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AFT Convention 2016 – Prequel Chicago

July 18, 2016 pm31 5:11 pm

Before Minneapolis, there was Chicago.

Minneapolis.  2016.  AFT Convention 2016. Three out of four.  AFT 2010, AFT 2014, and now AFT 2016. I’m a visitor. And a blogger-reporter.  I’ll be posting one blog post each evening.  But it’s too early for that.

This is a prequel-post. I am sitting in the press section, waiting for a former cabinet member and  current candidate for president to address the hall. But I’m thinking of Chicago. Not Chicago 68, and not the Chicago Fire, but the Chicago of my last two days, vacation days, staying with Fred Klonsky and Anne Lowry Klonsky in Logan Square.

Great visit. We played “missed social cues” Sunday morning. No one was keeping score, but Anne clearly won. Sunday dinner at Logan Square. And the visit started the day before at Logan Square. Waiting for Fred by the El station, and what’s on my right? A Norwegian Church. And on my left? Prairie. Real prairie. Welcome to the Midwest.


Fred drove me out to Forest Park, Waldheim Cemetery. Saw the memorial to the Haymarket martyrs, heroes of labor, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s stone, and a field of graves of national and Chicago leaders of the Communist Party.

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We drove through Hyde Park. Fred showed me where the first chain reaction took place (I got a photo) and where Obama’s house is (way too much security, couldn’t get close, no picture). We saw some Frank Lloyd Wright stuff, too.


The worst part of the trip has no photos. Miles of public housing on the south side were missing, knocked down by Rahm Emmanuel.  The schools that served the projects? Miles of them. Empty. Half-empty. Taken over by privately run (charter) schools. The saddest? DuSable High School. Looks like it was THE high school for the Black Community on the south side. Half empty. Facing urban fields across the street, blank spaces where thousands used to live.

There was an unworldly good chicken curry dinner, Anne freshly ground and combined the spices. A good argument over Trump and the Republicans (is there still a national republican party?)  And another argument over who to vote for. (If 99% of African Americans vote for Clinton, can you vote for someone else? And is the main threat, Trump, such a threat that the goal in this election is beating him by as much as possible?)  And over the relative roles and importance of belief vs following the law in Judaism. Anne referred us to Karen Lewis, who expertly answered our questions with questions.

And there was Wrigley. My first visit inside the friendly confines, ever. Against Texas, a sellout, and Fred got us seats in section 503. The highest section. Deep deep deep left. Next section over? Rooftop of a building across the street. (one of which hosted a wedding. Vows were 15 minutes before the first pitch). Wrigley is a great stadium. Old, clunky, friendly, feels intimate. And even from section 503, great views. In fact, spectacular, panoramic views. Perfect for watching a home run sail out (Rangers, sorry). And for watching an acrobatic catch in the ivy.

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With Lake Michigan in the background.

And that’s it. A two-day AFT/Minneapolis prequel.




Certified UFT Election Results – Part I

July 11, 2016 am31 8:49 am

The American Arbitration Association delivered certified election results (2016). They differ only slightly from the preliminary results reported here, but now with much more certainty attached.

These results are by slate, MORE/New Action vs. Unity. AAA supplied slate totals. But a third guy* ran with some individual followers, not enough to be a slate. For that group, for each division I considered the votes each officer and each divisional exec board member received, and I reported the lowest figure – which is the greatest number possible that did not split the ballot.

I excluded 20 staff members (AAA reports them in the grand total, but, correctly, not in any division.)  I assume those were 20 UNity votes.

**Retiree votes are down-weighted according to the UFT Constitution. They are capped at 23,000 votes. This explains most of the (slight) discrepancy between totals and slate totals (Unity 39,176 to MORE/New Action 10,743 vs Unity 39,094 to MORE/New Action 10,658).

I will, in no particular rush, follow this up with analysis. Next up will be turnout – both by division and by district.

2016 Votes
Division Mailed Returned % Voting
Elementary 36,002 10,031 27.9%
Middle 11,249 2,854 25.4%
High School 19,861 4,744 23.9%
Teacher Total 67,112 17,629 26.3%
Functional 59,359 10,801 18.2%
InService Total 126,471 28,430 22.5%
Retirees 62,958 24,452 38.8%
Grand Total 189,429 52,882 27.9%



Division Unity MORE/NAC Indiv.* Total slate-y
Elementary 7,022 2,295 222 9,539
Middle 1,637 873 178 2,688
High School 2,043 2,243 108 4,394
Teacher Total 10,702 5,411 508 16,621
Functional 7,633 2,251 323 10,207
InService Total 18,335 7,662 831 26,828
**Retirees 20,045 2,893 184 23,122
Grand Total 39,176 10,743 1,456 51,375



Division Unity MORE/NAC Indiv.*
Elementary 73.6% 24.1% 2.3%
Middle 60.9% 32.5% 6.6%
High School 46.5% 51.0% 2.5%
Teacher Total 64.4% 32.6% 3.1%
Functional 74.8% 22.1% 3.2%
InService Total 68.3% 28.6% 3.1%
Retirees 86.7% 12.5% 0.8%
Grand Total 76.3% 20.9% 2.8%


July 11, 2016 am31 8:22 am

This weekend I advised someone:

  1. Speak the Truth
  2. Work for Change
  3. It’s not about you

I need to heed my own words. It’s not about me, either. And it is important.

I’ll have more to say, soon.

