randiinterview by douglasmatthewstewar

VIEWS: 273 PAGES: 32

									An Interview with
Alan Bersin
 Alan Bersin met with Kris Kurtenbach and

 Gloria Frazier of Collaborative Communica-

 tions Group on October 10, 2006. In that

 interview, Bersin analyzed the historical

 sources of the widespread gridlock in collec-

 tive bargaining today and outlined some pos-

 sible solutions. He described the new provi-

 sions of the recently passed California Senate

 Bill 1133, supported by the California Teach-

 ers Association, which allows a separate

 negotiating zone for low-performing schools,

 and summarized his vision of transforming

 teaching from an occupation into a profession,

 including new compensation structures for

                                                       Collaborative Communications Group: Describe
                                                        briefly for us the current state of collective
                                                        bargaining and whether you see it as a
                                                        help or a hindrance in getting all students
                                                        to achieve at high levels.
                                                       Alan Bersin: We are clearly and classically in
                                                         a state of fixing blame rather than fixing
                                                         the problem. Unions have evolved –
                                                         unquestionably, in my mind – into the
                                                         most powerful institutions in the educa-
                                                         tion sector. Yet many of them perceive
                                                         themselves as constantly under siege.
                                                         These organizations then hunker down
                                                         fiercely in blind defense of the status
                                                         quo. School district management, itself
                                                         often arthritically bureaucratic, has gen-
                                                         erally been unable to improve student
                                                         achievement across the nation; it tends
                                                         to point fingers at unions and at the
                                                         intractability of labor contracts as the
                                                         primary causes of trouble. This is wrong
                                                         on both ends. The blame game leads to
    Alan Bersin was appointed California's Secre-
                                                         paralysis and gridlock.
    tary of Education in July 2005. In an unprece-
    dented move, Republican governor Arnold             The first bread crumb that could lead us
    Schwarzenegger simultaneously appointed Mr.         out of this forest would be the recogni-
    Bersin to the state Board of Education, giving
                                                        tion that neither unions nor manage-
    him a unique opportunity to put his stamp on
    education policy in California. In December
                                                        ment alone can lead to a new, more pro-
    2006, Mr. Bersin left Sacramento for a seat on      ductive set of circumstances and results;
    the San Diego airport authority board. Prior to     that result can only be achieved by suc-
    becoming the state's Secretary of Education, Mr.    cessful collective bargaining by both par-
    Bersin was Superintendent of Public Education       ties over time. Collective bargaining
    in the San Diego City Schools, the nation's         right now is a joint labor-management
    eighth-largest urban school district, where he
                                                        process that usually produces conflict
    oversaw an ambitious districtwide effort to
    strengthen instruction that produced gains in       and mostly what are, at best, watered-
    student achievement. He is a former U.S.            down solutions to pressing problems of
    Attorney.                                           teaching and learning. That change will

2   Collective Bargaining in Public Education: A New Dialogue
occur only if both sides come to believe        continue to use it. But now we must
that it is in their individual, as well as      ask whether collective bargaining
mutual, interests.                              will get us where we want to go. . . .
                                                I am convinced that unless we go
                                                beyond collective bargaining to the
The Gridlock in
                                                achievement of true teacher profes-
Collective Bargaining                           sionalism we will fail in our major
Today                                           [imperative] to preserve public edu-
The current gridlock we have in collec-         cation in the United States and to
tive bargaining results from the dispro-        improve the status of teachers eco-
portionate influence of the short term          nomically and socially.
on the actions and perceptions of the
                                             CCG: What’s the shift we need to make, and
actors – both on the union side and on
                                              how do we make it?
the district side. The tension we feel
comes from the fact that the long-term       AB: Seniority makes eminent sense in the
interests of our public education fran-       context of individual lives. A teacher can
chise, understood in terms of what            quite rationally conclude: “I’ve been
would strengthen children’s learning and      teaching for three years in a hard-to-staff
achievement, is given short shrift in the     school. I work my heart out, and I don’t
current political calculus.                   get the support that I need. I have just
                                              had a baby to start our own family. I
Al Shanker understood that the long-
                                              will use my seniority to bid out to a
term health of public education after
                                              much less challenging school; this deci-
Brown v. Board of Education required
                                              sion benefits my personal and profes-
standards-based reform. He was among
                                              sional life.”
its most ardent champions. He under-
stood the need for standardized assess-
ments. He understood the need for
accountability systems. For Shanker,         Seniority makes eminent sense in the
standards-based reform was squarely in       context of individual lives; but practiced
the interest of the union members he
represented, as well as the interests of     systemically, it ends up producing an
the community he was a part of and the       educational catastrophe for poor kids.
democracy he was interested in protect-
ing. Andrew Rotherham used a powerful
Shanker quote:
 Collective bargaining has been a
 good mechanism, and we should

                                                                              Alan Bersin   3
                                                      The outmoded factory model
Factory-age unionism is not going to                   The model for public-sector unions
function well as teaching becomes a                    when they were organizing in the 1960s
                                                       was private-sector unions. Precisely
profession, and teaching needs to                      when private-sector unions were on
                                                       their way out as a major force in the
become a profession for the benefit
                                                       industrial and commercial arenas, they
of both students and teachers.                         shaped the collective bargaining process
                                                       for public employees. Teachers were
                                                       reacting to the same kinds of problems
      For an individual, that’s an entirely sen-       – inadequate pay and benefits and the
      sible chain of reasoning. But practiced          lack of democracy and fairness in the
      systemically, it ends up producing an            workplace – that had driven labor
      educational catastrophe for poor kids.           organizing and resulted in the Wagner
      Teachers come and teachers go and the            Act a generation before in the 1930s.
      children remain untaught year after year.        Collective bargaining in the public edu-
      We know how we got there. It was not             cation sector was borrowed from the
      by evil design, but rather by the opera-         earlier private-sector model of labor rela-
      tion of a system that has placed adult           tions and practiced without much
      employment interests above the educa-            change. Industrial unionism was over-
      tional needs of children. This leads to          laid onto the teaching occupation. The
      consequences that were not initially             would-be profession of teaching that
      contemplated. But the result reflects real       many seek today is far different from the
      interests and existing power relations.          circumstances and paradigms that drove
      Unions from an industrial age are built          corporate America and organized labor
      on the notion that the longer you are            in the first half of the twentieth century.
      employed, the more experienced you               The notion that all teachers are inter-
      are, the more value you bring to the job,        changeable and, therefore, should be
      and the more rights you accrue in the            paid the same and the notion that sen-
      job. Only the latter observation is neces-       iority trumps all other considerations
      sarily true, and that’s only because col-        come straight from the factory floor –
      lective bargaining has arranged it that          not a professional classroom.
                                                       But there was no other model. What
                                                       Shanker is telling us in his quote is that
                                                       factory-age unionism is not going to
                                                       serve or function well as teaching

 4   Collective Bargaining in Public Education: A New Dialogue
becomes a profession and that teaching
needs to become a profession for the          Districts and unions are partners in a
benefit of both students and teachers.
                                              tango that hasn’t led to great results, but
This historical contradiction accounts for
the labor-management tension we expe-
                                              the dancers have grown accustomed to
rience in public education. Neither man-      one another and to the dance.
agement nor labor is equipped to treat
teachers as true professionals – and
teachers, accordingly, are not acting as
                                              CCG: What are the key sources of the grid-
such across the board. The hallmarks of a
true profession are group problem solv-
ing, operational autonomy coupled with        AB: The sources of the current gridlock are
accountability for outcomes, and peer          to be found in the sector’s historical
review and evaluation. These, in turn,         development. If we don’t know where
are rooted in and emerge from an estab-        our existing practices, processes, and
lished framework of skill and knowledge        perceptions come from – in other
governing practice.                            words, how we got here – then we can’t
                                               and won’t find our way out. We have to
Our tension results from the disparity
                                               move from the rhetoric of blame and
between the theory of teacher profession-
                                               anger, but also from the reality of
alism and the practical reality for most
                                               mutual comfort of both parties with the
teachers in districts as they are conven-
                                               status quo on the ground. It’s clear that
tionally arranged today. I believe we are
                                               districts and unions are two partners
beginning to understand that the status
                                               dancing a tango in history. The modern
quo is not a sustainable situation from
                                               dance hasn’t led to great results, but the
the standpoint of either labor or manage-
                                               dancers have grown accustomed to one
ment, let alone in terms of the continued
                                               another and to the dance.
political survival of public education as
we know it today. At the same time, we        Short vs. long view
proceed in a state of disequilibrium           It’s a short-term versus a long-term per-
because we are not able to resolve the         spective. It’s the tension between teach-
matter one way or the other. It’s              ing as an occupation and teaching as a
nobody’s fault. But it’s everyone’s respon-    profession. The challenge of today’s
sibility – and, I submit, in the long-term     present is that we really are caught
interests of all of us – to grasp our          between the past that shaped us and a
mutual dilemma and work out of it if we        future that will be unforgiving if we do
can.                                           not change.

