Sunday, December 10, 2017

The 300 Member Negotiating Committee Is Only A Fig Leaf.

Our union leadership is organizing a 300 member negotiating committee to help with the next contract that starts in November of 2018.  However, if past history is a lesson, the 300 member negotiating committee is simply a fig leaf as the real negotiations will be dictated by a select group of our union leadership who cares little about what the rank and file wants.

Anybody who believes that our union leadership will listen to the 300 member negotiating committee's recommendations, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn t sell you.  Moreover, when it comes to pay raises, the UFT will be subject to "collective bargaining" and since DC37 is presently negotiating with the City on a three year contract with very modest's a safe bet that whatever DC37 settles for will also be applicable to the UFT.  Finally, the State unions are getting 2% raises and that will also factor into the final contract the UFT negotiates with the City.

The bottom line, I expect a two or three year contract with modest raises of between 1.5% and 2% yearly and hopefully,  no "givebacks". Presently, the City has a surplus while the State has a budget deficit and can afford to give us higher rises but  won't.  I would be shocked if the total UFT contract raises exceed 4% for two years or 6% for three. Let's hope that the small raises will not have to be self funded by increased health care co pays or other "givebacks".

Saturday, December 09, 2017

The NYC Racial Achievement Gap Widenes As Students Get Older.

A decade ago Mayor Micael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein proclaimed that their education reforms had significantly narrowed the racial achievement gap.  Of course those claims turned out to be "smoke and mirrors" as the primary cause was the State drastically lowering cut scores and providing questionable rubrics on the State tests that eventually led to the removal of the State Education Commissioner Mills.  When the State redid the tests the following years it showed that the racial academic achievement gap actually widened and led to the resignation of Chancellor Joel Klein as Mayor Bloomberg, embarrassed that his education reforms were a mirage , pressured Mr. Klein to leave.

Now in a new study by the City's Independent Budget Office (IBO), the report shows that as children advanced from third to eighth grades the racial achievement gap between Asian and White students grew, when compared to Black and Hispanic students.  The study tracked 71,000 third graders back in 2008 and ended the study in 2013, when the students were in eighth grade. This time period encompasses part of Michael Bloomberg's second term and all of the third term as Mayor of New York City.

The report shows that the Bloomberg/Klein education reforms to narrow the racial achievement gap was a failure and in fact, widened over time as the students advanced to the next grade.  Here are the six takeaways of the IBO report.

  1. Black and Hispanic students started far behind. 
  2. As they got older Black students fell further behind.
  3. Hispanic students made slight gains in English but not Math,
  4. By eigth grade Asians led the back in both English and Math,
  5. Black boys were at the bottom of the list.
  6. Girls out did boys in Math for all races.
Read the IBO report and its obvious that the racial achievement gap is not only real and persistent but widens as the students move up in grade   At least the IBO report doesn't blame the teacher for the poor academic results in high poverty minority schools.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

DOE's ATR Placement Policy Is A Failure - Part 2.

Last month I wrote a post that suggested that the DOE's ATR placement policy was a failure, which was based upon anecdotal evidence.  Now Charkbeat has published data, supplied by the DOE that confirms my previous post. According to the Charkbeat article only 41 ATRs were permanently placed since October 15th.  That is only 10% of what the DOE anticipated with their ATR placement policy.

Interestingly all 41 ATRs who were permanently placed were excessed due to school or program closing and not due to disciplinary or legal issues.  Which strongly indicates that the ATR assignment folks keep at least two separate lists of ATRs.   Moreover, the DOE admitted that the ATR pool consists of 1,202 educators and not the 822 that they claimed previously.  Finally,  their claim that the 1,202 numbers is 20% less than last year is false   Last year's number was 1,304 and that means the actual reduction is not 20% but 7%!

Another interesting item is that the DOE has admitted that principals would have to agree to permanently hire the ATR and would not be assigned without the approval of the Principal.  A clear win for  the principals.

The bottom line the more things the DOE claims to change, the more they stay the same. The DOE's ATR placement policy is a failure.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Proof That The Graduation Rate Is Bogus.

