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Teachers, Boston Officials Reach Accord on Salaries

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The Boston Teachers Union reached an agreement last week with city officials on a new salary schedule for teachers, breaking an eight-month deadlock over how to finance the education reforms the contract promises.

The agreement averted a two-day teachers' strike that had been planned for last week to draw attention to the stalemate over funding.

The announcement last May that a contract had been agreed upon marked a new chapter in labor relations in Boston, which traditionally had seen lengthy negotiations. But fanfare over the contract was soon overshadowed by concern over how to pay for it.

"It is unfortunate that in this case, a union which did its utmost to bring about educational reforms had to end up reverting to traditional methods and going out on strike" to secure funding for the contract, said Robert Pearlman, the union's director of research. In addition to the planned strike last week, the union staged a one-day strike in December to protest the funding stalemate.

The agreement reached last week affects salaries only. It leaves unchanged the provisions in the contract calling for the establishment of councils to manage each school, mentoring programs for new teachers and peer assistance, and new accountability mechanisms that will allow for the transfer of unsatisfactory teachers. (See Education Week, May 31, 1989.)

The original three-year contract agreement called for 7 percent raises each year. The teachers'4union had agreed to defer the first year's raises for three months.

Mayor Raymond L. Flynn, facing a tight budget as a result of Massachusetts' economic troubles, offered to fund the first year of the contract only. The union rejected that proposal and staged a one-day strike Dec. 15.

Under the new agreement, which was approved by the Boston School Committee last week, teachers will receive 4.5 percent raises retroactive to Sept. 1, 1989. They will receive new raises of 4.25 percent on Feb. 1, making their effective first-year raise 6.6 percent, according to Mr. Pearlman.

In the second year, salaries will increase by 4.5 percent. The third year's raises will be negotiated later.

The contract will cost approximately $14.6 million in the first year and $29 million in the second, the union estimates, for a total cost of about $44 million for two years. The original contract was estimated to cost $89 million over three years for teachers' salaries and the new educational initiatives.

The school system will begin implementing the programs called for in the contract as soon as the Boston City Council appropriates the funding, Mr. Pearlman said. Union members were expected to approve the agreement late last week.

The agreement was announced after it became apparent that the state legislature was not going to approve a new tax package for the state. The money for the contract will come out of the city's cash reserves.

Finding money for the second year may present a "predicament" for the city, Mr. Pearlman said.--ab

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