Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Confused? Just When Exactly Does the Ann Arbor Teachers' Contract End?

If you've been paying attention to the dispute over the Ann Arbor Education Association--Ann Arbor Public Schools teacher contract, then you might be as confused as I was regarding when the contract actually ends. 

On the one hand, the school district is saying that the contract ends this June 30, 2015

And on the other hand, the teachers' union is saying that no, the contract does not end this year! 

And I was left wondering--how can something like a contract end date be in dispute? Well, here's how.

Which of these things do you believe?

A. When the teachers signed a one-year agreement  about their financial compensation last year, they were agreeing to an end date of June 30, 2015 for the contract. [Note: If you follow the link you will see that the agreement does call for meeting in March 2015 for "problem-solving to discuss finances" but does not have a specified end date.]

B. When the teachers "gave back" 4.5 million dollars to the district in 2010, and wrote in the contract that the contract would not end until the money was paid back, the contract became an "evergreen" clause (non-terminating) until the money is paid back. [Note: If you follow the link you can read item "Salary Scale IIE" in the "Tentative Agreement between AAEA and AAPS For a Successor Agreement Extending the 2009-2011 Master Agreement." Also note, the money has not been paid back.]

C. A contract without an end date can be terminated by either party with 60-days notice. [Note: Around April 30, 2015, the district sent a letter to the AAEA saying that they believe that a "perpetual contract" can be terminated with sixty days notice.]

D. The current contract runs through the 2015-2016 fiscal year (ending June 30, 2016). [Note: This is specified in the agreement from March of 2013:]

If you agree with A. or C., you are taking, effectively, the position of the district.

If you agree with B. or D., you are taking, effectively, the position of the AAEA.

I'm not an attorney (and I don't even play one on t.v.), but I understand that both sides think that they are right.

And in fact, what makes this so important is not simply, as you might think, financial compensation--but rather, the effect of "right-to-work" and several other anti-teachers/anti-union bills that have passed our state legislature in the past two years.

I've talked to quite a few people about the negotiations now (all of them knowledgeable, and all of them asked to be "off the record,") and--no surprise really--there are some other things in dispute as well. 

For example: 

The teachers and the district were negotiating a Memorandum of Agreement about staffing for the International Baccalaureate of the parties--or both of the parties--pulled out when the MOA was nearly final. Who? and Why?

The "prohibited subject policies" were put on the school board agenda for a first briefing in the middle of May (here is the link to them, read the comments for an explanation of what they are). Were they put on the agenda because the state requires it? Because the school board can (but doesn't have to) do it? Because the administration and school board were mad at the AAEA for asserting that the contract doesn't end in June and the AAEA doesn't have to negotiate?

No, don't bother writing your opinion on those in the comments--I can say that there is more than one opinion about each of these.

With negotiations, you can't always see what's going on, but you always get to hear the pronouncements of both sides. Which reminds me of shadow puppets. You might (or might not--my husband says, not so much) think that this shadow looks like a duck. (My shadow puppets are a bit rusty.)

Yup, my "duck." Photo by Michael Appel.

And if it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck...but no, it's really a hand after all.

Yup, my hand. Photo by Michael Appel.

Pay attention to the hand, not the shadow.

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