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Raising the Issue
March 13, 2014
As union negotiates new contract, leader says teachers seek better pay
As the head of the teachers union negotiates a new contract with the city, he started to make a public case Wednesday for higher teacher pay.
January 8, 2014
New York City officials cool to Cuomo's teacher merit pay proposal
When he proposed it in 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's merit pay plan didn't earn much support from city officials.
January 6, 2014
Once a skeptic, Mulgrew endorses Mayor de Blasio’s pre-K tax
The union boss is backing de Blasio's proposal pre-kindergarten tax plan after dismissing it during the mayoral campaign.
December 31, 2013
De Blasio names lawyer who will negotiate next UFT contract
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio continued his pre-inauguration appointment spree today with five more picks, including the man who will negotiate the next round of municipal…
December 9, 2013
Democrats change tone on de Blasio pre-K tax following victory
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio reads to students at an East Harlem Head Start program. During the Democratic mayoral primary just a few months ago, Bill Thompson supporters were on an all-out crusade to discredit rival Bill de Blasio’s tax plan to fund expanded pre-Kindergarten. As the race heated up in late August, Thompson’s campaign even began dispensing elected officials and union leaders to join in the skepticism. But now that de Blasio has won the election, calling the victory a mandate from voters to follow through on his campaign tax pledge, those officials are backing off a bit. Staten Island State Senator Diane Savino told reporters in August that de Blasio was either ignorant or pandering if he thought higher taxes were the right way to fund pre-K. “We have enough money,” Savino said in August. “What we don’t have is flexibility in the state’s regulations about how we spend the money we already get.” But, as New York Daily News’ Ken Lovett first reported this morning, Savino seems to have warmed to the idea since de Blasio was elected. Responding more recently to an unsolicited suggestion that de Blasio reconsider his plan, Savino took to her Facebook page to defend it: "with all due respect to the all the advice givers, the DeBlasio plan is the better one for the city. it is not in the interest of any new program to constantly be dependent on Albany."
December 9, 2013
Democrats change their tone on pre-K tax plan following de Blasio victory
During the Democratic mayoral primary, Bill Thompson supporters were on an all-out crusade to discredit rival Bill de Blasio’s tax plan to fund expanded pre-Kindergarten. As the race heated up in late August, Thompson’s campaign even began dispensing elected officials and union leaders to join in the skepticism. “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 told reporters in August, calling Thompson “a doer” and de Blasio an idealist. Staten Island State Senator Diane Savino told reporters de Blasio was either ignorant or pandering if he thought higher taxes were the right way to fund pre-K. “We have enough money,” Savino said in August. “What we don’t have is flexibility in the state’s regulations about how we spend the money we already get.”
November 21, 2013
Mulgrew: Final spending plan a “classic Bloomberg budget game”
Calling it a “classic Bloomberg budget game,” teachers union boss Michael Mulgrew panned new revenue estimates for the city’s 2015 spending plan as lower than…
November 14, 2013
On early ed tests issue, agreement on everything but a solution
First grade teacher John O'Hickey, of Brooklyn School of Inquiry. Part of O'Hickey's evaluation will be based on state test scores from students in higher grades in the school. When it comes to getting rid of standardized testing in early grades, the city and the teachers union are on the same page — both want them eliminated from their teacher evaluation plans. But the two sides, whose toxic relationship seems to have reached new highs in Mayor Bloomberg's final year in office, are taking different approaches toward achieving the same end goal. The United Federation of Teachers ratcheted up its latest critique of teacher evaluations today by joining a statewide coalition that wants to ban standardized tests in any class below third grade. UFT President Michael Mulgrew first raised the issue two weeks ago, arguing that they are developmentally inappropriate because some students can barely hold a pencil, let alone fill in bubble sheets. "To be using it at these young ages is just ridiculous," Mulgrew said today on a conference call with reporters. In New York City, a small fraction of the city's roughly 800 elementary schools is supposed to administer the bubble tests this year because of how the city's evaluation plan was written, though parents at some schools are rebelling against the mandate. Officials at the Department of Education agree with Mulgrew, but they are hoping a quieter discussion with state education Commissioner John King will lead to a solution. There is optimism that the strategy is working. "The commissioner has indicated a willingness to look at this issue and consider some flexibility for the current school year," Polakow-Suransky said.
