Thursday, July 03, 2008

Rhee Targets Teachers' Seniority, Tenure Rules

By V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 3, 2008; B04

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee is proposing a contract that would give mid-level teachers who are paid $62,000 yearly the opportunity to earn more than $100,000 -- but they would have to give up seniority and tenure rights, two union members familiar with the negotiations said yesterday.

Under the proposal, the school system would establish two pay tiers, red and green, said the union members, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are confidential. Teachers in the red tier would receive traditional raises and would maintain tenure. Those who voluntarily go into the green tier would receive thousands of dollars in bonuses and raises, funded with foundation grants, for relinquishing tenure.

Teachers in the green tier would be reviewed yearly and would be allowed to continue in their jobs only if they passed an evaluation and boosted students' test scores, the union members said.

Under Rhee's proposal, raises to the green tier would be more than the 19 percent increase over five years she is proposing for all teachers, the union members said.

They said teachers are opposed to giving up seniority and tenure, no matter the size of their raise, and probably would reject such a proposal.

"You may be trading off your future, your tenure, your job security," a union member said. "When you trade that, it seems to me you're not getting much."

Rhee, who declined to comment yesterday because of the ongoing negotiations, has said she wants a contract that would "revolutionize education as we know it." She also has said she wants to improve instruction by ensuring that the District "has the most highly compensated and competent" teachers in the country.

Education experts who follow teacher contract issues said that D.C. teachers would be among the highest-paid educators in the nation under Rhee's plan and that a proposal eliminating seniority and tenure would be groundbreaking.

"Fixing teachers' contracts is a high priority everywhere," said Bryan Hassel, co-director of Public Impact, an education research and consulting organization in Chapel Hill, N.C. "If Rhee accomplishes this, it would be earthshaking reform that would have implications everywhere."

Rhee can restrict seniority rights through a little-used District law that allows principals to diminish seniority rankings and use them to make changes during staff cuts.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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