Where’s the Beef?

By Stephen Sawchuk — February 19, 2009 1 min read
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The Washington Teachers’ Union is going on the charm offensive for its contract counter-proposal to that provided by Chancellor Michelle Rhee. It is running a series of radio advertisements promoting the contract, and at this new Web site calls its own proposal “progressive, bold and comprehensive.”

You’ve got to at least give WTU points for confidence, given that the details are still so sketchy.

The site provides just a few additional tidbits: The contract will include a “fair and expedient” process for dismissing ineffective teachers. The red- and green-tier proposal is gone, replaced with a schoolwide performance-pay model. And it looks like the union wants to start a school improvement pilot similar to the N.Y.C. Chancellor’s District and Miami Zone initiatives.

It would offer compensation increases “comparable” with those in Rhee’s plan but “sustainable.” Rhee would have offered a 28% increase for teachers on the red-tier plan, but she’s since said that the district’s offer would have to be rethought given the economic downturn.

One aside: This situation is a striking reminder of how little we really know about this proposal (or Rhee’s, for that matter, beyond the red/green proposals). We journalists get a bad rap for not covering contract negotiations with more nuance, but the fact is that contracts are pretty much hammered out behind closed doors, invisible to parents and students and journalists until they’re a done deal.

Is the union’s proposal really progressive, bold, and comprehensive? We’ll find out soon enough, we hope.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.