Contract Agreement Gives Teachers 16 Percent Raises

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New York City's public school teachers would get an across-the-board raise of 16 percent under a new contract negotiated with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

The pay increase would edge the city's pay scale closer to that of surrounding suburbs, while also adding 20 minutes to every school day in an attempt to increase instructional and professional-development time in the 1.1 million- student district.

"This agreement ... recognizes and respects the role teachers play in our children's future," Randi Weingarten, the president of the 100,000-member United Federation of Teachers, said in announcing the agreement last week. "It's about ensuring quality: making the job more attractive and making sure all our students have highly qualified teachers."

New York City teachers have been working under the terms of an expired contract since November 2000. The UFT leaders polled members last month seeking authorization for a strike this coming September. The ballots were not counted as scheduled last week, according to Ron Davis, a union spokesman, because the union and the Republican mayor were making progress toward the tentative agreement announced June 10.

Too Generous?

Now, the UFT's members must vote to ratify the 30-month agreement, which would give them a raise totaling 16 percent. Of that amount, 4 percent would be retroactive to November 2000; 5 percent would be effective as of last November. The rest would kick in when the 2002-03 school year begins. The agreement is set to expire May 31, 2003.

Under the pact, starting teachers would earn $39,000 annually and the most experienced teachers would make $81,000.

The 16 percent increase is generous, especially when the city is facing a $5 billion deficit, according to one expert.

"To offer someone a raise that's going to cost $750 million to $900 million when you've got a $5 billion deficit is courageous, I would say," said Bruce S. Cooper, a professor of education at the graduate school of education at Fordham University in New York City. "The question is, will you have the money?"

Even with the raises, Mr. Cooper added, New York City's teacher salaries will be on par with the lowest-paying districts in the city's suburbs. Many middle-class and upper-middle-class districts will still pay more.

The union, which started distributing ballots to its members last week, said the result of the ratification vote would be announced by June 25.

Associate Editor Debra Viadero contributed to this report.

Vol. 21, Issue 41, Page 20

Published in Print: June 19, 2002, as Contract Agreement Gives Teachers 16 Percent Raises
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