AFT CONVENTION REPORT... Norm's Notes... EdNotes for Saturday July 12, 2014 AFT convention. AFT is going to debate a resolution of 'no confidence' in Arne Duncan while Chicago continues to battle the Unity tsunami over the Common Core... and other things

[Editor's Note, by George N. Schmidt. Substance will be updating our convention reports from the American Federation of Teachers convention here in Los Angeles with reporting from several of our regular reporters, and when time permits, by me. But since we are all also busy this time around as convention delegates, we are also going to update the convention coverage with the reporting of friends, especially New York's Norm Scott, who is sitting at the press tables while we are working long hours as part of the energetic Chicago Teachers Union delegation. You can't be a good delegate and a decent reporter, so our reports will be less complete than in past years when we were reporting from the AFT.

AFT convention delegates George N. Schmidt (left), Karen Lewis, and Dan Montgomery waiting for the shuttle bus before the opening session of the convention on July 11, 2014. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.If you don't want to read more about how Substance got to this point, just skip past the next four paragraphs (all within brackets) and go directly to Norm's report from July 12. If you are addicted to the details of history, then the paragraphs below will update you on one piece of the history of Chicago, the AFT, and Substance...

I attended my first AFT convention in Miami Beach in 1976 or 1977 (memories, but not a clear memory of the data) in order to figure out how to lobby the national union to get full rights in the Chicago local for substitute teachers. At that time, I was a Chicago substitute teacher and had gotten together with other substitute teachers to organize on behalf of substitutes. We have not had a raise as "day-to-day" subs since 1968, and still have unequal rights as "Full Time Basis" substitutes (FTBs). After having first paid dues to the Chicago Teachers Union in 1969 when I began teaching at Chicago's Crispus Attucks Elementary School, I remained a CTU member during most of those years despite the prejudices many of the union's veterans showed to subs. We wound up going to AFT conventions -- not as Chicago delegates -- because of that work within the union. By 1976, we had organized a group called S.U.B.S. (Substitutes United for Better Schools). We were publishing a monthly tabloid (generally critical of the policies of the Chicago Board of Education, occasionally critical of the CTU leadership, and strongly part of the union) and were lobbying to get full rights in the Chicago Teachers Union for substitute teachers. So, being young,energetic, and able to go around on a very small budget, a group of us would attend AFT conventions, as visitors, even though we were not elected delegates. In Chicago, the United Progressive Caucus, or UPC, a part of the national Progressive Caucus, ran the show.

During the next decades, those of us affiliated with the monthly newspaper Substance, and later with, continued going to AFT conventions when we could. Several times, our friends were delegates, beginning in 1998 when Debbie Lynch became the lone non-UPC member in the Chicago delegation in New Orleans and Sharon Schmidt and I went there to cover the convention to Substance. Because of the behind-the-scenes manipulations of the UPC, Ed McElroy, then Secretary Treasurer, denied us press credentials, trying to claim, despite the evidence we presented, that Substance was not a "real" news paper. He was obviously operating on remote control when Sharon and I met with him after we arrived in New Orleans, having drive from Chicago, only to be told we couldn't cover the convention as "press." As a consolation prive, McElroy offered that we could "attend" the convention as "visitors" since we were also dues paying AFT members. We said "No thank you," returned to our hotel in the French Quarter, stayed in contact with people at the convention, and enjoyed a honeymoon in New Orleans while the AFT delegates sweltered that hot summer week and the UPC delegates harassed Debbie Lynch, even to the point of trying to trip her when she walked down the aisles during the convention.]

#AFT14 Report - Recaps and Trends

CTU is the outlier in this convention, battle-scarred and ready to fight. The NYC delegation has the numbers to vote them down. ... Diane Ravitch, On AFT Convention

..the UFT delegation votes in lockstep, regardless of how the individual members think, and thus the result is foregone... In the Bronx, we know that Gates money broke up our schools, created a mess, and then disappeared. We live the aftermath every day.... Jonathan Halabi

So lots happening on many fronts. I'm not getting into speakers I have no interest in. Some quickies - no chronological order.

Diane Ravitch has excellent report based AFT reports from Unity shill Peter Goodman -Diane goes as far as I've seen trashing them if you read between the lines. Peter Goodman: A Report from Inside the AFT Convention.

I'll try to get back with a close reading of this post later. Peter Goodman regularly blogs about education in New York. He is close to the UFT leadership in New York City and thus has good sources. Here is his update from inside the AFT convention. Reading this, I conclude that the AFT will not call for Arne Duncan�s resignation. This is the first time in my memory that the AFT was less militant than its larger brethren and sisters in the NEA. It appears that there will be a floor debate about the Common Core. The Chicago Teachers Union is opposed to it. If my reading of the tea leaves is right, the New York City delegation is prepared to shoot that resolution down too. CTU is the outlier in this convention, battle-scarred and ready to fight. The NYC delegation has the numbers to vote them down.

We reported that they already shot the CTU common core reso down yesterday. Great that Diane recognizes some realities - there are Diane bashers out there - not me - she continuously evolves but won't break all the eggs with unions like some people want - not her place to do that but I do feel she must not enable Randi by praising her when she plays political games. I see this post by Diane as one of her stronger pieces on the union.

LA Mayor Garcetti, a Vergara decison supporter, in a Bill Gates moment, is now speaking. UFB and WTF.

He is sick and tired of seeing teachers getting beat up - he's holding a truncheon behind his back.