                                                                                 Alan Bersin   5
      To take the San Diego situation – with           to alter the contract. There was a rigid
      which I am familiar – as an example:             allegiance to the contract, in an almost
      Our 100-page collective bargaining               religious sense: “This is what we negoti-
      agreement grew, for the most part, out of        ated in the past and we cannot and will
      individual grievances. Individual cases of       not give any of it back.” It is very under-
      injustice, real or perceived, became a           standable why a labor leader adopts
      source of work rules that applied across         this position, but it is reflexive and non-
      9,000 teachers. This happened in San             reflective. It is also completely dysfunc-
      Diego and many other districts. You              tional from the standpoint of developing
      could look at the different sections of the      new ways of seeing and new ways of
      contract and see them as a zone in a geo-        perceiving as a prelude to new ways of
      logical dig. Different periods brought           acting.
      different negotiating aims, often driven
      by specific conflicts at particular schools.
                                                      The Difficulty of Achieving
      Rule after rule was grafted on top of the
                                                      a Paradigm Change
                                                       Paradigm changes cannot be negotiated
Rule after rule was grafted on top of                  on an incremental basis in collective
                                                       bargaining. At the same time, we lack
the existing framework. Always the
                                                       an intellectual framework to create com-
approach was incremental, never com-                   mon ground, a shared conception about
                                                       how we might move from where we are
prehensive.                                            to where we ought to be in order to
                                                       strengthen public education.
                                                       On the one hand, proponents of so-
      existing framework. Always the approach          called “new unionism” call for broaden-
      was incremental, never comprehensive.            ing the scope of collective bargaining.
      And, over time, the district lost what in        The new unionism would embrace the
      any rationally negotiated contract would         profession and tenets of professionalism
      be considered essential management               in the context of the teaching occupa-
      prerogatives necessary to proper func-           tion. This would include being account-
      tioning of the organization.                     able for results of practice, providing
      Union leaders and site representatives           teachers with much more control over
      would acknowledge this situation pri-            the tools of the profession and the
      vately but disclaim any ability or desire        application of those tools, and a signifi-
                                                       cant influence on curriculum in terms
                                                       of professional development and instruc-
                                                       tional materials. It would embrace peer

 6   Collective Bargaining in Public Education: A New Dialogue
review as a mechanism of evaluation,          untested theory. The arguments of the
and it would place student achievement        traditional unionist and the critique
at the center of the enterprise and at        from the right turn out the same: One
the heart of the labor-management             should not expect the union as an
discussion.                                   organization to act in unpredictable
From the right are heard views skeptical      ways contrary to its nature.
both of the theory and practice of the
new unionism. For those critics, unions      Levers for Change
are organizations with political interests
based on concrete political constitu-        CCG: What are the key levers for change?
encies. It is not in the nature of the       AB: I have always identified community
public-sector union organization to act       dissatisfaction and loss of legitimacy as
in ways that fail to benefit short-term       embodying the greatest threat to public
member interests. To expect the union         education and, therefore, also poten-
to take on educational needs of children      tially the most significant lever for
as a first priority is, from this perspec-    change. Public education traditionally
tive, to misconstrue the situational pos-
sibilities entirely.
Moreover, there are compelling chal-         Community dissatisfaction and loss of
lenges to the new unionism based on
                                             legitimacy are potentially the most sig-
results. Observers question whether dis-
tricts where it has ostensibly been prac-    nificant lever for change.
ticed, particularly Rochester and Min-
neapolis, have actually experienced sig-
nificant gains in student achievement.        has been a matter of local control; it has
                                              always relied for vitality on its link to
The answer appears to be negative.
                                              acceptability by the public. This accept-
That’s where the current debate is, and
                                              ance has been the key to public finance
it’s not a terribly productive one. From
                                              and public support for public education.
within the union movement, enormous
                                              It is the foundation for its legitimacy.
pressure is placed on new union leaders.
They are attacked by old unionists as         If we don’t improve public education
being soft and divorced from the pri-         sufficiently so that it retains this support
mary purposes of unions. This accounts        broadly and deeply in the country, we
for the periodic unseating of new union       will lose the institution. The central
leaders by the old guard who rely on
unions to maintain the status quo rather
than risk past gains on the basis of an

                                                                               Alan Bersin   7
     issue right now is the academic achieve-        Data transparency
     ment gap. If we don’t narrow and then            A remarkable transformation has taken
     close the academic achievement gap over          place in the sector regarding data and
     time – and it will take time – eventually        the need for data-driven decisions.
     we will lose the “mandate of heaven,” in         While this is, in many places, still more
     the Chinese sense. The loss would occur          rhetoric than reality, a decisive ideologi-
     first in the large urban centers, but            cal shift has taken place. The appetite
     would follow in short order elsewhere.           for “useable information” will grow, gen-
     The following are some of the other              erating public demand for more and
     potential levers for change.                     more data to be made available, clearly
                                                      and coherently, on the Internet. This is
    State and federal accountability
                                                      bound to have reciprocal effects on
                                                      responsiveness and accountability. Let-
     State and federal accountability systems
                                                      ting people argue about what the data
     are major levers. No Child Left Behind
                                                      mean is better in a democracy than
     [nclb] and parallel state systems have
                                                      restricting access.
     done more than just raise the stakes.
     Their focus on disaggregated student-           The Democratic Party
     achievement results and on teacher qual-         History has done to the Democratic
     ity has increased the demand for trans-          Party what it has done to unions. It’s
     parency with respect to many arrange-            taken progressive purpose and turned it
     ments that had been shrouded in                  into conservative instinct. The inability
     secrecy. The pending reauthorization of          of Democrats to win the electorate cre-
     nclb will facilitate necessary mid-              ates a potential lever for change in terms
     course corrections that will enhance             of power relationships within the party.
     transparency and accountability and              The November 2006 election results are
     take the initial steps toward promulgat-         not to the contrary. Democrats miscon-
     ing national standards. That’s going to          strue these results at their peril; they
     accelerate change. Opinion leaders are           communicate a sharp rebuke to the
     beginning to acknowledge the dynamic             gop rather than even a slight endorse-
     toward national standards as inevitable.         ment of any Democratic direction.
     I’m old-fashioned enough to prefer local        The fiscal situation facing public
     differences, but not when they hurt             education
     students.                                        Andrew Rotherham writes about “doing
                                                      more with less.” As the population ages,
                                                      there likely will be less money available
                                                      for public education in the classroom.

