UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, just days before the Nov. 5 mayoral election.
Earlier today, we pointed out that some Democrats who supported one of Bill de Blasio's rivals during the mayoral primary were coming around to a campaign pledge they once panned.
Another of those critics of Blasio's expanded pre-kindergarten access plan—which calls for an income tax hike on wealthy New Yorkers—was American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who endorsed Bill Thompson in the primary. In August, Weingarten held a conference call with reporters specifically to criticize the plan.
“We need a mayor in the city of New York who will take this idea and actually get it done and not base it on a tax that may never materialize,” Weingarten said then, calling Thompson “a doer” and describing de Blasio as more of an idealist.
But when asked today if she remained pessimistic about the plan, which requires state approval, Weingarten said she had been mistaken.
“Sometimes you’re wrong, as I was during the campaign, when I suggested that Bill de Blasio couldn’t gain support in Albany for his early childhood education initiatives," Weingarten said in a statement.
Commissioner John King has a busy day scheduled in New York City tomorrow.
First, King and Chancellor Merryl Tisch are meeting up in Harlem where they'll visit schools in the district of Assemblyman Keith Wright, a senior legislative member with influential positions in the state's Democratic Party. Wright will take them to P.S. 180 and Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing & Visual Arts, an embattled middle and high school that nearly closed last year and posted some of the lowest test scores in the state.
In the afternoon, King will travel to midtown Manhattan for what could be a more tense encounter: a panel conversation with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, one of his fiercest critics. The panel is hosted by Teaching Matters at The Harvard Club starting at 12 p.m.
The events are scheduled on the day after King released evaluation data that showed barely any teachers received low ratings, which he said he hoped would ease concerns of teachers union leaders.
For months, Weingarten and local union leaders called on King to hold off on tying high stakes to teacher evaluations until after schools fully adopted new Common Core learning standards, which students were tested on in April. Test scores plummeted and critics reprised calls for a moratorium in recent weeks. On Tuesday, the state teachers union said today that the evaluation data did not sway their concerns.
"The state’s rushed implementation of Common Core and last April’s testing debacle call into question the use of these scores in any high-stakes decisions affecting individual teachers or students," said New York State United Teachers President Dick Iannuzzi.
Such a change would require a change to state law, which would require support from legislators like Wright. In an interview today, Wright said he recognized that the issue was a "hot topic" but said such a change wasn't a priority among his parent constituents.
Less than a week after he called off parent meetings that he said were "co-opted by special interests," Commissioner John King announced a slate of new forums that will be moderated on different terms.
The new meetings, like the old ones, are meant to address concerns around the state's transition to Common Core learning standards and the increased role of testing in schools, a contentious issue for parents who fear it's leading to narrowed curriculum and instruction. A dozen of the meetings, which will begin in Albany on Oct. 24 and take place over six weeks, will be hosted in partnership with state lawmakers who will moderate the forums. Another four events will be broadcast on local public television stations with studio audiences.
The department didn't release additional details for the meetings on Friday. None are planned for New York City, but a spokesman said the department was "looking to cover many more communities."
After he canceled the meetings late last week, accusing outside groups of trying to derail the original purpose, King came under intense criticism from parents, teachers and lawmakers, with some calling for his resignation. They said the decision was just the latest move that showed King's disinterest in hearing opposing views to his agenda.
Chancellor Dennis Walcott read to a group of 4-year-olds at the Bank Street Head Start center in November 2011.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten fueled mayoral candidate Bill Thompson's attacks on Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's plan to fund universal pre-kindergarten, calling Thompson a "doer" and de Blasio an idealist.
"We need a mayor in the city of New York who will take this idea and actually get it done and not base it on a tax that may never materialize," Weingarten said during a call with reporters that the Thompson campaign arranged.
Since last week, Thompson and his allies have been criticizing de Blasio's plan, which would raise taxes on New Yorkers earning over $500,000 a year to fund universal pre-K. They say de Blasio's plan relies too much on approval from Albany and does not consider that the state doesn't even use all of the state pre-K funding that it gets.
Their first point is a fair one. De Blasio's plan would require legislative approval, a step he says would come readily but which could be a heavy lift. The New York Times cited this shortcoming to explain why it did not endorse de Blasio.
But on the second point, about the unused state funding, Thompson's campaign's math does not add up. Calculating the true cost of expanding pre-K to all city 4-year-olds is a challenging task, pre-K advocates say, but no matter how the numbers are crunched, they suggest that the city would need more funding.
