Friday, October 18, 2013

Amy Dean: How Domestic Workers Won Their Rights

Amy B. Dean  


How Domestic Workers Won Their Rights: Five Big Lessons

After decades of exclusion, home care workers are finally covered by federal minimum wage laws. Anyone who works for social change can learn from how they did it.
YES! Magazine




Domestic workers have had some breakthrough wins over the past two weeks. Up until then, these workers were excluded from protections such as a guaranteed minimum wage, paid breaks, and overtime pay. On September 17, the Obama administration announced new rules extending the Fair Labor Standards Act to include the 800,000 to 2 million home health workers—who help seniors and others with self-care tasks like taking medications, bathing, and shopping—under the federal government's wage and hour protections.
Having campaigns at the local, state, and national levels gave the NDWA the flexibility to focus where victory was most likely.
Next, California governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights on September 26, allowing the full spectrum of domestic workers—including live-in nannies and housekeepers—to benefit from the same gains as the home health workers.
For the first time ever, these employees will be guaranteed the federal minimum wage and will earn overtime pay. And their victories have implications for a much larger portion of the workforce, including independent contractors, nontraditional employees, and those on temporary assignments. The domestic employees' wins are helping to chart a path forward for the growing number of employees who work outside conventional office settings.
Much of the credit for these historic wins is due to the tenacious organizing of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, a group of workers in this field who advocate for their own rights. Led since 2010 by the dynamic young organizer Ai-Jen Poo, the NDWA has grown from a single chapter in New York City to a nationwide organization with campaigns for domestic workers' rights in 19 cities and 11 states.
Here are five lessons that the wider progressive community can draw from the victories.

1. Local struggles can have national impact.

Before the creation of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the New York-based organization Domestic Workers United started by organizing locally. After winning passage of the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights in New York state, the group took their campaign on the road. The alliance won a second state-level victory in Hawaii, and then began organizing nationally with the message that those who care for elders and people with disabilities deserve respect. (It helped that this message was already reverberating across the globe after the International Labor Organization ratified its Convention on Domestic Workers in 2011.)
Having campaigns at the local, state, and national levels gave the NDWA the flexibility to focus where victory was most likely. Massachusetts is likely to be their next state-level target, Pootold Nation columnist and YES! Magazine Local Economies Reporting Fellow Laura Flanders.

2. Crunch your own numbers.

Rather than defensively responding to reports by business groups and state agencies, the NDWA created its own, from-the-ground-up reports and analyses on the working conditions domestic employees face in America.
Developing the capacity to contribute to the research around domestic work allowed the alliance to set the terms of debate. Other groups can use the same technique to frame the public agenda--whether around city planning, state budget priorities, or federal reforms.

3. Put working people front and center.

The NDWA used Caring Across Generations to shine the spotlight on caregivers—who are often only seen publicly pushing a client in a wheelchair—and to show how much they do for their clients.
When Ai-Jen Poo appeared in cable news shows and magazine articles, she constantly pointed to the stories of domestic employees and thus kept the spotlight fixed on them. Puttingreal people's stories forward as the basis for the campaign's argument created public sympathy and understanding.

4. Find allies beyond the usual ones.

Although groups that hire home care employees could be seen as "the enemy," the NDWA partnered enthusiastically with them. In New York and California, for instance, the alliance worked with Hand in Hand, a national association of caregiver employers who were willing to take a stand on behalf of their employees' right to fair pay and labor conditions. Hand in Hand's website even offers a toolkit for employers, with guidance on how to become a better employer.
The movement's relevance isn't just the fact that they are winning; howthey fight matters, too.
Employers like Hand in Hand join the campaign not out of an impulse to charity, but because they know that fair national standards for home-care employees helps ensure better care for their loved ones. As Ai-Jen Poo said recently in a video for the PBS series Makers: "When it comes to human dignity, there is no such thing as an unlikely ally."
Another way that the NDWA cultivated alliances was through the careful coalition-building that went into forming Caring Across Generations, a campaign that seeks to ensure that seniors receive the heath care they need from workers who receive a living wage. Launched in 2011, the coalition's unusually broad range of member groups includes organized labor, seniors, faith-based groups, women's rights organizations, and anti-poverty groups.
The different members have come together around a unifying vision for improving the lives of those who serve our youth and our elders. By joining across different organizing traditions and constituencies, they created a far-reaching effort that goes beyond the typical single-issue campaign.

5. Victory begets more victory.

Small victories can be an effective motivator on the road to bigger ones. By stringing together a series of international, national, and local victories—none of them complete in themselves—the NDWA showed that change is possible and created momentum for ever-greater wins. And the NDWA's campaign for a Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights is still moving forward, with active drives in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Washington, Illinois, and Oregon.
The NDWA's record of steadily organizing with their eyes on a clear prize of policy solutions, recognition, and respect should serve as an inspiration. The movement's relevance isn't just the fact that they are winning; how they fight matters, too. Any movement that can transform adversarial employee-employer relations into a unified force for public policy change is worth learning from.

Amy B. Dean
Amy B. Dean wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media project that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. Amy is a fellow of The Century Foundation and principal of ABD Ventures, an organizational development consulting firm that works to develop new and innovative organizing strategies for social change organizations. Dean is co-author, with David Reynolds, of A New New Deal: How Regional Activism Will Reshape the American Labor Movement. You can follow Amy on twitter @amybdean, or she can be reached viawww.amybdean.com.
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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Jack Rasmus: The Debt Ceiling Settlement Dance

