Apr 11, 2010
WTU Tentative Agreement = 1000 Ways To Kill DC Teachers
Featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence with Celeste Jones, graphic artist
Given that DC public schools excessed approximately 600 plus teachers last school year, there is reason to believe as many DC teachers will be excessed in June 2010 due to impending school system budget cuts and school restructuring slated to take place. According to the Washington Teachers' Union Tentative Agreement (T.A.) by definition, "excess is an elimination of a teacher’s position at a particular school due to a decline in student enrollment, a reduction in the local school budget, a closing or consolidation, a restructuring or a change in the local school program when such an elimination is not a reduction in force (RIF) or abolishment.” (page 5 of WTU T.A.) Should DC teachers be excessed under the proposed agreement, there is a great likelihood that excessing would lead to termination as there would no longer be a requirement for placement according to system seniority.
Rather than have the central office place teachers into existing teacher vacancies, principals would now be able to hand pick who they want (aka mutual consent) under the WTU Tentative Agreement negotiated by WTU President and chief negotiator George Parker and AFT President Randi Weingarten. NYC Educator, a NY public school teacher turned blogger wrote that mutual consent “is a misleading term. What it actually indicates is that principals get a veto on any incoming transfers." By definition in WTU’s T.A., mutual consent means no teacher shall be placed without the teacher’s and supervisor’s consent (page 27).
Mutual consent has been negotiated in other teacher union contracts in places like New York where Randi Weingarten, now AFT President negotiated this clause as the former United Federation of Teachers Union (UFT) president. Many New York public school teachers believe that the mutual consent provision led to the explosion of what is now known as the absent teacher reserves (ATR) in their state. In New York, teachers are part of an pool of teachers and continue to draw salaries while awaiting job placement. Some work as substitutes while others seek employment opportunities daily as they wait to be hired. This has led to thousands of teachers being paid and has contributed to an 81 million dollar growing debt.
So it seems that teachers and related school personnel in DC could suffer an even worse fate than our New York counterparts. While the WTU T.A. does not specifically address the absent teacher reserves like in New York, it does suggest that eligible permanent teachers with effective or higher ratings have the option of being placed into what amounts to a teacher reserve for one year if they cannot find a mutual consent placement. For all other teachers, the WTU T.A. implies that probationary teachers regardless of annual performance ratings, teachers who opt in for individual performance based pay regardless of annual performance ratings and permanent teachers with less than effective ratings will be terminated within a two month time frame if they cannot find a mutual consent placement after excessing.
Permanent teachers with an effective rating or higher will face a number of obstacles in securing the three options available to them under this agreement if they are excessed. While they can select a $25,000 buy out or an early retirement with 20 years or more of creditable service, the catch is these options would be subject to government and budgetary approval. The Tentative Agreement clearly states in Article 40, on page 103, that “Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed as a promise that Congress, the DC Council, or any other organization shall appropriate sufficient funds to meet the obligations set forth in this Agreement.”
In addition, should eligible teachers select to work an additional year, they must make a substantial effort to interview at a minimum of five schools or interview for all vacant positions for which they are qualified if the total number is less than five. Teachers assigned the one year extension would be assigned in one or more capacities to include one on one tutoring, small group instruction, class coverage, long term teacher replacement or central office support. If at the end of the calendar year, teachers had not secured a mutual consent placement, they would be terminated as well.
Given the WTU Tentative Agreement includes undisclosed side letters which were crafted in part by mediator Kurt Schmoke, Washington Teachers' Union members, as well as the DC City Council and DC residents must demand that these written documents be made readily available for review to union members and the DC City Council. Although previously promised, WTU members are still awaiting receipt of the WTU Tentative Agreement in the mail. I strongly encourage all WTU members to read the 103 page Tentative Agreement in its entirety and request a written legal opinion from our WTU Legal Counsel, Lee W. Jackson of O'Donnell, Schwartz and Anderson. As always the devil is in the details.
Posted by The Washington Teacher