Friday, September 22, 2017

Chasing Yield - Why The TRS Fixed Income Fund Is Unbeatable.

We have been in a low interest6 environment since 1990 and the average inflation rate since 1990 is only 2.51% (Historically, since 1914, the average inflation rate is 3.34%).  Just ask your parents and grandparents how painful it is for them as they only get between 1% to 1.5% on a multi-year CD.  Money Market and short-term Bond funds are no better,  paying a meager 1% and 1.2% on an annual basis.  What does the risk adverse do to gain extra yield without taking a risk on the violable equity market?

For some people, they chase yield by buying international debt.  The problem is that the stable western countries like Europe, Japan, South Korea, Israel, and Canada pay yields of between 0.5% and 1.5%, not a good substitute to U.S. based instruments.  That means that investors who want more yields have to stick their toes into the Emerging Market debt market.  There you can find yields of between 4% and 26% and most funds average about 6%.  The problem is that the higher the yield, the more unstable the country is and a greater chance of default.

For example, Venezuela bonds gives the investor 26% yield but has had trouble paying the interest and most experts expect them to default.  If that happens, most Emerging Market debt funds will drop significantly as the country's bonds make up 4% of the market.  Moreover the 26% yield is almost 25% of the total yield of the Emerging Market debt funds.  Therefore, the funds total yield of around 6% would drop to 4.5%!

Listed below are some of the bond yields for Emerging Market debt countries included in Mutual Funds and ETFs.s.

Country.....................................Bond Yield

South Africa..................................8.48%

The four countries in boldface are known as the BRIC countries and averages a yield of 6.9% and can make up the major portion of some of the Emerging Market debt funds. Most funds do not have Iranian bonds due to U.S. sanctions.

As one can see the more politically unstable the country is, the higher the yield as there is real risk of the country defaulting.  In fact, its not uncommon for the Emerging Market debt funds to drop significantly as one or more countries fail to pay their debt and default. Furthermore, the fees range from almost 1% to 2% annually.

By contrast our TRS fixed income fund gives up a guaranteed 7% interest with no risk and no fees. For non-UFT members its 8.25%.  Now that the TRS is eliminating their Bond fund, a real dog, please transfer the money into the fixed income fund rather than the balanced fund that offers no real advantage in a low interest rate environment and contains risk that defeats the purpose of the risk adverse investor..

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Veteran Teachers Beware, Administrators Are Using Charlotte Danielson As A Weapon To Terminate You.

It appears to me that school administrators have been told that they must stay within the recession era budgets that the DOE has imposed on its public schools.  Most schools are only receiving 90% of their fair funding and principals are trying various cost saving strategies to stretch their budget.  One of the favorite tactics, especially with the Leadership Academy principals, are to target veteran teachers and either force them to retire or charge them with incompetence or misconduct in their 3020-a hearing.

The weapon of choice is Charlotte Dainelson that allows school administrators to unfairly evaluate teachers based upon 8 components that can be easily manipulated to make the teacher look "ineffective".  A case in point is the saga of teacher Donald Vanterpool, who was terminated, despite the fact he only had one "ineffective " rating.

Mr. Vanterpool was a veteran teacher who worked at a transfer school called Bushwick Community High School in Brooklyn.  People familiar with transfer high schools know that it's for over aged students (16 to 21 year old) who have been removed from their previous school(s).  Many of these students just want a minimum passing grade of 65%, while during little or no work.  Passing a Regents is not their priority.  Therefore, transfer high schools do poorly, compared to their State peers, who don't have these transfer schools.  The result is that even the best teachers can only expected a "developing" rating in their MOSL.

Back to Mr. Vanterpool, he received a "developing" rating in 2013-14 school year and an "ineffective" rating the following year.  Despite the union's claim that it takes two consecutive "ineffective" ratings to be charged under 3020-a, the truth is otherwise.  In the last year I know of two other veteran teachers who were charged under section 3020-a with only one "ineffective" rating.  Mr. Vanterpool's 3020-a arbitrator terminated Mr. Vanterpool, in part, because he failed to differentiate his lesson to the individual needs of the student.  Moreover, the arbitrator claimed Mr. Vanterpool failed to take advantage of the extensive professional development opportunities he was afforded..

While the burden of proof is supposed to be the DOE's with one "ineffective" rating,, in all three cases I know of the veteran teacher was either terminated or was pressured to retire so as not to lose the almost $50,000 in lump sum payments owed to them in the contract

Charlotte Dainelson is not a simple evaluation tool but a weapon to destroy the careers of veteran teachers and that's how I see it.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The DOE's Education On The Cheap Policy Academically Shortchanges The Students.

