It's teacher hunting season!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

In an "unusual" meeting, NYPD gathers press corps to address recent A.P. reports on surveillance of Muslim groups; Bloomberg successors timid

(Scroll below for Bloomberg successors to mayor, and their taking wait and see approach to NYPD profiling Muslims issue.)
From Capital New York:

By Joe Pompeo, 2:42 pm Feb. 24, 2012

The Lineup collects the media stories, big and small, that are on our radar each day.
A.P. vs. NYPD

Late yestserday afternoon, we got a tip that NYPD brass had rounded up all the local police beat reporters for a spontaneous meeting related to something that has become a perpetual thorn in the department's side in recent months: The Associated Press' ongoing probe of police surveillance of Muslim communities in and around the city.

Specifically, we were told, the meeting was convened in response to the latest installment in the series, which began last August—a report earlier this week that "Americans living and working in New Jersey's largest city were subjected to surveillance as part of the New York Police Department's effort to build databases of where Muslims work, shop and pray. The operation in Newark was so secretive even the city's mayor [Cory Booker] says he was kept in the dark."

Indeed, When the new A.P. report landed on Wednesday, Booker was furious, telling the Star-Ledger: "I have deep concerns and I am very disturbed that this might have been surveillance that was based on no more than religious affiliation." And so once again, the NYPD spun into damage control mode.

The Daily News reports:

At an unusual press briefing, chief spokesman Paul Browne said the NYPD operates under the tightest civil liberties regulations of any police department in the land.

“There's been a suggestion that what we are doing doesn't comport with legal requirements, and that's not the case,” Browne said. “Everything we're doing is done constitutionally.”

For the most part, both city tabloids have come down hard on the A.P. investigation in their opinion pages, painting the wire as unpatriotic and naive for questioning tactics that some would view as a necessary defense in the war on terror. Earlier this week, for instance, New York Post columnist Michael A. Walsh suggested that the A.P. "for months now has been waging a journalistic jihad against the NYPD and its counterterrorism tactics in the name of 'civil rights.'"

But the A.P. found a more sympathetic ear in today's News, which includes a piece from progressive columnist Juan Gonzalez in which he calls the NYPD program "religious profiling on steroids" and writes of the department's controversial spokesman: "Browne is one the most capable and likeable NYPD spokesman in decades. But he has been caught making so many false statements lately about the department’s anti-terrorism program that his credibility has been irreparably damaged."

(From "Asked about Police surveillance of Muslims, Bloomberg's successors take a wait-and-see approach", Feb. 25, 2012)
From City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's spokesperson:
"Regarding the NYPD's actions in New Jersey and other jurisdictions, unless we know that laws were broken or someone's civil liberties were violated it is difficult to judge police techniques without knowing the specifics of the case," said Josh Isay, a spokesman for Quinn.

From former city comptroller and head of the pre-Bloomberg Board of Education, Bill Thompson:
“The NYPD must continue to be vigilant in protecting the people of New York City from terrorism," said Bill Thompson, the 2009 Democratic nominee for mayor and former city comptroller. "But to single out one segment of our diverse, religious community for surveillance without cause raises questions of fairness and equal justice.”

From Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, "who has called for a federal probe into whether the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy unfairly targets young black and Latino men (without calling for an outright halt to the practice), said the surveillance policy, too, needs a closer look," Capital New York said. Scott Stringer said:
"The New York Police Department has done an extraordinary job protecting our city from the ever-present threat of terrorism, no matter where it originates," Stringer said. "Whenever the police get wind of a potential threat, we expect them to pursue the matter with all deliberate speed and keep New York City safe. But it is troubling when people are subject to surveillance and investigation simply because they are members of a particular group. We need to ensure that our efforts to combat the threat of terrorism does not trample on the civil liberties that all citizens have a right to enjoy.”

From publisher Tom Allon:
"The surveillance and random checking of American citizens is an extremely complex issue that cannot be reduced to a sound bite," Allon said in a lengthy email. "'Profiling' is a loaded term that has somehow replaced 'probable cause' in law enforcement lexicon. We need to face realpolitik realities rather politically correct idealism. The people who attacked us 10 years ago and in 1993 were all Muslims. The few planned attacks that the NYPD has thwarted since then were also plotted by young Muslims ... If you randomly stop a fidgeting 20-year-old Muslim on the street or on the subway, this should be called `probable cause' rather than `profiling.'"

"[New York City Public Advocate] Bill de Blasio was traveling and couldn't be reached for comment," Capital New York wrote. CNY was not able to reach current city comptroller John Liu.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

UPDATE: New Tactic: Chicagoans Occupy School Slated for Shut-down; and Who is Hidden Hand Behind Chi Schools?


From ''Fight Back News,'' February 21, 2012: Chicagoans occupied the Brian Piccolo Elementary School overnight, Friday, February 18, 2012 to the next day.
"Chicago protest demands: "Support our schools, don't close them”
Chicago, IL - Yellow buses from across the city arrived with students, parents, staff and community members for a rally at Lake View High School, Feb 20. Their message to Mayor Rahm Emanuel: "Support our schools, don't close them.”

This call rang true for the people on the bus from Brian Piccolo Elementary Specialty School, of West Humboldt Park, where they occupied their school Friday night, Feb. 17. On Saturday morning they announced the end of their occupation. Their school, like Paollo Cassals School

and others, is currently on the chopping block for a privatizing move that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) calls a “school turnaround" and which will be voted on at the Board of Education meeting Feb. 22.