8   Collective Bargaining in Public Education: A New Dialogue
 The introduction of accounting stan-           This option would be the so-called “thin
 dards that require disclosure of               contract” that could, for example, pro-
 unfunded retirement medical benefits           vide for differentiated pay, if necessary,
 (and unfunded pensions) will create a          to attract math and science teachers in
 sea change but might also serve as a           inner-city schools. It might provide for
 potential fulcrum for significant change       differential teaching loads, in lieu of dif-
 that embraces notions of productivity          ferential pay, with professional time set
 now foreign to the sector.                     aside for conferring with students or
                                                colleagues. It could provide for site-
                                                based options that would permit a fac-
A Possible Solution:
                                                ulty to reject a candidate for a teaching
Negotiated Options for                          vacancy, seniority notwithstanding.
Low-Performing Schools                          These examples are illustrative only.
CCG: California recently passed SB 1133,        There are numerous provisions that
 which outlines a new relationship with         could be brought to bear in this separate
 unions and new options for schools.            negotiating zone. Those would be avail-
 Explain its significance.                      able for individual schools or clusters of
                                                schools to opt into, in whole or in part,
AB: Rather than rely on the new unionism
                                                in an agreement that would be parallel
 to create a new paradigm in one fell
                                                to but different from the conventional
 swoop, what we might consider doing is
                                                collective bargaining agreement.
 to have fully negotiated collective bar-
 gaining options that would apply to           The “grand bargain” in California
 low-performing and low-achieving               On behalf of Governor Schwarzenegger,
 schools. What a union and a district           we recently negotiated this kind of
 might do is to offer a separate zone that      “grand bargain” with the California
 would attach to the lowest-performing          Teachers Association (cta) at the state
 schools as a matter of site choice. It         level regarding $2.9 billion over seven
 would facilitate conditions calculated to
 create what we know is essential for a
 turnaround – a superior principal, com-       The so-called “thin contract” could pro-
 mitted teacher leaders, a stable faculty, a
                                               vide for differentiated pay or differen-
 coherent curriculum, and outreach to
 parents, who are welcomed to engage in        tial teaching loads.
 the education of their children. The
 option could be selected by a group of
 teachers and a principal and a group of
 parents at a school primed for change.

                                                                                 Alan Bersin   9
                                                          After three years, the school will
Agreements like SB 1133 create the                        have a faculty whose experience
                                                          index is no less than the average
foundation for building the culture that is
                                                          experience level in the district as a
necessary to turn around a school and                     whole. You will have fully creden-
                                                          tialed teachers in every subject area.
produce sustained student achievement.
                                                          You will have counselor ratios that
                                                          are 1-to-300 at the secondary/high
                                                          school level and 1-to-500 at the mid-
       years to be allocated to low-achieving             dle school level. You can reduce class
       schools.                                           size to 25-to-1 in grades 4 through 12,
       In a breakthrough that is a tribute to its         but only as you meet the other
       leadership and executive board, the cta            benchmarks.
       agreed to permit departures from provi-         Choice – with accountability
       sions such as seniority rules and the            The possibility to choose a “thin con-
       single-salary schedule, if school sites          tract” as part of a “separate negotiating
       elect to do so. Senate Bill 1133, agreed         zone” could create and offer the same
       to by the Governor and the cta and               options in a broader context, applicable
       approved by the Legislature, provides            to all schools in a district. Proceeding
       an incentive for schools that might opt          this way would solve one of labor lead-
       into this separate set of provisions. The        ers’ major problems: getting too far out
       funding will go to 500 of the 1,400 low-         in front of their membership. By leaving
       est-achieving schools in California. In          choice to teachers at individual school
       exchange for $800 per student over               sites, labor leadership can best serve the
       seven years, the schools chosen to partic-       new unionism. This choice carries with
       ipate must develop a plan to meet cer-           it no guarantee of success – but it is cal-
       tain benchmarks.                                 culated to multiply the chances for it.
       For the first time to my knowledge,              Agreements like SB 1133 set benchmarks
       what we have done in California is to            in terms of operations and create the
       say: “Here are the accountability bench-         foundation for building the kind of cul-
       marks you must reach academically, as            ture that is necessary to turn around a
       well as in terms of instructional opera-         school and produce sustained student
       tions. But we’re going to leave it to you        achievement. It focuses on inputs and
       to figure out how you are going to get           doesn’t tell the schools how to do it. At
       there.” For example, the schools that            the same time, it has a series of output
       will be allocated this money will have to
       meet an accountability benchmark:

 10   Collective Bargaining in Public Education: A New Dialogue
 performance requirements that must be          out. The prospects that “outside in” pro-
 met; if they are not, the school loses the     fessional development, in Rick Hess’s
 incentive funding. There are annual            formulation, can have a positive impact
 milestones in the first three years on the     are improved significantly.
 way to each of the benchmarks.
                                                One of the lessons from San Diego,
CCG: Play this out. What’s the potential for    where we spent a half a billion dollars on
 California, and what are the implications      professional development, was that
 for other states?                              absent changes in “human resource” pro-
                                                cedures, we could not get the bang from
AB: The potential here is to help labor         the professional development dollar that
 leaders and district leaders overcome the      we should have been getting. We typi-
 usual causes for paralysis. Truth be told,     cally focused mostly on the professional
 neither party wants to negotiate a             development side. The separate negotiat-
 wholesale series of changes in the con-        ing zone would permit a school to
 tract that will affect everything at once.     address both professional development
 Because schools are at different places in     and instructional operations by leaving
 a multitude of ways, the safe course is to     key operational decisions in the hands of
 settle on the lowest common denomina-          the principal and teacher leaders.
 tor: maintaining the existing contract
 with little change. Risk avoidance means       Our sector is desperately in search of
 staying close to home. This prescription       evidence about how to improve student
 is the “comfort zone” to which district        achievement in an accelerated way for
 and union leaders regularly resort.            low-achieving schools. In San Diego, we
                                                accomplished that with respect to a cer-
 What we do instead is to start customiz-       tain number of schools that I know well.
 ing collective bargaining agreements           We did not do it at scale or in a way that
 away from the old industrial model.            leaves no doubt about how this could be
 This model posits the same provisions          replicated.
 applying to everyone, at once, all the
 time. Politically, by providing choice
 and options to schools and their facul-
                                               By providing choice and options to
 ties, labor and management permit a
 school’s political dynamic to develop on      schools and their faculties, labor and
 its own. When a talented principal and
 group of teacher leaders emerge to build
                                               management permit a school’s political
 their school and use a “thin contract” as     dynamic to develop on its own.
 a vehicle for doing that, a necessary con-
 dition for change is satisfied from inside

                                                                               Alan Bersin   11
         The separate negotiating zone                     who teaches at their schools. The lower
          I believe the separate negotiating zone,         the performance of students, the more
          which would not impose a solution on             this flexibility and control is required.
          a school or a district or a union, but           Charter schools are able to gauge the
          rather create the conditions and furnish         suitability of teachers against perform-
          incentives for schools, faculties, and           ance metrics in very direct ways. The
          communities to build a great school, is          separate zone is an option for accom-
          politically vibrant and feasible in ways         plishing the same thing without resort
          that another approach might not be.              to the charter law.
                                                           I’ve always thought – and I think some
         CCG: You’ve talked a lot about charters as an
                                                           of my colleagues at the cta in Sacra-
          end run around the inflexibility or inabil-
                                                           mento agree – that it is peculiar, even
          ity of unions and districts. Do you think
                                                           foolish, for us to grant charter schools
          this law now provides another point of
                                                           all this flexibility while remaining so
                                                           loathe to provide waivers, either of the
         AB: No question about it – that dialectic is      contract or of education code pro-
          operating here. The cta understands              visions, to schools in the regular district
          that the dagger pointed at the heart of          that want to do something differently.
          public education is the academic                 What’s wrong with that picture?
          achievement gap. We have to accelerate
                                                           Charter schools, for me, are worthwhile
          the narrowing of that gap. We must do
                                                           only if they serve children more effec-
          so to preserve the franchise as well as to
                                                           tively. And if they serve children more
          meet a moral – and now legal – obliga-
                                                           effectively, they become a legitimate
          tion in American history. To do that, we
                                                           competitive pressure on the regular sys-
          must permit those local principals and
                                                           tem. That’s my brief for charter schools.
          teachers who have the necessary skills
                                                           I view the separate zone proposal as a
          and knowledge to have more say over
                                                           rational political response to charter
                                                           schools by district and union officials
                                                           alike. For me, only the result counts:
The separate zone proposal is a                            Are the children learning? Is student
rational political response to charter                     achievement improving? Are teachers
                                                           professionally engaged with students
schools by district and union officials                    and with one another?
                                                          CCG: What would you say to the governor of
                                                           another state – with a high-accountability
                                                           system like Florida or Texas – about what

