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.

the end

A 60-year-old group that places volunteers in New York City schools is shutting down

PHOTO: August Young

Citing a lack of support from the city education department, a 60-year-old nonprofit that places volunteers in New York City schools is closing its doors next month.

Learning Leaders will cease operations on March 15, its executive director, Jane Heaphy, announced in a letter to volunteers and parents last week.

In the message, she said the group had slashed its budget by more than a third, started charging “partnership fees” to participating schools, and explored merging with another nonprofit. But the city pitched in with less and less every year, with no guarantee of consistency, she said.

“This funding volatility has created insurmountable challenges to the long-term viability of our organization,” Heaphy wrote. “We regret the vacuum that will be created by our closure.”

The group — which began as part of the city school system but became its own nonprofit in the 1970s — says its volunteers work with more than 100,000 students in more than 300 schools every year, many of them faithfully. When then-84-year-old Carolyn Breidenbach became the group’s 2013 volunteer of the year, she had been helping at P.S. 198 on the Upper East Side daily for 12 years.

Heaphy’s full message to volunteers is below:

Dear [volunteer],

It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you Learning Leaders will cease operations on March 15 of this year. This organization has worked diligently over the last few years to sustain our work of engaging families as Learning Leaders, but the funding landscape has become too challenging to keep our programs going. While we have been able to increase our revenues from a generous community of funders, we have ultimately come to the conclusion that without a consistent and significant base of funding from the NYC Department of Education, we cannot leverage foundation grants, individual donors, or school fees sufficiently to cover program costs.

In the face of growing financial challenges, Learning Leaders reduced its costs as thoughtfully as possible — and in ways that did not affect our program quality. Rather, we sought to deepen and continually improve our service to schools and families while eliminating all but the most necessary costs. These efforts reduced our budget by more than 35 percent.

At the same time, we sought greater public support for our work with schools and families across the city. We are grateful to the foundations and individual donors that have believed in our work and provided financial support to keep it going. We were gratified when schools stepped up to support our efforts through partnership fees. While these fees only covered a portion of our costs, the willingness of principals to find these funds within their extremely tight school budgets was a testament to the value of our work.

Throughout an extended period of financial restructuring Learning Leaders advocated strongly with the Mayor’s Office and the DOE [Department of Education] for a return to historical levels of NYC DOE support for parent volunteer training and capacity building workshops. While we received some NYC DOE funding this year, it was less than what we needed and was not part of an ongoing budget initiative that would allow us to count on regular funding in the coming years. Several efforts to negotiate a merger with another nonprofit stalled due to the lack of firm financial commitment from the DOE. Over time, this funding volatility has created insurmountable challenges to the long-term viability of our organization.

We regret the vacuum that will be created by our closure. If you have questions or concerns about opportunities and support for family engagement and parent volunteer training, you can contact the NYC DOE’s Division of Family and Community Engagement at (212) 374-4118 or [email protected].

On behalf of the board of directors and all of us at Learning Leaders, I offer heartfelt thanks for your partnership. We are deeply grateful for your work to support public school students’ success. It is only with your dedication and commitment that we accomplished all that we did over the last 60 years. We take some solace in knowing that we’ve helped improve the chances of success for more than 100,000 students every year. The Learning Leaders board and staff have been honored to serve you and your school communities.
Sincerely,

Jane Heaphy
Executive Director

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.”