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Brian Tierney looks at the furor over the attempts of Washington, D.C., school officials to hide a budget surplus in order to cut teacher jobs and push a union-busting contract. This article is a must read for all DCPS teachers and related school personnel.Tierney offers an insightful analysis of the Washington Teachers Union and WTU's Tentative Agreement as negotiated by union president George Parker and AFT President Randi Weingarten. Tierney writes: "....THE WTU and AFT are again focusing on a court challenge of the layoffs. But a bolder fight needs to be waged, one that mobilizes rank-and-file teachers and couples militant action with legal battles in the courtroom.
Rhee is not invincible: despite her powerful backers, among D.C. residents, her approval ratings have plunged considerably over the past year.
But Fenty and Rhee are unlikely to be stopped as long as they continue to enjoy a docile WTU leadership in Parker's presidency. Parker has given Rhee a free hand to attack the union, push for charters and resegregate D.C. schools. In 2008, Rhee went so far as to praise Parker as "a great union leader" and a "a great union president."
Thus, the May union election will likely be a referendum on Parker's record in dealing with Rhee. Parker's main challenger is Nathan Saunders, the current WTU vice president.
Saunders, who ran on the same slate as Parker in the last union election, broke with his former ally when Parker failed to stand up to Rhee. Saunders charges Parker with being an ineffective union president who has allowed teachers to lose job security, pay raises and benefits.
"I am not campaigning against an individual," Saunders wrote on his Web site. "Rather [I'm campaigning] against reactionary and political responses which continue to unnecessarily burden teachers and yield minimal gains toward a positive public education experience for our children." Saunders continued: "Teachers must be committed to reclaiming our voice in the 'reform' debate as the experts in public education."
A great deal is at stake in both the coming union election and the contract vote--which, depending on the outcome of the budget debate, could be many weeks away. The choice that WTU members make in both will have a major impact on the ongoing war over the future of D.C. public schools."