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Agreements Under Scrutiny, Again, in Race to Top

Michele "High Bar" McNeil has been doggedly following the latest Race to the Top news, this debate over "side deals" in some Florida districts. The big question is whether these side agreements essentially compromise the "buy in" of local district and unions who signed the state memorandum of understanding.

More from Eduwonk here, and Sherman Dorn at his blog thinks we're all off in left field.

Dorn makes some important points, explaining that some of the apparent redundancy in these local "side agreements" has to do with the fact that the scope of bargaining in Florida differs from that in other states, like New York. But he thinks this is largely a process issue and that the agreements don't substantively differ from the state MOU.

By my read, though, at least one of these local agreements does, in fact, change the contours of the local support. The state MOU, for instance, assumes that locals will negotiate all terms of the state reform plan into their bargaining agreements, or forfeit their share of the grants. When the grant expires or funding runs out, all that happens is that this MOU or agreement to work together also runs out. Nothing happens to reforms that have been successfully negotiated .

But under the terms of the local agreement, any new contract language actively reverts back to its old structure. In other words, the reforms would cease to exist in legal terms.

The word on the street is that local unions felt this was necessary to guard against new programs that aren't funded. Historically, unions have good reasons for being worried about the sustainability of things like performance pay. But it also means that a program that is indeed sustainable would disappear nevertheless.

These agreements—the Hernando one at least—could put a stopper on the duration of any new reforms, and that's a problem when the state is going to be getting extra points for supposed buy-in of local districts and unions on its application.

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