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Despite Fiscal Crunch, New York City To Raise Teachers' Pay by 5.5 Percent

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Despite the deteriorating financial condition of New York City, school and city officials have agreed to increase public-school teachers' salaries by 5.5 percent during the current academic year.

Under the contract proposal, beginning teachers would earn $26,375, with salaries for the most experienced instructors topping out at $52,750.

In down-to-the-wire negotiations last week, leaders of the United Federation of Teachers and the school board reached agreement on the one-year contract that also incorporates several reform measures designed to enhance the professional status of teachers.

The union's rank-and-file members will vote on the contract during the next two weeks.

Teachers had been seeking raises of 6 percent to 8 percent to help close the pay gap between salaries in the city and those in neighboring districts.

"Although we still have a long way to go until our salaries are competitive ... the educational and financial gains we have achieved in this settlement provide a breakthrough contract for New York's educators during a difficult time for the city," Sandra Feldman, president of the uft, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement announcing the accord.

City and school officials reached the agreement during a late-night negotiating session shortly after the old contract expired at midnight on Sept. 30.

Under the agreement, the city would contribute new funding to cover 1.5 percent of the raise, 2.5 percent would be drawn from the pension system, and state aid would cover the rest.

The city's 65,000 teachers also would benefit on noneconomic issues. Among the highlights:

Teachers would be able to examine school budgets for the first time, and at site-based management schools, they would have some say over how those budgets were spent.

Teachers would be able to file grievances if adequate supplies were unavailable.

Principals would be obligated to search for substitute teachers before they could break up classes.

Sabbaticals would be extended to a broader array of teachers and paraprofessionals.

Some teachers would be permitted to work part-time, flexible schedules at a prorated salary.

Principals would be prohibited from changing grades without justification and from dictating lesson plan formats.

Other Developments

Meanwhile, at Temple University in Philadelphia and in the Mukilteo, Wash., school district, lengthy strikes have ended.

After a common-pleas judge in Philadelphia ordered faculty members at Temple back to work, union members voted 200 to 199 to end their 29-day strike. Perry Robinson, director of the federation of higher-education-faculty and -professionals division of the aft, said the union has filed an appeal of the judge's order.

Despite the faculty members' vote to return to the classroom, the contract, which expired at the end of June, has not been settled.

The union, which represents about 1,100 teachers and professionals, rejected the university's offer of 5 percent raises in each of the next two years. Temple also wants its employees to pick up a portion of their medical-insurance premiums.

In Mukilteo, teachers and school officials settled the longest strike in Washington's history last week. The 33-day strike began Aug. 30, the first day the district's 495 teachers were to report to work.

The accord includes caps on class sizes and salary increases averaging about 9 percent, according to Teresa Moore, communications director of the Washington Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association. Teachers also will not be required to perform extra work without receiving extra pay, as the district had sought.

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