"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Will DC Teachers Approve a Union Contract Endorsed by Walmart and Michelle Rhee?

The corporate media echo chamber has been working overtime since a tentative DC teacher contract was approved by Eli Broad's thug lawyers and the prostisuits who run the AFT and their DC affiliate. WaPo's Metro columnist, Robert McCartney, hailed the new deal as a sign that, three years after her hiring, Rhee has finally arrived:
It took her nearly three years, but D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee has finally achieved something important enough to actually merit all the praise and hoopla that have made her the nation's most celebrated schools chief.
McCartney, of course, would never acknowledge that a tentative settlement was reached despite the fuming, arrogant, and spiteful Rhee, not because of her. If it had not been for former Baltimore mayor, Kurt Schmoke, there would be no agreement yet, tentative or otherwise.

McCartney also takes the opportunity to promote the false notion that the contract represents a windfall for teachers by claiming that "teachers receive a 21 percent increase in base pay." What McCartney does not note, of course, is that the 21 percent is spread over 5 years, going back to 2008. Nor does McCartney talk about the tenuous, and perhaps imaginary, nature of the funds to provide the raises. From the picture that is beginning to emerge now, it could be that any such promised raises would require further firings and layoffs. Would you believe in a union contract supported by the Waltons, Broad, and Bill Gates?

From Bill Turque (my bolds):

Does contract math add up?

Although it's been less than a week since Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee rolled out their tentative contract agreement with the Washington Teachers' Union, bumps are starting to appear on the path to closing the deal. Disputed math, election-year tensions and the complexities of marrying private dollars to public budgets are all part of what's becoming a problematic mix.

Rhee said last week that the total cost of the new contract was $140 million. But at Monday's D.C. Council hearing, where Fenty spent more than three hours at the witness table in front of his September primary opponent, Chairman Vincent C. Gray, a different picture emerged. By Gray's calculations, there's not nearly enough money in Fenty's proposed FY 2011 budget to pay for what the contract promises. Gray puts the price tag for the contract at $161 million, including $100 million for retroactive and current year salary increases.

"It's an enormous amount of money. I can't find it," Gray said.

Fenty said he'd get it for him later.

Gray placed District Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi, city administrator Neil Albert, acting DCPS chief financial officer George Dines and Gandhi deputy Gordon McDonald under oath to ask whether there was currently money in the budget to underwrite the contract. Dines said no. Gandhi and McDonald said they didn't know. And Albert said he hadn't looked.

The other fuzzy area involves the $64.5 million in private dollars pledged by the Broad, Walton, Robertson and Arnold foundations. Before either the WTU or the council can vote on the contract, Gandhi must sign off on the pledges as fiscally sound -- meaning that the District won't be left on the hook during the life of the agreement, which runs to 2012.

Last week, word was that Gandhi's examination wouldn't take more than a few days. But on Monday Gandhi said the process would take "weeks," not days. This was not welcome news to the council, which has a budget to complete by June.

"What I see as a potential effect here is that that we don't have the information Dr. Gandhi is reviewing until after the budget process much farther down the road," said Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) "This seems to be very tricky."

Catania went so far as to say that given the current funding uncertainties, the financial package promised in the contract could only be realized with new teacher layoffs.

"I don't see how it's done with[out] some reductions in force," he said. "That may be the answer to how do we give a raise."

Trickier still for the council is how the foundations do business. The money will not be officially in hand until the union ratifies the deal, which will only come after the green light from Gandhi. Cate Swinburn, president and executive director of the D.C. Public Education Fund, the non-profit set up by Fenty's political supporters to handle private donations for school reform, said Monday that while the award letters under review by Gandhi are "very firm," only after union ratification will they become "formal grant agreements."

Rhee is scheduled to brief the council Tuesday morning at its monthly administrative meeting.

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