Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Teacher Vote on Newark Contract Delayed

The teacher vote on the Newark contract has been delayed, likely until Friday. Quite a spirited debate!

On one side of the table was the union firebrand Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. On the other was the state education commissioner handpicked by Gov. Chris Christie, who became a star among fellow Republicans for aggressively taking on public employee unions.

During months of intense and late-night negotiations for a new teachers contract for the chronically troubled Newark school system, the parties settled on what they believed would be a landmark compromise.

At the center of it was merit pay — the idea of paying teachers based on performance that has long been a flash point between critics of teachers’ unions who believe it would increase accountability, and union leaders who fear that performance would be based on test scores rather than the subtleties of classrooms.

Though Ms. Weingarten had criticized what she calls “merit pay schemes,” she and the other union leaders agreed to embrace the concept in exchange for a promise that teachers would have a rare role in evaluating performance, declaring it a way to rebuild respect for a $1 billion school system that has bled students and money to the suburbs and, increasingly, to charter schools.

Joseph Del Grosso, the leader of the local union who was jailed for striking 40 years ago, has been telling his members that approving the contract will turn them into “heroes.”

But suspicion tends to run high in this New Jersey city, long rived by politics of race and class. Many teachers worry that the bonuses will never appear. And a faction has staged an insurrection against union leaders, saying the contract will weaken job security and pit teacher against teacher. 

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