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Teacher Poll: Tenure Trumps Big Money

By an almost 3-to-1 margin, D.C. teachers want their union to stay at the bargaining table rather than bring Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's two-tier salary plan to the membership for a vote as part of a new contract. That's the bottom line of a new poll commissioned by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) for its local affiliate, the Washington Teachers Union.

The survey of 400 teachers, conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates on August 5-7, challenges Rhee's repeated assertions that teachers heavily favor her pay plan. Teachers who were surveyed urged union leaders by an overwhelming margin (80-17) to preserve their seniority and tenure protections. Under Rhee's proposal, tenured teachers can choose a salary option that offers big raises and performance bonuses, but only if they spend a year on probation, risking dismissal.

Seventy-four percent of teachers called Rhee's plan to fund the raises and bonuses with five years of foundation grants "a very serious concern," because it is not clear where the money will come from later. Seventy-three percent raised the same level of concern about the added authority over personnel decisions that principals would enjoy under the plan.

Teachers were split on Rhee herself, with 41 percent saying they were "very" or "somewhat" satisfied with her job performance while 50 percent described themselves as "very" or "somewhat" dissatisified. Asked what would improve the quality of education students receive in D.C. public schools, teachers most frequently (31 percent) cited improved parental involvement. Twenty percent mentioned higher quality and accountability for teachers.

Bill Turque

By Marcia Davis  |  August 19, 2008; 7:29 AM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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This is what anyone in teaching would expect. Tenure is important and with the way that Rhee has handled staffing decisions it is more important than ever.

Posted by: peter | August 19, 2008 8:20 AM | Report abuse

The Union is intimidating:

but it is defeatable.

Posted by: Dr. Drei | August 19, 2008 8:36 AM | Report abuse

I don't EVER want to hear one complaint about teachers salaries in the district if this offer doesn't get accepted. Never will the teachers, or their union have any right to bemoan their compensation.

It really enrages me as a District taxpayer (who doesn't even have any kids in the system) that while the rest of the country actually has to continually justify their position within their profession, simply "getting by" long enough to get "tenure" then guarantees you a job forever, regardless of how worthless you are.

The rest of us are "at-will" employees of our respective employers and have to valid our worth on a constant basis. How nice it would be if I could simply "show up" and be promised a check.

Get with the program teachers.

Posted by: David | August 19, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

In the world of Who's Who of Losers, three names stand out and they are Prerez Musharaff of Pakistan, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Adrian McGreevy Fenty of Washington, DC.

What do these three have in common? A totalitarian mind set, deep seeded egos, more than a few screws loose and who have made more enemies than friends among voters and other leaders.

Michelle Rhee is just a mouth-piece for Fenty as she makes none of the decisions!

Posted by: Jonathan R. Rees, Sr. | August 19, 2008 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Well I am not surprised and Iam glad. I agree with the senior teachers. For the record, young ill-experienced teacher, you never sacrafice your leverage. When you are older, you will understand the senior teacher objective or reasoning.

On another note,the number one reason teacher have such a hard time is because of the PARENTS. In my experience, my wife and I would be the only teachers in attendance at the PTA meeting or my son, out of 22 students, is the only student who submitte his homework. I advise parents to make sure their child reads during the summer. The students will learn when the parents come in agreement with the teacher and support the teacher's learning plan. Parents know your child at home and in the classroom.

Posted by: Keon | August 19, 2008 10:52 AM | Report abuse

And now we boldly march towards mediocrity! How the heck can they turn down a pay increase to keep tenure?!?! A well qualified teacher would take this while a poorly qualified one would not. Now we know how the quality of teachers stand in DC!

Posted by: Sean | August 19, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

David, you should be ashamed of yourself. Tenure is earned. Every teacher doesn't have tenure and all of the teachers are not bad teachers. Remember, your parents raised; your teachers enforced what your parents instilled in you and taught you at the same time. You should be grateful.
Oh, everyone can't teach,ie YOU. However, you chose your as they chose theirs, backoff!!!!

