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February 15, 2013
Bloomberg rep lone vote to keep guns in teacher pension fund
The city’s $46.6 billion teacher pension system sold its shares in the firearms industry yesterday, becoming the country's largest retirement fund to divest from publicly-traded gun manufacturers since December's elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Comptroller John Liu announced today. But the vote to do so wasn't unanimous — and the single dissenting ballot came from a member appointed by the city's most powerful gun control advocate: Mayor Bloomberg. Ray Sarola, acting as a fill-in for Bloomberg appointee Carolyn Wolpert, voted against divestment during an executive session meeting last week, a spokesman for the Teacher Retirement System said. Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm, of the Department of Education, missed the vote but said yesterday at the board's monthly public meeting that she opposed divestment as well.
January 29, 2013
Mulgrew faces legislators, as Walcott promises to revisit sunset
ALBANY — Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan kept her promise to question UFT President Michael Mulgrew with the same tenacity as when she interrogated Mayor Bloomberg on Monday. Nolan chastised Bloomberg for his role in New York City's failure to reach a teacher evaluation deal, which will likely cost the city $240 million in state school aid. Today, she told Mulgrew, "This is the fault of labor and management together." Nolan chairs the Assembly's education committee and usually sympathizes with the union on education issues. "It is unbelievable to me that this union, with its great history, could not negotiate this deal," Nolan added as she questioned Mulgrew, whose testimony before the legislature was supposed to be about the 2013-2014 state budget but focused instead on the failed evaluation deal and issues surrounding upcoming assessments aligned to new standards. Mulgrew and Chancellor Dennis Walcott, whose testimony earlier in the day generated less confrontation, both told the legislature that they are open to resuming negotiations. Walcott even conceded that a misunderstanding could have fueled one major issue preventing a deal.
January 29, 2013
As education hearings get underway, City-UFT eval talks resume
State Education Commissioner John King was the first official to testify on the 2013-2014 budget this morning. Albany — A day after Mayor Bloomberg declared the chances of a teacher evaluation deal with the city's teachers union "impossible," both sides confirmed this morning that they are returning to the table. United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew first announced that talks were set to resume at the union's legislative breakfast this morning, the Daily News reported. The announcement comes hours before Mulgrew is set to testify before the state Assembly and Senate education committees about the 2013-2014 budget. He is among dozens of education officials and advocates who will make their case to the legislature about what they like and what they don't like about Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal.
January 23, 2013
Support for a moratorium on school closures gains steam
After protesting in New York City for years, critics of school closures and co-locations are taking their fight to Albany. Three mayoral candidates joined parents, advocates, and union representatives on the steps of City Hall today in calling for a moratorium on school closures and co-locations, centerpieces of the Bloomberg administration's education policy. The press conference was organized by New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, a group formed to oppose Mayor Bloomberg’s education policies in the lead-up to the mayoral election. Earlier this month, State Sen. Tony Avella introduced a bill that would impose halt school closures until a state committee determines whether they benefit students. Now advocates are looking for a sponsor in the Assembly as well, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said today. Hakeem Jeffries, the politician who sponsored a similar bill last year, has left the Assembly for the U.S. Congress. Asked who would sponsor a bill now, Mulgrew said, “There’s quite a few people who are looking at doing it.”
January 22, 2013
Bloomberg renews criticism of UFT in ongoing teacher eval spat
Addressing the collapse of teacher evaluation talks for the first time since state education officials criticized his role, Mayor Bloomberg today blamed the teachers union again. Last week, Bloomberg said he could not accept a teacher evaluation deal because the union wanted only a temporary evaluation system — an objection that State Education Commissioner John King said city officials had not raised earlier in negotiations. “That comment from the mayor was, from my perspective, a new issue that was raised after they walked away from the table,” King said on Friday. Speaking this morning at an announcement about an affordable housing project, Bloomberg dialed back his emphasis on the "sunset" issue. The union “was just deliberately trying to throw as many procedural roadblocks up that it would be so impossible to remove a teacher, even if the deal didn’t expire," he said.