November 6, 2013
UFT president wants to renegotiate evaluations with de Blasio
UFT President Michael Mulgrew said Wednesday he wants the next mayor to focus on fixing teacher evaluations. As mayor-elect Bill de Blasio hashes out his administration’s education to-do list, teachers union chief Michael Mulgrew was ready Wednesday to suggest a top priority – revise the new teacher-evaluation system that the state imposed this June to break a long city-union impasse. “I've got to get evals straightened out quickly, because it’s an unmitigated disaster,” said Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, which filed 17 formal grievances last month over the evaluation system’s rollout. Mulgrew also suggested that the de Blasio administration reconsider the structure of the school system, which groups schools into multi-borough support networks. “We've got to restructure,” Mulgrew said, adding that the networks do more to enforce school compliance with department regulations than to assist them with instruction. The DOE “designed a system that’s not about supporting schools,” he said. “They designed a system that’s about accountability.”
October 29, 2013
New York City looks for a way out of its "bubble tests" problem
UFT President Michael Mulgrew testifies at a state senate hearing in New York City. At right, Senator John Flanagan, chair of the education committee, listens. The city wants to get rid of unpopular "bubble sheet" tests that some of its youngest students are required to take this year, a top Department of Education official said on Tuesday. "There are better ways to do assessments of early childhood and I think that we can find a better way to do it," Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky told lawmakers in testimony at state Senate hearing. The hearing was planned by Senator John Flanagan in large part as an opportunity for people to air their frustration with the state's new standards and the tests associated with them. The math tests in question, called Discovery Education Assessment, are being given to small portion of students in kindergarten through second grades as part of their teachers' evaluations, a portion of which must measure student learning over the course of a school year. Discovery's tests include elements, like No. 2 pencils and standardized bubble answers, that teachers and experts have panned as developmentally inappropriate. Polakow-Suransky echoed that criticism on Tuesday and vowed to offer an alternative student learning measure soon to take effect for this school year. It represents a somewhat sudden reversal for the city, which bought the Discovery tests from a vendor in August for this school year after declining to use its own elementary math assessments, an option that Commissioner John King preferred when he crafted DOE's new teacher evaluation rules. Polakow-Suransky's comments come as push back against testing policies from parents and teachers have escalated statewide in recent weeks, prompting the State Education Department to make a series of its own changes to curtail the role of testing requirements.
October 18, 2013
Help on the way for schools struggling with evaluation changes
Department of Education leaders, from left, Chancellor Dennis Walcott, Deputy Chancellor David Weiner and Deputy Chief Academic Officer Josh Thomases spoke to teachers about evaluation challenges this week. It's never too late to help schools figure out how to implement a complicated teacher evaluation system. At least that's the theory at the Department of Education, which is planning to put out a comprehensive guide to navigating the city's new evaluation system this week, more than four months after the details were set. It's now six weeks into the school year, and teachers and principals have been raising red flags about the new teacher evaluations since even before the first day of school. They've complained about not having enough time, resources, and information to confront logistical challenges related to evaluations. Department officials are aware of the gripes, and this week they acknowledged that the process hasn't always been smooth. "I think we have done a somewhat decent job," Chancellor Dennis Walcott said of the rollout this week. They're responding with a series of stopgap fixes to aid with the rollout. They've extended deadlines, allocated millions in overtime pay, and consolidated the state's 243-page evaluation plan for New York City into a 45-page guide. Even teachers eager for the new evaluations, which will judge teachers on a four-rating score and be based on multiple measures, say they feel overwhelmed by the many changes happening at once this year. At an event hosted this week by Educators 4 Excellence, which supports new evaluations and is generally optimistic about school reforms under the Bloomberg administration, nearly 60 percent of teachers said they had been "poorly informed" or "very poorly informed" about the evaluation system. "I think it's been a huge lift for us to get information out there," said Deputy Chancellor David Weiner, who added that he was actually surprised at how many teachers said they had been informed about the changes.
