Norm here - my usual optimistic self - Aug. 3, 2020 --
(Holy Crap - it's August - time to get out the winter clothes.)
With the issue of going back to school at the top of the heap, the budget crisis has dropped to 2nd or 3rd place. Ross Barkan's important commentary (in yellow) on Cuomo and the budget caught my eye and is an interesting read (Subscribe ) -- my comments in black):
Last week, NY1 reported that Cuomo had quietly nominated three close allies to the Financial Control Board.....
The FCB took over our finances in the 70s for a decade and dictated cuts that keeps politicians out of it--- that keeps De Blasio out of it so whatever
deals with the UFT would be off.
Cuomo is currently laying the trap for severe cuts in the coming months, tying all the state’s hopes of salvation to federal aid. It’s a deeply cynical ploy; like the 1970s, there is a Republican administration in Washington hostile to New York....
Oh boy is he. I bet charters get their dough. Can he cut AND support the safety measures needed to open schools? I'm betting not. He won't risk taking NY backwards on the virus - he's making his political bones on not letting the monster back in.
I can imagine some day care system but risk opening schools?
But if teachers get their wish and he doesn't open schools - taking away the argument for more personnel to run safe schools - watch the ax come down hard. At the end of the pandemic, with people leaving the city and others the public schools and finding alternatives to day care --- well I would bet on lots of those small schools disappearing or getting consolidated. The idea of 1800 schools has always been ridiculous. All those principals retiring? No problem -- cut to 1000 schools.
(Could they try to split people by offering some bonuses to teachers who volunteer to go in? Or that some teachers will take it? Don't be shocked at anything.)
A reasonable executive, in the interim, would seek to keep New York afloat without resorting to self-destructive austerity measures. But that does not describe Andrew Cuomo. His budget director, former State Senate Republican staffer Robert Mujica, is effectively the most powerful man in the state outside of Cuomo, tasked with detailing whatever deep cuts to localities the governor deems fit. It’s only a matter of time, after Republicans snub New York, that Mujica begins telling the state legislature how much public school, hospital, transportation, and social service aid will disappear. Thanks to new powers won when the state budget was passed in April, Cuomo is permitted to make rolling cuts throughout 2020 as revenue dries up.
My focus at that time was on the economic impact rather than on the pandemic impact. Now that issue in a potential strike has taken precedence over budget cuts (though they go together) with teachers around the nation talking strike if they are forced to go in under unsafe conditions.
While the back to school story plays out daily with teachers and many parents making it clear they do not want to go back into schools and everyone giving the blended learning idea an F, lots of other issues get put on the table that have long term negative impact on public ed.
Parents forming private pods outside the public schools -- home schooling on steroids.
The idea being argued by some teachers that Zoom type learning can really work -- that's like sending a message that ultimately we are non-essential and giving distance learning a big boost - and remember, if they can do this without school buildings they can save enormous money - and maybe pay fewer teachers a lot of money to take on bigger loads. (Reminds me of my idea years ago to use Yankee Stadium and the jumbo scoreboard and have Class sizes of 50,000.)
Now, things are somewhat different with the left winning so many seats in the state legislature. Ross comments:
....it will up to the emboldened left in New York to mobilize against Cuomo’s worst intentions and resist another replay of 1970s neoliberalism. Cuomo is more committed to the program than Carey ever was, and the competence of those around him—Cuomo aides are rewarded far more for sycophancy than any native ability—is much more questionable.
Is there a resurgent left in the UFT? Or will Mulgrew get a message of militancy that goes beyond rhetoric? James feels he is feeling the pressure and moving away from support for the de Blasio/ Caranza plan. A key issue is lack of trust of the DOE and the UFT leaders by many members. Mulgrew could capture the moment if he has the chops. I'm not confident he does.
I have lots more to say ---- so come back soon - or subscribe to this blog (upper left hand corner) and get updates every time I upchuck an article.
Read Ross below:
Is New York Going Back to the 1970s?
Nearly a half century later, there are disturbing echoes of a decade that almost doomed New York City. But there are real differences too.