 12      Collective Bargaining in Public Education: A New Dialogue
 they should be paying attention to in what
 happens in California?                         What we cannot continue to do is oper-
AB: At the end of the day, in a world of        ate within a framework that will not har-
 professionalized teaching, instructional
 decisions about how to solve individual
                                                ness the enlightened self-interest of
 cases presented by students have to be         teachers to improving student achieve-
 made at the local level, by professionals
 on the scene, confronted with the facts        ment. The separate negotiating zone
 of the case.                                   would create that potential.
 If teachers have the skill and knowledge
 they need to confront instructional
 problems, they need to be given                 distinguishing characteristic of SB 1133
 decision-making power and the discre-           and of the thin-contract option. The
 tion to apply that skill and knowledge.         proposal accepts many points of the new
 What I would expect this model to pro-          unionism but doesn’t attempt to trans-
 vide is the evidence that sufficiently          form the collective bargaining sector by
 skilled professionals, principals, teachers,    fiat; it does so by choice.
 and teacher leaders, in fact, can turn
                                                The trade-off
 schools around and can do it relatively
 quickly. They can do so if given the           CCG: How do you manage the district-state
 framework of flexibility within which to        financial drivers?
 apply the same kinds of incentives and         AB: The first thing the separate negotiat-
 inducements that have been used to              ing zone does is that it removes the col-
 increase productivity in virtually every        lective bargaining agreement as a mecha-
 other sector in American society.               nism by which the central office
 What we cannot continue to do is oper-          imposes on a particular school site a
 ate within a framework that will not            whole set of work rules and financial
 harness the enlightened self-interest of        constraints. It creates a shield against the
 teachers to improving student achieve-          power that the collective bargaining
 ment. The separate negotiating zone             agreement has conferred on the central
 would create that potential. People             bureaucracy. There’s nothing that would
 would have to choose to walk through            prevent the local school, negotiating
 the door but they would not be running          with the district, to be able to cut
 into a brick wall on the other side.            strings from the funding that is fur-
                                                 nished. For example, in SB 1133, one of
 What’s attractive here is that it does not
 impose; it creates potential. That’s the

                                                                                  Alan Bersin   13
       its provisions, in addition to the $800          have a principal and teacher leaders
       provided for each student, is that cate-         who can build the capacity for quality
       gorical funding received by the school           instruction, then progress results in a
       can be streamed together and spent in a          school or in a cluster of schools.
       different way, independent of any par-
       ticular categorical direction.
                                                       Steps toward a New
      CCG: That’s a major shift in state policy.       Dialogue
       Streaming is something that schools have
                                                       CCG: What are some of the obvious things we
       asked about for a long time. This would
                                                        ought to do at a state level? What are the
       be a way for states to say that the account-
                                                        steps to get a new dialogue or a new rela-
       ability is on the achievement side.
                                                        tionship started?
      AB: We would provide fiscal and opera-
                                                       AB: Here are some additional possibilities
       tional flexibility in exchange for
                                                        I would suggest thinking about.
       accountability. The trade-off here is very
       straightforward; it is precisely the bar-       Create a separate due-process
       gain we make with charter schools – and         mechanism
       need to enforce with much more                   This goes to one of the central areas of
       integrity. It is one we talk about but           gridlock: the union’s legal obligation to
       never seem to be able to get to in the           defend the jobs of teachers who are
       “regular” district setting: set the              obviously incompetent. This obligation
       accountability benchmarks, provide the           precludes unions from “actualizing”
       resources, and hold people accountable.          their understanding of teacher quality
       But when adequate leadership, skill, and         and working on the issue without reser-
       knowledge are in place, let them get to          vation. To accomplish this aim would
       the issue and determine the resource             require that unions create a legally sanc-
       applications their students need. If you         tioned due-process mechanism for pro-
                                                        tecting teachers that is separate and dis-
                                                        tinct from unions as local collective bar-
The trade-off here is very straight-                    gaining agents.
                                                        This change would alter the adverse cir-
forward; set the accountability bench-
                                                        cle in place – that each grievance leads
marks, provide the resources, and hold                  to a contract provision. Each protection
                                                        of an incompetent teacher weakens the
people accountable.
                                                        local union’s credibility in the district
                                                        and in the community. Local political
                                                        leaders are aware of it and so are parents
                                                        and the public.

 14   Collective Bargaining in Public Education: A New Dialogue
 What might be considered is the cre-          in teaching has shifted because of the
 ation of a defense “office” that would be     removal of the glass ceiling and the
 countywide, statewide, or districtwide,       mitigation of racism. Talented people
 in which collective bargaining agree-         of color and women are no longer con-
 ments would allocate funds to support a       fined to the teaching, nursing, or secre-
 group of professionals – like a medical       tarial arenas. We are no longer in a situ-
 review board – who would be responsi-         ation where women and people of color
 ble for protecting teachers charged with      are paid differently and dramatically so.
 incompetence or conduct violations.           The top two-thirds of college classes are
                                               no longer entering teaching.
 This would lift the individual dispute
 to an administrative setting removed          We need to increase the compensation
 from the local political and professional     level – at the beginning, middle, and
 situation. It would provide continuous        end of the spectrum. We need a pay sys-
 due process for teachers without              tem that would pay $150,000 to our
 distorting the union’s involvement in         teachers who succeed in teaching our
 improving teacher quality and student         most at-risk students. Teachers have not
 achievement.                                  broken through because of lockstep
Build bridges with newer union                 industrial salary arrangements. There is
members                                        no profession that pays significant
 Internal polls of nea and aft show            compensation to its practitioners that
 that both younger and newer teachers          does not at some point link compensa-
 are not where diehard industrial union-       tion to performance.
 ists were and remain. There is emerging      Create career ladders
 a whole different set of attitudes and        The way in which we ought to approach
 professional aspirations. The mismatch        pay for performance, however, is to
 between traditional unionism and              start from another end of the problem.
 Gen Xers is significant and offers an         Changes in compensation should be tied
 opportunity to support innovative union       to changes in duties and responsibilities
 policies.                                     in the context of professional teams. The
Rethink compensation                           creation of new career ladders, geared to
 One other suggestion pertains to com-         improve productivity and facilitate pro-
 pensation. How do we increase teacher         fessional mentoring, is needed. This is
 pay and at the same time increase             so not only because of the potential of
 teacher accountability? These are critical    new career ladders to change models of
 issues on which labor and management
 have much to say, but neither typically
 says anything at all. The labor market

                                                                               Alan Bersin   15
       compensation, but also because educa-           Toward Teacher
       tional delivery systems associated with
       teaching and learning are in significant
       need of overhaul, renovation, and mod-           If we’re serious about teacher profession-
       ernization.                                      alism, we must sooner or later attach to
       There is no need to insist on maintain-          the occupation some of these features
       ing one teacher for one class with one           and dimensions. We need to pay high
       set of students during the entire school         levels of compensation in return for the
       day, except because of force of habit. A         successful resolution of instructional
       better way of structuring instruction            problems by a professional teacher.
       might be a team of teachers, led by a            Why should we not compensate teach-
       master teacher, that has responsibility          ers who significantly raise academic
       for 150 children. This team would shape          achievement for students who are far
       the instructional day to the needs of            below basic – who bring them up to
       children and allocate teaching talent            proficient and can do so, year in and
       based on the needs of the instructional          year out? If we don’t acknowledge that
       program. That would permit us not                value and compensate that value added,
       only to begin to modernize the educa-            we’ll continue to wait for progress in the
       tional delivery system, but would also           sector.
       start to generate concepts of suitable
                                                        Legislatures can provide resourced
       career ladders for educators. This devel-
                                                        incentives to proceed down these paths
       opment, in turn, would open up possi-
                                                        – and can do so on a large-enough scale
       bilities for differential pay on a glide
                                                        so that we’re not talking about pilots.
       path to merit pay. This scenario com-
                                                        We can start to encourage the seismic
       pares well with the rocky road we’re
                                                        changes that many union and district
       currently on regarding “pay for perform-
                                                        leaders recognize need to happen –
       ance” that seems destined not to pro-
                                                        Albert Shanker, for example, would have
       duce any positive result in the foresee-
                                                        stated the case more precisely and much
       able future.
                                                        more eloquently than I can. Professions
                                                        are based on accountability and high
                                                        standards. With that comes status and
Professions are based on accounta-                      compensation – not by reason of power
bility and high standards. With that                    and process, but because of the results
                                                        our society seeks and secures.
comes status and compensation.

