contract sport

Teachers union declares impasse in contract negotiations

The city teachers union declared this afternoon that its contract talks with the city are deadlocked and asked a state employment panel to intervene.

The move takes the negotiations one step closer to fact-finding and arbitration, a complex process that observers say could mean nearly a year before a new contract is reached.

“Despite weeks of meetings and discussions, we have not been able to make real progress in our efforts to reach a new contract with the Department of Education,” United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew said in a statement.

“The UFT has no choice but to reach out to a neutral third party to help resolve the differences that are preventing us from a new agreement that is fair to our members and to the parents and children who rely on the New York City public schools,” he said.

A spokesman for the city, Jason Post, would not comment on the UFT’s move.

The declaration of impasse comes at a sensitive time for the relationship between the teachers union and the city. The city is currently pushing for legislative changes that would change how teachers are evaluated and make it easier for them to be fired.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pitched those changes as necessary to make the state more competitive for federal Race to the Top grants, which would mean changes would need to be inserted into a bill that Governor David Paterson wants passed before Tuesday’s federal deadline.

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, on the other hand, has said that how teachers are judged, hired and fired are “contractual issues that should be dealt with at the bargaining table.”

Long-time UFT member Peter Goodman said the timing of the declaration may also simply be a practical matter if the union wants to reach the fact-finding stage by the end of the school year.

“There’s sort of a clock,” Goodman said, noting in the past it has taken six to nine months from the declaration of an impasse to the beginning of the fact-finding process. “The longer you wait, you push the fact-finding back. I think they’ve already waited a long time.”

In November, the union passed a resolution giving Mulgrew power to declare the impasse, signaling that this step was on the way. The next step is for the state’s Public Employment Relations board to confirm that talks have indeed stalled and then bring in a mediator to re-launch negotiations. Failing mediation, a fact-finding panel would then be called in to make recommendations for a settlement.

The UFT’s contract with the city expired last October, but a statute allows teachers to continue to work under an expired contract until a new one has been negotiated. That contract was reached through negotiations in 2007, but the UFT’s prior two rounds of contract talks with the city, in 2005 and 2002, went to fact-finding panels before they were resolved.

The full press release from the union is below:

UFT DECLARES IMPASSE IN CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS

Asks state panel to intervene in stalled talks

The United Federation of Teachers, saying that talks to replace its
expired contract had reached an impasse, today asked the New York State
Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to intervene in the
negotiations.

If PERB finds that an impasse exists, the state agency will appoint a
mediator to bring the sides together.  If mediation fails, PERB would
then appoint a fact-finding panel to hold hearings and make a
recommendation for a settlement.

UFT President Mike Mulgrew said, “Despite weeks of meetings and
discussions, we have not been able to make real progress in our efforts
to reach a new contract with the Department of Education.  The UFT has
no choice but to reach out to a neutral third party to help resolve the
differences that are preventing us from a new agreement that is fair to
our members and to the parents and children who rely on the New York
City public schools.”

The UFT’s most recent contract was a two-year pact that expired October
31, 2009.

If mediation were to fail, a fact-finding panel would have three
appointees.  Fact-finding produces non-binding recommendations designed
to help the parties craft a final settlement.

Under the Taylor Law that governs relations between management and
public employee labor unions, wages, benefits and all other provisions
of contracts continue in place until new agreements are reached,
including during the impasse/mediation/fact-finding process.

Three times in the last 17 years — in 2005, 2002 and 1993 — the
recommendations of fact-finding panels have helped the UFT and the
DOE/city reach agreements to replace expired teacher contracts.

HISTORY OF UFT/DOE FACT-FINDING

1993 — a contract dispute between the UFT and the Board of Education
(during the Dinkins administration) was submitted to the fact-finding
process. A fact-finding panel made a recommendation for a pay package
that slightly exceeded the city “pattern” of 8-1/4 per cent;  that
recommendation became the framework for a settlement.

2001 — In March the UFT asked PERB to declare that an impasse existed
in its contract talks with the Board of Education and the administration
of Mayor Giuliani.  A mediator was appointed in April of that year.
Mediation failed, a fact-finding panel was appointed, and the panel
began hearings in December.

In April 2002 the panel issued a series of findings, including a
recommendation that the administration abandon its demand for individual
merit pay and that the union consider adding more paid time to the
school day.  These recommendations were part of the settlement of the
contract in June of that year.

