Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Andrew Cuomo's Budget Causes SUNY Tuition Increases

From Newsday:

Students at Suffolk County Community College will face a tuition increase of $250 this fall, bringing the annual charges to $4,390 at the two-year school.

The tuition hike is part of the $208.4 million 2014-15 operating budget that college trustees sent to county officials Friday.

The increase comes even though the Bellone administration agreed after two days of talks with college officials to a 2 percent increase in the county share of college costs -- or $780,000. College trustees, in the budget vote Thursday night, also included a one-shot use of $4.3 million from the college's $24.9 million reserve fund to keep tuition from rising further.

"Two hundred and fifty dollars may not sound like much unless you don't have it," said trustee Jim Morgo, head of the trustee budget committee, noting the college's mission is to provide affordable education where many students come from "very challenging economic backgrounds."


College officials blamed the increased tuition on the state, which increased operating aid for each full-time student by only $75. College presidents had sought $250 and the State Senate had proposed $125. The Assembly, which had sought a $50 increase, compromised with the Senate on $75, to make the per student aid $2,497. In all, the state share is 25.9 percent of college costs.

County aid has remained flat over the past six years with just a 1% increase in aid to SCCC in that time frame, another contributing factor to the cost of SCCC tuition going up next year.

Tax breaks for rich people, tuition hikes for community college students - that should be an Andrew Cuomo campaign ad.

The Assembly and Senate are to blame too.

But this is Cuomo's budget, the one he's bragging about every chance he gets, so the buck and the responsibility for it lie with him.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

How Rahm Emanuel Got Chicago's Crime Rate Down

To quote from The Sting, it's simple - he cheats:

It was a balmy afternoon last July when the call came in: Dead body found inside empty warehouse on the West Side.

Chicago police officers drove through an industrial stretch of the hardscrabble Austin neighborhood and pulled up to the 4600 block of West Arthington Street. The warehouse in question was an unremarkable-looking red-brick single-story building with a tall barbed-wire fence. Vacant for six years, it had been visited that day by its owner and a real-estate agent—the person who had called 911.

The place lacked electricity, so crime scene technicians set up generators and portable lights. The power flickered on to reveal a grisly sight. In a small office, on soggy carpeting covered in broken ceiling tiles, lay a naked, lifeless woman. She had long red-streaked black hair and purple glitter nail polish on her left toenails (her right ones were gone), but beyond that it was hard to discern much. Her face and body were bloated and badly decomposed, her hands ash colored. Maggots feasted on her flesh.

At the woman’s feet, detectives found a curled strand of telephone wire. Draped over her right hand was a different kind of wire: thin and brown. The same brown wire was wrapped around each armrest of a wooden chair next to her.

The following day, July 24, a pathologist in the Cook County medical examiner’s office noticed something else that had been obscured by rotting skin: a thin gag tied around the corpse’s mouth.
Thanks to some still-visible tattoos, detectives soon identified this unfortunate woman: Tiara Groves, a 20-year-old from Austin. She was last seen walking alone in the wee hours of Sunday, July 14, near a liquor store two miles from the warehouse. At least eight witnesses who saw her that night told police a similar story: She appeared drunk and was upset—one man said that she was crying so hard she couldn’t catch her breath—but refused offers of help. A man who talked to her outside the liquor store said that Groves warned him, excitedly and incoherently, that he should stay away from her or else somebody (she didn’t say who) would kill him too.

Toxicology tests showed she had heroin and alcohol in her system, but not enough to kill her. All signs pointed to foul play. According to the young woman’s mother, who had filed a missing-person report, the police had no doubt. “When this detective came to my house, he said, ‘We found your daughter. . . . Your daughter has been murdered,’ ” Alice Groves recalls. “He told me they’re going to get the one that did it.”

On October 28, a pathologist ruled the death of Tiara Groves a homicide by “unspecified means.” This rare ruling means yes, somebody had killed Groves, but the pathologist couldn’t pinpoint the exact cause of death.

Given the finding of homicide—and the corroborating evidence at the crime scene—the Chicago Police Department should have counted Groves’s death as a murder. And it did. Until December 18. On that day, the police report indicates, a lieutenant overseeing the Groves case reclassified the homicide investigation as a noncriminal death investigation. In his writeup, he cited the medical examiner’s “inability to determine a cause of death.”

That lieutenant was Denis Walsh—the same cop who had played a crucial role in the alleged cover-up in the 2004 killing of David Koschman, the 21-year-old who died after being punched by a nephew of former mayor Richard M. Daley. Walsh allegedly took the Koschman file home. For years, police officials said that it was lost. After the Sun-Times reported it missing, the file mysteriously reappeared.

But back to Tiara Groves. With the stroke of a computer key, she was airbrushed out of Chicago’s homicide statistics.

The change stunned officers. Current and former veteran detectives who reviewed the Groves case at Chicago’s request were just as incredulous. Says a retired high-level detective, “How can you be tied to a chair and gagged, with no clothes on, and that’s a [noncriminal] death investigation?” (He, like most of the nearly 40 police sources interviewed for this story, declined to be identified by name, citing fears of disciplinary action or other retribution.)

Was it just a coincidence, some wondered, that the reclassification occurred less than two weeks before the end of the year, when the city of Chicago’s final homicide numbers for 2013 would be tallied? “They essentially wiped away one of the murders in the city, which is crazy,” says a police insider. “But that’s the kind of shit that’s going on.”
For the case of Tiara Groves is not an isolated one. Chicago conducted a 12-month examination of the Chicago Police Department’s crime statistics going back several years, poring through public and internal police records and interviewing crime victims, criminologists, and police sources of various ranks. We identified 10 people, including Groves, who were beaten, burned, suffocated, or shot to death in 2013 and whose cases were reclassified as death investigations, downgraded to more minor crimes, or even closed as noncriminal incidents—all for illogical or, at best, unclear reasons.