The Well-Orchestrated Dance 2.0

The Coming Debt Ceiling Settlement

by JACK RASMUS, CounterPunch
History repeats itself, but always in combinations of past events.
What today’s debt-ceiling/government shutdown dual crisis represents is a telescoping, within a time period of two months, of similar events that rolled out over an extended two year period in 2011-2012. What took two years to conclude previously, between 2011-2012, in a prior debt ceiling + deficit cutting settlement is now happening in the course of two months, September-October 2013, in today’s repeat of debt ceiling + government budget fight.
Today’s debt-ceiling 2.0 + refusal to approve a government budget October 2013 is similar to events of 2011-2012—i.e. the debt ceiling fiasco of August 2011 and the Fiscal Cliff ‘crisis’ of December 2012, consisting of trillions of dollars of sequestered spending cuts and Bush tax cut extensions.
The prediction here is that, in the settlement to the current crisis coming in the next few days, or week or so at the most, the final terms and details will likely prove remarkably similar to that concluded in August 2011 and December 2012:   Massive social spending cuts combined with tax cuts for the few, in exchange for an extension of the debt ceiling and a political ‘armistice’ for Obama and Democrats until after the next Congressional elections.
The differences between the 2011-2012 and today’s 2013 settlement will be the particular focus of tax cuts and spending cuts in exchange extending the debt ceiling.
In August 2011 the settlement was debt ceiling extension in exchange for an immediate $1 trillion in social program only spending cuts, plus another $1.2 trillion in the so-called ‘sequestered’ spending taking effect January 1, 2013.  That was more than $2.2 trillion—or more than twice Obama’s original 2009 stimulus spending of $787 billion.  Overlaid upon the August 2011 deal was the permanent extension of $4 trillion of the $4.6 trillion Bush tax cuts that also took effect January 1, 2013.  Together the two—sequestered cuts and Bush tax cuts extension—were referred to as the ‘fiscal cliff’.
What the Republicans and its House Teaparty faction together got out of the 2011-2012 debt ceiling plus fiscal cliff settlements was a total of $6.2 trillion in spending cuts and Bush tax cuts (80% of which benefited wealthy households and investors)—$2.2 trillion in spending and another $4 trillion in tax cuts.
What Obama and the Democrats got out of the 2011-2012 deal was a politically convenient agreement in August 2011 from the Republicans not to raise the debt ceiling issue again until after the November 2012 national elections.  What Obama and Democrats didn’t get was any tax hikes on the rich in August 2011 they had said was a deal breaker.
What Obama got from the December 2012 fiscal cliff part of the settlement was mere $60 billion a year in tax hikes on wealthy investors.  (Actually, it was not even $60 billion, as the fiscal cliff deal included a generous liberalization of the inheritance tax for multimillionaire households, a liberalization of the Alternative Minimum Tax for them, and the ‘super-sweetener’ of the remaining $4 trillion in tax cuts now made permanent forever). Obama and democrats also failed to achieve any reduction in the $1.2 trillion sequestered spending cuts that they had expected, not believing the Republicans would allow those cuts, involving defense spending as well as social programs, to take effect. But those sequestered cuts began taking effect in March 2013. Now, post-October 2013, they are beginning to have their full negative impact on the economy.
No wonder the Teapublican faction in the Republican party eventually went along with both the 2011 debt ceiling and 2012 fiscal cliff deals. They got a big bite of the apple, and a chance for another down the road today. The Obama-Democrat ‘cave-ins’ on both the August 2011 debt ceiling agreement and subsequent fiscal cliff no doubt emboldened the faction to take the even more aggressive stance they have recently assumed in today’s crisis.
Notice in the foregoing remarks there is no reference to cutting Obamacare as key to the settlement deal today.  It never was part of any deal.  Last August 2013 the Republican strategy was to use the debt ceiling extension as a hammer to further pound out social spending, especially entitlements like social security and medicare, cuts that were left out of the 2011-2012 spending reductions deal of $2.2 trillion. Another difference in today’s repeat of the debt-ceiling debacle will be that the corresponding tax cuts eventually agreed to probably will focus on corporate taxes instead of individual wealthy taxes—the latter now being set up in the tax code overhaul bill moving rapidly through Congress. That tax cut part of today’s deal may also not be made public in an eventual deal, but will be agreed to in principle by the parties for when the legislation on corporate tax cuts (keyword: Tax Code Overhaul) reaches the House and Senate for a vote.
That 2011-2012 Republican-Teapublican strategy resurrected again by the Republican leadership this past August 2013 was essentially the same as its prior 2011-2012 strategy. What happened was the Teapublican faction of the party intervened in September 2013 and injected its pet provision of defunding Obamacare into the mix, thereby upsetting the timetable and the process for another second debt-ceiling/spending reduction deal this second time around. Negotiations since September may therefore be viewed as attempts by the Republican, Obama and Democrat leadership—with massive corporate lobbying and pressure in the background—trying to get the negotiations back on track with the original process and objective of debt ceiling extension for entitlement cuts plus corporate tax reduction.
The recent Teaparty grandstanding on Obamacare has been for the media and public, with the goal of enhancing their 2014 midterm election results within the Republican party as well as in general. They have now accomplished this. The Obamacare issue was never a serious possibility. They will now retreat.
In the past week a shift back to the original strategy and process—of trading off debt ceiling extension for spending (entitlement) cuts and taxes (cuts for corporate America) has begun to emerge.  A weekend ago Boehner signaled such in his round of TV press show appearances. Teapublican presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, trying to keep a foot in both Teapublican and Republican leadership camps, followed Boehner with a similar focus of ‘lets focus more on general spending and entitlement cuts’ in a lengthy Wall St. Journal editorial.  Even Corporate radicals like the billionaire Koch brothers, supporters and funders of various radical right causes, published a widespread commentary that Obamacare was not the real issue—that spending and tax cuts for corporations were the key issue. And today, Senators of both parties are trotting out to give press interviews to the same effect. As conservative Republican Senator, Bob Corker of Tennessee, declared today to a Bloomberg interview: “for the past two months we’ve been focused on the wrong subject”. That correct focus “is spending cuts”.
On Monday, October 14, the real bargaining and ‘end-game’ to the current crisis began.  Obama held closed door meetings with Boehner and Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, and with Senate-House Democrat leaders, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.  Now the real deal details and terms will be hammered out. It will, this writer predicts, result in more spending cuts, especially social security, medicare and Medicaid, as well as an understanding and consensus to cut corporate taxes when the tax code overhaul bill comes to votes in Congress and for Obama’s signature.
One should not forget that Obama has been, and continues to be, a strong advocate of cutting the corporate tax rate from 35% to 28% and providing ‘relief’ for multinational corporations’ tax rates.  Obama has also already indicated cuts of $630 billion in social security and medicare in his 2014 budget. This is the starting point for the ‘original process’ negotiations that have been temporarily derailed by Teapublican grandstanding, now coming to an end.
The deal may include some token concessions to Teapublicans in the House as well. Perhaps the already offered repeal of the medical device tax. Perhaps some further exemptions to Obamacare for business and wealthy individuals. A long list of such concessions to exempting and postponing parts of Obamacare have already been unilaterally made by Obama since the beginning of this year. Difficulties in the rollout of Obamacare may encourage him to agree to more. There may even be a short delay of a few months in the implementation deadline for the Obamacare act.
But the final deal to be struck in 2013 will appear more like the prior 2011-2012 deal of spending cuts and tax largesse for the wealthy. This time seniors and retirees will be the primary target of the spending cuts, while corporations get the tax cuts instead of wealthy individuals.
As this writer wrote in late 2012 when the fiscal cliff fears were being whipped up by both parties and the press, what was going on at the time was a ‘Well Orchestrated Dance’ between Obama and the Republicans. (see ‘Fiscal Cliff: A Well-Orchestrated Dance’, December 18, 2012, at the blog jackrasmus.com). A deal was inevitable by year end 2012, it was predicted.
Today the leadership of the two wings of the single corporate party have entered into final negotiations again, after a brief interruption by the Teapublicans ‘cutting into’ their cozy dance. The latter are about to leave the dance floor, however, and the well orchestrated dance now begins anew.
Dr. Jack Rasmus is the author of the book, “Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few”, published by Pluto Press, London, April 2012. He is the host of the weekly internet radio show from New York, ‘Alternative Visions’, on the Progressive Radio Network, prn.fm. His website is www.kyklosproductions.com and he blogs at jackrasmus.com. His twitter handle is drjackrasmus.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Carol Burris: New York State Education Department Has Lost Its Moral Authority

