Mayor Bloomberg and UFT President Randi Weingarten announced a tentative contract deal last night, just in time for Weingarten’s announcement Wednesday. The agreement would roll back pension benefits for newly hired employees, but preserve benefits for current teachers. It would also scrap the two work days before Labor Day that were added to the work year in the last contract negotiation.
Not mentioned in either Bloomberg’s press release or Weingarten’s e-mail to teachers (sent late last night and obtained thanks to a helpful reader): the small matter of the $81 million-a-year Absent Teacher Reserve. That’s the pool of teachers who are the losers in the system’s new hiring market — but haven’t been able to find positions at schools.
The union and the city struck a deal to try to drain the pool in November, but the number of reserve teachers stayed basically the same.
This appears to be Weingarten’s penultimate loose end before she leaves the city to work at the national teachers union full-time. The final deal she must announce: A contract agreement with the union-represented Green Dot charter school in the Bronx, which officials are unveiling this afternoon.
Here’s how Weingarten described the new citywide labor agreement in an e-mail to teachers, followed by Bloomberg’s press release:
The city press release, courtesy Liz Benjamin:
Rise & Shine
While you were waking up, the U.S. Senate took a big step toward confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary
Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as education secretary is all but assured after an unusual and contentious early-morning vote by the U.S. Senate.
The Senate convened at 6:30 a.m. Friday to “invoke cloture” on DeVos’s embattled nomination, a move meant to end a debate that has grown unusually pitched both within the lawmaking body and in the wider public.
They voted 52-48 to advance her nomination, teeing up a final confirmation vote by the end of the day Monday.
Two Republican senators who said earlier this week that they would not vote to confirm DeVos joined their colleagues in voting to allow a final vote on Monday. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska cited DeVos’s lack of experience in public education and the knowledge gaps she displayed during her confirmation hearing last month when announcing their decisions and each said feedback from constituents had informed their decisions.
Americans across the country have been flooding their senators with phone calls, faxes, and in-person visits to share opposition to DeVos, a Michigan philanthropist who has been a leading advocate for school vouchers but who has never worked in public education.
They are likely to keep up the pressure over the weekend and through the final vote, which could be decided by a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.
Two senators commented on the debate after the vote. Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has been a leading cheerleader for DeVos, said he “couldn’t understand” criticism of programs that let families choose their schools.
But Democrat Patty Murray of Washington repeated the many critiques of DeVos that she has heard from constituents. She also said she was “extremely disappointed” in the confirmation process, including the early-morning debate-ending vote.
“Right from the start it was very clear that Republicans intended to jam this nomination through … Corners were cut, precedents were ignored, debate was cut off, and reasonable requests and questions were blocked,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Week In Review
Week In Review: A new board takes on ‘awesome responsibility’ as Detroit school lawsuits advance
One of the board’s first acts was to settle a lawsuit that was filed by teachers last year over the conditions of school buildings. The settlement calls for the creation of a five-person board that will oversee school repairs.
The lawyers behind another Detroit schools lawsuit, meanwhile, filed a motion in federal court blasting Gov. Rick Snyder for evading responsibility for the condition of Detroit schools. That suit alleges that deplorable conditions in Detroit schools have compromised childrens’ constitutional right to literacy — a notion Snyder has rejected.
The performance of charter schools in Detroit and Michigan remained at the center of the DeVos debate. A national education policy site offered a detailed analysis of the evidence on both sides of the discussion. The same site looked at DeVos’ role in last year’s fight over charter school oversight. And a pro-school choice analyst offered his view on what reporters have gotten wrong about DeVos.