This troubling practice goes far beyond murders, documents and interviews reveal. Chicago found dozens of other crimes, including serious felonies such as robberies, burglaries, and assaults, that were misclassified, downgraded to wrist-slap offenses, or made to vanish altogether. (We’ll examine those next month in part 2 of this special report.)

Many officers of different ranks and from different parts of the city recounted instances in which they were asked or pressured by their superiors to reclassify their incident reports or in which their reports were changed by some invisible hand. One detective refers to the “magic ink”: the power to make a case disappear. Says another: “The rank and file don’t agree with what’s going on. The powers that be are making the changes.”

Read the rest of the Chicago Magazine piece to see how Rahm and his crime lieutenants got their drop in crime stats and think about this the next time you hear Rahm Emanuel or one of his corporate cronies tout his "leadership" in Chicago.

Chicago Police Brass Reclassify Murder Victims To Bring City Murder Rate Down

From The Guardian:

Stung by a 16% spike in killings in 2012 that led Moody’s, the ratings agency, to downgrade the city’s debt due to its "unrelenting public safety demands", Emanuel promised a tough response. Amid spending cuts, the former White House chief of staff to Barack Obama has ploughed tens of millions more taxpayer dollars into policing. Sure enough, in January he proudly announced that 2013 had seen the city’s fewest homicides since 1965 and lowest crime rate since 1972.

Yet a startling 7,000-word investigation earlier this month by Chicago Magazine cast serious doubt over the crime-busting miracle of Emanuel and his superintendent, Garry McCarthy. It identified at least 18 apparent murders in 2013 that had either been quietly redefined as “non-criminal deaths” or shunted off the city’s books by other statistical sleights of hand.

Professor Eli Silverman of the City University of New York, an authority on the CompStat-style data systems used by police in Chicago, New York and other major cities, told the Guardian he had been contacted by several Chicago officers concerned about the determination among chiefs to drive down crime numbers at whatever cost.

“The pressure from the top is unrelenting,” he said one had told him. “The defenders of the system always say ‘You can’t hide a dead body’,” said Silverman. “But you can reclassify one.” City authorities deny any impropriety.

Classic criminal move by Emanuel - put the pressure on from top down, then have the people below put in the statistical fixes to make everything look better.

More later from Chicago Magazine.

How Union Contracts Get Covered In The Media

From the ever municipal union-friendly NY Post:

A day after the MTA offered its workers a new contract with retroactive pay, Mayor de Blasio insisted the deal doesn’t set a precedent for the city’s ongoing negotiations with its unions.

“We have a very different reality here — we have our fiscal circumstances. We have a separate history in terms of labor relations than that which state and MTA has,” the mayor said Friday at a press conference in Brooklyn.

“So we’re going to do things our own way with our partners in municipal labor.”

Chuck Brecher, research director at the Citizens Budget Commission, agreed that the proposed MTA deal — an 8 percent raise spread over five years — doesn’t directly impact the mayor’s options.

“He doesn’t have to be bound by any other model, and to the extent there’s been pattern bargaining, the pattern is usually what’s happened to other city unions rather than state,” Brecher said.

He estimated that if the city were to follow in the MTA’s footsteps the tab this year would run about $3.5 billion — and that doesn’t even include teachers-union demands for retroactive pay dating back to 2009.

The mayor has said previously there’s no way the city could afford to pay full retroactive pay to all 152 unions that have been working under expired contracts.

Ah, but when the state pattern was the old CSEA contract of 4% over 5 years, with three years of zeroes and health care concessions, that's when the editorial boards thought de Blasio should follow the state pattern (even though, as this Post article points out, pattern bargaining is relegated to what happens in city contracts, not state contracts.)

Funny how that is.

Even funnier is how the the MTA/TWU 100 deal is being talked about as if it's some grand giveaway, even though, as NYC Educator points out here, the MTA contract actually leaves TWU 100 workers a little bit behind inflation, so it's not that swell a deal at all.

Sure, the TWU contract is better than the CSEA contract pattern that came before, but it's still not replete with a "bunch of new goodies" as the Post's resident Ayn Randian specialist Nicole Gelinas says it is.

Somehow we've gotten to this point in American culture where any contract that pays union workers just below the rate of inflation, doesn't shove too many onerous work rules on them, and only nails them with a half percent in health care concessions is "full of goodies."

Meanwhile on Wall Street, the criminals at Bank of America and Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase continue to lose money hand over fist due to bad bets and/or criminal penalties lodged by the feds for fraudulent activity and yet, they still keep paying themselves more money.

Funny how that it is too.
Can't wait to see the Nicole Gelinas piece criticizing that.

Oh, right - that's the "free market".

You know, the one with the Too Big To Fail banks who took all those government bailouts after nearly taking the world economy to total collapse.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Cuomo To Be Honored In Washington D.C. As "Champion Of Charters"

May's going to be a banner month for Andrew Cuomo and the charter entrepreneurs.

First he's hosting a ritzy education reform vacation getaway/conference in Lake Placid for charter entrepreneurs and other reformy types and now we learn that he's to be honored by the National Alliance for Public (sic) Charter Schools in D.C. alongside other charter heroes like sex criminal/Sacramento mayor Kevin "KJ" Johnson and for-profit college shill George Miller:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s support of charter schools in New York City and across the state has earned him the honor as a “Champion for Charters” from a national group at a event next month in Washington.

Cuomo was able to overstep New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in the state budget approved March 31 by allowing charter schools to co-locate at public schools, and he secured continued aid for the schools in the city and across the state.