Carol Burris On John King's Leadership


Carol Burris

From The Answer Sheet by Valerie Strauss:

How New York’s education commissioner blew it big time — principal

John King (http://www.nysed.gov/)
John King (http://www.nysed.gov/)
New York Education Commissioner John King recently started a series of forums co-sponsored with the New York State PTA to talk about the Common Core State Standards — but things didn’t go as planned. At the Poughkeepsie forum a few days ago, audience members were less than polite when they were given little opportunity to speak, and he cancelled other stops on his mini-tour. In this post, award-winning Principal Carol Burris of South Side High School in New York,  talks about what this all means for the reform movement in New York.
Burris has for more than a year chronicled on this blog the many problems with the test-driven reform in New York (here, and here and here and here, for example). She was named New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and in 2010,  tapped as the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. She is the co-author of the New York Principals letter of concern regarding the evaluation of teachers by student test scores. It has been signed by more than 1,535 New York principals and more than 6,500 teachers, parents, professors, administrators and citizens. You can read the letter by clicking here. 
By Carol Burris
Thomas Sergiovanni was a renowned international scholar of educational leadership.  In his book, Moral Leadership, he explains the differences between subordinates and followers.  Sergiovanni argued that educational leaders need followers because followers are not led by coercion, but rather by commitment to beliefs, values and ideals.  In a 1990 article for Educational Leadership he wrote:
When followership is established, bureaucratic authority and psychological authority are transcended by moral authority.
The New York State Education Department has lost its moral authority, as defined by Sergiovanni.  That loss was clearly on display at a recent New York State PTA-sponsored hearing on the Common Core in Poughkeepsie, New York.  By the last half hour of the evening, the audience was both boisterous and impassioned, angered because there was limited opportunity to speak. What little time remained for the audience was twice interrupted by Commissioner John King, who had held the floor for an hour and a half.
The miffed King then reacted by cancelling upcoming scheduled forums.  In response to an inquiry about the cancellation by Long Island’s Newsday, King responded:
 I was looking forward to engaging in a dialogue with parents across the state.  I was eagerly anticipating answering questions from parents about the Common Core and other reforms we’re moving ahead with in New York State.  Unfortunately, the forums sponsored by the New York State PTA have been co-opted by special interests whose stated goal is to “dominate” the questions and manipulate the forum.”[1]
 The people in the audience at the Poughkeepsie forum were teachers and parents.  The common “special interests” of both groups are children.
What occurred in Poughkeepsie is not surprising to those who have followed the course of reform in New York led by John King.  John King was a teacher for only three years—teaching in Puerto Rico, in a private school and in a charter school in Boston.  After his short career as a teacher, he became the co-director of Roxbury Prep, a charter school with fewer than 200 students during his tenure. Five years later, he became the managing director of Uncommon Charter Schools.
In 2000, John King entered the Inquiry Doctoral Program at Columbia University’s Teachers College.  Each Inquiry cohort was small and intimate—about 25 students.  I know the program well—I was a member of the 1999 cohort.  A fellow member of John King’s cohort was the wife of billionaire Jim Tisch, Merryl Tisch, who was appointed to the New York State Board of Regents four years earlier.  King and Tisch took classes together for two years. In April of 2009, Merryl became the Regents’ chancellor.  In September 2009, John King was appointed deputy commissioner of  education. Two years later, John King was appointed commissioner following the abrupt resignation of David Steiner.  It was the meteoric rise of a man who became commissioner at 36 years of age.
King has surrounded himself with bright young people, most of whom like King, have limited or no experience in public education. They are called the Regents Fellows. Their positions are funded by donations, including a million-dollar gift from Chancellor Tisch herself, and nearly a million dollars from Bill Gates.  At a recent gathering of Long Island school leaders, Tisch was asked about the Fellows. She chided the audience, telling them that they should be grateful for the private donations.  The skeptical audience, however, well understood that there is nothing like a million dollar donation to ensure that ‘my will be done.’
‘My will be done’ has been the tone and the tenor of chaotic reform in New York.  In its rush to implement teacher evaluations, the Common Core and new testing, the state leadership has likened it to building a plane in the air.  Cut scores anchored to ridiculously high performance on the SAT caused proficiency scores to plummet.  Students, often in tears, rushed to finish tests that were too difficult and too long. The Common Core Algebra modules are still not finished, even though teachers must teach the course to students now. Rushed APPR plans reviewed by law school students and supervised by a young, former Teach For America grad now Fellow, led to disastrous results such as those of Syracuse, where 40% of the teachers were rated below effective and no elementary or middle school teacher was found to be highly effective.
Syracuse is not alone—other districts have simply chosen to hide their disasters.  The very APPR rating bands themselves produce illogical results, leaving one to wonder if the department can add three, two-digit numbers. The confusion continues. Just a few days ago, the department’s website directed those who wanted information about the parent portal to a telephone number of a sex chat line. From APPR, to the Common Core, to 3-8 testing, the plane being built in the air is falling apart.
As a result, there is no followership—no commitment among parents, teachers and principals to the values and ideals of reform.  The interest in the Common Core has turned to tepid support at best. What remains is compliance.  Even that compliance, however, is waning, as evidenced by the Poughkeepsie hearings, the Buffalo forum on testing that drew 2500, and the Opt Out movement that is growing exponentially around the state.  The moral leadership that is needed to navigate through the seas of sweeping change is not there. The source of authority is at best, bureaucratic.
In the authoritarian world of the Uncommon Charter Schools as described so well by scholar Pedro Noguera here, the rule is “thy will be done.”  In the real and messy world of democracy it is different.  Leaders must listen deeply, learn and respond.  They must be willing to consider alternative courses, and even in loud crowds, hear truth. In teaching, we attempt to perfect the skill known as “monitor and adjust.”  You can only master that skill by truly engaging learners.
In many ways, it is a sad tale.  One might imagine that if John King had first been a principal of a New York City public school, or the superintendent of a district, he would have become skilled in dealing with emotional and boisterous groups.  In doing small-scale reforms in a district, he could have practiced effective pacing. John King would know, as Sergiovanni taught, that the heart of good leadership is the development of followership.  Without followership, no reform has a chance.
[1] A Newsday reporter sent me this quote for response on October 12.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sara Noble: The Inaccurate Common Core Version of Our Constitution

Common Core’s Warped View of the Constitution, It’s Time to Worry

October 6, 2013
By 
Constitution day
The page above comes from a Common Core second grade workbook. It is completely inaccurate.
The Constitution is not a piece of paper, first off.
It is also not true that we can’t say things that hurt others. We would hope people would care about peoples’ feelings but US law does not abridge speech based on other’s feelings. Sharia law does, the South African Constitution does, but US law forbids that type of infringement.
This is the proper wording of the First Amendment to the Constitution which guarantees our right to free speech:
Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
There can be no law prohibiting the free exercise or abridgment of speech. It says nothing about not being allowed to hurt other’s feelings.
The workbook page refers to the Constitution as a written plan. It is not. It is our rule of law.
This corresponds to things we are seeing in other spheres of society. Take the Washington Redskinsfor example.
We have a nonsensical battle going on now over the name of the Washington Redskins, a name the team has carried proudly for more than 80 years. President Obama weighed in on it, why I don’t know.  He told the Associated Press that if it ”was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”
Is that how we determine our free speech rights now? We take a poll and if enough people are offended, we limit the rights of the others? In the case of the Washington Redskins, it is not meant to put Indians in anything but a positive light. If this is unacceptable, isn’t the Fighting Irish also unacceptable? What about the Cleveland Indians or the Minnesota Vikings, the Kansas City Chiefs, or the Chicago Blackhawks?
Some might point out that at one time, in some places, Redskins was a pejorative. Must we now be required to find out if a term was once a pejorative and then limit free speech accordingly? We must also then give up expressions such as bend over backwards or peter out because they were once vulgar slang.
The South African Constitution, which is so beloved by Justice Ginsberg, has restrictions like this on free speech. You can go to jail if you insult someone! That goes on all over Europe and elsewhere – people are imprisoned for their beliefs and exercise thereof.
Am I seeing a trending towards propagandizing our youth at an early age so a similar Constitution can be enacted in the United States at some point?
The worksheet from Harcourt-Brace came from a friend’s grandson’s homework. He’s in second grade.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Bill Hammond: Cuomo's Controlling Instincts

Cuomo’s controlling instincts

In probing corruption and pushing gambling, Cuomo imposes his will

Comments (2)
LINK

Governor Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Cuomo takes great pride — largely justified — in having squeezed functionality from New York’s notoriously dysfunctional state government.

His forceful, results-oriented leadership style has achieved impressive results, including three on-time budgets, much-needed spending discipline, the legalization of gay marriage and some of the country’s strongest gun control laws.

But looking too closely at how Cuomo imposes his will on others can sometimes make you queasy.

One case in point: the revelation that the governor has been interfering in the operations of his supposedly independent Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption.

Another: his out-of-line attempts to manipulate this fall’s referendum on casino gambling.

In both cases, Cuomo has let his controlling instincts go too far.

Multiple sources tell the Daily News’ Kenneth Lovett that Cuomo and his staff have quietly pressured his own anti-corruption panel into dropping certain lines of inquiry — including canceling a planned subpoena of the Real Estate Board of New York.

The REBNY query was expected to shed light on an infamous backroom deal that awarded massive tax breaks to five luxury highrises in Manhattan. The board and its members had lobbied hard for the breaks for billionaires while doling out million in contributions to various lawmakers — making it just the sort of situation a serious probe of Albany sleaze should examine.

But among those who potentially stood to be embarrassed was Cuomo himself — who had received a healthy share of the campaign cash and signed the tax breaks into law as part of a larger housing bill.

That being the case, he and his people should have stayed miles away.

Remember that Cuomo had repeatedly threatened to appoint this commission if the Legislature failed to act on certain reforms — a level of political hardball he justified as necessary to force change.

This year, he followed through — appointing the panel in July along with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Back then, Cuomo called it “an independent commission that is free to investigate whatever they feel needs to be investigated on the merits.”

But legislators derided the probe as a political witch hunt, predicting it would be aimed exclusively at them.

Cuomo’s actions have confirmed their fears — and cost the commission a big piece of credibility.

To regain what’s left of the high ground, Cuomo must go back to his original promise of independence — and back off from any further back-channel communication with the commission.

He should also give the panel a fixed, public budget to make clear that its staffers’ salaries are not dependent on his continuing good will.

Members of the commission and their staff must reestablish credibility by cutting off all further contact with the governor’s office — beyond what’s required by law and also made available to the public.

Cuomo’s effort to manipulate commission members is bad enough. His attempt to manipulate the voters into approving a massive expansion of gambling is arguably worse.

Cuomo is pushing for November passage of a constitutional amendment authorizing up to seven casinos — in the dubious belief that they will boost the upstate economy rather than simply drain the pockets of gamblers.

First, he silenced the potential opposition by cutting deals with upstate Indian tribes.

Then, he passed a law declaring that the state would add thousands more video-lottery parlors — which are casinos by another name — if the amendment is defeated. His message to the voters: I’m going to expand gambling no matter how you vote.

Last but not least, he prevailed on the Board of Elections to approve wording for the ballot proposal that declares the casinos will be all about “promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools and permitting local governments to lower property taxes.”

The board somehow neglected to mention lining the pockets of casino owners and impoverishing compulsive gamblers.

The early signs are that this Cuomoesque manipulation could work.

When Siena pollsters asked voters a straight question about Las Vegas-style casinos, they were split down the middle, 49% to 49%.

But when pollsters read the slanted ballot language, 55% said yes and 42% said no.

Sure, the governor may win both of these fights — but what will he lose in the process?

whammond@nydailynews.com

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

David Suker Wins His Petition In The Supreme Court, Judge Cites Wrong-Doing By NYC DOE Attorneys Theresa Europe, Nancy Ryan, and Regina Loughran

reposted from NYC Rubber Room Reporter
LINK

NYC Teacher David Suker Fought The Gotcha Squad - Department of Education in NYC - and Wins His Case in Court by Betsy Combier



re-posted from Parentadvocates.org

David was fired from his teaching position at his "teacher trial" or 3020-a, by the deadly team of Arbitrator Eleanor Elovich Glanstein, Department Attorney Nancy Ryan, and New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) Attorney Steven Friedman. This lethal team violated David's due process and, writes New York State Supreme Court Judge Alice Schlesinger, the law, and then she vacates the termination.

Theresa Europe's email to OSI Director Regina Loughran
 
     




From the desk of Betsy Combier:

David Suker taught for 14 years at Offsite Educational Services which transitioned into GED Plus, without ever being brought to 3020-a prior to the proceeding described here, namely the 3020-a arbitration hearing, which was brought against him by the New York City Department of Education in 2012. I knew David from the Rubber Room at 25 Chapel Street in Brooklyn, New York. I started walking into this room with David Pakter around 2004, and talked with teachers who were there and followed their stories (see Steve Ostrin and Polo Colon, for example). 

David Suker was and is an excellent teacher and a cult hero among students. He was a leader of Occupy Wall street, and had a run-in with the police which became misconduct charged against him. He had the very unfortunate circumstance of taking NYSUT's offer of representation, and not hiring a private attorney. NYSUT Assistant General Counsel Claude Hersh appointed Senior Attorney Steven Friedman. Steve worked in a deadly partnership with Attorney Eleanor Elovich Glanstein and DOE prosecuting Attorney Nancy Ryan. Why do I call this threesome "deadly"? Because their goal was to terminate those people brought before them. See the case of Nicola De Marco). Recently, sources tell me, Eleanor Glanstein was fired or removed from the UFT-DOE Panel. Nancy Ryan and Steve Friedman were moved to other Arbitrators. Thank goodness this team was broken up. I was fortunate enough to watch the three of them for several years, and, most recently, see how Nancy Ryan destroyed a Department of Labor Unemployment Hearing in August 2013. More about that in a later post.

Eleanor Glanstein is a very small woman who shrugs off violations of law and contract. She dismisses Nancy Ryan, a constant screamer and hysteric, as part of the order of business. Everything Nancy says is what Eleanor writes in her decision at the end of the 3020-a. Eleanor had a lot of power and was able to get away with her irrational rulings because her brother Larry Elovich was a political Somebody out on Long Island. 

The way the Ryan-Friedman-Glanstein termination process worked was as follows: Nancy Ryan would pursue any and all charges with a vengeance that left everyone in the room stunned. Her attacks are personal and vicious, and she continues now, only with a new arbitrator. There are no rules, laws, or contracts that she cares about. Indeed, these are always discarded as wrongly placed barriers to getting to the core of the case, namely, terminating a "criminal" (the poor employee/victim). Nancy must be a very unhappy person to be so malicious. All allegations against a person are "facts", which Nancy defends with her lifeblood. Steve Friedman basically plays along to get along. His defense is the worst of any NYSUT Attorney whom I have observed since I started attending 3020-a hearings in 2003-4. He has none. Steve presents some evidence, but he really would like his client to resign, retire, or go away. He permits, by doing nothing to stop her, Nancy's hysterics. While Steve sits there not doing much of anything and Nancy is screaming that the teacher/employee is criminally insane, Eleanor shrugs off Nancy but almost always terminates the charged employee. Eleanor refuses to concern herself with any issues of probable cause and procedural error. It is good that she is no longer on the panel. No one will miss her....except maybe Nancy.

David was brought up on three sets of charges, the first two sets were unsubstantiated and/or minor, but Eleanor Glanstein found almost all specifications were valid. Then Steve allowed Nancy and Terri Europe to bring forth a third set of charges about David's daughter's school to which she had been admitted more than 7 years earlier, and Eleanor consolidated this set with the previous two. Former Director of the Administrative Trials Unit, the Gotcha Squad, Theresa ("Terri") Europe, heard from Nancy that David had placed his daughter in an upper west side elementary school and then gave an address for himself which was not supposedly in the district (he did not have a permanent address at the time). According to A-101, the Department of Education had 30 days to investigate. David was not told of any investigation. By the time he was charged with 3020-a, his daughter was in high school, where residence did not matter. David's daughter's mother lived in Bronx the entire time. In other words, this issue was a non-issue. 

