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Archive for April, 2009

Victory for the Law

A very brief  news story in only one city daily on April 3 (give the NY Post credit for this one) was the only hint that the almost toothless remaining powers of community education councils still have some bite left. [By Monday, the other papers had run the story.]

When the DOE unilaterally decided to close three schools — PS 194 and PS 241 in Harlem and PS 150 in Brownsville — they effectively changed the attendance zones of neighboring schools so that children from the catchment areas of the closed schools could go there — guaranteed! More »

New York Teacher

Highlights from the latest issue of New York Teacher:

1,500 UFT lobbyists tell legislators: ‘Invest in education’

In a year that could have been disastrous for New York City schools, their kids and their teachers, the state budget that was on track for passage as the New York Teacher went to press seems to have averted the most serious anticipated damage.

The UFT, along with public school parents, guardians, community leaders and the New York Civil Liberties Union, filed suit against the DOE for violating state education law.

Seven years after the chancellor took over the running of city schools, children with disabilities are still not getting the services they need and are entitled to. The union is beginning a campaign to make sure that disservice ends now. More »

A Few Facts about Teachers’ Unions

[Editor's note: This "What Matters Most" column appeared in the New York Times on Sunday, April 5.]

John Adams famously said that “facts are stubborn things.” But that doesn’t stop some people from trying to twist, ignore or pick and choose facts to suit their purposes.

As the president of a teachers’ union, I see facts fall victim to fiction with alarming frequency. I’ve learned that there are stubborn falsehoods, too, like the tired canard that unions care more for adults than children. More »

An Offer They Can Refuse?

One of the most consistent complaints from charter advocates like the New York State Charter Schools Association is that charter schools do not receive funding equivalent to district schools. And despite the UFT’s offers to work together to understand these issues and lobby for appropriate changes to the charter funding formula, the charter advocates show little real interest. One wonders why…

In aggregate, charter funding approximates the school district’s average per pupil expenditure. This means that all of the city’s expenditure on students with special needs, like English language learners, gets passed onto the charters. Sounds fair, right? More »

Employee Free Choice Act

The Employee Free Choice Act is an opportunity for working people to improve their lives and the lives of their families, and it’s the best way to strengthen and grow our nation’s middle class. President Obama has vowed to sign the Employee Free Choice Act, but it must first be passed by both the House and the Senate.

Send a letter today to urge your senators and representative to support swift passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Renaissance Charter School Rallies Against Funding Freeze

Renaissance Charter School rally

Students and teachers at the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights, Queens, rallied on March 31 in protest of the funding freeze for charter schools in the new state budget.

Their student-developed wiki, charterschoolbudgetfight, has links to NY1′s coverage of the rally, math teacher Ramil Buenaventura’s videos of the rally, the prep, and the postmortem, student Lisette Lopez’s photos, student reflections, and more.

AFTers at the White House

[The video is also available here.]

One More Check is No More

At yesterday’s National Action Network event, US Education Secretary Arne Duncan, not surprisingly, repeated his recent endorsement of mayoral control of public schools.  (I say not surprisingly because, after all, it worked for him. It was just such a system in Chicago that was his launchpad to Washington.)

However, in a nod to the skepticism expressed by the audience (which reportedly responded with boos), Duncan talked (admirably) about the importance of listening to others, and one of the voices he says he listened to as Chicago schools superintendent was that of “an independent research group that analyzed school policies and programs” using the system’s own data. He said it provided important “checks and balances” on mayoral control.

That is exactly what many have called for in New York. More »

Chicago Charter Teachers Organize

From the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff:

Taking a historic step forward, the majority of teachers at three Chicago-area charter school campuses, joined by parents and community leaders, today served notice to their school officials, Mayor Daley, Chicago school board members and the State of Illinois, that they have formed a union. The teachers seek immediate recognition of their collective bargaining unit and a commitment by school officials to promptly bargain and settle a contract.

The teachers work at three Civitas Schools’ Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS) — Wrightwood, Northtown Academy and Ralph Ellison campuses — under a charter held by the Chicago Charter School Foundation. They would be the first unionized charter school teachers in the Chicago area.

Network for Change

Yesterday I highlighted a column Juan Gonzalez wrote about Al Sharpton’s joint effort with Joel Klein to promote educational equality, questioning their motives. But Sharpton’s National Action Network conference this morning was a lesson in unity. And to clarify, UFT President Randi Weingarten has worked with Sharpton on educational equity and other issues for a long time. On Edwize, I speak for myself, not Randi or the union. (Thanks to her, Edwize is a space for diverse views.)

Arne Duncan spoke at at the opening session and said a lot of great things about the importance of teachers, about the will to change in education, and about the unity that all of us have to achieve to make change happen.

Sharpton saw Weingarten in the audience and immediately invited her to the speaker’s dais. Duncan talked about the importance of “enlightened union leaders like Randi Weingarten” and Sharpton publicly thanked her for her support in his efforts to close the achievement gap. Both Duncan and Sharpton clearly understand the importance of our union in the fight to change schools and achieve equality.

Fundraiser for Stella D’Oro Strikers April 4

Support Stella D'Oro workers

The Committee in Support of Stella D’Oro Strike Workers is holding a fundraising event this Saturday, April 4, 7 p.m., at St. Mary’s Church, 521 W 126th St., between Amsterdam and Broadway. Here’s the flyer.

Show your support!

stelladorostrike2008.com | flyer

WFP Wishing Limbaugh “Bon Voyage”

Rush Limbaugh announced that he will leave New York rather than abide the new tax increases on high earners. On Saturday, April 4, the Working Families Party will host a “Bon Voyage Limbaugh” party to celebrate the passage of fair share tax reform — and to send Rush off in style.

Weingarten on “Road to City Hall”

Randi Weingarten on "The Road to City Hall"

UFT President Randi Weingarten appeared on NY1′s “Road to City Hall” last night. They’ve posted a short clip on their site; we’ll try to get the entire segment up here soon.

Re-Framing the Public School Debate

[Editor's note: This post originally appeared at Crow Man Blues.]

“Frames are the mental structures that allow human beings to understand reality — sometimes to create what we take to be reality.”
— George Lakoff

Do you believe that the American business model applied to schools will produce better teachers and more qualified students? Then your thought process about public schools is probably mired in the myths fostered by the 1980s report, A Nation at Risk, which claimed that the failure of our public schools would eventually lead to our economic decline and inability to compete in the world market. Those findings were driven by a right wing ideology from the likes of CEO’s and business leaders who posed the idea that we can only keep our competitive position in the world by improving our schools. More »

Standing Strong: A New Teacher’s First Rally

[Teacher Man is the pseudonym of a second-year teacher at an intermediate school in Brooklyn.]

After school on March 5, I met up with some of the veteran teachers from my building, helped roll up our school’s banner, and rode the M train to City Hall to participate in my first rally as a UFT member. Our school’s chapter leader had encouraged teachers to make time to go to the rally, and I was excited to be taking part in a truly democratic activity. As a New York City Teaching Fellow who left a career in luxury goods to work in our public schools, I was not used to the idea of speaking up for myself and for the people I served, and so the experience of rallying at City Hall, among tens of thousands of other teachers, healthcare workers and city employees was exhilarating. Here I was, a part of something bigger and more important — a part of democracy in action. More »