Published Online:

Collective Bargaining Roundup

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

After a bitter and complex contract dispute that lasted more than two years, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has voted overwhelmingly to accept a three-year agreement with the School District of Philadelphia.

The agreement was reached after officials from the union, the school district, and the state spent long hours in a closed session with Commonwealth Court Judge James C. Crumlish, resolving several issues over which there remained disagreement.

The final agreement--approved by a rank-and-file vote on Aug. 31--will provide teachers with 6 percent salary increases each year over the next three years, an increase in the percentage of teachers' medical benefits paid by the district, and a new job-security clause that permits layoffs if enrollment declines or money for a federally funded program is cut off.

The vote means that for the first time in three years, the Philadelphia public schools will open on time.

A strike by 480 teachers in Butte, Mont., continued as of late last week, and progress in resolving the issues was slow, a union official said. Certification is a key issue in the dispute, said David M. Mason, chairman of negotiations for the Butte Teachers' Union. The union is affiliated with the Montana Federation of Teachers.

The school board has proposed that only teachers who have classroom experience in a given field be allowed to teach, regardless of whether they hold certification in that field, Mr. Mason said.

Hence, a teacher recertified to teach mathematics or science would not be able to teach those subjects unless he or she had already taught them prior to being certified, he said. The teachers' union is seeking to end that practice.

Seniority and reductions-in-force are also at issue, according to Mr. Mason. Although the school board has not proposed to lay off any teachers, board members are currently studying the possibility of closing some schools. The union has sought to build clauses into the contract that would protect teachers if that occurs, Mr. Mason said.

The district has made no attempt to open the schools since the strike started on Aug. 26. The district's administrators are represented by the Teamsters' union, and they have honored the teachers' picket lines, Mr. Mason said.

As of the middle of last week, nearly 60,000 students in Michigan had been idled by strikes in eight districts, including Flint, with more strikes expected to begin this week.

In Detroit, teachers were expected to strike on Sept. 7, although the school board has softened its position somewhat on the "takebacks" it has demanded from the Detroit Federation of Teachers. The board's latest offer calls for a 9-percent cut in salaries and benefits, which would amount to about $2,300 for the aver-age teacher. The board's earlier proposals had called for as much as $3,000 in average takebacks. Union officials said they would be willing to accept a one-year extension of the current contract, but remain steadfastly opposed to givebacks.

The Detroit board was still negotiating with principals and bus drivers last week.

Representatives of the principals' association have said they would return to school without a contract, and school officials said a strike by bus drivers alone would not force schools to close.

In the wake of the legislature's failure to increase funding for education, more than 800 California school districts will begin bargaining in earnest this week. Negotiations will take place in a "no-increase scenario," according to Richard Odger, manager of training and bargaining services for the California Teachers Association, and noneconomic items will assume a larger role.

So far, "very few" of the districts represented by the cta have settled contracts; most had put negotiations on hold until they knew whether the legislature would provide more funding. But the legislature adjourned last week without passing either an oil severance tax, or a "sin" tax on cigarettes and alcohol.

Mr. Odger said that it is too soon to predict either settlement rates or strikes. However, he said, if strikes occur they will occur after schools open. Most school districts in the state are scheduled to reopen this week.

National News Roundup

Forty-four percent of those queried in a recent Gallup Poll said they believe that God created man "pretty much in his present form" sometime in the last 10,000 years.

The poll also found that 38 percent of the 1,518 adults 18 years and older who responded agreed with the statement: "Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, including man's creation."

Nine percent agreed with the statement: "Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. God had no part in this process." Another 9 percent said they did not know.

The Gallup organization reported that Southerners and Middle Westerners were slightly more likely to accept creationism than were people in other regions of the country. Of the 44 percent who said they believed exclusively in creationism, one-fourth were college graduates.

A spokesman for the organization said that in the past, questions about creation had been posed in a "dichotomous way, leading to a yes or no answer, which leaves out the large group of people who believe in both creation and evolution."

Bookstores and libraries across the country will display banned and challenged books this week as part of a nationwide effort to increase public awareness of censorship.

The American Booksellers Association, in conjunction with the American Library Association and the National Association of College Stores, has asked its 50,000 members to display the books in stores and libraries, along with a poster that reads: "Caution! Some People Consider These Books Dangerous."

"The banning of books has become so much more active that we felt it was time to call to people's attention to what this removal of books from bookstores, library shelves, and schools meant," said G. Roysce Smith, aba executive director.

