On Thursday evening, by a vote of 1,540 to 1,107, the Baltimore Teachers Union rejected the innovative new teacher contract the district and union negotiators agreed to earlier this month. The contract sought to institute teacher merit pay based on performance evaluations, and would allow teachers in individual schools to vote on whether to extend the school day and year.
Andy Green of the Baltimore Sun provides some good perspective on what is sure to be spun as a major education reform setback; less than half of Baltimore's 6,000 teachers showed up to vote, and a common complaint was that teachers just hadn't been given enough time to truly digest and understand the tenets of the new contract. Another issue is that Baltimore has yet to construct the new evaluation system by which administrators will judge teacher performance. This was also a huge problem during the Rhee negotiations in D.C. It's quite reasonable for workers to feel hesitant about performance pay if they haven't been given a clear, specific idea of how they'll be judged.
All that said, this vote is a reminder of just how sensitive the tango is between Randi Weingarten, the AFT national president who has embraced the Baltimore contract–calling it "the most professional contract I have seen"–and her members, who are still figuring out exactly how they feel about all the tumult in their profession. The bottom line: This isn't easy.
After the jump: Baltimore schools CEO Andrés Alonso's quite conciliatory statement on the vote.
Email from Baltimore schools CEO Andrés Alonso, announcing union rejection of new contract:
This afternoon, by a vote of 1540 to 1107, the proposed contract between City Schools and the Baltimore Teachers Union was not ratified by the membership. There was strong turnout of teachers, reflecting the importance of this contract and the seriousness with which our teachers take their work.