“This year Governor Cuomo stepped in to support the charter school community in New York City at a critical time,” the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said in a news release yesterday. “He negotiated a budget deal with state lawmakers that guarantees future New York City charter schools rent-free space in under-used public school buildings or funding to offset the cost of renting a building.”

The event will be May 6 at the U.S. Capitol. It’s unclear whether Cuomo will attend; he rarely leaves the state.

He will be honored along with Nevada governor Brian Sandoval, a Republican, and Illinois senator Mark Kirk, a Republican, as well as Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, the former NBA star.

Within the Beltway, the kind of support Cuomo has shown for charters and disdain he's shown for traditional public schools is hip and cool.

But of course back in NY State, where Cuomo is facing a state-wide rebellion over his education reform policies, anger over his support for the Common Core and the Endless Testing regime, outrage over his tax cap that starves public school districts of needed funds even as he throws more and more state mandates onto them and rage over his budget that steals funds from public schools and hands them off to the already-wealthy charter entrepreneurs like Eva Moskowitz, that support is not such a slam dunk.

It wil be interesting to see if Cuomo attends his honor ceremony in the same month that he chairs the education reform conference in Lake Placid.

Given his suddenly shaky re-election prospects, with a US attorney bearing down on him for what he did (or didn't) do in the Moreland Commission investigations, with his "liberal" base pissed at him for the budget, the tax cap and his education policies, the unions pissed at him for his anti-union stances, and upstaters pissed at him over the SAFE Act and other things, I bet he'll think twice about doing two pro-charter/pro-reform events in the same month, especially considering those folks are already supporting him politically and financially.

But we'll see - Sheriff Andy has been floundering a bit of late, ever since US Attorney for the Southern District took him on publicly over the Moreland mess, so he may just decide he needs the bask and glow of the charter folks to salve his wounded ego.

MTA/TWU Contract Agreement May "Set The Floor" For Other Contract Negotiations In City And State

First, some of the details of the contract:

Under the MTA pact, members of the TWU Local 100 would receive retroactive pay increases of 1% for each of the past two years and 2% increases in each of the following three years. The deal would also give the union employees paid maternity and paternity leave, as well as increased optical and dental benefits.

In a concession to the MTA, the employees would contribute 2% of their salaries for health-care benefits, up from 1.5%. 

A person familiar with the matter said that in another concession by the union, new hires wouldn't receive full pay rates until they worked five years. 

And the effect this contract agreement may have on other municipal and state contract negotiations:

The TWU's labor deal could have implications for other bargaining units within the MTA, and potentially set a pattern for a union of Long Island Rail Road employees who have been locked in their own labor battle with the agency.

New York City is also facing difficult negotiations with its some 350,000 workers who are also seeking back pay. The city says 152 of its collective bargaining units are without contracts, with the oldest expired as long as five years ago.

Rebecca Givan, assistant professor of labor studies at Rutgers University, said the Transport Workers agreement could set a benchmark for other labor groups. "It sets a floor for the municipal unions," she said. "None of the municipal unions will now want to take anything less than this."

Harry Nespoli, head of the city's sanitation union and the Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella group of city unions, said he believes the retroactive pay increases in the MTA deal "definitely helps" the city unions in their negotiations with the de Blasio administration.

"Retroactive [pay] is very important to any of the unions that have been waiting for their contract," said Mr. Nespoli, whose union is without a contract for 2½ years.

As for concessions from the municipal unions, this contract agreement may set the floor for that too - the TWU agreed to health care concessions as part of the deal, something de Blasio wants from municipal unions:

Mr. Nespoli said he expected other unions that have outstanding contracts going further back than his union, notably the teachers union, will be settled before Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration moves to his union and others in a similar situation.

The mayor and top aides have said that the city is seeking concessions on health care, but Mr. Nespoli said he doesn't expect much progress there unless the city moves away from its position of no raises. Still, he said, the de Blasio administration deserves credit for engaging with the city unions.

"At least this administration is listening and is sitting down and talking to us and trying to get to some sort of settlement," Mr. Nespoli said. "And I hope we can get the settlement quicker than later."

One thing I'll say in this post regarding the UFT negotiations - I am completely against any health care concessions that has employees paying any of their health care.

Once that line is breached, every contract we'll be conceding more and more to health care costs.

You can see how that happened in this contract - from 1.5% for health care costs to 2%.

It goes up every contract, eating away whatever future raises you get.

I would rather take a zero on a year of retro than agree to pay any health care costs because in the long run, the 1% you get for a year of retro will be far outweighed by the money they take for health care costs that will just go up and up and up...

Best to keep the line on health care concessions for as long as you can, because once that line is breached, it never stops.

Funny What An Election Year Can Do To Politicians

Cuomo in January talking about contract negotiations:

Meeting with the Daily News Editorial Board Wednesday, the governor went out of his way to point out that he had negotiated state worker contracts that included three years of zero raises.

He did so in the aftermath of the national economic downturn, a time when inflation was essentially zero. Mayor Bloomberg took the same stance with the city’s unions, after having granted them generous raises for most of his tenure.

The unions chose to wait for the election of a new, presumably labor-friendlier mayor. They got de Blasio, and they now want him to ante up as much as $7.8 billion in back pay.

At the same time, Cuomo has taken his no-raise stance into negotiations over a lapsed contract that extends back to the same time period.

“We’re still trying to negotiate with the TWU, which is the subway workers’ union,” the governor said. “And it’s along the same parameters of three zeroes. So when you talk about the New York City labor unions and retroactive raises, that’s the pattern that has been set by the state unions: three zeroes.”

Asked if his fellow Democrat at City Hall should follow suit, Cuomo replied: “I don’t want to tell the mayor how to negotiate his contracts, but that’s how we negotiated ours.”

