contract sport

Mulgrew asks union for power to call impasse in contract talks

Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew is calling for the power to declare a deadlock in the union’s contract negotiations with the city.

At a meeting of the United Federation of Teachers’ delegate assembly, Mulgrew asked members to vote and grant him the authority to call an impasse in negotiations, setting things in motion for contract talks to proceed toward the complicated and lengthy fact-finding process. A spokesman for the UFT said that Mulgrew was not declaring an actual deadlock, but was signaling that if talks do not improve, he will do so.

(Update: At 5:41 p.m., by UFT spokesman Dick Riley’s watch, the delegate assembly passed the resolution)

Declaring an impasse would mean calling in the state’s Public Employment Relations Board to verify that contract talks have stalled and then bringing in a mediator to restart negotiations. If the mediation fails, then the fact-finding process would begin — something that the union isn’t exactly looking to avoid, as fact-finding commissions in years past have recommended wage increases and prevented the city from laying off teachers who are excessed and can’t find new positions.

“There’s no downside and it shows his members that he’s doing something,” said Peter Goodman, a long-time UFT member, of Mulgrew’s request for the authority to call an impasse.

The UFT’s contract with the city expired on October 31, but a statute allows teachers to work under an expired contract until a new one is in place.

A press release from the UFT states:

The Delegate Assembly of the United Federation of Teachers, the union’s highest policy-making body, will consider at its meeting Wednesday a resolution that authorizes the union leadership to seek the intervention of the state’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) in stalled contract talks.

If PERB were to find that an impasse exists, the state agency would appoint a mediator to bring the sides together.  If mediation were to fail, PERB would then appoint a fact-finding panel to hold hearings and make a recommendation for a settlement.

UFT President Mike Mulgrew said, “We have had a number of meetings and have made some progress.  But many other issues remain and our contract has expired. We will continue to negotiate, but to help ensure that we can reach a fair agreement I want to have the authority to declare — if necessary — that we are at impasse and to ask the state to intervene.”

The UFT’s most recent contract was a two-year pact that expired October 31, 2009.

Under the Taylor Law that governs relations between management and public employee labor unions, all the terms of an expired agreement continue in place until a new agreement is reached, including during the impasse/mediation/fact-finding process.

Fact-finding produces non-binding recommendations designed to help the parties craft a final settlement.  In 2005, 2002 and 1993, the recommendations of fact-finding panels helped the UFT and the Board of Education* to reach agreements to replace expired teacher contracts.

Betsy DeVos

To promote virtual schools, Betsy DeVos cites a graduate who’s far from the norm

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spoke to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in June.

If Betsy Devos is paying any attention to unfolding critiques of virtual charter schools, she didn’t let it show last week when she spoke to free-market policy advocates in Bellevue, Washington.

Just days after Politico published a scathing story about virtual charters’ track record in Pennsylvania, DeVos, the U.S. education secretary, was touting their successes at the Washington Policy Center’s annual dinner.

DeVos’s speech was largely identical in its main points to one she gave at Harvard University last month. But she customized the stories of students who struggled in traditional schools with local examples, and in doing so provided an especially clear example of why she believes in virtual schools.

From the speech:

I also think of Sandeep Thomas. Sandeep grew up impoverished in Bangalore, India and experienced terrible trauma in his youth. He was adopted by a loving couple from New Jersey, but continued to suffer from the unspeakable horrors he witnessed in his early years. He was not able to focus in school, and it took him hours to complete even the simplest assignment.

This changed when his family moved to Washington, where Sandeep was able to enroll in a virtual public school. This option gave him the flexibility to learn in the quiet of his own home and pursue his learning at a pace that was right for him. He ended up graduating high school with a 3.7 GPA, along with having earned well over a year of college credit. Today, he’s working in finance and he is a vocal advocate for expanding options that allow students like him a chance to succeed.

But Thomas — who spoke at a conference of a group DeVos used to chair, Advocates for Children, in 2013 as part of ongoing work lobbying for virtual charters — is hardly representative of online school students.

In Pennsylvania, Politico reported last week, 30,000 students are enrolled in virtual charters with an average 48 percent graduation rate. In Indiana, an online charter school that had gotten a stunning six straight F grades from the state — one of just three schools in that positionis closing. And an Education Week investigation into Colorado’s largest virtual charter school found that not even a quarter of the 4,000 students even log on to do work every day.

The fact that in many states with online charters, large numbers of often needy students have enrolled without advancing has not held DeVos back from supporting the model. (A 2015 study found that students who enrolled in virtual charters in Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin did just as well as similar students who stayed in brick-and-mortar schools.) In fact, she appeared to ignore their track records during the confirmation process in January, citing graduation rates provided by a leading charter operator that were far higher — nearly 40 points in one case — than the rates recorded by the schools’ states.

She has long backed the schools, and her former organization has close ties to major virtual school operators, including K12, the one that generated the inflated graduation numbers. In her first week as education secretary, DeVos said, “I expect there will be more virtual schools.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the location of the dinner.

expansion plans

Here are the next districts where New York City will start offering preschool for 3-year-olds

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, left, and Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, visited a "Mommy and Me" class in District 27 in Queens, where the city is set to expand 3-K For All.

New York City officials on Tuesday announced which school districts are next in line for free pre-K for 3-year-olds, identifying East Harlem and the eastern neighborhoods of Queens for expansion of the program.

Building on its popular universal pre-K program for 4-year-olds, the city this year began serving even younger students with “3-K For All” in two high-needs school districts. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he wants to make 3-K available to every family who wants it by 2021.

“Our education system all over the country had it backwards for too long,” de Blasio said at a press conference. “We are recognizing we have to reach kids younger and more deeply if we’re going to be able to give them the foundation they need.”

But making preschool available to all of the city’s 3-year-olds will require an infusion of $700 million from the state or federal governments. In the meantime, de Blasio said the city can afford to expand to eight districts, at a cost of $180 million of city money a year.

Funding isn’t the only obstacle the city faces to make 3-K available universally. De Blasio warned that finding the room for an estimated 60,000 students will be a challenge. Space constraints were a major factor in picking the next districts for expansion, he said.

“I have to tell you, this will take a lot of work,” he said, calling it “even harder” than the breakneck rollout of pre-K for all 4-year-olds. “We’re building something brand new.”

De Blasio, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, has made expansion of early childhood education a cornerstone of his administration. The city kicked off its efforts this September in District 7 in the South Bronx, and District 23 in Brownsville, Brooklyn. More than 2,000 families applied for those seats, and 84 percent of those living in the pilot districts got an offer for enrollment, according to city figures.

According to the timeline released Thursday, the rollout will continue next school year in District 4 in Manhattan, which includes East Harlem; and District 27 in Queens, which includes Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Rockaways.

By the 2019 – 2020 school year, the city plans to launch 3-K in the Bronx’s District 9, which includes the Grand Concourse, Highbridge and Morrisania neighborhoods; and District 31, which spans all of Staten Island.

The 2020 – 2021 school year would see the addition of District 19 in Brooklyn, which includes East New York; and District 29 in Queens, which includes Cambria Heights, Hollis, Laurelton, Queens Village, Springfield Gardens and St. Albans.

With all those districts up and running, the city expects to serve 15,000 students.

Admission to the city’s pre-K programs is determined by lottery. Families don’t have to live in the district where 3-K is being offered to apply for a seat, though preference will be given to students who do. With every expansion, the city expects it will take two years for each district to have enough seats for every district family who wants one.