Friday, January 24, 2014

Why I like This Better: A Brief Off Topic Rambling

My last blog got pretty popular. In addition to each post generating more page hits than the one before, I was getting some pretty smart, and even some well-known, people to read and interact with it and the topics I wrote about. Thanks to a wonderfully supportive blogging community (and a dilapidated 4th estate that is providing more and more readers of blogs each and every day!) an average post would hit a fairly high number just six hours after I hit 'publish'. That was pretty cool.

But it was also a total buzz kill! Do you know how stressful it is to write a post thinking about what person X or person Y is going to think? Before long, I was too busy thinking about the people who were going to read my ideas than I was explaining my ideas. Talk about performance issues!!

My last post on this blog earned a grand total of 30 page hits after the breakfast rush (six hours after an early morning posting). While some may consider that a failure, I consider it a complete success. I take comfort in knowing that the only folks who will be reading this are intelligent, educated men and women who have a particular commitment to being well-informed.

Person X and Person Y can go kiss off. I like this better.

Thanks for reading my brief rant.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Back to Normal!

I traveled 7 hours form my school in Queens to my home in Long Island yesterday (pro-city people, please don't hate me. Leaving my beloved Brooklyn was a necessary step in order to remained married and (more importantly) around my daughter every day).

That's seven hours in a car in a snowstorm and I was one of "those teachers" who went right back in to work today.  I only went because I knew there would be dedicated students who braved a commute to go and I wanted to make sure they saw my face there too. Funny thing: Today was the quickest commute I've ever had. It took me 40 minutes to get there and 35 minutes to get back.

The highways to and around the city were clean and dry today: Back to Normal!

Why did I go to work today? Well, like I said, I didn't want the students going in to school without seeing their history teacher (who had, by the way, a full engaging lesson ready to go). Plus, I like the feeling of normal. I'm a teacher -a 'normmeister' if you will. I norm students around things like rules and academic expectations and even social expectations. I'm the rock of normal in a world of ever changing teenage quicksandy confusion -and I like it that way. I like being the stability in kid' lives. That, my fiends, is how I roll. That's why I went to work today -and why I worked their butts off in class!

Ed, teaching a full lesson, despite having 40% attendance in his school: Back to Normal!

So anyway, I was watching Netflix on my cell phone during my nightmare commute last night. I saw a few movies and caught up on some old TV shows (really, the same thing I do at home). I saw a Schwarzenneger movie called "The Last Stand". Have you seen this? It was made in 2012 after he left the governor's mansion in California. Not bad if you watch it on a cell phone.

Hey, you remember that governorship, don't you? He took advantage of an unpopular democratic governor who had taken the blame (unfairly, mind you)  for the power outages and was recalled by the voters. Arnold came into office promising an era of post-partisanship and a'new day' for California. There was talk of him running for the white house while he was governor, even amending the constitution to let him do so.

Until the recession hit and California's state budget took a harder hit than any other state in the union. The Arnold quietly let his term expire and a seasoned (populist) politician was elected to right the ship (which he did).

Arnold Schwarzenneger making campy action flicks again: Back to Normal!

So anyway, I woke up and read in the paper today that Mayor Bill de Blasio had taken some heat from the Murdoch press for not plowing the Upper East Side. Apparently, rich people don't like a fair tax structure, but do like their streets plowed at the public's expense (you're sucking off of the public dole, rich people! You're sucking off of the public dole!)! What struck me about this wonderfully constructed investigative piece (bla-haha) was the way the New York Post moved to this 'rich people vs. everyone else' narrative.  I'm used to them constructing 'teachers vs everyone else' narrative. Sorry. I meant to say the 'criminals vs. everyone else' narra. That's not right. Wait, oh yes, it's the 'poor people vs. everyone else' narrative. No, wait, They stopped using that one after the '08 collapse. I think.

Anyway,  Not this time. This time, they shot straight for the one per centers. It must have been a popular piece, too! They did a follow up on it for today's issue.

The New York Post engaging in classwarfare in a desperate attempt to increase readerhip? Back to Normal!

One more thought about the plow business. This is New York politics in the post-Bloomberg age and you should get used to it. Well, sort of. You see, this was New York politics in the pre Bloomberg age, too. Politics tend works this way. The people who want power launch brickbats at the people who have power. That's just how it goes.

