In Klein’s view, tenure is ‘ridiculous.’ ‘You cannot run a school system
that way,’ he says. ‘The three principles that govern our system are
lockstep compensation, seniority and tenure. All three are not right
for our children.’
Anthony Lombardi, the principal of an …elementary school …
Randi Weingarten would protect a dead body in the classroom.
That’s her job.
The Thirteenth Amendment freed the slaves, Klein wants to
rescind it, but only for teachers.
a senior teacher.
On the eve of the opening of school and the commencement of contract negotiations the New Yorker, in a scathing article entitled, “Rubber Rooms: The Battle Over New York City’s Worst Teachers,” has joined the fray, pillorying the UFT, the NYC teacher union, for their defense of teachers.
Quoting Joel Klein and Dan Weisberg, former head of labor relations for the Department and currently general counsel and vice-president for policy at The New Teacher Project, formerly lead by Michelle Rhee, the writer Steven Brill portrays the union as defending teacher incompetence at all costs.
The timing of the article is not random, as UFT-Department negotiations begin Mike and Joel have fired the first shot across the union bow.
The Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool is portrayed as filled with burned out teachers who can’t or won’t look for jobs and are perfectly happy to collect their checks. “Klein told me (the author) that he plans to push for a time limit of nine months or a year for reserve teachers to find new positions, after which they would be removed from payroll.”
The article conducts lengthy interviews, quite unflattering, with two tenured teachers involved in the dismissal process, and attended one of the hearings, at the invitation of the teacher.
Brill gloats over a case dealing with a teacher suffering from alcoholism issues, who was defended by the union, and, eventually was discharged. BTW, the Board once had an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) lead by Jim Ahearn. Jim did an exemplary job in guiding teachers to programs or to other professions. The EAP program is long gone …
Why does the union defend/represent all teachers?
As a union rep I provided the best representation possible … the union doesn’t hire teachers and we don’t judge teachers, and, unfortunately too many teachers are victims of principals. Hundreds of “rubber room” cases are “resolved,” the teachers pays a meager fine and is returned to school. Disagreeing with one’s principal has become a capital crime.
State law allows public employees to be represented by labor unions and clearly delineates the “duty of fair representation” (DFR) of the union.
The duty applies to virtually every action that a union might take in dealing with an employer as the representative of employees, from its negotiation of the terms of a collective bargaining agreement, to its handling of grievances arising under that agreement … the courts have held that a union only breaches its duty if it acts arbitrarily, in bad faith or discriminatorily.
Each borough maintains a grievance committee, before a grievance is filed with the Chancellor the committee must approve the grievance. If the union turns down the grievance the member is informed and can appeal, first to the union staff director and ultimately to the union officers. Probationary teacher and paraprofessional discharge cases fall under the contract. The Union takes great care in making grievance representation decisions,
In order to state a prima facie breach of the duty of fair representation, a charging party must show that the exclusive representative’s conduct was arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith.
In order to state a prima facie case of arbitrary conduct violating the duty of fair representation, a charging party:
. . . must at a minimum include an assertion of sufficient facts from which it becomes apparent how or in what manner the exclusive representative’s action or inaction was without a rational basis or devoid of honest judgment. (Emphasis added.) [Reed District Teachers Association, CTA/NEA (Reyes) (1983) PERB Decision No. 332, p. 9, citing Rocklin Teachers Professional Association (Romero) (1980) PERB Decision No. 124.]
The contract is a living document, at each set of negotiations the parties have negotiated significant changes:
* letter in the file grievances . Teachers may no longer file grievances asking that letters in the file, the most common grievance, be removed. They may respond to letters and, after three years, if the letter does not result in disciplinary action the letter is removed from the file at the request of the teacher.
* professional conciliation. UFT chapters may request conciliation for disputes arising out of curriculum mandates, textbook selections, program offerings and scheduling, instructional strategies.
* school-based options. The UFT Chapter, with a 55% positive vote, with the approval of the principal and the UFT and the Department may modify a number of sections of the contract.
Rubber rooms and ATR pools exist not because of the union contract, they exist because they serve a cynical political purpose for the Department, with children as pawns. Steven Brill is also a tool, carrying water for the Department. The battle, as Joel Klein states, is over tenure, teacher pay for performance (what Klein now calls lockstep compensation) and seniority. Joel wants an “at will” system, a school system in which principals hire and fire and pay is based on results as measured by test scores.
Bloomberg, on the other hand, has been much more willing to deal with the union, as the compromise over school governance shows. In exchange for the Mayor retaining full control of the Central Board (PEP) the law makes sweeping changes that challenge the current management structure.
The current round of negotiations, in which Bloomberg, not Klein plays the core role can resolve the outstanding issues.
Strictly enforced timelines, limiting the arbitration process to a specific number of dates for each side, requiring the Department, the charging party to move forward or dismiss the charges would expedite the process.
Excessed teachers (the ATR pool) should be assigned to a school for regular teaching duties at a budget “discount” for the receiving school, at the end of the school year the principal has the option of “absorbing” the teacher.
The teacher “buy-out” clause, aka voluntary severance, has not been implemented … if both sides cannot negotiate specific terms it should be decided by an arbitrator.
Joel Klein takes pride in his “take no prisoners” approach and basks in the adulation of his acolytes. Wasting hundreds of millions, teachers twiddling their thumbs in offices, may, to Joel, be worth the cost to achieve his ends. Nobody elected Joel.
Bloomberg, whether you like him or not, or intend to vote for him or not, is a nimble politician, and will see longer term benefit in standing at a podium with Mike Mulgrew praising a win-win contract then facing picket lines and a million enraged parents.