An angry response to District contract proposals
by Ron Whitehorne on Aug 17 2009 Posted in Social justice unionism
According to a letter to PFT members from President Jerry Jordan, the School District has presented a 16-page list of new contract proposals that, in Jordan’s words would “weaken your voices in your schools…, limit your professional opportunities and leave many of you without the most basic protections our union contract now affords.”
The letter cites a longer school day without additional compensation, performance pay based on student test scores, and the elimination of the traditional seniority based transfer policy as key elements of the District’s proposal.
“District proposals,” Jordan reports, “do not address salaries, health care or funding the PFT Health & Welfare Fund.…Not surprisingly, district proposals fail to address the issues that you've identified as having the greatest impact on achievement - safety and discipline, class size and classroom resources, to name a few.”
Additionally Jordan highlights ways in which the contract proposals further concentrate power in the hands of administration rather than seeking out collaborative approaches. The letter cites administrative control of prep time, terms and benefits for teachers in "high needs" schools set by administration, and arbitrary assignment of teachers by administration as cases in point.
If the District is in fact pursuing these proposals, and if Superintendent Ackerman is serious about her threats to impose her proposals using the never-used provisions of the State takeover law, we have the prospect of a contract that will ride roughshod over many teacher concerns and cause further teacher demoralization.
Many education activists, myself included, believe the traditional seniority-based transfer policy has not served low-achieving schools well and needs reform.The Cross City Campaign for School Reform’s “Effective Teaching for All” platform, with its call for site selection that involves teachers exercising equal power with principals, is a progressive alternative.
But this, like other elements of the contract, needs to be negotiated, not imposed from above. The administration, instead of assuming it has an exclusive franchise on what children and schools need, should seek to engage teachers in the work of reform, listening to their views and concerns. Among other things this means a commitment to negotiate with the union and a repudiation of earlier threats to impose an agreement.
If the District does use the “nuclear option” we can expect legal challenges and possibly job actions, as the school year gets underway.. The divisions and resentment that an imposed contract will produce threatens the concentration on student learning that all agree is needed if our public school system is to go forward.