It looks like Hawaii has finally reached agreement on a new labor contract, much to the relief of the state and the USDOE who had threatened to pull back some or all of the state’s $75 million Race to the Top grant. The (statewide) district and union have been battling over teacher pay and evaluation provisions for more than a year. The dispute came to a head last summer, when the state announced a “last best and final” offer that included immediate pay cuts to mend the state budget. Under the new agreement, to be ratified by statewide vote on January 19th, teachers will indeed take a pay cut—5% through June 2013– but will then receive increases each year. Hawaii’s agreement moves toward performance-based evaluations but doesn’t give up entirely on the traditional salary schedule. Instead, it’s more of a years-of-service-plus-performance-based system, where teachers will earn annual 1 percent “step” increases if they get at least an “effective” performance rating.
With Hawaii close to contract, the spotlight turns to New York, where union-district tensions are coming to a head after months of disagreement over a new teacher evaluation system (federal Race to the Top funds now on the line here too, with the state also unable to move forward with its student data system). A state law, passed in the spring, required new teacher evaluations for all grades by the end of the next school year. Sound final? Not even close. Local unions must commit to these new systems and many still haven’t. NYC, for example, has been arguing over how to help teachers who receive poor ratings improve and, for those that don’t, what a fair appeals process for termination would look like.
So the city and union are stuck. And one thing leads to another. Without a new teacher evaluation system, the city can’t turnaround its 30 plus failing schools under the “transformation” and “restart” models, which require a new teacher evaluation system (more federal funds at stake). Mayor Bloomberg says he’ll work around the union, and proposed to switch school improvement strategies to do so (the “turnaround” model allows for school-based committees to evaluate teachers). Meanwhile the union is saying the city can’t do that, and union president Mulgrew is asking the state labor relations board to declare an impasse and appoint a mediator for continued negotiations.