No decade dominates the psyches of New Yorkers quite like the 1970s. Those old enough to remember the time perpetually warn of a backslide there, while others glorify a moment when the city seemed ruggedly free, more authentically itself. Literature and cinema are rife with portrayals of New York in that period, from Taxi Driver to The Warriors to Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire to the latest Joker movie, which served as an obvious homage to Taxi Driver. It seems we can’t quite shake that decade off.
For much of the 2000s and 2010s, it was easy to be nostalgic about the 1970s as New York coasted through a new Gilded Age. The city grew wealthier as new arrivals and foreign money inflated the housing market to once unimaginable degrees. Crime, mirroring nationwide trends, plummeted, allowing neighborhoods once regarded as too dangerous for the affluent to transform, rapidly, into hipster playgrounds. There was the great divide in wealth that commentators and resentful natives always missed, conflating the sons and daughters of Iowan doctors with Chinese and Russian oligarchs gobbling up properties to shield their ludicrous assets from prying authoritarian regimes. Private equity got in the landlord game, buying out the old-fashioned local landowners and chasing out as many longtime tenants as they could, greedily ripping units from the rent-stabilization system and doubling their value on the open market. The carousel, it seemed, would never stop spinning. Homelessness exploded under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who could’ve been dreamed up in a Tom Wolfe novel, and surged unabated under Mayor Bill de Blasio. But that was the price we paid for a safer, more attractive New York, with its endless array of bars, restaurants, museums, and opportunities for those with the ambition, luck, and privilege to seize them.
That’s all done now. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought New York City to its knees, despite the sociopathic triumphalism of Governor Andrew Cuomo. More than 20,000 died in the city alone, worth several 9/11’s, and the economic impact is likely to be felt for many years. Tax revenue is disappearing, small businesses are shuttering at a terrifying clip, and unemployment is reaching levels not seen since the Great Depression. All this will mean, inevitably, a reduction in social services. CUNY is already laying off adjuncts and K-12 public schools are bracing for deeper cuts. Some nonprofits will wither or disappear altogether. So far, de Blasio has sought to avert mass municipal layoffs, but those may be coming in the fall as federal aid from Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell inevitably fails to properly fill enormous budget gaps. New York has not faced a financial catastrophe like this since 1975, when it was one night away from going bankrupt.
The 1970s fiscal crisis was not like this one in a few crucial ways. There was no single cataclysm that triggered the city’s financial collapse. Rather, it was a confluence of factors, many of them outside the control of city and state lawmakers. The blue collar manufacturing base of the city eroded in the postwar period, depriving the city of jobs and tax revenue. White flight to the suburbs, fueled by cheap single-family housing and the rapid construction of highways at the expense of mass transit, deprived the city of its middle class. To compensate, mayors in the social democratic tradition like Robert Wagner and John Lindsay sought to borrow increasing amounts of money to protect the city’s generous safety net, subsidize cheap housing and free higher education, and shield the large, unionized municipal workforce from layoffs. By the time Abe Beame, a machine Democrat in the New Deal tradition, took office in 1974, none of that was possible anymore. The old budget gimmicks and borrowing wouldn’t work because the banks, increasingly internationalized and driven by a newly neoliberal approach to investing and lending, did not want to give an ailing city of poor Black and Puerto Rican people more money. New York was no longer a worthwhile investment. A new class of government officials, in New York and Washington, repudiated the New Deal tradition, regarding it wasteful and necessary for only the wrong kinds of people.
Beame, to his credit, strained to avert the worst of the crisis, but he was outgunned. Republican President Gerald Ford was surrounded by young conservatives who wanted to make an example of profligate New York City, a liberal Sodom in their eyes. They wanted to entirely deny federal bailout funds to New York. (Hence the famous Daily News headline, Ford to City: Drop Dead.) Ultimately, New York would receive federal aid, but in return Beame would be ordered to make deep cuts to the city workforce, laying off teachers, firefighters, sanitation workers, and many other municipal employees. CUNY’s budget was slashed and tuition was imposed for every student. Social services for the city’s poor were decimated. Daycares and hospitals were shuttered. Republicans in Albany, along with Democratic Governor Hugh Carey, seized control of the city’s finances, creating both the Municipal Assistance Corporation and the Emergency Financial Control Board, the entity that would effectively control how all money was spent. The EFCB, later renamed the New York State Financial Control Board, would impose devastating austerity, even rejecting contracts negotiated between the teachers’ union and the Board of Education. Crucially, for the new neoliberal order, three business executives sat on the EFCB, along with the mayor and the city and state comptrollers.