Bill Thompson, the teachers union's preferred pick for mayor, said today that he owes no favors to the unions that endorsed him and criticized mayoral rival Bill de Blasio for suggesting otherwise.
De Blasio said yesterday that, like Mayor Bloomberg, he has his "own independence" from the city's labor unions since he has failed to secure their support during the Democratic primary race. De Blasio suggested that as a result, he'd be more equipped to negotiate with those unions, all of which are without contracts and demanding retroactive raises. Full back pay for teachers would cost $3 billion.
"I am unburdened by the support of the municipal labor unions," de Blasio said.
This afternoon Thompson, whose campaign didn't immediately respond to the comments, issued a statement.
"I saw Mr. de Blasio's comments yesterday, and I have to say we have a very different view of what leadership and governing and standing up for working people is all about," Thompson said. "Apparently he is now finally free to govern independently because he didn't get the union endorsements he campaigned for with such intensity."
Randi Weingarten testifying in 2009 at a mayoral control hearing as UFT president.
Randi Weingarten is ramping up her support for Bill Thompson's mayoral bid, just days before her successor at the United Federation of Teachers is due to make an endorsement of his own.
Weingarten, UFT president from 1998 to 2009 before moving on to head the union's national organization, is helping to host a Thompson fundraiser at Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch's home on June 12, according to an invitation that's being circulated to drum up support from women voters. Tisch is Thompson's campaign chair.
Weingarten is one of more than three dozen women named on the invitation under the headline "Women for Thompson." (The invitation, which the Daily Politics first posted last week, is embedded below.)
Weingarten worked closely with Thompson when he was president of the city's Board of Education, from 1996 to 2001, and counts him as a personal friend. She has previously donated to his campaign, as have other education heavyweights who have personal ties to the candidate.
Weingarten is in South America visiting schools as part of her work with the American Federation of Teachers and did not respond to requests for comment. But a spokesman said, "She has great confidence in his character and abilities."
After dropping hints in interviews and public appearances for weeks, AFT President Randi Weingarten is formally weighing in on the backlash to the Common Core standards today by calling for a moratorium on consequences attached to Common Core test scores.
Weingarten is making the proposal right now in a speech to business and civic leaders at the Association for a Better New York, a pit stop for public figures with new ideas to float. Among the high-profile audience members is state Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, who helped steer New York's adoption of the tougher standards and has defended the state's decision to test students on the standards before teachers had curriculum materials aligned to them.
Weingarten is expressly saying that she is not opposed to testing students on the new standards, which emphasize critical thinking and problem solving skills. She just doesn't want states or districts to judge schools, teachers, or students according to the test scores.
"When states and districts get the alignment right — moving from standards to curriculum to classrooms to feedback and improvement — student success will follow," Weingarten is saying, according to her prepared comments. "But until then, a moratorium on stakes is the only sensible course."
The full text of the speech is below, and we'll have more complete coverage, including reactions from Tisch and others, later today.
<a href="http://gothamschools.org/tag/state-of-the-union">Read the whole series.</a>
Even as many unions nationwide are struggling to retain their clout, the United Federation of Teachers is still flexing considerable muscle in New York City. But with a teacher evaluation deal still up in the air and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's last months in office approaching, the teachers union is nonetheless at a crossroads.
Just how much the current moment translates into change for the UFT will not be clear for years. Other turning points in UFT history have been more obvious. Here are a few:
1960: The UFT is born out of rival factions
Teachers Guild President Charles Cogen, addressing a rally in Manhattan, later became the UFT's first president. (Courtesy of UFT)
The Teachers Guild, a group made up primarily of older teachers, and the more confrontational High School Teachers Association merged in 1960 to create the UFT. Relations between the two groups, which were not the only unions representing city teachers, had thawed after members picketed together the previous year. The UFT's future hegemony was not at all obvious then, as the union didn't have collective bargaining power until December 1961 and the Teachers Guild didn't dissolve until 1964. The UFT would play a crucial role in the education upheaval later that decade, including the 1968 teachers strike precipitated by the firing of teachers in Ocean Hill-Brownsville.
1968: Teachers strike for months
Bill Thompson, center, is among four Democratic candidates jockeying for the endorsement of the United Federation of Teachers.
Bill Thompson lags behind his Democratic rivals in fundraising, but he's out in front in one area of interest: support from high-profile education officials.
As he has ramped up his fund-raising efforts in recent months, Thompson has raked in thousands of dollars in donations from notable public figures in education, including American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and, most recently, Matthew Goldstein, chancellor of the City University of New York, filings show.
