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Rhee: "It Potentially Gets Uglier"

Did Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee say that mediation wasn't the only option if talks with the Washington Teachers Union remained stalemated? That's kind of what it sounded like in Nicholas D. Kristof's New York Times column yesterday.

Addressing her 16-month-long fight with the union over pay and job security issues, Rhee told Kristof: "If we come to an impasse, we're going to move forward with our reforms anyway. Then it potentially gets uglier."

According to D.C. law, if the talks collapse and both sides declare an impasse, the dispute must go the District's Public Employees Relations Board. If the board finds the impasse to be legit, it is referred to a mediator, usually at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. If mediation fails, the board can arrange for binding arbitration.

Rhee deferred questions to spokeswoman Dena Iverson, who said in a statement: "We are still firmly committed to the negotiations process and look forward to working with the WTU and the AFT to reach an agreement that is respectful of teachers, good for children, and supportive of our reform efforts."

Union officials said they'd like her representatives to do some talking at the table. There have been no negotiations since the WTU and its national parent, the American Federation of Teachers, delivered their contract proposal on Jan. 31.

AFT president Randi Weingarten expressed exasperation with Rhee, citing her contrite letter to teachers on March 13 acknowleging that she had attempted to take on too much reform too soon.

"In the span of one week, the Chancellor has simultaneously apologized to teachers and told them their voices didn't count," Weingarten said in a statement. She urged Rhee to "roll up her sleeves" and "arrive at a bargaining schedule so that once and for all, the adults can actually do what we are supposed to do for the kids of D.C."
Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  March 23, 2009; 6:12 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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Comments

I hereby invite all the teachers who think they're getting an unfair deal to resign and go work in Montgomery County, Fairfax County, etc. Put your money where your mouth is an walk away. I can tell you right now that somewhere around 1 in 3 teachers is not a real teacher, so I'm willing to risk the loss of some good ones in order to see the rest of them out of the schools where they have no business being.

Posted by: bbcrock | March 23, 2009 11:56 PM | Report abuse

Rhee: "If we come to an impasse, we're going to move forward with our reforms anyway. Then it potentially gets uglier."

Oooh - It sure sounds like her contrite period is over. No more commiserating with the difficult plight of teachers. That didn't work. It's back to Mean Michelle, the role she plays best.

Let's see, she couldn't get a federal emergency declared. She hasn't busted the union after nearly two years of trying. No-Drama Obama has not yet responded to her damsel-in distress pleas for "help" via the national media who are still mesmerized by her.

What could getting uglier possibly entail?

We'll find out soon enough, in this ongoing saga in which adult interests are completely overwhelming children's interests - just the opposite of what Rhee says she wants.

Posted by: efavorite | March 24, 2009 12:02 AM | Report abuse

Rhee's quote reveals that all of her recent gestures of "I feel your pain" to the teachers was a manipulative PR effort to ram through her 'adult' agenda.

Posted by: letsbereal2 | March 24, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

If Rhee is trying to so-called "bust the union", it's only because the WTU has planted itself right in the middle of Rhee's crusade to reform DCPS and blocked her at every turn. Instead of supporting her attempts at bettering the education for inner-city black children, who are far and away the constituents of our school system, the WTU has stood in the way, defending abimsmal teaching and teachers at any cost, even to the cost of their own credibility. Yet as a veteran DCPS teacher, I still want to know what Rhee means by moving forward anyway even through an impasse, and that it may potentially get uglier. All this as we have three more teaching weeks until DC CAS. Schools' preparation has been more data-focussed and student centered, especially in the school where I teach, where we didn't make AYP though came close. Last school year's systemwide gains were spectacular and we're hoping to repeat for the week of April 20th'DC CAS testing.

Posted by: chelita | March 24, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Rhee needs to learn to be collaborative and work well with others on a constant basis. This would help tremendously with bringing people together. The data shows that she is the biggest hold-up to progress in DC. What has she done that is substantive aside from threaten, mislead and bully?

Posted by: southyrndiva | March 24, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Rhee makes clear she isn't interested in negotiating if she hasn't had anyone meet with the Union since they provided a counter proposal. I know a number of teachers who are interested in, but wary of the pay-for-performance. What is the the standard? It makes no sense to agree to pay-for-performance if no one will tell you what it means to meet the performance standard. It may be that the standards for teachers in DCPS have been poor, but I know a lot of successful teachers who want to know what they are agreeing to before they would sign any contract.

http://www.reinstatedrart.com/ for information on a great teacher let go under Rhee.

Posted by: qaz2 | March 24, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Chelita, you say the "...WTU has planted itself right in the middle of Rhee's crusade to reform DCPS...."

I believe it is Rhee who has planted herself in the middle of things, as the union was already well established here long before Rhee arrived.

Yes, Rhee is on a crusade, and the union is trying to make sure teachers are not treated as if they are the infidel.

Posted by: efavorite | March 24, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

The WTU has been long established here before Rhee got here? Is that anything to say in the union's favor? DCPS has for years had some of the lowest test scores in the nation, on tests that measure basic reading comprehension and math skills. We also have one of the lowest graduation rates, low college acceptance as well as college graduation in four years for the students we do send on to university. Our system is in the toilet and the union should be shoulder to shoulder with Rhee trying to reform OUR school system for OUR children.

Posted by: chelita | March 24, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

That the union was established long before Rhee came is a simple statement of fact.

I would love to see DC schools improve for the CHILDREN. But no one stands shoulder to shoulder with Rhee. If she's not on top, she's not interested.

The last thing she wants is to work with the union - she wants to destroy the union and she's made it very clear.

Remember last year when she was speaking fondly of "her friend" George Parker who had such a hard job? That ended as quickly as her love affair with the "1,000's of heroic teachers" once she figured out those ploys wouldn't get her anywhere.

Posted by: efavorite | March 24, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

"The WTU has been long established here before Rhee got here? Is that anything to say in the union's favor? DCPS has for years had some of the lowest test scores in the nation, on tests that measure basic reading comprehension and math skills. We also have one of the lowest graduation rates, low college acceptance as well as college graduation in four years for the students we do send on to university. Our system is in the toilet and the union should be shoulder to shoulder with Rhee trying to reform OUR school system for OUR children."

Chelita, you're right: we HAVE been low for years. But what has this "radical reform" effort done to improve things thus far? Because, from where I'm standing, things have gotten WORSE. Student violence is at an all-time high, students and teachers are scared to come to school, and teacher who complain about it and try to fix it run the risk of losing their jobs. The union is the only thing protecting the teachers from such unfair treatment. When (and IF) the central/chancellor's office is able to rid the schools of violence and disorder, then I might be inclicned to support the contract that's being proposed. But you cannot fairly evaluate a teacher the way Rhee is talking about if they are working in an environment of chaos. The central office needs to plow their garden first before they go trying to plow someone else's garden.

Posted by: thebandit | March 25, 2009 12:34 AM | Report abuse

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