Walking With CWA: Lake Grove 4/27

SWRTA members again came out to show our support for our brothers and sisters in the CWA. Thanks to all who came today and last week.

If you haven’t done so, please take a moment and sign the petition to let Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam know that you stand with workers.

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Join Us Wednesday as We Support Striking Verizon Workers

Please join us this Wednesday (April 27th), any time between 11:30 am and 1:30 pm as we walk in solidarity with striking Verizon workers in front of the Verizon Wireless Store at the Smith Haven Mall.

NYSUT has called its locals to support the CWA (Communication Workers of America) and the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers), so last week, a group of SWRTA members walked with strikers at the Patchogue location. We were there for about 2 hours in total, with some folks staying less than a half hour, and others a bit longer.

The response we got was overwhelming. The men and women on the line kept telling me again and again how much they appreciated us standing with them and how they’ll be sure to stand with us when we need it.

I also heard from SWR parents and district employees whose spouses are on strike, and they too were incredibly appreciative of our efforts.

The strike continues, so we’re going to to it again, this time in Lake Grove. If you are around this week and available on Wednesday, please try to come by, even if it’s just for a few minutes. As you can see from the pictures, it is definitely okay to bring the kids. Please let me know if you can come, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Walking with Verizon Workers

Please remember, showing support for striking Verizon workers benefits them, benefits us, and benefits working men and women everywhere.

The Future of APPR

It’s looking like there are, once again, changes on the horizon for APPR. They may be slow in coming, and they may or may not be significant. But if we can push hard enough, we may be able to achive meaninful improvements by the end of this legislative session

Slow Progress
Last Monday, both Chalkbeat and Newsday posted articles about potential changes to New York’s current teacher evaluation system (also known as 3012(d), part of the Education Transformation Act). Neither article gave the full picture, so in case you only saw one (or neither) here’s a short summary.

Chalkbeat reported on an announcement by Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia that NYSED will once again be revamping the teacher evaluation system. The process, which will begin in the Spring of 2017, will convene a committee of “teachers and experts to review the state’s evaluation law as well as national models.” The recommendations will be presented in Fall 2017, developed the following year, and implemented for the 2019-20 school year.

Meanwhile, according to Newsday, the Board of Regents formed a workgroup to explore “the validity of the state test system and its links to teacher evaluations.” That group is set to begin its work next month and report its findings early next year.

What it Means
Given the overwhelming research showing that the tests themselves are flawed, and that the use of tests in evaluations is not valid, it is almost certain that the Regents’ workgroup will come back with a recommendation to dramatically scale back the use of test scores in evaluations or, more likely, to decouple them completely.

Presumably, NYSED will try to incorporate the conclusions from the workgroup into their revised evaluation plan, but they don’t have legal authority to do very much.

As has been mentioned before, and as both articles point out, significant changes to the evaluation system (such as de-coupling test scores from APPR) can only be made by the legislature. So one of three things will ultimately happen.

  • The worst case scenario is that they come up with new plan that fits within the law, which means we’ll once again be re-negotiating APPR in two years without any meaningful improvements.
  • They might come up with a plan that fixes all, or some of, what’s wrong with APPR, but the legislature doesn’t budge on 3012(d), so the whole thing is meaningless.
  • The best case scenario, of course, is that they come up with a plan that addresses some, or all of the flaws in the evaluation system and are able to use their clout and the force of public sentiment to get the legislature to make it a reality. (Ideally, the legislature would not codify a new plan as into law, but would repeal the law dictates how teacher evaluations are done).

There is reason to feel optimistic for the third scenario. We have had a number small gains recently, and the mere fact that NYSED is pursuing this path after the Governor had already indicated that teacher evaluations were not to be part of the task force, means that they are feeling the pressure.

Quite clearly the opt-out movement is a big part of what’s happening here, but it is not the whole story. That we are talking not only about the tests, but also how they are used to evaluate teachers, means that phone calls and faxes, NYSUT lobbying,  legal action taken by NYSUT and individuals like Sheri Lederman, and our presence at rallies around the state, are all having an impact.

The pace of progress is maddeningly slow, but we are moving in the right direction. We must, we can, and we will, keep up the pressure.

A Huge Leap Forward
In contrast with the glacial progress referred to above, four bills put forth by legislator Todd Kaminsky would, in one fell swoop, undo a huge amount of the damage that has been done by the Education Transformation Act. These bills would:

  • Decouple teacher evaluations from test scores and direct the Regents to create a new evaluation system created by a committee of certified New York State teachers.
  • Reduce the role of standardized tests, shorten the tests, and increase transparency.
  • Provide alternative paths to graduation for students who cannot pass Regents exams
  • Repeal the section of the law that allows the state to take over struggling schools (or turn them over to private entities)

These bills should be a no-brainer. There is popular support for all of these ideas, and nearly every legislator who spoke out about the 2015 Education Transformation Act either opposed it because of these elements or expressed regret for the fact that they felt they had to vote for them in order to get the budget passed. But, of course, in politics, nothing is that simple.

