Parents at Anne Beers Elementary School Support D.C.P.S. teachers during a walk out and protest on Nov. 17. (Courtesy Photo)

By Deborah Bailey,
Contributing Editor

D.C. Public Schools Teachers walked out of their classrooms in frustration on Nov. 17. as arbitrators and representatives from the Washington Teachers Union still had not come to an agreement over a new teacher’s contract for D.C. Public Schools teachers. 

Thursday’s Day of Action, organized by Washington Teachers Union, urged teachers to walk out of schools across the city in an effort to end the impasse with D.C. Public Schools resulting in teachers working without a pay increase or a contract since October 2019.  Teachers were seen protesting at sites across the city including Alice Deal Middle School, Kramer Middle School, Wheatley-Wales, Tubman Elementary and Whittier Elementary.  

The Washington Teachers Union is intentional about making the voices of the 5,000 educators it represents heard as teachers move into their fourth year without a contract.

The “Tell Mayor Bowser it’s time to end arbitration and settle the Washington Teachers’ Contract,” the Washington Teachers Union urged as teachers prepared for themselves and their students for the upcoming Thanksgiving Holidays without word of a new contract.  

D.C. Teachers’ Union President Jacqueline Pogue Lyons said teachers have been working too long without a contract or a raise. 

“Our teachers haven’t had a contract since 2019. The number one most important thing this city can do to improve teacher retention is to settle the Washington Teachers Union Contract. ,”Lyons said in testimony before the D.C. City Council before Thursday’s action by D.C. Public Schools Teachers. 

A recent survey  of D.C. public school teachers conducted by Hart Research revealed close to 80 percent of the  District’s public school teachers are not satisfied with current conditions at their schools and an even higher number believe they are not treated with respect, nor have District leaders “been honest and fair in negotiations,” according to the survey. 

Contract negotiations moved to arbitration last month, after both sides blamed each other for the lack of progress in moving toward an agreement. 

Louis Ferebee, Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools said he was surprised teachers were planning to protest, suggesting that both sides were moving closer toward settlement.

Hart Research Poll of D.C. Public Schools reveal that a majority of teachers are unsatisfied with current working conditions. (From: WTU slide presentation to DC City Council, Oct. 25).

“Surprised to see this planned protest, given that we and the WTU had already planned to resume contract negotiations this Thursday,” Ferebee tweeted yesterday. 

But parents and supporters of D.C P.S. teachers shot back at Ferebee via Twitter. 

“The way you and @Mayor Bowser treat our DCPS educators is embarrassing,” tweeted T Eastunder.  “You cannot be honestly surprised to see this action. As a parent of 2 DCPS kids, I support our teachers – pay them now, pay them more, and give them what they ask for,” Eastunder Tweeted. 

As of press time, the arbitration which started Thursday has not resulted in a successful contract, although both sides have indicated they are still working toward an agreement. 

“While collective bargaining agreements are confidential pursuant to D.C. Code, we are proud of the offer we made which includes robust compensation increases for educators,” D.C.P.S. officials said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. 

Pogue Lyons issued her own statement in response, saying there was still a lot of work ahead before the two sides could reach agreement. 

“We were at the bargaining table for 12 hours today, but we have a lot of work to do to get what’s fair for teachers and good for students,” said Pogue Lyons.

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