UFT Contract Negotiations, the Mayoral Election and NAEP Scores: Can Conflicting Interests Create Lemonade Out of Lemons?

Chris Cerf, the politics guy for Klein, and now for the Mayor must have been chortling. At a crucial time in negotiations he places the Steve Brill hatchet job, “Rubber Room” article ripping the UFT in the New Yorker, and now a scathing Nick Kristof op ed in the NY Times. His blackberry is jumping off the table, not with praise and adulation for his political acumen, but about the above the fold article on the front page of the Times highlighting spiraling NAEP Math scores in New York State sinking the Klein-Bloomberg house of cards.

The so far $65 million in campaign spending has primarily focused on improvements in education, can you imagine how the Thompson campaign will respond to the NAEP scores (“liar, liar, pants on fire”)?
Will a scant 8% point edge in the polls and an expected historic low turnout still result in a Bloomberg victory? No one has any idea. Will the UFT and Working Family Party voters, as they did in the run-off dominate the turnout?  The Bloomberg brain trust has to be squirming, by now, the sages all figured he would have a dominant double digit lead.
All this in the midst of a teacher contract negotiations, a contract that ends 10/31/09 (although under the Public Employee Relations Act the current contract remains in full force and effect after expiration).
Will Mulgrew, Bloomberg and Klein standing on the steps of City Hall on the Thursday before the November 3rd election day, haggard after an around the clock session, announcing a settlement, be a plus or a minus for Bloomberg?
Bloomberg: Any contract that does not eviscerate the union would normally be trashed by the NY Post and the Daily News op ed-ers and editorial writers, but, if they just endorsed Mike can they trash him and risk chasing votes to Thompson? A contract could attract some teacher and parent voters and remove “education” from the first few years of his third term agenda.
Mulgrew: The Stimulus package has a year to go and then the City and the State face a fiscal abyss. Locking in a two year salary increase and resolving some other thorny issues would give the union breathing space and assure Mulgrew of a win in his first voting test with the membership.
Klein: A contract would be a major loss, he’s on a roll, attacks on tenure, linking evaluation to pupil progress, the ATR pool, principal as CEO, Fair Student Funding are all moving forward, a lengthy, acrimonious contract negotiations would highlight the struggle and push these weighty issues to the national scene.
And let’s not forget that the UFT contract has repercussions beyond the environs of the five boroughs.
Meryl Tisch and David Steiner: The NAEP scores are a major embarrassment, somebody decided to give retired Commissioner Rick Mills a “gift,” dumbed down standardized tests and Regents exams, it is a scandal. A lengthy conflict-ridden contract fight in NYC is the last thing Tisch-Steiner need, they need cooperation from everyone, especially the teacher unions to ratchet up the state testing system and restore credibility.
Duncan: The reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (undoubtedly with a new name) is a major plank in the Obama-Duncan legacy, and he needs the national unions on board. A lingering battle in the largest city in the nation would be a disaster.
With only two weeks till election day is a settlement possible/inevitable?
A new contract in New Haven, lauded by Randi Weingarten, and, surprisingly, the Wall Street Journal, includes pupil achievement data in a teacher evaluation plan,
The contract sets out a new teacher evaluation system, one that will include student progress as a component. Only part of that component will be student test results, both parties agree, and the new contract establishes a labor-management committee to determine what constitutes “student progress” and how much weight it should be given in evaluations. The new contract also establishes high-quality intervention through a peer assistance and review program staffed by full-time, union-selected educators, and reaffirms tenure and the principle of fair dismissal for educators.
Is a form of the New Haven contract possible in NYC?
One of the 2009 UFT “Bargaining Goals” calls for the assignment of four mediators to assist in the resolution of 3020a (discharge) cases. With forty years of case law both sides can predict the outcome of cases. Well over half of the teachers in rubber rooms will eventually resolve cases before the trial, now they wait many months, sometimes more than a year before the case is resolved. The Klein administration has been willing to absorb the costs for the political benefits, maybe Bloomberg won’t.
The ATR pool, driven by the decision not to permanently place excessed teachers has created a “pool” of over a thousand teachers serving temporarily in schools and costing over $100 million a year. The 2007 District 79 Reorganization Agreement, currently embedded in the contract, might offer guidance for a plan to reduce the numbers in the ATR pool. 
It is not uncommon for contracts to create the frameworks for the settlement of difficult or complex issues (see Article 17 F of the UFT Contract, “Voluntary Severance for Excessed Personnel”), even if time runs out before the details can be hammered out.
Ultimately it’s Mike Bloomberg’s decision: a timely contract that includes a salary increase and moves toward the settlement of ATR pool,  “rubber room” and Fair Student Funding could garner Bloomberg votes in the short run and create the beginnings of an alliance … perhaps Bloomberg/Mulgrew leading and engaging Tisch/Steiner and Duncan on a state and national stage.

2 responses to “UFT Contract Negotiations, the Mayoral Election and NAEP Scores: Can Conflicting Interests Create Lemonade Out of Lemons?

  1. in reading this piece about achievement in nyc school’s, i see chancellor klein as mayor bloomberg’s political crony;not an education leader. he is constantly criical of the teacher’s union,uft. a good teacher motivates his students to learn and be productive.
    the chancellor does not realize that the uft is here to stayn aqnd its members support its leaders. why not offer collegiality as a motivation to teachers instead of lockstep demands from the dept. of ed,which do not motify teachers. test scores seem to trump learning. politics and teaching could work if there was motivation ,instead of confrontation


  2. Pingback: Gotham Gazette - The Wonkster » Blog Archive » Campaign Contract

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