Campaign Contract
October 27th, 2009

With the United Federation of Teachers and the Bloomberg administration locked behind closed doors negotiating a contract, speculation continues about what a final accord might look like.

The contract will undoubtedly involve money but will also address work rules and other provisions contained in the approximately 200-page document. Speculation has revolved around whether the contract might institute some kind of merit pay for teachers and more directly tie that pay to test results, or change the procedures for dealing with teachers no longer in the classroom because of school closings, cutbacks or questions about their performance.

For years, Chancellor Joel Klein has vented about these issues. Just weeks ago, he railed to Steven Brill of the New Yorker about the inequities of the existing system, including the rubber rooms where teachers removed from classroom can remain, collecting salaries, virtually forever. In his fawning article, Brill (who doesn’t seem to understand that many contract provisions exist because mayors, including Bloomberg have agreed to them), said Klein “plans to push for a time limit of nine months or a year for reserve teachers to find new positions, after which they would be removed from the payroll.”

Christopher Cerf, a former top education official now working for the Bloomberg re-election campaign, told Brill, “This is not about teachers; it is about children. We all agree with the idea that it is better that 10 guilty men go free than that one innocent person be imprisoned. But by laying that on to a process of disciplining teachers you put the risk on the kids.”

Now though, some observers, particularly conservatives, fear the administration may be backing off on any changes. (To find out why, go to the jump.)

Thomas Carroll of the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability seized on a statement by Cerf, on the Brian Lehrer show yesterday, that teacher bonuses should continue to be given on a school-wide basis rather than to individual teachers. Carroll wrote on Gotham Schools, “This disclosure likely was a calculated move to dampen expectations before a contract agreement is announced.”

Writing as contract talks began. Marcus Winter said teachers have seen their salaries climb 43 percent on Bloomberg’s watch. Now, he continued, “simply holding the line on teacher pay isn’t enough. The new UFT contract should also save strapped taxpayers some cash by letting the Department of Education fire teachers stuck in the Absent Teacher Reserve [the holding area for teachers no longer in classrooms] for more than a year.”

Carroll and others fear the campaign calendar could sap whatever resolve Bloomberg might have.

“Bloomberg, despite his vast wealth and Type A personality, apparently has no stomach for a fight with the UFT on the eve of his attempt to secure a third term,” Carroll wrote.

With the contract set to expire on Halloween, the union and Bloomberg could reach an agreement before Election Day. Gazing into a crystal ball, Ed in the Apple wondered ” Will [UFT leader Michael] Mulgrew, Bloomberg and Klein standing on the steps of City Hall on the Thursday before the Nov. 3 election day, haggard after an around the clock session, announcing a settlement, be a plus or a minus for Bloomberg?”

Answering its own question, the blog continues, “Any contract that does not eviscerate the union would normally be trashed by the NY Post and the Daily News op ed-ers and editorial writers, but, if they just endorsed Mike can they trash him?”

Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute, a critic of the contract, thinks the odds favor a deal friendly to the union.

The UFT in Stern’s eyes has done a lot for Bloomberg. It essentially endorsed mayoral control of schools, retreating from an earlier demand that would have weakened the mayor’s iron grip on the Panel for Educational Policy, the puppet body that replaced the old Board of Education. As a result, “the mayor gets the union standing by him and affirming he is the greatest educational reformers of the century, ” Stern said.

And more recently, the UFT decided to stay out of the mayoral race — and not endorse Democratic nominee William Thompson. “For the largest union in the city with enormous phone banks” to say on the sidelines “sucked the oxygen out of Bill Thompson,” Stern said.

In return, according to this line of thought, the union gets money — protection for the non-teaching teachers, merit pay it can live with and so on.

“The decision to sit out the contest between Michael Bloomberg and his opponents speeds us to the brink of more disasters,” said Education Notes Online, a blog written by dissidents in the UFT. “If appearances are real and the UFT leadership’s passive support for the mayor’s reelection is a deal for a new UFT contract by deadline, our union is deeply complicit in another landmark defeat for the teaching profession.”

Whatever the merits of the individual issues, probably none of the maneuvering should surprise anyone. As Gotham Gazette detailed in a recent article, public employee unions and the officials they negotiate with often finds themselves in a pretty tight embrace in New York. The mayor might say, its just “politics as usual.”

By on October 27, 2009, 12:54 pm
In category: Education,Electoral Politics,Gotham City | 7 Comments »

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7 Responses to “Campaign Contract”

  1. Larry Littlefield Says:
    October 27th, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    You can’t write about teacher contracts and not mention the 25/55 pension. Nothing else matters, because everything else will be de-funded to pay for it.

    Bloomberg should have the UFT order the state legislature to pass a 25/55 pension for the rest of the state as well, so their schools would also be destroyed.

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