Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Weather Gods Must Hate Eva, as FES Race-Baiting Rally Postponed Due to Threat of Lightning -- or Blowback?

I'm betting the blow back against the scuzzballs at FES is a factor in this postponement as they rebrand. Let's hope the next time there is a blizzard.

After forcing parents to take a day off or arrange alternate child care Success has to tell them "never mind."

Why worry about a little lightning and miss a chance to spread racial divisions? If you are willing to kill a half day of school what is the problem?

And poor Jennifer Hudson, who was set to sing. Hope she has another date free to support the undermining of the American educational system.
Due to the threat of lightning in Cadman Plaza, we have postponed tomorrow's Rally for School Equality. Please stay tuned -- we will share information on the new date shortly!


Jeremiah Kittredge
Executive Director
Families for Excellent Schools
There are protests against the race-baiting ad FES put out.


Critics call new charter school ad ‘racist’


Stop Eva Moskowitz's Race Baiting Ad

Eva Moskowitz and her Families for Excellent Schools has hit a new low.

In her billionaire-backed quest to privatize educat
ion, Moskowitz and her group has spent half a million dollars on a racially charged ad accusing Mayor Bill DeBlasio of neglecting the education of Black and Latino students in New York City.

Tell your state representative to demand that FES takes down its racially divisive ad.

Why is FES attacking DeBlasio now? Because the Mayor is actually working to improve these struggling schools. And FES doesn’t want that. They want public school funding for their privately run charter schools.

Yesterday, FES CEO Jeremiah Kittredge went on the record  opposing educational equity. FES and its hedge fund financiers lobbied tirelessly to divert public funding away from public schools and now they are opposing proven strategies to improve the schools.

Write your legislators and tell them to demand FES stop the attack ad.

In truth, FES and its hedge fund financiers have no interest in improving these schools or giving every student an equal opportunity. What they want to do is attack the Mayor for politically motivated reasons and they are willing to use racist ads to do just that.

Stop FES and its attack ads now. Write your state Senator and Assembly member today.

In solidarity,

Zakiyah Ansari
Advocacy Director of the Alliance for Quality Education

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

MORE Chapter Leader Kevin Prosen Shares: Intro to Consultation Committee

The head of the school and the school chapter committee shall meet once a month during the school year to consult on matters of school policy and on questions relating to the implementation of this Agreement.”
...... UFT contract Article 19H3

I firmly believe that a key to establishing a voice for the school chapter is related to how the official monthly meetings with the principal are organized by the chapter leader.

MORE has a fabulous chapter leader listserve where CLs from all over the city get answers to questions from other CLs.

Kevin Prosen, a middle school CL and one of the most politically astute young organizers I have met, was elected in the 2012 year cycle and re-elected last spring. I remember how unsure he was when he first took on the job and how quickly he grew into the position. He organized the chapter into a force in the school - a significant feat, given the leeway the principal had over many years. Less than a year after he was elected he was able to get most of the people in his school to sign the middle school petition to help get MORE on the ballot in the 2013 UFT election.

I know about his school for many years -- they had a very difficult principal, who has since retired - I like to think that the work Kevin was doing was a factor. Kevin has done some wonderful work in the chapter, even garnering praise from UFT officials who have seen the outcome of the work he has done. Kevin has been producing materials to help other chapter leaders.

One of the most important duties of the CL is to organize and manage how the chapter relates to the principal. The consultation committee is the key vehicle to accomplish this in its monthly meetings - required in Article 19H in the contract.

When I became CL in 1994, my principal refused to recognize the election or meet with me. It had to be made clear to the staff and people above her that she was refusing to meet with the chapter, not me, by not meeting with the committee. She, who rarely backed down, backed down and over the next 3 years we had a monthly meeting no matter how much she tried to get out of it. And a monthly meeting not just between her and I but an open meeting to which I invited any UFT member to attend as an audience, in addition to a regular committee - and I tried to include reps from all grades, divisions in the school, and the non-teaching personnel - a secretary, para, social worker, etc.

Oh, and I never allowed a meeting to take place in her office - her turf - but in the teacher room or some other classroom. And - I, not she, ran the meeting, as is the right of the CL.

Here is a letter Kevin sent to the consultation committee in his school.
Intro to Consultation Committee

Welcome to consultation! This committee is the voice of the UFT staff on the job.  Consultation is a position of leadership within the UFT at the school level, giving voice to the concerns of our members, resolving problems, and helping the membership communicate with the chapter leader.

Consultation members keep up with any issues that arise throughout the year that affect the whole school or a whole department.  Members with individual issues can take it up with the chapter leader directly.

The minutes are the written record of the meeting and the principal's response.  We take minutes on a rotating basis.  The easiest way to do it is to type them in real-time.  Forward them to chapter leader when you're done to review.  Minutes are posted on the UFT bulletin board, emailed to the staff, and shared with the Principal and the District Rep.

Consultation happens at every level of the DOE.  Just like we gather the concerns of our members, look for patterns, and then address them as systemic issues, the same happens between the District Representative and the Superintendent, and the President of the union and the Chancellor.  Issues we are unable to resolve at the school level are often referred to District consultation.

Here's some things that will help us be more effective

-Take it seriously.  Please make an effort to be at every meeting.  If you can't make it, please let me know in advance.  Finish the minutes quickly and professionally so we can get them out to the staff.

-Phrase issues as questions when possible.  We are trying to get explicit statements of school policy from the principal. 

-Bring documentation. The issues we try to address are often complex, and without having it “in writing,” they are much harder to deal with.  If member come to you with an issue, please ask them to provide any documentation they may have.

--Bring solutions.  It's the people who do the work every day who have the best ideas about how to fix problems that arise.  If a member brings a concern, ask them if they have a suggestion for how they would like to see it solved.

-Maintain order.  The committee can only be effective if the meetings are respectful and orderly.  Please wait to be acknowledged by the chair to speak, and stay relevant to the agenda item at hand.

-Come to the pre-meetings.  We will always meet on the Tuesday before our official meeting to determine what issues to raise and what solutions we might want to propose.  The pre-meetings are important- they are where our union strategy is created in terms of how we react to issues in the school.

-Leave individual issues out.  Consultation is the voice of the entire chapter, not any one person.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Ed Deform Erodes: Eva and Front Group Families for Excellent Schools Allies Resort to Race Baiting, Community Reacts

FES is resorting to naked racism to promote their September 30 rally attacking de Blasio. People are calling on them to take it down. But then where would they put their half a million bucks? Not in the schools, pray tell. I pray tell they leave that ad up for the public to see.

