Sunday, October 11, 2009

Broke is Broke

In a quality typical of its unsigned editorials addressing budgetary, education, union, or... well, pretty much any issue, the Washington Post argues that complaints about teacher layoffs in the Washington D.C. schools are misplaced:
Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker wrote a letter that appeared on this page Friday saying that his organization has tried to collaborate with Ms. Rhee. There is the suggestion that Ms. Rhee's recent layoff of 229 teachers could dampen the chance of future cooperation.

Let's review the record to examine the plausibility of those charges.
Oh, please, let's.
More than 14 months ago , Ms. Rhee offered a contract to Washington's teachers that was unprecedented in its largess. The proposal would have provided teachers with, at a minimum, a 28 percent pay raise over five years, plus $10,000 in bonuses. They would have had to give up nothing in the way of job security to obtain the raise. All Ms. Rhee asked in return was the freedom to offer, on a voluntary basis, even more money to a subset of teachers, if they would agree to have their compensation linked to performance.
Let's flash back to the offer and it's generous terms that were... kept secret - to the point that Michelle Rhee's dreams of busting the teacher's union are better documented? How in the world could that have created an atmosphere of distrust?
Labor law barred Ms. Rhee from directly explaining to teachers what she had in mind.
How... platitudinous. No, Rhee could not have bypassed the union to directly negotiate with teachers. But that falls considerably short of a mandate that she keep the details of her plan secret. More to the point, she plainly dribbled out the "good parts" to Fred Hiatt and the Washington Post editorial board, so what was her real motive for keeping the rest so tightly under wraps? (And how can Hiatt's board claim to know "all she asked in return" if they're simultaneously asserting that they have no clue what Rhee asked in return?)

But returning to the D.C. Schools budget shortfall, as you would expect, the Post begs the question. If the D.C. Schools are broke and have to lay off teachers despite not giving out those lavish raises, what basis was there to believe that the raises could be delivered in the first place, let alone sustained? Having committed to those raises, Rhee would be in the position of laying off even more teachers this year, next year, the year after.... While the Post cries crocodile tears,
We sympathize with the children whose school year has been disrupted and of course with the teachers who have been fired.
Why won't the Post's editorial board be honest that it endorsed a plan, without knowing the details, that would have caused even greater disruption and numbers of layoffs?

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