2004 — In April, after months of contentious meetings between the UFT
and the DOE/city over the Bloomberg administration’s demands for an
abbreviated contract that would have reduced teacher protections and
eliminated measures like class-size caps, the UFT again asked PERB to
declare an impasse in negotiations.

Under PERB pressure the administration eventually abandoned its demand
for an abbreviated contract.  In December PERB determined that an
impasse existed and appointed a mediator.  When mediation failed, PERB
appointed a fact-finding panel in April 2005.

That panel’s report, issued in September of 2005, recommended a total
wage increase of 11 percent over three years, a slightly longer school
day, changes in work rules and the grievance and discipline processes,
and a school-wide performance bonus program.  These recommendations were
part of the basis for a contract agreement reached in October 2005.

money matters

Report: Trump education budget would create a Race to the Top for school choice

PHOTO: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos participate in a tour of Saint Andrews Catholic in Orlando, Florida.

The Trump administration appears to be going ahead with a $1 billion effort to push districts to allow school choice, according to a report in the Washington Post.

The newspaper obtained what appears to be an advance version of the administration’s education budget, set for release May 23. The budget documents reflect more than $10 billion in cuts, many of which were included in the budget proposal that came out in March, according to the Post’s report. They include cuts to after-school programs for poor students, teacher training, and more:

… a $15 million program that provides child care for low-income parents in college; a $27 million arts education program; two programs targeting Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students, totaling $65 million; two international education and foreign language programs, $72 million; a $12 million program for gifted students; and $12 million for Special Olympics education programs.

Other programs would not be eliminated entirely, but would be cut significantly. Those include grants to states for career and technical education, which would lose $168 million, down 15 percent compared to current funding; adult basic literacy instruction, which would lose $96 million (down 16 percent); and Promise Neighborhoods, an Obama-era initiative meant to build networks of support for children in needy communities, which would lose $13 million (down 18 percent).

The documents also shed some light on how the administration plans to encourage school choice. The March proposal said the administration would spend $1 billion to encourage districts to switch to “student-based budgeting,” or letting funds flow to students rather than schools.

The approach is considered essential for school choice to thrive. Yet the mechanics of the Trump administration making it happen are far from obvious, as we reported in March:

There’s a hitch in the budget proposal: Federal law spells out exactly how Title I funds must be distributed, through funding formulas that sends money to schools with many poor students.

“I do not see a legal way to spend a billion dollars on an incentive for weighted student funding through Title I,” said Nora Gordon, an associate professor of public policy at Georgetown University. “I think that would have to be a new competitive program.”

There are good reasons for the Trump administration not to rush into creating a program in which states compete for new federal funds, though. … Creating a new program would open the administration to criticism of overreach — which the Obama administration faced when it used the Race to the Top competition to get states to adopt its priorities.

It’s unclear from the Post’s report how the Trump administration is handling Gordon’s concerns. But the Post reports that the administration wants to use a competitive grant program — which it’s calling Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success, or FOCUS — to redistribute $1 billion in Title I funds for poor students. That means the administration decided that an Obama-style incentive program is worth the potential risks.

The administration’s budget request would have to be fulfilled by Congress, so whether any of the cuts or new programs come to pass is anyone’s guess. Things are not proceeding normally in Washington, D.C., right now.

By the numbers

After reshaping itself to combat declining interest, Teach For America reports a rise in applications

PHOTO: Kayleigh Skinner
Memphis corps members of Teach For America participate in a leadership summit in last August.

Teach for America says its application numbers jumped by a significant number this year, reversing a three-year trend of declining interest in the program.

The organization’s CEO said in a blog post this week that nearly 49,000 people applied for the 2017 program, which places college graduates in low-income schools across the country after summer training — up from just 37,000 applicants last year.

“After three years of declining recruitment, our application numbers spiked this year, and we’re in a good position to meet our goals for corps size, maintaining the same high bar for admission that we always have,” Elisa Villanueva Beard wrote. The post was reported by Politico on Wednesday.

The news comes after significant shake-ups at the organization. One of TFA’s leaders left in late 2015, and the organization slashed its national staff by 15 percent last year. As applications fell over the last several years, it downsized in places like New York City and Memphis, decentralized its operations, and shifted its focus to attracting a more diverse corps with deeper ties to the locations where the program places new teachers. 

This year’s application numbers are still down from 2013, when 57,000 people applied for a position. But Villanueva Beard said the changes were working, and that “slightly more than half of 2017 applicants identify as a person of color.”