You know, so many teachers are also attacking de Blasio from the other side for not reversing many of Bloomberg's policies and also attacking the UFT/Unity leadership for not doing enough to pressure him for changes because they want to be a partner (ie, stool at the table.) I keep thinking if we would be better off with the alternative - Eva or someone of that ilk - like Hakeem Jeffries who would savage teaching core and put a charter in every pot. They are going to knock off de Blasio and we will not end up with a more teacher friendly mayor -- but maybe that's better - to have a clear enemy to battle.

I reported on the Success Charter leaked memo on how to force parents into bringing their children to the upcoming Sept. 30 Charter school rally by closing down her schools and leaving them without child care, forcing many of them to take off from work that day: Eva Moskowitz Sept. 30 Rally.
Charters force march parents and students

Eva's version of the Bataan death march.

On the surface it seems as if Eva is winning. But with every outrageous act skepticism grows among the public and press. Imagine of FES has put their millions into supporting, not degrading schools?

Someone emailed me about doing something the day of the rally to protest. My response was that FES and Eva closing schools and holding a naked political rally only helps in the battle of ed deform.

Here are reports on the racist FES ad from Schools Matter and Capital NY:

Schools Matter via the Observer

NY Charter Movement Calls Mayor de Blasio Racist for Not Supporting Apartheid Charters

from the Observer:

“The rhetoric of this ad, and the people and money behind it, are part of the problem,” she said.
Luis Garden Acosta, the founder of El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice and the father of a child who attended a charter school, said FES was “race-baiting.”
“‘Race baiting’ like ‘red baiting’, exploiting the values and legitimate concerns of our city’s communities of color, for whatever political purpose, is abhorrent and posits a dangerous and expanding wedge in a city all to segregated by class, color and community,” Mr. Acosta stated, noting that Roberto Perez, a City Hall staffer, encouraged him to speak out. “It is abhorrent that a movement that emerged as a demand to tell the truth is used to obfuscate, divide and attempt to denigrate New York City’s progressive agenda”.
While Mr. de Blasio is enlisting surrogates to fight back on his behalf, his office was a bit less hostile, though it called the ad “crass.” “Our students and our families need solutions, not another crass political ad. That’s why Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Farina are focused on ensuring that every child, in every classroom, has a future that isn’t limited by their ZIP code,” said Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for the mayor.
Since failing last year to halt the expansion of Success Academy Charter Schools, run by his old political foe Eva Moskowitz, Mr. de Blasio has softened his rhetoric toward charter schools, even as his liberal allies continue to seethe. Democratic elected officials aligned with the city and state teachers’ unions see charters as a thinly-veiled, well-moneyed effort to erode job protections for teachers.
“These folks have figured out a way to make profit off the same kids that they disdained for years and years. As far as I’m concerned, its predatory education, subprime schools,” Ms. Lewis said. “Eva Moskowitz and none of them wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t making enormous profit. To then turn around and say, ‘Oh black people, I’m trying to save you from the big bad white man, the mayor, who wants to put you in a failing school’–that’s racist.”
A spokesman for FES declined to comment.

Critics call new charter school ad ‘racist’

A coalition of elected officials, community organizations and union-allied groups criticized a new Families for Excellent Schools ad Friday, accusing the pro-charter group of "race-baiting" in order to advance its political agenda.
The ad, first reported by POLITICO New York, is called "Tale of Two Boys" and argues that Mayor Bill de Blasio is forcing minority students into failing schools. It began running Friday, though it was not publicly promoted by FES.
The ad buy will cost FES about half a million dollars this week and will become a multimillion-dollar ad buy over the next few weeks, according to a source.
The ad contrasted the educations of a young white boy and a black boy in New York City, saying the white child would attend a good school and go to college while the black child would be trapped in a struggling school and never make it to college.

Bertha Lewis, the president of the Black Institute, called it "the most racist ad I've seen in my life."
"They found a way to make money and profit off little black boys and girls," she said. "They act as if they are here to save us."
Zakiyah Ansari, the advocacy director of the Alliance for Quality Education, made a similar argument. AQE is partially funded by city and state teachers' unions.
"They are using a black face to push their political agenda, and they make the assumption that all black people are poor," she said. "They used our children in a race-baiting commercial."
Some called on FES to remove the ad on Friday.
Brooklyn Assemblyman N. Nick Perry called on FES to "do the right thing" and pull the ad. Perry — who is also the chairman of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus — said he was "incensed over the use of blatant race baiting tactics to advance the agenda of FES."
Other elected officials also took issue with the ad.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer accused FES in a statement of helping to "divert money, resources and space from our public schools ... into increasingly unaccountable private empires. The rhetoric of this ad, and the people and money behind it, are part of the problem."
New York City Council education committee chair Danny Dromm called the ad "highly divisive and harmful."
Representatives for three of New York's largest charter networks — KIPP, Uncommon, and Achievement First — did not respond to requests for comment about the ad.
A spokesperson for FES declined to comment.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Great Schism: MORE/New Action Deal Noted in EIA's "The Coming Teacher Union Crack-Up"

In New York City the United Federation of Teachers has had opposition caucuses for years, but there is finally a concerted effort to unite all opposing factions against the Unity Caucus, which has dominated the union’s governance since the days of Al Shanker. Philadelphia and New York will require multiple elections to crack, but if they do, you may soon find movement unionists in charge of most of the largest teacher union locals in the country. ...... Mike Antonucci - The Coming Teacher Union Crack-Up, EIA, Sept. 21, 2015
It is worth noting when a national commentator on education considers the MORE - New Action recent election alliance a possibly significant factor in the growing social justice national movement in teacher unions even if that commentator is coming from the anti-teacher right.

Despite coming at issues from a libertarian, anti-union position, Mike Antonucci covers issues on internal teacher unions like no other education commentator. I don't agree that his "crack-up" take will come to pass, given that most of the urban caucuses are united in the national organization, UCORE, that has been formed and is committed to working for change within the current union local and national union structures. Detroit is an outlier, but then again Detroit is unique  - at this point. Though I don't put it beyond the Randyites to be the ones to leave and form their own union if they are ever threatened with a loss of power.

Mike has taken note of the growing social justice movement in urban teacher unions - as he did in his militants vs. establishmentarians which I commented on in Ed Notes back in June.