The Piccolo student spokespeople triumphantly told the crowd of hundreds of supporters that they confirmed face to face with Vice President Jesse Ruiz and Jamika Rose of the CPS Board of Education that the community, students and parents would present their case before the board on Feb. 22.

After a night of being locked into the building by the CPS and police without access to food, heat or medicine, these protesters were successful in adding their story to the months of protests, showing that the CPS has wasted millions of dollars with closing, phasing out and ‘turnaround’ policies. In reality these CPS hack jobs tear communities apart and hurt students, particularly in Black and Latino neighborhoods already locked out of resources.

The fight for quality education is at a fever pitch here and the coming Feb. 22 Board of Education meeting (at 125 South Clark) will show the depth of people's frustration. The scene is set to make sure that the vote is stopped. The Chicago Teachers Union call has a call out to pack the meeting, picket outside and to arrive at 4:00 a.m. to get on the speaker's list.

Howard Ryan's report from ''Labor Notes'', "Chicago Occupation Challenges Corporate School Agenda," February 22, 2012:
Parents raised the stakes in the ongoing battle over school closings and the corporate takeover of education when they occupied a classroom inside a Chicago elementary school Friday night.

Brian Piccolo Elementary School, serving 550 black and Latino students in grades pre-K through 8 on the city’s west side, has been targeted for “turnaround” by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his appointed school board.

The plan includes firing all the staff—from principal to lunchroom workers—and reopening the school under control of a private contractor, Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). The 13 occupying parents and allies, who held the site for nearly 24 hours, didn’t win a reversal of the turnaround.

But the occupiers did force all seven school board members to each engage a team of parents and community members in intensive discussions on the future of the school, cracking a wall of silence from city leaders and dramatizing parent and community opposition to the corporate education agenda sweeping the city—and the nation.

Piccolo is one of 17 Chicago schools targeted this year for turnaround, closure, or phase-out. The school’s occupation came amid a wider community and union fight against the city’s school privatization program. So far, two months of marches, rallies, school board presentations, and a five-day sit-in at city hall haven’t turned back the mayor’s plans.

Activists and officers from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) came to support the occupation, though it was led by parents and the community group Blocks Together.

Scores of schools nationwide have closed or seen “turnarounds” in the past two years, including in Kansas City, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

Increasingly vocal protests have met the bid to privatize education. In New York City, thousands of parents, students, and teachers protested this month as the mayor’s hand-picked education panel approved another 18 closings, lifting the number of schools shuttered in the city to 117 in the last decade.
‘Bring Them to Us’

Chicago’s occupation was the brainchild of Latoya Walls, whose seven-year-old daughter and 12-year-old nephew attend Piccolo.

“They’re used to having rallies in front of downtown, just another thing going on,” Walls said. “I said no, bring them to us, and let’s occupy this building. I didn’t know it was going to turn out to be this big.”

The occupiers planned to hold the Piccolo site in rotating shifts. When the first shift hunkered down, police cars began arriving. Two dozen police gathered in the street watching as more than 100 supporters—parents, teachers, students, Occupy Chicago members—linked arms on the school’s front steps singing a version of “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.”

The square in front of the school was filled with tents for a planned encampment, and big signs declared “We Do Not Need AUSL.”

AUSL isn’t a charter school operator. Instead, it operates schools within the district, and the teachers are covered by the CTU contract. Parents distrust AUSL, however, because like charter schools, it has a reputation for pushing disadvantaged or difficult children out of school.

AUSL’s backers include Boeing, Dell, Bill Gates, venture capitalists—and the U.S. Department of Education.

The police chose not to force matters Friday night, and a Chicago Public Schools representative advised the occupiers that they could stay. At the same time, CPS and police prevented the occupiers from getting food and medicines, and prevented other parents from entering the building to provide relief.

“Rather than arresting us, they took a strategy of starving us out,” says Ana Mercado, a youth organizer with Blocks Together, a community group that works with parents and students at Piccolo and other schools.

After intense negotiations with school board Vice President Jesse Ruiz, the occupiers exited the building Saturday afternoon—hungry, but satisfied.

AUSL management company pushes students out of school
“The principal picks a random number of absences—20, 30, whatever it is—and instructs the attendance office to drop those students,” she said. “What really bothers me is that there’s no due process, no attempt to remediate.”

Students complain about the rigid discipline policies at Orr. “If you say a cuss word, you get two days’ suspension,” says 11th grader Malachi Hoye. “If you don’t have your ID, you get suspension.”

Says another Orr student: “The fights are almost every day. Many of us are homeless, in foster care. If you want us to learn, you have to try to understand us, not try to suspend us or turn us away.”

AUSL takes the “push out” and “counseling out” methods that have become so familiar within charter schools and applies them directly to traditional public schools. Students with special needs, difficult home lives, or other disadvantages are weeded out, and a military-like discipline imposed, in the attempt to boost the school’s test scores.

Despite such practices, AUSL is politically favored by the mayor, who appointed former AUSL board chair David Vitale as school board president. The organization currently operates 19 schools within CPS, and hopes to double that by next year, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Visit the Labor Notes site for the complete article.

