The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 74/No. 33      August 30, 2010

D.C. school chief fires
teachers and staff
(front page)
WASHINGTON—Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee fired 241 teachers July 23 under IMPACT, the city’s new evaluation system. One hundred sixty-five teachers were dismissed after receiving a “poor” evaluation; another 76 were fired for alleged license problems.

An additional 61 school staff members also got the axe. The city is threatening to fire another 737 school employees next year if they do not “improve their practice,” Rhee said.

At a July 26 news conference George Parker, president of the Washington Teachers Union (WTU), offered only a mild protest of the dismissals. “I’m not opposed to teachers being terminated, and I don’t believe all 4,000 of ours are outstanding,” he said. “But our teachers are entitled to an instrument that assesses their performance fairly, and this evaluation system does not.” The union will file a lawsuit.

In June the WTU and the D.C. City Council approved a contract that wipes out long-standing job security provisions in exchange for raises and merit pay based on classroom test performances. Teachers will receive a 21.6 percent salary increase. The new contract provides for a “performance pay” system with bonuses of $20,000 to $30,000 annually for teachers who meet certain benchmarks, including growth in test scores.  
SWP candidate denounces ‘reforms’
Omari Musa, Socialist Workers Party candidate for district mayor, said, “The school ‘reforms’ being implemented by Chancellor Rhee and promoted by the Democratic and Republican party candidates are part of the competition between school districts for scarce funds—between teachers over who gets hired or fired, and between individual families for which students get into better schools, all the while maintaining education as an institution that reinforces the social relations and privileges of capitalism.

“The reforms amount to scapegoating teachers for the crisis of the U.S. education system,” Musa said. “They aim to divide teachers by ‘effectiveness.’ Basing compensation on student test scores is simply a way to ignore wage and seniority provisions in union contracts. We must strengthen our unions and fight for independent working-class political action to defend ourselves.”

On August 13, 75 people gathered outside the District of Columbia Public School headquarters to protest the firings of teachers’ assistants, family social workers, Head Start personnel, and other staff who also received low ratings under IMPACT. The rally was called by Local 2921 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Union local president Michael Flood noted that “the members who have been targeted have tenure and seniority.” Flood called for “the immediate reinstatement of those who were fired and for a fair contract that ends poverty wages.” AFSCME members have been working without a contract for three years.

Lakesha Johnson, 34, lost her job as a teacher assistant at the Frederick Douglass Phase II Program in southeast Washington that services infants and young children. The three- to five-year-old category was terminated, forcing her to find another job in the public school system. Under the United Planning Organization that took over the remaining program, “people get higher pay,” Johnson pointed out,“but no health care, no dental, no vision, no sick leave, no annual leave like I did.”

Yvonne Richardson, 40, a nonunion Head Start staff assistant who lost her job, was at her first protest action. She explained how she and others were given five minutes to gather their belongings and leave the building when they were fired.
Related articles:
N.Y. Transit workers protest layoffs of 200 station agents
Economic crisis pushes more to file early for Social Security  
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