New Jersey, Michigan Unions Sitting Out ‘Race to Top’

By Stephen Sawchuk — January 06, 2010 1 min read
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So says this AP story and this story from the Grand Rapids Press. We’re up to five state unions now, by my count: Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, and the NEA affiliate in Louisiana. All are NEA affiliates; the Florida and Minnesota unions are also affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers.

The New Jersey Education Association objects to using test scores to evaluate teachers. In Michigan, meanwhile, union leaders said they were “shocked” to be removed from the application process. They say they won’t sign off on a plan that’s still in draft form, which they’ve likened to singing a blank contract. (I’m not sure how to square that rhetoric with their dislike of specific policy proposals in the draft to institute a tiered licensing system and guidelines for differentiated compensation.)

Increasingly, Race to the Top appears to be becoming a test about what unions and administrators really mean when they talk about “labor-management collaboration.” Collaboration, it’s now clear, involves not just issues about how involved unions are in the drafting of the applications and the memoranda of understanding, but also whether unions and management can reach agreement on controversial ideas such as tying pay to test scores and evaluations. (The Race to the Top awards lots of competitive points for doing so.) This is particularly a problem for the NEA, whose own internal policy resolutions eschew tying test scores to consequential decisions involving teachers and which can’t support locals that want to do so.

So do states hold fast to those proposals, knowing it will win them competitive points but might alienate their unions? Or do they put forward less aggressive proposals but risk losing out on the funding?

Also, if few state unions sign off on these plans, what will it mean for Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who pledged to work with unions last summer?

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