to listen to our adversaries and try new approaches, if only because doing nothing is not an option. More »

KIPP AMP Organizing Draws Wide Notice

The public announcement that the teachers of KIPP AMP Charter School in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn had organized a union and signed authorization cards with the UFT has been the talk of the press and the education and labor blogosphere.

Here are a number of the reactions, from a number of different perspectives… More »

UFT-Funded Scholarships

Albert Shanker Scholarship

Do you know a special high school senior in need of a scholarship?

Each year, the Albert Shanker College Scholarship Fund of the UFT proudly gives out nearly $1 million in undergraduate and graduate scholarships to academically excellent and financially eligible students from New York City public schools.

The deadline to apply for the 2009 scholarships is Jan. 31. Time is running out! Encourage students to apply today.

Visit the UFT’s new Scholarship Fund Web site for more information.

[If you have trouble viewing this Flash-based site, go to the uft.org Scholarship Fund page.]

Inauguration Resources for Educators


The AFT, in partnership with the NEA and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, has created inauguration-focused lesson plans to help educators discuss with their students the historic swearing-in of Barack Obama as president of the United States. The lesson plans are available at www.aft.org/tools4teachers/americaelects/lessons.htm and www.pic2009.org/page/content/lessonplans. More »

KIPP Teachers Organize

In a ground-breaking development, the teachers of KIPP AMP Charter School in Brooklyn today informed their co-principals that they were organizing themselves into a union and seeking official recognition from the state Public Employees Relations Board.

A super-majority of the KIPP AMP teaching faculty has signed authorization cards with the United Federation of Teachers, well in excess of the threshold needed for official recognition under state labor law for public employees.

In a letter delivered to co-principals Jeff Li and Melissa Perry this morning, the teachers said that they had decided to unionize in order to secure teacher voice and respect for the work of teachers in their school. We want “to ensure that the [KIPP] motto of ‘team and family’ is realized in the form of mutual respect and validation for the work that is done [by teachers] each day,” they wrote.

The letter stressed that the decision to organize was directly connected to the teachers’ commitment to their students. “[A] strong and committed staff,” the teachers wrote, “is the first step to student achievement.” Unionization, the teachers believe, will help create the conditions for recruiting and retaining such a staff. More »

Friedman: Tax Cuts for Teachers

An excerpt from Tom Friedman’s Sunday New York Times column:

My wife teaches public school in Montgomery County, Md., where more and more teachers can’t afford to buy homes near the schools where they teach, and now have long, dirty commutes from distant suburbs. One of the smartest stimulus moves we could make would be to eliminate federal income taxes on all public schoolteachers so more talented people would choose these careers. I’d also double the salaries of all highly qualified math and science teachers, staple green cards to the diplomas of foreign students who graduate from any U.S. university in math or science — instead of subsidizing their educations and then sending them home — and offer full scholarships to needy students who want to go to a public university or community college for the next four years.

J.F.K. took us to the moon. Let B.H.O. take America back to school.

DOE Lays Down the Law to Microbes and Broken Bones

If you are an appointed teacher and get sick, the contract allows you to be absent from school for a total of 10 days during the school year. If you have days in your “bank” of unused sick days accumulated from past years, you may take those days off for verifiable illness beyond those 10 days. There is also a provision for “borrowing” sick days if necessary. Of course nobody should apply for any benefit under false pretenses.

This “sick day” allowance is realistic and makes common sense. It is fair though not generous. More »

Randi Weingarten on NBC Nightly News

Randi Weingarten made a brief appearance in a Friday, Jan. 9, NBC Nightly News report on Barack Obama’s plans for education reform and how they might be affected by the economic crisis.

At the 1:40 mark, Weingarten is shown saying, “The federal government needs to step in with a stimulus program so that states can maintain their progress in education.”

Watch the video after the jump. More »

One-Week Paid Summer Study for Teachers

[Editor’s note: jd2718 is a math teacher and the Chapter Leader at a small high school in the Bronx, and writes a blog, also called jd2718.]

Sometime during my first three years teaching, my uncle, a retired chapter leader, scolded me: “Jonathan, there’s always a reason to work in the summer. Just never a good reason. Take a vacation.” I said yes, and worked anyway; and finally one year my program was canceled, I took that vacation, and, man, summer vacation is a great thing. I’ll never give it up voluntarily again.

Now, I talk to teaching fellows and tell them the story. And I tell them, unless they are absolutely desperate for money, not to work summers. And if circumstances force them to give up their summer, it should be one summer; it must not be habit. The restorative power of those weeks is tremendous. I could no longer think of returning to school without it.

But what to do? Big vacations can cost big money. Hanging out in New York is OK, but there are other options. More »

NY Public Employees Protest Governor’s Budget

N.Y. Public Employees Protest Governor's Budget

Freezing rain didn’t stop more than 5,000 New York state employees from converging at the Capitol in Albany on Jan. 7 to protest Gov. David Paterson’s proposed budget for 2009-10. More »

Labor Calls for Unity After Years of Division

From the Times:

The presidents of 12 of the nation’s largest labor unions called Wednesday for reuniting the American labor movement, which split apart three and a half years ago when seven unions left the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and formed a rival federation.

The union presidents issued their joint call after the transition team for President-elect Barack Obama signaled that it would prefer dealing with a united movement, rather than a fractured one that often had two competing voices.

More »

The State of the State

Gov. David A. Paterson delivered his first State of the State address today, Jan. 7. “The state of the state is perilous,” he said. “We have a historic economic challenge — the greatest in nearly a century.”

But, he continued, “This is not the time for fear. This is the time for action. This is the time for courage. This is the time for hope.”

After first outlining his health care plans, Paterson turned to education. “The road to economic development runs right through our schools, so if we can’t spend more, we have to spend more effectively,” he said.

Focusing on high school graduation rates and college enrollment, the governor proposed an expansion of early college high schools and a $35 million college loan program for needy students.

Read a summary of the governor’s education plans.

Read the governor’s speech as prepared.