"We expect it will be [an annual event] until the threats to the First Amendment are over--which will never happen," he added.

The idea was developed last June at the aba's annual convention in Anaheim, Calif., where a display of 500 banned and challenged books locked in a metal cage evoked such a favorable response that officials started planning a weeklong activity "to draw the national public's at-tention to the dangers of censorship."

To aid bookstores and librarians, the aba supplied members with a list of 575 titles, representing some of the books that have been banned or challenged throughout human history.

A letter accompanying the kit advises members to "take from your shelves some of the books on this list and display those books prominently in your store or library, or better yet in your window, with the poster that is also enclosed" to show the public "that it is more dangerous to restrict reading than to protect the right to choose what one will read."

Among the challenged or banned books:

The American Heritage Dictionary; The Bible; Earth Science; The Koran; We the People--History of the U.S.; The Wizard of Oz, by Frank L. Baum; Father Christmas, by Raymond Briggs; and The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck.

The Educational Testing Service, the New Jersey-based company that dominates the admissions-testing field in the United States, has been told by an independent panel that it should make a greater effort to educate the public and ets clients about the potential for abuse of the company's tests.

The 15-member panel, chaired by Harold Howe 2d, a former U.S. commissioner of education, made the recommendation in a recently released report that was based on an evaluation of ets's efforts to meet its new public-disclosure standards.

The panel's evaluation marks the first time ets has permitted scrutiny of its practices by outsiders. Future evaluations are scheduled to be made annually by similar panels.

While commending ets for its efforts to ensure the quality and fairness of its tests, the visiting committee said in another recommendation that "the setting and use of cutoff scores need special and perhaps greater attention in research, in ets's dealings with its clients, and in its [internal] auditing process."

The panel also wrote that "we applaud the policy committing ets to establishing procedures by which ... test misuse can be discouraged or eliminated .... We doubt that ets can be as successful as it wishes in this difficult area without having a greater impact on the policies of at least some of its clients."

States News Roundup

Beginning in June 1983, Wisconsin will join the growing number of states that have abandoned lifetime licenses for teachers and other professional school personnel.

Under a ruling approved by Herbert J. Grover, state superintendent of public instuction, the Wisconsin department of education will begin issuing five-year licenses, which may be renewed only after a teacher has completed six semester-hours or 180 "clock hours" of continuing education.

Currently, teachers in the state can earn a permanent license by completing a bachelor's degree and three years of successful teaching.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court last week laid to rest several lawsuits challenging public aid to private-school students for transportation.

In a unanimous decision, the high court ruled that all school districts must make transportation equally available to public-school and private-school students.

The decision came in a lawsuit filed by the state against school officials in Essex, a suburb of Boston, who were accused of violating state law by refusing to subsidize busing for students at a private high school in nearby Gloucester.

School officials in Essex, which does not have a high school, provided transportation for students choosing to attend public school in Gloucester, but not to those attending private school.

The judges said also that Massachusetts case law has established that it is constitutionally acceptable to spend public funds to provide certain "special-needs programs" in private schools, but not to use public money for more routine private school operations.

This November, the state's voters will consider a state constitutional amendment, endorsed by the legislature, that would allow a broader range of state aid to private-school students.

Edward Melikian, a spokesman for the state department of education, said last week that attorneys for the department are studying the court decision and will be sending school districts an advisory opinion later this month.

The Minnesota Supreme Court, reversing its own previous ruling, has found that laid-off teachers are entitled to be rehired when vacancies occur for which they are certified, despite the fact that they might lack "special qualifications" possessed by applicants never employed by the school system.

The case, Walter v. Independent School District No. 457, involved a teacher, Rolf Walter, who was placed on an "unrequested leave of absence" in spring 1979 because of financial constraints. Mr. Walter, who is certified to teach physical education, mathematics, and health, subsequently accepted a part-time position with the small district in southern Minnesota.

In August 1979, the school board hired a woman, on a part-time basis, to teach girls' health and physical education and to coach girls' volleyball. The new teacher had not worked in the district before.

Mr. Walter sued, claiming that he was licensed to teach the courses in question and was entitled to reinstatement to a full-time job. But the school board argued that it was forced to hire a women to satisfy affirmative-action requirements and because she would be better prepared to teach and coach young women.