3020-a charges may go back only 3 years, unless the act charged was a crime when committed. David was not accused of a crime when his daughter started school. Thus, when Nancy told Terri that she had discovered the misconduct of David ten years earlier, Terri told Regina Loughran, Deputy Commissioner of the Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI)  that she wanted an investigation of David, but this violated 3020-a law. 

This type of targeting is a violation of law. Yet, Eleanor Glanstein, with Steve Friedman's permission, charged David with the "misconduct" and David was terminated for fraudulently putting his daughter in a school without living in the district of the school.

David asked us at Advocatz to help him appeal this decision. We gladly contributed. At 3020-a, the Department, "Respondent" , had the burden of proof, and failed to provide a minimum amount of evidence that could justify the determination of termination as a just and equitable award. Certainly there was a clear failure to provide "preponderance of the evidence", which is the required standard pursuant to Education Law Section 3020-a. 

Glanstein's irrational conclusion was that Petitioner's acts were deliberately planned to throw his long and successful career as a tenured teacher out the window. In other words, Glanstein made a determination reeking of bad faith where she ignored the testimony of David Suker, "Petitioner", that he knew nothing about any residency requirement for Columbia Secondary, and that his satisfactory teaching performance showed he was an excellent teacher, to find that David inexplicably committed fraud on his employer. This made no sense. To be fraudulent, a false statement must be made with the intent to deceive the victim. And, the false statement must be made with the intent to deprive the victim of some legal right, and the victim's reliance on the false statement must be reasonable. Therefore, it would have been reasonable for Columbia Secondary School to question/investigate/address Petitioner's residency within the 30-day period cited in the Regulation, A-101, but not have the NYC DOE Office of Legal Services charge him five(5) years later. 

When David filled out the admission forms to Columbia Secondary School for his daughter he gave the address at which he and his daughter were staying in 2007. He did not lie. No one from the school ever questioned him about this address, and the only requirement for the school admissions is that first consideration goes to those students who live above 96th street. Students in the school population come from throughout the New York City area. Here, David never intended any fraud. No misconduct existed then or now, and no notice was given to David about possible wrong-doing, so he could address the issue, until it was "too late", and he was charged by Theresa Europe with 3020-a.

Ms. Europe had no authority, as the Attorney for the Department and Supervisor of the Administrative Trials Unit, to charge David five years after Columbia Secondary accepted his daughter. David invoked the doctrine of laches. From Wikipedia: "Laches is an "unreasonable delay pursuing a right or claim...in a way that prejudices the (opposing) party." When asserted in litigation, it is an equitable defense, or doctrine. The person invoking laches is asserting that an opposing party has "slept on its rights," and that, as a result of this delay, circumstances have changed such that it is no longer just to grant the (Petitioner's) original claim. Put another way, failure to assert one’s rights in a timely manner can result in a claim being barred by laches. Laches is a form of estoppel for delay.

Ironically, while David was charged with filling out erroneous records for his daughter, the Department refused to give him the requested records of the students whose complaints in 2009 led to some of his charges. Here is an excerpt from the transcript:
"Mr. Friedman: Okay, Madam Hearing Officer, pursuant to your previous ruling, I now call for production of any counseling records, disciplinary records, attendance records and anything else that would have been from December of 2008 to April of 2009 and again, pursuant to your prior ruling, I reserve the right to recall this witness in the event that anything in those documents turns up to be material relevant in this case.

Ms. Ryan: I have already asked for those documents, that's what he got...That's the extent of what they have...Yeah, what do you think I asked for. You think I asked them to pick out three papers?" (Transcript, "T" pp. 127-128)

Mr. Friedman: "If I understand correctly, there's absolutely no record of that student being in the program then. Nothing. No test results, no applications, no records that she shows" (T146)
Hearing Officer: "I've heard you both...but I will not strike the student's testimony. The application is denied" (T146-147).

Mr. Friedman: " Then can I respectfully request then that the Hearing Officer take notice that we are very, very hampered in our defense?" (T147)

Glanstein didn't care.

But luckily, New York State Supreme Court Judge Alice Schlesinger did care. She threw out the third set of charges about David's daughter and her admission to the West Side school, and remanded back to the Department for a penalty that was less than termination. Schlesinger mentioned Nancy Ryan in her decision:

"However, in the two-month period between the dates that Mr. Suker was informed of these two Charges, a related but somewhat unusual communication occurred. Nancy Ryan, the attorney prosecuting the matter for the Administrative Trials Unit of the Office of Legal Services (ATU) contacted Theresa Europe, Deputy Counsel to the Chancellor for the NYC Department of Education, and gave her “interesting” information relating to Mr. Suker’s daughter which Ms. Ryan had noted while preparing the case.*
...Ms. Europe ended her letter: “Can you open an investigation? We are scheduled to start trial but I can try to put it off if your office will investigate. Let me know and thanks.”....The findings from this investigation then formed the predicate for the final Charge, notice of which was sent to Mr. Suker on April 20, 2012, after the 3020-a hearing had begun...I thus find that all of the acts in this Charge, in all three Specifications, are time-barred; because the conduct has not been proven to specifically constitute a “crime when committed,” the acts fall outside the three-year limitations period for disciplinary charges under § 3020-a."

Last week, the New York Law Department filed an Appeal with the Appellate Division. David remains off the payroll until the resolution of this appeal.