 16   Collective Bargaining in Public Education: A New Dialogue
      An Interview with
Randi Weingarten
      Randi Weingarten met with Kris Kurtenbach

      and    Gloria     Frazier   of   Collaborative

      Communications Group on November 7,

      2006, the day after agreement was reached

      on a two-year contract that would boost the

      most experienced New York City teachers’

      salaries to more than $100,000 and would

      mean that between 2002 and 2009, teacher

      salaries will have risen by at least 40 percent.

      Weingarten said that the current conversation

      on merit pay presupposes a condition that is

      not valid for teachers, whom she says work in

      a framework of social justice, not capitalism.

      Weingarten also said she wants to put an end

      to the debate of whether unions will or should

      exist and focus, instead, on creating a climate

      of collaboration. And she outlined what it

      would take to develop an environment in

      which collective bargaining could be used to

      move toward a commitment to collective

                                                         Collaborative Communications Group: Describe
                                                          where you think collective bargaining is
                                                          today and how you see it as a help or a
                                                          hindrance to getting all students to achieve
                                                          at high levels.
                                                         Randi Weingarten: There has been a shift of
                                                          responsibility – without the wherewithal
                                                          – onto individual schools and individual
                                                          schoolteachers. It’s been both good and
                                                          The good news is that society has said,
                                                          through the President and many other
                                                          elected leaders, that schooling is impor-
                                                          tant for all kids. There is universal
                                                          acknowledgment of that now. It used to
                                                          be just us progressives who said that!
                                                          But all of a sudden, now the capitalists
                                                          think that too because given how infor-
                                                          mation and goods and services and
                                                          commerce can be transmitted so quickly,
                                                          you do have a global economy. And you
                                                          no longer can have, in the United States
                                                          of America, good working- and middle-
                                                          class jobs without having at least a
     Randi Weingarten is president of the United          decent high school education. Conse-
     Federation of Teachers, representing more than       quently, the economic transition has
     140,000 active and retired educators in the New      now pushed a political transition:
     York City public school system since 1998. She is    regardless of where you are on the politi-
     also a vice president of the 1.2 million-member
                                                          cal spectrum, you realize that kids have
     American Federation of Teachers and a board
     member of New York State United Teachers. She        to have good, decent educations. So
     served on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's transition       that’s the good news.
     committee following his election in 2001. Previ-
                                                          The bad news is: There is an ideological
     ously, Weingarten was a high school history
                                                          template in terms of how to get all kids
     teacher in Brooklyn, where she helped her stu-
     dents win several state and national awards.         educated. And so you see a whole bunch
     Before becoming a teacher, she practiced law in      of people say, “If those teachers just
     New York.                                            worked harder, all kids would learn.” It

18   Collective Bargaining in Public Education: A New Dialogue
just shows an absence of understanding
and knowledge about the education of           Teachers work plenty hard, and con-
children. So that’s one line of argument.
                                               tracts help create fairness that enables
The second line of argument is: “And if
we didn’t have collective bargaining con-
                                               teachers to work effectively.
tracts, we wouldn’t have impediments.”
For people in the trenches – rank-and-
file educators, people who woke up one          piece there. They may not talk about it
day and said, “I want to be a school-           that way. They may talk about it in
teacher” – both arguments are wrong.            terms of “I care about kids.”
Teachers work plenty hard, and con-             So when you start compensating them
tracts help create fairness that enables        based on a capitalist or entrepreneurial
teachers to work effectively. How can           model, that’s not the incentive base that
you say that somebody who came into             they work on. They work on an incen-
education to make a difference in the           tive base that says, “This is my social
lives of kids is not working hard               contract: I will work really hard because
enough?                                         I love this work. Give me the conditions
                                                that I need to do my job well. And give
The Right Incentives                            me a middle-class salary so that my fam-
                                                ily does better than my parents did.” It
What’s pay-for-performance about? “We           doesn’t matter if you talk to new teach-
give you this incentive to work harder.”        ers, teachers of the X generation, the Y
It’s totally antithetical to who school-        generation, the baby boomers. If you
teachers are. People make a decision to         persist with them, you’ll hear that same
become schoolteachers not because they          message repeated over and over again.
are entrepreneurs; they make a decision
                                                What’s the root of this big push on
to become schoolteachers because they
                                                these kinds of incentives? It’s rooted in
want to make a difference in the lives of
                                                two things. One, there’s not enough to
                                                pay everybody, so let’s pay just a few.
The whole notion of merit pay – I’m             And second, it’s rooted in: If manage-
not talking skill and knowledge differen-       ment does this sorting process, it will
tials, I’m talking about paying people for      motivate people to work harder. Both of
the test scores of their students – pre-        those notions are problematic for us.
supposes a condition that just is not
valid for teachers. By and large, teachers
go into teaching to make a difference in
the lives of kids. There is a social justice

                                                                         Randi Weingarten   19
                                                        thousands of different decisions (if
Contracts are annoying for the same                     you’re really good at it) in a differenti-
                                                        ated manner over the course of a day.
reasons democracy is annoying: It’s
                                                        And the person who has a real stake in
annoying to engage and give everyone                    it – the person who feels on top of her
a voice.                                                game, who feels like she has the confi-
                                                        dence to teach, the knowledge to teach,
                                                        is willing to take risks and be totally in
       It’s so easy for conservatives to say – just     it – that person is going to be a far bet-
       like they do in the corporate sector –           ter teacher than someone who is always
       just get rid of the union and get rid of         looking over her shoulder and thinking,
       the contract. It’s no different than some-       “Oh my goodness, what will the super-
       body wanting not to be bothered or               visor say? Am I doing my ten minutes
       hampered by workers having a voice               of guided reading or direct instruction
       anywhere. I am sure that contracts are           the right way? Am I doing my whole-
       annoying. And that union presidents              language script or direct-instruction
       like me, or union officers and chapter           script?” They script the teacher’s behav-
       leaders, are annoying to managers                ior, not the content. But scripts are
       because they have to engage. They have           scripts.
       to engage in a conversation; they can’t          So, who do you think is the better
       just unilaterally implement ideas. I’m           teacher? The person who says, “I got my
       sure it is annoying for the same reasons         content down; I have a toolkit of how I
       democracy is annoying: It’s annoying to          transmit this information so I can differ-
       engage and give everyone a voice.                entiate based on the kids in my class-
       But the payoff is huge – because educa-          room; and I have the latitude to do
       tors are physicians of the mind. In any          things in the way I see fit” – is that the
       classroom you’re in, a classroom teacher         better teacher, or is the better teacher
       is managing somewhere between fifteen            the one who is scared silly that she is
       and thirty, or thirty-five, or forty young       going to be rated unsatisfactory because
       minds. You are trying to pull out infor-         her classroom is not arranged in groups,
       mation from them. You are trying to              because the bulletin boards aren’t done
       engage them. So you are a physician of           as prescribed, or because the mandated
       the mind. And you are making and                 number of minutes in a particular lesson
       dealing with probably hundreds, if not           has not been followed?
                                                        What I would say is that collective bar-
                                                        gaining can create a huge opportunity

