Sunday, October 28, 2012
Time to negotiate a contract, eight years too long for teachers to wait
The logjam that exist between the Buffalo Public Schools and the Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF) is resolvable. And it has to happen in order to bring both parties back to the negotiating table. All eyes are on Superintendent Pamela C. Brown to make it happen.
The Council of Delegates approved unanimously a Resolution "that the BTF cease participation in the APPR discussions until the Superintendent (Pamela Brown) and the Board of Education agree to abide by the contract it approved."
That is an arbitrator ruled in August the district violated the collective bargaining agreement when teachers were screen inappropriately and involuntary transferred from three low-performing schools--Futures, Drew Science Magnet and Bilingual Center #33. The district had to cease and desist with "the Turnaround-related involuntary transfers of teachers," while, a State Supreme Court justice affirmed this decision in September.
A case dealing with former Super James Williams denial of voluntary transfers occurred in 2010. The arbitration results on July 25, 2011, again supported the collective bargaining agreement that the district had to honor the transfers.
This time there were teachers that could not voluntary transfer because of how the involuntary transfers handled in this case.
And Super Brown offered to settled the case by giving $2,500 each to both groups of teachers with the condition the union accept one of the teacher evaluation models the State Ed folks had approved in other districts such as in Syracuse and Binghamton.
But the union rejected the offer because it contended it had won two prior cases on the matter, an arbitration decision and State Supreme Court affirmation of the decision, stating they should be compensated not "ask them to do more," said BTF President Philip Rumore.
The Buffalo News wrote, "... this is the first major test of the new superintendent’s ability to negotiate a major agreement of any sort with the union – seen by many observers as an indication of her ability to hammer out a new contract to replace the one that expired eight years ago." And there is a pile of state and federal funds at stake over $50 million.
Is it possible for the district to negotiate with the union to make the teachers whole and move beyond the logjam?
Yet, both groups are back in court again this time the Appellate, while the district appeals the State Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the arbitrator's decision.
While, there may be teachers that don't want to return to the schools they were involuntary transferred and that might help to solve some of this issue, what about those who want to return and those that were not able to transfer contrary to the CB, how are they made whole?
While the real culprit some say are the U.S. Department of Education and New York State Education Department imposing on districts four turnaround school models that use tactics contrary to the collective bargaining agreements.
And of course there is Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatening to deny districts additional school aide if they don't submit a timely teacher plan a deadline he set for January 17, 2013.
Also, some skeptics believe Gov. Cuomo reasons for supporting educational reform has more to do with acquiescing to the privatization forces that donated money to his campaign such as Democrats for Education Reform, The New York Times reported on May 9, 2010, than any genuine interest in appointing an education reform commission.
The reform commission he established was criticized for being"... rigged for pre-ordained outcomes" on the Perdido Street School blog.
Meanwhile there is the teacher step case still making its way through federal court though a judge ruled in favor of the district in February, affirming the earlier March ruling of the NYS Court of Appeals.
And there is still the millions of dollars accumulating in the district coffers related to the step case when teachers were denied their contractual salary steps after the wage freeze was lifted in 2007. The district only provided one step so this battle continues in federal court.
It would be interesting to know what are the court costs on both sides dealing with these various legal challenges through the years, a sum certainly that would be more than whatever crumbs the feds and the state allocated to the district under their turnaround plans. It's the irony of these tug of wars some say.
Besides the teachers who deserve to be paid, it's the children harmed the most when the funds from the feds and state diminish yearly for the turnaround plans until there isn't any more money to support the educational policies the privatization zealots have imposed on public schools in the nation.
And there is en election looming, if Barack Obama isn't elected, what happens, do we continue to turnaround or "bend down" or take ownership of public education again?
Still, it's time to negotiate the contract