October 10, 2013
UFT calls for moratorium on high stakes for Common Core tests
City schools are just a few months into implementing new teacher evaluations, but the teachers union is already hoping to slow things down. Citing the many schools that still have incomplete curriculum materials that students will be expected to master to pass the 2014 state tests, the United Federation of Teachers wants a moratorium on using the exams to make any high-stakes decisions for both students and teachers. The union's request, which came Wednesday night and just weeks before the legislature hosts a hearing on state education policies in New York City, would require Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Albany lawmakers to make yet another change to the state's teacher evaluation law. "We're 15 percent through the school year and this is still a complete mess," said UFT President Michael Mulgrew, referring to the lack of materials. "We have no choice but to go in this direction."
October 3, 2013
Undisclosed UFT robocalls raise new campaign questions
City Councilman Robert Jackson pictured with Speaker Christine Quinn and UFT President Michael Mulgrew in 2011 on the first day of school. The super PAC for the city teachers union may have violated campaign finance rules by not disclosing spending details for a robocall sent to voters during the 2013 primary elections, GothamSchools has found. A Sept. 8 phone message touting Robert Jackson's education credentials was paid for by the union's independent expenditure group, called United for the Future, according to a recording of the call obtained by GothamSchools from a Manhattan voter who received the message. Jackson, who at the time was enmeshed in a tight primary for Manhattan Borough President, had received the United Federation of Teachers' endorsement. But the union failed to disclose the call to the city's Campaign Finance Board, a requirement designed to improve transparency around spending by outside interest groups. The union reported spending only $12,234 on Jackson for a mailer sent on Sept. 6, filings show. “I think it raises serious questions,” said Alex Camarda, director of public policy at Citizens Union, a good government organization. "What about all the other candidates that the UFT endorsed?" Camarda added. "This might not be limited to just Robert Jackson."
September 18, 2013
On second try, de Blasio secures teachers union endorsement
The city teachers union formally endorsed Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio this afternoon, putting a finishing touch on a delicate post-primary process that included a secret meeting at the the union's headquarters over the weekend. The endorsement comes two days after de Blasio's closest rival and the union's original pick, Bill Thompson, conceded in the Democratic primary. Made with little of the fanfare that accompanied the union's decision to back Thompson in June, the endorsement also shifts the focus of the mayoral race fully onto the race between de Blasio and Republican nominee Joe Lhota. De Blasio spoke to teachers who make up the union's Delegate Assembly at UFT headquarters shortly after they voted on a resolution to give him their endorsement. He then appeared with President Michael Mulgrew and about a dozen supporters at a staid press conference in a building next door. De Blasio credited Mulgrew for brokering the concession agreement with Thompson, which took place at UFT headquarters on Saturday night. Mulgrew said the conversation between the primary rivals was not contentious. "In the end, the decision was made that what was in the best interest of the city was to unite the Democratic party to make sure that a Democrat becomes the mayor of New York City and not the Republican nominee," Mulgrew said.
September 16, 2013
After Thompson concedes nomination, UFT to back de Blasio
Left, Bill Thompson conceded the race for the Democratic nomination for mayor today, calling on his supporters to back Public Advocate Bill de Blasio instead. UFT President Michael Mulgrew, right, said he would heed Thompson's request and ask teachers union members to reassign their allegiance to de Blasio. The next phase of the education election kicked off today as the UFT's pick for mayor conceded the Democratic nomination on the steps of City Hall. UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who was among Bill Thompson's supporters at the event this morning, threw his support behind Bill de Blasio, who finished last week's primary with a commanding lead. He said he would ask the union's leadership to endorse de Blasio this week. Thompson's loss was a significant blow for the UFT, which had declined to endorse mayoral candidates in the two previous mayoral elections and has not picked a winner since 1989. This year, the union decided to back Thompson, who ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Bloomberg in 2009, after determining in June that the former school board president and city comptroller had the best chance of winning in November.
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