 20   Collective Bargaining in Public Education: A New Dialogue
 here, where the focus is on quality and       trusting, less “gotcha” environment,
 giving qualified teachers the professional    teachers would not be fearful of the
 latitude they need. The collective bar-       word accountability.
 gaining process can actually be used in a
 hugely positive way to try and focus on      CCG: What would it take to create that envi-
 what needs to be focused on. And in           ronment?
 this environment, what needs to be           RW: Last year, we did a lot of so-called
 focused on is teacher quality.                contract reforms. Joel Klein’s responsi-
                                               bility was to implement them fairly and
Sharing Responsibility                         creatively, not as a way to do “gotcha.”
                                               You have to be very careful when you
and Accountability                             are seen as having more authority. You
CCG: So you would move collective bargain-     can’t be abusive. This is why the pendu-
 ing in a direction similar to what you did    lum is now swinging back the other
 in this most recent contract?                 way.
                                               I saw it in terms of other things, too.
RW: The new contract is about respect and
                                               We created a swap of time in 1995, so
 stability. The teachers do not trust man-
                                               that teachers were no longer monitoring
 agement because they have been treated
                                               the cafeteria or halls, but doing profes-
 in such an arbitrary and unfair manner.
                                               sional things instead. It’s a huge, very
 Some of that’s because of No Child Left
                                               positive change. But principals didn’t
 Behind and the focus on test scores to
                                               know how to use the time. So they
 the exclusion of all else. Some of it is
                                               advocated for teachers going back to the
 because of the climate created by the
                                               cafeteria. It’s ridiculous.
 city’s chancellor, in which teachers don’t
 feel respected for their work. Our mem-       I’ll give you another example – profes-
 bers like this contract; but with the         sional development. We had professional
 exception of the salaries and new peer        development in the 2002 contract: fifty
 intervention program proposals, it is not
 innovative. Innovation requires trust,
 and right now that is in short supply.       If we could create a more trusting, less
 So the big difference is not in where the
                                              “gotcha” environment, teachers would
 responsibility lies but in how. Because if
 you’re willing, we can use the collective    not be fearful of the word accountability.
 bargaining process to share responsibility
 and share accountability. And I would
 argue that if we could create a more

                                                                          Randi Weingarten   21
       minutes a week of professional develop-          where it worked. And in those places,
       ment and fifty minutes a week of small-          they are angry that they lost it.
       group tutoring. That’s what we agreed
                                                        Unfortunately, the conversations at the
       to. On the tutoring, the mayor got criti-
                                                        bargaining table and in implementation
       cized, because not every single student
                                                        are always about the abusers, not about
       was going to get small-group tutoring.
                                                        figuring out how to enhance learning
       And so, instead of fighting it out and
                                                        and teaching conditions for the vast
       saying, “it’s important that kids who are
                                                        majority of people who do a good job.
       falling behind get small-group tutoring,”
                                                        The union wants to curb abusive super-
       the city immediately said we should
                                                        visors, and management says it wants to
       make it full-class instruction. And we
                                                        stop what it perceives as people taking
       said, “That’s not what the deal was;
       we’re not going to do that.”
       And the so-called professional develop-
                                                       Union-Designed Charter
       ment – instead of looking at this as fifty
       minutes that could be used for common           Schools
                                                       CCG: How do you change that paradigm?
                                                       RW: First, there has to be trust and respect.
You could use a chartering process to                   One reason I like the public charter
experiment with how to cope with these                  schools (when there is not the issue of
                                                        union versus non-union) is that I think
new paradigms, focusing on teacher                      you could use a chartering process to
quality and professionalism and on the                  experiment with how to cope with these
                                                        new paradigms, focusing on teacher
union’s role in those things.                           quality and professionalism and on the
                                                        union’s role in those things.

       planning time, or as a time to do things         We have two charter schools. It’s not
       teachers really needed and time to allow         perfect. The philosophy behind our
       teachers to engage with one another –            charter schools is that the union con-
       instead of doing it that way, it was top-        tract is an aid, not an obstacle. It’s the
       down, patronizing, condescending. So if          same contract as for all schools. The
       you talk about professional development          contract itself has a school-based option
       in my membership these days, you get a           waiver process. So it can be imple-
       collective “yuck,” except in some places         mented differently, based on the site.

                                                       CCG: What’s different about how the union
                                                        or management are working in those

 22   Collective Bargaining in Public Education: A New Dialogue
 charters? And what you are learning that     real. The State University of New York
 can go forward?                              forced me to be the chair of the board of
                                              the charter schools. They said, “You have
RW: It was a democratic process. We
                                              to have direct accountability, not indi-
 started with a rank-and-file committee,
                                              rect.” So, I am the chair of the board.
 plus some staff people, many of whom
 were the nay-sayers: “We hate charter        So, the responsibility here is that it’s very
 schools!” Frankly, there are some charter    important to me to have an arms-length
 schools that I really disliked, too. But     relationship with the staff, so that they
 some people said, “Let’s put our money       know the collective bargaining contract
 where our mouth is. We have this             prevails. In some ways, it’s a safeguard
 teacher center. We know what we’re           for us. We believed that collective bar-
 doing.” They came up with a design of        gaining was a positive, not a negative –
 an elementary and a secondary school,        that you could use the contract and the
 and we went to the delegate assembly,        flexibility that the contract provides as
 two meetings of this 3,000-member            an opportunity to take risks. Because
 body. The first meeting (January) was to     when you have a contract that’s fair and
 put it out there and the second meeting
 (February) was to take a vote. Because
 we thought this was such a significant      When you have a contract that’s fair
 change in policy, we wanted to make
 sure the delegates had the information      and people have trust in it, then you cre-
 ahead of time.                              ate conditions for teachers to take risks.
  And it was an amazing process. The
 vote was 95 percent to 5 percent. The
                                              people have trust in it, then you create
 committee did a presentation, not me; I
                                              conditions for teachers to take risks.
 just presided over the debate. The uft
 Delegate Assembly voted to give us the       Remember what I said about “physicians
 authority to submit a charter school         of the mind.” You want a teacher walk-
 proposal. By doing it in this manner, it     ing in who has the confidence to take a
 was clear that the members, through the      risk, the confidence to say: “Let me try
 delegate body (there’s one delegate for      this. Let me see if it works. Oh, shoot, it
 every sixty members), gave us the            doesn’t work; let me try something else.”
 authority to proceed.                        You want people who spend their nights
                                              thinking, “This didn’t work, but if I try
 We wanted to prove that the contract is
 not an obstacle. The responsibility
 became that of the leadership to make it

                                                                         Randi Weingarten     23
       this, maybe it will.” Somebody who will          it was creating a climate of teacher pro-
       go into a common planning time and               fessionalism and teacher voice. And part
       say to other teachers, “You know, this           of it is creating a climate of parental
       thing didn’t work, but this really               responsibility and input – then finding
       worked, and somebody else should try             the resources so that the teachers not
       it.” So it’s the confidence to take a risk       only feel confident to take a risk, but
       and to share. Part of the charter is creat-      also have the resources to do their jobs.
       ing that climate; the collective bargain-
                                                        The two charter schools are in East New
       ing agreement doesn’t create it on its
                                                        York (Brooklyn). I’m a secondary school
       own, but it’s a huge plus.
                                                        educator and a lawyer. So I’m not going
      CCG: Do you see it happening?                     to pretend or profess to understand how
                                                        to do this for elementary school chil-
      RW: Yes. I see it happening more this year        dren. The staff spent a lot of time creat-
       than last year in the elementary school.         ing and then perfecting that positive cli-
       The secondary school is quite different          mate model. And what has happened is
       and had a smoother opening than the              that this year, when you walk into the
       elementary. We actually learned a lot            elementary school, the teachers feel that
       from our mistakes last year. You have to         they “got it.” Even the new teachers. We
       work the climate all the time. You have          have the more experienced teachers
       lots of people – and people together in          paired up with new teachers. There’s a
       any organization can become a dysfunc-           mentoring process and things like that.
       tional family. But you want them to be a         They spent a lot of time on that. And
       family. You hope that you are creating           they also lowered class size in the lower
       enough of a positive climate and that            grades.
       they feel that way. Part of this was the
       collective bargaining agreement. Part of         We also spent a lot of time focusing on
                                                        the culture of the school – especially in
                                                        terms of behavioral methodologies. We
You have to work the climate all the                    have a very positive behavioral reinforce-
                                                        ment process called crest and paid a
time. You have lots of people – and                     lot of attention to promoting positive
any organization can become a                           behaviors.

dysfunctional family. But you want
them to be a family.

