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In one of the most closely watched teacher contract negotiations in the country, Washington, DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and union leader George Parker finally agree on deal breaking issues such as tenure, performance pay, and hiring and firing policies. In June, district teachers voted overwhelmingly in favor of the new contract, which offers them a 21.6% salary increase as well as performance pay incentives of up to $30,000 a year.
Over the course of the two and a half year-long negotiations, Parker and Rhee spoke candidly with John Merrow about the role of unions, the national implications of the contract, and why it took so long to come to an agreement.
June 12, 2007
Michelle Rhee is appointed Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools.
Sept. 30, 2007
Washington Teachers’ Union contract expires. Teachers labor under old contract until a new agreement is reached.
Oct. 9, 2007
“I am a change agent. And change doesn’t come without significant pushback and opposition.” - Michelle Rhee
In this interview, Michelle Rhee talks about why Mayor Fenty chose her and why D.C. schools have failed for so long. (15: 26 min / Download Transcript)
Oct. 12, 2007
Mayor Fenty submits legislation to the City Council that would give Rhee the power to fire hundreds of central office workers. Union leaders protest.
Nov. 26, 2007
“The union has never been the problem.” - George Parker
In this interview, Washington Teachers’ Union President George Parker suggests that Rhee’s reform efforts could threaten union rights. (12:14 min / Download Transcript)
Nov. 28, 2007
Rhee plans to close over 20 under-enrolled public schools which she says would save the district an estimated $23 million.
March 7, 2008
98 central office employees are fired after 390 of the 700 workers are re-classified by the city council as “at-will” employees.
April 10, 2008
Rhee offers buyouts of up to $20,000 to approximately 700 teachers who are about to retire or whose schools are scheduled to close or go through major changes under NCLB.
June 15, 2008
By the end of her first school year, Chancellor Rhee has closed 23 schools, relocating about 3,000 students and 400 teachers. She has fired more than 15% of her central office staff, and removed 36 principals. Contract negotiations continue.
July 22, 2008
“Am I a benevolent dictator? Maybe.” - Michelle Rhee
In this interview, Rhee reflects on her controversial first year, including her relationships with the community, the City Council, and Mayor Fenty. (16:29 min / Download Transcript)
July 22, 2008
“We are now a competitive school district, where student achievement may well determine our existence.” – George Parker
In this interview, George Parker discusses a lack of accountability in unions, and updates us on contract negotiations and teacher morale. (13:07 min / Download Transcript)
July 23, 2008
Rhee presents a two-tiered contract proposal that would offer teachers who give up tenure as much as $131,000 a year in salary and bonuses – if students perform well.
Aug. 19, 2008
The D.C. Teachers’ Union files a suit claiming that about 80 teachers were dismissed without warning or specific reason.
Aug. 25, 2008
D.C. schools reopen for the 2008-2009 school year.
Sept. 30, 2008
“We are not afraid of accountability” George Parker
Pressure is mounting on George Parker to reach a contract agreement. In this interview, he shares his views on performance pay and tenure, and suggests that an impasse may be close at hand. (6:45 min / Download Transcript)
Oct. 7, 2008
“If we have ineffective teachers in the classroom, the goal is to not have them in the classroom any longer.” – Michelle Rhee
In this interview, Michelle Rhee argues that, without significant changes in the way principals and teachers are held accountable, the “dance of the lemons” will only continue. (9:28 min / Download Transcript)
Dec. 4, 2008
Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, a national union, joins the negotiations at George Parker’s request.
Dec. 8, 2008
TIME magazine’s cover image - Rhee standing in an empty classroom holding a broom – fuels unrest among DC teachers. George Parker says the media attention has propelled contract negotiations to a national level.
Jan. 27, 2009
“Tenure is the holy grail of teacher unionism” - Michelle Rhee
“I think the challenge in this contract is that there is opportunity versus sacrifice” – George Parker
With the national teachers’ union now at the table, contract negotiations take on even greater national significance. In this interview, Michelle Rhee and George Parker discuss the major sticking points which include teacher compensation and tenure. (9:53 min / Download Transcript)
Feb. 3, 2009
American Federation of Teachers and Washington Teachers’ Union announce a contract counterproposal. It does not include Rhee’s “two-tiered” salary plan.
Feb. 9, 2009
Rhee publishes an op-ed piece in the Washington Post stating that she does not blame teachers for low achievement levels in D.C. schools.
May 3, 2009
“I can’t control what the media says or does.” – Michelle Rhee
In this interview, Michelle Rhee discusses the impact of national media coverage on her relationship with D.C.’s teaching force. (10:36 min / Download Transcript)
May 3, 2009
“It created a culture of low morale…lowest that I’ve seen since I’ve been in DC Public Schools and I’ve been here for 25 years.” – George Parker
In this interview, George Parker reflects on the last 17 months of negotiating with Rhee and talks about a “culture of fear” in D.C. schools, as well as his views on pay-for-performance and special education. (10:29 min / Download Transcript)
April 14, 2009
Kurt Schmoke, Dean of Howard University Law School and former three-term mayor of Baltimore, joins the contract negotiations as mediator.
June 19, 2009
Rhee fires about 250 new and veteran teachers for poor performance or failure to obtain a license.
Aug. 17, 2009
“As long as the Mayor wants me here, I will be here.” – Michelle Rhee
In this interview, Rhee looks back on her time in office, and considers her mistakes along the way. She hopes to reach a contract agreement when teachers return for the next school year. (12:04 min / Download Transcript)
Aug. 17, 2009
“There is the pressure of knowing what we do will affect more than just what happens in DC.” – George Parker
In this interview, George Parker and John Merrow discuss pay-for-performance, one of the most controversial issues in the contract. (13:59 min / Download Transcript)
Aug. 24, 2009
D.C. schools reopen for the 2009-2010 school year. There is no announcement on the contract. Negotiations resume.
Oct. 2, 2009
Contract negotiations grind to a halt after 266 teachers are laid off. The Chancellor cites a $43.9 million dollar gap in her budget as the source of the layoffs.
Nov. 17, 2009
“I think the Chancellor has lost a lot of respect of some very, very highly qualified and committed teachers.” – George Parker
In this interview, George Parker questions Rhee’s decision to hire 934 new teachers in the spring, then lay off 266 teachers just six weeks into the school year.(7:11 min / Download Transcript)
April 7, 2010
With the help of AFT President Randi Weingarten and former mayor of Baltimore, MD Kurt Schmoke, Chancellor Rhee and union president Parker reach a tentative agreement on the contract.
April 13, 2010
Rhee announces a $34 million budget surplus that she intends to use to fund the contract. Parker and Randi Weingarten file a lawsuit demanding that the teachers laid off in October as a result of a budget gap be reinstated.
April 15, 2010
The District of Columbia’s Chief Financial Officer, Natwar M. Gandhi, states that the $34 million dollar surplus “does not exist”. Over the next three weeks, the confusion surrounding the surplus and the budget is resolved. The courts dismiss Parker and Weingarten’s lawsuit.
Read this Washington Post article for more details on the budget complexities.
May 10, 2010
Gandhi certifies the $140 million teachers’ contract as fiscally sound.
June 2, 2010
D.C. teachers vote 1,412 to 425 to ratify the contract.
June 2, 2010
D.C. Council approves the contract. To see the contract, visit http://www.wtulocal6.org/
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