Now he goes into the issue in more depth and includes the MORE/New Action election deal as part of his analysis.
Believe it or not, this was a monumental week in the world of teachers’ unions. There was no single monumental event, but it’s rare to see such a collection of incidents in a seven-day span that serve to indicate a clear future direction. Let’s itemize them, then I will try to explain how I think they all tie together.
* The end of the Seattle teacher strike.
* The rumor that NEA might kickstart the process of endorsing Hillary Clinton.
* The rank-and-file vote by the Detroit Federation of Teachers and Steve Conn’s response.
* The decision of the Caucus of Working Educators to challenge the leaders of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers in the next election.
* The move by opposition factions within New York City’s United Federation of Teachers to join forces against the incumbent UFT officers in the next election.
Mike puts a lot out there to chew on here.
There is a real schism in philosophy within the teachers’ unions these days. I have previously described it as militants vs. establishmentarians, but I think I have a better description now. It is a battle between movement unionists and services unionists.

The former believe people join unions to be part of the organized labor movement, to lobby, rally, agitate, protest and strike for a working class agenda. That is why most movement unionists tend to be heavily involved in many leftist causes. The latter believe people join unions to improve their pay, benefits and working conditions. Though heavily involved in advocacy, much of it political in nature, the relationship of services unionists to their members is in many ways a commercial one. Fees are paid in exchange for services – contract negotiation, grievance processing, protection against arbitrary employment actions, liability insurance, and so forth.
So when it comes to endorsing a candidate for President of the United States, the movement unionists want, to the greatest extent possible, ideological purity while the services unionists want the best bet to win. This is exemplified in the backing of Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, by the movement, and their horror to think that NEA might summarily endorse the mainstream candidate.
Mike makes note of the announcement from MORE's allies in Philadephia, WE (The Caucus of Working Educators ), whose tee-shirt I proudly wore at the MORE meeting the other day, that they were running against the establishment Randi/Mulgrew allies who have been running the union - if you can call it that, given the utter destruction of the public school system in Philly. We got to hang with them at the UCORE conference in Newark in August and I get the feeling they think they can win this election. They are a fairly new caucus but have attracted a strong following and support.
The Caucus of Working Educators will challenge the long-time incumbents of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers with a platform focused on “racial inequality in schools, increased transparency and democracy within the union, professional development and the fight against standardized testing.” You don’t have to read far on their web site to see the distinctions they draw between themselves and the incumbents.
He goes into more depth in some revealing comments on the Seattle strike story - a lesson in how even an establishment union leadership can be moved when an opposition militant wing challenges them even it if doesn't win.
In Seattle, a reported 83 percent of voting union members ratified a tentative agreement after a week-long strike. The Seattle Education Association touted the removal of student test scores from teacher evaluations, 30 minutes of recess, and equity committees in 30 schools to deal with “disproportionate discipline.” The district received a longer instructional day and agreement to its pay offer.
This was curious, since SEA was demanding much higher pay than it got, and the amount it accepted was barely higher than the district’s offer before the strike.

"The district was not going to move on any more money,” said the head of SEA’s bargaining team. “I think if we held out any longer, they would’ve started taking stuff off the table.”

Also lost in the uproar over the strike was the fact that the SEA officers had bargained the evaluation system into the last contract, even to the point where the Seattle Times reported that it was SEA president Jonathan Knapp’s idea. 
What? You mean the very union president of the SEA, following the Randi/Mulgrew model, had to strike against his own support of yet another failed evaluation scheme?

Mike asks: 
So what changed?
Last year SEA held an election and Knapp barely edged out challenger Jesse Hagopian and his caucus of Social Equality Educators [SEE]. Hagopian is a leftist (to say the minimum) but in a liberal city he is sufficiently within the mainstream to become a force within his union. By emphasizing the social justice aspects of the agreement, Knapp and his supporters undercut Hagopian’s criticisms, and the lack of a huge pay increase actually helps the message – “See, it wasn’t just about money.” For his part, Hagopian doesn’t seem all that thrilled with the result.
Ahhhh, Jesse Hagopian of the SEE Caucus, another MORE ally, almost won the election and then had his social justice agenda co-opted by the incumbents. Haven't you seen Unity Caucus try to undercut the MORE agenda by sounding social-justicy?

Steve Conn ran for the presidency of the Detroit Federation of Teachers about a dozen times before he finally won… narrowly. Last week he took a clear majority in a referendum on his removal from office. Conn is no one’s idea of a leader of a movement, which is what makes the vote all the more remarkable. If he can actually form his own union, the Detroit Federation of Teachers will begin to disintegrate – not because Conn is so appealing, but because he will take the movement unionists with him, and the services union isn’t delivering the services.
Detroit is another kettle of fish altogether. Steve Conn is not allied with UCORE but represents a different version of social justice - BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) which ran against Randi in the past few AFT elections - they do not seem to have many allies among the other SJ groups.

Steve was elected president of the DFT but his slate got on one elected to the Exec Board, which remained in the hands of the incumbent/Randi aligned caucus. The Exec Board decided to fire Steve and ban him from the union. A vote of the membership was held - Steve needed 2/3 to be reinstated. He got a majority - still a repudiation of the Exec Board action.

Steve is now going to get people to sign cards removing themselves from the DFT and forming a counter union, something I've heard people here in NYC suggest be done to counter the Unity total control of the UFT - which I do not support here but can certainly see it may be right for Steve Conn.
Conn-plication. Steve Conn, the former president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, appealed his removal by the union’s executive board and won a majority of the votes cast by the rank-and-file. Unfortunately for all sides, he needed a two-thirds majority to overturn the board’s decision. This leaves DFT with officers unsupported by the majority and an opposition without a path to power.

Conn reportedly will cut this Gordian knot by forming a new union. “We’ll be circulating cards for people to sign to opt out of DFT and join our union because teachers don’t have a union,” Conn said. “We need a union. Teachers will have to opt out of DFT, which is their right.”

The presiding DFT leaders rightly note that it was the union’s opponents who fought long and hard for that right, which in their estimation makes Conn a “union buster.”

The Detroit Free Press reported Conn’s group is “tentatively called the Detroit Teachers Union,” but my guess is there will quickly be a name change when they start trying to put together a web site.
What can we expect? Mike wryly predicted the usual Randi/AFT response - send in the locksmiths - invade the DFT and take it over - or what is left of it. I have no doubt that if MORE were ever to win, we would find ourselves challenged and locked out, as happened in Hawaii: Union Election Lessons -If Unity Lost.

Mike then goes on to tie this entire state of affairs into the upcoming Friedrichs case coming before the Supreme Court which would allow people to stop paying dues. Mike seems to assume this will be a slam-dunk and predicts this can turn into dual and dueling separate unions.
Strangely enough, the Friedrichs case, which could put an end to agency fees across the United States, might actually accelerate this trend within the unions. Since teachers and other education employees in the collective bargaining states will no longer be obliged to financially support the union-in-charge, so to speak, they can join the union of their choice, be it movement- or services-oriented.

