February 23, 2010
A much smaller pool of jobless-but-salaried teachers and slimmed down rubber rooms are two of the requests on the city’s list of contract demands.
The list of demands, which had been kept secret for months as the city and United Federation of Teachers tried to reach an agreement, was included as part of a legal complaint filed against the city by the UFT. The complaint was sent to reporters yesterday by Department of Education spokesman David Cantor. The union distributed its own list of demands to chapter leaders back in September.
Many of the demands are recycled from years past, but there are several new ones tucked into the three-page document. For years, Chancellor Joel Klein has trumpeted Chicago’s method of laying off teachers, which gives out-of-work teachers a year to remain on salary and find a new job in the schools. Klein’s new list of demands would shrink that window to four months.
Another provision would force any teacher who’s been charged with misconduct or incompetence off of the city’s payroll while their case proceeds through termination hearings, effectively decreasing the rubber rooms’ ranks.
The city’s decision to release its contract demands is yet another sign that the city and teachers union have given up on negotiations and resigned themselves to state mediation. In a letter sent to the state Public Employment Relations Board, attorneys for the city agreed with the union’s determination that the two sides had reached an impasse.
The next step is for the state’s Public Employment Relations board to confirm that talks have indeed stalled and then bring in a mediator to re-launch negotiations. Failing mediation, a fact-finding panel would then be called in to make recommendations for a settlement.
I’ve summarized some of the city’s demands below:
- The city wants to pay teachers more for working in hard-to-staff schools, in specialties that are in demand, and for having a “proven ability” to raise student achievement.
- Teachers would have higher raises in the early and middle steps of their careers.
- The city would institute a career ladder, labeling teachers “apprentice,” “practicing,” “mentor,” and “master,” and would pay them according to their position on that ladder.
- Excessing teachers: the city is demanding an end to seniority-based excessing, which pick off the youngest and least experienced teachers first. Instead, it wants excessing to be based on performance and other factors. Once a teacher is excessed, he will have four months to remain on the city’s payroll while he finds a new job. Once those four months are up, he’ll lose this pay check and benefits. Today, there are about 1,200 salaried teachers who have been excessed, are looking for work in the system, and are working as substitutes.
- As a result of last year’s months-long controversy-turned-legal-battle over how long new Teaching Fellows can remain on the city’s payroll without finding work, the city is asking for a line in the contract to cover these teachers. The city is demanding that it have the right to terminate Teaching Fellows who don’t find jobs with 10 days notice.
- It’s not exactly an eight-page contract (which Klein offered the union back in 2003), but the city does want to create much slimmer contracts for schools that are considered “at risk” of being closed, or in the process of closing.
- Any employee who is absent for five consecutive days without notice will be considered to have resigned. Currently, that number is 20 days.
- Under the current contract, K-6 teachers working in K-8 schools have the same teaching schedule as teachers working in regular elementary schools, while those teaching seventh and eighth grades in these schools have to follow the junior high school schedule. The city wants to change the process so that principals can create an 8-period day for elementary grades as well as junior high ones.
- Under the current contract, monthly faculty and grade conferences have to be held during school hours. The city’s list of demands includes an item that would allow the conferences to last beyond 3:45 p.m.
- The city wants to eliminate the retention rights of per session teachers — teachers who lead before or after school activities — meaning that the yearbook club teacher would no longer have priority when applying to run that activity in future years.
Discipline and Grievances
- Teachers who have charges brought against them will be suspended without pay unless they can prove that the DOE is unreasonably delaying the hearing. If they win their cases and are reinstated, the DOE incurs a heavy penalty: it has to pay the teacher time and one-half for the time they were suspended. This would not cause rubber rooms to disappear, but it could sharply reduce their ranks. Only teachers who are under investigation and have yet to be charged would remain on payroll and in the rubber rooms.
- The current union contract calls for hearing officers to apply a “just cause” standard to all the cases of alleged incompetence that the city brings against tenured teachers. This standard means the DOE has to prove it has a reason for firing the teacher and that its reason is fair. The city wants to lower the standard to an “arbitrary and capricious” one, meaning the DOE’s decision to fire the teacher is assumed to be reasonable and just unless the teacher can prove otherwise.
- Currently, if a teacher qualifies for tenure and her principal doesn’t submit anything recommending or denying her tenure, then she’s given tenure by default. The DOE wants to make it so that teachers can only receive tenure through an affirmative award. For young teachers who are in the Absent Teacher Reserve — a pool of teachers who’ve lost their jobs through budget cuts and school closings — and become eligible for tenure while they’re looking for permanent positions, this change would reduce their chances of earning tenure.