As noted previously, the cynical perspective is that Kaminsky (who voted in favor of the budget last year) only introduced these bills to squeeze out a few extra votes in his bid for disgraced State Senator Dean Skelos’ seat in last week’s special election. If that’s the case, it seems to have worked; although the results have not been declared final, Kaminsky appears to have won by just a few hundred votes.

Was this just a political ploy? First of all, no matter what we think of politicians as a group, we should at least acknowledge the possibility that they can, at least on occasion, change their minds and do the right thing for the right reasons. Second, even if it was a ploy, who cares?

The bills are out there now, and with enough support they will be brought to the floor and voted on. It is now up to us. It is critical that everyone contact their State Assemblyman and Senator to tell them to get behind these bills.

Please take action now. We can hope that the Regents and NYSED do the right thing and get this mess cleaned up by 2019, or we can put pressure on our elected officials to do the right thing right now.

New Teacher Registration Requirements

There seems to be a bit of confusion and some questions regarding the new laws regarding teacher registration, so we’re hoping this will clarify.

As part of last year’s Education Transformation Act; ALL certified teachers in New York State must register with NYSED and renew their registration every five years. (There are also additional requirements relating to PD hours for some teachers. See the full NYSUT fact sheet for more details)

There is no fee to register or renew, but (and here’s how they get you) there is a fine of $10 per month if you miss the deadline.

This registration will be done through the “TEACH Online” system, which is the first area of confusion. This is NOT the same system you use for BEDS forms and to verify your roster (even though they are both part of the State Ed website). It is a separate user name and password.

Your initial registration will have to be done during the month of your birth, beginning in July. You cannot register before that (there isn’t even a place on the site to do it yet). HOWEVER…

The first thing you should do NOW is make sure that you have an account within the TEACH Online system and that your information is correct. Some of you (especially newer teachers) may already have an account, and some of you may not.

If you know for a fact that you have an account, go to this link to log in. (note: while your user name for BEDS and roster verification is your email address, your user name for Teach Online is something you would have made up).

Once you’re logged in, check your information by clicking “Update/Add Education, Employment and Personal Information” If it’s correct, you’re good until your birthday month. If not, click “Edit Personal Info”and fix anything that’s not accurate.

If you’re not sure if you had set up an account, or if you don’t remember your user name or password, go to this page

If you are 100% sure that you’ve never set up an account, go to this page to create one.   But be warned: if you already have a TEACH online account and set up a second one, you will be locked out of the system for 72 hours. Better to first make sure by clicking the previous link, then coming back to set up your account.

We Are Verizon Workers

As teachers, we may not feel we have a lot in common with folks wverizon-picketers-640x363ho work for Verizon, but
as the strike by the IBEW and CWA enters its second week, it’s worth looking at just how similar our situations are.

Some background: Revenue from Verizon’s landline business continues to decline as more and more people cut the cord and fewer people get new landline phone service. As a result, the company is asking workers to pay more for their healthcare and is looking to freeze pensions, gut job protections, and force some workers to work away from home for up to two months at a time.

A couple of important things – First, although landline revenue is declining, it’s not like the need for these workers has diminished. These men and women are continuing to work their butts off: climbing ladders 40’ in the air, crawling into manholes 6’ underground, and everything in-between; in rain, snow, heat, and cold, to make sure that phone service, a basic need we rely upon, continues uninterrupted.

Second, despite declines in the landline business, Verizon is a money making machine. They netted $39 BILLION over the last three years (that’s not revenue, that’s profit). Last year their CEO made nearly $20 Million, and total compensation for their top executives was over $240 Million from 2010 to 2014.

In other words, we have a group of hardworking, dedicated people, doing a job that serves the public good, who are unfairly being asked to take the brunt of problems not of their making, simply because of the job they chose to do. Sound familiar? 

This is the heart of unionism. It means that we identify with our brothers and sisters in the IBEW and CWA and we stand with them – figuratively and literally. We should support them because it’s the right thing to do, and we should support them out of enlightened self-interest.

This is a great opportunity for our union to build in-roads with our private sector brothers and sisters.  Many of them have been incredibly supportive of us, regarding opt-out, charter schools, and tenure rights.

It would be great for them to see that we are supportive of them in their time of need. And, who knows, we may want to call upon them at some point in the future.

Further, the loss of benefits, job protections, and pensions in the private sector spills over into the public sector and vice-versa – we must stand together. And finally, strong unions benefit everyone – not just union workers: “the solid, family-sustaining wages that unions secure through collective bargaining also put upward pressure on wages throughout the economy. And the protections and high standards demanded by unions influence non-union shops to lift their standards as well.”