January 17, 2013
As clock winds down, talks continue but wide impasse remains
Almost immediately after UFT President Michael Mulgrew finished ripping Mayor Bloomberg's characterization of how talks broke down between the two sides this morning, he informed members that there might still be a chance. "Now they want to talk," Mulgrew told members at a Delegate Assembly meeting after being handed a sheet of paper, according to several teachers who attended. In addition to $250 million that's on the line if a midnight deadline passes, no evaluation plan would also be a black eye for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who devised the law to withhold state funding from districts that failed to submit plans. Earlier this month, he declared the law succeeded, touting the fact that 99 percent of districts had submitted plans. But New York City and its 1.1 million students have remained a prominent outlier as the time wound down. Heading into this week, officials acknowledged that they were close to a deal in between lengthy negotiation meetings. This morning, the meetings broke down and both sides spent the afternoon dodging blame about who was responsible. The slim possibility that a deal could get hammered out before its midnight deadline came just over an hour after Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Mulgrew said the chances were grim that there would be enough time. "The time to get all the paperwork done is not there," Mulgrew said at a press conference that took place less than an hour after he said in a statement that Bloomberg stood in the way of a deal.
January 15, 2013
Evaluations progress seen behind the scenes, despite public spat
Tensions between the city and teachers over their t0-the-wire teacher evaluation talks bubbled over in 140 characters early this morning, sending both sides into their respective corners for most of the day. But state education officials said the city Department of Education and the UFT had been laying the groundwork for a successful submission before the end of the day on Thursday, the deadline for districts to adopt new evaluations or lose state funding. After a negotiations-packed weekend in which both city and union officials acknowledged that progress had been made, talks went late into the night on Monday at the union's headquarters. But a little after 1:30 a.m., Leo Casey, a former vice president for the union who has stayed on to finish the evaluations deal, suggested in a Twitter message that negotiations had fizzled out. "At UFT. Negotiating team prepared to do round the clock negotiating, with full team present," Casey wrote. "But DOE leaves."
January 4, 2013
UFT takes to the tube to tackle evals and Bloomberg's legacy
The United Federation of Teachers ratcheted up pressure on Mayor Bloomberg over teacher evaluations with a new television ad campaign that will run daily between now and Jan. 17. The 30-second spot — and an accompanying statement from Michael Mulgrew — take aim at Bloomberg's education legacy during the 11 years he's been in office. The ad begins with a still shot of a young student who has grown up through the city school system during the Bloomberg's tenure, entering first grade during the mayor's first year in office. "And while she's changed a lot, he hasn't," the narrator says, as negative tabloid and op-ed headlines fill the screen. "It's still his way or the highway, at whatever cost." The ad also implores Bloomberg to "put politics aside" and "agree to a fair evaluation system that gives teachers the support they need to help children succeed." The $1.2 million campaign, which will run on local broadcast stations and cable television networks in the New York area, comes amid stalled negotiations between the city and the UFT over how to evaluate teachers. The city has until Jan. 17 to come to a deal on an evaluation system or else it will lose an estimated $250 million in state aid funding.
January 2, 2013
UFT tours get mayoral hopefuls weighing "community schools"
All four of the likely Democratic candidates for mayor, seen here with Republican Tom Allon during an education policy discussion in November, have traveled to Cincinnati with the United Federation of Teachers to view "community schools." Among the thousand visitors from across the country who streamed through Cincinnati's Oyler School in the last year were all four of New York City's likely Democratic candidates for mayor. They made the trip at the invitation of UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who has been touting Oyler as the epitome of a school model that he hopes New York City's next mayor will promote. The trips have been held up as evidence that the candidates are all trying to win the union's endorsement. But just as significant as why the candidates made the commute is what they saw when they got there. Cincinnati has turned all of its more than 50 district schools into “community schools” that rely on partnerships with businesses and non-profits to provide an array of services. The school buildings stay open until late into the night and on the weekends, providing early childhood centers, adult education, access to gyms, translation services, tutoring, and food banks to the general public. Local hospitals embed nurses in the schools full-time to provide free health, dental, and vision services. As one of the first schools in Cincinnati to make the evolution, a decade ago, Oyler is seen as an anchor for the model.
December 27, 2012
UFT bargaining in "bad faith" over teacher evals, city charges
The United Federation of Teachers has not been bargaining over teacher evaluations in good faith, the city Department of Education charged in a labor complaint today. The complaint comes a week after UFT President Michael Mulgrew announced he would halt negotiations until the department presented an implementation plan that satisfied the union. It also comes nearly a year to the day after the city called off a different round of teacher evaluation talks. Filed with the Public Employees Review Board, the complaint accuses union officials of refusing to reach an evaluations deal unless the department promised to limit school closures, reduce paperwork for teachers, and award "economic credit" toward a future contract. Under state law, those issues do not have to be discussed in order to devise a new evaluation system, which the city and union are under pressure to agree upon by Jan. 17. That's the deadline that Gov. Andrew Cuomo set early a year ago for districts to adopt new evaluations or forgo increases in state school aid.
