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Much-praised Baltimore teacher contract voted down

You probably noticed, but in case you didn't, the innovative contract for public school teachers in Baltimore was thoroughly squashed on Oct. 14 in a 1,540 to 1,107 vote by teachers.

Many people on all sides of the question of teacher unions, including me, welcomed an agreement that seemed to give teachers a chance to make much more money -- up to $100,000 a year -- based in part on their classroom performance, but measured in ways that did not depend just on test scores.

The Baltimore city schools CEO Andres A. Alonso held out hope that the teachers would change their minds after they understood the complicated document better. Many of its provisions depend on committee decisions that lie far in the future.

It has to be mildly embarrassing, however, to American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, who gave the draft language such a hopeful blessing. "We're rewarding teachers for great teaching," she said. The Post's editorial page did not take the vote results kindly.

Read Jay's blog every day, and follow all of The Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education Web page.

By Jay Mathews  | October 19, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  Baltimore teachers contract voted down, school chief holds out hope of a change later.  
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ironic isn't it? It's the teachers job to interpret and communicate information to others from documents. The fact that so many teachers lack this ability really shows how badly such reforms are needed. The reform failed because we don't reward good teaching skills, which is exactly what the reform was for. Catch-22.

Posted by: lwatkins4 | October 19, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I don't think a difference of about 400 votes qualifies for the phrase, "thoroughly squashed" to be used.

Posted by: researcher2 | October 19, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

for researcher2---that's a 58 to 42 percent margin, a huge landslide if this were a presidential election. The margin of the loss is particularly significant when you consider that the national AFT president was promoting the contract so aggressively.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 19, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Read this piece by a Baltimore City teacher:

Posted by: edlharris | October 19, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse


The proposed agreement would empower principals, not teachers
By Bill Bleich
10:21 AM EDT, October 12, 2010
What’s not to like about the proposed contract for Baltimore city schoolteachers? Plenty.

Start with “merit” pay, which will encourage rivalry among teachers. Currently, teachers share pedagogical insights, teaching materials and effective lessons. For most of us, our support for one another is a reflection of our profound concern for maximizing the intellectual growth of the young people for whom we’re responsible.

With “merit” pay, there will be pressure on teachers to be less supportive of each other and to act in a more self-centered way. We are modeling the adult world to our students. Do we want our young people to learn — from observing our behavior — that backstabbing and unbridled ambition are the best way for humanity to conduct itself? Shouldn’t our goal be to uplift all of humanity, not just a small portion of it?

Often, teachers are more highly motivated than administrators to serve our young people. The attitude that motivates some people to become principals causes them to focus their time on the requisite coursework for becoming administrators. In contrast, a dedicated teacher may selflessly devote large amounts of time to being the voluntary adviser for a school club, helping to organize social and academic events for the students after school, getting to know parents, and refining teaching strategies and instructional materials with the goal of becoming more effective each year.

Posted by: edlharris | October 19, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Jay, thanks for the math lesson:-)
edharris, thanks for the article. Another well cited issue with merit pay (regardless of how merit is determined) is budgetary issues. In FCPS when it was implemented years ago, it didn't last because they ended up not having money in the budget to reward the teachers who had earned it.
In DCPS it took months before the details emerged on who earned it based on their IMPACT score, and then there was a "conditions" agreement that the teachers had to sign in order to get the bonus.
I think teachers are becoming more cynical, and thus actually read the contract language versus hearing what the union leaders state is in the language (which they may have done in the past).
How many teachers didn't vote at all, Jay? Do you have those numbers..just wondering what percentage the 2647 votes represents.

Posted by: researcher2 | October 19, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

I heard Randi Weingarten on NPR's Talk of the Nation and she made a lot of sense. She suggested that the Baltimore teachers didn't have time to process the information and were rushed into voting. They weren't given time to ask questions, etc.

I suspect that the Baltimore teachers have been observing what happened in DC and aren't too impressed. I think everybody saw how the DC teachers were fired unfairly.(At least no one was ever given any explanations and it appeared that there was some funny business going on).

While it might seem ethical to members of the press and to administrators to fire some good teachers along with the bad for the greater good of the system, I don't think us good teachers feel that way. That is my take on Baltimore's voting "no".

There is a new level of mistrust between teachers and their supervisors, and the reform movement.

Posted by: celestun100 | October 19, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Jay, since the contract you like contains many stipulations that favor the financial interests of your employer, the Washington Post Corporation, I think journalistic integrity requires you to disclose the existence of the wholly-owned Post for-profit subsidiary, "Kalplan K12 Learning".

Last week,we discussed the progress of your effort to publish a guest blog I wrote (at your invitation), "The Washington Post Corporation's For-Profit Involvement in the DC Public Schools"

You said you had to submit the text to your editors for approval. I am wondering what the status is of that process?

