November 2, 2020
Washington DC Teachers’ Vote ‘No Confidence’ in DCPS’ Plan to Reopen Schools to In-person Learning
WASHINGTON — The Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) voted at a Member Assembly last week to express “No Confidence” in the District’s plan to safely reopen schools.
“Last Thursday evening night, DC’s teachers spoke loudly and clearly. We do not have faith that the DCPS plans to reopen our schools are in the best interest of students,” WTU President Elizabeth Davis said. “Despite negotiations throughout the weekend, we’re disappointed that we were not able to come to an agreement. The Chancellor’s plan to reopen our schools to in-person learning will disrupt the education of a vast majority of DCPS students. As educators, we do not believe this plan is good for our students or good for our schools.”
The Union voted overwhelmingly, with more than 93% of members present supporting the motion, during a special membership assembly to express “No confidence in Mayor Muriel Bowser, Chancellor Lewis Ferebee, and the DC Public Schools plan to reopen our schools to in-person learning on November 9th, as it currently stands.”
Earlier last week, the Council of School Officers, the union representing DCPS principals and other mid-level administrators, sent an Open Letter to the Deputy Mayor and Chancellor outlining their concerns with the District’s reopen plans.
The Washington Teachers’ Union and DCPS will resume negotiations about a safe return to our schools later in the week. While many elements of an agreement have been reached, the Union believes that plans should be revised to ensure greater equity across the city to ensure that students furthest from opportunity have access to additional in-person learning opportunities and that no educator should be required to return to in-person learning if they don’t believe adequate protections for themselves, their students and the community are in place.
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The WTU represents more than 5,000 active and retired teachers. It is dedicated to social and educational justice for the students of the District of Columbia and to improving the quality of support, resources, compensation and working conditions for the public servants and proud teachers who educate our students in D.C. Public Schools.
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For Immediate Release
Washington DC Teachers, Families and Students Rally to Express Concerns About City’s Plan to Reopen Schools to In-Person Learning
WASHINGTON — Washington DC teachers, families, and students joined at the John A. Wilson Building today to share their concerns about the city’s plan to reopen schools to in-person learning. While many expressed their desire to reopen our city’s schools, they expressed concern about the lack of transparency in city planning and the impact of proposed staffing changes on students. Speakers also expressed concerns for the health of elementary students, teachers, and communities as 21,000 students plus thousands of staff return to DC school buildings in the coming weeks while COVID-19 cases increase across our nation.
“We saw many elements of the DCPS plan for the first time during yesterday’s press conference and we still haven’t seen concrete details,” Elizabeth Davis, the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) president stated. “Our demands are for common sense protections for our communities including but not limited to access to testing, licensed nurses on-site at every school, verification that our HVAC systems work properly to circulate air and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. DCPS must treat teachers and community members as full partners in developing and in verifying plans to keep everyone safe.”
While the community hearing was occurring outside, the DC Council held an oversight hearing on the city’s plan to reopen schools. Only representatives from the Deputy Mayor for Education and DC Public Schools were invited to speak. Questions parents, teachers and community members submitted to have answered by DC Public Schools about the city’s plan to reopen schools to in-person learning are attached.
“Listen to my kid’s teachers,” said Greg Wahl, a DCPS parent and a professor at Montgomery College. “Their dedication during the pandemic has been amazing. I know they would like nothing better than to be back in the classroom with their students, but they see that it's not safe for themselves, it’s not safe for the kids, it’s not safe for the families, and it’s not safe for the community. They are the ones who would know. As parents, that is also what we demand from DCPS, from the Council and from the mayor: LISTEN TO THE TEACHERS.”
During a press conference yesterday, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and DC Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee presented many elements of their plan for the first time to citizens and teachers. The presentation included information on learning loss for our youngest students.
The proposal being put forward by DC Public Schools would reassign many staff members from middle and high schools across the District to supervise CARES classrooms to support early education and elementary school students. In the proposed CARES classrooms, serving approximately 14,000 learners, students would continue to receive their lessons via Distance Learning. Staff being reassigned from their current duties supporting middle and high school students would not be providing direct instruction. Additionally, DCPS’ proposal would provide live, in-person instruction for 7,000 elementary school students. This will result in many teachers being reassigned to new classrooms and, possibly grades. Students who remain in Distance Learning environments, whether at home or in CARES settings, could see their class balloon to up to 40 students.
“It’s clear that DCPS has a different definition of collaboration than Washington’s Teachers and parents do,” Davis continued. “We want to ensure parents, teachers, and community members are involved not just in the decision on when to reopen our school buildings, but throughout this crisis.”
“Trust in leadership is critical in a crisis,” said Sandra Moscoso-Mills, the Home School Association (HSA) president at School Without Walls High School. “Refusing to share data and picking and choosing what data you share undermines trust. Removing trusted leaders creates chaos. Parents and students are scared. When a trusted leader we depend on to act in our students’ best interests is suddenly removed, how can we then trust the Mayor, the DME, and the Chancellor are working to protect us?”
In early October, School Without Walls principal Richard Trogisch was removed from his position. Many reports indicate he had raised concerns about the safety of students and staff should the School Without Walls Francis-Stevens campus reopen to in-person learning.
Earlier in the week, in response to complaints filed by the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU), the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) Hearing Examiner on Tuesday October 20 ruled that DC Public Schools (DCPS) violated the law by refusing to bargain with WTU regarding reopening planning and granted WTU’s renewed request for preliminary relief. The PERB found that there is reasonable cause to believe that DCPS has violated the law by not bargaining with WTU regarding reopening and ordered that DCPS bargain with WTU over health and safety matters as they relate to reopening within 5 days of the ruling. DCPS must also rescind the Intent Form that it sent to teachers on June 30, and the Staffing Assignment Survey it sent to teachers on September 29.
# # #
The Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) represents more than 5,000 active and retired teachers. It is dedicated to social and educational justice for the students of the District of Columbia and to improving the quality of support, resources, compensation and working conditions for the public servants and proud teachers who educate our students in D.C. Public Schools.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE & COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION PUBLIC HEARING
Bill 23-515, Statewide Educational Data Warehouse Amendment Act of 2019
The WTU strongly supports Bill 23-515, Statewide Educational Data Warehouse Amendment Act of 2019, and I am here today to testify in support of the legislation. The bill would amend the State Education Office Establishment Act of 2000 to authorize the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to expand the Statewide Educational Data Warehouse to include additional information on teachers. We believe this effort is long overdue.
As I testified to last December, teacher turnover is a significant problem in the District of Columbia. Our schools and classrooms lose a high-percentage of highly-qualified teachers each year, a level of churn that is higher than other large jurisdictions. In its October 2018 report and its report update the D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) found that average annual teacher attrition at the school level in both District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and public charter schools is—and has consistently been—about 25 percent. This is significantly higher than the national average and is higher than other urban jurisdiction.
For Immediate Release:
Washington DC Teachers Release Statement on Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) Ruling Against DCPS Reopen Plan
WASHINGTON — In response to complaints filed by the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU), the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) Hearing Examiner on Tuesday October 20 ruled that DC Public Schools (DCPS) violated the law by refusing to bargain with WTU regarding reopening planning and granted WTU’s renewed request for preliminary relief. The PERB found that there is reasonable cause to believe that DCPS has violated the law by not bargaining with WTU regarding reopening and ordered that DCPS bargain with WTU over health and safety matters as they relate to reopening within 5 days of the ruling. DCPS must also rescind the Intent Form that it sent to teachers on June 30, and the Staffing Assignment Survey it sent to teachers on September 29.
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