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.

First Person

First Person: Why my education nonprofit is bucking the coastal trend and setting up shop in Oklahoma

PHOTO: Creative Commons

“Oklahoma?! Why are you expanding to Oklahoma?!”

The response when I told some people that Generation Citizen, the nonprofit I run, was expanding to central Texas and Oklahoma, quickly became predictable. They could understand Texas, probably because our headquarters will be in the blue-dot-in-sea-of-red Austin. But Oklahoma?

My answer: Generation Citizen is expanding to Oklahoma City because no one would expect us to expand to Oklahoma City.

Our nonprofit is dedicated to empowering young people to become engaged citizens by reviving civics education in schools. We help middle and high school students learn about local politics by guiding them as they take action on issues they care about, like funding for teen jobs or state resources for teenage moms.

I founded the organization after graduating from Brown University in Rhode Island in 2009. Since then, we’ve expanded our programming to Boston, New York City, and the San Francisco Bay Area. All are urban areas with wide swaths of low-income young people, unequal schools, and disparate power dynamics. Our work is needed in those areas.

At the same time, all of these areas have predominantly liberal populations. In fact, according to The Economist, they are among the 10 most liberal cities in the country.

Generation Citizen is a non-partisan organization. We do not wish to convince young people to support a particular candidate or party — we just want them to engage politically, period. But the fact that we are preparing low-income young people in liberal urban centers to become politically active complicates this narrative.

So despite the fact that we could work with many more students in our existing cities, we made a conscious decision to expand to a more politically diverse region. A city that had real Republicans.

As we started talking about expansion, I realized the extent to which the dialogue about political and geographic diversity was a rarity in national nonprofit circles. While several large education organizations, like Teach for America and City Year, have done an admirable job of in working in conservative and rural regions across the country, a lot of other organizations follow a more predictable path, sticking largely to cities on the east and west coasts and sometimes, if folks feel crazy, an Atlanta or Miami.

There is nothing wrong with these decisions (and we were originally following this trajectory). A big reason for the coastal-focused expansion strategy is the availability of financial resources. Nonprofits want to raise money locally to sustain themselves, and those cities are home to a lot of people and foundations who can fund nonprofits.

But a more problematic reason seems related to our increasing ideological self-segregation. Nonprofits lean toward expanding to places that are comfortable, places that their leaders visit, places where people tend to hold similar values and political views.

One of the fault lines in our democracy is our inability to talk to people who disagree with us (highlighted daily by this presidential election). And non-profits may be exacerbating this reality.

This schism actually became more apparent to me when our board of directors started having conversations about expansion. Oklahoma City had come to the top of my proposed list because of my personal and professional contacts there. But I quickly realized that no one on my board lived more than five miles from an ocean, and save a board member from Oklahoma, none had stepped foot in the state.

“Are we sure we want to expand there? Why not a gateway city?” (I still don’t know what a gateway city is.)

“We can hire a Republican to run the site, but they can’t be a Trump supporter.”

“Are we sure that we can raise enough money to operate there?”

It wasn’t just my board. Whenever I talked to friends about our plans, they’d offer the same resistance.

The stereotypes I heard were twofold: Oklahoma was full of bigoted conservatives, and it was an incredibly boring location. (The dullness narrative got an unquestionable boost this year when star basketball player Kevin Durant left the hometown Thunder. It became quite clear that a main rationale for his leaving the team was Oklahoma City itself.)

But as I met with folks about Generation Citizen’s work, I met citizen after citizen who was excited about our mission. The state is facing tremendous budget challenges, and its voter participation rates amongst the worst in the country. Given these realities, there seemed to be widespread recognition that a program like ours could actually be helpful.

I did not talk about national politics with most people I met. Indeed, we might disagree on whom to support. But we did agree on the importance of educating young people to be politically active, shared concerns about public school budget cuts, and bonded over excitement for the Thunder’s playoff chances.

Still, the actual expansion to Oklahoma will be a challenge for our organization. Despite our local ties, we are coming in from the outside, and we do have the perception of being a progressively minded organization. What will happen if one of our classes wants to advocate for open carry at schools in response to a shooting? How will my board handle working in a site where they wouldn’t ordinarily visit?

I am excited to tackle all of these challenges. And I would push other similarly sized non-profits to think about working in a more diverse set of areas. It is not possible to be a national organization and avoid entire swaths of the country. But more importantly, given these tenuous political times, it feels important to interact with people who may not hold our beliefs.

Nonprofits can’t fix our national dialogue alone. But by expanding where we work, we might help improve the conversation.

honor system

Meet Derek Voiles, the Morristown educator who is Tennessee’s newest Teacher of the Year

PHOTO: Tennessee Department of Education
Derek Voiles, Tennessee's 2016-17 Teacher of the Year

Derek Voiles, a seventh-grade English language arts teacher in Morristown, is Tennessee’s 2016-17 Teacher of the Year, the State Department of Education announced Thursday.

One of nine finalists for this year’s award, Voiles teaches at Lincoln Heights Middle in Hamblen County Schools in East Tennessee. He received the top teacher honor at a banquet in Nashville.

Voiles, who has been teaching for six years, has long shared his teaching practices publicly — on Twitter, through a blog he wrote with a colleague, and as a state ambassador for the Common Core standards. In recent years, according to a state news release, his classroom became a hub as teachers from across his district observed his teaching in hopes of replicating his practices, which often improved the performance of students far behind their peers.

“All students are capable of achieving great things, and all students deserve a teacher who believes this and will do whatever it takes to make it happen,” Voiles said in the release. He is also a doctoral candidate at East Tennessee State University.

Now, Voiles will gain an even wider stage, as Tennessee’s representative to the National Teacher of the Year program. He will also share insight from the classroom as part of committees and working groups with the Tennessee Department of Education.

All nine Teacher of the Year finalists, representing each of the state’s regions, will serve on the Commissioner Candice McQueen’s Teacher Advisory Council during the 2016-17 school year.

The department also recognized two division winners from Middle and West Tennessee. Cord Martin, a music education and enrichment teacher at Whitthorne Middle School in Maury County, was recognized for his innovative teaching strategies and connecting content to contemporary culture. Christy McManus, a fifth-grade English language arts and social studies teacher at Chester County Middle School in Henderson was honored for equipping her students with the end goal in mind: a college-ready twelfth grader.

Voiles follows Cathy Whitehead, a third-grade teacher from Chester County, who served as Tennessee’s 2015-16 Teacher of the Year. Whitehead teaches at West Chester Elementary School in Henderson in West Tennessee.