In 1986, New York City regained control over its budget. Though cutbacks staved off bankruptcy, the new austerity would create the sort of self-defeating downward spiral seen in governments across the world that have implemented similar measures in response to financial calamities. The economy suffered as unemployment spiked. Demand for goods fell. Even as the city recovered, many of the privileges of living in a thriving social democracy were never returned. Closed hospitals did not reopen. CUNY continued to raise its tuition as state funding shrunk. Welfare benefits shriveled. All mayors still need state permission to borrow money. And the Financial Control Board never disappeared. Instead, it lay dormant, perfunctorily signing off on the city’s finances every year, checking to ensure the budget, by law, was balanced.
Last week, NY1 reported that Cuomo had quietly nominated three close allies to the Financial Control Board. One of them, former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, was de Blasio’s top rival in the 2013 mayor’s race. It was the first time in Cuomo’s tenure he seemed to take any interest in the Board and his reasoning, to NY1, was blunt: “Is there more scrutiny? Yes. The financial situation for New York City and these other governments is more precarious than it has been,” Cuomo said. “And that’s going to require more scrutiny, more analysis, than it has in years. And putting the right people on the Financial Control Board is now vitally important.” Since taking office in 2011, Cuomo has sought to increase the role of the state in the city’s affairs as much as he legally can, whether it’s denying de Blasio’s requests for tax increases, minimum wage hikes, or forcing the city, in an unprecedented maneuver, to pay the rent of privately-run charter schools. Cuomo even once shut down the city’s subway system without consulting with de Blasio. The first New York City curfew since the 1940s was Cuomo’s doing. It was no accident he mused openly about using an obscure state power to remove de Blasio from office.
Cuomo cannot use the Financial Control Board to take over New York City’s budget without authorization from the State Legislature. The Democrat-controlled State Senate and Assembly, with its large number of left-leaning New York City lawmakers, is unlikely to do this right now. But Cuomo will impose his will in other ways. Consider his posture on the city and state’s cratering finances. Cuomo is currently laying the trap for severe cuts in the coming months, tying all the state’s hopes of salvation to federal aid. It’s a deeply cynical ploy; like the 1970s, there is a Republican administration in Washington hostile to New York. President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell do not want to authorize bailout money for a Democratic state. Perhaps, in the current negotiations, some local aid will be freed up, but we know it won’t be enough—not the $60 billion Cuomo is after.
Cuomo is right, ultimately, in that federal aid will be required to save New York and return it to its relative pre-pandemic glory. But he’s not being entirely honest. Trump is badly behind in the polls to Joe Biden and could very well lose this fall. Unlike the 1970s, when Democrat Jimmy Carter, a fiscal moderate, followed Ford, the consensus around stimulus spending has evolved drastically. Biden may be cut from Carter’s pedigree, but he’s spoken openly about authorizing a federal aid package far larger than any seen in modern times. Even Republicans have voted for larger stimulus bills than any Barack Obama supported during his presidency. It’s reasonable to believe, if Trump is defeated, the Biden administration would funnel many billions to New York City in 2021, recognizing that the decline of America’s largest city helps no one.
A reasonable executive, in the interim, would seek to keep New York afloat without resorting to self-destructive austerity measures. But that does not describe Andrew Cuomo. His budget director, former State Senate Republican staffer Robert Mujica, is effectively the most powerful man in the state outside of Cuomo, tasked with detailing whatever deep cuts to localities the governor deems fit. It’s only a matter of time, after Republicans snub New York, that Mujica begins telling the state legislature how much public school, hospital, transportation, and social service aid will disappear. Thanks to new powers won when the state budget was passed in April, Cuomo is permitted to make rolling cuts throughout 2020 as revenue dries up. Since first campaigning as a tax-cutting, anti-union centrist, Cuomo has had his most insidious austerity ambitions tempered by the reality of governing in a Democratic state, settling for hard property tax caps, Medicaid funding cuts, parsimonious CUNY and SUNY aid, and a failure to comply with a lawsuit over improperly funding public schools.
