Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New York May 1 Coalition



Beat Back the Arizona Attack!
ALL OUT for May Day – Union Square, 14th St – Noon
Being at Union Square on May 1, many thousands strong will be an important part of overturning racist, anti-immigrant legislation just passed in Arizona. This is an intense week. We have the ability to send a powerful message of outrage and solidarity.

Here is the schedule:
* Come by any afternoon or evening to pick up full color, glossy May 1 Union Square flyers and posters for last minute distributions.
* Help on the Tues, Wed, Thurs 2pm to 8pm work sessions. Thousands of signs, placards and banners have to be put together.
* Wed at 4pm major press conference of immigrant activists at Union Square, 14th St & Broadway organized by Rebel Diaz and May 1 Workers and Immigrant Rights Coalition with the demand BOYCOTT ARIZONA
* Wed at 6:30 at 55 West 17th St, 5th Floor, May 1 Workers and Immigrant Rights Coalition Last Meeting before May Day
* On Thursday, April 29 there is a major union rally at 4pm called Show Down on Wall Street. Gather at City Hall for Rally, then March. Help us distribute thousands of May 1 Union Square flyers and signs. Come to the office at 55 W 17th St by 2pm or meet us and pick up material for distribution at Murray & Broadway, across from City Hall from 3:30 on. (Call or TEXT preferred to 646-353-2708 or 201-388-7428 to find us in City Hall area or at Wall Street.)
* See you SATURDAY – MAY DAY - NOON at Union Square, 14th St & Broadway.
We need help from 7 am and on through the day with set-up, sound, security and distributions.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Separate and Unequal school system in 'liberal' NYC" - GRIT TV

Apr 14, 2010 "If you're a white student and you arrive at the public elementary school building on 95th Street and Third Avenue, you'll probably walk through the front door. If you're a black student, you'll probably come in through the back. So reported the Village Voice on one of New York's best-kept secrets: its public schools are some of the most segregated public schools in the country. The schools have two tiers: one for affluent white families who pump private funds into THEIR kids classrooms, and another for largely minority, poor communities-- underfunded, underserved and overcrowded: 43% have severe space problems, and the recession ensures that no help is in sight. GRITtv went to Donna Nevel, an advocate for fairer schools in New York, for her take."
Distributed by Tubemogul.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Charter School Invasion Hearing At PS 123 Harlem - Dist.5

excerpts from Norm Scott's Report:

"PS 123/Harlem Success hearing: April 12, 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

City Councilwoman Inez Dickens rouses the crowd at PS 123 over the tactics of Eva Moskowitz' Harlem Success Academy

I was at the rousing PS 123/Harlem Success invasion hearing on Monday April 12 and it's been wonderful to see this Harlem school community get themselves organized. The teachers and parents did an amazing job. They even had posters made up of the Klein/Moskowitz letters. GEM has been involved since the end of the last school year and was there with our banner this time too. ...

A change in charter school strategy
The absence of charter school parents and teachers at both hearings was noticeable. This seems to mark a new strategy - charter schools around the city often work under a joint plan. They now seem to be keeping their parents away from these hearings. Why bother? They know these hearings have no impact. In addition, some of the charter school parents may have been affected - and infected- by the host schools' passionate defense.

The PEP to endorse the invasions will take place next Tuesday (Apr. 20 at 6pm) at Prospect Heights HS campus in Brooklyn. We know that the public schools will be out there. Will the charter schools feel it necessary to organize their troops (with buses and pizza and who knows what else) for the PEP when it is a fait accompi? (Repeat this 5 times and see if it has a beat.)
Where is the UFT?
As far as I could tell there was no UFT presence to support the PS 123 community, but I left early. GEM, on the other hand, had a strong presence and has developed an excellent relationship with the 123 community and some other schools in Harlem. The Coalition for Public Education (CPE) also came out in support (GEM and the CPE are developing strong lines of communication.)

The ambivalent nature of the UFT response to charter school invasions is obvious, given that two UFT charter schools have invaded space in public schools (George Gershwin MS which I went to is one).