Over the years and certainly since the recession of 2008 the New York City Department Of Education (DOE) has shortchanged the schools with reduced budgets and lack of resources.  Worse, the DOE reuses to fund the schools based on their own Fair Student Funding, with most schools receiving only 90% of what they are allocated for. The result is that New York City's Public School students suffer academically due to the DOE's education on the cheap policy.

In my travels from school to school as an ATR I have noticed the many cost saving strategies school principals use to conserve resources.

First, the fair student funding formula incentivizes principals to :hire the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their school.  With "newbie teachers" who must learn classroom management skills, develop curriculum knowledge and master the Art and Science of teaching, students are simply guinea pigs to these teacher's steep learning curve and suffer academically.

Second, many of the Bloomberg small schools have a limited selection of courses and teachers. Electives are few and extracurricular activities are limited or non-existent Quite a few students complain about the lack of electives. Many schools only have one teacher teaching a subject and if a problem develops between a student and either a teacher or another student in the class, there is no option to put him or her into another class of the same subject.

Third, most schools no longer give Music as a course because of the cost of instruments and their upkeep.  The ATR pool is full of excessed Music teachers as the tight budgets makes Music a prime candidate to be eliminated from the school course selection, especially in the small schools.  The same goes for Health teachers as schools rather use a Physical Education teacher to teach Health than hire a certified Health teacher.

Fourth, most schools have reduced Science to a 4 to 1 program rather than the recommended 5 to 1 program for Regents level Science.  The elimination of the extra day allows schools to reduce their Science teaching staff.  However, the result has been a lowering of Regents passing rates and scores.  While it saves the schools money it hurts student academic achievement.  Only the DOE in New York State allows schools to use uncertified teachers for Regents Earth Science is just another example of putting budget first over the academic needs of the students.

Fifth, our class sizes are highest in the State and most classes are at contractual limits.  This has a negative effect on student academic achievement,

Finally, the DOE encouraged discrimination against veteran teachers has resulted in many highly experienced teachers tobe targeted and retire early which are then replaced by untested inexperienced teachers who usually leave their first hiring school within five years (about 80% according to a Chicago study) and leave the system.system entirely (50%).

The DOE's education on the cheap policy continues as real student academic achievement is a poor second to budget shenanigans by school principals and encouraged by the DOE. This allows the DOE to keep throwing money at their bloated Central Bureaucracy as the schools starve for resources and with tight budgets that do an injustice to their students.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The New York Post Editorial Board Continues Its Hypocrocy.

In today's New York Post, the Editorial Board claims that New York State Regents watered down the teacher certification requirements and rightly so.  The reason the State Regents eliminated one teacher certification test was the looming teacher shortage and the State Regents wanted more applicants to pass the teacher certification test.  However, the New York Post Editorial Board then should their true hypocrisy by supporting  the SUNY Charter Institute's teacher program that would allow uncertified and inferior teacher candidates to teach in SUNY Charter schools.  You can read my analysis of the SUNY proposal Here.

Teacher turnover is extremely high in Charter Schools and in New York State only a maximum of 15% of all charter school teachers can be uncertified.  By the end of the school year, due to teacher turnover caused by the long hours, inadequate pay, and lack of a social life beyond the charter school, many charter schools are out of compliance. The SUNY proposal would allow for a major lowering of teaching standards and increase the applicant pool of cheap and replaceable educators for their Charter Schools.

The bottom line is that the New York Post's Editorial Board's position is a hypocrisy.  First, they complain that New York State Regents has watered down their teacher certification requirements.  Then they recommend that the vastly inferior SUNY proposal be approved.  Go figure?  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Bad Teacher Narrative.


Lately, the news media has been on a crusade about "bad teachers", especially the ATRs.  Be it Charkbeat, Daily News, Post,Times, or the Wall Street Journal, the one-sided articles blasting teachers appears all the rage.  All of a sudden the old Klein era Tweedies have articles that blast teachers. Be it the insufferable Eric Nadeelstern, The lying Daniel Weisberg, or the sleazy Marc Sternberg. Let's not forget about clueless patents like Nicole Thomas also.

Maybe if it was just confined to the education deformer groups and brainwashed parents, I could accept it.  However, Our own Chancellor, Carmen Farina, tells new teachers to stay away from the teacher lounge and don't listen to those veteran teachers and she admits she visits schools to ferret out bad teachers and pushes principals to start a paper trail to terminate them.  Even Governor Andrew Cuomo revamped the teacher evaluation system so that more teachers can be rated "ineffective" and the burden of proof was shifted to the teacher at their 3020-a hearing.

Instead of appreciating their veteran teachers, the education deformers, and their media and political allies rather continue the narrative of the bad teacher when the truth is the continued demonizing of teachers and their profession will simply hasten the day when we experience a teacher shortage as few college students will choose education, due to low morale, high teacher turnover, inferior pay, and lack of respect. The result is a lower student academic achievement and a continue3d achievement gap between different cohorts.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The ATR Incentive Failed To Achieve Its Goal To Drastically Reduce The ATR Pool.

