No TRO For WTU, Yet
"The Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) failed today in its bid to secure a court order barring the District from formally discharging the 266 public school instructors and staff it laid off Oct. 2. But a D.C. Superior Court judge left the door open to taking action next week.
The educators have been on administrative leave, collecting salary and benefits for the last month, but are scheduled to be dropped from the city payroll this coming Monday.
WTU has sued, arguing that the action was an illegal mass firing and not, as the District contends, a budget-driven reduction in force. The union wants a permanent injunction that reinstates the teachers and returns them to the classroom while the matter goes before an arbitrator.
But an initial hearing on the suit is scheduled for Nov. 5, three days after the final ax drops on the teachers. Union attorney Lee Jackson asked D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff for a temporary restraining order (TRO) compelling the District to keep the teachers on the payroll, arguing that once the teachers are off the books, it would be far more difficult to force the District to return them to their jobs.
Bartnoff wasn't buying, however, telling Jackson that keeping the teachers on leave status would not make any material difference to District schoolchildren, who have been without their services since Oct. 2.
"If you were a student at Spingarn High School when teachers were let go on Oct. 2, the reality [now] is no different than it will be next Monday," she said during the 90-minute mid-morning hearing.
Bartnoff was also more than a bit annoyed with Jackson for the union's decision to wait until this week to file for the TRO, when it had known for a month that the teachers would receive their final discharge on Monday, and the Nov. 5 hearing date had been set without objection.
"You could have asked the court to have a hearing...prior to Nov. 5. You never did," she told told Jackson.
The District's attorney, Robert Utiger, said that the machinery of discharging the teachers from the payroll was complicated and time consuming. At this point, he said, the process was far enough along that a restraining order would make little difference. In other words, restoring the teachers to the rolls would be no more difficult after Nov. 2 than it is now.
After hearing that, Bartnoff said she would consider the TRO and the permanent injunction together at next week's hearing. But she extracted a commitment from Utiger that the District would not use the passage of the Nov. 2 deadline as an argument against restoring the teachers to the payroll if that's what she ordered.
And she added: "The District should be prepared for the possibility that the teachers be put back on the rolls." Bill Turque
Posted by The Washington Teacher, featuring Candi Peterson - blogger in residence, story courtesy of DC Wire.