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Where were the teachers?

Slightly more than half of the approximately 3,400 Washington teachers eligible to vote on ratification of an historic new contract ended up casting ballots, according to union president George Parker. The total vote was 1,837, with five ballots voided. The contract passed 1,412 to 425.

Parker said he thinks that was a more-than-acceptable turnout, even with three voting options: mail, telephone or Web. Most teachers who voted "yes" opted for the web (613), followed by mail (554) and phone (245).

The turnout was markedly higher than than the last union presidential election, when about 1,200 votes were cast, Parker said. With another officers' election due to be held in the next few weeks, he'll find out whether sentiment for or against the contract will generate more ballots.

By Washington Post Editors  |  June 3, 2010; 9:28 AM ET
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Bill - can you find out the voting pattern for the last contract - number of votes, percentages, etc.?

Posted by: efavorite | June 3, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Considering you could vote electronically or by telephone from the comfort and convenience of your own home, 1,837 out of 3,400 is an extremely poor showing.

Many teachers are so disgusted with DCPS right now that they could care less about a contract or voting.

Great job, Michelle and George! You've really boosted the morale in DCPS! What quality leadership we have!

Posted by: UrbanDweller | June 3, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

UD, if teachers were too disgusted to vote, then they get exactly what they deserve. Some people just like to complain it seems. As long as they're happy...

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | June 3, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

I teach in major high school, and the general feeling is that we hate working for the chancellor. The newer teachers at my school leave after three years, the veterans can't wait to leave and hopefully retire. Some of the veterans that are on their way out voted yes, the younger teachers also voted yes for they are quite sure that they will not stay. I voted no, I am one of those teachers in the middle and hating every minute of it. My principal has said that Michelle Rhee and company are a mendacious group of people who don't have the experience or the credentials to run a school system.

Posted by: marylight | June 3, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

marylight: I agree with you and am in the same boat...I'm neither a veteran nor a newbie. I, too, voted no. I also agree with your principal about his/her opinion regarding Rhee and her minions.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | June 3, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

When people become apathetic- they figure why bother. I am damned if I do and damned if I don't. The morale is at all time low. Many teachers and administrators have accepted that no matter how hard they try they will ultimately be fired.

Look at case in point those principals who have been let go despite increases in test scores like Stanton ES, and other administrators who were fired by Rhee in the past like former Stoddert principal and former Oyster principal, former Luke C. Moore principal.

Sadly Turque is resigned to only cover this story on his blog and not in the real newspaper so many won't even know the other side of this story thanks to editorial board Hiatt and Armao. I encourage all to read blogs like The Washington Teacher dot and Conducting the Inner light and Guy Brandenburg for what's happening in our public schools in DC.

Posted by: teacherspet | June 3, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

So you teachers, did you vote against the contract? Or not vote at all? I still can't believe with all the vitriol on this thing that only 50% of teachers voted, and the yays absolutely trounced the nays. Any chance you disgruntled teachers are just a small group of about 25%? That's the way the vote tallies read.

Anyways, DC schools are still in last place, have been for decades, and will continue to do so. It breaks my heart to hear ya'll say things should go back to how they were before Rhee. We have a permanent underclass here in DC, and the education system keeps them that way. How could you want that to continue?

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | June 3, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

I have told people over and over again, at least half of the teachers who I met at my kid's original school were completely incompetent. Many of them were fired at the end of the 2008 school year including my kid's own teacher and others were fired the following Fall.

But do not use your own prejudices and childhood experiences to cloud your judgment- DC Teaches did not vote on this at all because many of them do not put forth any effort in their professional lives. The reality is that many, many teachers have NO IDEA how much work normal people do and put forth no effort at all.

I remember one teacher in 2007 kept comparing herself against her sister who was unemployed and on welfare. Yes, she couldn't even compare herself to a CVS clerk- the only person she worked more than had no job at all. sheesh! Really happened.

Posted by: bbcrock | June 3, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

"I teach in major high school, and the general feeling is that we hate working for the chancellor. "

For the love of all that is holy Marylight, get the heck out of teaching- a job you clearly dislike and disdain. You are every single thing that is wrong with DCPS and you are a menace to our students! You don't even have the smarts to know the severity of what you wrote in public! Just GET OUT already!