Weingarten, who worked closely with Thompson when the pair overlapped during previous city education posts more than a decade ago, gave $2,000 to his campaign in two installments on Jan. 10 and Jan. 11. Tisch contributed $4,950 — the maximum allowed by the city's campaign finance laws — to Thompson's six-month haul ending in January, which totaled more than $1 million.
President Bill Clinton was joined by AFT President Randi Weingarten (behind him) and other union and city officials today to announce a $1 billion investment of the city's teacher pension fund into Hurricane Sandy recovery projects.
One billion dollars of the city's teacher pension fund will be used to finance construction and repair projects for city roads, bridges, and homes, President Bill Clinton and other officials announced Thursday.
Clinton joined UFT President Michael Mulgrew, AFT President Randi Weingarten, City Comptroller John Liu, and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan to announce the pledge, which Clinton called “a remarkable commitment” to “properly rebuild in the aftermath of Sandy.”
“This storm exposed weaknesses in our infrastructure that must not only be repaired, but we must rebuild in a different way,” said Donovan, who is now in charge of federal Sandy recovery efforts.
This will be the first time the city’s teacher pension funds are used for infrastructure projects, Liu said, even though the idea has been around for years.
“There’s always been apprehension about, is it going to work, is it potentially a vicious circle? So what I’ve seen is everybody is waiting for somebody else to do it, and therefore nobody does it. I’m very proud that, in this case, New York City is taking the lead,” Liu said after the announcement.
United Federation of Teachers Vice President Leo Casey at a public hearing about Opportunity Charter School's charter renewal in November.
A top United Federation of Teachers official who has been the union's leading intellectual voice in recent years is heading south.
But he won't be going as far as Florida, a common destination for union members who retire. Instead, Leo Casey, the vice president of academic high schools since 2007, said today that is taking a new position this fall as the director of the Albert Shanker Institute in Washington, D.C. The institute is a research arm of the American Federation of Teachers, the national union to which the UFT belongs.
In his role at the UFT, Casey has been both an intellectual and a seasoned activist. He has represented the union on various panels, forums, and debates on education policy and blogged prolifically for the union's news and opinion site, Edwize. But he has been just as comfortable protesting at public hearings, where he was known to deliver fiery speeches against school closures, co-locations, and other policies that the union opposed.
In moving to the Albert Shanker Institute, a progressive think tank focused on education and labor policies, he will focus on research. Casey, a city teacher for 27 years, said that he hoped his legacy at the UFT would be of pushing against school reform that is driven by non-educators.
"I think one of the most important things that has driven my time at the UFT is to provide a voice for classroom teachers and that far too much of education policy making today is in the hands of folks who don't understand what it's like to teach," Casey said.
AFT President Randi Weingarten, a close friend and former colleague who helped hire him as a board member on the Shanker Institute, called Casey "an exquisite choice."
A study of New York City charter schools that found a strong link between the amount of instructional time students got and their achievement is being held up as an evidence for a national push for longer school days.
Roland Fryer, the Harvard University researcher who completed the study, found in a different investigation that student test scores inched up — by about .015 points per day of school — in years with few snow days.
Fryer spoke during a press call this morning announcing the debut of the Time to Succeed Coalition, which is calling for schools to expand their day and year — an often controversial proposition. It also calls on schools to redesign the way they use time in order to beef up the curriculum and ensure students get a well-rounded education.
The coalition's chairs are Chris Gabrieli, the longtime extended-day advocate who chairs the National Center on Time & Learning, and Ford Foundation president Luis Ubiñas. They have attracted more than 100 coalition members from across state, sector, and political lines, ranging from the CEO of Netflix to the president of the NAACP. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Chancellor Dennis Walcott, and State Education Commissioner John King have all signed on as well, committing to prioritize the expansion and redesign of school time in the coming years.
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in January that he would convene a commission to set a course for reforming New York's schools, insiders said many members would likely come from out of state.
That wasn't true when Cuomo revealed the composition of the commission in Albany today. All but a handful of the 20 commission members are based in New York, and about half are based in New York CIty.
But the commission is still a far cry from the last panel Cuomo convened, a "think tank" of educators and advocates who advised the state in its bid to escape some federal accountability measures. Few of its members work in organizations that interact directly with children, even fewer are advocates, and there are no district representatives. There is also no parent advocate on the commission, even it is being asked to devise strategies to increase parent engagement.