Now Cuomo is unleashed, permitted to realize whatever ambitions he harbored back in the days of 2011 and 2012. He has blocked de Blasio from borrowing any money, cutting off one recourse for staving off reductions, though when Bloomberg was mayor, the city borrowed to cover budget gaps after 9/11. Cuomo has insisted, repeatedly, taxes will not be raised on millionaires and billionaires to produce new revenue, though his predecessor, David Paterson, hiked taxes on the wealthy after the economic crash. Bloomberg, following 9/11, raised property taxes. And prior governors, including Nelson Rockefeller and Herbert Lehman, raised taxes during economic downturns. Revenue raisers won’t be enough, but they would help the city and state avert deeper, self-defeating cuts. Cuomo, however, has been adamant that he will not do it, insisting the millionaires and billionaires will pack up and leave the state once their taxes are increased slightly. His philosophical objections to raising taxes, unless successfully turned back by the legislature, will mean a weaker, frailer government, with the working class and poor punished with higher transit fares to offset yawning budget gaps. By the time federal aid comes through from a new White House—assuming a Trump defeat, which is not guaranteed—the damage may already be done.
Unlike others, I do not see the pandemic marking the death of the American city or a tremendous migration of young people toward suburban living. When there’s a vaccine and life resumes some level of normalcy, New York will be attractive again, perhaps with cheaper rents to lure back Millennials and Generation Z. This makes today’s moment unlike the 1970s, when the urban crisis was more existential. Even today’s shooting and murder spike, as tragic and disorienting as it is, does not represent the nadir of crime and violence in New York—nowhere close, really. Through July 19, there have been 212 murders in the city, an increase of 24 percent from 2019. If the number of deaths doubles by the end of 2020, that will make 424 murders, a large increase from last year. Yet that would still mark the lowest annual homicide toll of the entire 2000s. It would barely exceed the murder rate from 2012, Bloomberg’s second to last year in office, when 419 people were killed. The trend, currently, is incredibly distressing. It does not mark a return to a time when, routinely, 1,500 or more people a year were killed.
In the meantime, it will up to the emboldened left in New York to mobilize against Cuomo’s worst intentions and resist another replay of 1970s neoliberalism. Cuomo is more committed to the program than Carey ever was, and the competence of those around him—Cuomo aides are rewarded far more for sycophancy than any native ability—is much more questionable. Even if federal aid arrives, it will be up to the state’s congressional delegation and the legislature to hold Cuomo accountable, to ensure massive tranches of federal money are not misspent, redirected, or absorbed into places they shouldn’t be. That will be a formidable project on its own. It will be good, then, to have a new class of adversarial lawmakers unafraid to challenge the state’s most powerful man.
I thought you would be interested in this rally and march led by school staff, parents and students, happening today at 5 pm outside UFT headquarters and Tweed DOE offices. This is part of a national day of action against unsafe, unfunded school reopening. In addition to MORE, 20 additional groups are joining and we expect a big turnout.
Teachers, Parents, Students to Rally Outside Tweed and UFT HQ to Protest Unsafe School Reopening
New York, New York: Today, the MORE-UFT Caucus as well as parents, students and advocacy organizations including the Alliance for Quality Education, Rise and Resist and Coalition for Educational Justice will join school communities taking action across the country to march and rally to push back against the insufficient, unsafe, underfunded hybrid reopening plan being put forth by the UFT, the Chancellor and the Mayor. Those who cannot join the rally and march in person will be taking action from home to prevent an unsafe reopening.
“The science is clear. COVID is airborne indoors, especially in poorly ventilated, crowded classrooms Here in New York City, more than 20,000 people have already died from COVID-- mostly Black and Latinx New Yorkers. Returning to school buildings while COVID continues to spread across the country will put more Black and Latinx New Yorkers at even greater risk,” said teacher Andrew Worthington. “ We demand no new cases for 14 days, all health and safety measures implemented including consistent rapid testing, contact tracing, safe public transit and community input.”