Posted by: bbcrock | June 3, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse


It is absolutely amazing how misguided you are. Most teachers are not incompetent, only a minority are. All you do is spew hatred for DCPS teachers in almost every post.

And to go off on marylight just because she hates working for the chancellor? People can dislike or even hate Rhee and still be a great teacher. They can differentiate between Rhee and children.

Teaching children is the reason why most if not all teachers join the profession. They don't teach so the can be bullied by an inexperienced leader whose biggest accomplishment is to foster a toxic environment in schools and plummet staff morale to an all time low.

As a parent I am worried about this. Why aren't you?

Posted by: letsbereal2 | June 3, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

you are starting to sound crazy:( pipe down and go teach a class in dcps and get back to us

Posted by: truthseeker3 | June 3, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Again you are totally mistaken. You have not dealt with real DCPS teachers and are living in a dream world that simply is not real.

To people who suggest I sound "crazy" I assure you that I have well-documented stories and was personally responsible for the firing of two DCPS teachers and possibly for the "resignation" of a principal. Community members known to the principal were arrested by MPD while on school property and convicted of drug sales. (I can hear a collective "Oh, I'd be angry too" from the crowd.)

I also believed via my personal experiences that teachers "went into the teaching profession." My wife and mother both were public school teachers! They chose to go into teaching.

I met a teacher in Fall 2007 who I describe above who compared how hard she worked to her unemployed sister. She seemed to lack all intellectual curiosity. I finally started to dig in my questioning. In a discussion of colleges I asked, "What college did you go to?"

"Oh, that was so long ago I don't remember."

Huh? You went to college and you don't remember the name of the college you attended?

I responded by asking how she got into the teaching profession.

This was her response, paraphrased, "My mother was addicted to heroin and she left me in charge of my sister. I tried to raise her on my own but it was hard, I needed a good job. My grandmother worked for Mayor Washington and he got me a job teaching in DCPS."

This teacher, who was the bane of my existence for a few months I had to deal with her, is not a professional. She made no DECISION to join the "Teaching Profession." Mayor Walter Washington got the granddaughter of a friend of his a job teaching kids so she could pay her bills.

This woman was a font of amazing quotes, another favorite was, "I'm too busy to read the newspaper." Another good one was, "My daughters keep telling me I need to learn how to use a computer."

These are the so-called teachers who work in DCPS- don't read the newspaper, don't own nor know how to use computers, received their job thanks to intervention from a mayor (I'm looking at you Washington and Barry) and their college credentials are quite "mysterious."

That is the reality I saw before Michelle Rhee started firing them.

Posted by: bbcrock | June 3, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse

So, do you finally see how your impressions of teachers are wrong? If, as you suggest, that half of DCPS teachers were not incompetent when my kid started elementary school in 2007, why is it that I personally know that 9 teachers from that school were fired by Michelle Rhee? Do you really think I felt those teachers were incompetent and the DCPS management felt those teachers were incompetent and we're both wrong and through some magical process you're right?

Entire wards of DC elementary school children are receiving substandard educations and their parents don't have the political savvy to fight to get their teachers replaced.

Posted by: bbcrock | June 3, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

I mean, I believe at least 7 of those teachers NEVER BOTHERED TO TAKE PRAXIS 1. Never bothered. Just thought they could keep teaching uncertified... who thinks like that?

Posted by: bbcrock | June 3, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Ya'll better listen to bb.
He is an EDUCATED man with a first grade son who can calculate square roots.

But despite his complaints about teachers (and as he insinuates, the complaints of parents at his school), he still can't explain why over 75% of DCPS parents are satisfied with their child's school and teachers.

Must mean he's part of the unhappy 25%.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | June 3, 2010 11:56 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: letsbereal2 "Teaching children is the reason why most if not all teachers join the profession. They don't teach so the can be bullied by an inexperienced leader whose biggest accomplishment is to foster a toxic environment in schools and plummet staff morale to an all time low."