With Harlem being the epicenter of the invasions, there seems to be a stronger UFT response coming with this announcement from District 5 UFT rep Dwayne Clark. Is this the usual UFT holding action to give the impression of a response to keep GEM and the CPE from making inroads? Or is it a legitimate turn in direction regarding charter schools on the part of the UFT? Or are we seeing a local action on the part of Dwayne Clark who must clearly be perturbed at what is happening to the schools in District 5? (Last summer a retired UFT District Rep was at the rallies). Note the language used below borrows from GEM by calling it a "charter school invasion" instead of the DOE term "co-location" the UFT has been using.

Can GEM, the CPE and the UFT work together on these charter school issues? GEM member Antoine Bogard is the chapter leader at PS 197 and is supportive of this UFT initiative. While I don't think the leadership is changing direction (the UFT charters are like any other avaricious charter and looking to expand), I do think that we all can work locally together. The GEM ally CAPE group in PS 15 has maintained a good relationship with the UFT with the idea that they will take all the support they can get in their battle against Goliath.

I am curious why PS 241 and PS 30, which both have HSA Evil Mousekawitch schools in them, are not included.

UNITED FEDERATION OF TEACHERS CHARTER SCHOOL INVASION PROTESTS MONDAY APRIL 19, 2010@ 7:15 A.M.PS 197M SCHOOL ENTRANCEChapter Leaders of PS 175, PS 92, CAH, PS 194, PS 197, PS 123, and PS 133: The UFT is engaging in an action on Monday, April 19th in the morning before school begins. We are asking that your school have at least 3 - 5 members leaflet outside your school because you have a Charter school in your building or geographically located near your school. This campaign does not involve the entire District but your school was selected. I will be providing you with flyers at Friday's Chapter Leaders meeting for Monday morning distribution. Please start speaking to your members to volunteer to leaflet outside your school. Your support in this endeavor is greatly appreciated. I will see you on Friday.

Dwayne Clark, UFT District 5 Representative
52 Broadway- 10th floor
New York, NY 10004
212-598-6800- work
212-510-6424- fax

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ms. Smith Goes to Washington

GEM's Diane Smith sent in this report from the demo in Washington DC this past Saturday at the education department. They had a great time joining other teachers from around the nation calling for Arne Duncan's canning. Or caning. Pics to follow.

I am writing a short note to let you know we had a successful trip to DC yesterday. Me Lisa and Chris, (student leader from Beach Channel) traveled down together. We met up with Seung and his wife, Radio Rahim (R), Annamarie and Jennifer (from CPE).

There were dedicated teachers, students and parents from Detroit, Florida, California Pennsylvania and more. After the rally and march we were treated to a pizza lunch by BAMN and we participated in a group discussion over in the AFT. It was telling to listen to the personal stories and hear the similarities that are going on all over the country. The Detroit teachers bus broke down,they never made it to DC so Steve Conn called in and spoke over speakerphone. The youth contingent from Philly PA was encouraging--they spoke on the devastation at their schools.

A teacher from Florida talked passionately as she requested help to organize the teachers and people there. Chris was so moved by her pleas and learning of the dire problems taking place over there he had begun formulating plans in the car on how to get down to Florida this week to help.

Chris's student leadership, initiative and dedication is inspirational and a godsend. You will witness this for yourself as you watch the video of the speech he gave on the steps of the US Department of Education!

Our ride home was blessed with the company of R and Jennifer. This really made the trip extra special. With all the sharing and getting to know one another I don't think anybody minded the tight squeeze in the car.

Unfortunately, I am having difficulties downloading the pics and video. I will fill you in on more details soon --for now, I would just like to say a big thank you to everyone who participated and a special thank you to Chris for a spectacular job representing the NYC student youth.

