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Teacher Talks Set To Resume With Mediator

The District has completed its review of the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) contract proposal and is ready to return to the negotiating table, a spokeswoman for Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee said this evening.

Dena Iverson, Rhee's spokeswoman, also said that the District was ready to engage a third-party mediator to untangle the talks, which are now in their 16th month.

They have been stalemated over Rhee's controversial proposals involving merit pay and weakening of teacher tenure. Negotiations have effectively been on hiatus since WTU and its national parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers, submitted a long-awaited contract proposal to Rhee on Jan. 31.

The two sides are expected to exchange a list of possible meeting dates by Friday.

"Though our two proposals differ in some key respects, there is much that we agree on," Iverson said in a statement. "On the issues of greatest disagreement, we look forward to engaging a third-party mediator to help bring the two sides together."

Rhee and AFT President Randi Weingarten have discussed mediation in past meetings but have not come to agreement on a suitable third party. Weingarten alluded to this on Monday when she ripped Rhee for discussing the negotiations with New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof and in a lengthy letter to D.C. teachers--while showing no sign of resuming talks with the WTU.

"Instead of delivering one message to teachers, and another to a New York Times columnist, the Chancellor should roll up her sleeves, respond to the WTU's Jan. 31 proposal, consent to a third party as per the initial agreement, and arrive at a bargaining schedule," Weingarten said.

Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  March 25, 2009; 6:35 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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A little disappointing that Bill Turque didn't point out Michelle Rhee's attempt to go around WTU and AFT.
Instead he let's a person with a stake in the issue male the point.

Posted by: edlharris | March 25, 2009 11:37 PM | Report abuse

I am disappointed in Weingarten's hostile, aggressive blast at Rhee. One can understand it if Rhee is reaching out to a wider perhaps less angry audience. The asymmetry of the two parties is stark: the WTU is protecting sinecures; Rhee is trying -- to no advantage to her personally -- to improve the system to deliver a better education for children.

Who would you root for?

Posted by: ccforbes | March 26, 2009 12:19 AM | Report abuse

Here's a hostile, agressive blast: “If we come to an impasse, we’re going to move forward with our reforms anyway,” Ms. Rhee said. “Then it potentially gets uglier.” NYT 3/22/08

Compared to that, Weingarten's remarks are a pleasant breeze.

Posted by: efavorite | March 26, 2009 1:57 AM | Report abuse

Now we're ready to go to a third party mediation. Would that include PERB which is top heavy with individuals that have no experience or clue regarding labor issues?

Posted by: candycane1 | March 26, 2009 6:11 AM | Report abuse

The union has been here for 50 years and has never noticed that there is a problem. They have never noticed that DCPS produces the lowest test scores in the nation. Rhee arrives and makes solving the problem her be all and end all. Where is the union? Right where it has been all along complaining about its rights and acting insulted. The union is the problem not part of the solution.

Posted by: jy151310 | March 26, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

The union wants to protect jobs of people whose teaching careers have been their ticket to the middle class, whether they're serving DC students or not. Teach for America and DC Teaching Fellows come to education for another reason, not because teaching is an upward career move for them. In fact for many of them, teaching is a downward move. They're in DC classrooms with a save the world mentality, almost like working in urban schools is the domestic Peace Corps. This dynamism is also what pushes Rhee, an all consuming belief that our urban youth deserve better and can achieve at high levels, though it's not an easy road. I just don't see the WTU consumed with any desire to uplift our children, just themselves and their members. And jy above, my gosh, you really nailed it and I'm a DC teacher and a WTU member.

Posted by: chelita | March 26, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Two months to review a contract proposal? 18 months to provide a "draft" education plan that does not even approach the status of a rough outline? Plagiarizing propsals from other school systems and calling them your own? Rhee and her cronies are incompetent idiots; once useful to their corporate backers, but they have their own mess to deal with now. They'll all be gone in 6 months, having accomplished nothing. That's what you get for hiring the manager of a temp agency to run the school system.

Posted by: mcstowy | March 26, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

jy151310 - Of course the union knows there's a problem with the schools. Everyone does. Rhee sees firing a lot of teachers as the solution to the problem. The Union represents teachers - that's its job, so of course it going to try to protect teachers from this outcome.

Rhee's plan is to replace seasoned teachers with young inexperienced teachers and presto the problem will be solved. “Teachers are everything” she says, and “That is the only solution that we have, and so that’s why we’re really focused on it.” [2/13/09 NBC News 4 Washington] There is no reason to think this would work. It's built on Rhee's false memory of her heroic, miraculous achievements as a teacher for which she has no statistic evidence. It is truly a miracle that she's gotten away with pushing this monolithic concept of education for so long. It says a lot for her powers of persuasion, but nothing about her management skills or understanding of education.

From the standpoint of improving education for DC children, I don’t see it as a battle between the Union and Rhee, I see it as a battle to keep Rhee from making the system even worse than it already is.

Posted by: efavorite | March 26, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

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