The message was clear: He wants de Blasio on the same page for the good of all taxpayers.

Cuomo yesterday:

Ending a two-year impasse, the MTA and the union for subway and bus workers in the city have agreed to a new contract that includes 8% raises over five years and no increase to the base fare, Gov. Cuomo announced Thursday.

The deal, brokered with the help of the governor, calls for the 34,000 members of the Transport Workers Union Local 100 to receive 1% retroactive pay raises for 2012 and 2013, and 2% pay increases for 2014 through 2016.

The deal also includes two weeks’ paid maternity and paternity leave, and improved dental and optical benefits.

“It was a long negotiation,” said Tom Prendergast, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “What we have here is a fair wage settlement for employees, an agreement consistent with our financial plan.”

The agreement, which must be approved by the MTA board, came after Local 100 President John Samuelsen wrote to Cuomo on Tuesday night, requesting that he help overcome stumbling blocks in negotiations.

The terms of the deal are likely to influence contract talks with several other MTA unions, particularly ones for LIRR workers.

Cuomo said the deal would have little bearing, however, on Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to reach settlements with 152 municipal unions whose workers are laboring under expired contracts.
“I think these are separate situations,” Cuomo said. “The mayor will negotiate his contracts separately.”

This contract deal shows how desperate Cuomo was to avoid labor strife in an election year, especially the kind that leads to strike threats from the subways and/or rail unions.

It now works for city unions as a nice argument against the city or the newspaper editorial boards when they say full retro/increases every year in a contract are not possible.

Hey, Cuomo signed off on them, of course they're possible, that's the response when the concern trolls at the News or Post say the city can't afford either.

And any argument that the CSEA pattern holds for the city negotiations, a dubious argument before hand, though one that was pushed by Cuomo, is dead with this TWU 100 deal.

Clearly Cuomo is feeling a little squirrel-y over his re-election campaign prospects or he wouldn't have pushed the MTA to break the CSEA pattern.

Too bad the TWU 100 leadership didn't press him more.

Given the flak Cuomo is taking over Moreland, given the worries Cuomo has about a third party candidate entering the race and taking votes away from him, given the concerns he has about his "liberal" base and the unions abandoning him, and given his need to avoid even the talk of a transit strike by either MTA or LIRR workers in the months leading up to Election Day, I think they could have ultimately gotten more than they got.

That said, municipal union negotiators should be smiling today because they just got an early Christmas gift for their own negotiations with NYC.

Except for the UFT, of course, who will no doubt look to make the worst deal possible regardless and tell us it "scrapes the skies."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

More Details On TWU 100 Contract

More from Dana Rubenstein at Capital NY on the TWU 100 contract:

After two long years of stop-and-go negotiations, Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Transport Workers Union had struck a tentative labor contract deal.

The announcement, which was light on details, includes five years of annual wage increases, including 1 percent in the first two years, and 2 percent in each of the final three years, paid maternity and paternity leave, improved optical and dental benefits, and, noted union president John Samuelson, pointedly, "no zeros."

"The union believes that we've achieved many of the goals that we set out to achieve," said Samuelson.

Though the deal, which represents most subway and bus workers, does include small worker increases in health care contributions ("from 1.5 to 2 percent," according to Prendegast), the deal comes with no specific work rule reforms and appears, as a whole, to be a win for the T.W.U.

And the effect on the city unions:

As Steven Greenhouse noted when he broke news of the impending deal yesterday: "if the transit workers receive a contract that contains substantial raises, that could increase pressure on Mr. de Blasio to award sizable raises, when the city already says it cannot afford."

I think one can say one definitive thing about this contract settlement:

Cuomo is not all that comfortable with his re-election prospects.

Otherwise he wouldn't have been pushing the MTA to break the pattern set for state contracts by CSEA back in 2011.

Cuomo Announces Contract Deal Between MTA And TWU 100 - Raises In Each Year + Full Retro (UPDATE - 3:27 PM)

Here's a TWU 100 update:

Cuomo was asked at the press conference if this new TWU 100 contract sets the pattern for city contracts (no link, I was watching it live.)

Remember that he said a few months ago that the state pattern set the pattern for the city too.

That was when the pattern was three years of wage freezes and 4% over the final two years of a five year contract - the pattern set by the CSEA contract in 2011.

But now Cuomo says the state pattern is "separate" from the city pattern, de Blasio has his own negotiations to handle that are separate from the state's.

Funny how that changed.

More later as we get more details on the contract.

The big news appears to be there is a raise in each year of the contract and full retro for TWU 100 workers.

But the devil is, as always, in the details.

UPDATED - 3:27 PM:

So less than half the 17% recommended by the federal panel but a little more than double the CSEA deal that set the pattern back in 2011.

Also, there's this:

Not a great deal, in my opinion, given the panel recommendations and the leverage the unions had over Cuomo in a re-election year when he in no way wanted even the threat of a summer subway or LIRR strike.

But the deal does allow the city unions to claim full retro has to be on the table since TWU 100 says that's what they got.

Cuomo Appoints Geoffrey Canada To Smart School Initiative Commission That Looks To Upgrade Classrooms For Online Testing

Another day, another Cuomo commission - this one a commission to make recommendations for what to do with $2 billion in "Smart School Initiative" bond money Cuomo hopes to get the public to pass in order to provide "smart classrooms" (i.e., classrooms wired for online testing) in schools:

Though voters are yet to consider a $2 billion bond act for education infrastructure and technology upgrades at New York schools, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday named a commission that would provide recommendations on how best to spend the money.

Included on the commission is Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman and former CEO of Google, a company that is best known for its search engine, but has also entered the laptop and tablet computer market in recent years.

