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Thursday, November 4, 2010

The UFT Dies By Its' Own Hand

Note from Betsy Combier:

I worked for the UFT for three years as an advocate for members. I tried to stop the decline of this powerful entity, but I was never 'accepted' by the chiefs of the Union as one of "them" and tortured after Randi's departure to Washington.

 The April 15 agreement signed by Mike Mulgrew and Joel Klein is a fake, published to keep the public quiet about how $millions of dollars of public money are being spent on an absurd process of removing employees from the New York public school system that is not based on fact or law.

Indeed, the day of the announcement I received a call at home from the principal of a rubber room (each of the 8 'rubber rooms' had a 'principal' who watched over the room(s) at that location for the NYC DOE) at 8:15AM and he told me to get to a rubber room quickly, as the UFT was making an announcement about closing the rooms. Not one representative of the UFT told me about this agreement or the press conference announcing the so-called "end of the rubber rooms" (which everyone knew was not true). This was strange as I was specifically hired to work with the members placed into re-assignment centers ( as well as still working in their schools). Later that day we had our monthly meeting at the UFT with all the reps., liaisons from all the rubber rooms and district offices, and Co-Staff Director (and Secretary of the Unity Caucus) Leroy Barr told me that he "forgot" to tell me about the agreement, sorry.

So, what did I do then? I read the agreement and was alarmed  enough to start asking questions about how the rights of members to due process were protected. I was told that I was a great advocate, but the UFT didnt need me anymore. Bye.

They were right. The UFT does not need, nor do they want, someone helping members if it means going against the NYC Board of Education in any way. I think its time to look more closely at the people who take members' dues out of every paycheck. Full disclosure: I am not bitter at all that I no longer work at the UFT, thus I will write about the staff as information, not as revenge. I write what I see. I will start profiling staff members on this blog very soon.

I might suggest that each member consider calling the UFT Welfare Fund and removing your payment of dues to the UFT - not to your welfare/benefits - from your paycheck. You can still keep your benefits, but why keep paying dues if the people who are getting paid megabucks dont do anything to help you?

Here is the April 15 press release of the UFT, with another copy of the April 15 agreement:

City and UFT reach breakthrough agreement to eliminate “rubber rooms”

Streamlined disciplinary process to return good teachers to the classroom and provide for efficient removal of others from payroll
For immediate release
published April 15, 2010

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein and UFT President Michael Mulgrew on April 15 announced a landmark agreement to eliminate temporary reassignment centers, or “rubber rooms,” where teachers accused of misconduct or incompetence are assigned pending resolution of their cases. Under the new agreement, most teachers accused of misconduct or incompetence will be assigned to perform administrative work in Department of Education offices or given non-classroom duties in their schools while their cases are resolved.

“Despite everything we've accomplished together to improve our City's public schools, we still have major reforms and improvements to tackle — and that is exactly what we are doing,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “Fixing this broken process gets us all back to what we want to be doing, giving our kids the education the need and deserve.”

“The rubber rooms are a symptom of a disciplinary process that has not worked for anyone — not the kids, not the schools, and not the teachers,” UFT President Mulgrew said. “This agreement is designed to get teachers out of the rubber rooms and to ensure that they do not have to wait for months or years to have their cases heard.”

“The rubber rooms were the result of a broken and protracted teacher discipline process. This deal goes a long way in improving the way the union and the department deal with teachers accused of and charged with wrongdoings,” Chancellor Klein said. “We are committed to adhering to the timetables outlined in the new agreement and confident that in the end our kids will benefit from this better process.”

There currently are some 550 teachers assigned to these rubber rooms, costing the city $30 million each year. Using this new process, cases that once may have lasted several years will now be resolved within a few months. After removing a teacher from the classroom, the department will have 10 days to file incompetence charges or 60 days to file misconduct charges depending on the nature of the case.

If reassigned teachers investigated for misconduct are not charged within the 60-day window, they will be returned to their classrooms. Similarly, teachers accused of incompetence who are not charged within 10 days of reassignment will also return to their schools. Investigations can continue after a teacher is back in the classroom, however, and the teacher may still face charges.

In some “non-termination” cases where the department is seeking a suspension at reduced or no pay, the agreement allows the department to use an expedited, three-day disciplinary process.

Additionally, the agreement expands the list of charges for which the department can suspend teachers without pay following a probable cause hearing to include violent felony crimes. When charges are not substantiated against educators, they will be entitled to back pay.

Under the new agreement, the number of arbitrators will increase from 23 to 39, and arbitrators will now hear incompetence charges seven days a month rather than five. Additional arbitrators will be hired to hear non-termination cases in the expedited disciplinary process.

While the agreement will not take effect until September at the start of the 2010-2011 school year, the department and UFT have agreed to begin immediately addressing the backlog of cases of teachers now in rubber rooms, with the goal of resolving all current cases by December.

The provisions of this agreement will be enforceable under the grievance procedures of the UFT contract. Read the full agreement.
Support for United Federation of Teachers eroding as once-mighty union forced to make concessions

BY Meredith Kolodner and Rachel Monahan, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Monday, November 1st 2010, 5:13 AM

Michael Mulgrew and John Liu, NYC Comptroller
In the recent blowup over the release of teacher ratings, the United Federation of Teachers couldn't even rely on the Democratic White House for support.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan sided with the city - the latest blow to the once-mighty union, which has seen public support dwindle and has been forced to make concessions unthinkable just a few years ago.

Teachers unions were painted as villains in the high-profile education documentary "Waiting for Superman."

And the competition for millions of dollars in federal Race to the Top funds promoted reforms traditionally opposed by the unions, like charter schools and teacher evaluations linked to test scores.

"Public sentiment clearly has shifted in favor of reform and accountability, and the union has had to adjust," said Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

Although some observers applaud the UFT for changing with the times, others suggest the compromises are eating away at its power.

"Definitely, the union is much weaker," said Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute, often a critic of both the union and the Bloomberg administration. "It's a fad - the union is the obstacle to school reform."

Other critics say the union hasn't necessarily lost power but is under attack.

"I think it's a more controversial force. I don't think it's less of a force," said Kathy Wylde, CEO of the Partnership for New York City and a supporter of merit pay and eliminating tenure. "Is there a demonization of the teachers union? Yes."

Education expert Diane Ravitch points to a nationwide movement against the unions, starting at the White House, which supported the firing of the entire staff of a Rhode Island high school.

"President Obama and Secretary Duncan have undercut the political power of teachers unions and made common cause with their critics, to the point of demoralizing many, many teachers, not just their unions, across the nation," she said.

Union supporters note that the UFT has won 43% raises since the mayor was elected - a substantial victory.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew argues the Bloomberg administration's approach to reform has strengthened the union by aligning teachers with parents and community groups.

"Education's at a major crossroads," he said.

"It is our belief that teachers should be the ones leading the change. Our battle is to make sure schools don't get turned into test prep factories."

And he insists the union is still politically powerful, with candidates seeking endorsements and advocates asking for help in securing policy changes. Mulgrew also said that he got a good deal for teachers in the Race to the Top legislation.

Although other states made test scores count for 50% of teacher evaluations, New York State test results account for 25% of evaluations, thanks to UFT clout.

Even some of teachers unions' fiercest critics agree it's much too early to write their epitaph.

"Having witnessed the defeat of [D.C.] Mayor Adrian Fenty and the successful lawsuit against school closings in New York City, it's crystal-clear that the union is still plenty powerful," said Eva Moskowitz, founder and chief executive officer of the Success Charter Network.