"Occupy Piccolo! Chicago Communities Occupy School In Protest of Privatization," February 18, 2012, article portion prior to ongoing updates:
The Brian Piccolo Specialty School in Humboldt Park, Chicago is currently Occupied by parents, teachers, and students. Occupy Chicago and other allies are outside the building in solidarity and have set up an encampment. Around one hundred people are present and are taking shifts to ensure the safety of the occupation. The Chicago Teachers Union has expressed support for the action. Piccolo, an elementary school with a student body that is almost entirely from low income communities of color, is one of 16 Chicago public schools slated to be closed by Mayor Rahm's service cuts to the poor.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis today on "The Ed Schultz Show" [radio show] said that Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has said judged the school children in advance and said that 25 percent of the students will not graduate, as part of Emanuel's rationale to close this and other Chicago schools and turn them over to private management companies.
Lewis also reported that Emanuel or his allies have paid protesters to rally for the school closures. This was also reported in Live Occupy@, February 20, 2012:
On the other side of the issue, “rent-a-protestors” emerged this year, saying they were paid at least $25 a head to carry anti-closing signs or to speak at closing hearings by a non-profit headed by Rev. Roosevelt Watkins III. Watkins, whose non-profit is a CPS contractor, has contended he paid protestors “stipends’‘ that were supposed to go to training on “community organizing,” although several protestors said they received no such training.

The report of paid protesters also appears in ''The Chicago Sun-Times."


Dateline Chicago, Oct. 7, 2011, George Schmidt, "Substance News": "Corporate attack on Chicago public workers, defined benefit pension plans escalates in Illinois... Mayor, Republicans propose legislation to destroy Chicago Teachers Pension Fund Board of Trustees and replace it with mayoral appointees":
Penny Pritzker, billionaire heiress a Rahm Emanuel appointee to the School Board; Pritzker sits on Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, a who's who of Illinois corporate elites. Committee and Club determine many initiatives behind Chicago Education deform. (photo is G. Schmidt photo of P. Pritzker)
Dateline Chicago, Nov. 29, 2011,, "CTU Vigil and Board of Education Speak Out": The Commercial Club laid out the Renaissance 2010 plan to shut 60 to 70 schools and replace them with 100 new schools, as effort to weaken the Chicago Teachers Union. Leaked memo indicates Emanuel plans to shutter nearly 140 schools in the next two years.
Dateline somewhere in Florida, Oct. 29, 2010: "Madfloridian" blog, "Rahm begins meetings with school reform leaders in preparation for mayoral control of schools.":
Emanuel started plotting with Chicago power elite (Commercial Club) prior to election. Madfloridian posted [above] hokey CPS chart of school report cards, which similar to NYC, provide the battering club with which to close schools.
Dateline from Naples, FL, Ar. 9, 2009, and yes, it's from a blog waxing friendly about Ronald Reagan, but gives the over-lapping connections between Chicago power circles and Mayors Richard M. Daley, Rahm Emanuel and President Barack Obama. "Latest research on the suspects -My best source "
Dateline Jul. 13, 2011, from the "Schooling in the Ownership Society" blog, "Who brought Jonah Edelman amd SFC to town? Bruce Rauner"
Chicago Teacher Union President Karen Lewis' Reaction to Chicago School Board's Feb. 22, 2012 Vote
CTU President Karen Lewis Statement on Chicago School Board’s Doomsday Decisions

CTU Officers and community partners speak to reporters following the Board of Education’s vote.
"We are not surprised that an unelected, unaccountable shool board would vote unanimously to continue the same failed policies that have short-changed Chicago Public Schools students for years.
"We are, however, disappointed that these Board members lacked the moral courage to do the right thing. This is a travesty and a betrayal of democracy."

Chicago Teachers Union Blog, Feb. 22, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

NAACP, Court Cases Against Charter Schools

These arguments regarding charter school, from 2010-2011, were sent my way, but they are still quite timely:

(I) The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) issued a resolution critical of charter schools. Albeit, this resolution is about one and a half years old, being adopted in July, 2010 and ratified by its board on October 15, 2010, it is a taut analysis and compelling statement. It resolved that:
the NAACP rejects the emphasis on charter schools as the vanguard approach for the education of children, instead of focusing attention, funding, and policy advocacy on improving existing, low performing public schools and will work through local, state and federal legislative processes to ensure that all public schools are provided the necessary funding, support and autonomy necessary to educate all students

It closed with a call for NAACP units to support public education across the nation.
See this site for the full document in pdf. The resolution's WHEREAS statements provide good arguments on the faults of charters and the myths behind charter schools.

(II) And note these court decisions against charter schools, especially the court findings that charter schools are not public entities or agents:
Charter Schools are NOT Public Schools!

Charters are privately managed entities whose only claim to the word public is the fact that they drain public funds. Dozens of court cases have ruled that charter schools are not "public entities." Two well known examples include the following:

The California Court of Appeals (Knapp v. Palisades Charter School, Courtney KNAPP, a Minor, etc., et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. PALISADES CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL et al., Defendants and Respondents., No. B185996., 2007-01-10) which ruled that charter-voucher schools are NOT "public agents." [See THIS LINK]

The 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals (Michael Caviness v. FJM Horizon Community Learning Center, MICHAEL CAVINESS, Plaintiff-Appellant, No. 08-15245, v. D.C. No. ý CV-07-00635-FJM HORIZON COMMUNITY LEARNING CENTER, INC.; LAWRENCE PIERATT, OPINION, Defendants-Appellees., 2010-01-04) which ruled that charter-voucher schools are NOT "public actors." [See THIS LINK]

Moreover, the US Census Department expressed difficulty in obtaining information from charter-voucher schools because the are NOT public entities: ["In Census Finance Data, Most Charters Are Not Quite Public Schools," June 6, 2011 article, citing Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 data because of the time lag with such data]. [See THIS LINK]

See this opening excerpt from the earlier cited Shanker Institute Blog article:
Last month, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual public K-12 school finance report (and accompanying datasets). The data, which are for FY 2009 (there’s always a lag in finance data), show that spending increased roughly two percent from the previous year. This represents much slower growth than usual.