Activists could get the union they have always wanted, with a muscular social justice agenda and without the baggage of non-believers, apathetics, and the immovable within the ranks. Workaday teachers could get the union they have always wanted, with a single-minded commitment to the daily lives of its members, and agnostic when it comes to DC statehood, abortion, gun control and immigration.

The only thing that could keep the two philosophies in one organization is a defeat for the Friedrichs plaintiffs and a massive education hiring boom that would provide new membership revenues to heal all wounds. People don’t make drastic moves when things are going well.

That type of rescue isn’t on the horizon, however. The end is near for the status quo in the teachers’ unions. What follows will be both better and worse for the rest of us.
I don't see anything like dual-unionism here in New York, given that MORE is committed to working in the UFT and forcing change from within. And with Unity Caucus controlling both NYSUT and the AFT, we won't see great changes in the AFT for some time - or at least until Randi leaves the helm to Mulgrew, who will have to punch a hell of a lot of people in the face to maintain control.

Mike Antonucci's entire piece  - The Coming Teacher Union Crack-Up is at:

Monday, September 21, 2015

Eva Moskowitz Sept. 30 Rally Prelude to her Mayoral Campaign: Using Kids, Parents and Teachers Paid With Public Funds

Leaked Success Academy memo: tell parents rally is not political... Upcoming charter Sept. 30 anti-de Blasio rally is blatant misuse - theft of public funds.
Success administrators are also strongly encouraging parents to attend the rally and march even if it presents hardships for them in terms of arranging for child care or taking time off from their jobs.
Meaning they have to take off from work - and if they don't want to attend the rally they have to arrange alternate child care ...
The majority of Success Academy students — 77 percent — are eligible for free or reduced price lunch, meaning their families live at or below the poverty level.  For parents who feel they cannot take time off from work, employees are asked to respond, "parents took off work to stand up and make sure that you have this great school option for your family. What if they hadn't shown up and taken the day off work?"
And they will be "tossed" if they don't attend:
Staffers are also encouraged to suggest that parents with children in Success' elementary school may not have middle or high school options if they do not help further the cause of school equality by attending the rally....
"You don't want to be in a situation where we can't get middle school or high school space for your scholar's school, and you are wondering if you could have done more."
Daniel Dromm, chairman of the City Council's education committee and a teachers union ally, has accused Success of using its students as "pawns" to advance the network's political agenda and the stature of its controversial leader, Eva Moskowitz.
Is Danny Dromm the only politician with any guts?
FES is known to inflate the size of its protests. Organizers said 21,000 people attended a New York City event last October, while police estimated the crowd was about 8,000 to 10,000. 
All Success teachers also attend the rallies
This is blatant theft of public funds as teachers are being paid on the public dime to attend a political rally.

Why I Am Voting YES on the MORE/New Action Election Alliance; MORE Strategy Vindicated

New Action has come to its senses and decided to align itself with tried and true activists in the MORE caucus. Opposition is finally coming together... NYC Educator, New Action Joins MORE.

Bernie Madoff could win a credibility contest against Mulgrew's Unity Caucus so I'm not too concerned. I have been vocal of my support for MORE and my disgust with New Action. My disgust with NA was rooted in their support of Mulgrew's presidency. Now that NA has removed that support, my disgust is waning. MORE still has credibility in my book. ....Roseanne McCosh - PS8X
MORE held an extensive discussion at the MORE general meeting on Saturday, which included push back from some people over various issues related to the arrangement and asking what are the differences between MORE and NA, etc. (I'll get into some of those another time).

Kit Wainer, whose roots were TJC, led the discussion - he was also one of our reps in discussions with NA - and when I think back to where TJC stood on NA 10 years ago -- well to me this was something.

MORE is in the process of a membership vote on the proposal to endorse the election 2016 working arrangement with New Action.

I am voting YES.

This may surprise readers of Ed Notes going back to its beginnings in 1997. I have been a severe critic of New Action, even when my pals James Eterno and Ellen Fox were elected to the UFT Exec Bd as New Action. Of course once NA made its deals with Unity as far back as 2002/3, we became allies in ICE.

ICE offered New Action a deal for 2007 election
That didn't stop us from contacting New Action before the election in 2007 - ICE/TJC had defeated NA in the 2004 election for the high school Ex Bd seats - the only time NA did not have people on the Exec Bd since 1994. That offer was turned down and ICE and TJC continued to work together - which culminated in a merger of sorts in 2012 to form MORE with others.

When MORE formed, individuals from New Action were invited in and some did join MORE while continuing to support New Action. That did cause some tension. After the 2013 election when MORE significantly outpolled New Action in every division other than retirees, things began to change.

MORE stood firm on refusal to work with New Action
At first New Action asked for some working arrangements with MORE. We refused  - why help promote another caucus that was partnering with Mulgrew?

At a meeting in October 2013 Julie Cavanagh and I made that point very clear to New Action. We are ready to work with you when you agree to break with Unity. That offer has been on the table since then. I also pointed out that MORE is open to New Action coming in and serving on steering and bringing their experience to MORE. I pointed to the demographics - that MORE was the first opposition in decades to attract a younger generation of teachers - making groups like ICE. TJC and New Action at risk of becoming retiree caucuses. (There is an audio tape of that meeting.)

There were one or two voices in MORE that insisted we not adhere to that position and instead work with New Action even while they officially supported Mulgrew.

MORE stood firm, believing that working with a group that supports Mulgrew would be a disaster for MORE - witness Roseanne's comment above. Only by not compromising would New Action eventually come to see that an alliance would help them and MORE - or else they might be threatened with losing more ground to MORE in the 2016 elections.

And I will say that the old ICE core was much less receptive to New Action than some of the new MOREs who did not live that history.

Personal contact helps
Over the last year at every DA I would tell the guy handing out NA lit: When are you guys rejoining the opposition? He would laugh and say - maybe sooner than you think.

I have to say, that since that Oct. 2013 meeting, I did get the NA point of view and lost a lot of my hostility towards them and to most (not all) of its leaders. I got to hang out with Jonathan Halabi at the AFT14 convention in LA and enjoyed some of our conversation. I realized what an important ally he could be in so many ways.

Another thing that happened was that as MORE chapter leaders began to have contact with New Action chapter leaders, there was a growing mutual respect. Really, that is where a lot of this stuff happens. At the grassroots level.

Now don't get me wrong. My dream of one caucus - branding a clear alternative to Unity - has not come to pass. The slate will look something like MORE/New Action. I think that over the long term that is harmful. People might ask - if you guys can't get together into one organization, how can you run the UFT? Well, coalitions running unions have worked in the past. But at this point of the process, I am not worried about that. In the key area of the high school executive board, MORE will get 4 and New Action will get 3 and MORE gets to choose the presidential candidate.  Pretty much everything else will be split - where there is an odd number - MORE due to its stronger position, will get the extra slot.