See more about Regina Loughran below:


Law and Disorder: Special Victims Unit

Investigators say the city's independent schools watchdog has often failed to bark

Tom Robbins
published: December 06, 2005 

Back in 1997 police arrested a man named Ronald Taylor, who worked as an assistant public school principal in Harlem. Taylor, 50 years old at the time, easily ranked as a parent's worst nightmare. His arrest came after the mother of a student walked into a local police precinct and reported that Taylor had lured her 15-year-old son to his apartment with an offer to play with his video game collection. He then proceeded to sexually molest him. When cops went to investigate they found Taylor had tricked up his West Harlem apartment as a kids' game room. They also found some 400 X-rated videos.


illustration: Glynis Sweeny
Details:
See also:

Too Hot to Handle
How a crooked congressman got a pass from school probers
by Tom Robbins , Village Voice
LINK

Unlike a score of school-personnel sex-abuse cases from that era, Taylor's arrest got little news play. The Times ran a short item on an inside page and the Daily News carried one as well, on page 79. The lack of attention was partly because the arrest did not emanate from the efficient publicity machine of Edward Stancik, the late special commissioner for investigation for city schools.

For 12 years until his death in 2002, Stancik's gaunt features were a staple on TV newscasts as he told of corrupt bureaucrats and twisted sex abusers nailed by his office. Such cases made Stancik wildly unpopular in the teachers' union offices and the old Board of Education headquarters on Livingston Street in Brooklyn, where he was viewed as a merciless inquisitor, a publicity hound whose investigations were measured mainly for their TV and news-ink potential.

On the other hand, many politicians, journalists, prosecutors, and parents adored him, viewing Stancik as a valiant warrior against an intractable bureaucracy. So what if he knew how to use the media? What better way to send a message to the public and bad guys alike that wrongdoing won't be tolerated? When Stancik died at age 47 of heart failure in March 2002, there were some misgivings expressed about his occasional overzealousness. But the editorial call was to make sure the watchdog office he'd led didn't lose its fangs.

But a few months after Stancik's death, something unusual in the world of law enforcement happened. A former top investigator in his office, an ex-detective who had been a supervisor there for five years, sat down and wrote two lengthy letters to city officials alleging that a top Stancik deputy named Regina Loughran had dropped the ball in several important cases, either delaying arrests or letting the bad guys get away altogether. In some instances, it was alleged, Loughran had changed cases from being "substantiated" to "unsubstantiated."

The complaints were investigated by city attorneys, and several were confirmed. Yet Loughran today remains as powerful as ever, serving as the $151,000 number two official in the special investigators' office. Former and current investigators, both men and women, who spoke under condition of anonymity, told the Voice they were puzzled by the inaction. "If we had caught someone in the education system behaving this way, they'd be long gone," said one former investigator.

Among the cases the investigators cited was that of Ronald Taylor.

According to the former detective and others familiar with the case, nearly a year before Taylor's arrest by police, investigators in Stancik's office had asked permission to launch a probe of the school official. The request was made after a prison social worker contacted the investigations office to say that an inmate was claiming to have been sexually abused by Taylor, his former teacher. Investigators initially dismissed the charge as one more prisoner trying to reduce his sentence. But the details of the story were disturbingly precise: Taylor had asked the student, then 15 years old, to carry a crate of milk up to his apartment. Once he got him inside, Taylor had sexually assaulted him. The inmate described the apartment in detail.

Investigators drove to upstate Green Haven Correctional Facility to interview the inmate, who convinced them that a sexual predator was loose in the schools. The statute of limitations had expired on the earlier assault, but the inmate said he was willing to wear a recording device to a meeting with Taylor to see if he could get him talking about other victims. The investigators relayed that offer to Loughran, then the attorney-in-charge of the child sexual-abuse unit and a key figure in the office. Loughran refused.

"The issue for her seemed to be, 'Why spend the time and money to get this kid out of jail and wire him up for a case that's too old,' " a former investigator told the Voice. "We argued that if we have this one person there are probably others out there at risk."

Loughran was adamant. But the investigators, most of them retired NYPD detectives who lived by chain of command, declined to appeal the decision over her head. The case was closed. Nine months later, the outraged mother of another victim filed her complaint with police. Taylor was immediately arrested and later sentenced to serve up to three years in prison. Under questioning, he said something that chilled both cops and school investigators. He said he was HIV-positive.

Ed Stancik's public posture was of a manager with a stern "the buck stops here" policy. But according to the former detective and others, the often ailing commissioner ceded wide authority to Loughran, a hardworking former sex-crimes prosecutor whose ability to turn out clearly written reports was highly prized by Stancik and his successor.

Investigators said Loughran was also often tempestuous, given to sudden rages and sulks. What made their jobs most difficult, however, was her apparent skittishness about dealing directly with outside prosecutors who were needed for any criminal referrals. "She just seemed intimidated or something," said one veteran ex-detective who worked in the office for years. "If we had a tape we needed to get to the D.A. she would have you drop it off with the officer in the lobby, rather than make a call to the prosecutor personally."

As a result, the investigators said, the case of the predatory assistant principal was just one of the instances in Stancik's old office where the system simply broke down.

There was the case of the art instructor accused of having displayed nude photos of himself to disabled students, confiding that "what a girl wants is a big dick." (The photos weren't found, and Loughran decided the students' testimony was "problematic," ordering investigators to change their findings from "substantiated" to "unfounded." When Board of Ed administrators asked for investigators to testify against the teacher to bar him from further employment, Loughran refused to allow it.)

There was the 48-year-old male teacher who admitted driving a 17-year-old female student to a funeral home parking lot in the Bronx and asking her, "What if I told you I wanted to go down on you?" (The teacher said he was trying to help her learn to fend off improper advances. The principal vouched for the teacher, and the girl later admitted she'd neglected to say they were also drinking beer at the time. Loughran said her testimony was inconsistent and ordered the case dropped.)

And there was Paul Kerner, a 61-year-old teacher at Sheepshead Bay High School who romanced an 11th-grade girl, taking her to Atlantic City casinos and a motel where he coerced her into performing fellatio and other sex acts. The investigator on the case urged Loughran to make a quick criminal referral to prosecutors, but the deputy balked. "I don't know what to do, let's hold off," she said, according to a report of the incident.

