DCPS nixes Saunders’ offer of money for job guarantees

Washington Teachers’ Union president Nathan Saunders, facing the prospect of losing jobs at the end of the school year, recently told the city that he was prepared to discuss foregoing a scheduled 5 percent raise due to educators in fiscal year 2012 in exchange for guarantees that teacher positions be preserved.

But Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Acting Chancellor Kaya Henderson quickly bounced the proposal, which would have meant re-opening a contract that took more than two years to negotiate and one that gives them new flexibility to drop teachers they consider ineffective. In a March 28 letter to Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Saunders said the union’s “unparalleled sacrifice” would help preserve educational quality, saving D.C. $18 million in salary and benefits that could be put back into the schools. While Gray’s proposed budget appears to have raised local education spending by 12 percent, many individual schools are still taking cuts, and may be looking to “excess” staff this summer.

Under past collective bargaining agreements, the city was required to find other positions in the school system for teachers cut loose because of enrollment, program or budget changes. Under the contract signed last year, principals aren’t required to take another school’s castoffs.

Saunders said in his letter that the union was prepared to consider skipping the annual raise “provided that teacher jobs be preserved along with other conditions to be negotiated.” Saunders didn’t spell out the “other conditions,” but it’s a fair guess that they involve the unpopular IMPACT evaluation system.

Henderson said in an e-mail that she responded to Saunders on March 31.

“We appreciate WTU’s willingness to make sacrifices to assist the city in these difficult times,” she said. “However, we respectfully declined his offer to reopen negotiations on the contract,” she said.

It won’t be long before Henderson and Saunders will have to sit down again. The current contract expires Sept. 30, 2012.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.

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