Instead, commission members are drawn from the highest levels of state government, the state and city university systems, and nonprofit organizations. They include State Education Commissioner John King, Assembly Education Committee Chair Catherine Nolan, and SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher.
"It's very blue-ribbon," said CUNY education professor David Bloomfield about the panel's composition. "The establishment nature of the commission makes it less likely that they will come up with anti-establishment recommendations."
Working under the leadership of chair Richard Parsons, a former head of CitiGroup and Time Warner; and top Cuomo deputies, they will have seven months to make recommendations about how to boost student achievement and make education spending more efficient. Cuomo said today that he wanted the recommendations to form "an action plan" for his administration.
The Kenneth Cole billboard is visible from the West Side Highway, near 125th Street.
Hundreds of angry educators from across the country seem to have taught the clothing retailer Kenneth Cole a lesson about diction—and union politics.
Late last week we broke the news about a company billboard that invoked a loaded education policy issue using a slogan many teachers viewed as an attack on their profession.
This weekend teachers and advocates responded, in a flurry of posts on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, and a petition 600 signatures strong, calling for a boycott of Cole's clothing company. Even national union leader Randi Weingarten waded into the fray with Twitter posts criticizing the company, which is headed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's brother-in-law.
The company has now responded. This afternoon, Kenneth Cole Productions used Twitter to send a public message to the creator of the petition, a D.C. teacher-turned-activist, Sabrina Stevens Shupe, that it plans to remove the billboard.
"We misrepresented the issue - one too complex for a billboard - and are taking it down," the company posted from its Twitter account, @KennethCole.
This weekend, the company posted a different Twitter message clarifying that the ad campaign's "Intent is to stimulate debate, not pit teachers against students." The message now appears to have been deleted. The company has not responded to a request for comment today.
Panelists discuss a slate of new papers about school funding in New York at Teachers College Tuesday night.
Michael Rebell led the Campaign for Fiscal Equity's landmark school finance lawsuit for 13 years, but for a long time the lawyer was conflicted about the case.
He believed what he ultimately convinced the courts: that the state had given New York City schools less than their fair share of funding. But he was also persuaded by a counter-argument that he heard during the litigation: that more money wouldn't help schools whose biggest problem was poverty. And the lawsuit itself wasn't helping him reconcile the tension.
"We have this adversary system for dealing with legal matters in our courts, where two warring sides take firm and opposite opinions," he said. "The truth is sometimes more complicated than that."
Now, months after CFE laid off its last employee and the state trimmed the equity dollars for the second time, Rebell is trying a different approach to advocate for poor students. As the director of the Campaign for Educational Equity, a think tank housed at Columbia University's Teachers College, Rebell is setting out to win not a legal victory but the hearts and minds of policymakers.
His first step: To solicit a set of academic papers, released this week and discussed at Teachers College Tuesday night, that make the case for what he calls "comprehensive educational equity." A main point of the papers is, as the CFE lawsuit contended and the New York Times reported earlier this week, that the state should give more to its schools — $4,750 per poor student, to be precise. But they also sketch out a policy platform that Rebell said could help close racial and class achievement gaps.
New York City's heralded $75 million experiment in teacher incentive pay — deemed "transcendent" when it was announced in 2007 — did not increase student achievement at all, a new study by the Harvard economist Roland Fryer concludes.
"If anything," Fryer writes of schools that participated in the program, "student achievement declined." Fryer and his team used state math and English test scores as the main indicator of academic achievement.
Schools could distribute the bonus money based on individual teachers' results, but most did not. Most teachers received the average bonus of $3,000.
The program, which was first funded by private foundations and then by taxpayer dollars, also had no impact on teacher behaviors that researchers measured. These included whether teachers stayed at their schools or in the city school district and how teachers described their job satisfaction and school quality in a survey.
The program had only a "negligible" effect on a list of other measures that includes student attendance, behavioral problems, Regents exam scores, and high school graduation rates, the study found.
The experiment targeted 200 high-need schools and 20,000 teachers between the 2007-2008 and 2009-2010 school years. The Bloomberg administration quietly discontinued it last year, turning back on the mayor's early vow to expand the program quickly.
The program handed out bonuses based on the schools' results on the city's progress report cards. The report cards grade schools based primarily on how much progress they make in improving students' state test scores. A so-called "compensation team" at each school decided how to distribute the money — a maximum of $3,000 per teachers union member, if the school completely met its target, and $1,500 per union member if the school improved its report card score by 75%.