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AFT Convention 2016 – Day 2

July 20, 2016 pm31 1:31 pm

AFT Convention 2016. Day 3 will start in a few hours. I’m writing a post each day from Minneapolis. Day 2:

I’m still “tweeting” – little snippets, sometimes with a snapshot. You can follow me @jd2718x

On Day 1 the speakers, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, were what I could see, the business of the AFT – the action – took place in committee, where I could not go. On Day 2 most of the “action” was on the convention floor.

I missed the credentials report, but there’s about 2600 delegates.

Dues increases passed, and more money for a solidarity fund set aside as well.

The human rights amendment all passed – Racial Equity, Against Deportation, and School Safety and Educational Opportunity for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning Students.

Mark Dayton, governor of Minnesota, spoke, and was well received.  My favorite line? “If our Navy were underperforming, we would set up charter navies, or homeschool our naval commanders?”

Michael Mulgrew motivated the endorsement of Hillary Clinton, which passed – I’m guessing here – over 95%, maybe 97-98%

The hot part of Day 2 was not on the floor. The St. Paul Federation of Teachers and a neighborhood organization organized a march from the convention center to a downtown Minneapolis bank:

Please join educators from the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers, and Minneapolis Federation of Teachers along with community and labor allies to mourn the unjust killing of Philando Castile and demand justice for his life and for Black lives across the country.

The timing was tricky. The event was scheduled to start at 4:00.  They were scheduled to step off at 4:30. And Randi was cooperating, all was good, until Randi announced that the convention was behind schedule and that the Educational Issues Resos would come up after the speaker from the Israeli Knesset. How could delegates do both? Speakers argued over the agenda, suggested moving the guest to after the business. Randi bickered. CTU President Jesse Sharkey did it right when he said for delegates who wanted to march AND to participate in the ed issues debate, what did Randi suggest. She responded that if delegates left, and there was not a quorum, then business would not continue. How do you reason with that? Then she put the MoK on for a longish talk (I left).

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The march was good-sized, and good-spirited. I saw them off, and went back inside.

I do not know much about the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, but that resolution had support from UTLA and CTU and the Boston Federation of Teachers and others, seeking to join with local communities in struggles for public education and our schools. I have the impression that this is the direction that some of our more progressive locals want to move in. A nice detail from debate – a delegate from LA, Cecily Myart-Cruz, wanted badly to speak, and felt like she was unfairly cut off (it was just procedure, but in the moment must have seemed unfair). CTU President Jesse Sharkey was the next speaker called on, and he ceded his time to Myart-Cruz, who then spoke with passion. Class act, Sharkey.

Later that evening I went to a bar for drinks and talks with members of rank and file caucuses. I wanted to see my Minneapolis friends, the ones I met on in Havana in 2014. But I also met a bunch of people from Chicago, and from other locals around the country. And the MORE people were there, Jia Lee spoke, and it’s been nice having easy conversation with my new allies.


Here is a link to many of the resolutions that have passed so far.





AFT Convention 2016 – Day 1

July 19, 2016 am31 10:26 am

AFT Convention 2016. Day 2 is about to start. I’ll write a post each day I’m out here in Minneapolis. Here’s Day 1:

Came in during the preliminaries, registered as a visitor, made my way into the hall, Larry Carter, UTNO president, now Louisiana Federation President, was the first to say hi. Cool. I met Larry 8 years ago, as an AFT volunteer in New Orleans. They got it tough in NOLA, and they keep fighting.

I met up with Lisa and Gladys from MORE in New York City, and began watching. Randi Weingarten was giving a meat and potatoes speech, nothing stood out, except her applause line for Hillary Clinton only got about half of the room standing, and not very loud. She asked for a warm welcome when Clinton arrived.

I checked in on Twitter. I don’t tweet well, but my volume is not bad: about 40 tweets yesterday. You can follow me @jd2718x if you really want to.

