Arne applauds DC contract. Shouldn’t he wait until the members vote on it?

“I want to congratulate the D.C. Public Schools and the Washington Teachers Union upon reaching a tentative agreement in their contract negotiations. This is an agreement that puts D.C. schoolchildren first and treats teachers with the respect they deserve. The administration and the union are clearly taking teaching and learning very seriously. Their ability to work together through some very difficult issues and in these trying economic times is a credit to both parties.”

That was the statement from USDE boss Arne Duncan when the tentative deal was announced between the DC schools and the DC union.

As a local union leader and someone who has been on the union’s negotiating team for more than half a dozen contracts, I’m a devoted advocate of collective bargaining.

But as an amateur poker player, I also believe in waiting until you leave the table before you count your money.

The negotiations between DC schools’ boss Michelle Rhee and the DC teachers union have gone on for two years. To reach a tentative agreement it was necessary for big names to intervene. Randi Weingarten, AFT president came in on the union side. Former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Shmoke was brought in. Rhee hired a PR firm to clean up her battered image, and she had to pull back on some of her more provocative teacher bashing of her early tenure.

Reported the Washington Post:

The proposed pact, which must be ratified by union members and approved by the D.C. Council, provides teacher salary increases of more than 20 percent over five years, with much of it paid for through an unusual arrangement with a group of private foundations that have pledged to donate $64.5 million.

What Rhee didn’t get was the power to carry out the most draconian parts of her early agenda. And the union is still there, much to her disappointment.

But if I were Arne, I would have waited until the members had their say. They may approve the deal. They may not.

There will be time enough when the dealing’s done.

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