In addition, Cuomo is also turning to Harlem Children’s Zone President and CEO Geoffrey Canada and Constance Evelyn, Superintendent of the Auburn School District in Cayuga County.
“It is a simple fact that disparity remains in our education system, with some schools providing tablets in the first grade and others where the most sophisticated piece of electronic equipment is the metal detector that students walk through on the way to the classroom,” Cuomo said in a statement. “In the State of the State, we called for a $2 billion Smart Schools Initiative to transform our classrooms from the classrooms of yesterday to the classrooms of tomorrow. This panel will help guide this bold initiative and reimagine our classrooms to provide New York’s students with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century economy.”
The $2 billion borrowing proposal still has to be approved by voters, who are due to consider the ballot referendum this fall.

Cuomo proposed the bond act in January as way to improve technology in the classroom as well as potentially build more space for pre-Kindergarten programs.

Gotta love that Cuomo thinks it's a big plus that some districts are giving tablets to first graders - that tells you everything you need to know about how Cuomo is looking to have this bond money spent.

Strike one.

That he stuck Canada on the commission is strike two and the Google CEO is strike three for me.

I am opposing the Smart Schools Initiative because it's clear Cuomo plans to use the money as a boondoggle for his tech buddies, not to build new schools or provide more classroom space for smaller class sizes.

You know what smart classrooms are?

They're ones where students have the adequate resources to learn, including computer and Internet technology when appropriate, but also enjoy small class sizes and personalized contact with their teachers.

This is not what Cuomo plans to use the money for, however.

Rather, he seems to envision this:

Daily News: Cuomo Stepping In To Broker MTA/TWU 100 Deal (UPDATE - 1:50 PM)

As surmised in this morning's NY Times piece, Governor Cuomo is indeed stepping in to broker a deal between the MTA and TWU 100 over deadlocked contract negotiations that has brought about the possibility of a summer transit strike hitting just months before Cuomo hopes to get re-elected:

Gov. Cuomo is stepping into the heated contract talks between the MTA and the union representing 34,000 transit workers, the Daily News has learned.

Cuomo has been claiming the three wage freeze CSEA and PEF agreed to as part of their five year contracts set a "state pattern" that city unions must follow in contract negotiations with de Blasio.

The MTA has stuck to the three year wage freeze and 2% in each of the final two years of a five year contract in their negotiations with TWU 100 despite an arbitration board handing over a non-binding deal that gives 17% raises over five years and no freezes.

If Cuomo brokers a deal that is anything different than what he forced CSEA and PEF to take early on in his administration, the state pattern is effectively broken from the one set in 2011.

I would argue that the state pattern has nothing to do with the city pattern in any case, but the argument that Cuomo (and apparently de Blasio, according to a PBA ad noted by James Eterno at ICEUFT blog) has been pushing, that the CSEA contract of 4% over 5 years with three years of wage freezes, sets the patterns for all city and state unions would effectively be dead.

This is something to watch closely because it has implications for city workers.

UPDATE - 12:45 PM: Here is what deal is supposedly on the table:

The MTA and the union representing subway and bus workers in the city are close to reaching an agreement on a new contract that would grant workers an 8% raise over five years, according to sources familiar with the talks.

Under the package now on the table, new hires would have to work for five years before reaching the top pay rate, an increase of two years, and worker contributions to health care costs would rise to 2% of base pay, from 1.5%, the sources said.


The potential breakthrough was being closely watched by workers in other MTA unions, particularly Long Island Rail Road employees, due to the possibility it could set a precedent. The MTA had previously insisted that workers accept a three-year wage freeze.

If true, this is nowhere near the 17% the arbitration board granted, but it does break the 4% over five years deal that CSEA took.

CORRECTION - 1:50 PM: Earlier I posted that ICEUFT blog had been sent information about the city's contract offer to the PBA. That was incorrect. ICEUFT blog was simply noting a PBA ad that had been run in the Daily News that said the police had been offered the CSEA pattern of a three year wage freeze and 4% over the final two years of a five year deal.

MTA Pulls What Amounted To Taxpayer-Funded Cuomo Campaign Ad

Colby Hamilton at DNAinfo:

CIVIC CENTER —  The MTA will pull a subway advertisement that thanked Gov. Andrew Cuomo for helping to secure $4 billion in federal funding for Hurricane Sandy-related transit repairs, an MTA spokesman said on Wednesday, after DNAinfo New York contacted the agency earlier in the week.


The ad, which began appearing inside subway cars last month, begin with the line, "We're not just rebuilding, we're improving." They go on to highlight the agency’s “Fix & Fortify” program, which the ads claim “is restoring New York’s transportation system to pre-Sandy condition and will make it less vulnerable to future storms.”

The ad then go on to thank “Governor Cuomo, the FTA and FEMA” for “$4 billion in federal funding” being used to pay for the work.


The MTA spokesman said although the timing coincided with the start of Cuomo's re-election efforts, the ad had nothing to do with “election year politics."

Sure it didn't.

Hamilton asked the Cuomo administration if they had anything to do with the ad and got this:

Cuomo’s office declined to comment, referring questions to the MTA.

If Cuomo's office had nothing to do with the ad, why won;t they go on record saying that?

Cuomo May Break CSEA Contract Pattern For MTA, Has Implications For City Contract Negotiations

James Eterno at ICEUFT posted this morning that in its municipal contract negotiations the city is offering the pattern first set by Governor Cuomo and CSEA back in 2010 - a five year contract with 0% for the first three years, 2% in the fourth year and 2% in the fifth year.

Cuomo said publicly that the CSEA pattern set the pattern for municipal contracts as well as state contracts, although in the past these two patterns had been different.