Since the Bloomberg era the high school graduation rate has steadily increased from 50% in 2000 to 76% in the last school year.  Of course Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio has claimed that their education reforms are making more high school graduates college and career ready.  The truth is far different.  A recent study by the Center For An Urban Future showed that only 22% of CUNY Community College students graduate with an associates degree within three years. The lowest numbers were in the Bronx with only a 16% graduation rate. The report stated the following:

The disappointingly low community college graduation rate clearly demonstrates that the high school graduation rate  does not make the high school graduate ready for the adult world. The report includes the following paragraph that peopple should take notice.
 These low college completion rates are particularly troubling at a time when a college credential has become the floor to achieving economic success. Indeed, 20 of the 25 fastest-growing occupations in the city that pay over $50,000 annually require a college degree.7 Citywide, the average working adult with only a high school diploma earns 32 percent less annually than a worker with an associate’s degree ($27,259 a year versus $36,101) and less than half the earnings of a New Yorker with a bachelors degree ($54,939).

The poor community college graduation rate of 22% is an improvement from the 13% in 2008  but still that leaves 78% who don't graduate college in a reasonable time.  The three neighborhoods with the lowest percentage of Bachelor degrees are Mott Haven (9%), Brownsville (11%) and Soundeview (12%),  Manhattan has the highest percentage at 60% and the Bronx the lowest at 19%.

The bottom line with almost 8 out of 10 nyc high school graduates unprepared for higher education, one must question the high school graduation rate and the diploma mills that are many of our high schools.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Retirement And The GOP Tax Plan.

The GOP tax plan will punish high tax states like New York and many other Democratic states by eliminating the State and Local Income tax deduction. In addition, the property tax deduction is limited to $10,000.  The New York Times did an in depth study and published it here.

For example the average deduction State and Local Income tax deduction in Manhattan was $60,400 and 45% took the deduction.  In Westchester, it was  $34,400 and 47% took the deductionWhile in Nassau it was $23,900 and 50% took the deduction.

For educators who live in New York City, they pay approximately 10% of their income to State and Local taxes.  Here is an example:

Teacher #1:  Salary $80,000,   Federal Tax = 25% or $18,863
                                           NYS Tax    = 6.65% or $5,320
                                           NYC Tax    = 3.65% or $2,800
                                           Total Tax  =30.30% or $23,983

As one can see, the 10% Sate and Local tax rate results in taxes of over $8,000.  On the other hand the federal tax will be reduced to 22% and the standard deduction almost double the existing amount.  However, personal exemptions would be eliminated.  The bottom line is that teacher #1  would probably be paying additional taxes due to the higher standard deduction and elimination of deductions.

On the other hand.  If Teacher #1 retires, then the GOP tax plan is going to reduce his or her taxes since the pension, social security, and TDA are not subject to State and Local taxes.  Moreover, the teacher will be in a lower tax bracket.  Finally, the  larger standard deduction probably makes it unnecessary to itemize with no earned income to tax. Overall, it appears that the GOP tax plan might encourage more educators to retire due to tax considerations.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Should You Contribute To The TRS Balanced Fund?

Starting next month the TRS Bond Fund will be discontinued and replaced by the Balanced Fund.  For educators who are still contributing to the Bond Fund, the same percentage will now be assigned to the Balanced Fund, umless you change your allocation.  While the Balanced Fund is preferable to the Bond Fund the question is should an educator contribute to it?

Normally a balanced fund is an appropriate conservative investment that usually has an asset allocation of between 40% to 60% in stocks and the rest in fixed income investments like bonds, money market funds and government securities.  However, when TRS offers a no fee 7% interest rate Fixed Fund, why bother?  I, for one rather put any conservative investments into a guaranteed 7% return then gamble on the Balance Fund with its allocation of volatile stocks and in our present low interest environment, 2% fixed income investments.

I see the Balanced Fund appropriate for those educators who think stock equity funds.are too risky for their tastes but wants some inflation protection.  Otherwise, the TRS Balanced Fund is not recommended by me at this time. 

Friday, December 01, 2017

Safe Schools? Yeah Right! - Part 2

In a previous post I pointed out that weapons confiscated from students have risen an astounding 35% this school year so far but due to a lax discipline code, many of these students were not arrested or even suspended. Moreover, only 6% of all schools have metal detectors or scanners.  No wonder students and teachers feel more unsafe in their schools than at anytime in the past.

Wednesday, the DOE and NYPD sprang a spot scanning at the Bayard Ruskin Educational Complex in Chelsea and confiscated 10 knives.  They probably would have found more weapons but students used their cellphones to warn friends of the scanning.   In addition, two students were found to have handled an air gun at another Chelsea High School,  Fashion Industries.   Add the.two students found with guns at John Bowne high school last week and one can see there is a real issue with weapons being smuggled into our schools without metal detectors

Mayor Bill de Blasio may claim that the school crime statistics are going down but its obvious that the real reason is that school officials are not reporting the weapon confiscations as a crime.  No wonder school staff and students feel that their school is increasingly unsafe.