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Union and Public School Officials Call Proposed Contract A "Breakthrough"

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From left to right: Washington Teachers Union George Parker, President of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty came together to announce the new tentative union contract.
Kavitha Cardoza
From left to right: Washington Teachers Union George Parker, President of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty came together to announce the new tentative union contract.

By Kavitha Cardoza

Private foundations have pledged almost $65 million to fund portions of the new tentative agreement between Chancellor Michelle Rhee and the Washington Teachers Union.

It's been almost three years since the two sides first attempted to hash out a contract, and the lengthy negotiations were not lost on Rhee.

"I'm surprised I haven't seen money exchanging hands yet 'cause I know there were lots of bets being placed on whether we would reach this day or not," says Rhee.

The new contract will give teachers a raise of more than 20 percent over five years. They could also opt to participate in a pay-for-performance program for improving student’s test scores, without giving up tenure. Rhee says she's "thrilled" with the contract, which she says focuses on teacher performance.

"Who may be leaving a school because of an excess or who may be placed in a school, will be driven by performance," she says. "So instead of being driven by seniority, we're driving those decisions by performance."

Washington Teacher's Union President George Parker says the contract offers more professional development and mentoring for new teachers.

Parker was asked about accepting money from private funders such as the Walton Foundation, created by the Wal Mart founder, which hasn't been sympathetic to unions.

"We can't allow charter schools and private schools to have an advantage in terms of funding because we have some principle we don't want money from private foundations to contribute funds," he says. "The key is for the Office of the CFO to deem these funds solid and it's there."

While both sides hailed the deal as a "breakthrough," teachers still have to vote on whether to accept it and then the city council has to sign off on the contract.

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