But this morning the NY Times reports that Cuomo is on the verge of breaking the CSEA/PEF pattern to avoid an election-year transit strike at the MTA and LIRR:

More than two years after its contract expired, the union representing New York City’s subway and bus workers is involved in intense negotiations with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and appears on the cusp of reaching a new contract, union and government officials said Wednesday.

The officials said the union, Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, was likely to receive a sizable raise as part of a lengthy contract for 34,000 transit workers as the authority appears to have moved away from its earlier demands for a three-year wage freeze.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials had been insisting that unions at NYC Transit and the Long Island Rail Road accept the same three-year pay freeze that the main state employee unions had accepted, although labor leaders predicted that the demand would lead to a strike by railroad workers in July.

Vincent Pitta, a lawyer for the Transport Workers Union, said the anticipated deal for the union — by establishing a new, more generous pattern — could help avoid a railroad strike. Such a strike would affect 300,000 daily commuters and could hurt Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo when he is running for re-election.

“Frankly, it’s an election year,” Mr. Pitta said. “I don’t think any governor would want a strike on the Long Island Rail Road in an election year.”

Does de Blasio still get to claim the CSEA pattern if the TWU 100 gets a more generous pattern from the state?

Let's just say it changes things

Government officials are debating how a deal between the Transport Workers Union and the authority could affect the city’s own municipal labor talks. Governor Cuomo had been urging city officials to adhere to the three-year freeze pattern that he had won from the state’s unions, but the city’s unions were bridling at such a demand.

But if the Transport Workers win a contract that does not include such a pay freeze, that would mean there would be less pressure on Mayor Bill de Blasio to win a wage freeze.

At the same time, if the transit workers receive a contract that contains substantial raises, that could increase pressure on Mr. de Blasio to award sizable raises, when the city already says it cannot afford the billions of dollars in retroactive raises that the city’s municipal unions are seeking.

TWU 100 has Cuomo over a barrel and they ought to press their demands home.

He doesn't want a strike right before an election, particularly since the MTA doesn't have a leg to stand on by demanding the three year wage freeze after arbitrators returned a suggested deal that contained 17 percent wage hikes and no freeze.

And if TWU 100 gets a more generous pattern, then that breaks the CSEA/PEF pattern and neither Cuomo nor de Blasio can claim city unions have to take the three year wage freeze in a five year contract.

I would argue in any case that the CSEA contract doesn't set the pattern for city contracts, but if Cuomo steps in and forces the MTA to give TWU 100 anything other than a three year wage freeze and 4% over the last two years of a five year contract, the argument that the CSEA pattern stands for city contracts is dead.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How Will NYSED Defend These Lawsuits Against APPR?

Rochester teachers filed suit over the APPR teacher evaluation system last month, now Syracuse teachers file suit as well:

The Syracuse Teachers Association sued the state Education Department today over its teacher evaluation system, arguing that the system unfairly penalizes teachers of disadvantaged students.
The suit was filed in state Supreme Court in Albany by the STA and about 30 city teachers. It was backed by New York State United Teachers.

The suit also named state Education Commissioner John King, the Board of Regents and three "necessary party" defendants -- the Syracuse school district, the school board and Superintendent Sharon Contreres.

The evaluation system led to about 35 percent of Syracuse teachers getting "developing" or "ineffective" ratings in 2012-13 after appeals were decided. Those are the two lowest ratings in the four-tier system.

About 5 percent of teachers across the state got those ratings. In Onondaga County outside of Syracuse, only 1.8 percent of teachers were rated in the lowest two categories.

Specifically, the STA said the Education Department failed to recognize the full impacts of poverty on students when it set the standards on student improvement on the state's fourth- through eighth-grade math and English language arts tests.

It also objected to the rules for local assessment of how much students improved. It said the system violated teachers' rights to fair evaluations and equal protection under the law.

The suit notes that on the 60 percent of the evaluations that were based on principal observations and other factors not related to test scores, 98 percent of Syracuse teachers scored "effective" or "highly effective."

It will be interesting to follow these lawsuits and see how SED defends against the charges.

Aaron Pallas wrote this week that SED has yet to release the technical reports for last year's tests:

New York sent teachers’ Mean Growth Percentile scores to its 700 school districts in August 2013, which enabled teachers to receive their overall evaluation scores and categories by September 1, 2013. But no one—neither teachers, parents, journalists nor researchers—has had access to the information necessary to evaluate either the quality of the tests or the quality of the Mean Growth Percentiles. That’s because the technical reports that tell us about last year’s state assessments have yet to be released to the public.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Last week, the state of New York began administration of this year’s Common Core-aligned assessments—before the state has released information about the quality of last year’s tests. There’s no timetable for the release of Pearson’s technical report on the 2013 tests, which differ substantially in form and difficulty from previous years.

New York is taking a huge risk in producing growth percentiles (and, in the future, value-added scores) from student test data before the technical reports are finalized. If an error were to be found in the testing report—a test item not behaving appropriately, but still being used to calculate a student’s score—then all of the growth percentile/value-added scores on which those test scores rely would have to be recalculated. That would do grave damage to the legitimacy of the APPR system.

Clearly SED is scrambling over the reports or they would have had them released already.

They will be needed in order for SED to defend against these suits.

I'm no lawyer, but I can't imagine too many judges will take SED at their word when they say, "You know, judge, we don't have the formulas for the test scores we based these evaluations on ready for you, but take our word for it, they're really, really swell and accurate."

No Surprise - Study Says U.S. Is An Oligarchy

The more money you have, the more say you get in how things get run:

A new study by researchers from Princeton and Northwestern Universities finds that America's government policies reflect the wishes of the rich and of powerful interest groups, rather than the wishes of the majority of citizens. 