At Saturday's meeting, the strengths more than the weaknesses of New Action were brought out. A 25 year old distribution network, the fact that they have been putting out some pretty decent literature over the past year or two - taking very similar positions as MORE. So I won't get into the negatives and the differences at this point.

If we win the high school seats and contend in other divisions we will be working together over the next 3 years. I assume Halabi will be one of the NA Ex Bd members and while MORE hasn't chosen anyone yet, I expect our 4 will bring a lot to the table.

Let's see how well we work together and revisit the issue in April.

John Elfrank-Dana: No Retro if on Leave - Bitterly disappointed and, sadly, not surprised...

UPDATED: Link to EEOC form: 
File 2 complaints:  Mulgrew/UFT and Farina/DoE.
"What would someone with no income and mounting medical bills do with a retro check anyway?" -- John Elfrank-Dana 
John fought the good fight at Murry Bergtraum HS for many years and has been an important ally of ICE and MORE over the years. John has had some health issues and we wish him well on his continued recovery. If you know
UFT/Unity Leadership sending you off
someone on leave, share this with them and urge them to file a complaint with the EEOC even if it does not turn out to be fruitful.

Here is the email from John:
We have established that UFTers on approved leave will not get a retro check for monies owed them due to NO fault of their own. In my case, I slipped down the subway steps and incurred a concussion and had two surgeries to correct. For this disability, the UFT agreed not to allow me to collect my 2009-2011 wages owed me for two years with no interest. I will supposedly get paid on Oct. 2017.  

Who do you know out on maternity or medical leave? You should forward them this email to see if it applies to them. If you are not affected but offended, send our president Mulgrew a message.

What you can do: File 2 complaints (one against Carmen Farina and NYC DoE and one against Michael Mulgrew and UFT). with the EEOC because you are being discriminated against as a result of your condition/disability (medical/pregnancy). The link to the EEOC form is here:

Take it to 33 Whitehall St. in Manhattan. Do it soon; possible gov't shutdown Oct. 1

Our union is supposed to uphold the principle of solidarity, which means "mutual support", not selective support. 

Bitterly disappointed and, sadly, not surprised...

In Solidarity,

John Elfrank-Dana
Former CL
Murry Bergtraum High School

Here's the quote from the UFT website (this provision is NOT in the contract but appears to be hashed out after we voted on it):
  • Retroactive money for the 4 percent raises in 2009 and 2010: Those who retire on or before June 30, 2014 will receive full retroactive pay for time worked in a lump sum. Those who retire after June 30, 2014 and employees who have been continuously employed and are in active service as of the date of the payout will receive retroactive pay in five lump-sum payments of roughly 12.5 percent in October 2015, 12.5 percent in October 2017, 25 percent in October 2018, 25 percent in October 2019 and 25 percent in October 2020.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

MORE Friday Night Uptown Barbecue Packed, MORE Meets Today - Elections, Presidential Candidate on Agenda, MORE Events Next Friday

Hostess With Mostest Megan Moskop Shopping for barbecue
Oy! These people are tiring me out. I trekked up to W. 138 St. on the slow 1 train last night for the fabulous barbecue put together by Megan Moskop and a crew of volunteers. Jia Lee (wo)manned the grill, firing up burgers and franks. I was very impressed with how many young people were there - one chapter leader showed up with 30% of the people in his school signed up as paid MORE members. It was the first time I had ever met him. Interesting guy - falls into that "15-year" teacher category - the sweet spot - the mid-career teachers that seem to be coming around to MORE. They are in deep and not leaving, yet have 15 - 20 years to go. They want to see changes in the union. We are not seeing a lot of people seeing the end of their careers coming - fighting the Unity leadership is a long-haul affair and not a lot of lunatics like me are out there. But there are some - especially the newly retired people in MORE - like my pal Gloria Brandman who is always up for the battle.

By the time I left just before 10PM, you couldn't squeeze into the backyard. I staggered out after 2 drinks from the gin and tonic machine - I think I'm hooked.

Bruce Markens, the only non-Unity district rep (Manhattan High Schools) ever elected for a decade - and the reason Randi abolished district rep elections in 2002 - was there with Bernie Sanders buttons - I bought one even though I am very unhappy with Bernie on ed deform.

I'm just about heading over to the MORE meeting where the deal with New Action will be presented and a MORE process for choosing candidates and setting up an election campaign will be on the agenda.

I have been proposing that MORE have its high school, middle school and elementary school people set up committees to choose candidates, focus on issues and run campaigns in their divisions. And stay local and build infrastructure that will last beyond the election.

MORE is planning other local events. A Bronx and Brooklyn event next Friday. Come on down.

Brooklyn Happy Hour
at 3:30pm - 7:00pm
Harp Bar Brooklyn
7710 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, New York 11209
MORE will be challenging Michael Mulgrew and his Unity caucus in the 2016 UFT officer elections. We want to hear from you, what are the issues in your school? How can we change our union for the better?
We will also have experienced UFT chapter leaders available to answer your questions on the new contract, evaluations, testing, lesson plans, dealing with bad administrators or any other UFT questions you may have.
Come have some drinks and meet educators from nearby schools!

at 4:00pm - 7:00pm

Bronx/Uptown educators, come to a MORE Back to School Party!

Mott Haven Bar
1 Bruckner Blvd, Bronx, New York 10454

-Meet other UFT chapter organizers for food, drink and fun
-Discuss how to organize and defend the UFT contract in your school
-Help build a movement demand a more just educational system

Friday, September 18, 2015

Join the #MORE2016 slate for one of the 750 AFT/NYSUT Representative/Delegates

With the announcement of a joint MORE/New Action slate, it become feasible to take aim at filling all 750 slots even if they can't be won. (I wrote most of this before the announcement, so some of it is not up to date.)

Running for these Representative/Delegate positions allows UFT members to make a statement to the city, state and national union leadership that they are sick and tired of how these 750 Unity shock troops have been used on the state and national levels to make too many compromises with the ed deformers and have left rank and file
teachers in the lurch. The 750 Unity people elected in April 2016 will go to Minneapolis in July 2016 to runner stamp common core,  teachers rated by test scores, annual testing, oppose opt out, and so on. By signing on to run with MORE/New Action you are saying NO.

