By an almost 3-to-1 margin, D.C. teachers want their union to stay at the bargaining table rather than bring Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's two-tier salary plan to the membership for a vote as part of a new contract. That's the bottom line of a new poll commissioned by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) for its local affiliate, the Washington Teachers Union.
The survey of 400 teachers, conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates on August 5-7, challenges Rhee's repeated assertions that teachers heavily favor her pay plan. Teachers who were surveyed urged union leaders by an overwhelming margin (80-17) to preserve their seniority and tenure protections. Under Rhee's proposal, tenured teachers can choose a salary option that offers big raises and performance bonuses, but only if they spend a year on probation, risking dismissal.
Seventy-four percent of teachers called Rhee's plan to fund the raises and bonuses with five years of foundation grants "a very serious concern," because it is not clear where the money will come from later. Seventy-three percent raised the same level of concern about the added authority over personnel decisions that principals would enjoy under the plan.
Teachers were split on Rhee herself, with 41 percent saying they were "very" or "somewhat" satisfied with her job performance while 50 percent described themselves as "very" or "somewhat" dissatisified. Asked what would improve the quality of education students receive in D.C. public schools, teachers most frequently (31 percent) cited improved parental involvement. Twenty percent mentioned higher quality and accountability for teachers.