We get a peek inside the teacher contract negotiations this morning in a candid interview with one of the negotiators at the table for Seattle Public Schools.—Eds.

Clover Codd, one of the Seattle Public Schools negotiators at the table with the teachers union told PubliCola this morning that the District has backed off on one of the proposals that the union had flagged as a major sticking point: Eliminating a weekly paid hour of collaborative planning time for elementary school teachers.

The cut equaled a 2.6 percent decrease in salary. Coupled with another SPS demand that elementary school teachers work an extra half hour everyday without a pay increase, union president Jonathan Knapp quipped yesterday: "Longer day, less pay."

Codd told PubliCola this morning: "We actually withdrew that proposal. The hour of collaboration time pay. We’re leaving that in the contract. And they still get the 2.6 percent compensation for that."

Re: teacher pay, She added: "One thing I think is really important for the public to know is we’re actually offering a 4 percent increase in compensation over two years. It keeps getting published as 2 percent. Well it’s 2 percent in one year, and then an additional 2 percent the next year, for a total of 4 percent. In addition to the restoration of the furloughs, which is 1.3 percent. When you add all that up, it’s actually a 5.3 percent increase over two years."

"We actually withdrew that proposal. The hour of collaboration time pay. We’re leaving that in the contract. And they still get the 2.6 percent compensation for that."

Union president Knapp would not confirm Codd's statement that the paid hour had been restored. "I'm going to respect the confidentiality of the negotiations," he said, adding that he was "surprised" the SPS negotiators would give details about the ongoing negotiations. "That's not how you reach a deal." He did say, "movement in one certain aspect of negotiations doesn't mean there's a deal on the table."

Another main issue under discussion are teacher evaluations—the District wants to stick with the teacher evaluation model the two sides developed in the last contract in 2010 while the union wants to drop that and go with the new state version. (Check out my report yesterday for a detailed explanation, but it involves the level at which data on student improvement would be included in teacher evaluations.)

Codd, SPS' Executive Director of Strategic Planning and Partnerships, is SPS' point person on teacher evaluations at the bargaining table. She told PubliCola this morning that she was surprised by the union position to go with the state evaluation model as opposed to the local one. 

"It’s really puzzling to us, to be quite honest," she said. "SEA, right after the last contract was negotiated, touted this version as if it were their idea. We’ve got several videos with Jonathan Knapp and Glenn Bafia talking about this wonderful system that we have collaboratively designed that’s so different than what’s going on in DC and New York and Chicago and the rest of the nation. Here we come to 2013, and their message has changed."

Codd added that changing from the current, local evaluation model would jeopardize school funding because the state model doesn't meet federal standards.

"Our state’s version is currently not meeting the federal definition of how student growth is used in the evaluation of teachers and principals," she says.

Codd says a $13 million federal grant, the Teacher Incentive Fund, is explicitly based on the 2010 teacher evaluation system that SPS and the union agreed on.

However, the new state rules explicitly say the local level gets to determing the specifics about teacher evaluations. Don't the unions have a point then, that going with the new state rules make sense? 

Codd responded: "It [the 2012 state law  ... see pg. 3, line 27] says we 'can' and we 'may' use state assessments. It doesn’t say we 'shall' or 'will.' Seattle is the only district in the state that is actually doing this. The federal government is basically telling Washington State that it’s not an option."

Codd is referring to a letter we noted yesterday from the federal Department of Education to Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn that said our state teacher evaluation guidelines weren't up to federal standards.

Codd says: "The letter that came from the Department of Education is putting Washington State on high-risk status for the ESEA [The Elementary Secondary Education Act] waiver." [Washington state is seeking a waiver from the deadline to meet No Child Left Behind standards for fera of losing federal funding.—Eds.]

Asked how negotiations were going, i.e., might we be looking at a strike, Codd said:

We’re actually really hopeful. Yesterday went well; we’ll be at it again today. We think that after today everything will be on the table. I’m sure there will be more negotiation as the week continues, and maybe into the weekend. But at the end of the day, we will definitely reach an agreement that meets the needs of teachers, educators and the students. And of course the district.