As we all know that contract negotiations between the Blommberg Administration and the UFT is at a standstill. Our last contract expired in October of 2009, three years ago.and it is very apparent that as long as the Mayor is in office there will not be any meaningful contract negotiations between the two parties. Yes, the union has declared an impasse and a PERB mediator is trying to find "common ground" for the two parties to agree as a starting point in the complex and complicated path to a negotiated settlement. However, in reality, it is in the best interest of both parties to simply wait to 2014 before a new contract is negotiated.
In the Bloomberg Administration's case no contract means it is not subject to the "City pattern" headache which would mean giving teachers and other UFT represented staff up to 8% raises for the first two years that PERB Arbitration would probably result in. With no contract, the Mayor can leave office showing that he held the line against teachers by giving "no retroactive raises".Of course he has simply "kicked the can down the road" and leaves the tricky and politically treacherous contract negotiations to the next Mayor but that is the next Mayor's problem not his.
For the union, no contract means that the existing contract rules stray in effect, thanks to the Tribourough Amendment, and any demands for "givebacks" must wait for a new contract and the union rather not negotiate a contract under the existing hostile political and economic climate where demands for massive givebacks would be demanded and the mass media would be whipped into a frenzy to ensure these massive givebacks become a reality.
Consequently, it appears in the best interest of both parties to wait until the Bloomberg Administration leaves office and the City's economy improves before any serious contract negotiations actually occurs.
That brings me to the teacher evaluation process. What many people fail to understand is that no teacher evaluation program can be implemented without a contract! Yes, the teacher evaluation program requires a change in the contract which means that the union can and should require that any teacher evaluation program be part of the next contract and not change the existing contract. That would be a betrayal to its members if the union changed the existing contract to accommodate the City and approve the teacher evaluation program. While it is true that the Bloomberg Administration broke off the teacher evaluation negotiations because of the appeals process (where a measly 13% of the teachers can challenge their "ineffective rating"). A more serious problem for the Mayor was that any agreed upon teacher evaluation program required a change in the teacher contract and would must certainly forced the Bloomberg Administration to negotiate a new contract with the union, something the Mayor does not want to do. Unless the union was foolish or incompetent, the union should never negotiate a new contract without the retroactive raises and resist any "givebacks" if the City wanted to implement the teacher evaluation program and the Mayor knows it.
Finally, there is the ATR crises, the Bloomberg Administration has made it clear that they want to fire the ATRs who are mostly highly-paid senior teachers. The Bloomberg Administration over the last few years have proposed an ATR time limit, an end LIFO bill, a useless weekly assignment,and now possibly a buyout. The union, to their credit, has held firm on the ATR time limit issue since they saw what happened in Chicago when an ATR time limit was implemented and resulted in many senior teachers being fired as the schools refused to fill their vacancies with the ATRs. While, I truly believe the union will continue to hold firm on the ATR issue, it will probably be the primary demand of the next Administration and our union must be pro-active on this issue and demand that the new Administration require the DOE to go back to the old rules that require principals to hire excessed teachers in their district before they can hire a teacher outside the DOE, nothing less is acceptable.
In summary, the complex and complicated nature of the next contract can be simplified as a combination of politics, egos, and most of all, the final agreed-upon teacher evaluation program. Furthermore, and hopefully a resolution of the ATR crises to the satisfaction of the affected members.