 24   Collective Bargaining in Public Education: A New Dialogue
Taking Innovation to Scale
                                              Both sides have to agree on a goal you
CCG: How might you take it to scale?
                                              both want. Both sides have to walk in
RW: You cannot take any of this to scale
 unless there is trust. I’m sorry to          each other’s shoes.
 dampen people’s views on this. There is
 no way to take things to scale unless
                                               others thought: We’re going to get the
 management is willing to walk in the
                                               union out of there. Now whenever you
 shoes of labor and unless unions and
                                               attack the viability of somebody’s exis-
 members feel the same responsibility as
                                               tence, of course they’re going to fight
 public management does. You need to
                                               back. When someone says, “I want to
 have that trust on both sides.
                                               destroy you. Will you cooperate with us
 We don’t have it on either side. There        in trying to destroy you?” – who would
 are individual schools that have it. But      answer that question by saying, “Fine,
 when you bring something to scale,            roll right over me”?
 both sides have to take responsibility.
 And what tends to happen these days is       CCG: How can both sides get together on cre-
 that the more a union leader takes it, if     ating a collective bargaining agreement
 the management side does not, then the        that is not negative?
 union leader is in peril. You can’t do it    RW: Both sides have to agree on a goal you
 on your own.                                  both want. Say that goal is teacher qual-
 The easiest role for a union leader is to     ity. Then figure out how to get there,
 say no; the easiest role for management       and what your needs and limitations are.
 is to blame the union.                        And then figure out what the other
                                               side’s needs and limitations are. Both
CCG: The relational issues between union       sides have to walk in each other’s shoes.
 leader and superintendent are key.            You might not be able to live with each
RW: Relationships are key. There’s always a    other’s needs; you may be frustrated by
 power relationship that exists, but there     the other side’s limitations; but you have
 has to be a trusting relationship, where      to put all of that on the table. And I
 you trust and respect the other side’s        have to articulate management’s needs as
 role and responsibility and display a         well as I can articulate my own. And
 willingness to compromise as a way to         vice versa. It’s the only way to get to an
 further the work – in this instance, help-    implementable result. And then you can
 ing children learn. For a long time in        say, “This is what we do, this is what we
 New York City, I think that Joel and a        need – where’s the common ground?”
 lot of conservatives and foundations and

                                                                          Randi Weingarten   25
                                                        started this. We said to uncertified
If teacher quality is important, then what              teachers, “We’ll help you get your certi-
                                                        fication, but it’s not acceptable to have
are all the things that help promote
                                                        uncertified teachers.”
teacher quality – pay, safe schools,                    Then, in 2004, in that abny speech, I
lower class size? You put all of that stuff             proposed another iteration of this pip
                                                        program. I said, “Look, let’s have inter-
on the table and try to figure out how to               veners work with people who are strug-
address each issue.                                     gling in the classroom. And if they can’t
                                                        help them, let the fact that they tried
                                                        and failed be admissible in a disciplinary
       Because if you actually want to get some-        hearing.” Because if teacher quality
       thing that works, then it’s less about           really is important, then it’s important
       what’s written in the paper. It’s not about      in both ways: it’s important in the posi-
       what happens the day the contract is             tive way, and it’s important in the nega-
       announced. It’s about what happens in            tive way.
       the schools and how it gets implemented          So that’s the kind of thing you could
       and whether people have a stake and buy          actually get to in an exercise. If teacher
       into it.                                         quality is important, then what are all
                                                        the things that help promote teacher
      CCG: So the work really starts after the con-
                                                        quality – pay, safe schools, lower class
       tract is negotiated.
                                                        size? You put all of that stuff out on the
      RW: That’s how get to scale. Take our peer        table and you try to figure out how we
       intervention program [pip]. If you read          address each of these issues. Indeed, our
       my Association for a Better New York             new contract has adopted a form of this
       [abny] speech, you’ll see that in 1987,          pip proposal at the same time as it
       we embraced a peer intervention process.         raises salaries to $100,000 for experi-
       This was a way to help floundering               enced teachers.
       tenured teachers. We would mentor
       them, and if we couldn’t help, we would
                                                       A Commitment to
       counsel them out of the profession. And
       some of my members were scared.                 Collective Responsibility
       They’d say things like, “People are going        A union might say to you, “We need to
       to see us make mistakes,” or, “This will         address all these issues.” You might
       erode due process.” Sandy [Feldman]              think the union would say, “Just raise
                                                        salaries.” Management would say, “Just

 26   Collective Bargaining in Public Education: A New Dialogue
 get rid of bad teachers.” But the best        put pressure on them, and if they do
 deal would be one where you have the          well, we’ll reward them.” It’s clever. It’s
 trust to address both.                        not terribly dissimilar to the Bush
                                               administration saying, “We’ll get rid of
CCG: That’s a shift of paradigm in this        Social Security and you can do your
 country.                                      own investing.”
RW: Right. The shift is superintendents        It’s this whole notion of individual ver-
 acting “tough” with teachers. Superin-        sus collective responsibility. I’m a big
 tendents get up and say, “You know, I’m       believer in collective responsibility.
 not like those old superintendents. I         There are some people – and God bless
 know that we have to fire bad teachers.       them – who become rich and have all
 And I will fire bad teachers. And I           the individual responsibility and author-
 will go against the union to fire bad         ity they want. But for most of society,
 teachers!”                                    American democracy is based on collec-
 So what if management says that? Man-         tive responsibility. We cede some of our
 agement saying that is just like my say-      individual rights to have collective
 ing, “Management is terrible. They are        responsibility and representative democ-
 the ones who are incompetent, not the         racy. That’s not socialism; that’s not
 teachers. What really matters here is that    communism. That’s ceding certain
 teachers need a raise. They work hard,        things to have a democratic structure.
 so they need more money.”                     That’s like Hillary Clinton and others
                                               saying, “It takes a village.“
 That’s not crossing the Rubicon. It’s not
 crossing the Rubicon when a ceo or an        CCG: Focus on the implementation phase
 entrepreneur says, “Let me start a char-      versus the collective bargaining
 ter school.” It’s crossing the Rubicon        contract–signing phase. Legislative types
 when a union leader says, “I will be an
 entrepreneur and take responsibility for
 what this charter school looks like.” And    American democracy is based on col-
 I said, “Tell me, New York Post (for         lective responsibility. We cede some of
 example), who has taken as much risk
 on your side of the debate as I have         our individual rights to have representa-
 taken to do this?”
                                              tive democracy.
 The paradigm right now is: Education is
 important and we need to help all kids.
 So today some people are saying, “Let
 those teachers do their job. And we’ll

                                                                          Randi Weingarten   27
       tend to think that once the contract’s           how many years? Each year, a new
       signed, that’s the incentive to make change.     panacea gets implemented top-down;
       But the contract is only a limited numbers       and then when it “fails,” it’s replaced by
       piece; it doesn’t drive trust.                   a new fad.
      RW: Look at the difference between Tony          CCG: Just to close on the charter piece, you
       Alvarado’s lack of success in San Diego          had said you hoped to have indirect, not
       versus his success in New York. Why              direct, authority. At the end of the day, do
       was Tony so successful in New York?              you still think one is better than the other?
       Tony had a partner in the uft – first
       Sandy Feldman and then me – who said            RW: It could have gone either way. I
       that failure was not an option. And              frankly would argue that given my time
       when all the pushback happened, as it            constraints (since the accountability
       always does when there is change – even          would have been there anyway), it
       with positive change, you are going to           would have been better if it had been
       get pushback and you try to work                 delegated authority. The chair would
       through it – when the pushback hap-              have been someone who could devote
       pened, we engaged. Tony didn’t have              more time to it. I would argue that dele-
       that in San Diego. The blaming and fin-          gated authority can be just as effective as
       ger pointing happened instead.                   direct authority. The governor is not the
                                                        chair of every single task force or agency.
       The only way to effect change systemati-         The governor appoints people who have
       cally is when people see that it really can      delegated authority.
       work. So you start with models that
       people can touch, can feel, and can put         CCG: So there’s the importance of making it
       their arms around. Instead, schoolteach-         public.
       ers have seen the “fad of the year” for,        RW: What you want is transparency. The
                                                        term accountability has been manipu-
                                                        lated and, like professional development,
The term accountability has been                        though it is good, it has a negative cast
manipulated and has a negative cast to                  to it. Public accountability is a good
                                                        thing, except when it’s used as a weapon
it. Public accountability is a good thing,              – when it’s used as a sword against peo-
except when it’s used as a weapon.                      ple – instead of as a way to create a col-
                                                        lective responsibility. That’s why people
                                                        fear it rather than embrace it.