There are three types of power players in a democratic structure: 1)Those who have power 2)those who don't, but are willing to trade their integrity for it and 3) those who firmly believe they should be the ones who have power and struggle for more For the last twelve years, MR Bloomberg had either bought off or scared that middle group of people half to death. As a consequence, stakeholders shut up and life on the surface seemed pretty tame. But now things are messy again (the way democracy should be!) and at the moment, the rich don't feel like they have power ...but they do have newspapers! So let the fun begin (get used to it, by the way. They'll keep at it until they find something with some real traction; frikin' grousers that they are).

Bloomberg is gone and good old fashioned, messy politics have returned: Back to Normal!

Hey, that reminds me, have you read my piece about the anonymous billboard placed in Times Square attacking Randi Weingarten? It was erected by a group called the 'Center for Union Facts' which is really just a front for right-wing Washington DC lobbyist Rick Berman. Of course I had to research to find that information, because, you know, the website advertised on the billboard doesn't tell you who's behind it.

 Ridiculous anonymous attacks on a union from a faceless right-wing group: Back to Normal!

Yes yes yes! The movie stars and money-makers have all left the scene to go back to making movies and money. The Press engages in class warfare. Whatsmore,  anonymous rich people are attacking civil servants -and the New York City Public Schools was the only district the Northeast Corridor that opened today.  Sounds pretty normal to me.

Soon the snow will melt and Spring will come and maybe we'll all even get raises. And when these things happen, just remember; that's what normal feels like.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Meet Rick Berman: The Guy Who's Attacking My Union President!

Sunday's post about who was attacking AFT President Randi Weingarten was so long, I afraid you didn't get a chance to actually get to know the guy!

This 60 Minutes segment from 2011 will help you do just that.

A few things of interest that you may learn from it:

  • Contrary to popular belief, he's not simply a hired gun. This guy is a crusading Libertarian who actually believes in 'the cause' of what he is doing
  • He's originally from the Bronx
  • He's hated even by other Washington DC lobbyists!!
  • He makes the perfect bad guy.
Anyway, kick back, relax and enjoy your meeting with Dr. Evil!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Who is Attacking Randi on the Radio and in the Papers (And Now On a Five-Story Billboard Midtown?)

As a member of MORE, the opposition caucus the UFT and AFT leadership, I've become more accustomed to being critical of the policies of my unions' leadership than supportive. Having said that, a five-story billboard here in New York City that personally attacks Randi Weingarten has been erected. A member of MORE (the one who forwarded the message responded with, "Don't like Randi, but ... NOT THIS). 

I agree. Not this

So who is attacking Randi? 

The billboard and organization that paid for the website it advertises ( are paid for by Washington Lobbyist Rick Berman of Berman & Co. The name of the Organization Berman & Co. established is the 'Center for Union Facts'. Education blogger Mercedes Schneider wrote about the group back in December on her blog. This billboard has been preceded by an AM radio commercial that was aired several times over this past Fall and is responsible for a full-page ad in the NYTimes (for a price that may possibly be worth more than six months worth of my salary). I think it's safe to say that a pattern -of a sustained attack on Randi- by Berman & Co has begun. 

I am member of the opposition group. But I'm also a fan of Randi (call me nostalgic. Call me grateful for all those cash rasies she got me during the oughts when things like seniority and pension didn't matter to me and I was young (and handsome). Whether you are fond of her or not, you should recognize that  Randi has become the face for unionized teachers in America.

So an attack on her is clearly an attack on unionized teachers -which is of course an attack on public education. This is an old song and dance; right-wing (or, as Bloomberg proved, even left-wing) corporations attack public education by attacking public educators. That all starts with attacking their unions (which begins by attacking the leaders of those unions). 

 As a blogger (note to self: I love teaching and I really should write more about teaching. I don't like blogging about this type of stuff), I have chosen to save any energies I may have for the topics that I feel really do matter on the local scene. I rarely write about national things (who needs to? we have Diane Ravitch!).  But the fact is that public perception about public education matters.

And a sustained attack from a Washington DC lobbyist firm on public education in America is an issue that really (really) matters.

To that end, I'd like you to know a little more about who's attacking our union president.

  • He heads a lobbying firm  that has attacked public teachers in the past in Wyoming and in Newark and in DC. 
  • He is being paid to so. He has no stake in public education other than -his paycheck (which is rather large). 
  • His nickname is Dr. Evil and he was featured on 60 minutes back in 2011 with a segment inviting you to meet him (entitled "Meet Dr. Evil"). 
A few things about the company he runs. 

