May 11, 2009

Trouble in DC Mediation Paradise?

So says WaPo staff writer, Bill Turque as reported in his May 8th entry from the DC Wire blog titled: "Rhee and Weingarten: How About Two Mediators?" Well many would argue that everything that DC teachers hear about our teacher contract proposal lately, we initially read in The Washington Post or on the DC Wire (a WaPo blog) . As a WTU Board of Trustee member who regularly attends our bi-monthly executive board meetings- I have NO UPDATES to report especially since our May 9th- Saturday WTU Executive Board meeting was cancelled by union Prez George Parker on short notice. Here is the story in its entirety as it appears on the DC Wire. Interesting read.

"Contract talks between DCPS and teachers' union reps resumed a few days ago, but the principal players aren't saying much. That includes newly minted mediator Kurt Schmoke, who when asked for an interview--even with the provision that he didn't have to wade into any pesky contract details--said he'd have to take the request to Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. He must have misplaced our phone number, because we haven't heard back.

One shaft of light did escape this week, however, and it doesn't suggest that things are going all that well. In a Q&A with education writer Linda Kulman, posted yesterday on Politics Daily (Full Disclosure: your Wire correspondent is married to the editor-in-chief) Rhee pronounced Weingarten a liar. It came in the course of lamenting the "misinformation" in the press about her proposals.

"What was the misinformation?" asked Kulman, who did her own disclosing that her son and Rhee's younger daughter attend the same DCPS elementary school."That we were going to make everyone give up tenure, that I was trying to fire people. That's not the case," Rhee said. "I don't have any interest in making people give up their tenure. We wanted to provide a choice for people and, regardless of what choice you made, everyone was going to get paid more money. That was what made it to me a no-brainer. What was communicated was that everyone had to give up tenure and your evaluation is going to be all based on test scores. The AFT still says this -- Randi Weingarten said this the other day -- that it's all predicated on moving older teachers out and moving younger teachers in. That's just a lie."

Neither Rhee nor her spokeswoman, Jennifer Calloway, would provide the basis for this claim. As best we can tell, Rhee is talking about Weingarten's April 21st letter to The Post, which referred to an editorial noting that after the foundation money was gone Rhee planned to sustain the pay hikes with savings gained through reforming DCPS.

Then Weingarten said: "The editorial failed to mention that these savings can be achieved only by hiring lower-paid, less-experienced teachers. This age-old practice would serve the District's bottom line but would ultimately shortchange students."

As for lying, AFT spokesperson George Jackson said today that Weingarten "has no idea what [Rhee] is talking about. And given that they have spent so many hours in mediation, if the Chancellor felt misinterpreted she could have brought this to [Weingarten's] attention directly."

Rhee spokesperson Calloway, said: "There are numerous ways to fund a contract, and the financial modeling used for DCPS' last proposal was based on current seniority demographics. We have earnestly restarted negotiations; the comment made to Politics Daily was out of admiration for our hard-working teaching corps, and intended only to correct misinformation. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with the WTU and the AFT to quickly reach an agreement that is respectful of teachers, good for children and supportive of our collective reform efforts." (Posted by The Washington Teacher). Courtesy of

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