 28   Collective Bargaining in Public Education: A New Dialogue
CCG: What do you see as the state role here?   The Tasks Ahead
RW: Whether or not there should be
                                               CCG: What next steps would you suggest in
 unions should not be a debate. We are
                                                regard to NCL B and state accountability?
 here to stay. In terms of the state role,
 if you want to create incentives, I           RW: There is a two-step answer. First, we
 would create incentives that promote           need to get the balance right. Right
 collaboration. The state can’t imple-          now, the balance is too skewed toward
 ment, but it can create a climate and an       testing in math and English. I’m not
 environment.                                   sure how much teaching is going on in
                                                the schools in the United States of
CCG: What would be an example of an             America, even in English and math,
 incentive for collaboration?                   because the consequences for not doing
RW: The school district would get a signif-     well on standardized tests are so great
 icant infusion of funds, a grant, if they      that in many schools and classrooms,
 worked together with the collective bar-       education has been transformed into
 gaining agent about how that money             simply test prep, test prep, and more
 would be spent. That would be a pretty         test prep.
 big incentive to work together. Of             The second step is the balance of
 course, the state would earmark it for an      accountability as a process for continu-
 education reform area, such as teacher         ous improvement versus accountability
 quality. The union might want it ear-          as such a punitive measure that we are
 marked for teaching and learning               incentivizing really bad behavior, such
 conditions; namely, what it is that teach-     as test prepping and cheating.
 ers need to do their jobs or what schools
 need to do their jobs. But the money’s        CCG: What could happen in NCL B or at the
 not available unless there is a plan for       state level to shift that balance?
 how they work together and do the
 follow-up steps, the implementation.
 Consequently, it puts the pressure on         Implementation of NCLB on the federal,
 both sides to talk about how to use
 resources effectively.                        state, and local levels has not worked
                                               as envisioned. Part of that is money,
                                               part is implementation issues, and part
                                               is how the law was initially launched.

                                                                          Randi Weingarten   29
                                                        Now here’s a really controversial subject,
We want virtually all kids to succeed.                  and one I’m not sure how I feel about.
                                                        Why not look at the naep tests and
Nobody is going to accept a 50 per-
                                                        make them a single, national academic
cent, 60 percent, 70 percent gradua-                    testing standard? There are negatives and
                                                        positives to that – lots of them. But hav-
tion rate.
                                                        ing the conversation is important. As I
                                                        said before, I believe we’re assessing more
                                                        than we’re teaching. And tests are a key
      RW: We need to come up with a different           to that measurement. Yet if you want
       measure of what constitutes success and          standards, you need to have measures so
       failure. That’s why AYP needs to be              you know what kids can do.
       reevaluated. The notion of transparency,
                                                        When I talk about the balance between
       the notion of looking at kids individu-
                                                        testing and teaching, I mean that we’ve
       ally, the notion of focusing on achieve-
                                                        seen far too much narrowing of the
       ment gaps – all those notions, in the
                                                        curriculum – in terms of both a con-
       abstract, work. What happens is that
                                                        tent-rich curriculum and variety (social
       implementation on the federal, state,
                                                        studies, science, and art).
       and local levels has not worked as envi-
       sioned. Part of that is money, part is          Incremental, sustainable change
       implementation issues, and part is how          CCG: Those issues come up all the time in
       the law was initially launched.                  national hearings and community forums.
                                                        But you don’t hear a lot of discussion
      CCG: So dialogue at the state level could help
                                                        about what to do about it. People are
       to start to address that.
                                                        happy that test scores go up but, more and
      RW: All states have to have accountability        more, the public and educators are very
       systems. Look at the dialogue that               critical of the over-reliance on testing.
       started on standards. It started with            What do we do instead?
       the state governors. It started with Bill
                                                       RW: You have to figure out how to change
       Clinton and Al Shanker and others. It
                                                        the conversation. The best long-term
       started with the governors saying, “How
                                                        success in education is incremental and
       can we do this? What’s the midcourse
                                                        sustainable. The same is true with most
       correction?” And they see it in their
                                                        public issues. Take crime. When crime
       states that way.
                                                        goes down incrementally, the governor
                                                        stands up and says, “Great! That’s suc-
                                                        cess.” Nobody expects there is going to

 30   Collective Bargaining in Public Education: A New Dialogue
be a murder rate of zero. In the city of       to incentivize improvement that is incre-
New York, when there are fewer than            mental and sustainable. Right now, the
700 murders in a year, that’s success.         climate is: “If you don’t make ayp, hor-
                                               rible things will happen.”
But in education, we want virtually all
kids to succeed. So nobody is going to        Beyond literacy and numeracy
accept a 50 percent, 60 percent, 70 per-      CCG: Teachers in the field are starting to
cent graduation rate. We say and believe       make the point that measuring growth is
that virtually every child must succeed.       important. We often hear it more in teach-
Our obligation is to help all kids. So         ers’ language than in leaders’ language.
this is where the rubber hits the road.
Nobody is going to be able to say:            RW: Teachers get it. But what teachers also
“Sixty, seventy percent graduation, that’s     get is that education has to be more than
great.” No governor can get up and say         literacy and numeracy. We have a job in
that. But what I’m saying is, each year        public education to help kids develop
you want to see incremental, sustainable       social and life skills. Kids need a sense of
progress, however you define that.             right and wrong and to know that there
                                               are consequences for bad behavior. We
If the incentive is in the public praise       need to help them learn how to be on
when you get galloping scores, well,           time and how to dress and how to take
that’s what makes testing, testing, testing    responsibility. Whatever you call that,
the dominant dynamic. I don’t know             that’s taken a back seat to the focus on
about the rest of the country, but look        math and English test scores.
at the scores in New York City. In the
third, fourth, and fifth grades, they go       You start it when kids are in kinder-
steadily up. Then, after that, they go         garten. How do kids play? Playtime was
down. Some would argue you can test            about social development. It was about
prep to get to better results in the lower     getting along with others. Playtime has
grades, but you cannot test prep to get        been squeezed out of kindergarten. You
to better results in the mid-level to          see it in boys. Many are bored to death
upper-level grades where kids need
higher-order thinking skills.
We did a survey and found there was           The best long-term success in education
more test prep per week in New York           is incremental and sustainable.
City elementary schools than there was
social studies and science teaching com-
bined. So, the accountability system has

                                                                          Randi Weingarten    31
                                                        myth perpetuated in the last few years
The teacher union leaders I know talk                   that if we put enough pressure on, the
                                                        unions will be gone. That’s not going to
about how to help all kids learn. We
                                                        happen. But those who believe that will
look at collaborative collective bargain-               never engage with a union in construc-
                                                        tive dialogue on how to promote stu-
ing as the vehicle to do that – and we
                                                        dent achievement.
talk about how the union can facilitate
                                                       CCG: You hope to bring focus to a shift in
this process.                                           thinking about professionalism.
                                                       RW: Really think about who teachers are.
                                                        The focus must be on how to promote
       in junior high school with double peri-          and honor professionalism. Educators
       ods of English and math. We’ve been              are not entrepreneurs; they are people
       saying, “Why don’t we engage them in             who believe in helping children learn.
       music and art and other things that kids         They want to be treated fairly and given
       care about?”                                     the wherewithal to do their jobs well.
       What we do in our secondary charter              Your question about scalability pushed
       school is that we have an internship             me to think about implementation and
       each week: teachers during that time can         trust. So the third thing I want to leave
       do professional development; the stu-            people with is this: there are many of us
       dents tutor younger kids in reading.             who would be quite willing, in a trustful
       Here’s an idea: maybe there should be            environment, to take collective responsi-
       a requirement that all kids have an              bility. The teacher union leaders I know
       internship – maybe do it in junior               talk about how to help all kids learn. We
       high school, to help build a sense of            look at collaborative collective bargain-
       citizenship.                                     ing as the vehicle to do that – and we
                                                        talk about how the union can facilitate
      Promoting teacher professionalism
                                                        this process. We talk about how you
      CCG: What is the one thing you want others        treat teachers as professionals, because
       to get from this conversation?                   they are the opportunity agents.

      RW: I want to change people’s opinions.
       Unions are not the enemy. If that does-
       n’t happen, positive educational change
       won’t happen. The teacher unions are
       not going away. We have to debunk the

 32   Collective Bargaining in Public Education: A New Dialogue

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