The office dithered so long that the victim called the investigator, complaining that Kerner was now stalking her, and asking why he hadn't been arrested yet. The investigator asked Loughran for permission to take the case to a friend at the FBI. Loughran expressed skepticism that the bureau would be interested, but reluctantly agreed. But when the FBI came seeking the backup documents for the case, Loughran balked again, forcing agents to get a grand jury subpoena. (Kerner was eventually convicted in federal court, where he received a 33-month sentence. Annoyed at the investigator who had called the bureau, Loughran allegedly had him transferred out of the sex-crimes unit.)

Yet another disturbing case posed an investigative challenge, one that Stancik's former detectives readily accepted, given the stakes, but which Loughran flat-out rejected. In that instance, a former city high school student, now a grown man and a member of the Army Reserves, called the office to say that his former principal had repeatedly sexually abused him a few years earlier. According to his story, he had been a fatherless youngster whom the principal had taken under his wing, bringing him on camping trips to Lake George and elsewhere where he had repeatedly molested him. On the advice of his therapist, the man had decided to confront and report his abuser. Once he did, the principal immediately resigned.

The Stancik investigators were able to get a consensually recorded telephone conversation in which the principal admitted his sexual abuse of the former student. Like the Ronald Taylor case, however, the acts were too old to prosecute. But investigators said the ex-principal (a Boy Scout troop leader who still lived with his mother) fit the profile of "a classic pedophile," and they believed he had to have preyed on others.

The next step, they proposed to Lough-ran, would be to wire up the ex-student and have him meet with the former principal to see if they could pick up leads on other victims. They would also talk to teachers and students at the principal's school to find out if other boys had been similarly "befriended." Loughran wouldn't hear of it. According to two former investigators, she said, "He is out of the system. Shut it down." (Loughran has denied using those words.)

In an effort to try to breathe new life into the case, one of the investigators reached out to a federal prosecutor he knew who was familiar with sex-crime statutes to ask if there was any other law the ex-principal might have violated. Loughran later said she was "upset" and "embarrassed" by the call, which she said duplicated her own research and had been made without her permission. Investigators said it was much more dramatic than that. "She was livid," said one of them. When the investigator was asked why the call had been made, he responded: "Because I'm trying to catch the son of a bitch."

According to the investigators, Lough-ran retaliated by shifting one of the two probers who had worked the case, considered one of the office's most productive teams, out of the sex unit. Loughran later insisted the assignment change had been made by Stancik, not her.

But it still wasn't over. The former principal, concerned at possible civil liabilities, offered to purchase a $250,000 house for the victim in exchange for a promise not to pursue further legal action. When Loughran learned of the offer, she allegedly said that the victim might be arrested for extortion, a suggestion that appalled the investigators. (As it happened, the deal fell through.)

"He had been a principal for 20 years, he had such power," said one of the investigators recently. "All he had to do was find another weak kid. We felt there had to be other victims. It was so egregious to shut it down. Pedophiles don't do it once and then go home. You don't have to be Columbo to figure that out."

The two letters detailing the complaints about the bungled past cases landed on the desk of city department of investigations commissioner Rose Gill Hearn in early 2003.

Hearn technically oversees the schools investigation unit (its offices are located in the same Maiden Lane building as DOI), but because of its sensitive mission it operates largely independently. Still, Hearn took the complaints seriously, assigning a pair of senior attorneys to look into them. Over the course of several months, the attorneys interviewed 10 current and former employees of Stancik's old special commissioner's office, including Loughran. During the interviews, the attorneys turned up another instance, in which a complaint about a Bronx teacher accused of sodomizing several young male students had been confirmed by the Stancik office but had somehow never been referred to prosecutors.

Those findings were in turn forwarded to Stancik's successor, Richard J. Condon, a former police commissioner who in the past headed investigative squads for the Manhattan and Queens district attorneys. When Condon took over in June 2002, he retained Loughran, bumping her up a notch to first deputy commissioner. A DOI spokesperson, Emily Gest, said the office hadn't ordered any changes or discipline for Loughran, but had "shared the facts and findings of its investigation, for Commissioner Condon to take any necessary remedial actions."

Condon said that he too took the complaints seriously, spending hours wading through old investigative files. "I was not a witness to this history," he said. "Most of these things happened years before I got here."

The standard he used in examining the cases, Condon said, was whether Loughran had had a "rational basis" for her decisions. In two instances—that of the art instructor who had shown the nude photos, and the teacher who had posed the obscene remarks to the student—Condon said he disagreed with Loughran's actions, but cautioned that even this conclusion was "probably unfair."

As for the failure to make a criminal referral in the Bronx sodomy case, Condon said the explanation was simple. "She screwed up. It happens." He noted that the office had handled a total of 1,800 cases during the period under review. Loughran also later told DOI's inquiry that she was "baffled" how she had failed to make the referral, but said if she was to blame so were her former bosses, Stancik and Robert Brenner, who served as Stancik's first deputy commissioner. (Brenner, now with the investigations firm Kroll Inc., did not return calls.)

At the end of the day, however, Condon said he chalked up the complaints to honest disagreements. "I am used to investigators and prosecutors arguing over whether cases should be prosecuted," he said.

Condon told the Daily News' Kathleen Lucadamo, who asked about the probe last month, that he considered Loughran "one of the straightest, most hardworking prosecutors I have ever worked with."

He told the Voice that he'd encountered none of the erratic behavior by Loughran described by the investigators. "I have been here three and a half years working next door to this woman and I have never seen the behavior these people describe," he said.

In a letter to DOI, however, Condon said he had changed office procedures to make sure he personally reads all complaints that come into the office and examines "every substantiated and unsubstantiated case."

Loughran, who declined to speak to the Voice, wrote Condon a lengthy defense of her actions, insisting that her decisions at the office had been "common-sense based and not capricious by any rational standard."

The investigators, past and current, remain unconvinced. "This isn't just disagreeing over cases," said one. "Yeah, there's always tension [in other investigative offices] between the investigators and the prosecutors. But it's always motivated by respect, and everyone understands they're a team. Here, you don't get that. And they're supposed to be about helping the kids."