What do you have to do to run for AFT/NYSUT representative on the  slate:
  • Get 100 UFT members to sign your petition.
A hundred signatures is needed on the petition to get on the ballot as an AFT/NYSUT representative to national and state conventions -  we aim for 110 to cover doubles and possible eliminations. The process of getting signatures in the schools is a way to chat up the election. It is understood that it is not always easy to get 100 signatures in smaller schools. MORE and New Action will hold signing parties to help make up any shortfall. Petitions will be made available in January or February - and you will have 3 weeks to gather them.
  • Donate to the election campaign
You don't have to officially join MORE to run for AFT/NYSUT delegate though joining would give you voting rights in MORE for the next year. Even a small donation to the election cause is welcome.

  • Email me and I will send you the  candidate info form to fill out.
  • Fill it out and email it back to me which will count as your having signed it.
MORE does not accept cross endorsed candidates - meaning you cannot run on 2 different caucus lines.

Running for the AFT/NYSUT delegate doesn't preclude running for other positions like Executive Board or officers.

There are 3 levels of positions being voted on in the triennial UFT elections.
  • Officers - 12
  • Executive Board - 89
  • AFT/NYSUT Reps - 750
People put way too much attention on the officers, especially the president. I prefer to focus on the least noticed and understood - the 750 delegate positions which rewards the Unity loyalists with all expense paid trips to state and national conventions. These 750 are the heart of the Unity machine that not only controls NYSUT and the AFT but also controls the districts and schools - people who function as arms of the Unity propaganda machine which has successfully - so far - convinced rank and file teachers that, yes, things are bad, but none of it are their fault - blame everyone but them. As the late Gene Prisco used to say -- the arrow is aimed right at them but they have a massive deflection machine.

I left this comment on the ICE blog in response to someone who focused on the need for a credible presidential candidate. Yes - we need a credible candidate for sure - and I am sure MORE, which has a wide choice of credible people, will choose one - nominations will opened at this Saturday's general meeting. is not about a credible opponent but about building from the school levels up to challenge Unity every day, every month, every year, not every 3 years. As long as Unity has chapter leaders and other people in the majority of the schools without anyone to push back the elections every 3 years reflect that fact. Look at some of the school standing up to support Seattle - not very many but some signs that something is stirring at the rank and file level in schools where there are people to raise these points and engage in an active refutation of the distorted world Unity is selling where they are blameless.
Unless an opposition challenges these 750 mostly school based Unity at the school level, elections will continue the way they have been.

While I am less active in MORE as the younger gen with so much energy takes over, I have taken on the project to help organize as large a number of people running for these 750 seats as possible. I just don't count numbers but how many schools - some people have offered to sign up everyone in their school - and we can do that - but expanding the numbers of schools with at least someone running is a bigger goal.

We have found that where there are active people who talk up the election and why they are running, their colleagues do vote. That is the best way to get out the vote, not various election schemes like electronic voting or in school voting where the Unity machine could actually steal votes.

MORE doesn't necessarily expect to get the full complement of 750 filled but will make a serious attempt to get as many as possible.

What do you have to do if you win?
Don't worry - you can't win the way the UFT election process is run.
Let me say it out right. None of these these 750 positions can be won. Not even 1 out of the 750 even if a caucus gets 49.9% of the votes. In the UFT oligarchy it's winner take all.

So why bother to run for AFT/NYSUT delegates at all?
In the last 4 elections cycles I've been involved in - 04, 07, 10, 13 - the opposition groups I've been involved with - ICE and MORE - and TJC in joint slates - did not make a concerted effort to get people to run for these seats because the petitioning turned out to be a pain in the ass. In 1981 all the opposition  parties joined together to actually fill the entire slate with about 800 people - the only time I remember that happening.

Now I think is the time to try it once again. Why? For me it has been attending some AFT and NYSUT conventions where I get to see the outcome of these 750 Unity Caucus people acting as a battering ram against people fighting for democratic unionism and for a progressive agenda for teacher unions that includes fighting full bore against ed deform.

So, if you decide to run with MORE/New Action you won't be going to Minneapolis in July 2016 on the 750 Unity Caucus gravy train - though you are welcome to join the MORE contingent that is paying its own way to be a presence and to support other locals battling the Unity machine. Or to 2016, 17, 18 NYSUT conventions - especially the 2017 at the NY Hilton where NY State version of Unity will use these 750 Unity BORGS to control the city, state and national union policy that has proved so harmful to rank and file teachers all over the nation.

More background
Some people confuse these 750 AFT/NYSUT positions with the delegates elected by each school to the monthly UFT Delegate Assembly. There is no relation at all, though if you go to the regular DA and to the AFT/NYSUT conventions you see the same Unity people and you get a deeper understanding of how these people are used to control every level of the union. They are Unity chapter leaders, district reps and also loads of Unity retirees. The Unity BORG machine in action.

In the past few elections, the opposition has pretty much ignored these positions. When ICE ran with TJC, the people running TJC put up only a few people. ICE people felt that getting a nice list of people would help in the election but in reality it had little if any impact. People were just told to sign up and they didn't have to do anything - we would get them the 100 signatures. So they often barely knew they were running for anything and were just names to fill in enough positions to make us look credible.

Unity Winner-take-all disenfranchises Unity opponents
In a democratic union, MORE's percentage of the vote in the 2013 election would have given it a share of these 750 delegates. But the 5000 people who voted for MORE in the election get no representation at the AFT and NYSUT. And a good chunk of dues goes to AFT and NYSUT - taxation without representation. Anyone know where Unity keeps the tea?

MORE will be putting forth some proposals in the election to  change how these representatives are elected to remove the "Unity is the sole option" process.

But I don't want to make a case for a simple proportional representation for caucuses like MORE. That leaves out too many people who are not involved in caucuses. I am for separating the 750 delegate election from the rest of the UFT general elections for Officers and Exec Board and get schools involved in choosing these candidates. Arthur Goldstein often points out that he is elected by 300 UFT members and doesn't get a voice at the state and national levels.

If you need motivation, here is the mock Apple 1984 video David Bellel and I made during the AFT2010 Seattle Bill Gates convention.

Bill Gates' appearance at the AFT Convention was cheered wildly by most of the delegates. But about 60 walked out and others held a silent protest inside. Here is a parody of the famous Apple intro to Mac at the 1984 Super Bowl, the only time it was ever shown.