These data are a valuable resource that has rightfully gotten a lot of attention. But there’s a serious problem within them, which, while slightly technical, hasn’t received any attention at all: The vast majority of public charter schools are not included in the data.

To gather its data, the Census Bureau relies on reporting from “government entities.” Some charter schools fit this description neatly, such as those operated by governments or government-affiliated bodies, including states, districts, counties, and public universities. But most charter schools are operated by private organizations (mostly non-profits), and finance figures for these schools are not included in the report (the Census classifies them as “private charter schools”).

What does this mean? Well, for one thing, it means that the overall spending figures (total dollar amounts) are a bit understated. Charters only account for a relatively small proportion of all public school enrollments (around 5-6 percent); still, given the huge amounts of money we’re dealing with here (the U.S. spends roughly $600 billion a year), we’re talking about quite a bit in absolute terms. Perhaps more important is the potential effect on per-pupil spending figures – the way that education financing is usually expressed.
Per-pupil calculations allow one to account for variations in enrollment among years and locations. For example, some districts/states have more students, so of course they spend more – you need to see how much they spend while at least crudely “controlling” for how many students they serve, and per-pupil figures help to do that (though they don’t account for differences between students in terms of income, disabilities, etc.). The same goes for spending in the same state or district across years – if district/state enrollment goes up or down, spending will too. Comparisons over time thus require that we account for these changes by dividing spending by the number of students.

But even per-pupil estimates are subject to potentially serious bias, due to the charter school exclusion. This is, in many places, a problem at both the state and district level. First, at the state level, if the excluded charters spend more or less than regular public schools and included charters, then this could skew the per-pupil amounts, making them appear lower or higher than they really are (especially in states where there are enough charters to affect the overall average). In other words, if there are substantial spending differences between the excluded charters and the regular public schools and included charters, we might not be getting an accurate picture of how much each state spends on public education.
Read the concluding paragraphs of the above here.

We understand in the light of all the scandals and bad press ( that supporters of lucrative charters are desperate to paint them as public schools, but outside the corporate spin cycle that is the the school privatization camp, charters have been found to be anything but public. Charters are one in the same with the 501C3s or other organizations running them. Here is an excerpt from one of the court cases cited above: "The Court determined the charter schools did not qualify as "public entities" under the CFCA. (Id. at p. 1203, 48 Cal.Rptr.3d 108, 141 P.3d 225.) Because they competed with the traditional schools for students and funding, neither did the Court find them to be "governmental entities" exempt from the UCL's restrictions on their competitive practices."

The language court use is precise and unambiguous. Charter charlatans have created a lucrative quasi-public market niche. The schools are public so long as they can garner public funds and cash in on lucrative real estate deals. However, as soon as a family, community member, educator, or other persons outside of those profiting form charters need to seek legal or civil remedies against the charter school sector, then they are conveniently NOT public entities. Charters. No oversight, no democratic controls, but lots of opportunities for swindlers to make boatloads of cash and plutocrats to push propaganda instead of pedagogy.

No. B185996. - KNAPP v. PALISADES CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL - CA Court of Appeal
Courtney KNAPP, a Minor, etc., et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. PALISADES CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL et al., Defendants and Respondents. Edwin Carney, for plaintiff and appellant.Foley & Lardner and Gregory V. Moser, San Diego, for California Charter Schools Association and California Charter Schools Association Joint Powers Authority as Amici Curiae on behalf of plaintiff and appellant.Soltman, Levitt & Flaherty, John S.

Every day, students in the United States, along with many teachers, recent an oath of allegiance to "the republic." Is it not time that we act on those words literally, and make the republic ours, the public's, and eject, completely, charter schools?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Democracy Now, AP: NYPD Tracked Muslim Students Far Beyond NYC; News Video Link

{BREAKING: Democracy Now! is streaming on its website, an interview between Amy Goodman and a Muslim college student that encountered an NYPD spy.}
The Associated Press has reported that the New York Police Department tracked Muslim college students far beyond New York City:
"NYPD monitored Muslim students all over Northeast: Names recorded in reports, even though they hadn't been accused of any crimes," February 18, 2012
The New York Police Department monitored Muslim college students far more broadly than previously known, at schools far beyond the city limits, including the elite Ivy League colleges of Yale and the University of Pennsylvania, The Associated Press has learned.

Police talked with local authorities about professors 300 miles away in Buffalo and even sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip, where he recorded students' names and noted in police intelligence files how many times they prayed.
Detectives trawled Muslim student websites every day and, although professors and students had not been accused of any wrongdoing, their names were recorded in reports prepared for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

See this video from the Associated Press:

Yet, as the Triangle Research Group reported early this month in a public release of its research, "Radical U.S. Muslims Little Threat, Study Says," as cited by Scott Shane in "The New York Times," February 7, 2012. As the New York Times reported, "Of about 14,000 murders in the United States last year, not a single one resulted from Islamic extremism, said [Charles] Kurzman, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina [and author of the report]."

The report this week of the NYPD monitoring Muslim students all over the Northeast follows on a damning revelation late last month that it had repeatedly shown a highly defamatory video, "The Third Jihad," as part of its training, to more than a thousand officers in its ranks. See: Michael Powell, "In Police Training, a Dark Film on U.S. Muslims," Janary 23, 2012.

