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.

weekend update

How the education world is reacting to racist violence in Charlottesville — and to Trump’s muted response

PHOTO: Andrew Dallos/Flickr
A rally against hate in Tarrytown, New York, responds to the violence in Charlottesville.

For educators across the country, this weekend’s eruption of racism and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, offered yet another painful opportunity to communicate their values to families, colleagues, and community members.

Many decried the white supremacists who convened in the college town and clashed with protesters who had come to oppose their message. Some used social media to outline ideas about how to turn the distressing news into a teaching moment.

And others took issue with President Donald Trump’s statement criticizing violence “on many sides,” largely interpreted as an unwillingness to condemn white supremacists.

One leading education official, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, followed Trump’s approach, criticizing what happened but not placing blame on anyone in particular:

DeVos’s two most recent predecessors were unequivocal, both about what unfolded in Charlottesville and whom to blame:

Leaders of the nation’s two largest teachers unions responded directly to Trump:

The American Federation of Teachers, Weingarten’s union, is supporting vigils across the country Sunday night organized by chapters of Indivisible, a coalition that emerged to resist the Trump administration. The union also promoted resources from Share My Lesson, its lesson-plan site, that deal with civil rights and related issues.

“As educators, we will continue to fulfill our responsibility to make sure our students feel safe and protected and valued for who they are,” Weingarten said in a statement with other AFT officials.

Local education officials took stands as well, often emotionally. Here’s what the superintendent in Memphis, which is engaged in the same debate about whether Confederate memorials should continue to stand that drew white supremacists to Charlottesville, said on Twitter:

Teachers in Hopson’s district return for the second week of classes on Monday. They’ve helped students process difficult moments before, such as a spate of police killings of black men in 2016; here’s advice they shared then and advice that teachers across the country offered up.

We want to hear from educators who are tackling this tough moment in their classrooms. Share your experiences and ideas here or in the form below. 

Betsy DeVos

‘Underperformer,’ ‘bully,’ and a ‘mermaid with legs’: NYMag story slams Betsy DeVos

PHOTO: New York Magazine
A drawing of DeVos commissioned by an 8-year-old starts the New York Magazine article.

A new article detailing Betsy DeVos’s first six months as U.S. education secretary concludes that she’s “a mermaid with legs: clumsy, conspicuous, and unable to move forward.”

That’s just one of several brutal critiques of DeVos’s leadership and effectiveness in the New York Magazine story, by Lisa Miller, who has previously covered efforts to overhaul high schools, New York City’s pre-kindergarten push, and the apocalypse. Here are some highlights:

  • Bipartisan befuddlement: The story summarizes the left’s well known opposition to DeVos’s school choice agenda. But her political allies also say she’s making unnecessary mistakes: “Most mystifying to those invested in her success is why DeVos hasn’t found herself some better help.”
  • A friend’s defense: DeVos is “muzzled” by the Trump administration, said her friend and frequent defender Kevin Chavous, a school choice activist.
  • The department reacts: “More often than not press statements are being written by career staff,” a spokesperson told Miller, rejecting claims that politics are trumping policy concerns.
  • D.C. colleagues speak: “When you talk to her, it’s a blank stare,” said Charles Doolittle, who quit the Department of Education in June. A current education department employee says: “It’s not clear that the secretary is making decisions or really capable of understanding the elements of a good decision.”
  • Kids critique: The magazine commissioned six portraits of DeVos drawn by grade-schoolers.
  • Special Olympics flip-flop: DeVos started out saying she was proud to partner with the athletics competition for people with disabilities — and quickly turned to defending a budget that cuts the program’s funding.
  • In conclusion: DeVos is an underperformer,” a “bully” and “ineffective,” Miller found based on her reporting.

Updated (July 31, 2017): A U.S. Education Department spokesperson responded to our request for comment, calling the New York Magazine story “nothing more than a hit piece.” Said Liz Hill: “The magazine clearly displayed its agenda by writing a story based on largely disputed claims and then leaving out of the article the many voices of those who are excited by the Secretary’s leadership and determination to improve education in America.”