Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I Refused to Sign the MOU for the RTTT

In the past month I have written on my blog regarding the Race to the Top legislation, “affectionately” known as RTTT. This legislation was required by the Federal government in order for Michigan to even have the ability to apply for the RTTT funds. As a part of the approval process for Michigan’s application to the Federal government for these funds, the State Superintendent is asking all districts to sign a “MOU”, Memorandum of Understanding. This MOU is to be signed by the major “stakeholders” in a school district, including the superintendent, the school board, and the local bargaining association presidents (in Walled Lake that is me). NOTE: Only 13-15 states will qualify for these funds at the end of the application process.

The Michigan Department of Education is requiring local MOU’s of the RTTT plans to be signed and returned by Thursday, January 7th. However, the legislative plan itself is not even in final form! The MEA president, Iris Salters, has asked for an extension of that deadline until the final plan is available for reading, but at this point the extension has been denied.
As a result, I am being asked to sign Walled Lake’s MOU without seeing the final plan. As you can imagine, signing an open contract without final details being available is not something I can do. I HAVE TOLD OUR SUPERINTENDENT I WILL NOT SIGN THE WALLED LAKE MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING.

The MEA’s legal counsel sent a 12 page document to local presidents outlining what is in the current version of the RTTT legislation. One of the more ominous inclusions is language requiring a “rigorous, transparent and fair performance evaluation system” for all teachers and school administrators. Shorthand for this new section would be “merit pay”. This new section (1249) requires that an evaluation process be established as a way to measure student growth, and then used to evaluate teacher job performance “using multiple rating categories that take student growth data into account as a significant factor”. These measures could also be used to “inform decisions on ….promotion, retention, and development…..grant tenure…..removing ineffective teachers and administrators.”

There is also language in this legislation that outlines intervention models for failing schools. The legislation gives a “State School Reform/Redesign Officer” a choice of 4 intervention models. Under these models a building principal and at least half of the staff could be replaced; the school could be shut down and restarted under the management of a charter school operation; and, any contractual seniority system or other contractual work rules “that impede the reform process shall NOT apply to the school.” Thus, any bargaining contract for employees can be set aside.

Lu Battaglieri, the Executive Director of the MEA has informed local presidents that their signature ultimately counts for only 10 points out of 100’s of points allotted per application. So, a local president’s refusal to sign, in all likelihood, will not cause a local school district to lose RTTT money. However, I find it important to protect our hard earned bargaining rights and stand up for the notion that I will not sign a document that is not in final form. I hope that the membership will support my decision.