Washington Teachers Union President George Parker took pains this week to tell his members that no tentative agreement has been reached on a new labor contract with the D.C. schools system. He said that the big-pay-for-seniority proposal pitched by Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee--which would require current teachers to spend a year on probation and new ones as many as four--was only the basis for further discussion.
The plan got decidedly mixed-to-hostile reviews from teachers. But to hear Rhee in an interview that aired Wednesday evening on PBS' NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, it's all but a done deal. All the union leadership needed to do, she said, was man up and ask members for a vote.
"We're really near the end," she said. "And it's just a matter right now of whether we can get everybody's gumption up to roll this tentative agreement out."
This is the second time in the last couple of weeks Rhee has used a national platform to depict the talks as winding up -- and Parker as her full partner in pushing D.C.'s teachers toward a system that would link at least some of their pay to student performance. She told Charlie Rose on July 14:
"So we`ve got the leadership and we have a great union leader. This man, George Parker, he wants to do the right thing for kids. He wants to do the right thing for his teachers, and we believe that this contract that we put together, it does exactly that."
Neither Rhee nor Parker responded to requests for comment.