Stunner: de Blasio, teachers union agree to exempt 200 schools from union work rules

May 3, 2014 by

NEW YORK – Despite all the pay raises and health care savings that are part of the proposed nine-year contract agreement between New York City officials and the local teachers union, it appears charter school proponents are the biggest winners of all in the tentative deal.

According to NYPost.com, the labor pact “includes a surprise plan to exempt 200 regular city public schools – 10 percent – from union and Department of Education rules.”

 

The work-rule exemptions – which will allow for longer school days and merit-based personnel decisions (instead of seniority-based ones) – are being viewed as “an admission” by both Mayor Bill de Blasio and the United Federation of Teachers “that the charter-school model works,” NYPost.com reports.

 

De Blasio seemed to confirm that view when asked by NYPost.com about the charter-like exemptions.

 

“What this says, if you get an agreement at the school level … the last thing that should happen is to have either the chancellor’s regulations or UFT work rules stand in the way of innovation that everyone agrees on,” de Blasio told NYPost.com.

 

The mayor’s right.

 

A major reason why many students flourish in a charter school (instead of a government school) is because their teachers and school leaders have the freedom to try different things in the classroom without first having to go hat-in-hand to the teachers union for approval.

 

Leaders of non-unionized charter schools can simply announce the policy changes, and teachers will implement them. In government schools, leaders must first speak with union leaders to determine how much extra pay teachers deserve for going “above and beyond” the specifically defined duties in their labor contract.

 

De Blasio’s embrace of innovation and workplace freedom is a stunning development, especially considering that he has been among the harshest charter school critics in the city.

 

Charter proponents were quick to praise de Blasio for the provisions in the nine-year pact.

 

“By emulating some of the best practices to come out of the charter-school movement, the administration continues to evolve on charters and recognize their important place in the city’s educational landscape,” said Jenny Sedlis, executive director of the advocacy group StudentsFirstNY, according to NYPost.com.

 

“I would hope that they keep looking to the best charters for ideas of how to improve the entire system.”

 

And while it’s true that UFT leaders also deserve some praise for agreeing to the workplace exemptions, we’re not going to applaud too loudly until they free the hundreds of other New York City public schools that are still bound by all the “Thou Shall Not” work rules in the teachers’ contract.

 

Still, this tentative contract is a glimmer of hope that even the biggest Big Labor supporters are open to some common sense school reforms.

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