I work in the admin office at a university program that licenses teachers in VA, more specifically the Teach for America teachers intended to work in the DCPS system. I hate to tell you, but the top reasons our students are saying they want to teach is that you get better pay for less work than the corporate sector (summers off, breaks, etc), most places are desperate so even if you don't do so fabulously in college, you can still get a job pretty quick and with union protection you practically have to kill someone to get fired. Maybe it used to be that teachers taught for the love of it and i do believe some still do, but it is no longer the norm.
And its these people who are screwing over the great educators. They don't get it that when the school day is over they are not done, but they act like they are and the students suffer.

Posted by: schnauzer2 | June 4, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

my son can also calculate square roots. and he is in first grade at a DCPS school. He has attended our neighborhood DCPS school for his entire (admittedly short!) academic career and he LOVES school. Chancellor Rhee has done some good things, but it is entirely approrpiate to point out that she has also done many things wrong and needs to get things right. She fired a lot of good people and good teachers for, it now turns out, no good reason. When she was told the budget was short, way didn't she ask more questions-- maybe she would have rediscovered additional funds and she did last month? Why fire teachers that she admits were good rather than lay off middle management administrators and reduce the bloated bureaucracy? I certainly don't want to go back to the bad ole days, but I applaude Bill for holding her to high standards and asking (or at least attempting to ask her) the tought questions. She's a big girl and she get's paid big bucks-- she can handle it.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | June 4, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I recently heard a quote from an anonymous bureaucrat that says: "People don't do their best work when they are being p***** on." IMO, that describes what the teaching profession is going through now...
in some school division's it is a lot worse than others.

If teachers feel that the union has let them down and school leadership is not supporting them...of course they don't care.

For schnauzer2: Don't judge the teaching profession by the Teach for America pretend teachers you place. They are going into teaching for the wrong reasons in the first place.

The DCPS has some problems...but they have had problems for decades. The finger should be pointing at city leadership and the current and past leadership of the school division for perpetuating the problem. The quality of the teachers, or lack of quality, is just one sympton....the root of the problem goes far deeper.

Posted by: ilcn | June 4, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

What is it with these young children and their square roots?

Calculating square roots without an apparatus (table of logarithms, slide rule, or calculator) is a long and arduous series of trials and errors. If you think your child is calculating square roots by identifying the factors of perfect squares, that is not calculation. Tell me the square root of 25 is five and I yawn. Tell me the square root of 236.7 is approximately 15.2 and I say, hey there, that's one smart first grader.

By the way, I have met a quite a few TFA teachers. Those that I have gotten to know well got into teaching because they care about kids, because they have taken on a commitment to improve a community and have done so with both energy and urgency. Most come with college degrees in liberal arts, and so are not exactly--by their own choice--on a corporate trajectory. Some leave teaching to go back to graduate school. Some have moved from school to school to find a good fit. But the majority are bright, inventive, and on a course to change the lives of enough young people to lift a house off of its foundation.

Posted by: gardyloo | June 4, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Please tell me did M. Rhee pass the Praxis? I believe I read that she did not or perhaps did not take the test.

Please folks, responding to bb are like hitting your head against a brick wall. You will soon be as crazy as bb.

Many TFA teachers are just being used by the employment services faking as educational organizations and collecting BIG BUCKS FOR THERE NON EFFORTS.

Posted by: bnew100 | June 4, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

TFA has existed for 20 years now and no houses have been lifted off their foundations yet.

Many of the TFAers might be sincere, but it's hard to make significant changes in anything with the brief commitment that most of them make.

Expecting TFA to make huge improvements in american education is like expecting the peace corps to make huge improvements in american foreign policy.

Posted by: efavorite | June 4, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I agree voting turnout could have been higher, but I work for a labor union (not AFT) and that level of turnout for contract ratification is quite typical, for just about any bargaining unit. It's also not very far from the turnout percentages for voters in primary and general elections. I wish it were higher - for all of the voting opportunities I mentioned - but sadly, many people just do not choose to exercise their voice over their contract or their community.