And then there were committee meetings, and nothing for non-delegates to do. I got my press credential (blogging).
Met other people I hadn’t seen, mostly in two years. Penny from the summer volunteer program. Tom who went door to door for Obama with us in Philly in 2008. Kombiz. Bobbie who disagrees with me about politics, but who’s really on the same page when it comes to geometry, and so on…

Found the other MORE people: Gloria, Jia, Norm, and Arthur. Arthur needed a real delegate to “vouch” for him to get his visitors pass – Manhattan HS DR Alice O’Neil helped out. And then the three of us, me, Norm, and Arthur, went around towards the press entrance.  The whole audience was getting scanned, airport style. But the three of us? Personally searched, scanned and frisked by friendly secret service agents.

We entered the huge hall, and it was empty. We took seats with an obstructed view – the other press section was even further away. And we chatted. And wrote. And fidgeted. It was maybe 2:30. Slowly the room began to fill. The 4:30 start time came, and passed. And around 5:30 the show got going.


There were a series of warm-up speakers. Steve Zimmer, president of the UTLA school board (Los Angeles) did a nice job revving the audience up. (I couldn’t help thinking he looked like Peter Russo from House of Cards).

Al Franken was funny. He got into the weeds a bit, on education policy – but he knew what he was talking about. NCLB and ESSA, and testing. He had a nice riff on mental health in schools (but when I tweeted it, Susan DuFresne from Washington replied, nice stuff, but where’s the accountability from congress)


He also flubbed Randi’s name. Weingardner.

Arthur was worried about how hard it was for Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota’s senior senator, to follow Franken. No need. She’s been doing this a long time, has followed him, Al Franken, many times. She’s a top flight senate Democrat, and as of two weeks ago there was some Klobuchar Veepstakes speculation.

Klobuchar told stories about kids. Good speech stuff. She was funny – not as funny as Al Franken – but funny. Best line was about Wisconsin:  “We love Wisconsin, because in Minnesota we can see Wisconsin from our porch.”  Tell me she’s not interested in the VP slot! Delegates ate her up, applauded and cheered. But her second best response was when she thanked the Bernie Sanders supporters in the room – the cheering drowned her out, but leveled off when she thanked them for working for Hillary. And her biggest line was the wind up as she closed, asking for a commitment to work for Hillary.

Weingarten spoke. She’s just not a very good speaker, but at least this wasn’t embarrassing, like in LA two years ago. The delegates loved that Walter Mondale was in the hall, and gave him a standing ovation as he waved.


And then came Hillary Clinton. It must have been 6:30 or so that she went on. “Four and a half hours” Arthur said – “but it barely seems like three” I answered. There was no “half-standing ovation” this time – the crowd roared approval for her as she began. I made no attempt to capture the whole speech – here’s a few notes:

  1. When Clinton mentioned Philando Castile, the Black man killed here by police two weeks ago, protesters began a “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” chant. There were maybe a dozen protesters, and for a few seconds they distracted the audience, but Clinton kept speaking. A woman shouted “stop the deportations.” But the initial organized response was to out-shout them, which seemed more disruptive than the protest. Eventually they surrounded the protest signs with Hillary signs. The speech rolled on.
  2. Charters. Instead of the longer spiel she gave at the NEA, this was just one line, delivered quickly and with no pause so that there was no room for reaction:  “Where there are great public charter schools we will learn from them.”  You know what? It’s still bullshit. I’d like someone to show me what a good public school has copied from a charter school. Even better, since I know UFT people will have a response, how about one public school that has copied one thing from the UFT’s charter school. I’m not holding my breath.
  3. Progressive policy I – Free college tuition at public universities for families making less than $125k
  4. Progressive policy II – Constitutional Amendment to end Citizens United
  5. Progressive policy III – Universal health coverage. Is this new ground for her?
  6. The anti-Trump lines were among the best received.


And that’s it. A political speech. A little of who she is. A lot of what the audience wanted to hear. She does speak quite well.


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.