The researchers examined close to 1,800 U.S. policy changes in the years between 1981 and 2002; then, they compared those policy changes with the expressed preferences of the median American, at the 50th percentile of income; with affluent Americans, at the 90th percentile of income; and with the position of powerful interest and lobbying groups.
The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. Our results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism...
Recent research by Larry Bartels and by one of the present authors (Gilens), which explicitly brings the preferences of "affluent" Americans into the analysis along with the preferences of those lower in the income distribution, indicates that the apparent connection between public policy and the preferences of the average citizen may indeed be largely or entirely spurious.
The theory of Economic Elite Domination is fairly self-explanatory. The theory of Biased Pluralism holds that policy outcomes "tend to tilt towards the wishes of corporations and business and professional associations." In essence, the researchers found that government policy changes are correlated with the wishes of the wealthy and with interest groups, but not with the wishes of the average American—even though the whole idea of "Democracy" is to ensure that the wishes of the majority tend to carry the day.

In short, we live in a "fake democracy" that is really an oligarchy run by our economic elites.

Ravitch: Andrew Cuomo Had His Tentacles In The Paterson Administration

Richard Ravitch is publishing a memoir that says Andrew Cuomo's been running things longer than you think:

In the summer of 2009, Republicans who lost their half-century control of the Senate mounted a coup with three dissident Democrats. That power struggle gridlocked the legislature for weeks until the dissidents struck deals for lucrative leadership posts in return for going back into the Democratic fold.

"It was about this time that Andrew Cuomo, now viewed as the inevitable victor in the 2010 gubernatorial election, began to make his presence felt within the Paterson administration," Ravitch writes.

"It was nothing formal. But Paterson, after the string of scandals that beset his administration, never recovered his authority; people on Paterson's staff, as well as senior civil servants, became increasingly responsive to public and private statements made by the governor-in-waiting."

Cuomo behind the scenes

Ravitch wrote "it was clear" that Lawrence Schwartz, both Paterson's chief of staff and now Cuomo's top aide, "was already taking directions from the attorney general. Cuomo had the good taste not to try to pre-empt Governor Paterson's authority explicitly, but everyone inside the apparatus had a clear sense that the transition of power was well on its way."

Ravitch said Cuomo's criticism sank the fiscal rescue Ravitch was appointed to create in the wake of the state's worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression. Later, when speculation ran rampant that Paterson would resign, Ravitch said Cuomo called to ask whom Ravitch would appoint as lieutenant governor.

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi had no immediate comment yesterday. Paterson didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ravitch, a Democrat who had key roles in the 1970s in saving New York City from bankruptcy, will release his memoir, "So Much To Do: A Full Life of Business, Politics and Confronting Fiscal Crises," on April 23. Public Affairs is the publisher.

Cuomo essentially calling the shots as governor even when he was still just attorney general.

Classic control-freak behavior from a classic control freak.

Buffalo News: Opt-Out Movement Gains Steam, Notice Of State Educrats

On the margins no more:

A boycott movement that has turned state standardized tests into a battleground is dividing school districts across the region and drawing the attention of state education leaders.

Roughly 7 percent of students in third through eighth grade in Erie and Niagara counties refused to take a state English exam earlier this month.

But in some districts, 15 to 28 percent of the students who should have taken the exam did not pick up their No. 2 pencils.

State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. last week called the students and parents who opted out across the state a “small but meaningful percentage.”


Standardized tests have been required by federal No Child Left Behind education law for years. But an overhaul of learning standards and a decision to use the scores for a portion of teacher evaluations have fueled concerns over the way the tests are shaping public education. 

The parents’ message appears to have been heard in Albany. 

King, in a speech at New York University last week, said a “small but meaningful percentage of parents and students” who opted out of the new state assessments had “made their voices heard even if they are now denying themselves and their teachers the opportunity to know how their children are performing against a common benchmark used throughout the state.”

King grouped the test refusals in with a long list of noisy protests over education – from the ouster of New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi last week to a series of public forums dominated by complaints over state education policy last fall. 

“I try to focus on outcomes for students and to leave ideology and politics aside,” King said. “These days, however, New York politics seems to be all about education, and it’s hard to find any agreements on facts – let alone policy. And it’s also hard to see where everyone stands.”

Love it that King says he's leaving ideology and politics aside in this battle when the truth is, ideology and politics are at the core of the education reform fight.

King and his educrats want to call all of the shots in education, want to ensure that only what they want taught in classrooms all across the state gets taught and they use the tests and the teacher evaluations tied to the tests to accomplish that goal.

Can't get more political than that.

Chris Cerrone, parent and teacher, knows that and offers the Buffalo News a solution for taking King and the educrats on:

The goal of the parents is clear: to scale back the number of state standardized exams that are tied to teacher evaluations and school performance.

“It is making a political statement that we’re not going to let our children be used to evaluate teachers,” said Chris Cerrone, a Springville resident who frequently blogs about anti-testing efforts and who directed his two elementary school children to refuse the state English assessment this month.

Like many of the parents whose children opted out of the exams, Cerrone is also a teacher. But when Cerrone speaks out against testing, he said, he speaks as a parent concerned that his children receive a “well-rounded education.”

“It’s also to throw a monkey wrench into the system,” Cerrone said. “If a statistical number of students do boycott, then the tests are not valid for the purposes to judge a school or teachers, and I think that’s part of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Starve the system of its precious data and you kill the political and ideological movement behind the system.

King can make believe he's above politics all he wants - he's as political in this fight as anybody else and he's on the wrong side of the politics.

I spent Monday with some family members and the subject of testing and education came up.

These are retired people, none of them teachers, but they had all heard about the opt-out movement and the damage the tests and the Common Core were doing to children.

One aunt said she had heard a story of how the children who used to love to go to school hated to go to school now because of the Common Core and the testing.