Jeez they talked about another AFT dues increase - which you will see reflected in your union dues. Double Jeez - Detroit Fed of Teachers Keith Johnson rises to support dues increase. Let's just take it out of Detroit teacher pensions - You know I would not oppose a dues increase - not that I have a vote - but we know they are not accountable to anyone on how they spend the money. Interesting how Randi controls things. 10-year old Chicago superstar, Asean Johnson, who keynoted at the NYCORE conference and also highlighted the May 17 SOS rally in NYC is the speaker. Many were looking forward to Karen Lewis speaking after him but she was given a very limited role after Asean to introduce someone else.

Karen looking much slimmer -- getting in shape to run for mayor against Rahm? -- looking increasingly more likely according to some observers. How that event would affect the union is leading to some speculation. Who would take over as CTU head? Betting is on Jesse Sharkey who would be excellent, though there will be red-baiting due to his being ISO. If anyone can deal with that issue, it is Jesse.

Interesting question: CTU contract expires June 2015. Mayoral election is Feb. 2015 with a runoff in May of no one gets majority. Imagine Karen and Rahm in runoff a month before CTU contract. Bette scenario - Karen wins and has to negotiate with Jesse. Oh, what fun.

Another interesting question: CORE must run again in May 2016. How much of a toll will assault on union with closing schools and layoffs take? What about a scenario where due to whatever, Karen doesn't run?

Obviously I'm speculating here because I am bored over Rules report. Met an adult ed teacher from LA and connected him up to adult ed teacher from NYC.

Ran into Jonathan Halabi who is sitting in press section. [I felt we made some peace with each other after Julie and I from MORE met with some New Action people met back in November]. He is blogging and had some astute observations that seem more pertinent and directed than what I've been doing - here are a few with a link to his blog below.

On Arne Duncan, Jonathan told me UFT/AFT will not oppose - openly at least - meaning Unity is free to vote the way they want? Watch final vote to see if they are not opposing behind the scenes - see my last post [on Proposed Anti-Duncan Reso - Let the Members Decide].

There�s not a �Duncan Resign� resolution coming from the leadership to the floor. On the other hand, what will the AFT tops and UFT do if someone else brings one to the floor? Earlier this year NYSUT (New York State United Teachers) replaced most of their top leadership � largely because the previous year that leadership, confronted with a �John King Resign� resolution, animated by anger and frustration, said no. The UFT stepped aside, and the President and all but one VP were replaced. And the UFT walked away unscathed. So now it�s national, the AFT, and the anger is aimed at Duncan, not King, and if there is a �Dump Duncan� reso from the floor, maybe that�s a big if, but if there�s one, wouldn�t the UFT do the same thing, step aside and let the anger be directed towards passing a resolution that really doesn�t mean much anyway? Duncan has two years left. And the AFT�s voice would be a late addition to a fairly loud chorus.

Jonathan brings up some points on AFT and international events below. I have a long blog post coming up on this point - Vera Pavone is back home slaving over a document we hope we can give out at the UFT history event Wed night. The other night I heard stories of how Randi continues AFT 60 year policy of trying to influence teacher unions - much more left than the AFT - around the world - away from militancy. Then I see that Peter Goodman chairs the AFT International committee and it is an AHA moment. Not much has changed since AFT and Vietnam. Back to Jonathan:

The AFT�s has a long history of taking pro-war positions, and only later modifying some of them (eg Viet Nam). When I was a delegate in 2010 in Seattle, the AFT pushed an Iran resolution that was clearly meant to encourage the hawks in DC. And this time? A Ukraine resolution. No real news, except that it barely squeaked out of committee � just a two vote margin.

Some good points on the competing Common Core resos from Chicago and AFT/UFT.

The Chicago Teachers Union resolution �Oppose the Common Core Standards� was defeated in committee. The AFT tops / UFT resolution �The Role of Standards in Public Education� was passed. These are counterposed.

The official resolution continues bad AFT policy from the past. In a section at the top, they laud the standards, in seven bullet points creating a slide show that looks like pure promotion (it would be interesting if this turns out to have been lifted). In another section at the top of the resolution, they say �some AFT members oppose and distrust�� Notice the weak argument, based on �some people.� But then in seven bullet points, they dwell on testing and implementation. This echoes a June 20 e-mail many of us received from Mulgrew: �Everyone recognizes that the Common Core, while the right direction for education, had a terrible rollout.� No. Not everyone.

�The AFT� it reads �will continue to support the promise of CCSS�� That�s the bottom line. And will support a shift away from �excessive testing� begging the question of which tests those are, and exactly how much high stakes testing and standardized testing the AFT is happy with.

There will be debate on the floor, but the UFT delegation votes in lockstep, regardless of how the individual members think, and thus the result is foregone.

Halabi comes to the same place Ravitch did in her post.

And here he nails them to the wall on the Gates money. That committee also rejected a resolution (California Federation of Teachers) to reject any more Bill Gates money. It�s hard to fathom how Ed Reform $$$ do not buy influence. In the Bronx, we know that Gates money broke up our schools, created a mess, and then disappeared. We live the aftermath every day.

Finally, on Randi speech, voice, and continuous use of Badass term: [Randi] completely appropriated the term �badass� to the point that, when she asked Badass Teachers to stand up, only a small numbers of those present did. I�m assuming embarrassment kept others in their seats. Weingarten�s writers have a voice problem. Her natural Rockland � big words, not all of them bungled, many of them used correctly - it�s not what you want for a long speech. But what to do? As she moved section to section, the voice, the register, they changed and shifted. A good speaker might pull it off, maybe to great effect. Here, many of us focused on the words, since the delivery jumped rapidly from awkward, to natural, and back again. Even the attempts at self-deprecation often seemed forced. And the audience seemed to cringe collectively at her �homey� moment.

Here is a link to his full post.

AFT 2014 Convention � Friday

Posted by Norm @ ed notes online at 2:46 PM


Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

5 + 5 =