December 19, 2012
UFT calls off evaluation talks until city addresses rollout issues
Weeks before a state deadline for the city and teachers union to agree on new teacher evaluations, UFT President Michael Mulgrew has thrown a major wrench into negotiations. Mulgrew said today that he is halting talks about the evaluations until the Department of Education presents an implementation plan that he approves. The plan, he said, would have to include "a concrete plan" for how and when educators are trained on whatever system is adopted. The announcement came in an angry letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott this afternoon that Mulgrew said was prompted by a spate of complaints from teachers about surprising and intimidating observations. A top union offiical, Michael Mendel, registered alarm about the complaints in his own scathing letter to Walcott earlier this week. The city and union had agreed to have some schools practice conducting observations of the type likely to be required in new evaluations. But Mendel said the reports came from schools beyond the pilot program and described practices that were not supposed to happen but could potentially be part of a new evaluation system, such as unannounced observations. "How is it possible to start implementing a system that we haven’t agreed on?" Mulgrew said in an interview today. Doing so, he said, "breaks every piece of good-faith etiquette in negotiations."
December 13, 2012
In new arrangement, teachers' pensions to fund infrastructure
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.
December 13, 2012
Staten Island schools affected by Sandy get high-profile visitors
UFT President Michael Mulgrew (left) and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan toured a storm-swept area of Staten Island between school visits today. After Hurricane Sandy devastated Staten Island, New Dorp High School sprang into action. Under the leadership of Principal Deidre DeAngelis, the school turned into a command center for the area, hosting a school displaced by the storm, drumming up donations from alumni, and distributing food, clothing, and blankets to students and staff members who needed them. On Thanksgiving, New Dorp hosted a dinner for 650 families. "Matt cooked until he couldn't cook anymore," DeAngelis said about the school's culinary arts teacher, Matthew Hays. "We were so appreciative that we got help when no one else was helping us," said Amanda Delapena, the student body vice president whose home was heavily damaged. "I thought the story of what this school has done needs to be told," UFT President Michael Mulgrew said during a visit to the school this morning. At his invitation, U.S. Secretary of Education also visited the school, along with Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Ernest Logan, president of the principals union.
December 6, 2012
Instead of backing a mayoral hopeful, Mulgrew assists them all
UFT President Michael Mulgrew's name appears on a fundraising letter for a mayoral candidate. Mulgrew has told all four likely Democratic contenders that they can use his name in their appeals. UFT President Michael Mulgrew said today that he hasn't picked a candidate for mayor to endorse. But he has decided that he will lend a hand to all four people vying for the Democratic nomination, at least for now. For political candidates, the UFT's endorsement is valuable. Landing it means an influx of funds, supporters in every neighborhood in the city, and an army of potential volunteers to fuel the political ground game. So the four likely candidates for the Democratic nomination for mayor — City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, former comptroller Bill Thompson, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio — have been courting the union for some time. At a panel discussion on education policy last month, each promised to depart from Mayor Bloomberg's critical tone when talking about teachers. And each showed up to an event last week held by New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, a coalition formed to oppose Bloomberg's education policies during the mayoral campaign, to emphasized where their policy positions line up with the union's.
November 20, 2012
City raids February vacation week to make up time lost to Sandy
This year's midwinter vacation will shrink from five days to two to make up for school days cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy, city and union officials announced today. The city closed schools for five days because of the storm, and some particularly hard-hit schools were closed even longer. In addition to interrupting students' schooling, the lost time dropped the city below the 180 instructional days required to receive state school aid. Now, according to a city-union deal, students will attend school on four days they were supposed to have off: Feb. 20-22 and June 4. The February days had been part of a weeklong break that has been part of the calendar since 1990, and the June date had been scheduled as a "clerical day" for teachers and school staff. With four days added back to the calendar, the school year is now set to be 181 or 182 days, depending on what grade students are in. That leaves a slight cushion for snow days, but if more than one day is cancelled, additional makeup days will have to be identified.
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