CTA advises local unions not to sign MOU
One day before the deadline for commitments to Race to the Top, state education officials were again encouraging ambivalent school districts to sign on. The California Teachers Association, for the first time, was explicitly encouraging union locals not to. And that could spell trouble for the state’s application.
State officials said they needed signed memorandums of understanding by Friday, so that they could finish the budget for the Race to the Top proposal by Jan. 19, when it’s due in Washington. Nearly 800 superintendents and charter school leaders, in charge of more than 60 percent of state’s students, had indicated they would participate in the program, if California wins a piece of the $4.3 billion competition.
But fewer school boards will likely end up voting to participate. And it appears that very few union locals will agree to join them. Deputy State Superintendent Rick Miller admitted that a lack of union leaders’ signatures on districts’ MOUs would probably doom the state’s chances – at least in the first round of funding.
As part of Race to the Top, teachers unions would have to agree to renegotiate their contracts to permit using test scores in determining tenure, pay and firing decisions. That’s the heart of CTA’s opposition.
Miller and Undersecretary of Education Kathryn Radtkey-Gaither continued to offer assurances to superintendents on a teleconference call that they had little to risk – and much to gain – from Race to the Top.
They said that there would be no unanticipated state mandates. Districts would have flexibility in choosing how they would comply with key areas of the proposal.
They said that there would be no lingering expenses after the one-time money is parceled out over four years. They promised there would be no burdensome compliance paperwork.
They even said that districts would not be obligated to participate if they felt the money they’d get was not worth the effort. Districts could withdraw without penalty in the 90 days between when the state is notified of its award and the actual receipt of the money. Even after that, as long as districts made a good-faith effort, say, to re-negotiate teacher contracts, they could bow out. (However, if too many districts withdraw, the feds may cut the state’s award, which could be as much as $700 million to California.)
They said that the state did not have the authority to void teachers’ contracts and would not dictate the standards for reviews or pay for performance.
Those assurances did little to appease the CTA, however. Stating that the full details of the state’s plan weren’t known, CTA President David Sanchez e-mailed locals advising them not to sign the MOUs.
Until now, the CTA had not taken a formal position, saying it was up to each local to decide whether to participate. But on Tuesday, the Assembly passed Race to the Top legislation that the CTA strongly opposed. Rather than just get mad, the CTA is now getting even.