  • The firm's website brags the motto "The Power to Change Debate".  
  •  It's Wikipedia entry  says (among other things) that 28 people work at his lobbying firm -yet it rakes in a whopping $10 million each year!! 
  • That 60 Minutes did a piece on him is classic!  It's well worth the watch

About Rick Berman's "Center for Union Facts":

  • This Sourcewatch piece about Berman & Co reveals that, because his lobbyist firm is privately owned, there is no way to really know his funding sources.
  • Butthe Center for Union Facts has 501(c)(3) status and that finding funding sources for them is possible by searching IRS forms 990s.  You can check out their IRS 990 tax return here (although it was their first year and found a loophole to the rule of revealing their tax exempt status). 
  • The tax return from 2007 revelas that they have done this same thing in the past: In Newark in 2007. They told the IRS that they paid for Op-Eds and 'Letters to the Editor' several times over the course of that year paid for letters to the editor? wow!), as well as paying for billboards throughout the city and on the sides of buses.  
  • That IRS 990 comes courtesy of a CREW website called Berman Exposed (ah, Washignton politics. So predictable, yet still so very interesting). That website lists which lists all of the other front groups Berman & Co. has established.  

The guy who is attacking Randi has run as many as 28 front groups advocating for things like:

  • Allowing more mercury in fish
  • Opposing sin taxes on Alcohol
  • Encouraging us to drink more soda
  • Opposing Obamacare
  • The death of ACORN (yeah. This is one of the guys who killed ACORN)
  • Encouraging us to go get more indoor tans (cancer be damned!)
  • Michelle Rhee (well, they established a group called "DC Teachers Exposed" and the timing roughly matches Rhee's tenure)
The group's's support of these things have been met with varying degrees of success in the past.

So what? What's important to know here?

Those radio ads attacking Randi here in New York are a part of Washington DC hatchet job. Although Randi's face is on the billboard, and although her name is mentioned in the radio ads, she's far from the real target here. The real target is you and I and the $24 Billion that New York City spends on public education and on the salaries and pensions of its educators.

If anyone asks you who is responsible for the radio attack ads, or the newspaper attack ads, or the FIVE STORY BILLBOARD attack ad, you should tell them it's Dr. Evil himself: Rick Berman of Berman & Co. Tell them he's doing this through a thinly veiled front group called the Center for Union Facts.. And -again- you should them that the attack on Randi is just a proxy: The real targets here are you and me. 

We are entering the most tumultuous time of the year for public education in New York: Budget Season. That season begins at the end of this month with the mayor's introduction of his first budget and it ends in two phases:
1) On (or near)_ April 1 when the state budget is passed.
2). On or near June 1, when New York City's budget must be submitted to the city council.

It is during this season that Randi is attacked (as a mere proxy for attacking us). You'll be seeing more of these attacks, not less, as the budget season unfolds. As you do, just know one thing: some hired gun (linked with the national right-wing scene) is doing it. His name? Dr. Evil.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Two of NYC's Biggest Edu Bloggers Ponder Work On A Snowy Day

NYC Educator: To go, or not to go. That is the question
Reality-Based Educator: Good Question!

Ah, blogging in the post-Bloomberg era.

(Both posts were written before 5:00 AM, when they announced NYC School were closed today)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The First Real Sign of Change: The Book-Of-The-Month

GothamSchools showed a picture of the new chancellor holding a copy of the "Book of the Month" I Will Make Miracles (they even linked to it on Amazon, which was cool). The picture immediately impressed me as the first real sign of change: The Chancellor of New York City's Schools advertising  a "Book of the Month". That's a new.

I couldn't find any evidence that the previous schools chancellors under Michael R. Bloomberg ever had a "Book of the Month". A Google search about Joel Klein and "Book of the Month" shows only some stuff about himself. A similar search about Cathie Black shows nothing about a book at all. A search fro Shael Polakow-Suransky (acting chancellor for ten days) and "Book of the Month" shows an announcement o PS 102's website about what their "Book of the Month" was a long time ago -as well as an announcement that Shael Polakow-Suransky will be visiting. And a search on Dennis Walcott and "Book of the Month" shows anything but a city-wide Book of the Month. Finally, a search for "Book of the Month" on the NYCDoE website reveals nothing more than a bunch of schools' Books of the Month from years past. It doesn't seem as though it's ever been done.

A school leader announcing the "Book of the Month" to the press. What a novel idea.

And a strongly symbolic sign of change.

That's the first sign of change. The second? As Philissa Cramer writes:

"...first “book of the month” for her administration: “I Will Make Miracles,” a children’s book that she had adapted with a piece of tape to be called “We Will Make Miracles.”

Yeah. She changed the "I" to "We". I know, I know. The symbolism isn't as strong. But it's still (totally cool) symbolic of a change in tone.