New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg has staked his reputation on education. His legacy on respecting Muslims is rather poor, as evidenced by his police department's policies towards Muslims. These blemishes on his record follow on his unfortunate double standard in allowing Christian and Jewish days off from New York City public schools, but not for the Muslims' major holidays. See this example of several articles from summer, 2010: Asma T. Uddin, "The other Islam controversy in NYC," "Washington Post," August 10, 2010.

Important Issues That NYC Mayoral Aspirants are Lukewarm to

Chalk one up to Bill DeBlasio to being tone deaf on issue of teacher evaluations:
"Public Advocate blasts mayor over teacher evaluation impasse." But DeBlasio just does not get it that evaluations are open to bias and involve far too many factors beyond teachers' control. So, strike one against Public Advocate DeBlasio for his advocating teacher evaluations.

On progressive issues, generally, Stringer says some of the right things, such as paid sick leave. But watch how Quinn stands out as wrong on a crucial labor quality of life issue; and wrong on education:
"Stringer delivers a big progressive speech; rivals and fellow Dems enjoy it, mostly."
"When Scott Stringer said the city needs to pass the paid-sick-leave legislation 'now,' Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and City Comptroller John Liu applauded, but City Council Speaker Christine Quinn didn't." --Capital New York
The four likely mayoral candidates were at the New-York Historical Society on Central Park West last night for Stringer's State of the Borough speech. The speech hinted at the economic theme of Stringer's mayoral campaign: reducing income inequality and making things easier for the middle class.

Stringer called for a readjustment to the tax code that would lower rates for families making less than $300,000 a year and raise them for earners of more than $1 million a year. He talked about facilitating loans to small businesses, and called for a $250 million fund to pay for the conversion 110,000 foreclosed housing units into low-cost housing. and called for a new loan program to help small businesses secure financing.

Interesting, the pols' different responses; Quinn seemed most uncomfortable:
Reporters kept duck-walking over to them to take pictures and watch their reactions. De Blasio sat with his giant legs crossed. Liu slouched. Quinn sat holding a folded piece of paper.

When Stringer complained about overcrowding in city schools, they applauded. When Stringer critiqued the mayor directly, de Blasio and Liu applauded and Quinn did too, but very lightly. Right after Stringer said "nothing is more important than educating our children," Quinn left.

NYC Pols gathered on January 31 on City Hall steps to protest city education policies, Quinn was absent, Capital New York reported: "Almost all of the 2013 candidates protest Bloomberg's education policy":
For a few moments this afternoon, four of the five leading 2013 mayoral candidates were gathered together on the steps of City Hall.

They were there to protest Mayor Michael Bloomberg's practice of shutting down failing schools and, according to critics, opening up smaller charter schools in those facilities which cater to more selective student bodies that are, collectively, easier to teach. The result, according to charter-school critics, is a false impression of progress.

At the event were former city comptroller Bill Thompson, who was the 2009 Democratic nominee, current comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Council Speaker Christine Quinn was invited, but did not attend, though she released a supportive statement that was distributed at the event.

NYS Governor Cuomo's Massive Power Grab

It's not just Cuomo's bullying against NYC teachers with his evaluation program:

The New York Times February 19, 2012 that New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has engaged in far-reaching power grabs:
Cuomo’s Efforts to Expand Authority Raise Alarm in Albany"
ALBANY — In his proposed budget for next year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has inserted language that would allow him to move money between state agencies without legislative approval.

He has included a clause that would allow him to give out some contracts without the customary review of the state comptroller. And he added another provision that some budget experts fear could expand his authority to borrow money for construction projects.

Riding high after a string of successes during his first year in office, Mr. Cuomo is now taking an expansive, and expanding, view of the role of governor, in the name of reining in the state’s sprawling bureaucracy.

But even some of Mr. Cuomo’s fellow Democrats are raising questions about what they view as a power grab. And suddenly a staple of civics class — the notion of checks and balances between different branches of government — is the talk of the Capitol.

“I think many of us, including myself, feel that there is overreaching proceeding down the path by our new governor, and that it is ultimately not healthy for there to be excessive power in the executive branch, even though he’s popular,” said Assemblyman James F. Brennan, a Democrat of Brooklyn.

Within the last two weeks, the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, and the Senate majority leader, Dean G. Skelos, a Republican, both criticized Mr. Cuomo’s administration for a pact that allowed the state inspector general to see the tax returns of state employees. The state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, a Democrat, offered a broader critique, raising questions about proposals that his office said “would give the executive greater powers that would reduce long-established checks and balances.”

Read more: Cuomo’s Efforts to Expand Authority Raise Alarm in Albany.

"I am the government"
And don't forget his Louis XIV-like pronouncement last fall, "I am the government."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

NYC Charter Schools: Young Kindergarteners Need Not Apply

Yesterday from the New York Times:

Some Charters Impose Earlier Kindergarten Cutoff Dates
Feb. 14, 2012, 8:09 a.m.
By Mary Ann Giordano
The New York Post reports this Tuesday morning that some charter schools have moved up their cutoff entry dates for kindergarten to as early as Aug. 31, meaning parents of children who have birthdays after that date must wait out a year before applying or send them to kindergarten elsewhere.

The Post cites the examples of Amber Charter School of East Harlem and Voice Charter School of New York in Long Island City, Queens. Both set their cutoff date as Sept. 1. The Post writes:

The move leaves the youngest batch of 5-year-olds — who education experts say often struggle the most academically — to either sit out a year or attend traditional district schools, even though charter schools are fully taxpayer-funded.