I often use family members as canaries in the coalmine to gauge how a particular story is playing out with the general public.

In the case of the Endless Testing regime and the Common Core, the trajectory does not seem to be going John King's way, not if my family members are any indication of what the public perception of the battle is.

The opt-out movement is gaining steam, gaining adherents, and some positive press coverage.

I can't imagine why John King's "Shut Up And Take Your Test!" movement isn't so popular with the public.

Wall Street Journal Covers ATR's

The Wall Street Journal reports that the ATR issue is a major part of the contract discussion:

As negotiations drag on over a new contract for the city's teachers, one sticky issue involves how to handle teachers who lost permanent jobs during cutbacks but keep getting full paychecks as they bounce around schools for brief stints, filling in for absent staff.
Hundreds spend years in limbo. A city Department of Education analysis in July said the group's size fluctuates but totaled 1,186 teachers last spring and cost at least $105 million last year in salaries and benefits—after counting the savings from not hiring regular substitutes.
Representatives for Mayor Bill de Blasio and the United Federation of Teachers confirmed that how to treat the group, called the Absent Teacher Reserve, is under discussion as they hammer out a contract to replace one that expired in 2009. They declined to comment further. Other major issues include back pay and raises.

The WSJ goes to the famed Educators4Excellence, an astroturf group of dozens of mostly ex-teachers now on the Gates Foundation payroll, for context on the ATR issue early in the article:

Educators 4 Excellence-New York, an advocacy group of more than 8,000 teachers, plans to release a policy brief Wednesday recommending that teachers in the pool get two April-to-August hiring seasons to find jobs. The brief argues that if they don't get hired within that period, they should be put on unpaid leave.

"Two hiring cycles strikes a balance between providing a fair opportunity for teachers to find a new teaching position and at the same time provides schools and the system the autonomy they need," said Jonathan Schleifer, executive director.

They get a couple of statements from ATR's, one of which seems to back up the E4E argument:

David Levin, a 13-year teacher in his fourth year in the pool in the Bronx, said it isn't his fault principals usually prefer to hire cheaper "newbies." He makes $80,987 a year.

Mr. Levin said the system should be fixed somehow—perhaps by deploying these teachers as mentors or extra help in difficult classrooms. It is hard for substitute teachers to keep students under control because there is little time to learn their names and behavior, he said. In one class, rowdy teenagers turned off the lights and started throwing chairs. "I don't know the students, the culture or the school," he said. "The kids act out."

Pasqual Pelosi, a language arts teacher in the Bronx pool who makes $75,937 a year, said his 12 years of experience were being squandered. He said at times he thinks shuttling teachers to different schools weekly is designed to wear them down so they quit in disgust.

"There's plenty of frustration," he said.

Among the frustrations over his career, Pelosi acknowledged facing several accusations, including an instance of alleged corporal punishment. 

"Any teacher who has been around for as long as I have is bound to have had some sort of allegations lodged," he said, adding that was especially true for a "disciplinarian" such as himself. "Nothing has been proven against me," he said.

And of course the Journal provides the two page Educators4Excellence "policy paper" putting forth the "Fire The ATR's" policy, along with quotes from education reform shills at StudentsFirstNY and The New Teacher Project, to slam home the idea that the ATR's are valueless employees.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew is given the last word, however:

The union's Mr. Mulgrew said nearly three-quarters of the teachers in the pool get permanent jobs within three years. "Our studies show that the most important single factor is money," he said. "The least experienced (and thus cheaper) teachers are the first to be selected."

If they ended the "fair funding" system that had schools paying for teacher salaries dollar for dollar out of their own budgets and went back to the system at large covering the salaries of teachers, many of the ATR's would be hire.

The truth is, so long as the dollars come straight out of the individual school budget, an administrators is always going to look to hire the $50,000 candidate over the $80,000 candidate.

Bloomberg Still An Arrogant Ass

The NY Times publishes a piece on Bloomberg and his gun control work this morning and at the end, we get this statement from Mayor Mike:

Mr. Bloomberg was introspective as he spoke, and seemed both restless and wistful. When he sat down for the interview, it was a few days before his 50th college reunion. His mortality has started dawning on him, at 72. And he admitted he was a bit taken aback by how many of his former classmates had been appearing in the “in memoriam” pages of his school newsletter.

But if he senses that he may not have as much time left as he would like, he has little doubt about what would await him at a Judgment Day. Pointing to his work on gun safety, obesity and smoking cessation, he said with a grin: “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”

A little man with an ego so fevered he thinks even "God" will bow to his wishes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why Is Andrew Cuomo Being Paid So Much Money For His Memoir?

This is an awful lot of money for a book that nobody is going to read, let alone buy:

Gov. Cuomo’s memoir doesn’t hit bookstores until August but he’s already reaping the fiscal rewards.

Cuomo’s 2013 tax return – which was made available to reporters Tuesday afternoon - shows he received $188,333 from the first installment of his book advance. The advance boosted his adjusted gross income to $358,448, nearly double the amount of the previous year. The governor also paid $35,127 in legal fees related to the book.

The 384 page book, “All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life,” is scheduled to be released Aug 5. Administration officials declined to say how many more advances the governor would receive from publisher HarperCollins.

Guess who owns the publisher which is putting Cuomo's memoir out and paying him so much cash for it?

You guessed it - Andy's old pal, Rupert Murdoch.

A vanity project for sure, meant to pay Cuomo back for his corporate-friendly policies with some cash and some p.r.

Cuomo's not the first politician to get paid cash for a book that no one's going to read or buy.

And $188,000+ is nowhere near a record for an advance to a politician for a book.

But it still raises my bullshit meter because I can't imagine HarperCollins sells many of Sheriff Andy's memoir.