Looking forward to sharing more with you as soon as I get it all together


Friday, April 9, 2010

Next GEM Meeting: Tuesday, April 13



You are cordially invited to Come to the GEM Meeting to Discuss and Plan Next Steps For:

· The fight Against School Closures and Co-locations

· Setting up School-Based Committees

· Literature Needed to Help Build our Movement

Tuesday APRIL 13, 2010

4:30 pm - 7:00 pm


ROOM 5414

365 Fifth Ave @ 34th St

N, R, D, F, Q, B, W, V, 6, 2/3 Trains to 34th St

Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) is a group of mostly educators that has been fighting against the charter take-overs, school closings, high-stakes testing, mayoral control and all other forms of attacks on public education and against the push to privatize our public schools.

We are meeting to talk about next steps in the fight against charter take-overs, school closings and to find concrete ways for all those concerned with education to get involved in this growing nation-wide fight-back.

One important aspect of our work will be to build school-based committees to involve educators and families in the process of educating ourselves, building a collective vision of what we are fighting for.

We are fighting for quality public education for all children.

We hope to develop a strong base of active citizens that will hold our government and corporate entities accountable for this unprecedented attack on our work, our students and families in our communities.

If you think you might be interested in getting involved with this work, if you are curious about what it will take to win this fight, or if you just want to listen, please join us on Tuesday April 13th for this very important meeting.










Friday, April 2, 2010

GEM Points of Unity

GEM has been working on these POU for almost a year and they are still a work in progress. Here they are as of March 2010.

Points of Unity: Grassroots Education Movement

WHERE WE STAND: We support public education and reject the assumption that the private sector can more effectively provide public services. A democratic society is dependent upon the success of its public education system. Attacks on public education undermine democracy. In order to create a meaningful educational reform movement, it is vital that teachers, parents, students, school workers and community members organize and unite with the common goal of defending and improving public education.

•Every child deserves a high quality free public education. The struggle for free quality public education is a civil and human rights issue. No matter the race, socioeconomic background, gender, home language or neighborhood, every child deserves a high quality free public education.

•Democratic school governance is a critical component of a democratic society. Parent, teacher, and student voices should have significant weight in the decision-making process. When one elected official (a mayor, for example) controls a school system, the public’s ability to participate is limited or even eliminated.

• Direct and meaningful support—financial, material and human—must be provided to public schools, especially those who encounter difficulty. Arbitrary restructuring, phasing out, and the closure of schools have serious consequences for students, teachers and their communities. These misguided practices have not improved education.

• Charter schools are not public schools because they are not open to all students. Access to a high quality public education is not something that should be won in a lottery—it is a most basic human and civil right. Charter schools are publically financed in part, but they operate under private control. They do not serve our most needy students, and they frequently divide communities, sparking intense competition over resources.

• Public schools must offer a curriculum that is meaningful, relevant and engaging. Student interest should be a spark for learning in the classroom. The emergence of scripted curricula has resulted in a degradation of teacher and student creativity.

•Full and equitable funding for ALL of our public schools. Urban schools have historically been underfunded, which has negatively affected the level of education our students receive.

•Smaller class sizes that allow each student to receive the attention he/she needs and deserves. This is a key
pathway to ensuring our students receive a quality education. The differential in class sizes between urban and suburban schools is a major indicator of the disparities in education.

•A humane and progressive system of assessment that assumes teachers are in the best position to assess their students. Using a variety of tools (including tests), teachers and students can work together to improve teaching and learning. A system based on high stakes testing results in a test-driven curriculum, which de-skills teachers, dumbs down the teaching and learning process, and stifles creative and critical thinking. We oppose both the use of high stakes test results to evaluate students, teachers and schools and merit pay based on these evaluations.

•Guaranteed job placement—at other public schools or programs—for educators who are displaced due to program or school closings. Educators must be contractually protected with seniority transfer rights. We oppose any political attempt to fire and scapegoat ATR’s (Absent Teacher Reserve teachers) who have worked in so-called “failing” schools.

•A strong teacher’s union built on a foundation of an active, participatory and mobilized rank and file with a democratically elected leadership that is truly accountable to its members. We are committed to building such a union at the grassroots level.