The new policy at Voice Charter was tabled after parents complained, The Post writes. One parent, Valerie Lamour, a member of the District 30 Community Education Council in Queens, whose son’s birthday is in December, told The Post: “If the D.O.E. is going to offer kindergarten to all 5-year-olds who are residents, then charter schools that operate within our district also need to adhere to the same rule.”

DOE officials said they believe charter schools are allowed to determine their own admissions deadlines because they’re technically considered to be independent districts.

The Post also reports that the state on Monday approved its application to seek a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

NYC Dept of Education's history of electronic spying

It is always good to be wise to the chicanery that the New York City Department of Education (DOE) engages in, with regard to freedom of speech, particularly when regarding the speech of teachers and the spying on teachers.
Consider the technology that the DOE for a time was promoting spying technology for its principals to use on their classroom teachers
See this Open Salon blog post about one year: "The NY Department of Education Had a Spy Site for Principals"
Teachers may have been watched secretly. School pupils may have been under surveillance covertly. The principals of New York schools may have been assisted by the Department of Education in performing spying tasks, within schools. The spy gear would have fit into any fictional tale of intrigue and subterfuge. There were supplies like a teddy bear with a hidden camera, a pencil sharpener fitted with a cam and, of course, the neckties that had spy capabilities. The supply site is now down:"... The city Education Department pulled the plug on its website portal to an I-Spy-type arsenal where principals browsed for hidden cameras to trick out their halls."
link: Officials pull plug on website promoting hidden camera gadgets for principals

Educational guidelines differ from region to region. However, it is usually standard practice to have open surveillance at educational facilities. In many cases, signs are posted. Parents know that there are security cameras on the school grounds, hallways and classrooms. There have been controversies about having surveillance of washroom facilities. That illustrates the clash between security issues and privacy.
These are open surveillance situations. In many regions, it is simply against the law to take covert images of students, without the students' and parents' permission. Teachers' unions do not want their members to be under constant secret watch. These practices do not generate an environment of trust. It is not a friendly work environment. The Department of Education in New York seems to have a different approach.
The operational paradigm of the Department of Education seems to have been to develop a level of secrecy between principals and their staff and students. The tax dollars function under the rubric of 'what-they-don't-know-won't-hurt-them'.
Welcome to George Orwell's 1984 and Big Brother.
Mr Orwell just had the date wrong.
Catherine Forsythe

Additionally, the New York Daily News has the article on the above link on officials promoting surveillance, "'Spier' education: Officials pull plug on website promoting hidden camera gadgets for principals", by Rachel Monahan, February 14, 2012.

* * *CENTRALIZED MAYORAL CONTROL AND POLICE SURVEILLANCEWe are dealing here with centralized state power a the city level, and one elected representative says that the city cannot supervise the New York Police Department, "Councilman Says City Can't Oversee NYPD Spy Unit". (This instance is regard to police spying on Muslims; the article subtitle reads: "Probe revealed a secret squad known as the Demographics Unit sent teams of undercover cops to keep tabs on area's Muslim communities.")
Excerpts from WNYC-TV report:
Nobody in New York government has the expertise and authority to oversee the police department's secret intelligence operations, a leading city councilman says, raising questions about what checks exist on a department that has infiltrated mosques and subjected entire Muslim neighborhoods to surveillance and scrutiny.
Peter Vallone, the chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee, said the council doesn't have the power to subpoena the NYPD for its intelligence records. And even if it did, he said the operations are too sophisticated for city officials to effectively oversee. More oversight is likely needed, he said, perhaps from the federal government.
"That portion of the police department's work should probably be looked at by a federal monitor," he said after Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly testified Thursday at City Hall.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Occupy the PEP! (Feb. 9, Brooklyn Tech H.S.) / Defend the Rubber Room 5!


Brooklyn Technical High School, 29 Fort Greene Pl (between Fulton and Dekalb) in Brooklyn

Near the Nevins 2/3/4/5 or the Dekalb B/D/N/Q/R

Background On Thursday, February 9th, the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) will hold an open meeting and then a vote to close down dozens more schools. The PEP is an un-elected 13-member body (the majority of whom are appointed by Mayor 1% Bloomberg) whose decisions dramatically affect the lives of the 99%. Every time a vote for school closings has come before the panel, they have voted on behalf of their puppeteer, Mayor Bloomberg. No matter what impassioned students, parents, educators or elected officials have said in the past, the PEP has ALWAYS voted against the people. PEP meetings are open to the public.

We, students, parents and educators from the 99%, invite you to join us in having our OUR OWN VOTE on the fate of our schools.

If you don't believe Mayor 1%'s puppet board should be empowered to make decisions about our schools, come help us OPEN THE MEETING UP! In October, the panel walked out of their meeting and we held our own meeting. Click here to see how it went down. Now, let's do it with thousands!
Ways YOU can Occupy the PEP:
Option A: Are you a student, parent, educator or elected official from a school that the PEP has targeted for closure? Members of your school community should plan to use THE PEOPLE'S MIC to speak out about the mayor's policies and about your school! To see how the people's mic works, click here.
EXAMPLE: I am here because the panel shouldn't be voting without the community's consent to close down schools. In my school...
EXAMPLE: I am here because the mayor has it all wrong, and because he wants to take over space in our public schools to hand it over to charter schools. Our school is an amazing community...
EXAMPLE: I am here because what is happening here is wrong! Because the people have spoken and they say enough is enough!...