The idea was hatched at Sunday night dinner in Seattle with George Schmidt and some CORE members. I am realizing that so many people have no idea of the significance and irony of that commercial, which was shown just once at the 1984 Super Bowl as an Apple ad to introduce the revolutionary Macintosh, which introduced the mouse and the graphical interface. It was also a political attack on the then dominant IBM, which has entered the personal computer field that Apple had invented in 1976/7. But with Microsoft capturing the operating system - in pre Windows days, which was copied from the MAC, it could also be seen as an attack on Gates 26 years ago. We made sure to add the complicit AFT/UFT - that's Randi in the background mocking the protesters leaving the hall to the cheers of Unity Caucus.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Black Agenda Radio Commentary On BlackLivesMatter's and TFA's Deray McKesson, privatization, and charters

Deray McKesson is the kind of slavish “thought leader” whose tweets have likened liken the privatization of education via the wave of unaccountable charter schools forced upon parents and communities across the country, to the free breakfast for children programs of the 1960s Black Panther Party. But what should one expect from a “transformational leader” spit out by Teach For America, a corporate funded outfit that specializes in replacing experienced black teachers with younger and usually whiter temps, who either go on to careers in banking, law and finance, as consultants to the testing and school privatization industry, or as school administrators devoted to running public schools more like businesses... Bruce A. Dixon,  BAR managing editor 
Yale's $40K Wet Kiss Anoints #BlackLivesMatter's Deray McKesson Their Kind of “Transformational” Leader

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary

excerpts - full story at: 

What does it mean when Yale Divinity School bestows $40K on former Teach For America alum, #BlackLivesMatter activist and CampaignZero honcho Deray McKesson for two days of guest lecturing on “Transformational Leadership in the #BlackLivesMatter Movement?” It's not complicated. It simply means that Mr. McKesson exemplifies the kind of “transformational leader” whatever that means, that our elites have decided to laud, to prop up and to place in front of us. It certifies that Deray is their kind of leader, offering their kind of leadership.
Deray says he loves your blackness, and his own, and issues scores of tweets and retweets to that effect daily. What he doesn't seem to love is bottom-up local leadership. Going into the 30th day of a hunger strike by Chicago parents and community leaders resisting the forced privatization of south side Dyett High School, nobody's  heard a word from Deray on the subject yet.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)

MORE and New Action to Run Joint Slate in Upcoming UFT Elections

MORE announced a potential ground-breaking agreement with New Action to run together in the UFT elections, subject to ratification by the membership. Read it here: morecaucusnyc
MORE and New Action Propose Joint Slate for UFT Elections

James Eterno and Kit Wainer, two former UFT presidential candidates were joined by the always amazing Lauren Cohen, chapter leader of PS 321K and a rising star in the movement, as MORE reps in meetings with New Action over the past month to hammer out an agreement.

There is a long convoluted history behind the announcement of a united slate for the 2016 elections by MORE and New Action, still to be ratified by the MORE general membership after a discussion at this Saturday's MORE meeting - the first of the school year. MORE steering has already voted to recommend ratification.

At Saturday's meeting MORE will also discuss and nominate potential presidential candidates. The agreement with New Action allows for the candidate to come from MORE.

I will be telling a more detailed story with background in upcoming blog posts because I think in order to move forward we have to understand the historical context and the lessons learned. I posted Part 1 of the history of opposition caucuses in the UFT  which took us up to the mid-90s.
My thesis has been that multi slates and multi caucuses has been a hindrance to developing an effective opposition. There is some irony in taking this position, given that I helped form a new caucus called ICE in late 2003 in response to the New Action deal with Unity, which disemboweled the opposition in the UFT. Over time it became clear to many of us that we needed to create one big tent and MORE was the result. New Action has been invited into the tent since MORE's formation. 

This is not exactly what is happening - at this point - though one might get that impression from  headline  from NYC Educator 
New Action Joins MORE - New Action has come to its senses and decided to align itself with tried and true activists in the MORE caucus. Opposition is finally coming together.

I wish New Action members actually joined MORE so we could build one brand for the opposition. But New Action prefers a joing MORE/New Action slate where we work together but as 2 separate organizations.

New Action and MORE are running much along the lines that ICE and TJC ran together in the 2007 and 2010 elections. I think that even though it is better than having 2 separate lines on the ballot it still sends a message to members - why do you need 2 caucuses?
ICE and TJC finally got the message that we had to be in one caucus together in order to move forward and withdrew from UFT electoral politics even though ICE maintains itself as a non-electoral caucus. I have no problems with various groups putting forth their ideas but for UFT elections I believe we need one group. While the current agreement with New Action is not an ideal one from my perspective, I view it as a beginning with the hope that New Action members will get involved in MORE and join MORE steering to help run it.

Many of us have been severe critics of New Action over the past decade, non more so than former New Action member who was tossed out, along with Ellen Fox and Camille Eterno and Lisa North when they balked at the deal with Unity and then joined me and other Ed Notes supporters to form ICE.  Here is James' take on the announcement on the ICE blog where some of his reservations seeps through.


I will urge MORE members to ratify the agreement on Saturday because it is the right thing to do and a way forward for the opposition. MORE, unlike the older caucuses, has been successful in attracting a new generation of activists, mostly in their 30s with a long career ahead of them. Most members of ICE and TJC understood back in 2011 and 2012 that we had to give up some of our independence in the interests of building a force to challenge Unity. I am hoping that this elections is a transition faze towards that aim.

The reality of groups like ICE, TJC and New Action is that we are too loaded with retirees or soon to be retirees. You can't build an opposition on the backs of retirees or teachers looking down that road even though Unity relies very much on retirees to hold on to power.

MORE is being run by 8-15 year teachers, not even halfway through their careers. Retirees like me have been happy to take a step back and let them take over. They are the future.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Can you point me to literature explaining the governance structure of the UFT?

I'm asked this question often as people try to explain this to people in their school who ask.
I tried to simplify my old confusing graphic. It's not easy to fit this all in.
Think of 3 branches - the Ad Com and Exec Bd elected this year and the 3rd branch is the Del Ass - Unity controls every branch and has for 60 years.

All Officer, Exec Bd and AFT/NYSUT positions are up for elections this school year. School and functional based chapter leaders and delegates are also on a 3 year cycle but are elected a year before the UFT elections take place.

See if this works for anyone interested in your schools.

Print this out and see if it clear enough to share. I can send you the pdf if you email me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Charter School Scams Go On: Where's Bernie or Hillary?

These stories keep coming in by the minute. Ravitch alone has a pile of them:
And here's one from Alternet on the federal handoff to charters.
Where are our candidates on these issues?

Web of Secrecy Surrounding Federal Half-a-Billion Handout to Charter Schools

More than $200 million in fraud, waste, and mismanagement in the charter school industry have been documented.

