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.

money matters

Report: Trump education budget would create a Race to the Top for school choice

PHOTO: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos participate in a tour of Saint Andrews Catholic in Orlando, Florida.

The Trump administration appears to be going ahead with a $1 billion effort to push districts to allow school choice, according to a report in the Washington Post.

The newspaper obtained what appears to be an advance version of the administration’s education budget, set for release May 23. The budget documents reflect more than $10 billion in cuts, many of which were included in the budget proposal that came out in March, according to the Post’s report. They include cuts to after-school programs for poor students, teacher training, and more:

… a $15 million program that provides child care for low-income parents in college; a $27 million arts education program; two programs targeting Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students, totaling $65 million; two international education and foreign language programs, $72 million; a $12 million program for gifted students; and $12 million for Special Olympics education programs.

Other programs would not be eliminated entirely, but would be cut significantly. Those include grants to states for career and technical education, which would lose $168 million, down 15 percent compared to current funding; adult basic literacy instruction, which would lose $96 million (down 16 percent); and Promise Neighborhoods, an Obama-era initiative meant to build networks of support for children in needy communities, which would lose $13 million (down 18 percent).

The documents also shed some light on how the administration plans to encourage school choice. The March proposal said the administration would spend $1 billion to encourage districts to switch to “student-based budgeting,” or letting funds flow to students rather than schools.

The approach is considered essential for school choice to thrive. Yet the mechanics of the Trump administration making it happen are far from obvious, as we reported in March:

There’s a hitch in the budget proposal: Federal law spells out exactly how Title I funds must be distributed, through funding formulas that sends money to schools with many poor students.

“I do not see a legal way to spend a billion dollars on an incentive for weighted student funding through Title I,” said Nora Gordon, an associate professor of public policy at Georgetown University. “I think that would have to be a new competitive program.”

There are good reasons for the Trump administration not to rush into creating a program in which states compete for new federal funds, though. … Creating a new program would open the administration to criticism of overreach — which the Obama administration faced when it used the Race to the Top competition to get states to adopt its priorities.

It’s unclear from the Post’s report how the Trump administration is handling Gordon’s concerns. But the Post reports that the administration wants to use a competitive grant program — which it’s calling Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success, or FOCUS — to redistribute $1 billion in Title I funds for poor students. That means the administration decided that an Obama-style incentive program is worth the potential risks.

The administration’s budget request would have to be fulfilled by Congress, so whether any of the cuts or new programs come to pass is anyone’s guess. Things are not proceeding normally in Washington, D.C., right now.

By the numbers

After reshaping itself to combat declining interest, Teach For America reports a rise in applications

PHOTO: Kayleigh Skinner
Memphis corps members of Teach For America participate in a leadership summit in last August.

Teach for America says its application numbers jumped by a significant number this year, reversing a three-year trend of declining interest in the program.

The organization’s CEO said in a blog post this week that nearly 49,000 people applied for the 2017 program, which places college graduates in low-income schools across the country after summer training — up from just 37,000 applicants last year.

“After three years of declining recruitment, our application numbers spiked this year, and we’re in a good position to meet our goals for corps size, maintaining the same high bar for admission that we always have,” Elisa Villanueva Beard wrote. The post was reported by Politico on Wednesday.

The news comes after significant shake-ups at the organization. One of TFA’s leaders left in late 2015, and the organization slashed its national staff by 15 percent last year. As applications fell over the last several years, it downsized in places like New York City and Memphis, decentralized its operations, and shifted its focus to attracting a more diverse corps with deeper ties to the locations where the program places new teachers. 

This year’s application numbers are still down from 2013, when 57,000 people applied for a position. But Villanueva Beard said the changes were working, and that “slightly more than half of 2017 applicants identify as a person of color.”