Or you can plan a song, performance, or skit. Every school that the PEP plans to vote on will have a chance to speak out and use the people's mic. Please practice! The people's mic can be tricky and you have to speak in short phrases of three to seven words and wait for people to respond. But it's a powerful tool that can change the balance of power in the room! Let's use it!

Then the PEOPLE (not the puppet panel) will vote on the state of your school!

Option B: Not from a closing school? Well then we need your help to support the occupation of this undemocratic meeting! There are definitely ways you can participate. We need your voice to help amplify the voices of those speaking on behalf of their schools. We also need folks to sit near the aisle to protect the people's mic. And we're asking folks to wear shirts or stickers that identify who the occupiers are and what we stand for. For example, you might consider wearing a shirt or sticker that says "Student Against School Closings" or "Parent for Community Control of Schools", etc. There will be speeches, performances, skits, signs to hold, and more! Join us.

Please contact with any questions. Let's open up the PEP and put the decision making power where it belongs—with the people!

Rubber Room Suit: The Manhattan Five (plus one) go to Appellate Court!!!!! PLEASE COME TO SHOW SUPPORT Just a reminder that the remaining members of the Adams, et al., vs. Joel Klein, Michael Bloomberg, City DOE, Richard Mills, David Steiner, NYS Ed Dept., Deborah Marriott, Manager NYS Tenure Teacher Tenure, will appear at ORAL ARGUMENTS in front of the Federal Appellate Court Judges on THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9th at 2:00 pm.

Please come to the Federal Court House to demonstrate your belief in Constitutional rights of Due Process for teachers, and Equal Protection for employment discrimination. We are arguing for the right to a trial on these matters as proper causes of action. THURSDAY, Feb 9th, 2:00 p.m. (before the PEP Meeting) United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit- 9th floor Ceremonial Courtroom (use NORTH elevators) 500 Pearl Street From Foley Square, cross street to Pearl Street. Walk 1 ½ blocks down Pearl Street to new high rise bldg. North on Church Street, Right on Worth Street to Daniel Patrick Moynihan US Courthouse. Thanks for all your good work for teachers’ rights and just causes, and continued support!!!!!


The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has scheduled Oral Argument in Ebewo, et al. v. New York State Education Dept., et al., Case No. 10-4989(L) on Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 2:00 P.M. Oral Argument is being held at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit at the Courthouse located at 500 Pearl St., 9th Floor, Ceremonial Courtroom (use North Elevator Bank). The case, originally filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in June 2008, was dismissed by District Court Judge Victor Marrero on November 15, 2011 pursuant to a Report and Recommendation by Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck issued August 23, 2011.

The District Court ruled that the appellants, tenured New York City Public School teachers Michael Ebewo, Joann Hart, Julianne Polito, Thomasina Robinson, and Brandi Scheiner failed to state any cause of action for deprivation of their constitutional right to a prompt hearing after being sent to a Rubber Room, for any claims of employment discrimination, and for being retaliated against for the exercise of their First Amendment Right to speak against their principals’ allegedly falsifying student grade and attendance records to improve school performance.

The defendants and appellees named in the lawsuit are the New York City Department of Education, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Chancellor Joel Klein, New York State Education Department, State Commissioners of Education Richard Mills and David M. Steiner, and Deborah A. Marriott, Manager of the State’s Teacher Tenure Hearing Unit. The teachers have alleged that they are similarly situated to other persons who hold licenses issued by the City and State of New York and that they therefore have a protected Fourteenth Amendment due process property interest in their tenure and their state issued teaching licenses that require the City and the State provide them with a prompt name-clearing hearing after suspension as the City and the State are required to provide to other license holders by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.

These five New York City Public School tenured teachers remained in Rubber Rooms without a hearing for anywhere from two years to five years, most without any charges being imposed against them during that time. Nicholas Penkovsky, Esq. of the Law Offices of Nicholas A. Penkovsky, PC is arguing the appeal in behalf of the teachers.

Here is the plaintiffs' complaint filed at Federal Court.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

2/4/12 State of the Union Conference & (MTA notes! &) the Stakes for the Future of the UFT

Teachers are under attack, as never before.
And with the UFT's lethargy and passivity in the face of the attacks, it is on a suicide mission. Lawsuits are insufficient responses to the onslaught. Without intensive education and mobilization of the membership the assaults will succeed in destroying the profession and teachers' unions.
We must resist together.
I. Basic blurb on State of the Union [UFT] conference
II. Directions to State of the Union conference (with weekend MTA service changes considered)
III. Ed Notes' salient observations on the timely strategic issues at stake as the conference approaches

Public education is under attack! Stand up, fight back! As educators we are strongest when our voices are united. That is what a UNION is for. The UNION makes us strong.
For far too long the leadership of our union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), along with the national American Federation of Teachers (AFT), have been silent, thrown up minimal defenses too little too late, and have even collaborated in the assault on our profession, our students and their families.
It is time to re-imagine our teachers’ union.
Imagine. . .
A union with true democracy.
A union where members’ concerns, ideas and opinions form the union identity.
A union that works to educate, organize and mobilize its members in support of public education, our careers as professionals, and our students, their families and communities.
A union that works to end mayoral control and other racist policies that have removed the voice of educators and parents from decision making.
A union that works with individual schools to recruit and train chapter leaders and delegates who share this vision.
A union that supports Chapter Leaders in struggles with administrations and in their work to educate and organize members.