Web of Secrecy Surrounding Federal Half-a-Billion Handout to Charter Schools

More than $200 million in fraud, waste, and mismanagement in the charter school industry have been documented.
  The U.S. Department of Education is poised to spend half a billion dollars to help create new charter schools, while the public is being kept in the dark about which states have applied for the lucrative grants, and what their actual track records are when it comes to preventing fraud and misuse.
Already the federal government has spent $3.3 billion in American tax dollars under the Charter Schools Program (CSP), as tallied by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).
But the government has done so without requiring any accountability from the states and schools that receive the money, as CMD revealed earlier this year.
Throwing good money after bad, Education Secretary Arne Duncan called for a 48 percent increase in federal charter funding earlier this year, and the House and Senate budget proposals also call for an increase—albeit a more modest one—while at the same time slashing education programs for immigrants and language learners.
The clamor for charter expansion comes despite the fact that there are federal probes underway into suspected waste and mismanagement within the program, not to mention ongoing and recently completed state audits of fraud perpetrated by charter school operators.
Earlier this year, the Center for Popular Democracy documented more than $200 million in fraud, waste, and mismanagement in the charter school industry in 15 states alone, a number that is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg.
Is now really the right time to plow more tax money into charters?
Insiders Deliberate Far from the Public Eye
The Department of Education is currently deciding what states to award $116 million this year, and more than half a billion during the five-year grant cycle.
So who is in the running and what are their track records?
Which states have applied for a grant designed to eviscerate the public school system in the name of “flexibility?” (CMD's review of state applications and reviewers' comments from the previous grant cycle exposed “flexibility” as a term of art used by the industry for state laws that allow charter schools to: operate independently from locally elected school boards, employ people to teach without adequate training or certification, and avoid collective bargaining that helps ensure that teacher-student ratios are good so that each kid gets the attention he or she deserves.)
There is no way of knowing.
The U.S Department of Education has repeatedly refused to honor a CMD request under the Freedom of Information Act for the grant applications, even though public information about which states have applied would not chill deliberation and might even help better assess which applicants should receive federal money.
The agency has even declined to provide a list with states that have applied:
“We cannot release a list of states that have applied while it is in the midst of competition."
The upshot of this reticence is that states will land grants—possibly to the tune of a hundred million dollars or more in some cases—all at the discretion of charter school interests contracted to evaluate the applications, but without any input from ordinary citizens and advocates concerned about public schools and troubled by charter school secrecy and fraud.
But, if people in a state know that a state is applying they can weigh in so that the agency is not just hearing from an applicant who wants the money, regardless of the history of fraud and waste in that state.
Charter Millions by Hook or by Crook: The Case of Ohio
Despite ED’s unwillingness to put all the cards on the table, state reports tell us that Ohio has once again applied for a grant under the program.
The state, whose lax-to-non-existing charter school laws are an embarrassment even to the industry, has previously been awarded at least $49 million in CSP money—money that went to schools overseen by a rightwing think-tank, and, more worryingly, to schools overseen by an authorizer that had its performance rating boosted this year by top education officials who removed the failing virtual schools from the statistics so as not to stop the flow of state and federal funds.
As The Plain Dealer put it in an exposé: “It turns out that Ohio’s grand plan to stop the national ridicule of its charter school system is giving overseers of many of the lowest-performing schools a pass from taking heat for some of their worst problems.”
Another component of this plan, it turns out, was to apply for more federal millions to the failing schools that—by a miraculous sleight of hand—are no longer failing.
The director of Ohio’s Office of Quality School Choice, David Hansen, fell on the sword and announced his resignation in June. But Democratic lawmakers suspect that this goes higher up in the chain of command, and have called on State Superintendent Richard Ross to resign.
Did the scrubbed statistics touting the success of Ohio’s charters find its way into the state application for federal millions, signed by Superintendent Ross?
What about other states, such as Indiana, with a similar history of doctoring data to turn failing charter schools into resounding success stories?
After Abysmal Results, States Re-apply for More Money
While the known unknowns are troubling, the known knowns—to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld—are also equally disturbing.
For example, Colorado applied for grant renewal this year.
But, the last time around, in 2010, the state landed a $46 million CSP grant thanks in no small part to the lax “hiring and firing” rules and the lack of certification requirements for charter school teachers--a reviewer contracted by the U.S. Department of Education to score the application noted.
Look at California.
Through meeting minutes from the California State Board of Education we also know that the Golden State submitted an application this year. In 2010, California was awarded $254 million over five years in CSP money, but as the Inspector General discovered in a 2012 audit, the state department of education did not adequately monitor any of the schools that received sub-grants. Some schools even received federal money “without ever opening to students.” A review by CMD revealed that a staggering 9 out of the 41 schools that shuttered in the 2014-'15 school year were created by federal money under CSP.
How about Wisconsin?
Wisconsin received $69.6 million between 2010 and 2015, but out of the charter schools awarded sub-grants during the first two years of the cycle, one-fifth (16 out of 85) have closed since, as CMD discovered.
Then there’s Indiana.
Indiana was awarded $31.3 million over the same period, partly because of the fact that charter schools in the state are exempt from democratic oversight by elected school boards. “[C]harter schools are accountable solely to authorizers under Indiana law,” one reviewer enthused, awarding the application 30/30 under the rubric “flexibility offered by state law.”
This “flexibility” has been a recipe for disaster in the Hoosier state with countless examples of schools pocketing the grant money and then converting to private schools, as CMD discovered by taking a closer look at grantees under the previous cycle:
  • The Indiana Cyber Charter School opened in 2012 with $420,000 in seed money from the federal program. Dogged by financial scandals and plummeting student results the charter was revoked in 2015 and the school last month leaving 1,100 students in the lurch.
  • Padua Academy lost its charter in 2014 and converted to a private religious school, but not before receiving $702,000 in federal seed money.
Have They Learned Anything?
Secretary Duncan has previously called for “absolute transparency” when it comes to school performance, but that’s just a talking point unless he releases the applications, or even a list of the states that are in the running, before they are given the final stamp of approval.
As it stands, there is no way of knowing if the state departments of education seeking millions in tax dollars:
  • Have supplied actual performance data that reflect the reality for students enrolled in charter schools rather than “scrubbed” or doctored numbers;
  • Try to outbid each other in “flexibility” by explaining, say, how charter schools in X can hire teachers without a license and fire them without cause. In its 2010 application, the Colorado Department of Education, for example, boasted of how charter school teachers are “employed at will by the school”;
  • Have corrective action plans so as to avoid repeating the costly waste and mistakes from the previous grant cycle (such as schools created by federal seed money closing within a few years or never even opening).
Because the federal charter schools program is designed to foster charter school growth, which in turn means that money will be diverted from traditional public schools to an industry that resists government enforcement of basic standards for financial controls, accountability, and democratic oversight, the public has a big stake in this and a right to know more, before their money disappears down black holes.