‘Our schools were underfunded before COVID hit. Now they face new budget cuts because the Governor refuses to tax the rich, and the Mayor refused to substantially divest from the NYPD. In order to reopen safely we need more funding for teachers, nurses, social workers, counselors and supplies and New Yorkers need financial relief,” said Tajh Sutton, CEC14 President and Teens Take Charge Program Manager. “Forcing school buildings to reopen without additional funding will put staff in the untenable position of having to enforce high stakes public health guidelines without adequate resources which could further put our Black and Brown students at risk of being criminalized.”
“The DOE, the Mayor and the Governor have consistently left parents, teachers and students out of decisions about reopening. They have refused to consider our creative ideas, hear our feedback on remote learning or transparently answer basic questions,” said Marilena Marchetti. “We demand that stakeholders are fully empowered and included in planning for both school reopening and for equitable remote learning that includes opportunities for outdoor learning and therapeutic service delivery for prioritized student populations.”
What: March and rally to stop and unsafe school reopening as part of a national day of action.
When: Monday, August 3rd, 5:00 p.m.- 7:00 p.m.
Where: The March will start at UFT Headquarters at 52 Broadway and end at DOE offices at Tweed Courthouse.
Who:Movement of Rank & File Educators(MORE-UFT), Parents Supporting Parents NY, PoliFem, DC 37 Progressive Caucus, Justice Center en el Barrio, Rise and Resist, Revolting Lesbians, Alliance for Quality Education NYC, Ya-Ya Network, Black Lives Matter School Week of Action NYC, A Call to Action on Puerto Rico, Workers World Party, New York Boricua Resistance, Peoples Power Assemblies NYC, NYC Coalition for Educational Justice, BATALA, Young People of Color Incorporated, Freedom For all, Dynamic Therapy Intervention, NYC Democratic Socialists of America 23. Party for Socialism and Liberation, Community Education Council 14
Several of the nation’s most vocal teachers unions, including those in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and Milwaukee are planning to join a national “day of resistance” on Aug. 3, www.demandsafeschools.org...
There is so much going on around the schools reopening issue and the potential budget cuts to education, I have avoided writing because every time I try, more stuff keeps coming in. So let me chop things up into a bunch of blogs over the next week, as the stories keep changing every hour.
First up is a very interesting event coming next Monday taking place simultaneously around the nation. Check out the web site: www.demandsafeschools.org.
One of the key groups behind this is a fairly new national educators organization (Dec. 2018) initially based in the red states where the red state teacher rebellions took place: National Educators Union (NEU) - which you can check in with on Facebook - they have fabulous zoom events on many issues. I spoke to one of the leaders and asked how they differ from Labor Notes' sponsored UCORE (of which MORE is a member) and was told they are not focused on internal union struggles and the creation of caucuses - something I've come to agree with, but more on that another time.
They have been forming local car caravans and all kinds of other events and have toolkits to assist in organizing. The original hotbed seems to be Arizona.
What if your district has done the right thing and is going remote for 1st quarter or longer? How can we support August 3rd in regards to safety?
Here is a brilliant idea from an amazing organizer in Arizona which puts a new twist on an old labor slogan- an injury to one is an injury to all. If one district is safe, what about the ones next door? We are only as safe as the school next door. Here is a sample post- we have some districts making "safe" decisions and some that are not: We are only as safe as the students, educators & schools next door. Our communities live, love, work together intertwined. We are each other's neighbors, family, coworkers. If a student in Laveen, a teacher in Wilson, or a family in Vail are not safe- then I am not safe. I stand with my fellow educators across AZ and the country.
They are in many states and keep growing and will be a big pressure point on the two national unions. Randi's recent claim the AFT will support teacher strikes over safety I believe is a response of sorts to this pressure.
Here is a recent car caravan event:
One event I know of here is being sponsored by MORE - a march from the UFT at 52 to Tweed where a rally will take place. I would actually go - if I didn't want to risk dying from taking public transportation.
I will be back with more postings on what is going on soon including discussing the possibility of a strike here in NYC which I speculated about back in April when I compared our situation to the 1975 strike in April.