changing of the guard

Michael Mulgrew is elected president of teachers union

(via GothamSchools Flickr)
(via GothamSchools Flickr)

The executive board of New York City’s teachers union elected Michael Mulgrew its new president today, an event that has been widely expected since Randi Weingarten said she would resign to focus on national issues.

Union members will get a chance to vote in a formal presidential election in 2010, when Mulgrew will run for the position he now holds. Weingarten nominated Mulgrew for the position and, with the backing of the union’s largest party, the Unity caucus, he is likely to be elected next year.

Formerly the union’s chief operating officer, Mulgrew was the only candidate nominated for the presidency. Union rules prevent regular members from offering their own nominations. Mulgrew will become president on August 1.

The UFT press release follows:


The Executive Board of the United Federation of Teachers tonight voted to elect Michael Mulgrew as the UFT’s new President effective August 1. Mulgrew, who has been serving as the union’s Vice President for Career and Technical Education (CTE) High Schools since 2005 and its Chief Operating Officer since 2008, replaces outgoing president Randi Weingarten.

Mulgrew, 44, was nominated at a special meeting of the union’s Executive Board on July 9th, after Weingarten announced in late June that she would be devoting herself full time to leading the Washington DC-based American Federation of Teachers.

Michael is the fifth president of the UFT in its storied 49-year history, following Charles Cogan (1960 to 1964), Albert Shanker (1964 to 1986), Sandra Feldman (1986 to 1998) and Randi Weingarten (1998 to 2009).

“The UFT has a long and renowned history of advocacy on behalf of our city’s public school students and educators, and I am very proud and humbled to be the union’s new president,” said Mulgrew after the vote. “There are huge challenges ahead, and our team and I will work hard to continue that important work.”

“Michael is a fantastic choice,” said Weingarten. “The role of president requires tremendous strength, judiciousness, caring and savvy, and Michael has all of those qualities. His strong determination and hard work, first as a teacher, then as a chapter leader and later as a union vice president have been first-rate, and I know first-hand his intense desire to create more opportunities for children and improve the professional lives of educators. He will continue the great work this union has done for many years, and our public schools will be better and stronger for it.”

The United Federation of Teachers represents more than 200,000 active and retired members, including teachers, classroom paraprofessionals, school secretaries, attendance teachers, guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers, education evaluators, nurses, laboratory technicians, adult education teachers and home child-care providers. The UFT also runs more than 300 teacher training centers around the five boroughs as well as two charter schools.

Rise & Shine

While you were waking up, the U.S. Senate took a big step toward confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary

Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as education secretary is all but assured after an unusual and contentious early-morning vote by the U.S. Senate.

The Senate convened at 6:30 a.m. Friday to “invoke cloture” on DeVos’s embattled nomination, a move meant to end a debate that has grown unusually pitched both within the lawmaking body and in the wider public.

They voted 52-48 to advance her nomination, teeing up a final confirmation vote by the end of the day Monday.

Two Republican senators who said earlier this week that they would not vote to confirm DeVos joined their colleagues in voting to allow a final vote on Monday. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska cited DeVos’s lack of experience in public education and the knowledge gaps she displayed during her confirmation hearing last month when announcing their decisions and each said feedback from constituents had informed their decisions.

Americans across the country have been flooding their senators with phone calls, faxes, and in-person visits to share opposition to DeVos, a Michigan philanthropist who has been a leading advocate for school vouchers but who has never worked in public education.

They are likely to keep up the pressure over the weekend and through the final vote, which could be decided by a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.

Two senators commented on the debate after the vote. Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has been a leading cheerleader for DeVos, said he “couldn’t understand” criticism of programs that let families choose their schools.

But Democrat Patty Murray of Washington repeated the many critiques of DeVos that she has heard from constituents. She also said she was “extremely disappointed” in the confirmation process, including the early-morning debate-ending vote.

“Right from the start it was very clear that Republicans intended to jam this nomination through … Corners were cut, precedents were ignored, debate was cut off, and reasonable requests and questions were blocked,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Week In Review

Week In Review: A new board takes on ‘awesome responsibility’ as Detroit school lawsuits advance

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
The new Detroit school board took the oath and took on the 'awesome responsibility' of Detroit's children

It’s been a busy week for local education news with a settlement in one Detroit schools lawsuit, a combative new filing in another, a push by a lawmaker to overhaul school closings, a new ranking of state high schools, and the swearing in of the first empowered school board in Detroit has 2009.

“And with that, you are imbued with the awesome responsibility of the children of the city of Detroit.”

—    Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens, after administering the oath to the seven new members of the new Detroit school board

Read on for details on these stories plus the latest on the sparring over Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Here’s the headlines:


The board

The first meeting of the new Detroit school board had a celebratory air to it, with little of the raucous heckling that was common during school meetings in the emergency manager era. The board, which put in “significant time and effort” preparing to take office, is focused on building trust with Detroiters. But the meeting was not without controversy.

One of the board’s first acts was to settle a lawsuit that was filed by teachers last year over the conditions of school buildings. The settlement calls for the creation of a five-person board that will oversee school repairs.

The lawyers behind another Detroit schools lawsuit, meanwhile, filed a motion in federal court blasting Gov. Rick Snyder for evading responsibility for the condition of Detroit schools. That suit alleges that deplorable conditions in Detroit schools have compromised childrens’ constitutional right to literacy — a notion Snyder has rejected.


In Lansing

On DeVos

In other news