Posted by: jillcashen | June 4, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

schnauzer2 writes, "I work in the admin office at a university program that licenses teachers in VA, more specifically the Teach for America teachers intended to work in the DCPS system. I hate to tell you, but the top reasons our students are saying they want to teach is that you get better pay for less work than the corporate sector (summers off, breaks, etc), most places are desperate so even if you don't do so fabulously in college, you can still get a job pretty quick and with union protection you practically have to kill someone to get fired. Maybe it used to be that teachers taught for the love of it and i do believe some still do, but it is no longer the norm. "

They may ENTER the profession because of their ERRONEOUS beliefs that "you get better pay for less work," which is why they don't last past five years, particularly the TFA crowd. Many others in TFA just want to "teach a few years because it will look good on their resume," to get into a high power grad program.

You don't STAY in the profession for 32 years unless working with kids and engaging them in learning is your talent and calling. It's the only reason for putting up with some of the dismal working conditions in crumbling physical plants, lack of supplies, ridiculous amounts of paper work and clueless administrators.

Posted by: buckbuck11 | June 4, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

hey marylight, you and your ilk make me sick. you freaking teachers make a darn good salary. you get mot summers off. and you still complain. you union has ruined you teachers for all decent work. a 20% increase over what was it 4 years. thats incredible. and you're still a bucnh of cry babies. its hig time we disband the union and make you teachers work under the same rules we all do. which you do a good job, your boss rewards, you slack, your boss fires. you've been protected way too long.

Posted by: submarinerssn774 | June 4, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

C'mon do we really want a Gore/Bush battle where it is too close to call? Try this little scenario as a parent and get around a group of teachers and poised the statement in two ways...

I don't want the contract because I hate Rhee

then say...

I don't want the contract because I think teachers don't deserve a higher-salary

Then report back to us with the results.

Posted by: PowerandPride | June 4, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Oh!!! If you want a landslide in voting...wait until the DCPS Principal contract comes up for ratification...they will vote YES so fast it will make your head spin. What do they have to lose, they are already on a one-year appointment and can be dismissed at the whim of the Chancellor? But the lure of back-pay is like a vision of sugar-plum fairies dancing in their heads.

Don't fret...I am hearing in about 24-months another contract review will be in order and then and only then a close vote might be in one's grasps.

Posted by: PowerandPride | June 4, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Many teachers like many Americans or people in general are aloof to real issues. Despite the enormity of the policy issues related to this contract, they have been absent from the debate the entire time. It's really a shame but it's atypical.

Just like most Americans, until the issue smacks them in the face, it's not a real issue. People that vote vote with their wallets. I can assure you, people said 20% raise and Rhee, or no raise and deal with Rhee. money for dealing with the witch won. The sad part is teachers and the union did not stand up and address the direction of public education with this contract. Seeing the AFT was onboard, it's a lost cause really. That was the pivotal part of this vote. I wonder how many factored that broad issue in their vote.

i know some teachers said those bigger issues are not their fight or not related to them. Yet, in time they will see this contract as a much broader license for change. Certain jurisdiction will never entertain it and they will remain the better school systems.

it may not be next year, but this raise is going to slap DCPS teachers HARD!!!! That is not from a "hater" perspective, that's from a realistic perspective. DCPS for 45K students is an enormous expense. DCPS is an enormously expensive school system, poorly managed and the cost are growing in a time of tight budgets. I have supported teachers over Rhee in this DCPS debate, but something will have to give. Politicians will have to start cutting costs or gaining some "economies of scale". The BS of "realize savings" is a lie. Either the residents of DC will continue to pay the burden for the expense of DCPS or DCPS will have to downsize. All these yuppies, bubbies and gays moving into the City that don't like what DCPS is in the 1st place don't want to pay for a system they are not using and failing. I ASSURE YOU, THE HEADLINE OF "DC HAVING GREATEST GAINS IN READING" ARE OVER AFTER THE NEXT ELECTION!!!! The reconstruction/ deconstruction of DCPS will start following the re-election of Fenty.

I'm resigning to the fact the next 3-years are going to be interesting. I hope i don't have to say I told you so.

(On a side note: Because so many are aloof, Gray is going to lose to Fenty. And I'm moving.)

Posted by: oknow1 | June 4, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse

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