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WTU Avoids Mortification

Former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke may not have been the Washington Teachers Union's (WTU) first choice for a mediator in its stalled talks with Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. But union insiders say he is a quantum improvement over one of Rhee's earlier suggestions: billionaire real estate developer and New York Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman.

Union sources confirm that Zuckerman's name was on a list of prospective mediators submitted to WTU and American Federation of Teachers by Rhee. Zuckerman has written favorably about the Education Equality Project co-founded by New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein and civil rights activist Al Sharpton, which counts teachers unions as among the entrenched interests blocking reforms that could close the achivement gap between black and white students. Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty are among the signatories to the group's statement of principles.

A phone message to Zuckerman's New York office was not returned. Rhee did not respond to an e-mailed query.

Zuckerman has had his own turbulent dealings with unions. When he took control of the Daily News in 1993 he immediately laid off a third of its Newspaper Guild-covered employees. When Zuckerman's name surfaced earlier this week as a potential buyer for The Boston Globe, Bill O'Meara, president of the New York Newspaper Guild, told rival The Boston Herald: "We have tried over the years to negotiate some kind of a reasonable contract and Zuckerman apparently has no interest in doing so."

--Bill Turque

By Kathryn Tolbert  |  April 15, 2009; 11:10 AM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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