Thursday, May 22, 2008

Teacher Contract Would End Seniority

Michelle Rhee is negotiating to end seniority for the purposes of filling teaching vacancies. According to the Post:
The Washington Teachers' Union is discussing a proposed three-year contract from the school system that would eliminate seniority, giving Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee more control in filling vacancies, a union member familiar with the talks said yesterday.

Without seniority, Rhee could place teachers based on qualifications or performance rather than years of service, said the union member, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are confidential. The union member said Rhee sought the provision as a recruiting tool so she could offer talented candidates the position of their choice. She would be able to fill positions with less experienced teachers.

Under the proposed contract, teachers would give up seniority in exchange for annual raises of about 6 percent, more personal-leave days and more money for supplies, the union member said. In the last contract, which expired in the fall, teachers received a 10 percent raise over two years.

Rhee "does want to infuse some new blood [into the schools]. She wants to make it attractive for young people coming in to advance," said the union member, adding that the union's negotiating team will meet with her tomorrow or Friday. "We've come to realize we're going to have to give in to her."
Um, yeah, you are going to have to give into her, because right now Rhee is on a roll with policy victories. Ultimately, this will benefit the school system and the union in the long run. Recruiting teachers is the hardest job for Rhee and any other superintendent, but the change, if occurs helps Rhee in one immediate but less visual manner.

When teachers decide they want to leave the school they are at, principals will often ask that they delay notifying the central office for a while, thereby prohibiting the job vacancy announcement until the last possible moment. This gives the principal the shot at getting a candidate they want, not the next person on the seniority list interested in the job, but perhaps unqualified for it. Now with seniority removed from the equation, the principals will have no incentive to hide the vacancies and Rhee can recruit earlier in the season, rather than trying to fill jobs at the last minute.

Rhee will be able to recruit better quality teachers. This is an invaluable win for Rhee in the short and long run, the added pay raise and supply money is a great trade for the Chancellor.

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