At last night's Executive Board meeting the UFT leadership stated that 135 ATRs took the inferior buyout offer that the UFT secretly negotiated with the DOE, without ATR input..  This was significantly lower than the DOE's hopeful projections of 200 or more ATRs.  In fact, if you include the provisional appointments, who were also eligible for the buyout.  The 135 ATRs are only 10% of the over 1,300 ATRs who were eligible for the buyout,

Moreover, on any given year approximately 60 to 70  ATRs retire or resign, either due to age, years of service, or under 3020-a charges.  If we were to exclude those ATRs who were leaving anyway then the ATR incentive only encouraged 70 ATRs to take the incentive, who may have otherwise stayed.  That is only 5% of the ATR pool.

Finally, because of the union negotiated contract that allows the DOE not to pay the teacher his or her lump sum payments if the 3020-a arbitrator finds the educator guilty of termination, also encouraged some teachers to take the incentive, rather than risk losing up to $50,000 dollars of the money still owed to them.

While our union leadership will continue to claim a victory, when it came to the ATR incentive.  The fact is the ATR incentive was a failure since only between 5% and 10% of the educators in the ATR pool actually took it.   Maybe the next ATR incentive will be a year's salary and then you might see many in the ATR pool take the bait and take the money and run.

Monday, September 11, 2017

When Will The Union Sue The DOE On Their Scarlet Letter?

Back when Dennis Walcott became Chancellor, he decided that all teachers who had a substantiated OSI or SCI investigation, would have a discipline flag attached to their file.  This flag alerted principals not to hire these teachers.  It didn't matter that many of these teachers chose to go through their 3020-a hearings and the independent State arbitrator found them innocent of the DOE charges that were based upon the OSI or SCI report.  For example if OSI substantiated a corporal punishment charge and the arbitrator found no corporal punishment or if SCI substantiated sexual misconduct,but the arbitrator finds no sexual misconduct.  Why does the DOE act as if the teacher is still guilty of the charges that were dismissed by the arbitrator?

Both corporal punishment and sexual misconduct are termination offenses and arbitrators are automatically required to terminate the teacher.  However, charging a teacher with these serious offenses is not the same as be guilty of the charges.  The arbitrator must hear all the relevant evidence and any hearsay must be supported.  Teachers who are accused of these serious charges and are tenured can ask for an independent arbitrator to hear all the relevant evidence and make their decision based upon the preponderance of the relevant evidence.

Here are two examples of the DOE charging teachers with serious charges only to find the charges didn't stick once the evidence was presented and scrutinized..

Example 1:  A Social Studies teacher was accused of slamming his door on the hand of a student that broke the window in the door.  The student had a bloody hand and went to the school nurse.  The Principal reported it and OSI interviewed the student and, as it turned out a couple of his friends, as well as the school nurse.  The teacher was charged with corporal punishment and the case went to the arbitrator.  In the 3020-a hearing it came out that some other students in the teacher's class also saw the incident and told the teacher's attorney that the teacher didn't slam the door on the student's hand but  after the heated exchange between the teacher and the student, as the teacher closed the door, the student took his fist and slammed the door window, which caused the bloody hand.   Interestingly, there was a hallway camera which showed a blurry picture of the incident but tended to support what the teacher had claimed.   The arbitrator dismissed the corporal punishment charge but  gave the teacher a small fine for not deescalating the altercation.  Yet the teacher has a flag on his file for an accusation that wasn't true.

Example 2:  A Science teacher was accessed of sexual misconduct by allegedly propositioning a student by showing too much interest in getting her to pass the class,  It turned out that the student was having personal problems and that day was a :bad day"  Therefore, the student told the Principal that the teacher propositioned her,  SCI spoke to the student and also found from other students that the teacher was paying her more attention then most of the students.  The result was that SCI substantiated the charge.  During the 3020-a hearing the student reluctantly came in and admitted that the teacher did not proposition her but didn't like the intrusive manner of the teacher.  That teacher was found innocent of the sexual misconduct charge but also received a small fine for making the student uncomfortable. This teacher also has a flag on their file.

A pro-active union would never allow the administration to continue to punish teachers for charges that they were found innocent of  Yet our disconnected union leadership not only failed to file a lawsuit against the DOE's unfair policy that assumes teachers are guilty, even when the arbitrator found otherwise. but agreed to contract language that made hundreds of teachers ineligible to fill vacancies permanently.   The union leadership should be ashamed of themselves for sacrificing their members to curry favor with Tweed. It's unconscionable that our union allows innocent teachers to be punished year after year with the Scarlet Letter.