Teacher debate over contract heats up
Twenty percent over five years is the best we're ever going to do. Yes, there are problems, but let's sign and move on.
Private donors such as the Walton Family Foundation are not to be trusted. They'll be gone, along with their money, the moment Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee leaves.
The deal is a trap, because it does nothing to limit the IMPACT evaluation system, which is a disaster, or to protect teachers from the kind of layoffs Rhee instigated last October.
This, in paraphrase, is some of the conversation among teachers over the tentative contract agreement announced last week. If District Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi certifies the funding commitments of the four foundation donors as sound, the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) will mail out ballots to begin a two-week voting period. This week, WTU president George Parker begins a series of informational meetings for teachers to discuss the proposed deal. The sessions, which all start at 4:30 p.m., will be Tuesday at McKinley High School, Thursday at Woodrow Wilson, Monday, April 19, at Ballou and Wednesday, April 21, at Spingarn.
In e-mails I've received and in posts to Candi Peterson's The Washington Teacher blog, here is some of what teachers are saying:
"I'm voting yes for this contract," said Tracy, in a posting to The Washington Teacher. "The changes we don't like, such as the evaluation system, are inevitable. That train has already left the station. It just left DC first, but it's leaving the station in other cities next. As for private funding, if we were to rely on public funds, we'd have no increase. Remember, other districts are cutting teacher pay."
Jennifer Miller, who teaches at Wheatley Education Campus, wrote to me: "I just wanted you to know there are many, many, many of us DCPS teachers that love what the tentative agreement is saying! We are looking forward to the contract passing. We are voting YES... I would love for you to spread the word that there are teachers that are voting YES and we want this contract to pass!"
In The Washington Teacher, "Classic" wrote: "Teachers be very careful. Read between the lines. I have a problem with the fact that my raise comes from a private fund. This is just Green/Red under a different name. Look at the language for RIF's, excess teachers and teacher evaluations. The Union gave up everything. Due Process is 'streamlined' that means no rights. New teachers do not have the protection of the Union if they get fired there is NO due process for them....Michelle Rhee has given herself a great storeroom full of weapons to get rid of teachers and we have little or no recourse. What is a 20 percent raise if I am going to be fired in July under IMPACT??? Please read carefully and don't let the money fool you."
Bill Rope, who teaches at Hearst Elementary, wrote to me: "Until we see the actual contract, it's impossible to know for sure. On the surface, it seems like a very good contract; and, as the last one did (without much recognition in recent years). It puts WTU on the side of sensible reform in a way that is fair to teachers and good for stability in the school system. It is also responsive to Rhee's desire to try out performance pay. Parker did a great job of getting this much money for teachers at a time of tight budgets. He also got fairly good protections against more arbitrary RIFing and strengthened the previous contract in many ways. The RIFing rules and other due process protections won't prevent DCPS from letting teachers go, but it will constrain Rhee's ability to do it dishonestly and without transparency. I am doubtful that teachers will go for performance pay, for which, in any case, they must "qualify." It's the kind of thing I would have gone for in a heartbeat a couple of years ago (and that I may still go for). However, having learned what Rhee's idea of a sound evaluation program is (IMPACT), which evaluates teachers on how well they do following a horrible approach to teaching (Teaching and Learning Framework), even I will scrutinize it carefully."
"I_educ8" told The Washington Teacher: "This is a farce. No way I'm voting for this contract. After 3 years, you'd think they would've come up with something better than the proposed agreement. But when you think who the major players have been--Rhee and GP--maybe it should not be much of a surprise, after all. I don't trust the donors, and should Rhee leave, I think the dollars will, too. Where's the iron-clad guarantee they won't? Another issue I have is that the playing field is not level for all teachers. Schools west of the park have more resources and a lot of the students come from more affluent homes, thus more exposure, variety of experiences, greater probability for significant academic growth and a greater chance for these teachers to earn bonus money that MAY be available."
I'd like to hear from more teachers over the next couple of weeks.
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