The D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) system in Washington, D.C. is a giant mess, similar to the political situation in the nation’s capital. Americans for Fair Treatment reported that a recent survey of DCPS teachers found that four out of five teachers are unhappy with their jobs and blamed factors such as high teacher turnover and increases in workload for their dissatisfaction.
Yet the teachers are not publicly blaming the teachers union which represents them, which is the Washington Teachers Union (WTU). For three straight years, WTU has not been able to reach an agreement about an official contract for the teachers it represents.
Because of the negotiation impasse, DCPS teachers are not receiving salary raises, cost-of-living adjustments, or other benefits from having an official contract. However, DCPS agreed to a new contract with the union representing school administrators and principals this past September after several years of negotiations.
If a union cannot agree to a contract with an employer, shouldn’t union members reconsider their union representation or have the option to leave the underperforming union? Unfortunately, it is difficult for union members to leave a union due to differences in local or state laws and enforcement of these labor laws.
Overall, DCPS teacher turnover sits at 25%, which is higher than the national average of 16%. It is not beneficial for other teachers and DCPS students if one-quarter of DCPS teachers leave within a given school year and leaves the district severely understaffed. Districts can assign long-term substitute teachers or move administrators into the classroom, but it is not the same as having a dedicated teacher for a class of students.
It is important to note that DCPS’s test scores for basic mathematics and reading skills dropped to the district’s lowest levels in five years. For example, only 31% of DCPS students can read at or above their grade level in 2022, which was a 6% decrease from 2019. For math skills, scores fell 12% from 31% to 19% from 2019 to 2022.