Summary of Forum March 23 at CUNY Grad Center

Click on title for Video #1 of Rafael Feliciano's FMPR presentation.
and for Video #2 go to --

by Gustavo Morales

On March 23, CUNY Grad center, Grassroots Education Movement for Public Education, GEM held a public discussion with Rafael Feliciano President of the Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico, FMPR. In attendance were numerous education activists and community organizers. The purpose of the discussion was to learn from the experiences of the FMPR in defense of Public Education in Puerto Rico and the experiences of GEM and other education activists here in NYC. In order to build on our strengths, our mutual solidarity in our struggle against the neoliberal agenda.

Lisa North representing GEM, spoke how GEM came about around educational issues, such as high stakes testing, absent teacher reserve (ATR’s), closing of public school, elimination of seniority rights, mayoralty control, underfunding of schools, the privatization of education. In the Spring of 2009, GEM was directly involved in the struggle against Harlem Public Schools take over by the Eva Mascowitz, Charter School consortium and also in the Charter School invasion in Red Hook, Brooklyn, PS 15. GEM wanted to deal with the truth about school closings and the need to organize school committees to defend their own schools.

Rafael Feliciano President of FMPR, started his talk on the history of FMPR, back in 1992-1993 one day strike to stop the formation of Charter Schools in Puerto Rico. Feliciano spoke from the perspective of Puerto Rico being a colony of the United States, so government programs such as No Child Left Behind- and the movement to privatize schools here in the United States are also reflected in the policies dictated to the government of Puerto Rico by the government of the United States.

Rafael Feliciano also reflected on the powerful strike by the FMPR in 2007-2008, a strike that lasted for 10 days in which 25,00 teachers participated with strong support by parents, the strike ended in victory. The Department of Education of PR, had to reverse their decision to organize Charter Schools. He added that the struggles we are facing here in the US are very similar to their struggle in PR, privatization, high stake testing etc..

In his talk Feliciano spoke of the difficulties in organizing, because parents change every year, teacher support varies. Given that teacher’s salary are low in PR, that many teachers live in the community, and that the community views teachers as leaders, the barriers that exist between the teachers here in the US and their communities do not exist in Puerto Rico.

Brother Feliciano spoke about the attempted raid of their union by the Service Employees International Union-SEIU and the attacks by the AFT, both collaborating with the colonial government of Puerto Rico attempts to destroy the political independence of a grassroots union like FMPR.

Feliciano also spoke from the perspective of being a socialist and the importance of schools developing the struggle and demands of the working class. He spoke of the importance of breaking the barriers that exist between parents and teachers, between teachers and the community where the school is located. The importance of breaking down the UFT type limitations, such working with all the workers in the same school, cafeteria workers, custodial workers all is one representing the interest of public education. He added of the differences that exist in the level of political and social consciousness, that these limitation can be overcome by organizing small committees to start with of all the different groups in a school and most important uniting the school struggle with the struggles of the community, housing, transportation, employment.

Rafael spoke about the prominence that most be given to a grassroots movement, direct contact with the people, if “you don’t have direct contact in a define place, then you are not doing work” he said, in spite of demonstrations, forums etc.

The next part of the agenda was the question and answer period, the meeting room was very crowded, a sister in place spoke about introducing humor, music, culture in the meetings, people spoke about the particulars here in the US, the race and cultural diversities, the need to relate to different communities, the need to defend militants and to celebrate victories, the idea of visiting parents at their homes, some people don’t use computers. Others spoke of using local community organizations here in NYC, like La Peña del Bronx, that have a history of experience in organizing in the communities . A person from the March 4th. Coalition spoke about the possibility of 15,000 teachers in NY Sate loosing their jobs. Others raise the question of business unionism here in the US. People spoke about the UFT undemocratic practices, and the coming elections.

Overall, the audience was very happy by the presentation of Rafael Feliciano. His emphasis on rank and file organizing, face to face organizing, building from below, start small, consistency and most of all to believe in your values, respect for working people and sincerity in wanting to represent the best interest of the people.