Workshops include:
UFT 101: Introduction to the UFT
What can you do if your principal does not follow the contract.
Organizing 101: parents and teachers working together--a vision for a community oriented teacher union
The UFT past and present
What is social justice unionism?
What happened to Brown vs. Board of Education: resegregation of our schools
The disappearing Black and Latino Teacher and the deprofessionalization of Teaching
What's the 1% want with our schools? (Privatization 101)
Mayoral Control vs. A People's Board of Education
Building your chapter: how do you organize at the school level?
Federal, State and local policy and our schools
What does democracy in our union look like?
Strategy and tactics: after Occupy Wall Street, what’s next for our movement?
Teacher evaluations and transformation schools
Hope to see you there! FEB. 4- STATE OF THE UNION: TIME TO FIGHT BACK
Register at: Saturday, February 4th, 2012 10:00 am to 4:00 pm at The Graduate Center for Worker Education 25 Broadway, 7th Floor, the historic Cunard Line Building, SW corner of Morris Street and Broadway, between Rector Street and Bowling Green. New York, NY 10004

By Public Transportation: Take 4, 5 to Bowling Green and cross Broadway. Other stations in walking distance include the: R [northbound] to Rector Street; 1 to Rector Street; A, C to Fulton Street/Broadway Nassau station to the 4 or 5 train. We are about 1/2 mile south of the Fulton Street Transit Center, the Staten Island Ferry and PATH train service to New Jersey.

Access points to 25 Broadway:
R, northbound (Brooklyn to Manhattan), exit at Rector Street, rear exit from platform, exiting to Morris Street and Rector Street, walk one block east to Broadway
4, 5 to Bowling Green. However, the 5 is running with 20 minutes between trains this weekend
1 to Rector Street
J does not run south of Chambers Street on weekends. Change there to take the 4 or the 5 to Bowling Green.
Directions: Find us on Facebook: State of the Union $10.00 pre-registration $15.00 at the door
Scholarships available upon request.
E-Mail -

Let's follow the observations at Ed Notes Online. It couldn't be put better:
Public education is under attack! Stand up fight back!

The UFT leadership under Michael Mulgrew supports mayoral control, charter schools and a deal on evaluating teachers based on faulty value-added test scores. And recently, Unity Caucus pushed through a constitutional amendment that will result in an even further reduction of the voice of the classroom teacher in the union. Do you agree?

Are You Concerned With the State of Our Teachers’ Union?
“I still support the idea of Mayoral Control. I still believe it is a better system.” – UFT President, Michael Mulgrew, January 19th, 2012 Do you disagree?

“The UFT should never have partnered with DOE and state for RTTT. It was obvious that test scores would become a major factor, despite absence of any support from testing experts and consensus that value added is not ready for prime time. The UFT thought it had negotiated 20%, but even 20% is wrong because there is no scientific basis for 2%, 20%, 40%, or 90%. It's all political, not professional.” –Dr. Diane Ravitch, January 25th, 2012 Do you agree?

“The United Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit on May 18, 2011, seeking to prevent charter school co-location in public school buildings. But UFT President Michael Mulgrew sits on the board of the very organization — New Visions for Public Schools — responsible for opening two charter schools on the Kennedy campus.” –Nikki Dowling, Riverdale Press, January 11th, 2010 Does this disappoint you?

During the delegate assembly on January 18th, 2012, with virtually no democratic discussion among delegates, nor time to bring it back to members, the UFT leadership pushed through an amendment to the UFT Constitution to add to the voting power of the retirees in UFT elections. Did you know about this important change to our union's governance rules? Prior to this amendment, the retiree vote was capped to weigh in at 18,000 votes no matter how many retirees voted. The amendment raises that cap by 30% to 23,500. That number is not that far off from the number of active teachers who actually vote in union wide elections, so retirees basically now control the union. Active rank and file groups have no legal recourse to access retirees during election time (no emails, addresses phone numbers etc) ending any chance of democratic governance in our union by active teachers. Not surprising when President Mulgrew and the UFT leadership still believe in Mayoral Control, even though the majority of parents, young people and educators believe it has been a failed experiment. “If teachers unions are to continue to exist as a meaningful form of workers’ representation, members need to transform them — and fast.” –Lois Weiner, January, 2012

Join rank and file union members and their parent and community allies at The State of the UNION Conference.
Come meet other UFT members who want a new kind of union, while learning about the history and functioning of the UFT in workshops facilitated by rank and file members, union delegates and education activists.

Saturday, February 4th, 2012 10:00 am to 4:00 pm at The Graduate Center for Worker Education 25 Broadway, 7th Floor, SW corner of Morris Street and Broadway, between Rector Street and Bowling Green. New York, NY 10004

By Public Transportation: Take 4, 5 to Bowling Green and cross the street. Other stations in walking distance include the : R, W to Rector Street; J, M, Z to Broad Street; 1 to Rector Street; A, C to Fulton Street/Broadway Nassau station to the 4 or 5 train. We are near the Fulton Street Transit Center, in addition to several local and express bus routes, the Staten Island Ferry and PATH train service to New Jersey.
Directions: Find us on Facebook: State of the Union $10.00 pre-registration $15.00 at the door Scholarships available upon request. E-Mail -

Access points to 25 Broadway:
R, northbound (Brooklyn to Manhattan), exit at Rector Street, rear exit from platform, exiting to Morris Street and Rector Street, walk one block east to Broadway
4, 5 to Bowling Green. However, the 5 is running with 20 minutes between trains
1 to Rector Street
J does not run south of Chambers Street on weekends. Change there to take the 4 or the 5 to Bowling Green.