HOW TO SUPPORT OUR VERIZON WORKERS

  1. Read up on the strike
    **5 Reasons our friends in the community and all workers should care
    **Stand Up to Verizon

  2. Sign the petition

  3. Stop by a picketing location (see list below) and say hello. Let the Members know you support them. Drop off some water or snacks.

  4. Walk the line. If you’re interested in joining a picket line (even just for a few minutes) you can just show up at any of the locations below, or join together with others.

Nearby Picketing Locations

  • Verizon Garage 1130 Lincoln Avenue Holbrook
  • Verizon Garage 285 Hubbard Avenue Riverhead
  • Verizon Wireless Store Smith Haven Mall Middle Country Road Lake Grove
  • Verizon Wireless Store Gateway Plaza Sunrise Hwy Patchogue

Curmudgucation Calls BS (as usual)

Peter Greene, who blogs at Curmudgucation, does a great job of calling BS on the Minnesota anti-tenure lawsuit. His comments apply not only to this particular suit, of course, but to the whole world of education reform.

He starts with the main contention being made by the plaintiffs:

“These laws have the effect of poorly performing, ineffective teachers staying in the classroom for years on end,” said Jesse Stewart, a lawyer who will be arguing the case on behalf of the plaintiffs. “You have teachers who are demonstrably ineffective teaching students who need the best that’s out there,” Mr. Stewart added.

This is a lie. If a teacher were “demonstrably ineffective,” they would be demonstrably fire-able. For the umpty-gazzillionth time– tenure does not protect demonstrably incompetent teachers from getting fired. … Let me quote myself– behind every teacher who shouldn’t have a job is an administrator who isn’t doing his.

He then calls out the standard ed-deformer confusion about the difference between correlation and causation:

But the plaintiffs don’t actually mean “demonstrably ineffective.” What they mean is “standing in the classroom with a bunch of poor kids.”

In one example cited in the legal complaint, teachers at a school in Minneapolis where nearly all the students identify as minorities and are eligible to receive free or reduced price lunches had the lowest average performance ratings in the district.

Well, yes. Of course they did. We already know that poverty levels are excellent predictors of test scores. Take a classroom with no roof. When it rains, all the students in the room get wet, and so the teacher gets wet too. If you fire that teacher and go get a dry one, the students will still get wet when it rains– and so will every replacement teacher you ever put in there. Claiming that a really good teacher would keep everyone dry is baloney.

And then we get to the REAL motivation for this case:

Tiffini Flynn Forslund, one of the named plaintiffs and the mother of a 17-year-old high school junior in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, said her older daughter’s beloved fifth-grade teacher was laid off during budget cuts because he had less seniority than other teachers in the school.

Here’s is how I know that nobody filing this suit actually gives a rat’s ass about teacher quality– if they did, they would also be aggressively addressing the issue of budget cuts.

Tiffini should not have had to lose her beloved fifth grade teacher (six years ago– one wonders why the family waited till now to act). But neither should some other student in Tiffini’s school.

The fact that these “advocates” and their twitter cheer squad are troubled by the cutting of Tiffini’s teacher, but not at all troubled by the slashing of Tiffini’s budget or the reduction Tiffini’s teaching staff or the loss of Tiffini’s resources tells me that they are far more interested in attacking teacher tenure and job protections than they are concerned about Tiffini.

Read the whole post here 

 

More Good News from the Courts

A Big Win for Tenure
The California Appeals court overturned a lower court decision in the Vergara v. California case, which had previously ruled that tenure and other job protections violated students’ rights to a quality education.

This is a significant victory, especially in light of other similar lawsuits such as Wright v. New York (which is still under consideration) and a suit that was just filed in Minnesota, both of which are modeled on the Vergara case. The Vergara plaintiffs have said they will appeal the case to the State Supreme Court, so it isn’t technically over. But since the case was very weak to begin with (the plaintiffs presented no actual evidence that tenure violates students’ rights), there is good reason to believe this decision will stand.

A Win for Unions
The Vergara decision comes less than a week after a court in Wisconsin threw out Scott Walker’s “right to work” law.  The ruling held that “prohibiting [unions] from collecting fees from non-members to cover their share of collective bargaining costs constituted a ‘taking’ of private property without just compensation under the state constitution.” This is great news, but…

Walker’s “Act-10,” which gutted collective bargaining rights and eliminated tenure and other job protections, is still on the books. In fact, that law had been overturned by one court, only to be later upheld by the State Supreme Court, so it is very likely that this decision will follow the same path. Still, we can at least hope that this argument will gain traction elsewhere.

Get out and VOTE next Tuesday
As some of you may have heard, the New York Primaries are next Tuesday, April 19th.

SWRTA is not telling you who to vote for.

NYSUT is not telling you who to vote for. 

What we are reminding you, though, is that if we want to be part of the conversation; if we want public education to be part of the debate; if we want our voices to be taken seriously, then we must be involved, and we must vote.

Put it on your calendar right now.