Furthermore, the board argued, Mr. Walter, in accepting a part-time position, waived his right to be recalled to a full-time job.

In late August 1980, a trial judge overturned the school board's action, ordering a full-time job and back pay for Mr. Walter.

Last December, the state supreme court reversed the district court's decision. But the high court, at the request of the Minnesota Education Association, agreed to rehear the case, and three justices changed their minds.

The court conceded that a female teacher might be preferable for girls' physical-education classes, but it interpreted the state's tenure law as giving first priority to teachers who have been laid off.

Cities News Roundup

The city of Buffalo has been ordered to give its school board an extra $7.4 million to carry out school desegregation this academic year.

U.S. District Judge John T. Curtin's recent ruling guarantees the school system the $158-million budget officials said would be needed to continue last year's programs and to comply with the judge's previous desegregation orders.

The city's school board is answerable to, and fiscally dependent upon, the Common Council. Because the council, along with the school board, was found guilty of intentionally segregating the 47,000-student system, it has been held responsible for providing funds to carry out the desegregation orders. School officials claimed this year, as they have in the past, that the city was providing too little money for the schools.

Eugene T. Reville, superintendent of schools, said the payment will enable the district to "operate last year's program this year, with no improvements. We would have had a nightmare, a fiscal disaster, if we hadn't received the money."

However, because it lost about $6 million in federal desegregation aid, the district has been forced to cut back on supplementary services, including teachers' aides, guidance counselors, and inservice training.

At the same time he ordered the payment, Judge Curtin rejected a motion by civil-rights groups to alter attendance patterns at two schools that are outside court guidelines for racial balance. According to Mr. Reville, the judge found that the disruption and expense involved would not justify the changes.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People last week lost a round in its bid to force further desegregation in the Cincinnati public schools, when a federal appeals court blocked the use of evidence from before 1965.

The naacp had hoped to produce new evidence of deliberate segregation, claiming that practices prior to 1965 have contributed to current racial imbalance. U.S. District Judge Walter Rice of Dayton, Ohio, agreed earlier this year that the evidence should be considered.

But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on Aug. 30 reversed Judge Rice's ruling and reaffirmed the 17-year-old finding of a trial court, which exonerated city school officials of intentional segregation up to 1965.

Cincinnati has about 50,000 students, nearly 60 percent of whom are black. The district is partially desegregated through a combination of mandatory reassignments and an extensive system of magnet schools, but several one-race schools remain.

Public school teachers in Memphis, Tennessee's largest district, have been directed to comply with the state's "silent minute" law and allow students to pray or meditate before the start of each school day.

Willie Herenton, the city's superintendent of schools, sent a memo to teachers last week advising them to abide by the law passed by the legislature on April 29. The directive quotes from the law and says, "Each principal is responsible for informing his/her faculty of this directive. The immediate implementation of this act is expected as we begin the 1982-83 school year."

After the law was passed, William Leech, the state attorney general, issued an opinion describing how the law should be carried out. It said that the quiet period is not to exceed one minute; the period must neither be intended nor identified as a religious service; no student or teacher may lead any type of religious exercise; and individual prayers must not be audible.

A spot check by a reporter from the Memphis Commercial Appeal of students at one elementary school suggests that the law may not be having the effect the legislators intended. About 30 students at the el

ementary school told a reporter they liked the quiet period because it gave them time to think about what they would do during and after school. Only a few students used the word "prayer" when asked what they did during the silent period and those who did said they prayed for A's. Students at some schools left the room during the silent minute. One teacher said she liked the idea because "it helps quiet them down."

The law has been challenged in U.S. District Court by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of several plaintiffs, including a Memphis family. The suit says the law violates the federal and state constitutions by "making the public schools places of worship."

The Plymouth, Mass. school committee has decided not to reopen the Indian Brook Elementary School this month until state and local health officials have investigated possible causes of what seems to be a high rate of birth defects and miscarriages among the teachers and staff at the school.

The search for possible health hazards began earlier this year, when employees reported that of 20 pregnancies in the past five years, four ended in miscarriages, one in a stillbirth, and three children were born with birth defects.

Health officials have been collecting air samples from the school, which is located near a nuclear reactor, and reviewing school health records. However, they say that the investigation could take up to six weeks.

Meanwhile, school officials are discussing ways to accommodate the 650 kindergarten through 6th-grade students who will be affected by the school's temporary closing, according to a district official.

Web Only

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories