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DC SBOE Testimony: Fair WTU Contract NOW! Stop Privatization!

I am here today, an educator of 17 years, all of which I have served at HD Woodson High School, a DC Public School in Ward 7. I came to DC Public Schools in 2007, the same year that Mayoral Control started under the tenure of extreme Privatizers Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee that is being carried on today by Muriel Bowser and Dr. Lewis Ferebee. I can’t speak to before mayoral control, but in my 17 years at DCPS, again 100% of which have been under mayoral control, I have spent the majority of my time working under expired WTU contracts.

  • My first contract vote took place around 2010 for a contract that was 3 years expired.

  • My second contract expired in 2012, and we didn’t get a new one for 6 years past expiration.

  • My third contract expired in 2019 and again we didn’t get a new one for 3 years past when it expired.

This means for my 17-year teaching career, 12 of those years have been on expired contracts. I did the math, and that is over 70% of my teaching career.

This is the disrespect that mayoral control and extreme privatization, bought and paid for by Democrats for Education Reform and the Eli Broad Foundation’s trained “leaders,” have wrought on DC Public Schools. It is the same anti-labor efforts that caused Cesar Chavez PCS to CLOSE its unionized campus. For Paul PCS to engage in anti-labor activities to thwart organizing efforts, for countless charter teachers to be fired without cause because they have no union protections. This is the extreme disrespect that those who have spent little to no time in a classroom inflict on us and want to bring to DCPS. It is time for it to finally come to an end.

It is time for this State Board not to call both sides to the table, as if we are somehow equally culpable, but to call the privatizers out. They are intentionally disrespecting the Washington Teachers’ Union in an anti-labor effort where they hope to demoralize and destroy our union – this has explicitly been the call for DFER who have funded and supported several of the leaders in this room, the mayor and all of the mayoral appointees.

Mayoral and DCPS leadership do not care about the high rates of teacher turnover, to the point where they constantly gaslight us and claim that it doesn’t exist. They do not care that we start each school year with vacancies – my school still has 4 we are trying to finish filling by the way. They do not care that they are setting schools up to do poorly on the limited metrics they bother to “care about” because to them it just leads to further justification for their continued demands to close public schools and sell the buildings on the cheap to charters.

I am now on my 4th expired contract. How long will it take to fix? DCPS hasn’t even given us the courtesy of showing up to the table before the contract expired. In any other district this would be grounds for an IMMEDIATE strike. But not in DCPS. In DCPS teachers are repeatedly gas lit by our upper leadership into being told we should be grateful for what we currently have.

But we all know it isn’t just that DCPS has refused to meet with us yet. We know that once DCPS does come to the table they will simply claim “managerial rights” and refuse to negotiate on almost ANYTHING in good faith. How do we know this? Because this is what has been going on since our Michelle Rhee contract was passed and is one of the primary reasons why these contracts have taken so long as the WTU attempts to thwart their continued attempts to assert managerial dominance. So it isn’t enough to demand that DCPS comes to the table, we have to demand that they stop intentionally trying to further destroy our teacher work force.

Enough is enough. Now is the time for the community to come together. Demand that our District do better by our teachers. Mayor Bowser needs to treat all her workers with respect. All elected leaders need to use their power to amplify the call. You cannot sit idly by. Only by standing together can we demand the changes we deserve. Reach out to the Mayor’s office directly and tell her that our educators in DCPS deserve a fair contract now. Argue to the Chancellor, OSSE and the DME that we cannot continue down the path we are on and expect different results. Lift up the voices of our educators and demand that the mayor’s team participate in contract negotiation in good faith. Demand that DCPS share their reasoning publicly for why they won’t work with the WTU and listen to our concrete and fair demands, crafted by longstanding educators around class sizes, planning time, safety conditions, access to technology and so much more.

Correct the wrongs of the past and ensure that we have the time and resources we need to serve our students. Otherwise we will continue to see the District hemorrhage good educators who look for their respect in neighboring districts or other professions entirely. We will continue to see schools being threatened with privatization and closure and stolen from our communities.

“Nothing is more important than a classroom teacher” – that is what we hear ad nauseam when it comes to teaching and learning, and yet we are consistently treated with disrespect from those in power. Time for a new era. Realize that our power has always been in our labor, and currently educators are just walking away. Our call is for you to stand with us and demand a fair contract now. Listen to your educators, we need your help.

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