Something Fishy with NY State CC Algebra Regents Scores

June 17, 2016 am30 7:10 am

New York State Common Core Algebra was administered six times from June 2014 to January 2016. The content was of mixed quality. The wordiness was evident, and was designed to trip up weaker readers. And the scale (86 raw points available) was incredibly tough on stronger students (deductions for petty errors had a magnified effect on higher scores).

And this exam, yesterday?  Similar, though perhaps wordier.  But the scale is new and different and no one told us in advance, and there’s something going on, and the state has given us plenty of reason to question their judgment and their decisions.

Here’s the number of “raw points” needed to reach 100, 90, 85, 80, 75, 70, and 65 for the first seven exams. See which one is different?

Exam Jun-14 Aug-14 Jan-15 Jun-15 Aug-15 Jan-16 Jun-16
100 86 86 86 86 86 86 86
90 78 79 79 79 78 79 76
85 73 75 74 75 74 74 67
80 67 70 67 69 67 68 51
75 57 60 57 59 55 57 39
70 40 42 40 40 40 40 32
65 30 31 30 30 30 30 27
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

The State did explain itself. They sent out a memo explaining there was no real change. See if you can read this: june16algonemaintenance.

I couldn’t. I wrote requesting clarification.

The Backbone of our Union – Volunteers or Staff?

June 14, 2016 am30 7:27 am

At a small Bronx demonstration a few years back I heard a chant: “Who are we?  UFT!” Ouch. The demonstration, aside from three or four activists, was entirely paid staff from the Bronx UFT Office. This was not the UFT.

The UFT is a membership organization. There are tens of thousands of us. But the leadership of our union is unable or unwilling to mobilize the membership. Perhaps they have given up on ever being able to mobilize the membership. Instead, they think of the themselves as a union, and they think of the members as a passive constituency. This is a gross misunderstanding of what a union is.

The Backbone of a Healthy Union

They also misunderstand what healthy union should look like. The UFT should have a backbone. And our current leadership looks in the wrong place to find the group that should makes it up.

Not the officers and staff on the 14th floor. Not the appointees and paid staff in the borough offices. And not the mass of members, mostly unorganized. The backbone of our union should be the one thousand five hundred chapter leaders.

The members in each school make up a “chapter.” And every chapter elects a chapter leader. Chapter leaders are, today, the only leaders of the union directly elected by the members they directly serve.

Defending our Union

When the Friedrichs case threatened to defund our union, our leadership reacted. They searched for ways to continue to collect dues, and to protect what we had. They acted as if a union’s ability to fund itself is vitally important. And it is.

But what about when your backbone is attacked? What happens when a principal announces that he can take out a chapter leader with impunity? That he is not afraid of the UFT, because the UFT won’t fight? This cannot go unchallenged. It must be stopped. Our response to an attack on a chapter leader must be at least as vigorous as our response to a political attack.

In the coming days you will hear about a Chapter Leader being singled out by an anti-union principal. This principal must be challenged. It will be a test of our new New Action and MORE Executive Board members if we can convince the UFT leadership to rise to face down this bully.

These words cannot anymore be empty:  An injury to one is an injury to all.


Skinny awards, this Thursday

June 6, 2016 pm30 8:59 pm

Please come to the annual Class Size Matters Skinny award dinner honoring Juan Gonzalez and Robert Powell onJune 9 –just a few days away — it’s always one of the most joyful events. For more information or to buy tickets see

I forgot I was going, never have gone before, until Norm Scott posted a reminder. Bought my tickets two weeks ago. Can’t believe I already forgot.

The Skinny Awards are the opposite of the Broad Awards (Eli Broad, anti-public ed reformer, rich guy. Get it Broad ≠ Skinny?)

Leonie Haimson orchestrates it – she’s pro-public education, anti-testing, pro-all kinds of other good things. I’m curious. You should be too. If Thursday is open, join me there.


UFT Election Results – some discussion

June 3, 2016 am30 10:34 am

Some initial thoughts on the UFT election, based loosely on New Action discussion earlier this week.

  • This result (winning high schools, increased overall vote) was the result we were looking for. Sure, a breakthrough elsewhere would have been fantastic, but it was not expected.
  • The decision to run with MORE (rather than approach Unity, run with Solidarity, run on our own, or sit the election out) was the right decision.
  • The alliance was necessary for winning the high school seats. Would not have happened otherwise.
  • Discussion of “pizza parties” – huge result from Francis Lewis (CL Arthur Goldstein) – where else did the parties occur (real leadership required to run them?)
  • There was a definite uptick in support we got from the schools. All of us met “old friends” (not including MORE folks) who indicated that they were delighted to be able to vote for us, since they had been unwilling to support Mulgrew.
  • MORE’s leadership in the Opt-Out movement clearly made a difference in elementary and middle schools.
  • Distribution was smooth. The additional week was useful. (Side discussion of being completely blocked from one campus). The contacts with several hundred chapter leaders enabled wider distribution. (that’s a topic we need to return to)
  • Our committee that first met with MORE did a great job setting things up, paving the way forward.
  • Working with MORE went smoothly throughout, with only a handful of glitches, most (not all) of which were attributable to not having worked together previously.
  • We met a significant number of in-service MORE activists with lots of energy.
  • Mulgrew 91%, 84%, 76%.  Others will notice.
  • Retirees voting is highly unusual. We do not know of other unions that do this. However it would be easier to make this point if we were winning more than one of the four divisions of in-service members.
  • The second division we are closest in is Middle Schools.