Posted by: Keon | August 19, 2008 11:44 AM | Report abuse

This poll is quite unrepresentative and therefore its conclusions shouldn't be taken that seriously. I am a DCPS teacher who supports the proposed contract, supports Rhee and have more than 20 years experience in the system. I guess that makes me an older teacher. I have no problems being paid more if my students perform well since they do anyway. I have no problems being judged by my principal, since that is what they are paid to do when they evaluate us. My evaluations have always been good to excellent because I am a skilled and competent educator. In addition, help my principal in any way I can, which only makes our school better. This is the way many teachers work.

Posted by: Sasha | August 19, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Then if they teachers so overwhelmingly dislike the proposal then why not let it come up for a vote? Then they have nothing to worry about if the teachers won't vote for the contract. A poll conducted by the very group campaigning against it behind the scenes doesn't speak much to me until you release the sample and tell me what the questions were. Hey, Marcia and WP... do your job and dig deeper. Don't just take the ATF's press release and regurgitate it.

Posted by: TPNDC | August 19, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Rhee's offer is an offer. She doesn't have the money. The schools budget doesn't support this plan, and no funder is going to pay for these raises in perpetuity. There are certainly some conservatives who might pony up for a year or two to break the union, but no one has said yes we'll do this.

I think anyone who takes this deal is an idiot even if they believe in the pay for performance. She can't promise the raises will ever exist or continue to exist. They are phantom pay raises being offered to dupes that would give up their tenure for nothing.

Posted by: Mary in DC | August 19, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

The "reason" most government employees are not "at-will" is due to this little thing called continuity of operations or continuity of government in a system that is freqently subjected to administration changes. If every mayor or governor or president were able to just come in and randomly fire employees that would subject their jurisdiction to a level of political interruption that could destabalize services.

The career government worker is the nuts and bolts of the programs that elected leaders envision as well as the institutional knowledge of programs of previous administrations that have not yet ended. It is easy to kick these people, but, in the end, I'd prefer they be career status, because I, to be perfectly honest, do not trust the judgement and motives of politicians.

Posted by: VoiceOfReason | August 19, 2008 2:46 PM | Report abuse

As a former Special Education teacher for the DC Public School System, I have to say that this current issue facing teachers is at best alarming. It is admirable that teachers are finally expressing their First Admendment rights of Free Speech in their opposition to this proposal. I feel that most of what has recently been commented on by teachers are a bit discouraging. The online commentaries do not convey a proper use of the english language, i.e. complete thoughts of arguement and sentence structure. While I agree that some seem to overwhelmingly support this proposal, it is equally important that other views be addressed. The outcome of this proposal will not only impact the future of teachers and students, but it will ultimately affect the impact of education not only in the District of Columbia, but around the country as well.

Posted by: Annonymous | August 19, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe the misinformation and shallow understanding people have of this issue. Tenure does not protect bad teachers; a system (management) that doesn't terminate them is at fault. I've taught in this District; I know that there are terrible principals who try to get rid of teachers for being "disloyal" or for rocking the boat. I, for one, want my kids' teacher to raise Cain if it would benefit one, let them do that without fear of repercussion! Save tenure (i.e. due process) AND give higher salaries!

If Rhee wants to show me what she can do, get rid of bad teachers! Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Posted by: WhatTenureIs | August 19, 2008 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I say throw everyone out. Everyone, except me, must leave DC. I will let back in only those worthy of the new DC. Problems solved!

Teacher union would still look like this:

only they would be powerless on the other side of the DC line.

Posted by: Dr. Drei | August 19, 2008 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Dc is not an "at will" jurisdiction. We are a union town and that brings with it certain workers' rights. And those rights also include teachers who are represented in negotiations by their union.

And the union has been listening to the teachers from the minority view point, even meeting with them. They've even posted on to make sure that information is available to the membership.

As for those commenters asking for Rhee's proposals to be presented to the body, that's ridiculous. If you don't like the contract presented and want to go with Rhee's proposals, then vote down the contract and send the union back to the table. If you don't show up and vote on the contract, you have no voice in the vote.

After having a kid in charter, private and public schools in DC, I can say that the teachers we've encountered have been great, dedicated people. The students, on the other hand, were not there to learn anything.

Posted by: uniongal | August 20, 2008 5:56 PM | Report abuse

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