Posted by: mport84 | October 19, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

mport84 - if the Post ultimately decides not to publish your blog post, I'm sure you could find another outlet for it.

Also, be sure to read any editing very carefully for subtle changes that distort your meaning.

Posted by: efavorite | October 20, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't vote for a contract that contained an evaluation system for which the details had yet to be enumerated. Teachers have learned that "just trust us," whether spoken by administration or union leaders, is a huge red flag. It's like signing a blank check and handing it over to a stranger.

The union in New York sold its teachers out by approving the RttT application. Almost half of the money is going to SED with which they will hire 25 more bureaucrats. We're now going to be subjected to a similar evaluation scheme for which all of the details have yet to be defined. Our district will get $13,000 a year for four years; 75% of which will be returned to our Intermediate Unit (BOCES) to hire three member monitoring teams for ever 40 buildings. So, that will leave us with about $3250 a year, which is about $3.00 per student per year for four years.

Posted by: buckbuck11 | October 20, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

After observing the DC debacle, why would anyone in his right mind vote for a contract that left the most important details to be "worked out" sometime in the future? Would you agree to a cable TV contract where the details, like which channels would be offered, would be "worked out in the future?

Posted by: mcstowy | October 20, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

to mport84---my apologies. I tried to get it cleaned up and ready for the editors to look at, but i am on vacation now until Nov. 1 and cannot finish the process until after that because they need to be able to reach me while they are making up their minds and I will be across the atlantic. I will give it priority when I get back.

Posted by: jaymathews | October 20, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I’m sorry to hear you’ve backed down, Jay. Let me just make a wild charge here, then, and you can make that a priority when you get back from vacation. Who knows, maybe it will even be advantageous for your career to bring it up then.

In light of the August revelations of systematic fraudulent practices, the Florida attorney general is responding to complaints by adults who have been cheated and lied to by “Kaplan Higher Education”, a wholly owned for-profit subsidiary of the Washington Post corporation.

“Kaplan K12 Learning Services” is a for-profit private company which does extensive business with the public school system of DC. Like its sister-company, it also sells online "virtual" education, but to elementary and high school programs to public districts all over the country. It operates publicly funded, for-profit online elementary and secondary charter schools, statewide in six states. It runs hidden “district” programs to capture public funding for “children who never even walk through the door” of a school. Unlike Kaplan’s higher education victims, though, these customers have no “choice”.

So the Florida attorney general is responding to complaints by adults who have been cheated and lied to by “Kaplan Higher Education”. Jay, while you have been backing down on this disclosure, “Kaplan K12 Learning Services” has continued to expand its profitable operations in low-income public school districts taken over by the Washington Post’s army of sleazy for-profit educrats. It is not the only such business, but the Post protects them all to cover its own investments.

If you want to argue that the Post’s for-profit incursions into the forced-takeover-business are honorable, the world would listen. The world listens to billionaire investors and their toadies, but nobody is listening to the children pushed out of “brick and mortar” public schools by your manifesto-wielding superintendents. They are sitting in concrete-block rooms in court schools, or home in their isolated apartments in the Projects, consuming Kaplan’s virtual services so Kaplan can split the juicy public per-diem payment with the corrupted public districts.

On Saturday I heard Judge Leslie Harris of the Boston juvenile court describe the rising tide of minority children coming before him, charged with non-criminal infractions by their own school administrators. He told of children endlessly suspended, sent home, and put in isolated in-school detention without due process, and no advocacy. They are trapped by school administrative policies dictated by the Post’s “education reform” political protegees. They’ll still be there when you get back, Jay, whatever I do, but I will continue trying to at least disclose their existence. Maybe an attorney general will come.

Posted by: mport84 | October 20, 2010 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Teachers are beginning to see the capitulation of their 'leadership' of which Weingarten is simply a poseur for the billionaire's and right wing privatization charlatans.

It is not surprising that the Washington Post would have such poor coverage of the issue. Their blood bank is Kaplan University and three other Kaplan subsidiaries that make their money off of privatization. Warren Buffet owns 20% of the WOP and the company takes in 62% of their income from privatization efforts of four Kaplan Subsidiaries.

So, we can see that the paper that brought us Watergate now brings us eduGate but in sanitized form as their CEO, Donald Graham, works with right wing front groups to destroy regulations on for profit Kaplan Universities.

Do not trust the Washington Post on any educational reporting. Conflict of interest.

As for teachers, if they stand up in concert with other public and private unions they can beat back Race to the Top, the NCLB Act cemented into reality by Duncan.

This is just one example

Danny Weil

Posted by: weilunion | October 21, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

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